29th August 1831 – Michael Faraday discovers electromagnetic induction

29 August 2007

Michael Faraday (1791-1867) apparently discovered electromagnetic induction on this day in 1831.

Michael Faraday

And the significance of this?

Lets see…

  • Do you have a transformer (or more likely many) in your house?
  • Does your power company use an electrical generator to provide you with electricity?
  • Do you have an induction cooker in your kitchen (those are the ones with a glass ceramic sheet that is easily cleaned)?

It is Faraday’s discovery that is the reason you have such luxuries.

Faraday had little formal education but became one of the most influential scientists of all time. One of my heroes.


10 things you should do before you die

28 August 2007
  1. Fall in love.
  2. Look up at the Milky Way on a clear moonless night from a place far from the glare of city lights.
  3. Experience a total eclipse of the Sun.
  4. Speak openly and honestly to the ones you love about your own inevitable death.
  5. See the Earth from space.
  6. Hold a meteorite in your hand and consider where it came from.
  7. Walk round a Saturn V moon rocket and know that humans can accomplish anything if they set their minds to it.
  8. Walk around your home town for an hour and realize that none of this will exist in a thousand years.
  9. Stand on a sandy beach by the surf and forcefully command the tide to turn back. Did you learn anything?
  10. Talk to someone whose world view is radically different from your own. Realize that because you believe something to be absolutely true or a person of authority says something is absolutely true does not mean it must be true.
  11. Look around you at all the things that make your life healthy, comfortable and interesting. Realize that almost all those things exist because of science and technology.

OK I lied. I listed eleven things. But that was mainly because at least one of the things will probably be unattainable.

20th August 1977 – Voyager 2 launched

20 August 2007

Voyager 2 was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida on 20th August 1977. Voyager 2 conducted a planetary grand tour of the solar system visiting Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.


After 30 years Voyager 2 and her sister probe Voyager 1 are still active and sending back data from the extremes of our solar system.

I was with a group of Norwegian amateur astronomers that visited JPL in Pasadena California around the time of Voyager’s closest approach to Neptune on 25th August 1989. It was a memorable trip which included visits to Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Johnson Space Center in Houston Texas, Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona.

19th August 1646 – John Flamsteed born

19 August 2007

John Flamsteed the first Astronomer Royal was born in Denby, Derbyshire, England on 19th August 1646.


He is perhaps best known for calculating the solar eclipses of 1666 and 1668 and for the earliest recorded sighting of Uranus in December 1690. Flamsteed did not recognize Uranus for what it was so the credit for discovering Uranus goes to Sir William Herschel on 13th March 1781. As the first Astronomer Royal, Flamsteed laid the foundation stone of the Royal Greenwich Observatory in August 1675.

18th August 1920 – 19th Amendment ratified

18 August 2007

Women’s suffrage rights ratified in United States.

Amendment XIX to the United States Constitution states:

Section 1. The right of the citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

I have listed the corresponding year for several other countries here:

Country Year
New Zealand 1893
Finland 1906
Norway 1910
Denmark 1915
Sweden 1919
United States 1920
United Kingdom 1928
Switzerland 1971

Protected: No Perseids for me this year

14 August 2007

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So long and thanks for all the fish (nets)

9 August 2007

The Yangtze river dolphin is officially declared extinct.
This is BBC’s take on it.

This extinction represents the disappearance of a complete branch of the evolutionary tree of life and emphasises that we have yet to take full responsibility in our role as guardians of the planet.

And this is Channel 4 ‘s article.

It is the first official extinction of a large vertebrate for more than 50 years.

Chinese River Dolphin

UPDATE 29. August 2007: Not so dead after all apparently. This by Zooillogix and this according to the BBC.