Friday, 30 September 2011

From the Discovery of Electrons to a Nuclear Meltdown

Frank decided to look up the path from simple electronics to nuclear power, and he found that a few things happened on today's date. Here they are:

In 1895, Jean Baptiste Perrin (born today in 1870) showed that what had been called Cathode Rays weren't actually rays, but physical particles that had mass and travelled from one end of a vacuume tube (the cathode end) to the other (the plate). He had found electrons.

In 1882, the first hydro-electric generator, designed by Edison, began operation today at the Appleton Edison Electric Light Company.

(On a side note, in 1913 on today's date, Rudolf Christian Karl Diesel, the inventor of the diesel engine, died under mysterious circumstances. He was on board the Dresden, bound from Antwerp to London for a meeting, and after dinner, he headed for bed at 10pm requesting to be woken shortly after 6am, but he was never seen alive again. Over a week later, a decomposing body was found adrift with items that belonged to him, but due to the advanced state of decay, the body itself was never verified to be his.)

In 1935, the Hoover Dam was dedicated, and its hydro-electric generators now supply enough power to run public and private consumers in Nevada, Arizona, and California.

(Interesting and possibly useful, but also irrelevant, in 1953, on Sep 30, the International Federation of Translators was set up, and ever since, they have used today, the feast day of St Jerome (accepted as the patron saint of translators), as International Translation Day (also St Jerome's death date, 420). St Jerome was well known for translating the Bible from older Latin, with extensive reference to Greek and Hebrew texts. His version is known as the versio vulgata, or commonly used translation. The world 'vuglar' meaning having to do with ordinary or common folk.)

In 1954,  the world's first nuclear-powered submarine, the USS Nautilus (SSN-571), was commissioned.

In 1977, Sir Nevill Francis Mott (born today in 1905) received the Nobel Prize for Physics due to his work in electronics and magnetism.

Sep 30, 1980, is a date that is probably not as well known as it should be, considering the medium we are using now. That was the date that the Ethernet specification was published by Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC), Intel, and Xerox.

Finally, in 1999, an accident at a uranium processing plant in the village of Tōkai killed three technicians and caused dozens of people to be hospitalised. In that incident, due entirely to human error, workers added a critical seventh bucket of uranyl nitrate solution into a precipitation tank, exceeding the limits set for the tank and starting a self-sustaining fission reaction.

So, just on today's date, we have found everything from the initial discovery that electrons must be particles all the way up to a nuclear meltdown. We have certainly come a long way, haven't we?

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