Stories tagged On this day

Tell us about something that happened today in history, and make it relate to current science.

Lots of stories on line about last night's earthquake in Mexico that killed three people. The quote below is from a story in the Huffington Post:

The U.S. Geological Service initially estimated the quake at magnitude at 6.8, but downgraded it to 6.7 and then 6.5. A quake of that magnitude is capable of causing severe damage, although the depth of this temblor lessened its impact.

The USGS said the quake occurred at a depth of 40.3 miles (64.9 kilometers). It was centered about 26 miles (42 kilometers) southwest of Iguala in Guerrero and 103 miles (166 kilometers) south-southwest of Mexico City.

A few weeks ago, rumors were flying that BBC wasn't going to air the climate change episode of their new "Frozen Planet" series in the United States. Scientific American blogger Joanne Manaster helped start a social media campaign on Facebook and Twitter to publicize what was going on how to contact BBC. The campaign appears to have been a sucess, and the complete Frozen Planet series, narrated by Alec Baldwin will debut in the U.S. on March 18th. I'll be watching.

Carl J.E. Eliason of Saynor, Wisconsin Standing Next to His Snowmobile Prototype
Carl J.E. Eliason of Saynor, Wisconsin Standing Next to His Snowmobile PrototypeCourtesy Carl Eliason Family
84 years ago from today, on November 22, 1927, the first U.S. patent for a snowmobile (No. 1,650,334) was awarded to Carl Eliason of Saynor, Wisconsin. Carl was an auto mechanic, blacksmith and general store owner, and he loved the outdoors. However, he struggled with a foot deformity that made it difficult to use skis or snowshoes. So he built a lightweight personal machine that could follow the narrow ski and snowshoe trails made by his friends. His "motor toboggan" had ski-like front runners controlled by a rope, a rear drive track fashioned with bicycle sprockets and chains, wooden cleats, and was powered by a 2.5-horsepower outboard motor.

Today, snowmobiling provides a winter recreational activity enjoyed by many worldwide. For years, snowmobiles had a history of noise pollution, high emissions, and poor fuel economy. However, with the implementation of the U.S. EPA's reduced emissions program phases scheduled for completion in 2012, and rising cost in fuel prices, snowmobile enthusiasts and manufacturers are now seeking ways to make snowmobiles more eco-friendly and fuel efficient. Two-stroke engines used in motorcycles, snowmobiles, chainsaws, and marine outboard motors are not as efficient as their four-stroke counterparts, but they are lighter, less complex, and easier to manufacture. Many groups are manufacturing exhaust trapping systems that dramatically reduce EPA-regulated emissions such as carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, and NOx.

Peter Britanyak of the University of Idaho's Department of Mechanical Engineering prototyped the idea of Synchronous Charge Trapping (SCT) on a two-stroke snowmobile engine as part of his thesis for a masters degree. A second generation prototype was created by Team SHORT CIRCUIT of the University of Idaho, and a preliminary patent has been issued.

Other designs have been manufactured through the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Clean Snowmobile Challenge. In 2010, Minnesota-based manufacturer Polaris Industries teamed with University of Wisconsin-Madison to win the 2010 Clean Snowmobile Challenge. Next year, a record number of teams are expected to participate in the SAE 2012 Snowmobile Challenge, scheduled for March 5-10, 2012 at the Keweenaw Research Center of Michigan Technological University.

And research from snowmobiles and off-road vehicles is being applied to space exploration as well. Earlier this year, Quebec-based manufacturer Bombardier Recreational Products Inc. (BRP) announced that they are contributing to Canadian exploration programs of the moon and Mars. BRP will develop the chassis and locomotion systems for a Lunar Exploration Light Rover and a Mars Exploration Science Rover, from contracts awarded by the Canadian Space Agency.

Today marks the 60th anniversary of LEO (Lyons Electronic Office), the world’s first business computer, which was created by J. Lyons & Company, an organization known for operation of tea shops in Great Britain, as well as being a biscuit manufacturer and founder of the Wimpy burger chain.

After World War II ended, the increase in office costs made Lyons realize that some form of automation was needed to bring these costs under control. Before World War II, Lyons had developed a reputation for factory and office efficiency. Lyons' policy was to control their own service departments (legal, shipping, laundries, box making, food laboratories, tea estates, wine cellars, etc.), so they tackled the ambitious task of building an electronic computer, even though they had no history of electronics. Nothing was available to them at this time to meet their needs, so they set about designing and building one themselves.

LEO's first task, and the world’s first business Close-Up of LEO/1 Control Desk
Close-Up of LEO/1 Control DeskCourtesy LEO Computers Society

computing application, was to calculate the costs of Lyons’ weekly bakery distribution run. Previously, this task had been carried out by hand by accounts clerks. At first, LEO was unreliable, but improvements were made on a weekly basis. Two years later, in December 1953, LEO was given the important job of calculating Lyons’ payroll. A milestone was reached on Christmas Eve, December 24, 1953, when the task of calculating a employees pay took LEO only 1.5 seconds, whereas before it took an experienced clerk a total of 8 minutes.

News Article: How a chain of tea shops kickstarted the computer age

Website for LEO Computers Society:

Discovery of King Tut's tomb

by Anonymous on Nov. 04th, 2011

Tutankhamun burial mask: One of the many wonderful treasures found in King Tut's tomb.
Tutankhamun burial mask: One of the many wonderful treasures found in King Tut's tomb.Courtesy Bjørn Christian Tørrissen via Wikimedia Commons
On November 4, 1922, after seven fruitless years of searching, and near the end of the last season his sponsor Lord Carnarvon planned to finance, laborers for British archaeologist Howard Carter uncovered in Egypt's Valley of the Kings the entrance to the 3000 year-old tomb of King Tutankhamun, the greatest collection of Egyptian treasures ever found.

More King Tut info
Explore King Tut's virtual tomb

A 6.9 quake happened today (October 28, 2011) near the coast of Central Peru at 18:54:33 UTC (1:54 PM Central Daylight Time). It has caused power outages in many locations, and some roads are blocked by falling rocks, According to the USGS website, the earthquake had a depth of 23.9 kilometers (~ 14.8 miles). Peru's government-run Institute of Geophysics put the quake's magnitude at 6.7 and put its depth at 30 kilometers (~ 18.6 miles).

No tsunami threat is expected for Hawaii or states on the Pacific coastline of the USA, according to the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.


See video

Map of Turkey: The city of Van, on the far right of this map near a large lake, was the closest to the earthquake.
Map of Turkey: The city of Van, on the far right of this map near a large lake, was the closest to the earthquake.Courtesy USGS
A 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck eastern Turkey near the city of Van at 5:42am today, the most powerful earthquake in Turkey for at least a decade.

The US Geological Survey (USGS) originally gave the magnitude as 7.3 but later corrected it to 7.2 with a depth of 12.4 miles.

The Turkey's Kandilli observatory told a news conference it estimated 500-1,000 people could have been killed as a result of the earthquake.

Within an hour of the initial 7.2 earthquake, two aftershocks of magnitude 5.6 struck the same region.

Descent of Jacques Garnerin with a parachute (1797)
Descent of Jacques Garnerin with a parachute (1797)Courtesy trialsanderrors
On October 22, 1797, André-Jacques Garnerin made the first parachute jump from a balloon floating 2,230 feet above the Parc Monceau in Paris, France.The 23-ft. diameter silk parachute lacked an air vent at the top of the parachute, which resulted in violent oscillations during his descent. As a result, Garnerin also has the dubious honor of the first person to have suffered from airsickness.Diagram of a Parachutist's Wind Cone
Diagram of a Parachutist's Wind ConeCourtesy Chris Rumell
Parachutists of the Marine Corps's 1st Force Reconnaissance Company jump from the back of a C-130
Parachutists of the Marine Corps's 1st Force Reconnaissance Company jump from the back of a C-130Courtesy United States Marine Corps

For several years, parachute jumping was never a precision mission. But now, in 2011, a laptop manufactured by General Dynamics provides an avionics navigation system for HAHO/HALO (High Altitude-High Opening/High Altitude-Low Opening) military parachutists. The software, called GlideLine, calculates the variables of a pre-jump mission and helps the parachutist stay on target as he drops in elevation. GlideLine was designed by the firms Nanohmics Incorporated in Austin, Texas and Complete Parachute Solutions, Inc. in Deland, Florida. On the application, a display shows concentric circles, representing what parachutists call a wind cone. If the parachutist veers outside of the wind cone, he is not going to make his drop zone. When you're parachuting, there is no good way to tell if you're outside of the wind cone ... until now.

GlideLine reads a signal from a GPS device worn by the parachutist and, using latitude/longitude coordinates of the desired landing zone, the software program displays a visualization of the wind cone and the parachutist's relationship to it. This way, the parachutist can can concentrate on the mission on hand, which is not the jump, but the tasks needed to be accomplished once the parachutist reaches the ground.

Due to weather conditions including strong winds, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area fire is now consuming 60,000 acres of land. That's about 94 square miles -- or more than one and a half times the area of Minneapolis!

The large smoke plume from the fire is visible from space as captured in these photos posted by the Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies (CIMSS).

Mostly I think the photos are pretty, but if you like to geek-out about satellite imagery, you should note that these images use 250-meter resolution MODIS true color and false color imagery.

If you're interested in reading more about the BWCA fire, check out the Strib's latest.