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August 5, 2014 AT 6:00 am

Time travel Tuesday #timetravel a look back at the Adafruit, maker, science, technology and engineering world

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Whether it’s the best of times or the worst of times, it’s the only time we’ve got. ~Art Buchwald


1802 – Niels Henrik Abel, Norwegian mathematician is born.

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Niels Henrik Abel was a Norwegian mathematician who made pioneering contributions in a variety of fields. His most famous single result is the first complete proof demonstrating the impossibility of solving the general quintic equation in radicals. This question was one of the outstanding open problems of his day, and had been unresolved for 250 years. He was also an innovator in the field of elliptic functions, discoverer of Abelian functions. Despite his achievements, Abel was largely unrecognized during his lifetime; he made his discoveries while living in poverty and died at the age of 26.

Most of his work was done in six or seven years of his working life. Regarding Abel, the French mathematician Charles Hermite said: “Abel has left mathematicians enough to keep them busy for five hundred years.” Another French mathematician, Adrien-Marie Legendre, said: “quelle tête celle du jeune Norvégien!” (“what a head the young Norwegian has!”).

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1888 – Bertha Benz drives from Mannheim to Pforzheim and back in the first long distance automobile trip, commemorated as the Bertha Benz Memorial Route since 2008.

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On 5 August 1888, without telling her husband and without permission of the authorities, Benz drove with her sons Richard and Eugen, thirteen and fifteen years old, in one of the newly constructed Patent Motorwagen automobiles—from Mannheim to Pforzheim—becoming the first person to drive an automobile over a real distance. Motorized drives before this historic trip were merely very short trial drives, returning to the point of origin, made with mechanical assistants. This pioneering tour had a one-way distance of about 106 km (66 mi).

Although the ostensible purpose of the trip was to visit her mother, Bertha Benz had other motives: to prove to her husband—who had failed to consider marketing his invention adequately—that the automobile they both heavily invested in would become a financial success once it was shown to be useful to the general public; and to give her husband the confidence that his constructions had a future.

On the way, she solved numerous problems. She had to find ligroin as a fuel; this was available only at apothecary shops, so she stopped in Wiesloch at the city pharmacy to purchase the fuel. A blacksmith had to help mend a chain at one point. The brakes needed to be repaired and, in doing so, Bertha Benz invented brake lining. She also had to use a long, straight hatpin to clean a fuel pipe, which had become blocked, and to insulate a wire with a garter. She left Mannheim around dawn and reached Pforzheim somewhat after dusk, notifying her husband of her successful journey by telegram. She drove back to Mannheim the next day.

Along the way, several people were frightened by the automobile and the novel trip received a great deal of publicity, as she had sought. The drive was a key event in the technical development of the automobile. The pioneering couple introduced several improvements after Bertha’s experiences. She reported everything that had happened along the way and made important suggestions, such as the introduction of an additional gear for climbing hills and brake linings to improve brake-power.

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1926 – Harry Houdini performs his greatest feat, spending 91 minutes underwater in a sealed tank before escaping.

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Houdini performed at least three variations on a “Buried Alive” stunt during his career. The first was near Santa Ana, California in 1915, and it almost cost Houdini his life. Houdini was buried, without a casket, in a pit of earth six feet deep. He became exhausted and panicked while trying to dig his way to the surface and called for help. When his hand finally broke the surface, he fell unconscious and had to be pulled from the grave by his assistants. Houdini wrote in his diary that the escape was “very dangerous” and that “the weight of the earth is killing.”

Houdini’s second variation on Buried Alive was an endurance test designed to expose mystical Egyptian performer Rahman Bey, who had claimed to use supernatural powers to remain in a sealed casket for an hour. Houdini bettered Bey on August 5, 1926, by remaining in a sealed casket, or coffin, submerged in the swimming pool of New York’s Hotel Shelton for one hour and a half. Houdini claimed he did not use any trickery or supernatural powers to accomplish this feat, just controlled breathing. He repeated the feat at the YMCA in Worcester, Massachusetts on September 28, 1926, this time remaining sealed for one hour and eleven minutes.

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1930 – Neil Armstrong, American pilot, engineer, and astronaut is born.

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Neil Alden Armstrong was an American astronaut and the first person to walk on the Moon. He was also an aerospace engineer, naval aviator, test pilot, and university professor. Before becoming an astronaut, Armstrong was an officer in the U.S. Navy and served in the Korean War. After the war, he earned his bachelor’s degree at Purdue University and served as a test pilot at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics High-Speed Flight Station, now known as the Dryden Flight Research Center, where he logged over 900 flights. He later completed graduate studies at the University of Southern California.

A participant in the U.S. Air Force’s Man in Space Soonest and X-20 Dyna-Soar human spaceflight programs, Armstrong joined the NASA Astronaut Corps in 1962. He made his first space flight, as command pilot of Gemini 8, in 1966, becoming NASA’s first civilian astronaut to fly in space. On this mission, he performed the first docking of two spacecraft, with pilot David Scott.

Armstrong’s second and last spaceflight was as mission commander of the Apollo 11 moon landing, in July 1969. On this mission, Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin descended to the lunar surface and spent two and a half hours exploring, while Michael Collins remained in lunar orbit in the Command Module. Along with Collins and Aldrin, Armstrong was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Richard Nixon; President Jimmy Carter presented Armstrong the Congressional Space Medal of Honor in 1978; he and his former crewmates received the Congressional Gold Medal in 2009.

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2013 – World’s first lab-grown burger is eaten in London.

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Scientists took cells from a cow and, at an institute in the Netherlands, turned them into strips of muscle that they combined to make a patty.

Researchers say the technology could be a sustainable way of meeting what they say is a growing demand for meat.

Critics say that eating less meat would be an easier way to tackle predicted food shortages.

The burger was cooked by chef Richard McGowan, from Cornwall, and tasted by food critics Hanni Ruetzler and Josh Schonwald.

Upon tasting the burger, Austrian food researcher Ms Ruetzler said: “I was expecting the texture to be more soft… there is quite some intense taste; it’s close to meat, but it’s not that juicy. The consistency is perfect, but I miss salt and pepper.”

She added: “This is meat to me. It’s not falling apart.”

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2013 – Making and testing the Adafruit Neopixel rings

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NeoPixel Ring – 16 x WS2812 5050 RGB LED with Integrated Drivers – Round and round and round they go! 16 ultra bright smart LED NeoPixels are arranged in a circle with 1.75″ (44.5mm) outer diameter. The rings are ‘chainable’ – connect the output pin of one to the input pin of another. Use only one microcontroller pin to control as many as you can chain together! Each LED is addressable as the driver chip is inside the LED. Each one has ~18mA constant current drive so the color will be very consistent even if the voltage varies, and no external choke resistors are required making the design slim. Power the whole thing with 5VDC (4-7V works) and you’re ready to rock.

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