It is impossible to see, to venture, or even to send probes more than a few miles under the surface of Earth. Almost all of the 4,000+ miles from the surface to the center is unreachable to humans. Yet scientists could not begin to understand our planet and its formation without having an accurate knowledge […]
The Atlantic Ocean’s Gulf Stream is the most important of our world’s ocean currents. It is a major heat engine, carrying massive amounts of warm water north to warm Europe. It has directed the patterns of ocean exploration and commerce and may be a major determinant of the onset of ice ages. Finally, it is […]
A baby born on February 29, 1980 will not have another February 29th birthday until 1984, the next time a Leap Year occurs. What does he do then to celebrate his birthday in 1981, 1982, and 1983? A Leap-Year baby can choose his own birthday from either February 28 or March 1, two dates which […]
Who Discovered the Uncertainty Principle and Why is it impossible to know the position and motion of a particle?
Werner Heisenberg is famed worldwide for discovering the Uncertainty Principle, which states that it is impossible to determine both the position and momentum (motion) of an elementary particle at the same time since the effort to determine either would change the other in unpredictable ways. This pivotal theorem marked a fundamental turning point in science. […]
We can probably trace the origin of the orchestra back to the origin of man, for we know that primitive people had crude instruments, and we can guess that they probably played together in groups. However, the idea of a real orchestra had to wait for the development of wind and bowed string instruments, as […]
If by flush toilet we mean any toilet hi which water is used to clean the bowl after its use, then the flush toilet is close to 4,000 years old! The palace at Knossos, Crete, which was built around 2000 B.C., contained latrines that were cleaned by water stored in a reservoir and delivered to […]
You probably would answer yes, but did you ever hear of a man named John Hanson? He was really the first president of our nation. In 1781, when the Continental Congress met to plan the shape of the new nation and adopt constitution, the Congress elected Hanson as the “President of the United States in […]
Potatoes are so popular and important today that you might think they’ve been around for a long time. But that just isn’t so. Actually, no one in Europe had even seen a potato until just a few hundred years ago! When Spanish explorers visited South America in the 16th century, they found that the Inca […]
Portable clocks were invented in Germany around 1500, but no one had the idea of putting a watch around the wrist until very recently. Until around 1900, most watches were carried in a pants or vest pocket, often at the end of a chain. Both the chain and the pocket were called the watch. In […]
Relics found in tombs of ancient Egyptian children who lived in 5200 B.C. show that these children used 9 pieces of stone set up as pins and a stone ball to roll against them. This ball had to be rolled through an arch made of three pieces of marble before it hit the pins. There […]
Who Discovered Weak and Strong Forces and What is the difference between the Weak Force and the Strong Force?
For several centuries scientists thought that gravity and electromagnetic forces governed the universe. Then twentieth-century physicists found atomic nuclei composed of positively charged protons. Why didn’t they fly apart since positive electrical forces repel each other? Further, why did some atoms naturally radioactively decay while others did not? Many physicists proposed that two new forces […]
That depends on what you mean by “money.” In ancient times, before coins and bills existed, people bought and sold things by trading directly with other people. A craftsman who made leather, for instance, might trade some of his leather to a farmer in exchange for wheat. But that system, known as bartering, did not […]
Edwin Hubble’s twin discoveries (that there are many galaxies in the universe, not just the Milky Way, and that all of those galaxies are traveling outward, expanding the universe) rank as the most important astronomical discoveries of the twentieth century. These discoveries radically changed science’s view of the cosmos and of our place in it. […]
In 1893, a man in Chicago named Whitcomb Judson got tired of lacing and unlacing his boots; he wanted to find a better way to fasten them. So he designed a device with interlocking metal teeth and attached them to boots. The boots themselves became known as zippers. But later, the word came to mean […]
In ancient times, kissing was more often an act of respect or homage than of affection. In Persia, a man showed his respect for another man by kissing him on the lips if they were social equals, or on the cheek if they were not. The Greeks and Romans also used to kiss as a […]
Before 1820, the only known magnetism was the naturally occurring magnetism of iron magnets and of lodestones, small, weak direction finders. Yet the modern world of electric motors and electric generating power plants is muscled by powerful electromagnets. So is every hair dryer, mixer, and washing machine. Our industry, homes, and lives depend on electric […]
In the Middle Ages, knights put cloth coats over their armor to keep the sunlight from making the metal too hot. On each knight’s cloth coat was sewn an original design which was a symbol of important events in the knight’s life, outstanding qualities he possessed, or a pictorial representation of his name. Designs included […]
Charles Thomson radically changed science’s view of deep oceans and of the requirements for life in the oceans. There existed no light in the ocean depths, yet he discovered abundant and varied life. He proved that life can exist without light. He even proved that plants can thrive in the lightless depths (though it took […]
Who Discovered Electrochemical Bonding and How Molecular Bonds between chemical elements are electrical in nature?
Humphry Davy discovered that the chemical bonds between individual atoms in a molecule are electrical in nature. We now know that chemical bonds are created by the sharing or transfer of electrically charged particles, electrons, between atoms. In 1800, the idea that chemistry somehow involved electricity was a radical discovery. Davy’s discovery started the modern […]
People in Ancient Sumeria made drums as long ago as 3000 B.C. Although drums can be considered the oldest musical instrument, they were also used as a method of communication, a call to battle, and to keep a rhythmic beat in ceremonial dances. Drums can be grouped into three basic shapes and each is made […]
The earliest toothbrush was shown to the world back in 1770, but what a strange beginning it had! A man named William Addis was serving a sentence in England’s Newgate Prison for having started a riot. With a great deal of time on his hands, he began thinking how he would make a living when […]
Even though our modern 26 letter alphabet is called the Roman alphabet, the Romans did not invent it. They simply refined and polished a system of written language that had been developing for thousands of years in many nations. Most alphabet letters began as a simplified version of ancient drawings of animals, objects, or signs. […]
In 1932, a man named Richard Hollingshead set up a screen in front of his garage in Riverton, New Jersey, and sat in his car to watch a movie. He did this so that he could become the first person to watch a movie from a car, and thereby get a patent on the idea, […]
You can imagine how hard it must have been to do business in ancient times, before numbers were invented. To show a quantity, tradesmen used their fingers or bags of stones. For instance, a person who wanted to buy five sheep might put five stones in a bag. The word calculate, in fact, comes from […]
Scientists once believed that heat was an invisible, weightless liquid called caloric. Things that were hot were stuffed with caloric. Caloric flowed from hot to cold. They also believed that fire (combustion) came from another invisible substance called phlogiston, a vital essence of combustible substances. As a substance burned, it lost phlogiston to air. The […]
In the eighteenth century scientists still believed that Earth’s surface had remained unchanged until cataclysmic events (the great flood of Noah’s ark fame was the most often sited example) radically and suddenly changed the face of our planet. They tried to understand the planet’s surface structures by searching for those few explosive events. Attempts to […]
Until this century, all tea was sold in large bags or in tins. Then in 1904, a New York merchant named Thomas Sullivan began shipping tea to his customers in small silk bags. The customers found that it was easy to brew the tea right in the silk bags, and the tea bag was born!
Marie Curie opened the century by proving that there was a subatomic world. Einstein, Dirac, Heisenberg, Born, Rutherford, and others provided the new theoretical descriptions of this subatomic world. But proving what lurked within an atom’s shell, and what governed its behavior, lingered as the great physics challenges of the early twentieth century. It was […]
Christmas has been celebrated for many centuries, but the custom of sending greeting cards at Christmas didn’t begin until 1843. That year, an Englishman named Henry Cole wanted to send his friends a note wishing them happiness at Christmas. He hired an artist named John Horsley to design the world’s first Christmas card. This card […]
Ancient people knew about lenses, but they used them to start fires as we might do with a magnifying glass, and never to help them see better. The first person who suggested that lenses might be used to improve vision was Roger Bacon, an English scientist who lived in the 13th century. But Bacon never […]
Although yo-yos have been found on ancient Greek vase paintings from the 8th century B.C., not too much is known of their use in those early times. Much more is known of their origin and use in the Philippine Islands, where for centuries yo-yos were jungle fighting and hunting weapons. Hundreds of years ago, the […]
Today, Sunday school is a place where young people learn about their religion after they attend church on Sunday. But it didn’t begin like that. The first Sunday school was opened in 1780, in the poor section of Gloucester, England, to teach children reading, writing, and arithmetic. Sunday was the only day these children could […]
Who Discovered the Function of Chromosomes and What is the relationship between Chromosomes and Genes?
T. H. Morgan’s discovery that genes were linked into groups and strung along chromosomes was the second major step in peeling back the mystery of heredity and evolution. Morgan’s discovery formed much of the foundation for later discoveries of how genes and chromosomes do their work as well as the structure of the DNA molecule. […]
A black hole is a collapsed star that is so dense, and whose gravitational pull is so great, that not even light can escape it. Such stars would look like black holes in a black universe. Many consider black holes to be the ultimate wonder of the universe, the strangest of all stellar objects. Black […]
The earliest collection of animals, though not a public zoo, was established by Shulgi, ruler of Ur (now Southeast Iraq), around 2400 B.C. Queen Hatshepsut of Egypt collected animals from all parts of Africa and established the first real zoo in 1500 B.C. Chinese Emperor Wen Wang followed her example in 1100 B.C., when he […]
It’s possible that the skateboard was invented during the 1940s or the 1950s. But the skateboard didn’t really attract any attention until 1962, when a surfer in California attached roller-skate wheels to a board and began selling the skateboards to other surfers, who used them to practice certain moves used in surfing. But then, many […]