Monthly Archives: August 2017
By Lon Maxwell, Reference Department
Since man learned that there were things in the natural world that he could bend and shape to make his life easier, inventors (however primitive they may have been at the start) have sought for new ways to make our lives easier. In some instances these inventions were stumbled across entirely by accident. Others, revolutionary at their time of inception, have become so common place that we rarely even remark on their origin. Yet these inventions and inventors have transfigured our daily life.
Think back to a time when early man began to use fire. Now we didn’t invent fire, it was most likely gathered naturally from lightning strikes and then kept burning in family shelters for up to centuries. Evidence of this can be found in a cave in China where a fire was kept burning for so long it left a bed of ashes twenty-two feet deep[i]. What they invented was a method to make fire on their own. Now, when you light your fire pit, gas oven or even just start your car, you don’t think about the amazingly complex reactions you’re continuing or their inventor. Similarly, many of the everyday inventions we use don’t even occur to us to be special.
Arguably the biggest impact on everyday life in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries comes in the form of the automobile. While steam trains predate the car, they were limited to the areas that their tracks ran leaving those outside the rail service stuck using the same method of transportation we’d been using for 5,000 years, the horse. Now a carriage comes along with nothing to pull it other than the torque provided by a new method of harnessing that fire our ancestors shepherded so carefully. It’s no wonder that some people thought the whole thing a ridiculous fad. Similarly, when we deigned to light our homes for thousands of years we burnt something: oil, wax, fat or natural gas. It is an amazing leap to move to light bulbs, something that just glowed with the application of electricity. The idea that you could just use these metal and glass contraptions that you hooked in to deadly electricity was considered quite dangerous, even by people who were used to lighting volatile natural gas in their lamps.
As you can see these inventions, along with vulcanized rubber, powered flight, assembly lines and telephones, made the turn of the nineteenth century a time when anybody could completely restructure our daily lives with the newest inventions. All of these things we take for granted were harebrained schemes and crazy pipedreams.
While many innovators have pushed the boundaries of our world with a will and determination, some have stumbled across ideas and devices completely by accident. Things we’re all used to as models of modern engineering were originally flubs, failures and freak accidents.
Take the microwave for instance. Now you get home after a long day at work, too tired to cook and you throw some leftovers in a magic box for a minute or two and it comes out hot and ready to eat (well, except for the middle, that’s still ice cold). You’d think some scientific genius would have brought this gift of intellect to us, but actually not so much. A man working with an especially strong magnetron to improve radar for the Raytheon Corporation noticed something odd. The gentleman in question was Percy Spencer, a self-taught grammar school dropout who worked hard enough and had enough natural brilliance to go from the paper mills of Maine to developing and producing radar equipment for M.I.T.’s Radiation Laboratory. He noticed that while working with the magnetron, the chocolate in his pocket melted. He wasn’t the first to see this, just the first to investigate why it happened. From this radar experiment he went on to try it on another food source, targeting a direct radar beam on the food produced a result, and now 70 years late countless households reenact his first experiments nightly when they microwaves bags of popcorn.[ii]
Matches were an accident as well. The lighter may seem newer, but it actually predates the match by three years. The new-fangled match was created when an English Pharmacist noticed a buildup of chemicals on his stirring stick. When he attempted to scrape off the offending chemicals, the stick ignited. That must have been a bit of a shock to Mr. Walker, the pharmacist in question. [iii]
By far my favorite happy accident was the Popsicle. Eleven year old Frank Epperson had been mixing a powdered fruit flavored beverage with a wooden stick. He left the drink out on a cold night and it froze. In the morning he warmed the glass and removed the ice block with its wooden stirring stick still frozen inside. By chance he took a lick of the ice and now children everywhere have one of their own to thank for one of the most famous frozen treats. [iv]
Even being at best absent minded, at worst lazy, can lead to one of the greatest inventions of all time. Dr. Alexander Fleming hadn’t cleaned his lab before leaving for his summer holidays. When he came back he found an untidy workspace that included some exposed petri dishes. Some had a strange mold on them that repelled the bacteria around it. After a little tinkering and some concerted mold culturing, Fleming was able to reproduce the accidental experiment, leading to the development of penicillin.[v]
Some inventions come into being like embryos, bearing a slight resemblance to the finished product. There are a great number of these out there that were crazy when they were first proposed, but are now gaining traction.
- Yves Rossy may have finally perfected the Jet pack we’ve all been waiting for.
- The Inter auto, a spool to spool map that moved as you drove was like a nascent GPS.
- The Laryngophone, a means for speaking over telephone lines without use of your mouth has become the modern day throat mics of pilots.
- Hugo Gernsback once decided to make a wearable pair of small cathode ray tubes to produce a 3D television experience. This concept is finally coming to fruition with google glass and all the VR headgear attachments you can buy for your smart phones.
- Even the idea of the radio controlled lawn mower is reaching fruition. Who doesn’t want a remotely operated spinning blade moving across your yard? Roomba is readying a yard version of the famous vacuum for market.
The future may hold glorious new devices or more feasible innovations on weird ideas from the past. More unforeseen consequences may lead us to new discoveries. Something you see on the “as seen on TV” shelf may turn out to change the lives of every person on earth. You never know.
[i] The Cartoon History of the Universe Vols. 1-7 By Larry Gonick, 1990 902.07 GON
By Dr. Billy Teets, Outreach Astronomer at Vanderbilt University
August 21st is quickly approaching as one of the most anticipated days of 2017. For the first time in 38 years, a total solar eclipse will be visible from the U.S. mainland. Partial and even annular solar eclipses have been visible since then, but for those who have had the rare opportunity to ever witness the splendor of a total solar eclipse, partial and annular solar eclipses cannot compare.
Solar eclipses occur when the Moon passes between the Earth and the Sun and casts shadows on our planet. For the Moon to be able to obscure the Sun, it has to be in the new moon phase. We have new moons approximately every 29.5 days; however, we have solar eclipses about every 5 1/2 months. This discrepancy is due to the slight tilt of the Moon’s orbit with respect to the Earth’s orbit around the Sun. At most new moon phases, the Moon will either appear slightly above or below the Sun in the sky, so the shadows it casts miss the Earth. As time passes the apparent annual motion of the Sun in the sky and the daily motion of the Moon in its orbit eventually bring the two bodies to one of two points (known as nodes) in which their paths intersect. If the Sun and Moon are on the same side of the sky then a solar eclipse occurs. It is not surprising that approximately two weeks before or after a solar eclipse we experience a lunar eclipse in which the Moon passes through the shadows of the Earth. In that two-week period the Moon has had time to move to the opposite side of its orbit and the Sun has not moved substantially on the sky. Thus, the Moon is now on the exact opposite part of the sky as the Sun, allowing Earth to cast its shadow on the Moon. On August 7th, two weeks before the August 21st eclipse, the Moon will indeed undergo a lunar eclipse; however, the U.S. will not be able to observe it as we will be on the day side of our planet during the lunar eclipse. By the time we rotate to the night-side of Earth, the Moon will have moved out of our shadow. Oh well, the U.S. will still have the opportunity to observe a beautiful total lunar eclipse on January 21st, 2019!
The August 21st total solar eclipse will be special for several reasons. This will be the first total solar eclipse visible from both U.S. seaboards since 1918, and Nashville is the largest city in the path of totality. For this particular solar eclipse, observers will have up to 2 minutes and 42 seconds of total eclipse (“totality”), but this value greatly depends on location, especially with respect to the centerline of the path of totality. With this being the first total solar eclipse on the U.S. mainland in nearly 40 years, millions of people are anticipating the opportunity to witness this heavenly spectacle. Numerous events focused around the eclipse are being held in cities all throughout the path of totality as well as outside of the path. Nashville also has many groups that are planning festivities and viewings on August 21st (a growing list of events can be found here).
But, as with real estate, observing a total solar eclipse is all about location, location, location! There is no, “I’m close to the path of totality so that will be good enough.” IF YOU ARE NOT WITHIN THE PATH OF TOTALITY, YOU WILL NOT SEE THE TOTAL SOLAR ECLIPSE. The closer you are to the center of the path of totality, the longer the duration of total eclipse you will experience. Observers are encouraged to move towards the centerline, but that will actually take some planning. First of all, excitement for the eclipse has really been gaining momentum over the past few months, and many people (some estimates say well over two million) will be flocking to Nashville to witness totality. As you can expect, this is going to create major issues on the interstates and even side roads, especially as totality is about to occur. People will be stopping alongside and in the middle of the highways and getting out of their vehicles to see the totally eclipsed Sun – the interstates may literally be parking lots. The point here is that if you are planning on viewing from a specific location, then plan on leaving very early in the morning or even a day or two before. Many hotels are already booked solid, so the chances of getting a room in or near the path are pretty slim now. It is advisable to keep a close eye on the news of road conditions.
So, what can you expect to see during the three hours of solar eclipse? For the majority of the time, the Sun will only be partially obscured. It will take almost 90 minutes for the Moon to move completely in front of the Sun and then roughly another hour and a half for it to move back out. So, in all, most people will get to see approximately three hours of partial eclipse. During this time, proper solar filters (not sunglasses) must be used to protect your eyes, cameras, telescopes, etc. If one has a properly filtered telescope, then the partial eclipse would provide an opportune time to get an up-close view of the Sun as the Moon gradually covers it. It may be possible to observe sunspots (cooler areas that appear as black blemishes on the solar surface). Some astronomy enthusiasts may even be able to observe prominences (enormous clouds of gas lofted up from the Sun’s surface) during the partial eclipse by using a special type of telescope known as a hydrogen-alpha telescope. The long durations of the partial eclipses provide ample time for one to take pictures. Also, be sure to take a look under the surrounding trees – as sunlight passes through the gaps and holes in the tree leaves, numerous images of the partially eclipsed Sun will be projected on the ground.
As the last few minutes of partial eclipse pass, one will be able to feel the tension and excitement filling the air. By this time the vast majority of the solar disk is invisible and only a few percent of the Sun’s photosphere (the technical name for the solar “surface”) are illuminating the surrounding landscape. If the day is clear, then this time will provide a very dramatic lighting that many often describe as “eerie” or “surreal.” If you have a good view of the northwest you will notice that portion of the sky is darker and growing darker – you are seeing the umbra approaching at roughly twice the speed of sound! In the final few seconds before totality, as the last percent of the Sun’s surface is still just peeking around the silhouetted Moon, the dramatically diminishing sunlight will begin to allow the corona to take center stage. The corona is the outer atmosphere of the Sun, and even though the gas of the corona is several million degrees Fahrenheit, it only glows about as bright as the full moon. The last bead of light visible from the Sun’s surface, along with the corona surrounding the eclipsing Moon, form a spectacular “diamond ring” in the sky.
The effect only lasts a few seconds before totality begins and a few seconds just after totality ends. The faint corona is safe to observe with the naked eye; however, one should not look directly at the “diamond” as direct viewing of any portion of the Sun’s surface can damage your eyes in a matter of seconds.
Once the diamond disappears, the corona will blaze forth in all of its glory – totality has finally started. By now people are screaming, cheering, clapping, crying, you name it! Observing a total solar eclipse is a life-changing event for most people. Some people become addicted to seeing them and travel the world in order just to be in the path of totality for those precious few minutes.
During totality one MUST remove any protective eyewear and observe the corona with the naked eye, for solar glasses will completely block out the corona. The corona will appear very tenuous, and you may see some structure in it that is caused by the Sun’s complicated and ever-changing magnetic field.
Right around the edge of the Moon’s silhouette you might even see some reddish-pink tufts barely sticking out from around the Moon – these are prominences, which are now visible to the naked eye. Depending on your observing location one portion of the Moon’s edge may appear outlined in a pinkish-red hue – this is the lower atmosphere of the Sun, which is known as the chromosphere. The coloration is the distinctive hue of hot hydrogen gas – the main component of the Sun and all stars.
It will be difficult to peel your eyes away from the beauty of the corona, but remember to take a least a few seconds and look around at the rest of the sky. During totality, the sky will be dark enough to observe a few planets and stars. Venus will be visible in the upper western sky while Jupiter will appear about halfway up in the southeast. Both will appear as very bright stars. Mars and Mercury will be located close to the eclipsed Sun and appear as moderately bright stars. A few of the true stars, such as Sirius and Arcturus, will likely be fairly easy to spot if you know where to look. Don’t forget to look around the horizon as well – though the sky above you will be fairly dark the majority of the horizon itself will illuminated. Try to keep an eye out for odd animal behavior as well. Birds have often been reported to exhibit roosting behavior around and during totality (birds flock in to roost, roosters crow, etc.)
It will also be difficult during totality, especially in this age of technology and social media, to suppress the urge to snap pictures and text. Don’t think about selfies. The precious seconds of totality will pass by quicker than you think, and you don’t want to spend all of your time looking through a viewfinder or staring at a phone screen. The end result will be no different than if you stared at a picture of the eclipsed sun on your computer. Experience this eclipse! Take in the splendor of the event with your own eyes. Try to live in the moment so that you can remember it vividly for the rest of your life. You may never get another chance like this, especially if the skies are completely clear.
If you are going to take away anything from this article, then here are a few key points to remember:
- Do not look at any portion of the Sun’s surface with your naked eye during the partial eclipse – you MUST have appropriate eye protection when any portion of the Sun’s surface is exposed. Do not look through an unfiltered telescope while wearing solar eclipse glasses – the focused sunlight will melt the glasses in seconds and then cause permanent eye damage.
- During totality, when the entire solar disk is obscured by the Moon, you MUST observe the total solar eclipse with your naked eye. Any protective eyewear will make it impossible to see the total solar eclipse and you will miss the spectacular part of the show. Remember, the corona by itself is safe to look at naked eye.
- It is NOT recommended to observe the total eclipse with a telescope as this requires using an unfiltered telescope to view the corona. This is dangerous because one does not know the exact moment when the solar disk will begin to emerge from behind the Moon. Less than one percent of the Sun’s surface is easily enough to cause permanent eye damage in a short period of time, especially when looking through an unfiltered telescope.
- Photographing the partial eclipse is recommended since you will have close to three hours to do so, but remember that your camera can be damaged by the unfiltered Sun. Therefore, you must use an appropriate solar filter to prevent your camera from being damaged.
- Photographing the total eclipse is NOT recommended (even without using a telescope) solely for the fact that we will only have a maximum of two minutes and 42 seconds to see the total eclipse. Due to the large dynamic range of the total solar eclipse, it can be fairly difficult to capture a good image that really shows the awesome splendor of a total solar eclipse. There are, however, websites, magazine articles, and even books that deal with the subject of how to photograph a total solar eclipse. Experienced eclipse observers have also stated that even the best images they have ever seen of a total solar eclipse do not convey the beauty of what you will see with the naked eye. They also recommend that if this is your first total solar eclipse you should only focus on actually seeing it with your own eyes because it will be an experience that you will never forget. Don’t waste those precious seconds trying to take images – people all over the United States will be taking images, including professional photographers who have had experience photographing total solar eclipses.
Good luck, and here’s hoping for clear skies across the U.S. on August 21st!
By Katy Searcy, Children’s Department
Does going back to school have your house in a funk? Try a book! Here are thirteen titles for a variety of ages that are sure to get everyone ready for school.
The Class by Boni Ashburn (J E ASHBURN)
Count along with twenty young students from different homes as they get ready for their first day of kindergarten. Some feel eager, some are worried, and some are even grumpy! But they all get dressed, eat breakfast, pack backpacks, and make their way to school, where they will meet their new teacher and become a new class.
First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg (J E DANNEBERG)
Sarah is afraid to start at a new school. She just knows it will be awful. But both she and the reader are in for a surprise when she gets to her class.
Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes (J E HENKES)
Chrysanthemum thinks her name is absolutely perfect—until her first day of school. “You’re named after a flower!” teases Victoria. “Let’s smell her,” says Jo. Chrysanthemum wilts. What will it take to make her blossom again?
The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn (J E PENN)
When Chester the raccoon is reluctant to go to kindergarten for the first time, his mother teaches him a secret way to carry her love with him.
You’re Wearing That to School?! by Lynn Plourde (J E PLOURDE)
Penelope is so excited about the first day of school. She can’t wait to wear her rainbow sparkle outfit, bring her favorite stuffed toy for show-and-tell, and share a big picnic lunch with all her new friends. “Oh, no, no!” says her best pal Tiny, who started school last year. He has a few tips for Penelope about fitting in without sticking out.
School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex (J E REX)
It’s the first day of school at Frederick Douglass Elementary, and everyone’s just a little bit nervous, especially the school itself. What will the children do once they come? Will they like the school? Will they be nice to him? The school has a rough start, but as the day goes on, he soon recovers when he sees that he’s not the only one going through first-day jitters.
Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea (J F BUYEA)
It’s the start of fifth grade for seven kids at Snow Hill School. Only Mr. Terupt, their new and energetic teacher, seems to know how to deal with them all. He makes the classroom a fun place, even if he doesn’t let them get away with much . . . until the snowy winter day when an accident changes everything—and everyone.
Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary (J F CLEARY)
Ramona Quimby is excited to start kindergarten. Then she gets into trouble for pulling her classmate’s curls during recess. Even worse, her crush rejects her in front of everyone. Beezus says Ramona needs to quit being a pest, but how can she stop if she never was trying to be one in the first place?
The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes (J F HENKES)
Seven-year-old Billy Miller starts second grade with a bump on his head and a lot of worries, but by the end of the year he has developed good relationships with his teacher, his little sister, and his parents and learned many important lessons.
It’s the First Day of School—Forever! by R.L. Stine (J F STINE)
Everything goes wrong for eleven-year-old Artie on his first day at Ardmore Middle School, from the moment his alarm goes off until the next morning, when everything is repeated exactly the same way.
Recess at 20 Below by Cindy Lou Aillaud (J 371.2424 AIL)
The temperature outside is 20 below zero. Is school cancelled? Nope. How about recess outside? No way! Learn from the kids’ points of view about what it’s like playing during recess when the thermometer says it’s 20 below.
A School Like Mine: A Celebration of Schools Around the World by Penny Smith (J 371.8 SMI)
Where do children in Jordan learn? What subjects do they study in Egypt? From Africa to the Americas, students explain their daily routines in their own words and talk about what makes their schools special to them.
The Way to School by Rosemary McCarney (J 372.91724 MCC)
Your way to school might be by yellow bus, bicycle or car, but around the world children are also getting to class by canoe, through tunnels, up ladders, by donkey, water buffalo or ox cart. Readers will see that the path to school can be “long and hard and even scary” depending on the lay of the land, the weather, even natural disasters.
By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department
Attention, all business people and job seekers! We have a great database targeted just for you (and everyone else, too.)
Let me tell you about ReferenceUSA. This database offers business and consumer research information on millions of businesses in the United States, as well as consumer information. Created by Infogroup, this reference and research tool is the leading source for business and residential data. This resource can be used for such purposes as searching for jobs, finding doctors, creating business/marketing plans for a small business, conducting competitive analyses and locating specific people.
To access our database, click on this link, which will take you to the Databases by Title page: http://lib.williamson-tn.org/reference/refelect_alphalist.html#r
You can access this database at home, but you must have a library card in good standing. What does that mean? No fines over $3.00 and the card must be current. Every two years all cards need to be updated—even staff cards. ( So when you see the message that your card has expired, it hasn’t really. Just needs to be updated.) There is also an app for ReferenceUSA; you can download it for free from the App Store.
You can search for jobs, by location, and also by industry, using NAICS, SIC codes or by subject. You can research companies worldwide, find out executive contacts, track down addresses and phone numbers for businesses, and using a different section, find someone in a phone book nationwide. You can locate out-of-town companies and find all the information you need before your interview. You can profile a neighborhood, city or state, which is so very helpful if you are starting a new business or advertising for your business. Our database module containing detailed information on more than 14 million U.S. businesses and employers, millions of US residents, health care providers, Canadian businesses and more!
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- New homeowners or those looking to purchase a home can research neighborhoods, including home values and median income of residents in the area, as well as locate nearby schools, churches, doctors, childcare facilities and more.
- Students can access articles for research on businesses, including data summaries to profile a neighborhood, city or state by type of business, size of business or household median income, spending habits and growth of a business, as well as finding businesses of similar size and scope to compare to.
You can search for a single business, and find the information you need about that business. Or, using the Advanced Search, you can search by company type using SIC Codes or NAICS codes to find what businesses are in a certain area. This would be of great assistance if you wanted to send flyers or notices to these businesses. You can create a list of businesses that you would like to send a resume to if you are job searching with our database of 24 million businesses. You can find out about the area you just move into with our Consumers/Lifestyles module. All you need is a library card! And you can access this database at home as well.
All of this information is included with each and every search—over 24 million businesses; not all information is available for every business, though.
- Company name
- Phone number
- Complete address
- Key executive name
- SIC Codes
- Employee size
- Sales volume
- Business expenditures
- Geo-codes for mapping
- Fax and toll-free numbers
- Website addresses
- Franchise and brand information
- Headline news
- Judgments and bankruptcies
- Email addresses
- Number of computers
- Work-at-home businesses
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Here are some sample research questions as examples:
- I’m thinking of opening a bakery. Can I find out how many bakeries are in my area already?
- Using the Advanced Search option in the U.S. Businesses database, choose the Business Type and click in the Business Type box. This will give you a way to search for Bakeries – Wholesale or Bakeries – Retail. Then click on the gray SEARCH button. To add another category, try Geography. You can choose a city, county or metropolitan statistical area. This will decrease your number of hits, and make it more manageable. Since our library is in Franklin, TN, we put in Franklin, TN for the Geography selector. Although the information changes from time to time, we got sixteen hits. Click on any one of these businesses and you will see more information included in the list above. You can find job listings, business profile, photos, maps and directions, demographics, management, stock data, expenditures, history, nearby businesses and competitor’s reports. And the best part is this list of 16 hits or 225 hits can be downloaded to Excel.
If you are job searching, ReferenceUSA will help you out too. The database gives you access to more than 22 million companies and employers all day and all night, right from your home computer. The database now has Indeed.com job listings included in each record. ReferenceUSA also helps you research the company you are interested in working for. That’s always helpful when you get the dreaded question “What do you know about our company?” Once you have a job interview, you can search for that company using the Quick Search and get current news and click though the website.
Remember, this is a free database you can access in the library, at home or from the app FOR FREE! We subscribe to it so you don’t have to!