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Posts Tagged ‘gregor mendel

Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood…

Consider the case of Gregor Mendel:

You probably know Mendel as the guy who pioneered the science of genetics… Anybody with a high school diploma has filled out those dominant/recessive trait Punnett squares … … though astute readers are probably wondering why that technique is called a Punnett square if it predicts patterns Mendel discovered.

What you probably didn’t know was that before making his revolutionary discovery, Gregor Mendel flunked out of school and resigned himself to a quiet life as the abbot of a monastery. It had an extensive experimental garden and there Mendel patiently spent the next seven years of his life breeding and cross-breeding peas.

He carefully documented his work and developed what would eventually be known as Mendel’s Laws of Inheritance. Then he wrote it up and got it published in an lesser-known journal, the Journal of the Brno Natural History Society in 1866.

His genius was rewarded by … A quiet life of complete anonymity. Mendel’s work was read by about zero people, even after he took it upon himself to contact the highest minds of his time by personally sending them copies of his theory… Why did they ignore him? Because the greatest minds of his time couldn’t understand him. It wasn’t until 16 years after his death that three independent botanists rediscover Mendel’s work and started the genetics ball rolling.

Read a more colorfully-worded version of Mendel’s story, and the tales of four other scientific pioneers, in “5 Famous Scientists Dismissed as Morons in Their Time.”

[Special Holiday Bonus:  The Animals singing this post’s title song]

As we reconsider the advice we got from the wild-eyed gentleman standing in the DMV line this morning, we might recall that it was on this date in 1900 that Nature reported the development of the first fully-electric musical instrument, the Musical Arc (or Singing Arc) developed by English physicist and engineer William Dudell.

Before Edison “invented” the electric light bulb in the United States, electric street lighting was in wide use throughout Europe; the carbon arc lamp generated light by creating a spark between two carbon nodes. But this method of lighting produced an annoying constant humming noise from the electric arc.  Duddell, who was appointed to solve the problem in London in 1899,  found that by varying the voltage supplied to the lamps he could create controllable audible frequencies from a resonant circuit caused by the rate of pulsation of exposed electrical arcs.  He attached a keyboard to the arc lamps– and created the first electronic instrument that was audible without using the yet-to-be-invented amplifier or loudspeaker.

Duddell– who also invented the moving-coil oscillograph (an early oscillator-type device for the photographic monitoring of audio frequency waveforms), the thermo-ammeter, thermo-galvanometer (an instrument for measuring minute currents and potential differences later used for measuring antenna currents and still used in modified form today), and a magnetic standard (used for the calibration of ballistic galvanometers)–  never patented his discovery.

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How are you supposed to make a fish act that way? Some kind of local weed in the water or something?*…

On screen, Dick Van Dyke has been rescued from untimely death by flying cars and magical nannies. Off screen, the veteran star of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Mary Poppins had to rely on the help of a pod of porpoises after apparently dozing off aboard his surfboard. “I’m not kidding,” he said afterwards.

Van Dyke’s ordeal began during an ill-fated trip to his local beach. “I woke up out of sight of land,” the 84-year-old actor told Craig Ferguson on his TV chat show. “I started paddling with the swells and I started seeing fins swimming around me and I thought ‘I’m dead!'”

Van Dyke was wrong. “They turned out to be porpoises,” he said. “And they pushed me all the way to shore.” The porpoises were unavailable for comment.

Van Dyke made his screen debut on the Phil Silvers Show before bagging his own TV sitcom in 1961. His film credits include Bye Bye Birdie, Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Dick Tracy, while his TV drama Diagnosis: Murder ran from 1993 to 2001. In recent years he has appeared on screen in Night at the Museum and its 2009 sequel.

Via The Guardian.

* How are you supposed to make a fish act that way? Some kind of local weed in the water or something? – Flipper’s New Adventure (1964)

As we celebrate cooperation across the animal kingdom, we might recall that this date in 2002 a U.S. patent for “Registered pedigree stuffed animals” was issued to David L. Pickens of Honolulu, Hawaii (No. 6,482,067). The toy animals are designed “to simulate the biological laws of inheritance both for educational, recreational and aesthetic purposes.”  Pairs of opposite sex “parent” toy animals were to be sold with serial numbers encoding the parents’ genotype and phenotype. So, owners of the “parent” toy animals, having registered with the manufacturer, could later request “breeding”– and receive at least one “offspring” toy animal randomly selected from a litter having traits determined according to the registered genotypes of the parents, as dictated by the Mendelian laws of inheritance.

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The interspecies possibilities were alluring; but sadly, the concept never found commercial acceptance.

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