The ‘Radium Girls’ literally glowed from their work—and then it started killing them

Women painting alarm clock faces with radium in 1932, Ingersoll factory, January 1932. Workers would often lick the paintbrush to achieve a finer point — directly ingesting the radium. (Daily Herald Archive/SSPL/Getty Images)

At factories like the Radium Luminous Materials Corporation on Third Street in Newark, young women like 14-year-old Katherine Schaub passed their days with tiny paintbrushes in their mouths. Beside each girl sat a small dish of radium powder, which she mixed with a few drops of water and adhesive. The combination made a luminescent…

Source: The ‘Radium Girls’ literally glowed from their work—and then it started killing them

Trailblazing 18th-Century Mathematician Émilie du Châtelet, Who Popularized Newton, on Gender in Science and the Nature of Genius – Brain Pickings

Émilie du Châtelet (Portrait by Maurice Quentin de La Tour)

A century before Ada Lovelace became the world’s first computer programmer, a century before the word “scientist” was coined for the Scottish polymath Mary Somerville, another woman of towering genius and determination subverted the limiting opportunities her era afforded her and transcended what…

Source: Trailblazing 18th-Century Mathematician Émilie du Châtelet, Who Popularized Newton, on Gender in Science and the Nature of Genius – Brain Pickings

How Female Computers Mapped the Universe and Brought America to the Moon | Atlas Obscura

The group of women computers at the Harvard College Observatory, who worked for the astronomer Edward Charles Pickering, c. 1890. (Photo: Harvard College Observatory/Public Domain)

Teams of female scientists made critical breakthroughs in astronomy and mathematics–but it was decades before they’d get credit for them.

At Harvard Observatory in the late 1800s, the hum of over a dozen computers buzzed from the busy astronomy calculation room. Devising complex calculations to map the stars, the computers worked in skirts and corsets, gripping their pencils at thick wooden desks. If you haven’t guessed, these computers were not the sort we think of today, but were…

Source: How Female Computers Mapped the Universe and Brought America to the Moon | Atlas Obscura

Why Exactly Did the Vikings Flee Greenland? | Atlas Obscura

Sometime around the 10th century AD the Vikings traveled north to settle in Greenland. They lived there for around 500 years and then exited the region en masse. Why they left still remains a mystery, but a paper published today in Science Advances throws a wrench in one of the more popular explanations.

One Viking exodus hypothesis puts climate change front and center. The Vikings traveled to Greenland during a period known as the Medieval Warm Period, a chunk of time–between the…

Source: Why Exactly Did the Vikings Flee Greenland? | Atlas Obscura

Albert Einstein: The genius of general relativity and the father of modern physics.

Why is it that Albert Einstein, a theoretical physicist, is one of the most recognized and beloved individuals of the twentieth century? To most, it is something about his expressive face and distinctive hairstyle that warms the soul of people around the world. His formula for mass-energy equivalence E = mc2 , arguably the world’s most famous equation, comes to mind often too, further embedding Einstein into our subconscious as an icon. So popular is Einstein in our culture that his name is easily synonymous with the word ‘genius’. Almost everyday I am reminded of Einstein, during my travels on my way home, when I pass by a vivid and interesting example of street art of the genius himself. I often wonder why the artist chose Albert Einstein to celebrate upon the façade of this building? Only recently I found out that the owners of the building were greatly inspired by Einstein which matched their own core values. (See below.)

His infectious qualities are celebrated by people from all walks of life; particularly those…

Source: Albert Einstein: The genius of general relativity and the father of modern physics.

The Fascinating Whistled Languages of the Canary Islands, Turkey & Mexico (and What They Say About the Human Brain) | Open Culture

For some years now linguist Daniel Everett has challenged the orthodoxy of Noam Chomsky and other linguists who believe in an innate “universal grammar” that governs human language acquisition. A 2007 New Yorker profile described his work with a reclusive Amazonian tribe called the Piraha, among whom Everett found a language “unrelated to any other extant tongue… so confounding to non-natives that” until he arrived in the 70s, “no outsider had succeeded in mastering it.” And yet, for all its extraordinary differences, at least one particular feature of Piraha is shared by humans across the globe—“its speakers can dispense with their vowels and consonants altogether and sing, hum, or whistle conversations.

”In places as far-flung as the Brazilian rainforest, mountainous Oaxaca, Mexico, the Canary Islands, and the Black Sea coast of Turkey, we find languages that sound more like the…

Source: The Fascinating Whistled Languages of the Canary Islands, Turkey & Mexico (and What They Say About the Human Brain) | Open Culture

Bizarre Dinosaur-Fish, the Coelacanth | Theory Of Irony

The South African naturalist and self-taught museum curator, Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer (1907 – 2004), was something of an odd duck.  She pursued an obsessive compulsive fascination with fish to such an extent, that she begged bemused fishing boat captains to phone her if by chance they should reel in any strange species.  So it happened, one day back in 1938, Ms. Courtenay-Latimer came to recall, “I saw a blue fin and, pushing off [a pile of aquatic entrails], the most beautiful fish I had ever seen was revealed….It was five feet long and a pale mauve blue with iridescent silver markings.”  She immediately wrote to rock star-ichthyologist, Dr. J.L.B. Smith of Rhodes University, who as fate would have it, was away on vacation sunning his dorsal fin.  Meanwhile, in a desperate and futile attempt to preserve the rapidly decomposing carcass she wheeled it around from morgue drawer, to meat locker and finally to a taxidermist.  Courtenay-Latimer stunned Dr. Smith upon his return, since her description violated the laws (then known) to science.  She seemingly stumbled upon an extinct beast that long…

via Bizarre Dinosaur-Fish, the Coelacanth | Theory Of Irony.

LSD: A Trip Down Memory Lane

Atomic Flash Deluxe

LSD25 Manufactured by Sandoz Laboratories - Basel, Switzerland LSD25 Manufactured by Sandoz Laboratories – Basel, Switzerland

Taking LSD was a profound experience, one of the most important things in my life.  ~~Steve Jobs

In 1956 this unnamed American housewife took LSD at the Veteran’s Administration Hospital in Los Angeles. This woman’s husband was an employee at the hospital and referred her to this study, which was reportedly done for a television program on mental health issues.

When Swiss chemist Albert Hoffman first synthesized LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) at the Sandoz laboratories in Basel, Switzerland on November 16, 1938, he felt that the compound wasn’t useful for the project at hand. He set it aside in the slush-pile. Five years later, April 16, 1943, Hoffman felt compelled to take another look at his abandoned discovery. John Beresford writes:

Hofmann is not sure – the chemist in the old Sandoz lab had what he called a “Vorgefühl.” The usual English…

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Ten Terrifying Knives from Medical History

I’m not particularly keen on the cataract knife as I’m waiting for an operation. Mind you, I believe things have changed a little in the last 100 years or so!

The Chirurgeon's Apprentice

I’m excited to announce that I’ve just finished filming the first episode of my new YouTube series, Under The Knife, and will be releasing it very soon (please subscribe to my channel for video updates). Unsurprisingly, that got me thinking about, well, knives. Here’s a list of some rather terrifying knives from our medical past.

  1. VALENTIN KNIFE, 1838. This knife was one of the few able to cut slices of organs and soft tissues for microscopic examination. The double-bladed knife worked best when the blades were wet – best of all when submerged in water. Named after its inventor, Professor Gabriel Valentin (1810-1883), a German-Swiss physiologist, the knife was invented in 1838. This example, however, dates from 1890.
  2. BISTOURY CACHÉ, c.1850. Invented in the mid-19th century, bistoury caché literally translates from the French as ‘hidden knife’. The device was used to cut internal organs or…

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