Trans-Siberian Railroad completed (1916)

posted Saturday, 18 October 2014

Train service between St. Petersburg (then known as Petrograd) in the west and Vladivostok in the east began on this day in 1916 (October 18 in the Gregorian calendar, October 5 in the old Julian calendar). It is still the longest continuous rail line in the world.

Source: University of South Florida

596: First Chinese nuclear weapon test (1964)

posted Thursday, 16 October 2014

Date: 16 October 1964 (3:00 PM China Standard Time)
Code name: 596
Type: plutonium fission
Yield: 22 thousand tons of TNT
Location: Lop Nur, Xin JIang, China

Chuck Yaeger breaks the sound barrier (1947)

posted Tuesday, 14 October 2014

On October 14, 1947, in the rocket powered Bell X-1, Capt. Charles E. Yeager flew faster than sound for the first time.

Source: NASA

Columbus and crew see America for the first time (1492)

posted Sunday, 12 October 2014

Crossing the Atlantic Ocean took 40 days. Sailor Rodrigo de Triana, who was stationed in the crow’s nest for the night watch, was the first member of Columbus’ crew to sight what is now known as the Bahamas. Columbus explored the Caribbean for 3 months before heading for the Azores.

Time zones adopted in the US (1883)

posted Saturday, 11 October 2014

The first five standardized time zones of the US and Canada went into effect on this day in 1883. The agreement reached by the General Time Convention (later known as the American Railway Association) was designed to simplify railway scheduling.

Powers of Ten Day

posted Friday, 10 October 2014

Celebrate the powers of 10 on the tenth day of the tenth month.

  • books
  • films
    • Cosmic Zoom. Eva Szasz. National Film Board of Canada (1968). Starts in the Ottawa River near the Parliament of Canada. No numbers or narration — probably because they didn’t want to make one version in French and another in English.
    • Powers of Ten. Charles and Ray Eames (1977). Narrated by Philip Morrison. The most famous film of this type. Starts in Burnham Park near Soldier Field in Chicago.

      • Eames Office. The Eames Office is dedicated to communicating, preserving, and extending the work of Charles and Ray Eames. The Eames Office also posted info about the film at for awhile. As of 10/10/2014 they own the domain, but nothing is there.
      • YouTube. The official Charles and Ray Eames channel.
      • Vimeo. Posted by Bomi Lee.
    • Cosmic Voyage. National Air and Space Museum. Smithsonian Institution (1997). Narrated by Morgan Freeman. Starts in the Piazza San Marco in Venice.
    • The Known Universe. American Museum of Natural History (2009). Starts in the Himalayas. Zooms out and back, but not really in. Completely computer generated, but based on the latest astronomical and geographic data.
  • interactive web pages
    • Cell Size and Scale. Genetic Science Learning Center. University of Utah (no date). Zoom in from the size of a coffee bean to the size of a carbon atom. A nice, simple interactive JavaScript (at least, that’s what I think it is).
    • Scale of the Universe. Cary Huang and Michael Huang (2010). A nicely illustrated, interactive Flash animation with swirly, distracting new age music.
    • Secret Worlds: The Universe Within. Michael W. Davidson. Florida State University (1995–2013). A Java applet in the style of the Eames film, centered on a tree in near the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory in Tallahassee, Florida.

Rudolph Diesel’s body found (1913)

posted Friday, 10 October 2014

Rudolph Diesel, of diesel engine fame, was last seen alive 29 September 1913 aboard the steamship Dresden en route from Antwerp to London. Eleven days later the crew of the Coertsen found his decomposed body floating in the North Sea. Circumstances leading to Diesel’s death remain a mystery.

First North Korean nuclear weapon test (2006)

posted Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Date: 8 October 2006 (10:35 AM Korea Standard Time)
Code name: unknown
Type: plutonium fission
Yield: less than one thousand tons of TNT
Location: Kilchu-ŭp, North Hamgyŏng
Earthquake magnitude: 4.3

This test is thought to have been a fizzle. The second nuclear weapons test by North Korea on 25 May 2009 is thought to have been successful.

The Wright Brothers fly the first practical airplane (1905)

posted Sunday, 5 October 2014

The Wright Brothers completed the sixth and final flight in a series of “long duration” (20-40 minute) flights at Huffman Prairie, Ohio on 5 October 1905. The Wright Flyer III was the third powered aircraft built by the Wright Brothers and, although not the first airplane to fly, is generally considered the the first practical airplane.

Sputnik 1 launched (1957)

posted Saturday, 4 October 2014

The world’s first artificial satellite was about the size of a basketball, weighed only 83 kg, and took about 98 minutes to orbit the Earth on its elliptical path. It was launched on this day, at this time in 1957.