10,000 ways that won’t work

From the Guardian article linked below: “One man that exemplified the science of taking massive actions is Thomas Alva Edison, an American inventor and one of the greatest innovators of all time. During his career, Edison patented over 1000 inventions, including the electric light, the phonograph and the motion-picture camera. 

In the period from 1878 to 1880, after Edison had built a small laboratory in New Jersey, he worked on at least three thousand different theories to develop an efficient incandescent lamp. Many inventors had tried ever before him, but couldn’t produce perfect incandescent lamps. 

By January 1879, Edison had built the first high resistance incandescent electric light, just as he desired, but still the lamp only burned for few hours. To get the perfect ‘filament,’ he went from one experiment to another, tested thousands and thousands of numerous materials to use for the filament, but they did not work with the tools available at that time. 

He tested carbonised filaments of every plant imaginable; he tested no fewer than 6000 vegetable growths. He was never discouraged or inclined to be hopeless of success, despite his several mistakes. He finally discovered that they could use a carbonised bamboo filament that last over 1,200 hours. 

After thousands and thousands of failures, mistakes and errors, Edison finally invented the first practical incandescent light. Though it took him about 10,000 trials to make the light bulb, he gave the world some of the best invention that has heralded the ‘modern’ world. 

When a reporter tried to ridicule his various attempts by asking him how he felt to have failed for 10,000 times, he said something that stunned the whole world: “I have not failed 10,000 times; I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” He has an unbreakable record; he not only eventually succeeded, but established a system of electric power generation and distribution to homes. 

Edison also developed the first movie camera and was the first to record sound. He gained worldwide acclaim for his inventions and continued working, even with advancing age and in frail health, amassing a total of 1093 patents, more than any other inventor at that time. His last patent was obtained at age 83 and he died at 84 on October 18, 1931 in New Jersey. 

Three days later, on the night of October 21, as a national tribute proclaimed by President Herbert Hoover, millions of Americans turned out their lights to plunge the country into momentary darkness in order to illustrate how the world was before Edison discovered the light bulb. 

When someone called him a genius, Edison made the famous reply: “Genius is one per cent inspiration and 99 per cent perspiration,” a statement that testify to his virtues of tenacity and persistency even in the plethora of his errors. An overzealous reporter once wrote a headline about Edison: “God said, ‘let there be light’ and there was Thomas Edison.” He was a light to the world, for when Edison died, the lights were put out as a tribute to this legend that set the world aglow with the discovery of the electric bulb light.

Germany is the world’s most innovative economy

October 2018. Germany is currently in the driving seat when it comes to innovation – thanks in part to the speed it’s developing new technologies like driverless cars.

In the World Economic Forum’s latest Global Competitiveness Report, Germany came top as the world’s most innovative economy, with a score of 87.5 out of 100 in the Innovation capability pillar – one of the 12 drivers of a country’s productivity.

Jeff Bezos Is Getting Astronaut Wings

Starting in January, space tourists will not receive a participation trophy for flying to space. But everyone will be on the honor roll.

The changes will help the F.A.A. avoid the potentially awkward position of proclaiming that some space tourists are only passengers, not astronauts.

The advent of space tourism, and especially the F.A.A.’s new rules, sparked debate over who can be called an astronaut.

But future space tourists should not despair a lack of post-flight flair. Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin and SpaceX have each presented paying and guest passengers with custom-designed wings.

Adults. With a lot of money. Go on a space flight. As passengers. Then want to be called astronauts. What?

Astronaut John Young

In 1965, during the first manned flight of the Gemini program, American astronaut John Young smuggled a corned beef sandwich onto the Gemini 3 spacecraft. One part of the Gemini 3 mission had been to test the effects of food on the astronauts, and also to see how well the two men onboard could work and eat efficiently and how bad the mess and odor would be.

Each official item of food had been specifically prepared as part of the test, however, unbeknownst to NASA (or even to his co-astronaut), Young decided to make an addendum to the prepared menu.

The sandwich did not fare well in space and made such a mess that the effects of the prepared food were largely untestable. Although Young was officially reprimanded for his action, this deviation in the accepted process did not damage his career, and he later landed on the moon in the Apollo 16 mission and piloted the space shuttle.

Rogue – vagrant, tramp, scoundrel; a horse inclined to shirk or misbehave; an individual exhibiting a chance and usually inferior biological variation; to weed out inferior, diseased, or nontypical individuals from a crop plant or a field; used to describe something or someone that is different from others in usually a dangerous or harmful way. First known use in 1766.

Astronaut checklists

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is well-known for its excessive use of checklists. Over the history of this organization, checklists could be found placed all over its spacecraft, and covered everything from launch operations to spacewalk procedures and even to unlikely sudden multiple system failures. In fact, astronauts used so many checklists that Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins called his crew’s mission checklists the “fourth crew member.”

For the first few missions of a particular program (Apollo, Gemini, etc.) the astronauts have always been far less familiar with the checklists and standard procedures than the astronauts for later missions. This is because it was more likely that something unexpected would happen during the earlier missions, and the astronauts might need to “think on their feet” in order to stay alive.

In fact, it was somewhat common for the astronauts to modify their checklists “on the fly,” although they only did so reluctantly. Collins spoke about this reluctance during his post-flight briefing, saying “I don’t enjoy making changes to procedures. It seems like the crew only does that when they feel there’s some good need for it.”

Examples of NASA Checklist deviations:

Gemini 3 – the first manned Gemini mission, which had the primary goal of testing the new Gemini spacecraft. The astronauts deviated from the post landing checklist to accommodate for extra smoke from the thrusters.

Gemini 4 – the second manned Gemini mission, which included the first spacewalk by astronaut Edward H. White. Following White’s spacewalk the hatch initially failed to open, and the astronaut inside the capsule had to deviate from standard procedure in order help White to return to the spacecraft.

Mercury 9 – the last manned Mercury mission, in which the astronaut Gordon Cooper would remain in space for one full day. Electrical problems led to the failure of several systems, and as a result, Cooper prepared a revised checklist to finish his mission.

For Americans, checklists are guidelines more than fixed rules, and often are not taken very seriously. For example, NASA checklists are also places of amusement – for the Apollo 12 mission, the backup crew managed to sneak playboy pictures into the checklists which were attached to the wrists of the moonwalkers’ space suits.

Not in Kansas anymore

In May of 2007, a grade 5 tornado (the highest possible) destroyed the town of Greensburg, Kansas, killing 13 people, injuring more than 60 others and flattening 95 percent of the town structures (while seriously damaging the other 5 percent). The tornado was estimated to be 1.7 miles (2.7 km) wide at its base, and traveled almost 22 miles (35 km). Wind from the twister was estimated at 205 mph (330 km/h).

In May of 2011, a grade 5 tornado ravaged the city of Joplin, Missouri. Although this tornado was only .75 miles at its base, and traveled 6 miles on the ground, it also had winds estimated at over 200 mph, and, because this tornado hit a city rather than a small town, it had far more devastating figures of destruction: 158 people died, over 1000 people were injured, and around 7,000 homes were destroyed (not including businesses and public buildings).

According to the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) an average of 1253 tornadoes occur in the United States every year. Although more common in “tornado alley” (the Midwest), tornados have been documented in every state in the U.S. After the United States, the country with the largest average number of annual cyclones is Canada, with around 100 twisters.

If there’s a relatively high probability that your home will be completely destroyed in a storm, then long-lasting won’t be one of your main concerns when buying it or having it built for you.

Death by Robot

The first recorded human death by robot was in 1979, when Robert Williams, a 25 year old Ford Motor assembly line worker, was slammed by a robot arm as he gathered parts in a storage facility. The incident occurred in Flat Rock, Michigan, and Williams’ family was awarded 10 million dollars in damages after the jury agreed that Williams’ death was the result of a lack of safety measures on the part of Ford Motor.

These days, robots have become fairly commonplace, and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates believes that robots are likely to become the focus of the next technological frontier. With increasing advancements in the field of robotics, more and more Americans are becoming concerned about these machines. The two primary concerns are that the robots will replace the need for human workers and that robotic intelligence may exceed human intelligence.

Robot: a real or imaginary machine that is controlled by a computer and is often made to look like a human or animal; a machine that can do the work of a person and that works automatically or is controlled by a computer. First known use: 1922. The word “robot” comes from the Czech word for “forced labor.”

Air conditioning

Air conditioning in the U.S. is present in almost every home and building. It is often run 24 hours a day in commercial buildings. Large airports are air-conditioned 24 hours a day throughout the entire year. Americans often use substantial amounts of money during hot summer months and cold winter months to keep the temperature in their home around 70 degrees Farenheit. These practices represent a focus on the output – comfort – over other considerations such as environmental toll, cost, etc.

The U.S. Department of Energy recently passed increased standards for heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) equipment used in homes. These new standards will gradually take effect over the next several years and will require newly installed heating and cooling equipment to be higher efficiency equipment. Although this act shows that the government is serious about curbing energy use in American homes, enforcement will be difficult.

Some companies have realized that they spend large amounts of money heating, cooling, and lighting empty offices during nights and weekends. Many have adopted technologies that program equipment to automatically switch off at certain times of the day.

Reconstructing Memories

“The uncritical acceptance of eyewitness accounts may stem from a popular misconception of how memory works. Many people believe that human memory works like a video recorder: the mind records events and then, on cue, plays back an exact replica of them. 

On the contrary, psychologists have found that memories are reconstructed rather than played back each time we recall them. The act of remembering, says eminent memory researcher and psychologist Elizabeth F. Loftus of the University of California, Irvine, is “more akin to putting puzzle pieces together than retrieving a video recording.” 

Even questioning by a lawyer can alter the witness’s testimony because fragments of the memory may unknowingly be combined with information provided by the questioner, leading to inaccurate recall.”

From: “Why Science Tells Us Not to Rely on Eyewitness Accounts”, Hal Arkowitz and Scott Lilienfeld. Scientific American magazine, January 8, 2009.

Life on Mars

In January of 2014, NASA’s Mars rover Opportunity took a picture of a location that it had recently photographed (12 Martian days earlier), but now there was a new object in the image. 

Nicknamed “The Jelly Donut” NASA assumed that the rover had caused a nearby rock to move, but because of the odd appearance of the rock, decided to conduct a short investigation of the object.

However, neurologist and author Rhawn Joseph didn’t believe that NASA was doing enough to investigate, and demanded that NASA perform a much more thorough examination of what he called “a biological specimen on Mars.” 

When the organization didn’t respond, Joseph filed a lawsuit to compel NASA “to perform a public, scientific, and statutory duty which is to closely photograph and thoroughly scientifically examine and investigate a putative biological organism.”

Additionally, because NASA referred to the object as a rock, not a biological lifeform, Joseph also made sure to claim that the discovery of life on Mars was done “by Petitioner” (a.k.a. Joseph himself).