Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A Corny Subject

The corn plant came to us from Native Americans, but the word corn is of Germanic origin from Old Frisian and Old Saxon "korn" for grain. Hominy however is a word of Native American origin from Powhatan meaning 'that which is ground."

 Pharaoh's Military Cows 

Cows were the secret weapons of Egyptian Pharaohs! Did you know that cattle were an important element in Ancient Egyptian military hardware manufacture? We use carbon fiber in bows and as tough flexible masts for sailboards, but cattle horns are a superior source of carbon fiber. Cattle horns were used as the inner compressive layer of laminated bows as early as 4,000 years ago.  Horn, wood, and sinew were glued together to create a bow with superior range. Those charming spotted cattle pictured in Egyptian tombs were a source of hides to cover shields, leather to absorb shock as the woven floor of a chariot, served as an outer covering for chariot wheels, and as a layer for bows, as well as providing dried meat to feed the army. Rearing cattle was important to the military might of Ancient Egypt.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Son and Heir

King Henry VIII as a concerned father walking 2 miles barefoot for the sake of his child. This seems unlikely. History is full of surprises. When Henry VIII and his queen Catherine had a son on January 1, 1511, Henry went on pilgrimage to the shrine at Walsingham. It was customary for pilgrims to walk the final mile to the church barefoot. King Henry walked 2 miles barefoot hoping to ensure the life of his son through his sacrifice. Unfortunately the little prince died before he was 2 months old. Henry and Catherine had 6 children all died except princess Mary.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Oxygen Blue

Ever wonder why the sky is blue? The answer links the air we breath and the rainbow created by a prism splitting sunlight. The atmosphere is largely made up of two colorless gases: oxygen and nitrogen. Sunlight appears white but is made up of a rainbow of colors created by light with different wavelengths. Because the wavelength of blue light is roughly the size of an atom of oxygen, blue light interacts with the oxygen in the atmosphere and is scattered by it. If the Earth had no atmosphere, the sun’s light would travel directly from the Sun in a straight line towards our eyes and we would see the Sun as a very bright star in sea of blackness. Because the blue light waves in sunlight are scattered by the oxygen in the atmosphere, blue light from the Sun enters our eyes from all sorts of different angles and we see the entire sky as blue. 

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Dinosaurs And Spark Plugs

Did you know that the firing end of your car's spark plugs and the extinction of dinosaurs are linked by the same metal--iridium? A clue to the extinction of the dinosaurs was found in a layer of rock laid down at the time of the extinction of the dinosaurs, 65.5 million years ago, that contained a very high concentration of iridium. Iridium occurs in high concentrations in asteroids. The layer must have been laid down by dust settling over the entire planet after a very large asteroid impact. Iridium is one of the nine least abundant elements in Earth's crust, gold is 40 times more abundant, platinum is 10 times more abundant, and silver and mercury are 80 times more abundant. Iridium is found in high enough concentrations for mining in two types of geologic locations: igneous deposits (crustal intrusions from below, iridium is heavy and sank into the central layers of the molten early Earth), and impact craters. The high melting point, hardness, and corrosion resistance of iridium make it the perfect metal for the spark point of spark plugs.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

It's A Pain

Red haired people are more resistant to the pain-numbing effects of certain anesthetics. They require, on average, 19% more anesthetic. In 98% of the population the body produces a dark pigment eumelanin, but in redheads, a mutation in MC1R leads to the production of a red-tinged pheomelanin, instead. Pigment also interacts with molecules that are structurally similar to pigment stimulating hormones, including hormones whose primary role is one of pain relief.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Angels and Apollo

The round papal fortress of Castel Sant 'Angelo, seen in the film "Angels and Demons" has a connection to a Roman Emperor and a pagan sun god. It was built as a mausoleum for himself and his family by Emperor Hadrian. A bronze statue of Hadrian as Apollo driving the sun chariot topped the tomb in Hadrian's time. A pope replaced it with a bronze statue of the Archangel Michael.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Decoding the Pantheon

Ancient Roman monuments hide a secret code. Learn how to decode Roman buildings. In many Roman monuments, the sun is used to mark a special date. The famous Pantheon in Rome is also a vast sundial of a Roman type called a hemicyclium, consisting of the inside section of a hemisphere, with a hole for light to enter, marked with lines delineating the hours. In a hemicyclium, a circle of sunlight marks the hour rather than a shadow as in gnomon type sundials. At the equinoxes, the sun shown half over the dome cornice of the Pantheon. On the anniversary of the founding of Rome on April 21, the sun shown on the massive double doors where the emperor would enter and perform a ceremony. What a spotlight!

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.