Stories tagged On this day

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

Charles Darwin

by Anonymous on Feb. 12th, 2010

Darwin as art
Darwin as artCourtesy Public domain
Naturalist Charles Robert Darwin was born this day in 1809 in Shrewsbury, England. His groundbreaking book titled On the Origin of Species was published in 1859, and laid out his revolutionary theory of evolution through natural selection. Want to learn more about this great scientist? Go here.

Lily, a 3-year-old pregnant black bear, made her den near a cabin in Ely, MN. Access to electricity, etc., meant that researchers were able to install a web cam in Lily's winter quarters. And today, their efforts may be rewarded. Biologist Lynn Rogers told the Associated Press that he thinks Lily's labor started today at around 2 pm. We should see cubs in the very near future.

Watch the live video stream for yourself. (A lot of people are trying to check it out. If you can't get through, try again later.)

Robins in January, 2010: Somewhere in Burnsville, MN., dozens of robins are eating fermented apples. Perhaps they think the anti-freeze property will help. Early spring?
Robins in January, 2010: Somewhere in Burnsville, MN., dozens of robins are eating fermented apples. Perhaps they think the anti-freeze property will help. Early spring?Courtesy Larry Maras
Robins 2010 January: January 18, 2010 Burnsville, MN.
Robins 2010 January: January 18, 2010 Burnsville, MN.Courtesy Larry Maras

I made this video of soap bubbles freezing and shattering in Saint Paul, MN. The temperature was 15 below this morning, Jan 3, 2010 .

Rainer Zangerl birthday

by Anonymous on Nov. 19th, 2009

Today is the birthday of paleontologist Rainer Zangerl born 1912 in Winterthur Switzerland. Zangerl’s career spanned over 6 decades, much of it working for the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago where he served many years as Curator of Fossil Reptiles and later as Curator of Fossil Fish, and as Chairman of the Geology Department. He specialized in fossil and extant turtles and prehistoric sharks. His volume for “Handbook of Paleoichthyology” (3A) dealing with Paleozoic sharks is considered a classic study of the ancient predatory fish. In the early 1950s, Zangerl discovered an exposure of Pennsylvania black shale rich in fossil fish in nearby Indiana, and spent many years studying and documenting the find. Dr. Zangerl was an expert in comparative anatomy, highly-skilled in x-ray photography, and a founding member of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, which awarded him its highest honor, the Romer-Simpson Medal in 2003.

Dr. Bruce Erickson, the Science Museum of Minnesota’s curator of paleontology worked several years with Zangerl at the Field Museum. “He was my boss, my mentor, and good friend,” he told me. “I even named a couple fossil turtles after him.”

(My own life intersected with Dr. Zangerl's in the early 1960s. When I was about 10 years old and in the early throes of my fascination with dinosaurs, I dragged a bag of bones all the way from Duluth to Chicago with hopes of having someone at the Field Museum confirm my suspicions they were from a stegosaurus. A road crew had unearthed the bones down the hill from our neighborhood and they let me take home as many as I wanted. The remains included ribs and teeth, vertebrae, femurs and tibias (I’m seen holding one in my avatar photo). When we got to the Field Museum my mom was surprised I had brought the bones along, but she was a good sport about it and asked someone if we could have the “fossils” identified. We were sent up to the second floor to meet with someone from the paleontology department. There, an older gentleman carefully studied my collection of bones until finally he picked out a tooth, held it up, and said in a thick German accent: “You’ve got yourself a horse.” It was Dr. Zangerl.

According to my mother my response was a very disappointed: “Oh, shucks.”)

Happy birthday to Sir Charles Lyell

by Anonymous on Nov. 14th, 2009

Sir Charles Lyell
Sir Charles LyellCourtesy Public domain via Wikipedia Commons
The foremost geologist of his day, Charles Lyell was born in Scotland on November 14, 1797. He was a proponent of uniformitarianism, and a great influence (and later friend) to Charles Darwin. His most famous book was Principles of Geology, first published in three volumes between 1830-33.

Sir Charles Lyell biography from MSU in Mankato

Alfred Wegener birthday

by Anonymous on Nov. 01st, 2009

Alfred Wegener: Greenland, 1930.
Alfred Wegener: Greenland, 1930.Courtesy Public domain
Today is the birthday of Alfred Lothar Wegener, the scientist who first developed the theory of continental drift. Wegener was born in 1880, schooled as an astronomer, and became interested in climatology and meteorology. When he noticed how the shapes of some continents fit nicely into the forms of others, (such as how South America fit into Africa), he proposed in 1915 that they had once all made up a supercontinent he called Pangaea, and later drifted apart. Similar rock strata and fossils found in coastlines of distant continents seemed to corroborate his theory, but Wegener was unable to come up with a mechanism that would cause such movement, so his theory lay dormant, mostly spurned and unaccepted until the 1950's when new geological evidence regarding plate subduction and sea-floor spreading came to light. Wegener's theory of continental drift is the basis for present-day theory of plate tectonics. Unfortunately, Wegener didn't live to see his theory gain acceptance. He died tragically sometime in late 1930 while on a meteorological expedition to Greenland.

More about Alfred Wegener

Fortran punch card: I remember punching out code on hundreds of these cards.
Fortran punch card: I remember punching out code on hundreds of these cards.Courtesy Arnold Reinhold
Oct 15, 1956, John W. Backus published a manual explaining a new way to program computers.

“John Backus and his Fortran project members almost single-handedly invented the ideas of both programming languages and (optimizing) compilers as we know them today." Wired

Instead of compiling complex machine code which tooks weeks, Fortran code could be written in hours and was much easier.
I was even able to learn Fortran back in the late 60's. It even satisfied my foreign language requirement!

A powerful earthquake (magnitude 7.9) hit near the Pacific island of Samoa this afternoon. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre has issued a warning for the Samoa Islands, New Zealand, Tonga, Fiji, and other Pacific islands as far away as Hawaii.

Birthday of Joseph Leidy

by Anonymous on Sep. 09th, 2009

Joseph Leidy: The last man who knew everything.
Joseph Leidy: The last man who knew everything.Courtesy Wikimedia Commons
Today is the birthday of scientist Joseph Leidy. Born in 1823, Leidy is considered the father of vertebrate paleontology. He described the first near complete dinosaur skeleton, Hadrosaurus foulkii, which was put on display at the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences in 1868. But Leidy's studies weren't limited to just paleontology. His scientific interests and expertise were so vast a recent biography is titled Joseph Leidy: The last man who knew everything. If you read more about this remarkable man, you'll see that isn't too far from the truth.