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Posts Tagged ‘Albert Einstein

“Now, you can continue to protect your home and family even after you are gone”…


The craftsmen at Holy Smoke will take the cremated remains of a loved one and pack them into firearm ammunition:  one pound of human ash yields 250 shotgun shells, 100 rifle cartridges, or 250 pistol cartridges.  The company’s website avers…

The services provided by Holy Smoke are a fraction of the cost of what most funeral burial services cost – oftentimes saving families as much as 75% of traditional costs.

The ecological footprint caused by our service, as opposed to most of the current funeral interment methods, is virtually non-existent.

Now, you can continue to protect your home and family even after you are gone.

Or, as one of the company’s founders suggests in recounting how he conceived the service, one can use the remains to “share the death”:

My friend smiled and said “You know I’ve thought about this for some time and I want to be cremated. Then I want my ashes put into some turkey load shotgun shells and have someone that knows how to turkey hunt use the shotgun shells with my ashes to shoot a turkey. That way I will rest in peace knowing that the last thing that one turkey will see is me, screaming at him at about 900 feet per second.”

[TotH to Gizmodo]


As we aim for the afterlife, we might recall that it was on this date in 1939 that physicists Albert Einstein and Leó Szilárd wrote President Franklin D. Roosevelt, urging him to begin develop a nuclear weapon.  Their letter was delivered a couple of months later, and led to the formation of the Advisory Committee on Uranium (the “Briggs Uranium Committee”) and ultimately the Manhattan Project.

Einstein and Szilárd (source)


Who owns the fish?…

From the good folks at Coudal Partners, a puzzle purportedly created by Albert Einstein…

There are five houses in a row in different colors. In each house lives a person with a different nationality. The five owners drink a different drink, smoke a different brand of cigar and keep a different pet, one of which is a Walleye Pike.

The question is– who owns the fish?

1. The Brit lives in the red house.
2. The Swede keeps dogs as pets.
3. The Dane drinks tea.
4. The green house is on the left of the white house.
5. The green house owner drinks coffee.
6. The person who smokes Pall Malls keeps birds.
7. The owner of the yellow house smokes Dunhills.
8. The man living in the house right in the center drinks milk.
9. The man who smokes Blends lives next to the one who keeps cats.
10. The Norwegian lives in the first house.
11. The man who keeps horses lives next to the one who smokes Dunhills.
12. The owner who smokes Bluemasters drinks beer.
13. The German smokes Princes.
14. The Norwegian lives next to the blue house.
15. The man who smokes Blends has a neighbor who drinks water.

There’s nothing up anyone’s sleeve (as though fish had sleeves…); and everything one needs to know is there.

Successful solutions can be confirmed here.  And readers can find a second fish puzzle here, and a little teaser called “Da Vinci’s Other Code” here.

As we scratch our heads, we might wish a Joyeux Anniversaire to silk weaver Joseph Marie Jacquard; he was born on this date in 1752.  Jacquard’s 1805 invention of the programmable power loom, controlled by a series of punched “instruction” cards and capable of weaving essentially any pattern, ignited a technological revolution in the textile industry… indeed, it set off a chain of revolutions: it inspired Charles Babbage in the design of his “Difference Engine” (the ur-computer), and later, Herman Hollerith, who used punched cards in the “tabulator” that he created for the 1890 Census… and in so doing, pioneered the use of those cards for computer input.

Joesph Marie Jacquard (source)

I’ll take the low road…

source: Argonne National Laboratory

Cartoonist Rube Goldberg sketched ironic paeans to parsimony– cartoons depicting the simplest of things being done in the most elaborate and complicated of ways.  His whimsy inspired Purdue University to hold an annual Rube Goldberg Contest, in which teams of college students from around the country compete “to design a machine that uses the most complex process to complete a simple task – put a stamp on an envelope, screw in a light bulb, make a cup of coffee – in 20 or more steps.”

New Scientist reports on this year’s meet:

Who ever said a machine should be efficient? The device in this video was deliberately over-engineered to water a plant in 244 steps, while illustrating a brief history of life and the universe in the meantime. Created by students at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, it sets a new world record for the most complex Rube Goldberg machine – a contraption designed to complete a simple task through a series of chain reactions.

The machine was unveiled in March at the National Rube Goldberg Machine Championships held at Purdue University. The competition, first held in 1949, challenges competitors to accomplish a simple task in under 2 minutes, using at least 20 steps.

Although this machine used the greatest number of steps, it encountered some problems during the contest so was disqualified. But the team tried it again afterwards and it worked – too late to compete in the championships but still valid as a world record entry. They should find out this week if Guinness World Records accepts their record-breaking feat.

For more Rube Goldberg machines, check out our previous coverage of the championships, watch this cool music video by OK Go or see how an elaborate Japanese device could fix you a noodle dinner.

As we savor the sheer silliness of it all, we might recall that The American Academy of Arts and Sciences, which was founded during the Revolutionary War, was chartered on this date in 1780.

Established by by John Adams, James Bowdoin, John Hancock, and other leaders who contributed prominently to the establishment of the new nation, its government, and its Constitution, the Academy’s purpose was (in the words of the Charter) “to cultivate every art and science which may tend to advance the interest, honour, dignity, and happiness of a free, independent, and virtuous people.”

Over the years, just about everyone a reader may have encountered in a U.S. History text has been a member: The original incorporators were later joined by Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Charles Bulfinch, Alexander Hamilton, John Quincy Adams, and others. During the 19th century, the elected membership included Daniel Webster, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, John J. Audubon, Louis Agassiz, Asa Gray, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Alexander Graham Bell.  In the early decades of the twentieth century, membership in the Academy continued to grow as other noted scholars, scientists, and statesmen were elected– including A. A. Michelson, Percival Lowell, Alexander Agassiz and, later, Charles Steinmetz, Charles Evans Hughes, Samuel Eliot Morison, Albert Einstein, Henry Lee Higginson, Woodrow Wilson, William Howard Taft, and Henry Cabot Lodge.  (Current members are listed here.)

Today the Academy is (in its self-explanation) “an international learned society with a dual function: to elect to membership men and women of exceptional achievement, drawn from science, scholarship, business, public affairs, and the arts, and to conduct a varied program of projects and studies responsive to the needs and problems of society.”

The Minerva Seal (source)

A Matter of Some Gravity…


I’ve been noticing gravity since I was very young.
-Cameron Diaz

Isaac Newton first proposed a universal law of gravitation, where every massive body in the universe was attracted to every other one. This simple law proved extremely powerful, able to explain the orbits of planets and the reason the apocryphal apple fell on his head. However, Newton was never able to explain why gravity worked or what exactly it was. Two hundred plus years later, Albert Einstein was able to offer a more complete description of gravity—one where Newton’s laws are a limited case. According to Einstein, gravity was due to the warpage of spacetime by mass and energy; all objects followed straight paths, just on curved spaces.

With the advent of quantum theory over the past 100 years, scientists have been able to develop an elegant mathematical framework capable of uniting three of the four fundamental forces that are thought to exist in the universe. The fourth, gravity, still remains the fly in the ointment, and has resisted unification to this point. Early last year, Dutch theoretical physicist Erik Verlinde published a manuscript to the arXiv that purports to explain why science cannot reconcile all four fundamental forces. According to him, it is simple: “gravity doesn’t exist.”

Read the full story (SPOILER ALERT: it relates to Leonard Susskind‘s “holographic principle,” suggesting in effect that gravity isn’t a fundamental force, but an “entropic” result of information imbalances between the bodies/regions in question) in Ars Technica (recapping Physical Review D, 2011. DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevD.83.021502).

As we sit more confidently beneath apple trees, we might wish a polymathic Happy Birthday to the painter, sculptor, architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist and writer– the archetypical Renaissance Man– Leonardo da Vinci; he was born on this date in 1452.

Self-portrait in Red Chalk (source)

The Annals of Synesthesia: Volume 3.14159…

Today (March 14, or 3.14) is Pi Day…  so as a special treat (and, even for the arithmophobic, it is a treat):

As we wonder at the constant irrationality of it all, we might add another honoree to our festivities:  Albert Einstein was born on this date in 1879.


“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

Written by LW

March 14, 2011 at 1:01 am

Relatively speaking…

Max Fleischer and his lady love (source)

Max Fleischer and his brother Dave were giants in the history of animation.  The most significant competition to Walt Disney in the formative years of the art, they created Betty Boop and Koko the Clown, and brought Bimbo, Popeye, Superman, and Gulliver’s Travels to the screen.  Along the way, they invented a number of technologies and techniques that have become essential to the form.

Rotoscope by Max Fleischer, patent drawing from 1914

But possibly the the strangest– and arguably the most wonderful– thing they ever did was this 1923 short film blithely and elegantly explaining the concept of relativity:

TotH to Curiosity Counts.

As we await the animators of our new paradigms, we might wish a minimal(ist) birthday to Philip Glass, award-winning composer and first cousin once removed of (R)D friend and hero Ira Glass; Philip was born on this date in 1937.

Philip Glass




Inside knowledge…

Original x-rays of Einstein’s brain will go under the gavel on December 3 at Julien’s Auctions in Hollywood (along with other such memorabilia as the first guitar used on stage by Jimi Hendrix and the Michael Jackson “Bad” costume made for and worn by the chimp Bubbles).

Taken by an old friend when the Father of Modern Physics was 66, the x-rays may illustrate the root of the genius’ genius; as the BBC explains:

Scientists at McMaster University, Ontario, Canada compared the shape and size Einstein’s brain with those of 35 men and 56 women with average intelligence.

They think their findings may well explain his genius for mathematical and spatial thinking.

In general, Einstein’s brain was the same as all the others except in one particular area – the region responsible for mathematical thought and the ability to think in terms of space and movement.

Uniquely, Einstein’s brain also lacked a groove that normally runs through part of this area. The researchers suggest that its absence may have allowed the neurons to communicate much more easily.

“This unusual brain anatomy may explain why Einstein thought the way he did,” said Professor Sandra Witelson, who led the research published in the Lancet.

“Einstein’s own description of his scientific thinking was that words did not seem to play a role. Instead he saw more or less clear images of a visual kind,” she said.

The x-rays are expected to fetch $1-2,000.

(TotH to Cakehead Loves Evil)

As we muse that the juxtaposition of items in the auction is… well, relatively odd, we might cast our eyes to the heavens in honor of Johannes Kepler, the mathematician, astronomer, and astrologer (the distinctions among those fields being pretty vague in Kepler’s time); he died on this date in 1630.

Kepler’s “laws of planetary motion”– most famously, that the planets move in elliptical orbits around the Sun– were the foundation on which Isaac Newton (one of the few humans arguably smarter than Einstein) built his theory of universal gravitation.




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