This week, in Science’s past.

Aug 3 – Aug 10.

1. Coldest temperature on Earth surface. 

On 8 Aug 2010, the record low surface temperature in Antartica was -135.8ºF (-93.2ºC), colder than the freezing point of dry ice. It was determined from analysis of remote-sensing satellite data later announced on 9 Dec 2013 at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union. The location was in pockets scattered near a high ice ridge between Dome Argus and Dome Fuji, two summits on the East Antarctic Plateau. August is winter in the Southern Hemisphere, and the temperature resulted from the geographical nature and weather conditions in the pockets. The World Meteorological Organization official records are for air temperatures made a couple of meters above the surface. That recorded lowest temperature, made in Jul 1983 at the Vostok Research Station, Antarctica, remains at -128.6ºF (89.2ºC).

2.  Space craft Magellan orbits Venus. 

In 1990, the space probe Magellan arrived at its planned polar orbit around Venus. As the planet rotated slowly beneath it, Magellan circled once every 3-hr 15-min, collecting radar images of the surface in strips about 17-28 km (10-17 mi) wide and radioed back the information. Magellan was carried into space in the shuttle cargo bay of STS-30 Atlantis, launched 4 May 1989, and was the first planetary spacecraft to be released from a shuttle in Earth orbit. The Magellan mission also provided gravity, atmospheric and other measurements. On 11 Oct 1994, it was directed towards the surface, collecting data until it broke up and partially vaporized in the atmosphere.

3.   Aspirin discovery.

In 1897, Dr. Felix Hoffmann successfully created a chemically pure and stable form of acetyl salicylic acid. His handwritten laboratory notes—aspirin’s “birth certificate”—suggested: “Through its physical characteristics such as a sour taste without any corrosive effect, acetylsalicylic acid has an advantage over salicylic acid and will therefore be tested for its usability in this context.” His success was trademarked as Aspirin. It was a better pain reliever for his father’s rheumatoid arthritis than the salicylic acid previously used which had an unpleasant taste and side effects, such as stomach bleeding. Hoffmann had improved on the earlier work of French chemistCharles Frederic Gerhardt who derived acetylsalicylic acid from plants, though only in an impure, unstable form (1853).

4. Royal Greenwich Observatory.

In 1675, King Charles II laid the foundation stone of the Royal Observatory, Greenwich. It had been created by Royal Warrant from the King on 22 Jun 1675. The building was designed by Sir Christopher Wren (who was also a Professor of Astronomy). Construction was finished the following year. John Flamsteed was appointed as the first Astronomer Royal. Its primary uses were very practical—using astronomy for navigation and timekeeping by determination of star positions. In 1767 the observatory began publishing The Nautical Almanac, which established the longitude of Greenwich as a baseline for time calculations. This led in part to the international adoption (1884) of the Greenwich meridian as the Earth’s prime meridian.

5.   Mars 7.

In 1973, the USSR launched the Mars 7, on a Proton SL-12/D-1-e booster. It was one of several Soviet Mars probes – Mars 4, 5, 6, and 7 – launched in Jul-Aug 1973. The Mars 7 spacecraft was made up of a flyby bus and a descent module intended separate to study the atmosphere and land on the Martian surface with instruments to study soil composition, and mechanical properties soil sensors. The combined vehicle reached Mars on 9 Mar 1974. However, an equipment problem believed to be due to a faulty computer chip resulted in the premature separation of the lander. Being released about 4 hours too early, the lander missed the planet by 1300-km. Both the bus and the lander instead travelled into solar orbits.

6.  Escalator.

In 1859, the first U.S. patent for an escalator-type idea – titled “Revolving Stairs” – was issued to Nathan Ames, of Saugus, Mass. (No. 25,076). He arranged steps on an inclined, endless belt placed around rollers, so when placed in motion, the steps act as elevators saving muscular effort. When stationary, the stairs could be used in the usual way, but when in motion, a person could also walk up the steps and so ascend with increased speed. The patent showed not only two parallel sets of stairs (one up, one down), but also a triangular arrangement whereby the same endless belt would provide upward movement on one inclined plane to the apex, and from there downward motion on the second inclined plane.

7.  Atomic energy conference.

In 1955, the Geneva Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy (ICPUAE) was opened, sponsored by the United Nations. By the time the conference ended on 20 Aug, hundreds of papers had been read and discussed. Dr. Homi Bhabha was elected to preside over the conference. In his presidential address, he said, “nuclear energy would provide a short cut to the prosperity of the developing countries that the industrialized countries were now beginning to enjoy.” Varied uses of nuclear energy were considered, but particularly in the field of generation of electricity. Invitations to participate were sent to 84 nations on 1 Feb 1955, by Dag Hammarskold, Secretary-General of the U.N., acting in accordance with the U.N. General Assembly resolution on atoms for peace (4 Dec 1954).

8. Refrigerator patent.

In 1899, Albert T. Marshall of Brockton, of Brockton, Mass., received a U.S. patent for a refrigerator, titled “Automatic Refrigerating Apparatus.” It was “to provide means for automatically regulating the admission of the refrigerating medium [anhyrous ammonia] to the expansion pipes or chambers; second, to combine a thermostat and rheostat to automatically control” the pump motor. He also added an automatic motor cut-off in case it was needed, and a means for automatically regulating the water used for cooling the refrigerant. For the next quarter century, he filed more patents, assigning them to the Automatic Refrigeration Company which introduced its first household refrigerators in 1914. By 1918 they introduced their first refrigerator with automatic control. The company became Kelvinator Corp. (24 Sep 1917).

9. Steam locomotive.

In 1829, the first steam locomotive for railroad use in the U.S., the Stourbridge Lion, made its first run in America. It travelled at 10 m.p.h. on the wooden tracks faced with wrought iron that already existed as a gravity railway, used to carry coal from mines at Carbondale to the canal terminus at Honesdale, Pennsylvania. The 7-ton engine was built by Foster, Rastrick & Co., of Stourbridge, England for the Hudson Railroad Company to specifications drawn up by John Bloomfield Jervis, chief engineer for the Delaware and Hudson Canal project. However, after the trials, it was deemed to be too heavy for continued use hauling loads of coal on those tracks.

10. Artificial heart.

In 1986, William J. Schroeder of Jasper, Ind., the world’s longest-surviving recipient of a permanent artificial heart, died at age 53 after living 620 days with the Jarvik-7 man-made pump. He died after a series of strokes impaired his ability to breathe. Schroeder was the second Jarvik-7 recipient when the pump was implanted on 25 Nov 1985, at the Humana Heart Institute in Louisville, Ky., by surgeon Dr. William DeVries. He was the first patient to live outside the hospital with the artificial heart, including being a parade grand marshal in Jasper, his hometown, making a fishing trip with his sons and celebrating his 33rd wedding anniversary at a Louisville restaurant. However after a stroke, he was bedridden for his final seven months.




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