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Friday, January 19, 2018

French King Louis XVI was guillotined on January 21, 1793. Here's Allan Sherman

If you're of a certain age it's inevitable to think of Allan Sherman when you hear Louis XVI (wiki) mentioned:


From Chambers' 1869 The Book of Days*:

The 21st of January will long be a memorable day in the history of France, as that on which an agonised nation, driven frantic by the threats of external enemies, threw down the bloody head of their king as a gauge of defiance to all gainsayers. Louis Blanc's Histoire de in Revolution Francaise, tom. viii., published in 1856:
At ten minutes past ten, they reached the foot of the scaffold. It had been erected in front of the Palace of the Tuileries, in the square called after Louis the Fifteenth, and near the spot where stood the statue of the most corrupt of kings—a king who died tranquilly in his bed. The condemned was three minutes descending from the carriage. Upon quitting the Temple he had refused the redingote which Clery had offered him, and now appeared in a brown coat, white waistcoat, grey breeches, and white stockings. His hair was not disordered, nor was any change perceptible in his countenance.

The Abbe Firmont was dressed in black. A large open space had been kept round the scaffold,—with cannon ranged on every side,—while beyond, as far as the eye could reach, stood an unarmed multitude gazing. . . . Descending from his carriage, Louis fixed his eyes upon the soldiers who surrounded him, and with a menacing voice cried, "Silence!" The drums ceased to beat, but at a signal from their officer, the drummers again went on. "What treason is this?" he shouted; "I am lost! I am lost!" For it was evident that up to this moment he had been clinging to hope. The executioners now approached to take off a part of his clothes; he repulsed them fiercely, and himself removed the collar from his neck. But all the blood in his frame seemed to be turned into fire when they sought to tie his hands. "Tie my hands! "he shrieked. A struggle was inevitable:—it came.

Louis XVI imprisoned at the Tour du Temple
It is indisputable, says Mercier, that Louis fought with his executioners. The Abbe Edgeworth stood by, perplexed, horrified, speechless. At last, as his master seemed to look inquiringly at him, he said, "Sir, in this additional outrage I only see a last trait of the resemblance between your Majesty and the God who will give you your reward." At these words the indignation of the man gave way to the humility of the Christian, and Louis said to the executioners, "I will drain the cup to the dregs." They tied his hands, they cut off his hair, and then, leaning on the arm of his confessor, he began, with a slow tread and sunken demeanour, to mount the steps, then very steep, of the guillotine. Upon the last step, however, he seemed suddenly to rouse, and walked rapidly across to the other side of the scaffold; when, by a sign commanding silence, he exclaimed, "I die innocent of the crimes imputed to me." His face was now very red, and, according to the narrative of his confessor, his voice was so loud that it could be heard as far as the Pont-Tournant.

Some other expressions were distinctly heard, "I pardon the authors of my death, and I pray Heaven that the blood you are about to shed may never be visited upon France." He was about to continue, when his voice was drowned by the renewed rolling of the drums, at a signal which, it is affirmed, was given by the comedian Dugayon, in anticipation of the orders of Santerre. "Silence! be silent!" cried Louis the Sixteenth, losing all self-control, and stamping violently with his foot. Richard, one of the executioners, then seized a pistol, and took aim at the king. It was necessary to drag him along by force. With difficulty fastened to the fatal plank, he continued to utter terrible cries, only interrupted by the fall of the knife.'
There's an excellent hyperlinked and searchable version of Chamber's Book of Days here.

Update - I received this received this from Terry Teachout (@terryteachout): 
Weirdly enough, I was thinking of the original song on which this parody is based just yesterday: http://tinyurl.com/opguznu

There's a super-hip record of the song by Peggy Lee and the George Shearing Quintet--it's my favorite.
Which I found and embedded below - start at 2:10 if it doesn't do it automatically. Interestingly, it's followed by Always True To You (In My Fashion) - one of my favorite show tunes.


I never realized that there was a song Sherman was parodying (other than La Marseillaise), although I should have - everything he did was a parody, right?

Friday links

For Buffy the Vampire Slayer's birthday, here's a list of her birthday catastrophes.

If Cooties Were Real, What Disease Would They Be?

Weird Beauty Hacks of Yesteryear.

On January 21 - It's Stonewall Jackson's birthday - here's the story of his left arm's separate grave. Also, French King Louis XVI was guillotined on January 21, 1793 - here's Allan Sherman.

Adults Trying To Recreate Childhood Photos.


ICYMI, Wednesday's links are here, and include how to build an igloo, what Alexa and OK Google are doing with your family's personal information, Ben Franklin's birthday, and a set of 1906 photos illustrating women's self-defense moves.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Wave tank demonstration showing the impact of coastal defenses on flood risk

This is surprisingly fascinating. Living near sea-level or on flood plains have forever been risky propositions, calculated (or uncalculated) risks. All the same, people do it. 


Firing a .50 Cal Sniper Rifle in Slow Motion – The Slow Mo Guys

From The Slow Mo Guys. Watch full screen, and if you’re in a hurry, just go to 3:54 and watch the floating fireball for about 10 seconds. Nothing happens after 8:45.


h/t IMAO

Previously:


Super Slow-Motion Video of Snowballs Smashing Into Faces

Slow Motion Video of 150 Mousetraps Being Triggered In a Chain Reaction

Supercut of people running in slow motion in movies.

Slow motion video of stuff bouncing off gelatin

The classic exploding whale (1970)


Zoomable version here.
The term exploding whale primarily refers to an event at Florence, Oregon in November 1970, when a dead sperm whale (reported to be a gray whale) was blown up by the Oregon Highway Division in an attempt to dispose of its rotting carcass. The explosion threw whale flesh over 800 feet (240 m) away.

On November 9, 1970, a 45-foot long, 8 ton  whale beached itself at Florence on the central Oregon Coast. At the time, Oregon beaches were under the jurisdiction of the state's Highway Division which, after consulting with the United States Navy, decided to remove the whale in the same way as they would a boulder – using dynamite – assuming that the resulting pieces would be small enough for scavengers to clear up.

George Thornton, the engineer in charge of the operation, told an interviewer that he wasn't sure how much dynamite would be needed, explaining that he was chosen to remove the whale because his supervisor had gone hunting. A charge of half a ton of dynamite was selected. A military veteran with explosives training who happened to be in the area warned that the planned twenty cases of dynamite was far too much – 20 sticks would have sufficed – but his advice went unheeded. 

The dynamite was detonated on November 12 at 3:45 p.m. The resulting explosion was caught on film by cameraman Doug Brazil for a story reported by news reporter Paul Linnman of KATU-TV in Portland, Oregon. In his voice-over, Linnman joked that "land-lubber newsmen" became "land-blubber newsmen ... for the blast blasted blubber beyond all believable bounds." The explosion caused large pieces of blubber to land near buildings and in parking lots some distance away from the beach. Only some of the whale was disintegrated; most of it remained on the beach for the OHD workers to clear away. In his report, Linnman also noted that scavenger birds, whom it had been hoped would eat the remains of the carcass after the explosion, did not appear as they were possibly scared away by the noise. The explosives-expert veteran's brand-new automobile, purchased during a "Get a Whale of a Deal" promotion in a nearby city, was flattened by a chunk of falling blubber.



Here's Dave Barry:

The Farside Comes to Life in Oregon

By Dave Barry (1990)

I am absolutely not making this incident up; in fact I have it all on videotape. The tape is from a local TV news show in Oregon, which sent a reporter out to cover the removal of a 45-foot, eight-ton dead whale that washed up on the beach. The responsibility for getting rid of the carcass was placed upon the Oregon State Highway Division, apparently on the theory that highways and whales are very similar in the sense of being large objects.

So anyway, the highway engineers hit upon the plan — remember, I am not making this up — of blowing up the whale with dynamite. The thinking here was that the whale would be blown into small pieces, which would be eaten by sea gulls, and that would be that. A textbook whale removal.

So they moved the spectators back up the beach, put a half-ton of dynamite next to the whale and set it off. I am probably not guilty of understatement when I say that what follows, on the videotape, is the most wonderful event in the history of the universe. First you see the whale carcass disappear in a huge blast of smoke and flame. Then you hear the happy spectators shouting “Yayy!” and “Whee!” Then, suddenly, the crowd’s tone changes. You hear a new sound like “splud.” You hear a woman’s voice shouting “Here come pieces of… MY GOD!” Something smears the camera lens.

Later, the reporter explains: “The humor of the entire situation suddenly gave way to a run for survival as huge chunks of whale blubber fell everywhere.” One piece caved in the roof of a car parked more than a quarter of a mile away. Remaining on the beach were several rotting whale sectors the size of condominium units. There was no sign of the sea gulls, who had no doubt permanently relocated in Brazil. This is a very sobering videotape. Here at the institute we watch it often, especially at parties. But this is no time for gaiety. This is a time to get hold of the folks at the Oregon State Highway division and ask them, when they get done cleaning up the beaches, to give us an estimate on the US Capitol.

Lots more at Exploding Whale.

Wednesday links

January 17 is Ben Franklin's birthday - bio, quotes, videos, his 200 synonyms for drunk, the bodies found in his basement, and more.

Alexa, What Are You Doing with My Family's Personal Info?

How to Build an Igloo.

Gorgeous X-Ray Photographs of Plants and Animals.

For Al Capone's birthday, here's the story of that time he bought large blocks of stock in miniature golf construction companies.

Method of Women's Self Defense: Vintage Photos From 1906 Illustrate Modes for Warding Off a Street Bully or Foul.

ICYMI, Tuesday's links are here, and include why toll-free numbers start with 800, the ultimate paper airplane (a paper Boeing 777), why gadgets are called "doohickeys", the anniversary of prohibition in the United States, and why tequila is good for you. 

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Tuesday links

Prohibition in the United States began on January 16, 1920: here's some history, contemporaneous newsreels, the women who tried to telepathically influence the vote, Abraham Lincoln and Milton Friedman.

The Forgotten History Of How Automakers Invented The Crime Of 'Jaywalking'.



Tequila is good for your health, according to top scientists.

Why do we call gadgets "doohickeys?"

ICYMI, Monday's links are here, and include the 1918 Flu pandemic, Napoleon’s descendants, the 99th anniversary of Boston's deadly 2.3 million gallon molasses flood, and neurological disorders in Alice in Wonderland.

Monday, January 15, 2018

The Ultimate Paper Airplane

This isn't of the kind of paper airplane you fold from a sheet of notebook paper and throw across the room. It's a paper sculpture of a Boeing 777 and Luca Iaconi-Stewart has been building it for years, all from paper. He's recreating all the details of the real 777, including the passenger seats, wind struts, retractable landing gear, and hinged doors.


via Wired

January 17 is Ben Franklin's birthday - bio, quotes, videos, his 200 synonyms for drunk, the bodies found in his basement, and more

If you would not be forgotten,
When you are dead and rotten,
Either write things worth the reading,
Or do things worth the writing.


Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other.

~ Ibid., December 1743

It would be a hard government that should tax its people one-tenth part of their income.

~ Ibid.

Our Constitution is in actual operation; everything appears to promise that it will last; but in this world, nothing is certain but death and taxes.

~ Franklin (letter to M. Leroy, 1789) 

Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.

~ Franklin

Political cartoon by Franklin urged
 the colonies to join together
during the 
French and Indian War
Human felicity is produced not so much by great pieces of good fortune that seldom happen, as by little advantages that occur every day.

~ Franklin (Autobiography, Ch. 9) 

I should have no objection to go over the same life from the beginning to the end: requesting only the advantage authors have, of correcting in a second edition the faults of the first.

~ Ibid., Ch. 1 

Benjamin Franklin Drawing Electricity from
 the Sky
 c. 1816 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, by Benjamin West
January 17th is the anniversary of the birth of American statesman, philosopher, and scientist Benjamin Franklin (wiki) (1706-1790) in Boston. After apprenticing with his brother as a printer, Franklin settled in Philadelphia, published The Pennsylvania Gazette, and gained a wide circle of readers with his Poor Richard's Almanack (1732-1757). Entering civic affairs, he was eventually appointed Postmaster General for the colonies (1753-1774) while also dabbling in a variety of scientific pursuits, including his famous experiment with a kite in a thunderstorm. 

Before the Revolution, Franklin spent a total of 14 years representing the Pennsylvania Assembly in England, attempting to achieve reconciliation with the home country. Failing that, he was elected to the Continental Congress in 1775 and signed the Declaration of Independence the next year. Appointed to represent the American colonies in France, he spent the next nine years in Paris and helped negotiate the peace with Britain in 1781. After his return to the United States, Franklin served as a member of the Constitutional Convention and died three years later. On the separation of church and state, he wrote in 1790,
"When a religion is good, I conceive it will support itself, and when it does not support itself, and God does not take care to support it so that its professors are obliged to call for help of the civil power, 'tis a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one."
My favorite bit of Franklin lore remains his 200+ synonyms for “drunk”, alphabetically arranged, first published in the Pennsylvania Gazette on January 6, 1737 (and later in The Drinker's Dictionary) with this introduction:
"The Phrases in this Dictionary are not (like most of our Terms of Art) borrow'd from Foreign Languages, neither are they collected from the Writings of the Learned in our own, but gather'd wholly from the modern Tavern-Conversation of Tiplers. I do not doubt but that there are many more in use; and I was even tempted to add a new one my self under the Letter B, to wit, Brutify'd: But upon Consideration, I fear'd being guilty of Injustice to the Brute Creation, if I represented Drunkenness as a beastly Vice, since, 'tis well-known, that the Brutes are in general a very sober sort of People."
Here's some guy dressed as Franklin reciting the list.

And then there's... That Time They Found Those Bodies in Ben Franklin's Basement:
From 1757 to 1775, Ben Franklin lived in an elegant four-story Georgian house at No. 36 Craven Street in London during his time as an ambassador for the American colonies. In late 1998, a group calling itself Friends of Benjamin Franklin House began to convert the dilapidated building into a museum to honor Franklin, whose other home in Philadelphia had been razed in 1812 to make way for new construction (a "ghost house" frame now sits on the site).
One month into the renovations, a construction worker named Jim Field was working in the basement when he found something odd: a small pit was in a windowless basement room. Inside, sticking out of the dirt floor, was a human thigh bone.
The police were called and supervised excavation continued. More human bones were pulled up. And more. And more, until some 1,200 pieces of bone were recovered. Initial examinations revealed that the bones were the remains of 10 bodies, six of them children, and were a little more than 200 years old. Their age discouraged any interest from Scotland Yard, but piqued the curiosity of historians and the Institute of Archaeology. The bones' age meant they may have been buried in the basement around the same time that Franklin was living in the house.
Read the whole thing here. More on the bodies in his basement here.

Franklin is known to have played the violin, the harp, and the guitar. He also developed the glass harmonica seen in this video:


Here's a brief (two minute) animated bio:



Wikipedia has more on his inventions and scientific studies, including (without limitation), work on electricity, ocean currents, population, the wave theory of light, and meteorology.

On January 15, 1919, Boston's 2.3 million gallon molasses flood killed 21 people


On January 15, 1919, a tank containing 2.3 million gallons of molasses weighing an estimated 26 million pounds burst open, unleashing a sticky flood onto Boston's North End. The 25-foot high wave of goo oozed over the streets at 35 miles per hour, crushing buildings in its wake and killing 21 people.


The wave broke steel girders of the Boston Elevated Railway, almost swept a train off its tracks, knocked buildings off their foundations, and toppled electrical poles, the wires hissing and sparking as they fell into the brown flood. The Boston Globe reported that people 'were picked up and hurled many feet'. Rivets popping from the tank scourged the neighborhood like machine gun bullets, and a small boat was found slammed through a wooden fence like an artillery shell. By the time it passed, the wave had killed 21 people, injured 150, and caused damage worth $100 million in today's money. All caused by molasses.

The tank gave out a dull roar, and then its two sides flew outward with a mighty blast. One huge piece knocked out the support of an elevated railway, buckling the tracks. An engineer stopped his train just in time to avoid an even worse disaster. Fragments of metal landed 200 feet away.
Besides sending shrapnel whizzing through the air, the explosion flattened people, horses and buildings with a huge shockwave. As some tried to get to their feet, the sudden vacuum where the tank once was created a reverse shockwave, sucking air in and knocking people, animals and vehicles around once more, and shaking homes off their foundations.
That was just the first few seconds. The real terror was about to begin.
The tank had been filled to near capacity, and 2.3 million gallons of thick, heavy, odorous molasses formed a sticky tsunami that started at 25 or 30 feet high and coursed through the streets at 35 mph...
When it was over, more than a score had died, and seven or eight times that number suffered injuries. The mess took months to clean up, and the legal issues even longer.
It was the height of the post-World War I Red Scare, and the distillery blamed anarchists, who they said knew the molasses was intended for alcohol to make military ammunition. The victims and their survivors blamed the distillery for faulty construction and unsafe operation.
At the time, molasses was a standard sweetener in the United States, used in cooking and in fermentation to make ethanol, which in turn could be made into a liquor used as an ingredient in munitions manufacture, an aspect of the business that had been booming during the First World War.

From The Great Molasses Flood,
Charlesbridge Publishing, 2012
The tank itself was just over three years old. It was constructed of large curved steel plates, seven vertical rows of them overlapping horizontally and held together with rows of rivets, the whole set into a concrete base. It was perfectly located for USIA, just 200 ft from the harbor and ships that brought molasses from Cuba, and near the railroad tracks that would move the molasses from storage.

Yet the five-story storage facility was never properly tested - by filling it with water - because a shipload of molasses was due only days after the completion of the tank in December 1915.

Excerpts from an article at History Today:

On January 15, 1919 at around 12.30 pm, lunchtime for many workers, the tank broke. Buildings of the nearby Northend Paving Yard were instantly reduced to kindling as the molasses cascaded out. The three story Engine 31 Fire House was torn from its foundations, trapping three firefighters who fought to keep their heads above the rising tide. A piece of the tank was blown into the elevated railway tracks, breaking girders and almost forcing a northbound train off its tracks.

The entire waterfront area was leveled and rails from the overhead railway dangled like Christmas tinsel.

Here's a brief documentary:


First on the scene were 116 sailors from the lightship USS Nantucket that was docked nearby. They were soon joined by Boston police, Red Cross workers and army personnel. When Suffolk County medical examiner George Magrath arrived, several bodies had already been pulled from the molasses. He said they looked 'as though covered in heavy oil skins ... eyes and ears, mouths and noses filled'. A makeshift hospital was set up at Haymarket Relief Station about half a mile from the waterfront, and volunteers removed molasses from victims' noses and mouths so they could breathe.

The rescue continued for days, and almost four months later a final body was pulled from the water under the Commercial Wharf.

Harvard students re-enacted the Molasses Flood
 using a small scale model, corn syrup, and a walk-in refrigerator.
Via Popular Science, researchers at Harvard have gained new insight into the disaster by studying historical accounts of the accident, century-old maps, and weather data, and building their own mini molasses flood inside a walk-in refrigerator. Using corn syrup as a stand-in for molasses at this smaller scale, they studied the goop's flow properties at wintery temperatures.

That January's relatively balmy, 40-degree Fahrenheit weather may have increased pressure as carbon dioxide built up inside. Before the rupture, the molasses inside the tank was likely 5 degrees Celsius warmer than the surrounding air, thanks to a fresh shipment of syrup from the Caribbean. The higher temperature may have helped the molasses spread over the Boston waterfront at such an alarming pace. But once exposed to the nearly freezing winter temperatures outside, the goo cooled and became much thicker and stickier. 

The higher viscosity may have trapped people caught in the flow, and likely hampered rescue and cleanup efforts, according to the researchers. 

History Today has more on the ensuing lawsuits.

The tank was never rebuilt. The site where it stood is now a public park with bocce (Italian boules) courts and Little League baseball fields, slides and swings. All that remains of that terrible day 90 years ago is a small plaque at the entrance of the recreational complex. Yet local residents insist a faint smell lingers to this day. They say that on warm summer days the air is still tinged with the sweet, cloying scent of molasses.

More at WiredHistory TodayPopular Science, and Mental Floss, plus Scientific American has much more on the fluid dynamics involved. The Atlantic has a larger set of photos, which you can view full screen.