Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Very Auspicious Day - November 8

You might not be aware that November 8 is one of the most interesting dates on the entire calendar.  

For example, on this day in 1889, Montana became the 41st State of the Union.  Where would we be today if that hadn't happened?  Not in Montana, that's for certain.

X-Rays:  Creepy!
Röntgen: Creepy.
Also on this day, in 1895, Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen discovered X-Rays while messing around with electricity, thus creating a whole new way for scientists to be creepy.  And proving once and for all that messing around with electricity is, on the whole, an excellent thing to do.

Speaking of creepy, November 8 is also famous for being the day in 1923 on which a confused young Adolf Hitler attempted to seize control of Germany by occupying a beer hall in Munich at gunpoint.  And it just might have worked, if it hadn't been a completely idiotic idea!!!!  Sure, Germans like beer, but there is so much more to Germany than that.  Young Adolf wouldn't have necessarily understood such nuances of German culture, he himself being Austrian. And part Jewish.  And his real name wasn't Hitler, but Schickelgrüber.  Yes, he was a very confused young man, about a great many things.

But young Adolf learned his lesson, and after being released from prison he gave up trying to put his nefarious plans and half-baked sociological theories into effect by force.  Instead, he did what everyone else does who lusts for power, and got himself elected democratically.

Which is why you must never vote for anyone who says, "Vote for ME."  Because that person will absolutely, definitely be the next Hitler.

LOSER of the 1960 US Presidential Election
Speaking of villains and democracy, November 8 also marks the day in 1960 when Richard Milhous Nixon, the world's second most famous Quaker after the guy on the Oatmeal box, was defeated in his bid to become the 35th POTUS.  The voice of the People was clear and decisive in their rejection of Nixon as their 35th president.  Nixon accepted this decision with good grace and resigned himself to becoming 37th president instead.

Remember that word, Dick.  "Resign." It might come in handy again.

Speaking of resigning, today is the day in 2006 that the Worst Secretary of State Ever, Donald Rumsfeld, resigned.

While November 8 has seen its share of blood, such as the historic first-ever jet-on-jet aircraft dogfight (1950, USA 2, North Korea 0), or in 1520 when Denmark invaded Sweden for some reason, it has also been a day of peace.  1965, for example, when Britain officially abolished the death penalty.  Or the signing of the Pacification of Ghent in 1576.  And thank goodness for THAT.  Just imagine what your life would be like if the Dutch town of Ghent were still full of angry Spaniards.

King Charles the Clueless
November 8th is also the birthday in 1622 of King Charles the 10th of Sweden, who spent most of his time trying to explain to the rest of the world that Sweden and Denmark are actually two completely different countries.  By far the most interesting thing about him is that he was actually King Charles the 4th.  But King Charles the 9th who was really King Charles the 3rd had chosen his number based on a book he read which he thought was a history of Sweden but which turned out to be a work of fiction.  Thank goodness no democratically-elected leader in modern times would ever rely on fictional stories to make important decisions (ahem).  The fact that George W. Bush had never read an entire book might actually have been for the best.

It is the birthday in 1836 of Milton Bradley, a wealthy Capitalist and entrepreneur who built a monopoly based on board games, which ironically did not include Monopoly!  Instead, Monopoly was the creation of a puritanical do-gooder who wanted to teach people about the evils and moral bankruptcy of Capitalism.  The game failed miserably in this goal, and instead became the means of introducing millions of children to the endless joys and wonders of Capitalism.  As a consequence, and much to her dismay, the self-righteous do-gooder became a fabulously wealthy Capitalist.

Also born on this day, in 1848, is Gottlob Frege, the German mathematician and logician who elevated Logic from something akin to the disreputable morass of Grecian rhetoric into a respectable branch of mathematics.  Presumably he did this in an effort to figure out what on earth his parents were thinking.  Next time you use an IF( ) function in Excel or draw a Chance card in Monopoly, thank Gottlob Frege.

Jack Kilby, Inventor of the
Calculator and the
Integrated Circuit.
One individual indebted to Gottlob Frege was the inventor of the integrated circuit, an item that makes prodigious use of Frege's formal mathematical logic.  Jack Kilby built and patented the first integrated circuit while working for Texas Instruments in 1958, and was promptly awarded the Nobel Prize.  Well, relatively promptly.  It apparently took 42 years for the news to reach Sweden.  (All their mail was being delivered to Denmark by accident.)  In any case, Jack's birthday could only be - you guessed it - November 8th!

Jack Kilby was an engineer after my own heart.  He also invented the electronic calculator, which I regard as the greatest invention of all times.  If I could put just one item into a time machine and send it to my personal hero Galileo (who famously never did anything on November 8th if he could help it), it would be a solar-powered scientific calculator.  He really could have used one.  And I have a few extra, including the Texas Instruments TI-30X IIs, which in my studied opinion is the best calculator available today and a direct descendant of Jack Kilby's creation.

Some of the calculators I have owned and used.  Best Invention Ever.

Atlas: Not Verified
This day is also the birthday in 1656 of astronomer Edmund Halley, who correctly guessed the periodicity of the object now known as Halley's Comet.   It is also the day before the birthday of astronomer and author Carl Sagan.  Twelve hundred years or so from now, November 8th will be celebrated by "millions and millions" of people throughout the inhabited Galaxy as Sagan-mas Eve.

Also in Astronomy, it is alleged to be the anniversary of the discovery in 1980 of a 15th moon of Saturn based on images taken by Voyager 1 (there are now at least 62 known moons of Saturn).  Try as I may I have not been able to verify this claim, nor verify that the fried-egg-like Atlas was that lucky moon.  Actually, this factoid is almost certainly wrong.  But if it were true, how awesome would that be?
2005 YU55.  Verified.

Verified, however, is the hair-raising near-miss of a 400-meter-wide asteroid, named 2005 YU55 for some reason, passing between the earth and moon on November 8 of 2011. Hey - that's TODAY!!!

If an object of that size were to collide with the earth, it's pretty much lights out for 90% of higher life forms on this planet, and even some politicians too.  The chances that it will do so are zero, however.  Its trajectory has been very accurately plotted, and it will definitely miss us.  We'll be able to get a much better photo of it, though, so that's a bonus.

Bram Stoker's character
scares the hell out of me.
Shouldn't we really call this a near-hit instead of a near-miss?

It is the birthday of scary Irish author Bram Stoker (1874), and notable user of language Gordon Ramsay (1966).  It is the day English poet John Milton regained paradise in 1674.

November 8 is the day in 1983 that the amazing James Booker left us for the sunny side of the street.  In honor of His Magnificence, please take a moment to listen to one of the great human achievements of all time:

So my friends, enjoy this absolutely amazing, one-of-a-kind day!  What will I be doing on this most auspicious occasion?  I am going to celebrate by laying in a hammock.


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