Northeast Blackout (1965)

posted Monday, 9 November 2015

The lights went out from New Jersey north to Ontario and east to New Hampshire on 9 November 1965 from 5:30 PM to approximately 5:30 AM the following morning. This is sometimes thought of as the "First New York City Blackout". The second was in 1977 and the third in 2003.

Carl Sagan Day

posted Monday, 9 November 2015

We are star stuff

Carl Sagan, 1934—1996

Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen discovers x-rays (1895)

posted Sunday, 8 November 2015

X-ray of a hand

Grapple X: First successful UK thermonuclear weapon test (1957)

posted Sunday, 8 November 2015

Date: 8 November 1957
Code Name: Grapple X, Round C
Type: two-stage fusion
Yield: 1,800 kilotons of TNT
Location: Christmas Island, Kiribati

Tacoma Narrows Bridge Collapse (1940)

posted Saturday, 7 November 2015

Marie Curie born (1867)

posted Saturday, 7 November 2015

Marie Skłodowska-Curie (1867–1934)

Flux Capacitor Day

posted Thursday, 5 November 2015

The premise of the 1985 film Back to the Future is that time travel (in a direction other than into the future) is possible. In the movie, the mad scientist character Dr. Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd) tells the story of how he invented the "flux capacitor" on this day in 1955.

Dr. Emmett Brown with a diagram of the flux capacitorThat was the day I invented time travel. I remember it vividly. I was standing on the edge of my toilet hanging a clock, the porcelain was wet, I slipped, hit my head on the edge of the sink, and when I came to I had revelation. A vision. A picture in my head. A picture of this. This is what makes time travel possible. The flux capacitor.

A capacitor is an electronic device for storing separated electric charges. Capacitors are used in power supplies (to reduce fluctuations in DC voltages), condenser microphones, MEMS accelerometers (like those found in game controllers or car airbag triggers), and random access computer memory (RAM).

The word flux has many meanings, but in physics flux is the "rate of flow" of some quantity through an area. The thing "flowing" could be a fluid (like air or water), some form of energy (like heat, light, or radio waves), or a field (gravitational, electric, or magnetic). In the case of fields, however, the idea of "flow" is more poetic than literal.

The phrase "flux capacitor" is an example of a portmanteau — two different ideas joined together. Portmanteau is itself a portmanteau of the French words portez (to carry) and manteau (coat). Portmanteau makes sense as a word since it refers to a bag or case used to carry clothing — what I would call luggage. In contrast, "flux capacitor" is nonsense. It’s an example of science fiction technobabble. If you say it with enough conviction it almost sounds real, but that doesn’t make it so.

November 5, 1950 Flux Capacitor

Kamchatka earthquake and Severo-Kurilsk tsunami (1952)

posted Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Kamchatka peninsula and Kuril Islands
Magnitude 9.0

Ivy Mike: First thermonuclear weapon test (1952)

posted Saturday, 31 October 2015

Date: 1 November 1952 (7:15 AM New Zealand Standard Time)
Code name: Ivy Mike
Type: two-stage fusion
Yield: 10.4 million tons of TNT
Location: Enewetak Atoll, Marshall Islands (Note the obvious deep hole in the lagoon where the island of Elugelab used to be.)

Tsar Bomba: Most powerful nuclear weapon test (1961)

posted Friday, 30 October 2015

Date: 30 October 1961
Code name: Tsar Bomba (Царь бомба)
Type: air drop, two-stage fusion
Yield: 50 megatons of TNT
Location: Novaya Zemlya, Russia