Archives March 2013

As twenty-first-century life becomes increasingly hectic, technologists continue to search for ways to reduce our burdens. "Useful" time-saving devices have included bagless vacuum cleaners, saucepans that indicate when they are hot, and cars that sound a warning when their driver is going the wrong way. Self-cleaning windows might seem to be yet another nifty, but fairly pointless, addition to this ever- growing canon of inane novelty. The innovative technology behind them is clever and effective, but how worried are people about the cleanliness of their windows? It turns out that they are quite concerned about it. PPG Industries, which pioneered the first self- cleaning windows in 2001, carried out consumer research through a survey in Better Homes & Gardens magazine in 2000, and self-cleaning windows came out at the top in a list of fantasy products. The windows (named Sun Clean by PPG) are self- cleaning because an extremely thin more...

William Murdock (1754-1839) was a consummate and prolific inventor, but the invention that he is most remembered for today was the development of gas lighting, which took over from the oil and tallow system. His experiments began around 1792 when he realized that gases released from burning coal could be lit and used as a steady source of light. He is said to have burned coal in his mother's old kettle, lighting the gas that came out of the spout. By 1794, however, the kettle had been replaced by a specially built retort in which the coal was burned; gas from the burning coal was tunneled through a long attached tube, to be ignited at the tube's end. Murdock first used his system of gas lighting in his own home in Redruth, Cornwall, and continued to develop methods for producing, storing, and igniting the gas more efficiently and practically In more...

The very first stapler is thought to have belonged to King Louis XV of France. The elaborate, handmade staples were imprinted with the royal insignia and were used to fasten together court documents. In 1868 Charles Gould received a British patent for a wire stitcher that could be used to bind magazines. His invention used uncut wire that was then cut to length, the pointed ends forced through the paper, and the ends folded down. The device was a direct predecessor of the modern stapler. In the United States, in 1868, Albert Kletzker patented a type of paper clip that used a single large staple to fasten together papers but did not crimp the ends, which had to be done by hand. The first machine that both inserted the staple and crimped it in one motion was patented by Henry R. Heitin 1877. The first commercially successful stapler was produced more...

"The condom is an armor against enjoyment and a spider web against danger." Madame de Sevigne, writer The Italian anatomist Gabriele Falloppio (1523-1562) posthumously published the first description of the condom in De Morbo Gallico (1564), a treatise on syphilis. To help counter the spread of the sexually transmitted disease, Falloppio invented a linen sheath that, when dipped in a solution of salt, formed a protective barrier during intercourse. To attract the ladies, the condoms were secured by pink ribbons. Falloppio claimed that none of the 1,100 men who used the device became infected with syphilis. This is not to say Falloppio's condom was the first. Cave paintings from Combarelles in France and drawings from ancient Egypt have been found depicting men wearing condoms. Over the years condoms have been made from oiled paper, thin leather, fish bladders, and even tortoiseshell. By 1844 Charles Goodyear (of tire fame) had patented more...

It is a medical practitioner's dream—a drug that will affect only the metabolism of a virus or cancer, with no side effects for the patient—the so-called "magic bullet." U.S. scientists George Hitchings (1905-1998) and Gertrude Elion (1918-1999) produced not one but a whole line of these type of medicines. Hitchings hired Elion to work in his lab in 1944, and together they conducted experiments to study the differences between how DNA is synthesized in normal human cells, cancerous cells, bacteria, and viruses. They created new compounds similar to nucleic acids—the building blocks of DNA—that would interfere with the virus (or cancer) cell's ability to reproduce, but would not affect normal healthy human cells. Their work went on to revolutionize the way drugs were developed because they came up with the idea of "rational" drug design. Instead of the usual, time-consuming, trial and error method of hoping to find a chemical more...

"Sucking out dust is impossible. It has been tried over and over without success..." John S. Thurman, inventor In 1901 mechanical engineer Hubert Cecil Booth (1871-1955) watched a railway carriage being cleaned at St. Pancras Station in London by a series of high- pressure hoses using compressed air to blow away debris. Dining with friends afterward, he impulsively covered his mouth with a moistened handkerchief, placed his mouth against the cover of his cloth chair and inhaled, trapping dust against the outer lining of the handkerchief. Convincing himself that a device using reverse pressure and equipped with a filter would effectively capture and store dust, he set about creating a cleaning machine using suction rather than simply blowing particles into the air. Together with his friend F. R. Simms, who designed a water-cooled, six-horsepower piston engine driven by an electric motor, to which Booth attached a simple vacuum pump, he more...

This was said in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. It is a part of a speech by Caesar in reply to Calpurnia who warned that he should not go out as evil omens point to some danger to his life. Caesar refuses to agree and declares that death has no terror for him. He rises above cowardice and ignores the dangers. The world "fear", he says, does not exist in  his vocabulary. He throws a challenge at death and refuses to be frightened by it. He could never have been a greater soldier if he had fear of death, Death is inevitable. Nobody has ever conquered death. Death comes to all-kings and beggars, rich and poor, princes in their places and paupers in their huts. Death lays its hand upon all creatures. It does so without distinction or discrimination. Knowing the omnipotence of death, it is a folly for a man to more...


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