Archives July 2014

"Great works are often born on a street comer or in a restaurant's revolving door." Albert Camus, writer The concept of a revolving door is not, for want of a better word, revolutionary. It is simply a rotating door made from several "wings" as opposed to one flat panel. But the architectural, social, and environmental implications of revolving doors are rather intriguing. The first patent for a revolving door was awarded to H. Bockhacker in 1881. Although they did not become commonplace until much later, several patent applications were filed for revolving doors before the close of the Victorian age. They included one filed by Theophilus Van Kannel in August 1888 for a three-winged "storm door structure" to guard against the elements. Van Kannel also highlighted the fact that his door only rotated in one direction and could therefore control the flow of people traffic and minimize the risk of more...

"The mirrored dome of an upturned Dewar flask is a thing of beauty, which every chemist should own." Andrea Sella, Royal Society of Chemistry website Needing a container capable of storing liquid forms of chemicals, Scottish physicist and chemist James Dewar (1842-1923) designed the vacuum flask that came to bear his name. In 1892, Dewar put one flask inside another and then sucked out the air between the flasks creating a vacuum. The double-walled vessel proved a superior insulator and perfect for a focus of Dewar's low temperature phenomena, and subsequently led to the invention of the Thermos® flask. For a few years, Dewar's flasks were on laboratory shelves not store shelves. The flasks' commercial potential was recognized by a glass blower employed by Dewar to fabricate the flasks, Reinhold Burger. He realized that Dewar's flasks could also prove useful for keeping food and drink either hot or cold. After more...

An earthquake is a very dreadful natural calamity. When the surface of the earth trembles, we call it an earthquake. It is caused due to the relative movement of seismological plates within the earth. It releases a lot of energy. An instrument called seismograph is used to measure the force of an earthquake. The point where an earthquake breaks out is called the epi-centre of the earthquake. If an earthquake is mild, it does not do much harm. But if it is violent, it can be very dangerous to life and property. If the earth shakes for two or three minutes violently, brick houses fall down and the inmates are buried alive. It is difficult for men to remain standing. Due to severe shocks, trees and towers are uprooted, and the earth can become uneven. Sometimes, the water of a river or ocean is dried up and land appears there. more...

“I would rather that my spark should bum out in a brilliant-blaze than it be stifled by dry-rot.” Attributed to Jack London Spark ignition may be regarded as the process by which a farmer uses a cattle prod to put his herd in motion. It is also the process that enables an internal combustion engine to run on gasoline. Spark ignition works by passing an electric current through a carefully wired system and into a spark plug, which does what the first part of its name suggests by igniting the mixture of air and fuel in the chamber of the engine. In 1890 Karl Benz (1844-1929) sparked a new age of civilized society with the invention of spark ignition. This development in the automobile world—a world in which Benz was already famous for having invented the motorcar—made the gasoline-fueled internal combustion engine possible. Credit is also given to Oliver Joseph more...

"The skyscraper establishes the block, the block creates the street, the street offers itself to man." Roland Barthes, literary and social theorist Before the advent of the skyscraper, tall buildings were built to showcase great wealth, power, or religious beliefs. For the architect and civil engineer William Le Baron Jenney (1832-1907), the urge to build great edifices was born from a necessity to solve commercial (and later residential) needs in his native Chicago, where ground space was at a premium. Two obstacles to the construction of highrise buildings were overcome in the mid-nineteenth century, paving the way for the skyscraper. In 1853 Elisha Graves Otis devised a mechanism to prevent elevators from falling if their cable broke, enabling passengers to be transported upward safely. The second breakthrough came with a steel-framed structure that could support the entire weight of its walls, instead of the traditional load-bearing walls that carry the more...

“You're talking about desire. The name of that... streetcar that bangs through the Quarter." Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) To this day the tram remains the least glamorous of all methods of public transport, but at least American electrical engineer Stephen Dudley Field (1846-1913) tried to give the humble vehicle a little more pizzazz. Field was not issued with a patent for his system of propelling railway cars by electromagnetism until 1880, even though it had been installed in New York City in 1874 by the twenty-eight-year-old inventor—a man often called the "father of the trolley car." The innovative method of providing electricity to the onboard motor worked by having a dynamo generate a current, which was conveyed via two metal wheels that linked the motor with either one of the rails. The system was pretty ineffective and actually highly dangerous, but it marked an important change in more...

“It’s essential to recognize that no tool... can approach the vastness of the universe and life itself." Hanz Decoz, numerologist                        In appearance it is a simple piece of metal with a hexagonal cross-section and a ninety-degree bend about three-quarters along its length. Called variously Hex key, Alien key, Alum key, Inbus, and Unbrako key, this uncomplicated device may date back to the 1920s. The Unbrako company developed a hexagonal-head key and screw in the 1920s which went on to become popular in the United States and Britain. During the same decade'it is claimed that Italian Egidio Brugola, founder in 1926 of Brugola manufacturing company, also created a hexagonal- head fastener, which was the foundation for a business that still thrives today. In Italy (unsurprisingly) the Alien key is called the "Brugola." A couple of decades later, in 1943, the more...

"We recognized almost at once that the material was different and that It had potential... “ Lois Plunkett In 1938 research chemist Roy Plunkett (1910-1994) was working at the DuPont Jackson laboratory in New Jersey. He had been trying to improve refrigerants to make them nontoxic and nonflammable. Plunkett and his technician Jack Rebok had produced 100 pounds (45 kg) of tetrafluoroethylene gas (TFE), storing it in cylinders on dry ice. When the time came to use the material, nothing came out of the cylinder, even though it weighed the same as before. The gas had turned into a white powder. Plunkett and others at DuPont found that the substance was quite slippery and proved to be a good lubricant. It was resistant to chemicals and heat, and other substances would not adhere to it. The material was resistant to temperatures as high as 500°F (260°C). Plunkett and his colleagues more...

U.S. computer scientists Carl Kesselman, lan Foster, and Steve Tuecke had the bright idea that computers could be loosely coupled together to provide massive computing ability just as power stations can be linked to supply extra electricity. With computer grids and power grids the consumer does not have to worry about the source or the location of the input. Different types of computers can be incorporated and these may be located all over the world. Your own computer can be used in a grid when you are asleep, during lunch breaks, or even at random moments during the day when the computer is waiting for input. High-speed interconnections are usually not available and so the system works best on problems where independent calculations can be carried out without the participating processors having to communicate. Needless to say, software has to be carefully designed to check for untrustworthy, malfunctioning, and malicious more...

Man has cultivated the Earth for thousands of years, and for a large portion of that time he has been "tilling"—turning the soil to bury weeds and mix in fertilizer—in order to grow crops. Tillage, and agriculture in general, took a big step toward modern intensive processes when Australian inventor Arthur Clifford (Cliff) Howard (1893-1971) created the motorized tiller—the Howard Rotovator—in 1912. The son of a farmer, Howard studied engineering in Australia at Moss Vale, New South Wales. In 1912 he began experimenting on farming methods—primarily machines to improve tillage—on the family farm at Gilgandra, New South Wales. Howard noticed that regular plowing methods compacted the soil, making it more difficult to mix in fertilizer. Rotary tillage already existed, but was operated manually. Howard took a standard manual tiller and coupled it to his father's steam tractor. This proved superior to the standard plowing techniques, taking less effort to run, more...


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