Helium Discovery Day

During a total eclipse of the sun on August 18, 1868, French astronomer Pierre Jules César Janssen observed a strange yellow line in the spectrum of the sun. At first, he assumed it was sodium, but it didn’t match up to that wavelength. He had discovered helium, though he didn’t realize it at the time. On October 20th of that same year, English astronomer Norman Lockyer observed a yellow line in the solar spectrum which he concluded was caused by an unknown element in the Sun. Lockyer and English chemist Edward Frankland named the element helios, after the Greek word for the Sun.

Today we tend to think of helium as the gas that does strange things to your voice (to hear a silly demonstration of that go to this YouTube video or as the gas that makes balloons rise. However, it has many more uses. According to Universe Today, helium is used for a wide range of scientific and medical applications. The greatest use is in cryogenic applications, where liquid-helium acts as a coolant for superconducting magnets in MRI scanners and spectrometers. It is also a component of rocket fuel and used in the Large Hadron Collider.

Helium is the second most abundant element in the universe, second only to hydrogen. However, it is rare on Earth, only found in small quantities during gas and oil drilling. However, a huge field of ancient helium was found in 2016 in the Rift Valley in Africa, which could make a big difference. I was able to find several articles announcing the discovery, but none more recent than that to tell whether anyone had been able to actually make use of it. Hopefully, by now, they have been able to tap this significant new resource.

Quotes about helium

Nuclear fusion of light elements like hydrogen or helium would permit approaching the speed of light. It seems very attractive to refuel your space ships where the fuel is.–Wilson Greatbatch

A hot air balloon requires a great deal of fuel to keep it aloft, so that you can’t fly it even for one day. A gas balloon, which usually uses helium, has the problem that the helium cools at night when the sun is not on it, and you have to throw ballast overboard to keep it from going to the surface.–Steve Fossett

The helium which we handle must have been put together at some time and some place. We do not argue with the critic who urges that the stars are not hot enough for this process; we tell him to go and find a hotter place.–Arthur Eddington

I quit my job at the helium gas factory. I didn’t like being spoken to in that voice.–Stewart Francis

We, all of us, are what happens when a primordial mixture of hydrogen and helium evolves for so long that it begins to ask where it came from.–Jill Tarter

Our entire universe emerged from a point smaller than a single atom. Space itself exploded in a cosmic fire, launching the expansion of the universe and giving birth to all the energy and all the matter we know today. I know that sounds crazy, but there’s strong observational evidence to support the Big Bang theory. And it includes the amount of helium in the cosmos and the glow of radio waves left over from the explosion.–Neil deGrasse Tyson

You see, the chemists have a complicated way of counting: instead of saying “one, two, three, four, five protons”, they say, “hydrogen, helium, lithium, beryllium, boron.”–Richard P. Feynman

I’ve read short stories that are as dense as a 19th century novel and novels that really are short stories filled with a lot of helium.–Lynn Abbey

Love is a helium-based emotion; Love always takes the high road.–Augusten Burroughs

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National Roller Coaster Day

August 16 has been celebrated as National Roller Coaster Day since 1986. It is not entirely clear why this day was chosen, but the most usual explanation is that on August 16, 1898, the first patent for a roller coaster ride was issued to Richard Knudsen and J.G. Taylor. It seems they never actually built their ride, but they were given the patent.

The precursor to a roller coaster was created in Russia, where people slid down ice mountains on carts. Wheels were added later so that the rides could operate all year around. According to the Roller Coaster Museum, “Although the groundwork for the invention of the roller coaster was laid in Europe, the ride as we know it today developed in the United States. La Marcus Thompson is often credited as the ‘father of the roller coaster’ building a switchback railway at Coney Island in 1884. While there is no doubt that he built Coney’s Switchback Railway, it doesn’t mean that he invented, or built the first — rather, he was the best at promoting and improving it.”

Roller Coasters expanded rapidly in the 1920s. The United States had just come out of a war and was ready to express itself. Frederick Ingersoll opened Luna Park in Pittsburgh, and then shortly afterward another in Cleveland. The roller coaster rides there were very popular, with the rides themselves being created by John A. Miller. He held over a hundred patents related to roller coasters and invented much of what we think of as modern roller coasters, including the way they are able to go up such steep tracks, as well as others that make roller coasters the thrill rides they are today.

There is a Facebook page for National Roller Coaster Day. You can click here to join up with a group going to an amusement park today.

Quotes about riding the roller coaster literally or in life

You know, when I was nineteen, Grandpa took me on a roller coaster. Up, down, up, down. Oh, what a ride! I always wanted to go again. You know, it was just so interesting to me that a ride could make me so frightened, so scared, so sick, so excited, and so thrilled all together! Some didn’t like it. They went on the merry-go-round. That just goes around. Nothing. I like the roller coaster. You get more out of it.–Lowell Ganz

Everybody likes a roller coaster ride.–Pete Waterman

There’s something about a roller coaster that triggers strong feelings, maybe because most of us associate them with childhood. They’re inherently cinematic; the very shape of a coaster, all hills and valleys and sickening helices, evokes a human emotional response.–Diablo Cody

I do feel more myself in America. I can regress there, and they have roller-coaster parks.–Alan Rickman

I’m on a roller coaster that only goes up, my friend.–John Green

Life is like a roller coaster, live it, be happy, enjoy life.–Avril Lavigne

If my life were a song it would probably be titled ‘Roller Coaster’, up and down all the time.–Scotty McCreery

The truth is that entrepreneurship is more like a roller coaster ride than a cruise.–Vivek Wadhwa

It’s kinda like being on a roller coaster. If you don’t get on the ride, you won’t experience the adventure.–Mariah Carey

My life, my career has been like a roller coaster. I’ve either been an enormous success or just a down-and-out failure.–Judy Garland

The roller-coaster is my life; life is a fast, dizzying game; life is a parachute jump; it’s taking chances, falling over and getting up again; it’s mountaineering; it’s wanting to get to the very top of yourself and feeling angry and dissatisfied when you don’t manage it–Paulo Coelho

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National Navajo Code Talkers Day

August 14 we celebrate the contributions of the Navajo Code Talkers to the success of the war in the Pacific during World War II. The Americans were having quite a problem with the Pacific area of the war because the Japanese were able to break their military codes about as fast as they could create them. Enter Philip Johnston, a civil engineer who lived in Los Angeles, and who had been a missionary child on the Navajo Indian Reservation. He believed setting up a code based on the Navajo language could work well for the military. What makes the Navajo language so useful in this circumstance is that it includes a number of words that, when spoken with varying inflections, may have as many as four different meanings. Navajo verb forms are especially complex.

The military agreed to a test, which was completely successful. So they recruited thirty Navajos, trained them as Marines, and set them to devising a code for military communication. It proved a total success – the Japanese never broke the code. Code Talkers were given the messages in English. Without writing them down, they translated and sent them to another Code Talker. After the message was transmitted and received, it was written down in English and entered into a message logbook. Before the war was over, over 400 were involved in the code work, and their aid was invaluable in such things as the Iwo Jima landing.

The Code Talkers’ work was a secret outside the military, and it was not until much later they were recognized for their service. It was Ronald Reagan who set aside a special day to honor the Navajo Code Talkers. In 1982, he declared August 14 to be National Navajo Code Talkers Day. You can read the proclamation, 4954, here.

Quotes about secrets

Whoever wishes to keep a secret must hide the fact that he possesses one.–Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Nothing weighs on us so heavily as a secret.–Jean de La Fontaine

How can we accept another to keep our secret if we have been unable to keep it ourselves.–Francois de La Rochefoucauld

To keep your secret is wisdom; but to expect others to keep it is folly.–Samuel Johnson

There are no secrets better kept than the secrets everybody guesses.–George Bernard Shaw

Secrecy is the first essential in affairs of the State.–Cardinal Richelieu

Secrets have a way of making themselves felt, even before you know there’s a secret.–Jean Ferris

All secrets become deep. All secrets become dark. That’s in the nature of secrets.–Cory Doctorow

The best way of keeping a secret is to pretend there isn’t one.–Margaret Atwood

The secret to strong security: less reliance on secrets.–Whitfield Diffie

Secrets have power, and that power diminishes when they are shared, so they are best kept and kept well. Sharing secrets, real secrets, important ones, with even one other person, will change them.–Erin Morgenstern

Some secrets are meant to stay secret forever.–Liane Moriarty

A real secret is something which only one person knows.–Idries Shah

The first rule in keeping secrets is nothing on paper.–Thomas Powers

A secret is most valuable when it remains a secret.–Brian Herbert

The greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places.–Roald Dahl

A secret remains a secret until you make someone promise never to reveal it.–Fausto Cercignani

A secret’s worth depends on the people from whom it must be kept.–Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Do not tell secrets to those whose faith and silence you have not already tested.–Elizabeth I

Secrets are dark things. They don’t exist in the light. They glow faintly in forgotten corners, in mysterious mind nooks, in lost memory maps. Secrets are the shadows of the soul.–Sukanya Venkatraghavan

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IBM PC Day

On August 12, 1981, IBM introduced the IBM5150, the first personal computer inexpensive enough for the public. Though at the time $1500 was a lot of money, it was far less than most business computers, which could cost tens of thousands of dollars and needed to be kept in certain temperature conditions, often requiring a large staff to maintain them.

The IBM5150 used an Intel 8088 processor and ran on Microsoft DOS. It had no hard drive and only 64K of RAM. I am old enough to remember using, if not this exact model, one very similar. In the library where I worked, we had two programs, Lotus 1-2-3, version 1.0, a spreadsheet, and Wordstar, the precursor to Word. You used a five and a half inch floppy to load the program, then removed that and put in another floppy that allowed you run the program, then entered the floppy you wanted to save your work on. The computer itself had a small screen, with a black background and either gold or green lettering. It was clunky, it was inconvenient, and it was wonderful.

The 5150 was developed in only a year, using microchips from Intel, and an operating system from Microsoft. This was both its strength, and its weakness. By combining already existing hardware and software, it made the machine less expensive. But it also meant others could do the same thing, and it wasn’t too many years before IBM lost the PC market.

The new technology put more computing power on the desktop than in many of the older, larger mainframes. It also led finally to the Internet, without which no one could read this blog. Today we salute the day when the first IBM PC went on the market and changed the world. Without them, we would not have the better, faster, more versatile machines of today.

Quotes about computers

The question of whether computers can think is like the question of whether submarines can swim.–Edsger Dijkstra

If GM had kept up with technology like the computer industry has, we would all be driving $25 cars that got 1,000 MPG.–Bill Gates

Computers are like Old Testament gods; lots of rules and no mercy.–Joseph Campbell

To err is human – and to blame it on a computer is even more so.–Robert Orben

A computer will do what you tell it to do, but that may be much different from what you had in mind.–Joseph Weizenbaum

The most likely way for the world to be destroyed, most experts agree, is by accident. That’s where we come in; we’re computer professionals. We cause accidents.–Nathaniel Borenstein

One of the most feared expressions in modern times is “The computer is down.”–Norman Ralph Augustine

Part of the inhumanity of the computer is that, once it is competently programmed and working smoothly, it is completely honest.–Isaac Asimov

Computers are useless. They can only give you answers.–Pablo Picasso

Home computers are being called upon to perform many new functions, including the consumption of homework formerly eaten by the dog.–Doug Larson

To err is human, but to really foul things up you need a computer.–Paul R. Ehrlich

First we thought the PC was a calculator. Then we found out how to turn numbers into letters with ASCII — and we thought it was a typewriter. Then we discovered graphics, and we thought it was a television. With the World Wide Web, we’ve realized it’s a brochure.–Douglas Adams

Computers are good at following instructions, but not at reading your mind.–Donald Knuth

Buying the right computer and getting it to work properly is no more complicated than building a nuclear reactor from wristwatch parts in a darkened room using only your teeth.–Dave Barry

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World Lion Day

Today we celebrate those majestic felines of Africa and Asia. August 10 is World Lion Day. A symbol of strength, the lion is known as the king of the jungle.

There are two types of lions living in the world. Most often, we think of the African lion, which lives in several countries of the African continent. But there is also the Asiatic lion. It once inhabited much of India and the Middle East, but today is restricted to a small area in Gujarat State in India. They tend to be smaller than an African lion, with a much smaller mane. There are believed to be less than five hundred of them left.

Big Cat Rescue began World Lion Day. They are the world’s largest accredited sanctuary dedicated to big cats. Sadly, lions are in danger, mainly because of the shrinking of their habitat, though poaching and trophy hunting certainly contribute. The lion is not yet officially listed as endangered, but if things go the way they have been, it will sadly likely be on that list soon. According to The Africat Foundation:

  • Lion populations have plummeted by 43% in the past 20 years, to an estimated 20 000; in the same time-frame, populations in West, Central and East have collectively dropped by 60%. (One site estimates that in 1975 there were 250,000 lions, so that is quite a drop!.)
  • Lions have lost 75% of their original habitat in the past 100 years, lions now only occupy 8% of their historical range (which once spanned an area of over 13 million km.), and according to reports have disappeared entirely from 12 African countries, with possible recent extinction in four more;
  • Only 6 African countries unequivocally harbor more than 1 000 lions: Tanzania & Kenya, Botswana, Mozambique and South Africa;

So give a thought today to these magnificent creatures who are fighting for their survival.

Quotes about lions

A truly strong person does not need the approval of others any more than a lion needs the approval of sheep.–Vernon Howard

The one excellent thing that can be learned from a lion is that whatever a man intends doing should be done by him with a whole-hearted and strenuous effort.–Chanakya

It’s better to be a lion for a day than a sheep all your life.–Elizabeth Kenny

An optimist is someone who gets treed by a lion but enjoys the scenery.–Walter Winchell

An injured lion still wants to roar.–Randy Pausch

It was the nation and the race dwelling all round the globe that had the lion’s heart. I had the luck to be called upon to give the roar.–Winston Churchill

A lion’s work hours are only when he’s hungry; once he’s satisfied, the predator and prey live peacefully together.–Chuck Jones

I’ve got a friend who is a lion tamer. He used to be a school teacher till he lost his nerve.–Les Dawson

Do not try to fight a lion if you are not one yourself.–African Proverb

“It’s a mystery,” replied the Lion. “I suppose I was born that way. All the other animals in the forest naturally expect me to be brave, for the Lion is everywhere thought to be the King of Beasts. I learned that if I roared very loudly every living thing was frightened and got out of my way.”–L. Frank Baum

A lion sleeps in the heart of every brave man.–Turkish Proverb

You know the lion is dangerous when it is quiet, stalking, sneaking up on its prey. Only after it has ambushed and killed its prey does the lion roar. It wants to intimidate the jackals.–J. Hand

It is better to go in the dark when the road must pass a lion and there is no other road.–Robert E. Howard

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National Zucchini Day

August 8 is National Zucchini Day, also known as Sneak A Zucchini Onto Your Neighbor’s Porch Day. The idea for this holiday came from Philadelphia local radio and television personality Tom Roy. Zucchinis, or courgettes are popular to put in a garden because they grow so profusely. However, in spite of their looks, they are not vegetables. They are actually a type of summer squash, which makes them a fruit. I wouldn’t put them in a fruit salad, however! Zucchinis are low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium.

According to Wikipedia, “Zucchini, like all squash, has its ancestry in the Americas. However, the varieties of squash typically called ‘zucchini’ were developed in northern Italy in the second half of the 19th century.”

Philip Potempa of the Post-Tribune in Chicago gives a rule of thumb for how many zucchinis to plant. “One zucchini plant will yield enough for a family of four. Two plants, assure some leftover for additional family and friends. With three zucchini plants, you’ve got your entire street covered. And a garden or yard with five plants, all filled with blooms? Be ready to feed the entire block.” If you have overplanted your crop, it is time to bless your friends, family, and neighbors with the autumn harvest, or even better, donate to your local food pantry.

Zucchinis are very versatile, of course. You can bake them or fry them, or add them to soups, salads, and many other dishes. You can also turn them into zucchini bread or chocolate zucchini cake, which to my mind is the only possible way to eat zucchini. Zucchini can also be frozen, so you don’t have to feel overwhelmed with the current harvest.

It is easy to find zucchini recipes online by simply typing that into a search engine. For example, for a bunch of them that run the gamut from healthy to sweet, you can go to Allrecipes.

So if you are a zucchini lover, today is your day to go crazy!

Quotes about zucchini

Vegetables are a must on a diet. I suggest carrot cake, zucchini bread, and pumpkin pie.–Jim Davis

The trouble is, you cannot grow just one zucchini. Minutes after you plant a single seed, hundreds of zucchini will barge out of the ground and sprawl around the garden, menacing the other vegetables. At night, you will be able to hear the ground quake as more and more zucchinis erupt.–Dave Barry

When I pass a flowering zucchini plant in a garden, my heart skips a beat.–Gwyneth Paltrow

One’s own flowers and some of one’s own vegetables make acceptable, free, self-congratulatory gifts when visiting friends, though giving zucchini – or leaving it on the doorstep, ringing the bell, and running – is a social faux pas.–Barbara Holland

The first zucchini I ever saw I killed it with a hoe.–John Gould

Last night we had three small zucchini for dinner that were grown within fifty feet of our back door. I estimate they cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $371.49 each.–Andy Rooney

There is a tale… It tells of the days when a blight hung over our land. Nothing prospered. Nothing flourished. Not even zucchini would grow.–Cameron Dokey

Vegetables cooked for salads should always be on the crisp side, like those trays of zucchini and slender green beans and cauliflowerets in every trattoria in Venice, in the days when the Italians could eat correctly.–M. F. K. Fisher

One day we came home from some errands to find a grocery sack of [zucchini] hanging on our mailbox. The perpetrator, of course, was nowhere in sight … Garrison Keillor says July is the only time of year when country people lock our cars in the church parking lot, so people won’t put squash on the front seat. I used to think that was a joke.–Barbara Kingsolver

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Wiggle Your Toes Day

August 6 is the day to let your toes feel the breeze and walk in the grass. Now I admit this isn’t really a good day for me, as I likely have on at least one pair of socks at all times, and often two. My feet get very cold, and now that I’m in Ireland, they seldom seem to warm up at all.

So this is a holiday for all those more warm-blooded than I am – for those of you who wear sandals, or simply go barefoot on these warm (in the Northern Hemisphere) summer days. As someone said,, “Your toes are supposed to lose it on their own special holiday and dance, move, workout and wiggle around freely.”

No one seems to know who created this holiday, but it always falls on August 6. There are several ways to celebrate. Simply removing your socks and wiggling your toes in the grass or water is the simplest. One web page I looked at advocated getting together with friends and all wiggling your toes together. Some people choose this day to get a pedicure. If you have a small child, there is a cute board book called Wiggle Your Toes.

Did you know that each toe has a different name? According to National Whatever Day, they are named thus:

  1. Hallux (“big toe” or “great toe”), the innermost (most proximal) toe and the closest to the toes of the other foot
  2. Second toe or “long toe”
  3. Third toe, or “middle toe”
  4. Fourth toe, or “ring toe”
  5. Fifth toe (“little toe”, “pinky toe”, or “baby toe”), the outermost (most distal) toe

There are also health benefits to going barefoot. The power of positivity lists 10. A few of them are: going barefoot can strengthen the immune system, reduce pain of several kinds, and normalize biological rhythms.

So if you are so inclined, let those toes wiggle today!

Quotes about toes

You will never stub your toe standing still. The faster you go, the more chance there is of stubbing your toe, but the more chance you have of getting somewhere.–Charles F. Kettering

And I love a scary movie. It makes your toes curl and it’s not you going through it.–Anthony Hopkins

Those who stand on their toes are not steady.–Laozi

It’s a pleasant thing to be young, and have ten toes.–Robert Louis Stevenson

My mother told me I was dancing before I was born. She could feel my toes tapping wildly inside her for months.–Ginger Rogers

I am the American heartbreak- The rock on which Freedom Stumped its toe.–Langston Hughes

A good poet feels what his community feels. Like if you stub your toe, the rest of your body hurts.–Gil Scott-Heron

You won’t step on other’s toes if you imagine yourself in their shoes.–Rick Warren

Tact is the ability to step on a man’s toes without messing up the shine on his shoes.–Harry S. Truman

Stay on your toes and always move forward.–Evander Holyfield

A brook can be a friend in a special way. It talks to you with splashy gurgles. It cools your toes and lets you sit quietly beside it when you don’t feel like speaking.–Joan Walsh Anglund

To say that I enjoyed writing… is like saying I enjoy having fingers and toes. It’s difficult to imagine life without them.–Dennis Covington

She worked her toes into the sand, feeling the tiny delicious pain of the friction of tiny chips of silicon against the tender flesh between her toes. That’s life. It hurts, it’s dirty, and it feels very, very good.–Orson Scott Card

Kaitlyn never wore open-toed shoes on account of how she hated her feet because she felt her second toes were too long, as if the second toe was a window into the soul or something.–John Green

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