Quote of the moment: Thomas Edison, on how to succeed at anything

February 11, 2013

Edison on cover of 2012 Time history issue

Thomas Edison on the cover of Time Magazine history issue, July 2010.

Stolen in its entirety from Maria Popova’s Explore (well, she Tweeted it):

You do something all day long, don’t you? Every one does. If you get up at seven o’clock and go to bed at eleven, you have put in sixteen good hours, and it is certain with most men, that they have been doing something all the time. They have been either walking, or reading, or writing, or thinking. The only trouble is that they do it about a great many things and I do it about one. If they took the time in question and applied it in one direction, to one object, they would succeed. Success is sure to follow such application. The trouble lies in the fact that people do not have an object, one thing, to which they stick, letting all else go. Success is the product of the severest kind of mental and physical application.

Thomas Edison, born on this day in 1847, on the secrets of success

Maria Popova’s post at BrainPickings explores Thomas Edison’s unusual preoccupation with sleep.  I’ve usually considered him a model for some behaviors — he kept cots in his office for naps — but it becomes clear he was probably chronically sleep-deprived.  With the knowledge we have now on how sleep deprivation hampers daily activities, Edison’s accomplishments become all the more fantastic.  Imagine what he could have accomplished, had he had enough sleep!

Edison was born February 11, 1847, when Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln were both 38 years old, Darwin working in experiments with animals to disprove the evolution operations he had observed (he didn’t disprove them), and Lincoln in the middle of his sole term as a U.S. Congressman, during the Mexican-American War.  (Both Darwin and Lincoln were born February 12, 1809.)  In 1847 Brigham Young was leading Mormons across what Lewis and Clark had called “the Great American Desert,” the Great Plains, into the Valley of the Great Salt Lake (more desert than Lewis and Clark could have imagined).  Famously, the main body of the Mormon emigration wagon flotilla would enter Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847.

Edison would probably agree:  Overnight success takes years of preparation and practice.

More:


Abraham Lincoln, inventor – only president with a patent?

February 10, 2013

Lincoln’s (and Darwin’s) birthday rolls around again next week. What do we know about our 16th president who was the subject of a great and a silly movie in the last year?

Some wag sent out this Tweet today.

Any visitor to Thomas Jefferson’s home at Monticello knows of Jefferson’s wide-ranging interests, and work in science and invention.  I was rather surprised to discover the depth of George Washington’s inventive work, in a seminar sponsorred by the Bill of Rights Institute at Mount Vernon a few years ago.

Abraham Lincoln, too?

Sangamon_River_near_Lincoln's_First_Home_in_Il...

Sangamon River near Lincoln’s first home in Illinois – Photo from Wikipedia

Lincoln lived along the Sangamon River, and he saw development of the river for commercial navigation to be a boon for his district’s economic growth.  Unfortunately, the Sangamon is not deep; boats had difficult times navigating over the many logs and snags, and shallows.

So, Mr. Lincoln offered a technical solution, for which he was granted a patent in 1849.  Details below, from Google Patents:

lincoln-patent-for-buoying_vessels_over_shoals

lincoln-patent-for-boat-buoying-in-jpg

Drawing for Abraham Lincoln’s patent of a boat bouying apparatus.

Was Lincoln the only president to get a patent?  Thomas Jefferson and George Washington worked hard at inventions.  Jefferson shared Ben Franklin’s view that new inventions should be for the benefit of all; does that mean he didn’t seek patents?  Washington’s inventions — including the 16-sided barn for threshing wheat — tended to be improvements on processes; I don’t know of any evidence he even thought of patenting any idea.

It’s possible that Lincoln was the only president so far to have held a patent.

Lincoln’s invention was never built, and that patent never used.

This is an encore post with additions.

More, and miscellany:

 


Ingenious anti-personnel mine finder

December 19, 2012

Brilliant little film about a wonderfully creative guy, a war refugee, who developed a wind-powered device that can find and detonate anti-personnel mines.  It’s part of the GE-sponsored FOCUS/FORWARD film contest:

Description and credits at Vimeo’s site:

MINE KAFON is a Finalist in the $200,000 FOCUS FORWARD Filmmaker Competition and is in the running to become the $100,000 Grand Prize Winner. It could also be named an Audience Favorite if it’s among the ten that receives the most votes. If you love it, vote for it. Click on the VOTE button in the top right corner of the video player. Note that voting may not be available on all mobile platforms, and browser cookies must be enabled to vote.

A short documentary portrait on a designer who has created a low cost solution to landmine clearance.

Check out his website:  massoudhassani.com
or for other films by us at Ardent Film Trust:  ardentfilm.org

DIRECTOR
Callum Cooper
DOP
Michael Latham
CAMERA
Michael Latham
Mahmud Hassani
Callum Cooper
SLOW MOTION CAMERA
Ed Edwards
EDITOR
Anna Meller
COLOR GRADER
Chris Teeder
SOUND MIXER AND DESIGNER
Sandy Milne
TITLE DESIGNER
Ray O’Meara
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
Bobby Kapur
PRODUCERS
Alicia Brown
Michael Latham
Callum Cooper
THANKS
Lucie Kalmar
Slowmo High Speed
Optimism Films
The RNLA explosive ordnance disposal service
Copyright Ardent Film Trust 2012


Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina: Wright Bros. National Memorial

December 17, 2012

Kill Devil Hills monument to theWright Brothers

Wikipedia description: Standing sixty feet (18.3 meters) tall and perched atop a ninety foot (27.4 meters) stabilized sand dune known as Kill Devil Hill, this monument towers over Wright Brothers National Memorial Park in Kill Devil Hills, NC. The park commemorates and preserves the site where the Wright brothers launched the world’s first successful sustained, powered flights in a heavier-than-air machine. The inscription that wraps around the base of the monument states “In commemoration of the conquest of the air by the brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright. Conceived by genius, achieved by dauntless resolution and unconquerable faith.” Photo by Ken Thomas, taken with a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ50 in Dare County, NC, USA.

At this site, on December 17, 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright first achieved flight in a heavier-than-air machine.

 


August 14, 1951: Leo Fender’s Telecaster guitar patent issued

August 16, 2012

August 14 carries a lot of weight in history, doesn’t it?  Just learned of this August 14, 1951 event:

Patent drawins for Clarence L. Fender's new guitar , later named "Telecaster"

Most guitar aficionados recognize this icon of rock and roll — the Fender Telecaster. In these drawings on the August 14, 1951, patent grant, it was just a “guitar.”

Leo Fender‘s first name was Clarence?  Who knew?

Take a look at page 2 of the patent:  Gretsch?  What other names do you recognize?

One of my ex-brothers-in-law was Fender’s tax guy, but years later.  I was never successful in dropping the hint that Fender’s tax attorney’s brother-in-law might be real grateful if, you know, a sample or a second might find its way to the tax attorney’s office, and then to the brother-in-law’s home and amplifier . . .

Tip of the old scrub brush to Premier Guitar’s Facebook page.

More, Related Material:

"Road worn" Fender Telecaster - photo by Fender

“Road worn” Fender Telecaster – photo by Fender


Bright idea day, October 21 – Edison’s demonstration of the light bulb

October 21, 2011

GE cartoon on Edison's light bulb, by Maki Naro

Cartoon by Maki Naro, for GE - Click for larger image

GE’s release said:

Perhaps there should be a bumper sticker: “If you love doing stuff at night without a kerosene lantern, thank Edison.” Okay, it doesn’t roll trippingly off the tongue. Still, today is the anniversary of Thomas Edison’s 13-and-a-half-hour test of the carbon filament lightbulb that made electric light a practical reality for the world. As we’ve discussed before, Edison was one of many inventors of the lightbulb, but his designs proved to be transformative for the technology. Maki Naro marked the occasion with a short comic (replete with Alexander Graham Bell, who’s hoppin’ mad).

Too commercial for classroom use?  Not with proper attribution, I think.

Meanwhile, earlier at the Bathtub:


George Jetson come true? Maverick Flying Car at Oshkosh

April 14, 2011

Next time somebody asks ‘where’s my flying car?” you can show them this.

Steve Saint of I-TEC drove his road-legal flying car from Florida to Oshkosh this summer. Since then the FAA has also issued the Maverick a S-LSA aircraft airworthiness certificate. I-TEC hopes to be in production by EAA Oshkosh 2011.

[Because it comes with built-in autoplay from the Experimental Aircraft Association, it's below the fold.]

Read the rest of this entry »


This history really cooks!

January 24, 2010

Another anniversary worth noting.

On January 24, 1950, the U.S. Patent Office awarded Percy L. Stevens patent # 2,495,429, for his “Method of Treating Foodstuffs” with waves from a magnetron oscillator.  Sixty years ago today Percy Stevens changed culinary life forever.

You guessed it:  The microwave oven.

Microwave oven patent Percy L Stevens - US2495429 (drawing only)

Patent for "Method for Treating Foodstuffs," granted January 24, 1950, to Percy L. Stevens of the Raytheon Corp. - the microwave oven. Image via FreePatentsOnline.com

On CBS “Sunday Morning” Charles Osgood said that in 1975 microwave oven sales surpassed conventional oven sales for the first time.  This is more remarkable because the first commercial microwave in 1955 was too big for home kitchens, and at $1,300, too pricey.  Japanese modifications of the magnetron to shrink it made microwave ovens much like those we have today ready for the market for the first time in 1967.  Eight years from market entry to majority of the market.

It only makes sense:  Today offices on every floor of every office building have microwave ovens in their break rooms, but almost none ever had conventional ovens.  College students have microwaves in their dormitory rooms.  Even gasoline stations offer foods for microwaving by customers.

Spencer’s invention makes it possible to heat foods quickly with a relatively small device, in thousands of places where no conventional oven would work well, or be welcomed.

According to legend — accurate? — Spencer got the idea after working with magnetron tubes while carrying a chocolate bar in his pocket.  He noticed the chocolate bar melted.  Within a short time he had demonstrated the ability to pop popcorn and burst an egg with the microwaves from the tube.

Sign of the changing times:  Many children today do not know how to pop popcorn without a microwave.  Legend has it that children in elementary school ask where the Massachusetts natives kept the microwaves with which they popped the corn that delighted the settlers of the Plymouth Colony.

Microwave oven inventor Percy Stevens with early microwave equipment at Raytheon

Microwave oven inventor Percy Spencer with early microwave equipment at Raytheon - photo from Spencer family archive

More:


Typewriter of the moment: Theodore Roosevelt at Sagamore Hill

June 11, 2009

He held many jobs, cowboy, police commissioner, governor, military leader, president — but he regarded his profession as “writer.”

Theodore Roosevelt‘s typewriter, a Remington, from his house at Sagamore Hill, New York:

Theodore Roosevelts typewriter from his home at Sagamore Hill - Fish and Wildlife Service, National Digital Image Library

Theodore Roosevelt’s typewriter from his home at Sagamore Hill, New York – Fish and Wildlife Service photo, National Digital Image Library (public domain)

Remington typewriter used by Theodore Roosevelt at his home at Sagamore Hill, New York - US Fish and Wildlife Service, National Digital Library (public domain)

Update, March 16, 2012:  There are two versions of the same photo above, if we’re lucky.  The designator at the National Digital Library has changed at least twice, leaving this post high and dry.  There is another, slightly lower quality version of the photo above.  You’re not seeing double, you’re seeing operational redundancy.

Resources:

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Forgotten anniversaries: Microwave oven patent

January 26, 2009

Some history really does need to be rewarmed.

January 24 marks the anniversary of the granting of the patent for the microwave oven, “Method of treating foodstuffs.” Do your texts even refer to this by-product of World War II?  What benefits of microwave ovens can your students come up with?  Will they offer the apocryphal question about how Native Americans could possibly have invented popcorn with their wood-fired microwave ovens?

Dr. Percy L. Spencer noted that a chocolate bar in his shirt pocket had melted when he was working around an operating radar tube, at Raytheon Corp., during World War II (the patent application for microwave cooking was filed on October 8, 1945).  With a little experimentation, he determined the microwaves from the radar tube were rapidly cooking things — think exploding egg, think popping corn.

Drawing from the patent of the microwave oven, granted to Percy L. Spencer on January 24, 1950; courtesy the Southwest Museum of Engineering, Communications and Computation

Drawing from the patent of the microwave oven, granted to Percy L. Spencer on January 24, 1950; courtesy the Southwest Museum of Engineering, Communications and Computation

One of the problems Spencer had to overcome was that radar tubes cooked foods way too fast.  He had to tune the magnetron tubes to produce wavelengths with less energy, to heat food more slowly so the cooking could be controlled.  Spencer explained this process of invention in the first page of text on the patent itself.

Perhaps one could create an interesting DBQ with only patents, tracing radio and radar through the microwave oven.

This is one device you probably can demonstrate  safely  in any history classroom.

Resources:

Tip of the old scrub brush to Rhapsody in Book’s Weblog.


Chuck Yeager/BOOM! Day

October 14, 2008

I won’t let the whole day go by without a nod to one of my heroes, Chuck Yeager.  On October 14, 1947, Yeager pushed the Bell X-1 just a little faster than the flight plan called for, and broke the sound barrier, over Edwards Air Force Base, California.

Brig. Gen. Chuck Yeager, recipient of the Congressional Silver Medal of Honor.  MedalofHonor.com

Chuck Yeager and a modern aircraft -- yes, he's flown it, too.

 

Last year, belatedly, I got around to posting on the flight, and on Yeager, and on the deeper meaning of flight records and the space race on the psyche of America in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.  More details and sources there.  It’s a year later, Yeager is 85, but the story still gets me the same way.  Just over a year ago, Yeager flew in a fighter and broke the sound barrier again, one of the oldest people ever to do that.

You could fly your flag in his honor.  If there’s a stiff breeze when you do, the ends of the flag will snap in the wind — they break the sound barrier, and you hear the report.  Wonderfully appropriate, don’t you think?

Here’s a salute to you, Chuck Yeager!


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