Monday, January 23, 2012


Fact: The first elevator was built in 236 BC by the Greek scientist Archimedes, of Eureka! Fame. Early elevators were hoisted or wound around a drum, pulled by slaves or animals.  The Coliseum in Rome in the first century BC had 24 elevators operated by over 200 slaves. In the middle ages, elevators based on winch system were popular in walled castles.  Screw drive elevators were developed around 1800 and hydrolic elevators around the same time. The safety break was invented in 1853, which is when the elevator evolution started. Then in 1880 came electrical elevators. Soon after – elevator music. It’s purpose: to calm nervous elevator passengers and disguise the scary sounds of the elevator.

Quote: "If you die in an elevator, be sure to push the Up button."  -- Sam Levenson

And a site: The Elevator Museum

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Penny Black

Fact: The first postage stamp was called the Penny Black and was created in England by Rowland Hill in 1840. It had a picture of Queen Victoria at the age of 15. Before the invention of the stamp postage was paid by recipient and price would be unpredictable and complicated. The Penny Black was produced for only a year, but so many copies of the stamp were printed that it is not considered a rare stamp today.

Quote: "Be like a postage stamp. Stick to one thing until you get there."  -- Josh Billings

and a site: The American Philatelic Society

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Breast pumps

Fact: The breast pump, a device to extract milk from a woman’s breasts, used when a woman is for some reason unable to breastfeed her baby, was first patented in 1854. A mechanical breast pump was invented in 1922. Breast pumps were used in hospitals, by mothers of preemies or women who for some reason could not breastfeed normally. Breast pumps became commercially available for non-hospital use in 1991, when Medela introduced an electric vacuum-operated breast pump. This was a revolution for working mothers, allowing them to continue feeding their children breast milk even after they had returned to work.

Quote: "My opinion is that anybody offended by breastfeeding is staring too hard."  -- David Allen

And a site: World Health Organization on breastfeeding

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Scorpion venom

Fact: The most venomous scorpion in the world is the Deathstalker scorpion, which resides mostly in the Middle East and North Africa. Its venom is a powerful neurotoxin which can kill, especially the young or the weak, but the venom is also under consideration as a possible treatment for cancer.

Quote: There is poison in the fang of the serpent, in the mouth of the fly and in the sting of a scorpion; but the wicked man is saturated with it. -- Chanakya

And a site: A NOVA article about the healing powers of different types of venom.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

First woman in space

Fact: Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova was the first woman and the first civilian to fly in space, on the Soviet Vostok 6, June 16th 1963. She was selected out of four hundred applicant women parachuters. She spent three days in space at the age of 26, orbiting the earth 48 times. Valentina eventually married another cosmonaut and their daughter was the first person to have parents who had both gone into space.

Quote: " Once you've been in space, you appreciate how small and fragile the Earth is." -- Valentina Tereshkova

And a siteRussian Space Web -- news and history of astronautics in the former USSR

Monday, January 16, 2012

Stone age brain surgery

Fact: Brain surgery dates back to the stone age and was performed in many different civilizations around the world. Cutting holes in the skulls was probably meant to relieve pressure and release evil spirits. The patients may have had problems such as epilepsy, headaches or depression. Evidence of the skull healing skulls indicates that the some patients survived for a while after surgery. This type of brain surgery was called trepanning, and has made a surprising comeback in recent years.

Quote: Don't make us splatter your brains -- The Flintstones, the movie

... and a siteAll about how to clean skulls...

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Space monkeys

Fact: Four monkeys named Albert were launched into space in 1948 and 1949, but none of them survived. In 1948, Albert I was the first monkey astronaut. He flew on a V-2 Blossom rocket from White Sands Proving Ground in New Mexico. His flight only reached 39 miles, and Albert I suffocated. Albert II followed in his footsteps three days later, and reached an altitude of 83 miles, but died on impact after a parachute failure. Albert III flew in 1949, his rocket exploded soon after takeoff. A couple of months later Albert IV reached an altitude of 80 miles, but also died after a parachute failure.

Quote: Democracy is the art and science of running the circus from the monkey cage -- H.L Mencken.