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180. Space Invaders Versus The Japanese Mint

Image courtesy of Gil De Los Santos

From a slow start in 1978 Space Invaders experienced a meteoric ascension to become a true icon as it is today. The mere image of one of the ‘aliens’ instantly brings to mind video games as a whole. Its sudden rise in popularity after its initial 2 months was on a scale never seen before. In Japan, the home of video games, it became so popular that it managed to cause a thankfully temporary 100 yen shortage, a feat so notable that it was recorded in the 2008 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records. It also forced the Japanese to further increase the amount of 100 yen coins they were producing each year.

Within 2 years of release the game was making some serious ground. Arcades with nothing but Space Invaders machines opened up, and it was seen by many as the first case where games came even close to competing with major forms of entertainment such as Film. Video games were much more marginalised in the 1980’s, but Space Invaders came to the fore, its success was a precursor to the position video games now occupy in the 21st Century, the largest of all the entertainment forms.

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Posted by on August 19, 2011 in Articles, Trivia

 

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174. Neptune’s One Year Anniversary

In 1846 the planet Neptune was discovered; since then one year has passed. Now we celebrate the one year anniversary of its discovery. As you may have gathered, that is one Neptune year, something much longer than the human year.

Neptune is the coldest and most remote planet in our solar system (pluto does not count). BEing so far away it has an orbit that is 30 times larger than earth. One year of  Neptune, one full orbit of the sun, lasts 164.79 earth years. Making 12th June 2011 the one year anniversary.

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Posted by on July 13, 2011 in Articles, Trivia

 

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171. So Many Flags

The 15 stripes flag

For the majority of its life, the United States flag has had far less than 50 stars. In fact the number tends to move a lot, since its inception the United States flag has changed 26 times.

The original was only 13 stars and 13 stripes, that lasted for 18 years. The Vermont and Kentucky joined, the flag was changed, increasing the number of stripes to its maximum. 1975 to 1818 America managed to have 15 stars and 15 stripes. then more states joined and someone, namely President James Monroe, decided to take away the two extra stripes and just add a new star for each state.

Thanks to the rapidly increasing number of states, the United States did run through flags very quickly, in fact there have been nine flags in total which have only been in use for a year before being phased out. Unlike Denmark which has had the same flag for at least 500 years.

In this vein, one can praise the United States for being prepared; in case some new states are suddenly added the United States Army Institute of Heraldry has ready-designed flags with up to 56 stars. The current American one has lasted 50 years, nothing compared to Denmark, but a long time for the U.S. In fact it is their flag with the longest ‘lifespan’ so to speak. Maybe it’s time to change it. Possibly add a state here, or take one away, the possibilities are endless.

Bonus Fact : There are 6 U.S. flags on the moon, that’s more flags than any other nation – for the moment at least.

 
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Posted by on July 10, 2011 in Articles, Misconceptions, Trivia

 

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166. ‘Clever Hans’ the Mathematical Horse

In the early twentieth century there was a spectacle, a horse called ‘Clever Hans,’ whom the owner claimed could add, subtract, multiply, divide, work with fractions, tell time, keep track of the calendar, differentiate musical tones, and read, spell, and understand German. Truly a spectacle, bolstered by the sudden interest in animal intelligence thanks to the then fairly recent publication of Darwin’s, ‘On The Origin Of Species.’

Propelled by this interest ‘Clever Hans’ quickly gained repute and fame for both himself and his trainer, Wilhelm Van Osten, a mathematics teacher and an amateur, but in this case successful, horse trainer. Van Osten held spectacles for which he never charged entry, he would gather a crowd, ask Hans a question and Hans would tap the answer out until the right number was reached. For example he would ask,’If the eighth day of the month comes on a Tuesday, what is the date of the following Friday?’ The Hans would tap his hoof the requisite number of times(in this case 11).

Question could be submitted either verbally or in written form. The success of the spectacle allowed ‘Hans’ and van Osten to travel widely across Germany and in fact the whole event was featured at one point on page six of the New York Times. Then came queries, exactly how did the horse do it? Due tot he popularity and wide speculation the German board of education put together a committee of 13 people in order to test the scientific claims being made. They were known as the Hans committee. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on July 5, 2011 in Articles, Misconceptions, Trivia

 

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165. The Pitch Drop Experiment

Pitch is a very tough substance, used to waterproof boats and traditional burning torches. At room temperature you can shatter it with a hammer. The black substance, so dark that it is the source of the term ‘pitch-black’, seemed to be a solid at room temperature; Professor Thomas Parnell disagreed, and set up one of the longest science experiments ever, to prove his point. This became known a the ‘Pitch Drop Experiment.’

The preparation itself took years, in 1927 he prepared a sample in a sealed funnel, then heated it. Three years later it had cooled and settled down. In 1930 the bottom of the funnel was cut, giving the pitch free sway to plummet downwards under the effects of gravity. So began one of the slowest drips the world has ever witnessed. Each drop takes between eight and nine years to form, but form and fall they did. Professor Thomas Parnell only ever lived past two drops of pitch before his death in 1948. The experiment continued without him.

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Posted by on July 4, 2011 in Articles, Trivia

 

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164. The London Beer Flood

The street before the flood

In St. Giles, a parish of London, lay the Meux and Company Brewery. Inside were housed many several large vats filled to the brim with frothy beer. On 17 October 1814, a vat containing 610,000 litres of beer ruptured. This profusion of beer began a chain of events, the ensuing wave damaged the other vats and caused them too to empty out their contents. The rampant volume of beer increasing with each ruptured vat. The total amount of beer which burst from the distillery was 1,470,000 litres.

The wave of beer tore down Tottenham Court Road and damaged not just two homes but also destroyed the wall of the Tavistock Arms Pub. The first casualty was within the pub, a young Eleanor Cooper; the destruction of the wall caught her off guard. Unable to run the 14-year-old employee was trapped beneath the rubble.

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Posted by on July 3, 2011 in Articles

 

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162. Fear and Feet

According to a widespread survey into bathroom behaviour: 8% of Americans are so afraid of germs from Lavatories that they attempt, or actually do, flush the toilet with their feet. Research  has not highlighted any use for this as of yet.

I think there may be a pattern of useless bathroom studies.

 
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Posted by on July 1, 2011 in Trivia

 

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161. Planet In a Bottle

Biosphere 2 was ambitious, and the first of its kind. The aim was to create a second, slightly more portable earth, a closed system you could put anywhere which would allow people to survive, growing their own food and living off of it even the oxygen was recycled. A totally closed experiment to test whether or not we could live on another planet.

The site is spread over 3 hermetically sealed acres with double airlocks for assured safety. Inside were replicated all the world’s necessary environments. A small ocean with a wave machine and beach,  grassland savannah, tropical rainforest, farm and an additional mangrove wetland. Plants were chosen to remove carbon dioxide from the air and replace it with oxygen.

All 14 before the final selection

A group of fourteen people initially held a practice run. Each sported a fetching red jumpsuit made by the former maker of Marilyn Monroe’s dresses. Out of the group, eight were chosen for the full thing. A two-year stint in a completely closed system, just themselves and the farm, in a giant glass structure in the Arizona Desert.

8:15 am, 26 September 1991 all eight of the red-clad ‘bionauts’ climbed through the airlock, leaving behind them their recently consumed breakfasts and waving crowds. Behind them the airlocks closed and so began the $150 million experiment. Over the next two years the groups would survive together and be self-sufficient, exit only came for the ill. It was a bizarre affair.

Initially it was a media frenzy, Biosphere 2 was the first of its kind and tourists came by the busload to serve their voyeuristic needs, staring through the glass walls at the toiling human specimens held within. This activity itself went on to inspire a small cultural revolution, leading directly to the creation of Big Brother, an extremely popular Reality Show which let viewers in on the lives of ‘housemates’ who were people chosen to live in a house together and perform tasks. It is easy to see the similarities.

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Posted by on June 30, 2011 in Articles, Trivia

 

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159. Toilet Money

Over $100,000 was spent on a study which aimed to find out which way people arranged their toiler paper; with the flap in front or behind. the final conclusion was that 75% of US citizens arrange toilet rolls with the flap hanging down in front.

No news yet as to the actual use of this study.

 
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Posted by on June 28, 2011 in Trivia

 

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158. The Boston Molasses Flood of 1919

Molasses is not the most pleasant substance, a thick and dark brown sugary syrup which clings on to anything it touches. On the hottest days in Boston, locals claim that the streets bleed it. This local folklore is descended from local fact. For at the edge of living memory, a good 90 years ago there was a catastrophic and bizarre flood. A flood of molasses, a thick brown sugary flood which devastated a small area of Boston, killing several horses, 21 people and at least one cat.

January 15, 1919 – a more than sizeable storage tank 25 metres in height was brimming, holding near its full complement of two-and-a-half million gallons of molasses. During the day there was a sudden rise in temperature of approximately 2°C, this caused fermentation in the molasses. The substances produced increased the pressure inside the tank. To add to the strain, the ethyl-alcohol produced was a potent substance used in both rum and munitions at that time. This all led to a reaction slightly less sedate than fermentation.

The sound was described afterwards as a muffled roar; rivets popped with sounds akin to those pf machine gun fire. Then the pressure became too much. The explosion tore apart the half-inch-thick iron surrounds, splitting it into three pieces which were launched through the air.

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Posted by on June 27, 2011 in Articles

 

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