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 Post subject: Re: Interesting Facts
Post Posted: Nov 6, 2017 8:44 am 
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What Was the Future Supposed to be Like 100 Years Ago?

When you imagine the future, what do you think of? Plentiful robot helpers? Of course. Personal jetpacks? Obviously. Underwater buses pulled by tame whales? If that one didn't make your list, then that's the difference between you and the futurists of the 1890s and 1900s. What about robotic builders?

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No? How about flying firemen?

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So there was this trend of futurism that took hold of the world as the century clock rolled over from 19th to 20th, and one of the most popular forms that it took was postcards. In France, it was a series of drawings called "En L'an 2000" by illustrator Jean-Marc Côté. In Germany, the images were created by the chocolate company Hildebrands. In any case, the imaginative futurists inevitably came up with one of two results: a prediction that was creepily accurate, or a prediction that was completely wrong (but usually still a little creepy). First up, let’s look at the ones that they got right.

Skype. Sure, they called it "Correspondence Cinema", but this is a video call if I’ve ever seen it.

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Roombas. Modern robot vacuums are a bit less obtrusive than the "Electric Scrubber" that Jean-Marc Côté dreamed up. Although Roombas can't squeegee windows.

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Jetpacks. Okay, maybe we don't have jetpacks yet. But we're on our way. Boeing's new competition intends to design a fully functional, one-person flying machine by the year 2019.

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As cool as it is when people make a prediction that comes true 100 years later, it's almost even more revealing when they get something completely wrong. It really just goes to show how people think when they make these kinds of predictions about future fashion. Here's how else things got wacky.

Whale Buses. I can't imagine why these didn't catch on. Maybe it's the fact that so many whales are endangered, and aren't especially well known for their domesticity. Or maybe it's just that underwater croquet never blew up either.

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Electric Education. Okay, I've got to give them half points for this one. Maybe computers are the electric schools that these are supposed to represent. But laptops don't involve grinding up books and siphoning them directly into little brains.

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Robot Barbers. Somehow, more than a century ago, people could look at this tangle of limbs and razor blades and not feel absolute terror. To be fair, none of them had seen "The Terminator" yet.

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Many more hits and misses were included in this series of post cards, but I’ll let you Google them yourselves.

In Depth

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 Post subject: Re: Interesting Facts
Post Posted: Nov 6, 2017 9:00 am 
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Personal perspectives are valuable to us "wonderers". :)

Personal perspectives of wanderers are valuable to us "wonderers".

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 Post subject: Re: Interesting Facts
Post Posted: Nov 7, 2017 8:54 am 
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Where Can Few People Hope To Grow Old?

A drought that began in the 1970s has brought even more poverty to the already poor nation of Somalia.

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A war with neighboring Ethiopia has added to the nation’s suffering. In 1977, Somalia invaded the Ogaden, a region of Ethiopia where Somali people live. Somalia lost that war. Since then, more than 1 million people have fled from the Ogaden into Somalia.

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Ogaden War – 1977-78

Many of these people now live in camps, and all of their food must be brought from far away. The threat of famine is probably greater today in Somalia than in any other country on earth.

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Due in part to this poverty, fewer Somalis live to an old age than do the people of any other nation. In the United States, about 10 percent of the population is over the age of 65. But in Somalia, only 2 percent of the population has achieved that age in the 1980s.

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Post Posted: Nov 8, 2017 8:50 am 
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Here's Why NASA Launches Rockets From Florida

Every time people get excited to watch a rocket launch only to have their hopes dashed with a weather delay, it begs the question: why on Earth do we launch rockets from Florida? It's regularly pummeled by hurricanes, and it gets more thunderstorms than any other state. Couldn't we launch from somewhere milder, like Southern California? No, and there's a good reason. Three good reasons, in fact.

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It's Close To The Equator - To understand why launching near the equator is important, think back to the last time you were at a playground and rode a merry-go-round. If a merry-go-round was spinning fast enough, you probably felt an outward pull that got stronger the further from the center you stood. That pull is what you call tangential velocity, and it also affects us on this big merry-go-round we call the Earth.

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Because the equator is the furthest point from Earth's axis of rotation, going north or south from the equator is akin to walking inward on the merry-go-round platform. You get less tangential velocity from the spinning object the further from its outermost point you go.

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Launching rockets from Earth, then, is like flinging your little sister from a spinning merry-go-round: it's easier to do the further out they are. That extra little push from the Earth's spin means NASA needs less fuel to launch things into space.

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It's By The Ocean – When you're launching a rocket, you want to make sure it doesn't have the chance to drop debris — or explode, God forbid — over a populated area. What goes up must come down, as they say. When you launch over the ocean, falling objects and aborted missions can land in the water where they have less chance of harming civilians.

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But again, you might ask, why not California? Some launches do happen there, in fact. But Cape Canaveral, Florida, where NASA launches most of its spacecraft, has another location-based benefit: it's on the East Coast. Earth rotates west to east, so that merry-go-round fling we get from our spinning planet goes eastward. Having an ocean to the east just makes sense.

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It Made Sense At The Time – When NASA bought the land that would become Kennedy Space Center in 1961, it was exactly what they needed. It was sparsely populated, which made it easier to build huge facilities without bothering the locals. But it also had roads and other infrastructure, since it was close to military bases.

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"So you could build what you wanted, but it had decent roads because of the military, and that was important," Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum senior curator Roger Launius told Scientific American, "This is one of the problems that [the Soviet Union] had with Baikonur [Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan], their launch site. I mean, it is in the middle of nowhere. They had to build a whole infrastructure to run rail out there, to build highways, to bring in all of the water and power and everything else that was necessary to make that place habitable."

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Florida hits all the right notes for NASA, bad weather or no. As any real estate expert will tell you, when it comes to launching rockets, it's all about location, location, location.

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In Depth

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Post Posted: Nov 9, 2017 8:33 am 
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What Color Is The Yellow River In China?

Hwang He means “Yellow River” in Chinese, and we usually call the river by that name.

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The river deserves its name, too. Part of the Hwang He flows through a region of loess - or yellow earth - and this loess is carried downstream by the river in the form of silt and sand. So much of this yellow earth is mixed with the river water that it gives the river a yellow color!

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The Hwang He, more than 2,800 miles long, often floods its banks. When the flood waters recede, the river may follow a new course. For centuries, the Hwang He emptied into the Yellow Sea about 250 miles south of where it now empties.

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These floods can be so damaging to the Hwang He basin that the river is sometimes called “China’s sorrow”.

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A Yellow River flood in 1887 killed more than 900,000 people. In 1938, a purposely-caused flood killed 800,000 people.

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Post Posted: Nov 10, 2017 8:49 am 
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What Was Walt Whitman’s Day Job After Publishing Leaves Of Grass?

Some things never change. Even after publishing Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman, one of America’s greatest poets couldn’t survive on a poet’s royalties.

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He worked as a low-level Washington bureaucrat, as a clerk in the Indian Department. He often saw his big boss, Abraham Lincoln, walking up the streets of Washington, D.C.

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Walt Whitman

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Abraham “Abe” Lincoln

Whitman was a loyal employee; his poem “Oh Captain, My Captain” was written in mourning for Lincoln after his assassination.

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O Captain! My Captain! our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weather'd every rack, the prize we sought is won;
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:

But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

O Captain! My Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills;
For you bouquets and ribbon'd wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding;
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;

Here captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head;
It is some dream that on the deck,
You've fallen cold and dead.

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;
The ship is anchor'd safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;
From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won;

Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!
But I, with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.


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The Whitman House - Camden, NJ

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Post Posted: Nov 11, 2017 8:38 am 
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A Grateful Nation Thanks You

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Post Posted: Nov 11, 2017 8:42 am 
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Why Did Carl Sagan Sue Apple Computers in 1994?

It has been a long-standing practice at Apple to name their in-house, test-model computers after much-respected people.

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Carl Sagan

However, when Carl Sagan first got whiff that the company was calling their pre-released Power Mac 7100 the “Sagan,” he was less than flattered.

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Power Mac 7100

He complained, and the company changed the name of the in-house computer to “BHA.” Upon learning that BHA stood for “Butthead Astronomer,” Sagan took Apple to court.

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In 1994, Apple won the first round of litigation, then during an appeal settled for an undisclosed amount with the disgruntled scientist. It’s rumored that Apple then renamed the Mac “Lawyers Are Wimps”.

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???

These days, Apple is more famous for their iPhones, iPods, and iPads, none of which are named after people. Duh.

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Carl Sagan – In Depth

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Post Posted: Nov 12, 2017 8:51 am 
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Hisako Koyama Was The Amateur Female Astronomer Who's Earned Galileo Status

It's not every day an amateur rises to the level of history's greatest scientists, and it's even rarer for that amateur to be a non-European woman with just a high-school education. But that's the story of Hisako Koyama, a Japanese astronomer born in the early 20th century whose thousands of sunspot illustrations are being published right alongside greats like Galileo himself. Koyama was born in 1916 and graduated from a Tokyo high school in the 1930s, a rare feat for any child during that era.

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But Koyama had her sights set higher — much higher. She devoured astronomy books, including a reference guide on how to make telescopes. She even made her own telescope after being inspired by a trip to the Tonichi Planetarium in Tokyo, and soon got ahold of a store-bought refractor telescope as a gift from her ever-supportive father.

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She used that very telescope to check out the sun. After a month of careful observation, she managed to sketch her first sunspots in 1944. That was a much easier challenge than what she did next: she gathered the courage to mail it to Professor Issei Yamamoto, the Solar section president of the Oriental Astronomical Association (OAA).

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Issei Yamamoto

Incredibly, she received a reply: "Thank you for your observation report," Yamamoto wrote. "Yes, they are sunspots." That bit of positive feedback was all Koyama needed to dive head-first into a life of astronomy.

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Over the next two years, she began making regular observations of the sun at Tokyo's National Museum of Nature and Science, known then as the Tokyo Science Museum. She was hired as a staff observer there in 1946, and continued to work for the museum until she retired in 1981. Over that time, she chronicled and published more than 8,000 sunspot groups, including the largest sunspot of the 20th century in 1947. All the while, she was a passionate science communicator who organized frequent special events and monthly seminars for the public. From the beginning of her career until her death in 1997, Koyama made more than 10,000 solar sketches.

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Fast forward to modern day: a group of scientists is trying to figure out how many sunspots humanity has seen since the first observation in 1610. As they're rifling through 400 years of historical observations, they happen upon Koyama's work, and add her drawings to the others they had collected from the likes of Pierre Gassendi, Johann Caspar Staudacher, Heinrich Schwabe, Rudolf Wolf, and of course, Galileo Galilei.

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Sketch by Galileo Galilei

"Those five names are the giants of sunspot records," said Delores Knipp, a space weather scientist at the University of Colorado Boulder and the lead author of a study about Koyama's work. "And her name comes right along with them. So clearly, her records are in a class of great historical scientific records."

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That reconstruction of the sunspot record will help scientists better understand how the sun's magnetic activity changes over time and, accordingly, how that affects Earth. Koyama's sketches fill what may otherwise be a 40-year gap in that record. And to imagine, all she needed were kind words from a role model. "How many young 'Ms. Koyamas' might there be in today's world, just on the verge of scientific contribution and discovery," Knibb writes in the study, "if only for a nudge of encouragement in the right direction?"

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Post Posted: Nov 13, 2017 8:39 am 
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These Sunglasses Are Also Solar Panels

Solar power may have a long way to go if it's going to become our primary source of energy, but there's no doubt it is going to play a larger and larger role as time goes on. You probably already know about the most efficient solar panels ever, but one group of engineers has come up with a way that anyone can integrate solar energy into everyday life. Believe it or not, the lenses of these sunglasses double as solar panels.

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Developed as a research project at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, the "solar glasses" collect energy in the form of light all day long. The lenses are made of organic solar cells, which aren't as efficient as silicon-based cells but make up for it by being highly flexible, lightweight, and available in any color. They even work when they aren't in direct sunlight. There's enough light in a standard office space or living area for the glasses to generate about 200 microwatts — enough to power a step-counter or a hearing aid.

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Right now, all the glasses power is themselves: the energy they collect is used for a digital display tracking ambient temperature and brightness. Why you'd need to measure how bright it is outside when you're already wearing sunglasses is beyond me, but it proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that the glasses work. Guess our fancy Transitions lenses are yesterday's news.

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You might be thinking that this is such a great idea, it's strange that nobody has thought of it before. Well, actually, they have. In 2008, designers Hyun-Joong Kim and Kwang-Seok Jeong came out with a similar pair of sunglasses, though these used a film of dye-sensitized solar cells over the lenses and made you look like an extraterrestrial attending a '90s party. And in 2013, Digital Trends reported on a pair designed by Sayalee Kaluskar that incorporated the solar panels into the temples instead of the lenses, and charge a battery hidden inside the plastic.

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Built-in cell phone charger

But what sets these new glasses apart is their ability to charge themselves in real-time (like the solar-powered calculator you had in grade school). That means they don't need a battery in order to work, cutting the weight down to that of traditional sunglasses and making the technology easy to integrate into fashionable frames. Seems to me that it's only a matter of time before we're all wearing glasses that double as self-powered Bluetooth headsets.

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Post Posted: Nov 14, 2017 8:34 am 
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What Was A Typical Day Of Entertainment At The Roman Colosseum?

Blood sports became so popular in Rome that the Colosseum was built specially for that purpose. Events in the Colosseum were an all-day affair, starting in the morning, changing over at noon, and yet another series of events in the afternoon.

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Blood sport

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Then

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Now

The Colosseum had seating for about 50,000 people. The ringside seats were reserved for the emperor, senators, and other bigwigs. People of progressively lower status sat farther away, proportionate to their rank. Women and foreigners were seated in the top rows.

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Capacity: 50,000

The morning act was gladiator games. They began with the combatants parading into the arena, led by the sponsor of the games (in Latin—authors beware—he was called the editor).

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In Rome, this was usually the emperor; in outlying areas it was usually a high-ranking magistrate. Music accompanied the procession and the subsequent bouts of combat.

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The first events might be mock fights with wooden weapons, which were often followed by the animal acts. Sometimes these animals were trained to perform tricks, but more often they were there merely to be killed—the more common animals first, then progressively they presented the more exotic, sometimes in combat against each other, sometimes killed by an animal fighter called a bestiarii.

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Bestiarii

In the stands, people could pass any slow parts of the day by frequenting the food merchants and bookmakers. But the lunch break was not a time to wander far because that’s when the state executed criminals who had committed particularly serious crimes, like murder, arson, sacrilege, and treason. It was on the latter two charges that Christians were most often convicted, for refusing to acknowledge the Roman gods and the divinity of the emperor. The hope then, as now, was that executions would act as a deterrent.

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Executions at noon

One form of execution was throwing the condemned person to wild animals; another was forcing them into dramatic reenactments of bloody myths or battles; still another was placing them into battle after battle until killed. (Refusing to participate was not a viable option: If they didn’t show enough enthusiasm for battle, they were prodded with hot pokers from ringside guards.)

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After lunch came the mortal combat of the gladiators. Although it is popularly believed that the bouts began with gladiators chanting to the emperor, “We who are about to die salute you,” historians say that there’s little evidence that this was a part of the customary ceremony.

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Gladiators would fight one-on-one or on teams. If one was injured, disarmed, or otherwise willing to concede defeat, he held up his left index finger; spectators signaled with hand gestures whether they wanted the losing fighter spared or put to death. (Despite common belief, the signals were not “thumbs down” for death and “thumbs up” for mercy. Historians say that “thumbs up” voted for death, and a fist or waved handkerchief for a reprieve.)

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???

The editor made the final decision, usually following the disposition of the crowd. If the gladiator was to be killed, he was expected to accept the killing blow without flinching or crying out. Some historians believe that there was also a ritual for checking the fallen gladiator for any signs of life, administering another fatal blow if necessary, and dragging the body offstage with a hook through a gate called the Porta Libitinensis in honor of Libitina, the death goddess.

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Porta Libitinensis

From time to time, other events were featured, such as mock naval battles (Naumaquia) and chariot races.

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Naumaquia

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Chariot races

The largest gladiator contest, given as a victory celebration by the emperor Domitian in 90 A.D., featured 5,000 contestants and resulted in the death of 2,000 humans and 250 animals.

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Emperor Domitian

Most, though, were much more modest than that—in fact, after Julius Caesar presented an exhibition of 300 gladiator battles in one glorious event, the Roman Senate voted to place limits on the number of contestants per event.

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Emperor Julius Caesar

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 Post subject: Re: Interesting Facts
Post Posted: Nov 14, 2017 12:01 pm 
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Henry wrote:
It's not every day an amateur rises to the level of history's greatest scientists, and it's even rarer for that amateur to be a non-European woman with just a high-school education. But that's the story of Hisako Koyama, a Japanese astronomer born in the early 20th century whose thousands of sunspot illustrations are being published right alongside greats like Galileo himself. Koyama was born in 1916 and graduated from a Tokyo high school in the 1930s, a rare feat for any child during that era.

I'm a bit behind here :). This reminded me of the great mathematician from India, Srinivasa Ramanujan. He too was not formally schooled in mathematics but was one of the most original and brilliant mathematicians of all time.

Wikipedia

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During his short life, Ramanujan independently compiled nearly 3,900 results (mostly identities and equations).[2] Many were completely novel; his original and highly unconventional results, such as the Ramanujan prime, the Ramanujan theta function, partition formulae, and mock theta functions, have opened entire new areas of work and inspired a vast amount of further research.[3] Nearly all his claims have now been proven correct.[4] The Ramanujan Journal, a peer-reviewed scientific journal, was established to


The reason your post on Hisako Koyama brought to mind Srinivasa Ramanujan was he too would not have been "expected" to make such a contribution to science. I think we tend to believe that schooling/higher education is needed to be a brilliant and original contributer or that a license or expert status will guarantee competence; they don't.

Thanks again Henry for making me think about this subject; that really interesting people can be anybody and from anywhere, they just have to have a good brain to think with and to use it.


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