Showing posts from January 27, 2019

How Did Groundhog Day Get Started?

To the unfamiliar, Groundhog Day is perhaps one of America’s weirdest traditions. Every Feb. 2, people wait for a large, furry rodent to see his shadow and then we predict the weather based on the animal’s actions.
But the winter holiday has a long history rooted in everything from early Christian traditions in Europe to 19th century American newspapers. Here is everything you need to know about how Groundhog Day got its start.

The Origin Story The idea of Groundhog Day comes from an ancient Christian celebration known as Candlemas Day, which marked the midpoint between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information. On Candlemas Day, clergy would bless candles needed for winter and distribute them to the people, the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club’s website says. Superstition held that if the day was sunny and clear, people could expect a long, rough winter, but if the sky was cloudy, warm weather would arrive soon. The German…

The Monster Study: Understanding Stuttering Children

Wendell Johnson was a tall, knobby 20-year-old farm boy when he arrived at the University of Iowa in Iowa City to study English in 1926. The class president and valedictorian of his tiny high school in Roxbury, Kan., Johnson was engaging, ''quite a clown'' in the estimation of the folks back home. He also stuttered grotesquely, often rendered speechless by the impediment. His inability to express himself nudged him toward writing and literature, and he developed a penchant for antic humor, which kept him popular despite his silence. It also propelled him to U. Iowa, the most famous center for stuttering research in the world. Around the country, speech pathology was fighting to be recognized as a science, and Iowa was the new discipline's polestar. Dozens of experiments were under way when Johnson arrived, and he enthusiastically threw himself into the invigorating work, switching to psychology for his master's study. ''I became a speech pathologist be…

Stephen Hawking's Warnings

Stephen Hawking's fame was founded on the research he did on general relativity and black holes. But he often stepped outside his own field of research, using his recognition to highlight what he saw as the great challenges and existential threats for humanity in coming decades. His pronouncements drove headlines in the media, which sometimes proved controversial.

Leaving Earth Hawking was clearly troubled that we were putting all our eggs in one basket - that basket being Earth. For decades, Hawking had been calling for humans to begin the process of permanently settling other planets. It made news headlines again and again.
Hawking's rationale was that humankind would eventually fall victim to an extinction-level catastrophe - perhaps sooner rather than later. What worried him were so-called low-probability, high impact events - a large asteroid striking our planet is the classic example. But Hawking perceived a host of other potential threats: artificial intelligence, clim…

The Secret "Green Run" Experiments on Washington

The physicists who invented the nuclear bomb worked out of Los Alamos in New Mexico, but the people who did the dirty work of making the bombs were in Hanford, Washington. Throughout the Cold War, Hanford churned out plutonium for our nuclear arsenal. It was also, conveniently, a place to experiment with radiation.
Today, Hanford is the most contaminated radioactive site in America—the site of a massive (and troubled) cleanup effort. Radioactive material is still accidentally leaking into the ground. Though Hanford’s plants routinely released small doses of radioactive material into the air, most of this damage came from an event in 1949 called Green Run.
Green Run was a secret Air Force experiment that released Hanford’s largest single dose of radioactive iodine-131. On the night of December 2, 1949, at the behest of the military, scientists at Hanford let 7,000 to 12,000 curies of iodine-131 into the air, where it rode the wind as far as 200 miles. For a sense of scale, the Three M…

Why Bother With Science Fiction In Today's Technological World?

What roles can Sci-Fi and Fantasy play in a world becoming more fantastical all the time?
In a world that’s becoming more fantastical and science fictional by the day, it’s sometimes tempting to ask, what’s the point of science fiction or fantasy? After all, these days we have in our pockets and in our homes, devices that outstrip the projections of yesteryear science fiction—heck, many of us practically own magic mirrors, and oracles we can ask about the weather. But lots of us persist in writing and reading science fiction and fantasy. Why?
The easy, and in my opinion mostly wrong, answer, is that science fiction and fantasy both expand our imagination, and plant the seeds of great advances. Science fiction primes us to go to the moon, or to Mars. Science fiction builds in its readers and viewers a desire for pocket communicators, for slabs of glass that hold all the books ever printed; fantasy inculcates a desire for devices that just work, for a home that responds to our will as i…

Project Sunshine: Government Grave Robbing

In the 1950's, the Federal Government established a worldwide network to collect tissue secretly to monitor the effects of radioactive fallout from nuclear weapons tests, according to documents uncovered by a Presidential panel.
The President's Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments today released documents from the old Atomic Energy Commission that outlined efforts to collect tissue, primarily bone, from cadavers without obtaining the permission of the next of kin. The documents show the commission members were aware of the dubious legal and ethical grounds for the research.
A transcript of a secret meeting on Jan. 18, 1955, called by the commission to discuss the tissue gathering for "Project Sunshine" shows that Dr. Willard Libby, a University of Chicago researcher who was a commission member, said there were "great gaps" in important data about fallout because of difficulty in obtaining human samples, particularly from children.
"I don&…

What Does It Feel Like to Die?

So, I have been trying to research what happens when we die for a very long time now. The reason it’s taken so long is because I wanted actual, clinical answers to what happens, but all I could ever find were articles written by people who have “died and come back” and met God and all their relatives before being sent back down to Earth. Not that I have anything wrong with people that experience that (and I fully believe they did see something like that), but I’m looking for hard facts. Not speculation or the faith that someone isn’t lying to me. I'm looking for solid answers, and I know how uncomfortable it may get.
After long last I have found an actual article on the factual, real, scary process that is human death. I apologize, first and foremost, to anyone that uncovers any saddening thoughts from this because it will get a little more real than some can handle. Here we go...

Death comes for us all here on Earth at a rate of nearly 7,000 people every hour. Yet, despite its i…