November 5th: The Flux Capacitor

To quote a famous inventor, Doctor Emmet Brown, November 5th, 1955 is a “red letter day” in history.

So he was tooting his own horn but it was the day he invented time travel.

Obsessed with time and clocks, Doc Brown was standing on a toilet to hang a clock in his bathroom. (Never-mind the fact that no one spending a great deal of time in the bathroom could see a clock hung above (behind) the toilet).  Since he is apparently a splashy hand washer the porcelain seat was wet and he slipped, fell and hit his head.  After a brief nap, he woke up with a throbbing headache, a small gash on his forehead and a vision.

The vision would be the flux capacitor which funnels time and probability through time circuits built into a DeLorean DMC as an electrical current.  This requires immense power (1.21 gigawatts) to harness both time and probability and uses the car’s unique stainless steel frame as a conductor.

Most of what we know about the device was from a first hand account surrounding strange events at a local school, Hill Valley High, the week from November 5, 1955 through November 11th, the night of the terrible lightning storm.  We have put together that a teen from the late 80’s somehow was in the car when it unexpectedly activated the flux capacitor and time circuits sending him to 1955.  The teen then met up with Doc Brown and spent a week meddling with the affairs of students at the school.  The witness states that the teen destroyed personal property, instigated fights in the school cafeteria and parking lots as well as bullied some of the students locking them in the trunk of another car.

Other witnesses say the teen was a “dreamboat” and fine young man.  One even called him an inspiration to begin writing and that the teen gave him confidence to ask out a young lady.

While the car was destroyed in a train accident it is said that Doc Brown has been seen in a steam-punk styled locomotive with similar qualities.

All fake nerd documentary aside this trilogy has always been in my top twelve movies (yup the other 9 are parts of trilogies as well). Check out this cool reunion of members of the cast from the 25th anniversary.

Tonight’s homework: Consider some of the key pivotal parts of your life and think about how much would be different today if a detail was different.  No matter the outcome be glad you didn’t have to french your mom!

I less than three weather experiments!

Jen

 

October 23rd: Mole Day and Weird Al

Our friends in Chemistry celebrate today as Mole Day.  This represents the equation used to measure parts of an element in relation to the amount of 12 grams of carbon.  The equation, which uses Avogradro’s Constant is often used as the base measurement when we discuss combinations of elements to make complex substances.  Avogradro’s Constant is 6.02214129(27)×1023.  The last part (1023) is why we celebrate today, 10/23.

I know this sounds crazy – but I have something even better than math… “Weird” Al Yankovic!  Today is his birthday but there is one birthday in particular I’m thrilled with. Just before his 6th birthday his parent’s signed him up for accordion lessons and the rest was history. Yeah – there is a serious nerd crush here.  He’s funny, smart, musically inclined and he knows how to speak nerdy to me.  Evidence:

Still not convinced?  Think he’s just a poser? No, I assure you he’s the real deal.  He speaks fluent nerd. More evidence:

I’ve been to a lot of concerts and I do have to say that the “Weird” Al show was one of the best. Seriously – amazing set pieces, great costumes changes almost every other song and back to back sing-a-long songs.  You forget how many songs he has. Even better is that between songs if he is changing costumes he is showing clips form his movies, shoes and interviews.  All are great.

Tonight’s Homework: Watch UHF and try not to laugh.

I less than three Twinkie-Wiener Sandwiches!

Jen

 

October 22nd: Lightbulbs and Led Zeppelin

Yeah – you read that title right.  This may be one of the most epic days – EVER!

Let’s start simply. After many failed versions, the first successful test on the modern incandescent bulb was performed by Edison in 1879.  OK I know that they are now all but illegal to sell and they are being replaced by LEDs and other lights but think about it.  Everything you own is built to take the same standard light fitting.  Even the new compact florescent lights are built to fit the same fixture and list the conversions on the package.  I know we typically say “X is the best thing since sliced bread” but seriously – Light bulbs are the shit!

 

Speaking of THE SHIT, let’s take a moment to enjoy rock super stars enjoying the hobbit!  Ramble On was released today in 1969 on Led Zeppelin II.  Check out the Hobbit love here:

Leaves are falling all around, It’s time I was on my way.
Thanks to you, I’m much obliged for such a pleasant stay.
But now it’s time for me to go. The autumn moon lights my way.
For now I smell the rain, and with it pain, and it’s headed my way.
Sometimes I grow so tired, but I know I’ve got one thing I got to do…

[Chorus]
Ramble On, And now’s the time, the time is now, to sing my song.
I’m goin’ ’round the world, I got to find my girl, on my way.
I’ve been this way ten years to the day, Ramble On,
Gotta find the queen of all my dreams.

Got no time to for spreadin’ roots, The time has come to be gone.
And to’ our health we drank a thousand times, it’s time to Ramble On.

[Chorus]

Mine’s a tale that can’t be told, my freedom I hold dear.
How years ago in days of old, when magic filled the air.
T’was in the darkest depths of Mordor, I met a girl so fair.
But Gollum, and the evil one crept up and slipped away with her, her, her….yeah.

[Chorus]

Gonna ramble on, sing my song. Gotta keep-a-searchin’ for my baby…
Gonna work my way, round the world. I can’t stop this feelin’ in my heart
Gotta keep searchin’ for my baby. I can’t find my bluebird!

I’m a huge fan of Zeppelin.  Me and the Mr. walked down the aisle to Zeppelin.  So it wasn’t Ramble On but it was still Zeppelin!!!  No other band wrote as many references to Tolkien’s works or fantasy in general.

Tonight’s Homework: Go listen to Ramble On, Over the Hills and Far Away and Stairway to Heaven.  Tell me you don’t hear the LOTR references!

I less than three listening to Zeppelin with the lights on!

Jen

 

 

October 2nd: The Twilight Zone

On this day in 1959 The Twilight Zone premiered. These short stories about strange events were new and fresh each week because each one was a story by itself.  Every story had new characters in a new town and a new weird event or creature.

TTZ is an example of science fiction becoming approachable and still keeping the imagination, fear and tremendous storytelling.  Often mainstream science fiction is not scary or not creative or not really based on science – TTZ managed to keep all of it and told the stories in a way that got inside the general public.

Even if you have never watched an actual episode, you know the appropriate response to a weird unexplained experience is the dodododo song.

Now here’s where it gets fun.  Since the stories and cast were different each week there were often cameos of popular stars as well as unknowns getting their start.

One of the most famous episodes aired 10/11/1963 is where a young man is nervous to fly.  He looks out the window of the plane and sees a gremlin disassembling the engine and wing. Whenever he calls someone over to look, the gremlin is gone.  The young nervous passenger – William Shatner.  Yep Captain James Tiberius Kirk.

Ok – hang on this gets better.  The Twilight Zone remade this story on 6/24/83 and replaced Shatner with John Lithgow. John Lithgow is an amazing actor.  For further proof please watch Harry and the Hendersons  but my favorite Lithgow role is Dick Solomon on 3rd Rock From The Sun.

And for the final argument in my thesis of awesome science fiction:

Oh yeah, I feel so much better now.  I’ve been hanging on to that Bermuda triangle of spaceship/alien/twilight zone awesomeness all year waiting to post!

Tonight’s Homework: Go check out a few of the old episodes. Notice the great storytelling.  Without all the special effects the story really had to stand up.

Extra Credit: feel free to submit your own tale of creepy mystery.

I less than three space captains who are afraid to fly.

Jen

 

 

September 23rd: Frodo Steps Out

Last night was your birthday party.  You’ve had a lot of ale. There is a very large and dear old friend in your parlor telling you stories of magic and ancient powers.  He is asking your to take part in what seems like a huge challenge.

You’re still a little drunk.

You don’t want to let him down.

Your head is spinning.

He’s still talking but he mentions a short holiday and meeting him at a pub called The Prancing Pony.

 

This is the day!  This is the start of it all!  Frodo and his gardener step out on an epic quest and go further than they have ever gone before.

That step didn’t kill him.  Sure there were lots of scary things to come.  But that one step.  That wasn’t it for our friends. And they did some big things after that.  Things they never imagined they could do.

Tonight’s Homework:  Take that step.  Yesterday you were daydreaming.  Whatever you thought about, whatever you dismissed and said “no, its too big” or “I could never do that”.  I’m sure you said “people don’t really do that”.  I don’t care what you dismissed that dream with.  Take the first step.  Sign up for the class, buy the book, put on your sneakers, call that cute guy/girl, apply for the job and go!

I less than three the start of big adventures!

Jen

September 22nd: Bilbo and Frodo Baggins

Dual birthdays – in the same family! Bilbo and his nephew share September 22nd for their special day, and in the Shire it is a special day!

Hobbits in the Shire lead a simple but joyous life.  For big birthdays friends come from far away to celebrate.

 

Enjoy Life, pass on your stories, and wonder at the marvels around you, for you never know what journeys life will bring tomorrow.

 

Tonight’s homework: Daydream.  Yup.  That’s all.  The world is a messed up place.  Maybe there isn’t an army of Orks getting ready to storm your village but there are things out there to change.  Big or little. Just daydream.

I less than three birthdays.

Jen

September 14th: Why Does the Sun Shine?

Sorry guys – I’m a day late on this one.

They Might Be Giants released one of the most catchy songs to haunt High School science classes on September 14th, 1993.

Yes I received the full extra credit in Astronomy class for being able to recite the full song. I am a firm believer that education can be entertaining and still be meaningful.  You’ve seen me post on Bill Nye, Mr.Wizard, School House Rocks! and more.  These are the sparks that get kids interested in science, history and other topics that most pop culture has stated are boring.

If we continue to tell kids that these subjects are boring, we will get fewer and fewer scientists, mathematicians, historians and other key professions.  In that vein, show this video to  EVERYONE you know especially kids.

I am not making any money with this blog but I am hoping to raise awareness about the need for science funding in our schools.  If you enjoy this blog, please take the time to donate time or money to schools in your community or research projects for science.

Tonight’s Homework: Seriously – go find a kid and show them this video – you will be entertained.

Extra Credit: Send me videos of you and your friends earning points in my 10th grade astronomy class!

I less than three hydrogen and helium!

Jen