Story Sunday: Ig Nobel Prize Goes For Alligator On Helium

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Alligator On Helium Image
Image Credit: Lund University
YouTube
MSN & CNN

“Alligator sucking on helium wins parody Ig Nobel Prize”

Scientists are answering a question no one is asking. What would it sound like if an alligator sucked up helium? When a team of international researchers wanted to find out whether a gator’s vocalizations relate to its body size, they devised an experiment that would earn them the 2020 Ig Nobel (a wordplay on “Nobel” and “ignoble”) Prize for acoustics. Researchers captured footage of the snorting alligator in a helium-filled tank. In perhaps one of the biggest letdowns in the history of scientific study, it sounded nothing like a cartoon chipmunk. Now in its 30th year, the annual Ig Nobel Prize awards ceremony, usually presented at Harvard University’s Sanders Theatre, was conducted remotely due to pandemic restrictions.

Among this year’s other elite competitors, a study which demonstrated that meticulously groomed eyebrows are a reliable indicator of grandiose narcissism took home the prize in psychology. The prize in economics went to an international team of creeps (presumably) who wanted to know whether the rate of French kissing correlated with national income inequality. Based on data from 13 countries across six continents, they found that where kissing was more frequent, income inequality was also more likely to occur. Go figure. American Richard Vetter took home the prize in entomology for his brave study on spiders (which aren’t technically insects) that revealed most of his peers are, allegedly, arachnophobic. And, the award for materials science went deservedly (because it’s gross) to a collaboration between the US and the UK to study whether frozen human feces could be made into usable knives. Spoiler alert: It certainly cannot.

But, who could forget the most Ig Nobel moment in recent history? The medical education prize went to a roundup of sometimes ill-advised world leaders for showing that “politicians can have a more immediate effect on life and death than scientists and doctors can” during the global coronavirus pandemic.

Hannah Sparks
New York Post
September 18, 2020

FFTD: Verbena

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There are several species of Verbena and this one is a Bonariensis or Purpletop Vervain, Clustertop Vervain, Argentinian Vervain and, good old fashioned Tall Verbena. It is not, however, a Brazilian Verbena. ~Vic

Purpletop Vervain Image
09-14-2019
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Flower for the Day

Word Wednesday: Quondam

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Screen Captures

This is, clearly, an obscure word. It sounds like a portmanteau of quantum and condom. Hmmm…Quantum Condoms, for an “out of this world” experience! Whadda ya’ think? Can you make a sentence with this word? ~Vic

POTD: Shadow Man

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I saw this on an afternoon walk. “Only the Shadow knows…” ~Vic

Shadow Man Image
04-18-2020
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Picture of the Day

Song Saturday: Jamie’s Cryin’

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Van Halen Album Image
Image Credit: SoundCloud

“She saw the look in his eyes, and she knew better…”

This Saturday’s playlist submission is Jamie’s Cryin’ by American rock band Van Halen, formed in 1972 in Pasadena, California. The sixth track from their debut album Van Halen, it was released as a single on May 16, 1978 but, it never charted. Credit for songwriting is the whole band and the album peaked at #19 on the Billboard 200 on May 20, 1978 after its February 10 release. It was certified RIAA Diamond (10x Platinum) in sales on August 7, 1996.

After their 2015 North American Tour, they appear to be on indefinite hiatus. Eddie Van Halen has had some serious health problems.

American rapper Tone Lōc used the opening tom-tom and bass riff from this song on his 1989 hit Wild Thing and wound up settling out of court with Van Halen. He and Eddie Van Halen crossed paths some time afterwards and it wasn’t friendly.

I was in sixth grade when this song came out and I had no clue. I was all into disco back then. I didn’t know who they were until Dance the Night Away came out the following year. I didn’t buy an album of theirs until Diver Down. I have never been to a concert. ~Vic

Tone Lōc Talks About Debut Album & Eddie Van Halen (Billboard January 25, 2019)
America’s Songs III: Rock! Rock! (Google Books)
Van-Halen (Official Site)
Van Halen News Desk (Unofficial Site)
Gene Simmons Talks Lost Seventies Van Halen Demos (Rolling Stone March 22, 2016)
Eddie Van Halen’s Wife’s Positivity (Survivor Net September 8, 2020)

Lyrics

FFTD: Vitex

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The species of this is vitex agnus-castus or chastetree, chasteberry, Abraham’s Balm, lilac chastetree and monk’s pepper. ~Vic

Chastetree Image One
Gold Park butterfly garden
09-14-2019

Flower for the Day

TV Tuesday: Trapped 1950

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John Carradine Image One
John Carradine
Photo Credit: A Drifting Cowboy Blog

Seventy years ago, today, the television anthology series Trapped debuted on WOR-TV in New York. Also known as Trapped: Tales of the Supernatural, the host was John Carradine and some guest actors were Charles Korvin, Elizabeth Morgan, Helen Baron, Rita Gam, Fran Malis, George L. Smith, Stanley Tackney and Harry Townes. There were 57 episodes that were 30 minutes long.

There are no pictures or video of this program and very little has been written about it. I did manage to find an article on Light’s Out host Frank Gallop that referenced Trapped:

In accordance with Gallop, other hosts who aimed to set a mood of terror at the time included Andy Christopher […] (Mr. Black), James Monks (Tales of the Black Cat […]) and Lee Bowman (Eye Witness […]). Similarly, Jack La Rue (Lights Out), Boris Karloff (The Boris Karloff Mystery Playhouse) and John Carradine (Trapped: Tales of the Supernatural […]) offered external examples of film stars hired for TV hosting roles in which an emphasis was placed on their associations with the horror genre [with] typecasting as villainous and/or monstrous characters as part of their respective series façade. Due to a lack of surviving/missing material associated with some live series pre-1955, in the cases of some hosts, it is not always possible to definitively discern to what extent horror elements were adopted as part of a series persona.

Frank Gallop: The Ghoulish Host of Lights Out
Thomas Wilson
Taylor & Francis Online
Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television
March 20, 2020

Additional Reading:
Trapped (1950-1952) (Classic TV Archive)

POTD: Yard Nessie

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Stumbled across this on an evening walk. ~Vic

Yard Nessie Image
04-15-2020
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Flashback Friday: Kodak 1888

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Kodak Image One
Photo Credit: The Mirror UK

One-hundred, thirty-two years ago, today, inventor George Eastman received a patent (number 388,850) for [the shutter of a roll-film hand camera] and the trademark (number 15,825) for the Kodak name […].

Birth of a Company

In 1879, London was the center of the photographic and business world. George Eastman went there to obtain a patent on his plate-coating machine. An American patent was granted the following year. In April 1880, Eastman leased the third floor of a building on State Street in Rochester and began to manufacture dry plates for sale. Success of the dry plate venture so impressed businessman Henry A. Strong, that he invested some money in the infant concern. On January 1, 1881, Eastman and Strong formed a partnership called The Eastman Dry Plate Company. While actively managing all phases of the firm’s activities, [Eastman] continued research in an effort to simplify photography.

In 1883, Eastman startled the trade with the announcement of film in rolls, with the roll holder adaptable to nearly every plate camera on the market. [By] 1884, the Eastman-Strong partnership had given way to a new firm…the Eastman Dry Plate and Film Company with 14 shareowners.

George Eastman History
Kodak

Building the Foundation
Web Archive

Kodak Instamatic Image Two
Photo Credit: Ebay

The immediate triumph of the camera prompted Eastman to change the name of his company from Eastman Dry Plate and Film Company to Eastman Kodak Company in 1892.

My very first camera was a late 70s Kodak Instamatic with 126 film. It was a gift from my paternal grandmother and it got a lot of use. ~Vic

Additional Reading & Sources:
From The Camera Obscura To The Revolutionary Kodak (Eastman Museum)
Kodak History (Kodak Company)
Kodak Wikipedia

FFTD: Canna

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I can’t determine the species. ~Vic

Canna Flower Image
09-14-2019
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Flower for the Day

Military Monday: USS Harmon DE-678 1943

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USS Harmon DE-678 Image One
Destroyer Escort USS Harmon
Circa August 1943
Image was censored and retouched.
Radar antennas removed.
Pennant added in its place.
Released for publication March 1944
Photo Credit: Naval History & Heritage Command
Wikipedia & Wikimedia

The USS Harmon was a U.S. Navy Buckley class destroyer escort named after Leonard Roy Harmon, a Mess Attendant (Messman) First Class that served aboard the USS San Francisco. It was the first U.S. warship to be named after a Black American. It was launched July 25, 1943, by Bethlehem Steel Company in Quincy, MA, sponsored by Harmon’s mother and, seventy-seven years ago, today, it was commissioned. She spent nearly a year serving as an escort ship near New Caledonia. After a short period at Pearl Harbor, she joined the Luzon Reinforcement Group. By March 1945, she was an escort and an anti-submarine screen off Iwo Jima. She returned to Pearl Harbor for training, then to Mare Island for a weapons upgrade and, when the war was over, she conducted training operations with submarines.

Leonard Roy Harmon Image Two
Commemoration Poster
Source: Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery
Photo Credit: Wikipedia & Wikimedia

Decommissioned March 25, 1947, she joined the Atlantic Reserve Fleet. She was stricken August 1, 1965 and sold for scrap January 30, 1967. She received three battle stars for her World War II service.

*************

Leonard Roy Harmon, born in Cuero, Texas, on January 21, 1917, enlisted in the U.S. Navy on June 10, 1939, as a Mess Attendant Third Class. He trained at the Naval Training Station, Naval Operating Base, Norfolk, Virginia and reported to [the] San Francisco (CA-38) on October 28, 1939. On November 12, 1942, [the] San Francisco was covering a force of transports disembarking reinforcements off Guadalcanal when Japanese land attack planes, carrying torpedoes, attacked. [The] enemy aircraft crashed into the ship causing “considerable damage and intense fires” that put the after anti-aircraft director and radar out of commission. One officer and 15 men were either killed outright or died of their injuries. Harmon rushed in to evacuate the wounded. He was then assigned to assist Pharmacist’s Mate Lynford Bondsteel in evacuating and caring for the wounded. While the ship was being raked by enemy gunfire, Harmon deliberately shielded Bondsteel in order to protect his wounded shipmate. Although Bondsteel managed to get his courageous shipmate below, Harmon died of his wounds soon afterward.

Democracy In Action Poster Image Three
Artist: Charles Henry Alston
Collection: National Archives at College Park
Office of War Information poster from 1943
Photo Credit: Wikipedia & Wikimedia

Harmon was awarded a Purple Heart and, in March 1943, the Navy Cross.

Citation Excerpt:

The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting the Navy Cross (Posthumously) to Mess Attendant First Class Leonard Roy Harmon (NSN: 3600418), United States Navy, for extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty in action against the enemy while serving on board the Heavy Cruiser U.S.S. San Francisco (CA-38) […]. With persistent disregard of his own personal safety, […] Harmon rendered invaluable assistance in caring for the wounded and assisting them to a dressing station. In addition to displaying unusual loyalty [on] behalf of the injured Executive Officer, he deliberately exposed himself to hostile gunfire in order to protect a shipmate and, as a result of this courageous deed, was killed in action. He gallantly gave his life for his country.

Addition Reading & Sources:
First US Ship Named For An African-American (History & Headlines August 31, 2016)
USN Ships: USS Harmon (DE-678) (Ibiblio Database)
Citation: Leonard Roy Harmon (Military Times)
Modern Ships: USS Harmon DE-678 (Naval History & Heritage Command)
Ship Histories: Harmon (DE-678) (Naval History & Heritage Command)
USS Harmon (DE-678) (Naval Warfare Blogspot)
World War Two: Told In A Museum (New Caledonia Site)
Leonard Harmon (Smithsonian)
Leonard Harmon, USN (USS San Francisco Site)
Leonard Roy Harmon (Wikipedia)
Naval Battle of Guadalcanal (Wikipedia)
USS San Francisco (Wikipedia)

POTD: Birthday Sunset

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It’s been a good day. ~Vic

Birthday Sunset Image
Breathtaking end to the day.
Click for a larger view.

Scoop Saturday: Lincoln’s Hair & Bloody Telegram Up For Auction

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Lincoln's Hair & Telegram Image One
Image Credit: United Press International via
RR Auction

Update:
The artifacts sold for an astounding $81,250 on September 12, 2020.

“[The] lock of hair and telegram, which provides details of Lincoln’s assassination in 1865, are expected to fetch up to $75,000.”

A lock of Abraham Lincoln’s hair wrapped in a telegram stained with the 16th president’s blood is up for auction online. [From RR Auction, based in Boston], [the two} inches of Lincoln’s hair was removed during his postmortem examination after the president was fatally shot by John Wilkes Booth.

The hair ended up in the custody of Dr. Lyman Beecher Todd, a cousin of Lincoln’s widow, Mary Todd Lincoln. The doctor was present at the postmortem examination and is believed to have wrapped the lock of hair in the telegram which had been sent to him the previous day by his assistant, George Kinnear. The telegram is stained with what is believed to be the slain president’s blood.

Bidding for the two items closes Sept. 12.

Ben Hooper
UPI
August 28, 2020

The hair is mounted to an official War Department manuscript telegram sent to Dr. Todd by George H. Kinnear, his assistant in the Post Office at Lexington, Kentucky, received in Washington at 11:00pm on April 14, 1865 […]. [A] typed caption prepared by Dr. Todd’s son reads, in part: “The above telegram […] arrived in Washington a few minutes after Abraham Lincoln was shot.

Todd Death Notice Image Two
Image Credit: Kentucky Kindred Genealogy

Next day, at the postmortem, when a lock of hair, clipped from near the President’s left temple, was given to Dr. Todd. [Finding] no other paper in his pocket […] he wrapped the lock, stained with blood or brain fluid, in this telegram and hastily wrote on it in pencil […] ‘Hair of A. Lincoln.’

Dr. Lyman Beecher Todd‘s own account of the autopsy, now preserved in an 1895 manuscript held in the Ida Tarbell collection of Lincoln papers at Allegheny College in Meadville, PA, differs slightly from his son’s, noting that he clipped the lock himself: “When all was over, General Hardin entered and handed me a pair of scissors, requesting me to cut a few locks of hair for Mrs. Lincoln. I carefully cut and delivered them to General Hardin and, then, secured one for myself which I have preserved as a sacred relic.”

Description From The Original Listing

FFTD: Ruellia

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A member of the Acanthaceae family, this could be a Ruellia Simplex or Mexican Petunia, Mexican Bluebell or Britton’s Wild Petunia. It could be a Ruellia Tuberosa or Minnieroot, Fever Root, Snapdragon Root or Sheep Potato. Honestly, they look the same to me. ~Vic

Ruellia Image
09-14-2019
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Flower for the Day

Theodolite Thursday: Satellites Interfere With Astronomy

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Earth Satellites Image One
Image Credit: NOIRLab
NSF
AURA
P. Marenfeld
Science Magazine

“A report warns that fleets of new communication satellites in low-Earth orbit will spoil some astronomical observations, even if all known mitigation strategies are taken.”

Astronomers and the operators of new, thousands-strong […] low-orbiting satellites will have to work together to prevent them from having a devastating impact on ground-based observations of planets, stars and other celestial objects, says a [recent] report […]. Even then, there is no escaping some harm from the fleets of commercial orbiters.

“All optical and infrared observatories will be affected to some degree,” [stated] astronomer Anthony Tyson of the University of California, Davis, […] at a briefing on the report.

“No combination of mitigation will eliminate their impact,” added astronomer Connie Walker of the U.S. National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory.

The satellites, designed to provide internet access in remote areas, now number in the hundreds. [Following] the launch of the first batch by SpaceX in May 2019, astronomers were alarmed by how bright they appear in the sky. If all the planned [launches] go ahead, the number of satellites will grow beyond 100,000. Since last year, there have been a number of independent studies of [satellites’] possible impact. [The] workshop’s report is the first time the satellite companies, and those who would be affected (astronomers to the agencies that fund them and their telescopes), have pooled their results and worked out a strategy for the future.

NASA Satellite Image Two
Photo Credit: NASA on Unsplash

The satellite trails are very bright, and out of focus slightly, so they’re wide and cover several pixels on images taken with a test version of the (soon to open Vera C.) Rubin Observatory’s camera, notes Tyson. [Telescopes] that need to work during twilight will also run into problems. Because the satellites are in low orbits, they will often be seen close to the horizon and will be most visible when they are still in sunlight but, the observer is not. If, however, satellite operators choose orbits above 600 kilometers, the situation gets worse because, then, their spacecraft are visible for more of the night, and in [the] summer, all night long. Astronomers should also develop software tools to remove satellite trails from images and the companies should make accurate orbital data available for their orbiters so telescopes can try to avoid them.

The only measure the report could offer to totally eliminate the damage to astronomy was to launch fewer or no low-orbiting satellites…likely not an option given the financial investments the companies are making in the [satellites] and the lucrative market they foresee.

Tyson and his colleagues have been working with SpaceX engineers to modify their satellites to reduce their brightness. His team has also modeled trying to steer the Rubin Observatory telescope to avoid passing satellites but, Tyson says there are simply too many. Astronomers are already actively pursuing image processing solutions but, he says “the jury’s out” on how much that can help.

Daniel Clery
Science Magazine
August 25, 2020

Addtional Reading:
Report Offers Roadmap (American Astronomical Society)
SATCON Report (NOIRLab)
Satellites Could Spoil View of Giant Sky Telescope (Science Magazine February 27, 2020)