Saturday, March 25, 2017
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All of my life, people, average people, scientists and fiction writers, have been speculating as to whether there is intelligent life on other planets. My mother said she was keeping an open mind. A scan of a color copy of the original computer printout, taken several years after the 1977 arrival of the Wow! signal. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Movie producers speculated in works from Star Trek to E.T. Science fiction authors from Clifford Simak (Strangers in the Universe) to Arthur C. Clarke (2001: A Space Odyssey) and Robert Heinlein (Stranger in a Strange Land) speculated about intelligent life... (Read More ...)

In December, 1990, Tim Berners-Lee, a British computer scientist, posted the first website, linking hypertext to the Internet node at CERN, where he was an employee. This NeXT Computer was used by Sir Tim Berners-Lee at CERN and became the world’s first Web server. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) He introduced a browser for the Web on February 26, 1991. On August 7, 1991, he described the project by posting on alt.hypertext newsgroup, launching the World Wide Web. “I just had to take the hypertext idea and connect it to the Transmission Control Protocol [TCP] and domain name system ideas... (Read More ...)

Louise Joy Brown, the first so-called “test tube baby” after out-of-womb in vitro fertilization (IVF), was born July 25, 1978. Description: Front side (obverse) of one of the Nobel Prize medals in Physiology or Medicine awarded in 1950 to researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) In vitro refers to a glass petri dish, compared to in vivo, inside a person or animal, a distinction made in drug development as scientists first test in the laboratory and then in people. Louise Brown’s mother, Lesley, had blocked Fallopian tubes, meaning an egg could not... (Read More ...)

On July 24, 1950, Cape Canaveral launched its first rocket, a German two-stage V-2 rocket named Bumper.  I was three. The Apollo 7/Saturn IB space vehicle is launched from the Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 34 at 11:03 a.m. on Oct. 11, 1968. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Although I don’t remember that launch, 19 years before the first televised moon walk, all my life Cape Canaveral has meant rocket ships. The rocket ship launching site could have been in White Sands, New Mexico, which already had a missile-testing site. When a missile went astray, in 1947, however, flying over El Paso,... (Read More ...)

Although the first movie shown on an airplane was in 1921, flying around Chicago, TWA is credited with being the first airline to show movies aboard, starting on July 19, 1961. Screenshot of Lana Turner from the trailer for the film The Postman Always Rings Twice. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) They aired By Love Possessed, starring Lana Turner and Jason Robards, to first-class passengers flying from New York to Los Angeles. In 1961, David Flexer, of Inflight Motion Pictures, had developed a 16-mm in-flight movie system for commercial airliners that replaced the old 30-inch reels. By 1971, the 8mm film... (Read More ...)

Unless you’re coming in slow and low and hit the sea wall, as in a recent plane crash in San Francisco, a March 2013 documentary, The Crash, suggests that the worst seats in a plane are the first 11 rows. Seat belt on an airplane, open (Photo credit: Wikipedia) These are usually reserved for first class and business class passengers. In a test crash, a force of 12g was exerted in the front rows and 6g in the back rows. This confirms a 2007 Popular Mechanics study in which the authors studied all crashes since 1971 and found that in rear seats, behind the wing, you had a 69% chance of survival,... (Read More ...)

The hand dryer was invented by George Clemens in 1948, later improved with a hands-free sensor to turn it on. Push-button hand dryer (Photo credit: Wikipedia) The jet air dryer was invented by Mitsubishi Electric in 1993. It seems like an easy decision for owners of places with public restrooms, like restaurants, airports, and roadside stops. Installing hand dryers, with a modest up-front cost and low maintenance and electric bills, eliminates the cost of refilling paper towel dispensers and emptying trash bins, also keeping restrooms tidy. For a while, we were told that not only is it cheaper,... (Read More ...)

Do you still have Betamax movies lying around? The case centered around Sony’s manufacture of the Betamax VCR, which used cassettes like this to store potentially copyrighted information (Photo credit: Wikipedia) I’ve never been an early adopter for the sake of having the latest technical toys on the block. I didn’t buy one of the first videocassette recorders (VCRs), which started coming out in 1972, with the introduction of a home VCR by Phillips. The ones our friends bought were clunky and awkward and had much poorer image resolution than their tv screens. Sure, it was cool that they... (Read More ...)

On May 28 and 29, 1959, the U.S. Department of Defense hosted a meeting designed to kick-off the development of a new, business-oriented, English-like computer language that came to be called COBOL, for Common Business-Oriented Language. The actual first computer bug, a moth found trapped on a relay of the Harvard Mark II computer (Photo credit: Wikipedia) This meeting followed an April 8, 1959 Conference on Data Systems Languages (CODASYL) at the University of Pennsylvania of users, professors and computer manufacturers. They took as their jumping off point a language developed by Rear Admiral... (Read More ...)

On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy, in an address to a Joint Session of Congress, asked for appropriations for a manned space program. President John F. Kennedy speaks at Rice University (Photo credit: Wikipedia)  “These are extraordinary times and we face an extraordinary challenge.” “Our strengths, as well as our convictions, have imposed on this nation the role of leader in freedom’s cause.” “The dramatic achievements in space which occurred in recent weeks [when Russia put the first man, Yuri Gagarin, in space] should have made clear to us all, as did the Sputnik in 1957,... (Read More ...)