Thursday, September 3, 2015

Cookie Crumbs

Did you know that the word cookie has to do with the Dutch and king Charles II, international politics, and the Spice Islands? The Dutch settled Manhattan in the 1600s. We get the word Cookie from them. It means small cake. The British, ruled by king Charles II, seized Manhattan starting the Anglo-Dutch War in the mid 1600s. A treaty ending the war traded Dutch holdings in America for the Spice Islands. The Dutch lands, now under the English, were renamed New York, but some Dutch settlers stayed in the area. Several Dutch words entered English so Americans say cookie and Brits say biscuit.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

I Can See Clearly Now

Plexiglas played an important role in World War II as bullet resistant glazing in our warplanes. It was light and very strong and could be easily formed to fit into the structural design of the aircraft. It was used in the nose and gun turret of B-17s.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Going Dutch

In the 16th Century, the Dutch became rich through trade. They developed the first ship dedicated to carrying cargo--the fluyt. It had twice the cargo capacity of other ships and could be operated by a small crew using automation such as pulleys. By using specialized shipyards that built only fluyts, though larger, the ship cost half what it cost to build a warship. The sails were of linen with some hemp threads making up the canvas or duck sailcloth. In fact, the word duck applied to cloth comes from the Dutch word for cloth doek. Duck for sailcloth entered English in the time when the Dutch dominated trade.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Not A Flash in The Pan

Did you know that a powerful strobe light was used as an electronic flash for military night aerial photography, during WWII? It lite up a square mile of countryside at a time revealing enemy troop movements, strength, and location. The flash tube was a tough monster made of 30 inches of strong, quartz glass, coiled into a xenon-filled spiral that withstood the 4,000 volts discharged through it. The tube fit into a reflector mounted in the plane’s belly or tail. Banks of capacitors, weighing up to 500 pounds each, were slung on the plane’s bomb racks and supplied power to the flash tube. A direct contact synchronized the flash to the equally over-sized aerial camera.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Bang-up Job

When we think of the assembly line, Henry Ford's auto factory is the first thing to come to mind, but actually several assembly lines predate Ford's. Samuel Colt established an early assembly line using interchangeable parts, more than half-a-century before Ford, for production of the Colt revolver at his factory in Hartford, .CT.

The Joke Is on You

During WWII, the Nazis built fake airfields, complete with wooden planes painted like real planes, to lure allied bombers away from real targets. The allied air-force easily saw through the ruse. They dropped wood painted like bombs on the fake airfields.

A Glowing Report

The granite in New York City's Grand Central Station gives off more radiation than is allowed in public areas of a nuclear power plant. Granite is a hard crystalline igneous rock often used as a building material. It forms when magma cools slowly beneath the Earth's surface. Granite is made up of quartz and feldspar with minor amounts of mica, amphibole, and other minerals that may include uranium. The pink granite colonnaded Grand Central Station was inspired by the Roman baths of Caracalla. Grand Central Station  was conceived to deal with congestion and opened for business on February 1, 1913. The lovely pink granite has a higher than average uranium content.