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!
- Small-business owners and entrepreneurs can conduct market research, search for similar businesses in the area, find information on competitors, search for businesses to buy and much more.
- Job seekers can access information on more than 24 million U.S. businesses, including 200,000 human resource contact names, to assist with their job search — company descriptions and website links to job postings are also provided.
- 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
- Business credit rating scores
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!
By Lon Maxwell, Reference Department
By now, anyone who has strayed into the modern miasma of pop culture is familiar with the concept of giant sharks dropped in L.A. by water spouts while has-been and never-will-be actors line up to kill or be killed. It’s ridiculous. It’s impossible. It’s ludicrous. It’s not as weird as some things found in nature.
One of the most common types of odd phenomenon is the optical illusion. Our atmosphere likes to play with light a great deal more than you might expect. Take for instance the green flash. This odd blink of green light just as the top ridge of the sun hits the horizon is rumored to bring good luck in love. In actuality it is the light of the sun’s journey through more atmosphere than any other time that absorbs the lower wavelengths of light, leaving green. It’s also visible right as the sun hits the horizon at dawn, but being diurnal creatures, most of us aren’t watching for it then. Other optical phenomenon, when light and water, ice or dust interact includes sun dogs (small sun like balls on either side of the sun), light pillars (a ray of light going straight up from the sun when it is near the horizon) and arcs or rings around the sun. The most impressive are, or can be, the fata morgana. The fata morgana is a mirage caused by the drastic temperature differences in the atmosphere causing something to appear to be floating in the sky. They can be as basic as a boat appearing to be above the surface of the water to as complex as the city in the clouds seen over Foshan China in October of 2015.
The atmosphere can produce other bizarre things as well, in the form of weather phenomena. Frost flowers form on plants and frozen surfaces. They’re actually two separate phenomena. The ones that form in meadows are windblown frost crystals that accumulate into curling petal-like structures. The crystal structures at sea are formed from ice crystals freezing from the atmosphere creating long chains the stretch out similar to ferns or cacti.
Another amazing weather phenomenon is the Catatumbo Lightning. This is a raging lightning storm in Venezuela with an average of 280 strikes per hour, ten hours per day up to 260 days out of the year. The air and water currents make for a spectacular light show that has been going on for years. Although it pales in comparison with the Great Red Spot on Jupiter, a cyclonic storm that has been continually observed for over 300 years, and was probably seen earlier than that.
Tales of fish or frogs falling from the sky date back to Pliny the Elder in the first century. The predominant theory involves tornados or waterspouts picking up the animals and depositing them outside their natural habitat. There have been documented occurrences of everything from fish to frogs, to even jellyfish in England in 1864 and spiders in Australia in 2015 (no sharks though).
Natural climate activity does not have a monopoly on the unusual event front. Animals have a few crazy occurrences of their own. Crop circles have been seen all over, but under the water? Seven foot diameter patterned circles popped up off the coast of Japan. The cause is a mating display by one species of puffer fish.
Also underwater are great tube-like things called pyrosomes. The structures look like jelly fish and can stretch up to 60 feet in length, but they are not actually a single organism. Each tube is composed of hundreds or thousands of individual organisms that are actually clones of one another. These zooids such water in through mouths on the outside of the tube and all expel the water thrught the center, creating a jet like propulsion.
The red crabs of Christmas Island also observe an insane mating display. Every year in late October or early November millions of crabs make a journey from the mountains to the sea shores to mate and release their eggs on the tide. They cover the ground and cause roads to be closed. A month later a seething carpet of ant sized baby crabs return from the water and make their way back into the mountainous forests to mature.
When we think of something that is as plain as plain can be we often go to water as an example. However, water can elicit some strange effects while doing nothing out of the ordinary. At the confluence of the rivers Negro and Amazon you can see two separate rivers flow within the same banks, one brown and one black, for miles until they truly merge. In Alaska a similar situation occurs when glacial melt water encounters the sea. Both of these situations result from different particulates in the suspension of the particular body of water in question. The Negro is a slow moving river with a lot of vegetation that steeps in the river like tea, while the faster Amazon carries a lot of sediment. The Glacial melt also meets the differently dense ocean carrying particulates the leave a clear line where one starts and the other stops. The most extreme examples of this are the underwater pools. Yes, SpongeBob was right, there are pools of water under the water but I don’t think anyone wants to take a dip here. High salinity and dissolved methane mean that almost anything that goes in this pool is not leaving.
In some cases, Mother Nature is trying to add insult to injury. Imagine frozen wastelands with explosive bubbles and volcanic lightning. Methane comes back here as bubbles are forming in arctic lakes. These dangerous little spheres are close to the surface too. All it takes is an ice axe, a lighter and an extreme lack of sense to create a fountain of fire for anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes. The methane rises from the ground beneath the lakes and usually passes through into the atmosphere, but during the winter the bubbles can be trapped, waiting for a thaw or adventurous ice fisherman. If flaming ice wasn’t bad enough try volcanic lightning. Dirty thunderstorms, as they are called, occur when the particles in a volcanic eruption build up static electricity the discharge occurs with a bolt of lightning. So you may be able to be struck by lightning while running away from lava and pyroclastic flow.
While not reaching the level of sharks dropping from the sky in danger, the natural world sure does have its share of weird and amazing phenomena.
By Howard Shirley, Teen Department
Sharks with frickin’ lasers for eyes. (Yes, that’s a thing.)
What do these have in common?
Sharks, you say?
They always come out on Shark Week?
Okay, yes, that too. But keep going.
They’re really, really silly ideas for monsters?
Bingo! Winner, winner, monster dinner!
Sharks in a tornado? A cross between a shark and an octopus (which really isn’t that scary a beast, unless you’re a clam)? A giant shark (okay, yes there did use to be these megalodons)? And laser eyes? What are they, sharks from Krypton?
Okay, they’re all fine as a doodle on the side of your algebra homework (which you really need to finish; it’s due tomorrow). But let’s be honest they’re kind of, well, dumb.
But they’re not the dumbest ideas ever for monsters. And the truth is, dumb monsters can be a lot of fun.
Dumb combination monsters go back a long way. The ancient Egyptians believed in jackal-headed men, crocodile-headed men, cat-headed women, and of course the original sphinx, with a man’s head on a lion’s body. The Phoenicians gave us a man with the body of a fish. But the Greeks topped them all. One-eyed giant (cyclops), men with the bodies of horses, the chimera with the heads of a dragon, a lion and a goat, the medusa with snakes for a hairdo (maybe she got all stone-faced because she couldn’t do anything with it), a man with the head of a bull, men with goat legs, a man with a hundred eyes, and worse.
But it seems every age has its bizarre combos. The Middle Ages gave us the unicorn and mermaids, and things went so bizarre in the Renaissance that travelogues seriously suggested there were men with their faces in their stomachs (talk about fast food).
Today we know that’s all nonsense. Unless, of course, you believe in Nessie, Champie, Bigfoot, Mothman (no kidding), Yetis (no, not the coolers), Chupacabras, the Jersey Devil, and human-faced goats (okay, that last one is bizarrely real)! And, of course, aliens.
Why do we create these monsters? Is it to explain, to entertain, to scare, or just because we can? That’s a question for another article, but at the library, we like ‘em all. So if you want to “check out” some monsters on your own, here are a few of our favorite literary monster mish-mashes:
Miss Erin’s Picks:
- Zombies vs. Unicorns by Holly Black. With a title like that, you know it’s gonna be epic!
- Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend by Alan Cumyn. Because nothing says “hunk” like a dude who’s also a dinosaur.
- Zombie Blondes by Brian James. Mean girls are so much meaner when they’re undead.
- A History of Glitter and Blood by Hannah Moskowitz, featuring fairies maimed by the cannibalistic gnomes who work for them (“Call it a tax.”), and a revolution and, well, what more do you need to know? Read the rest for yourself!
Mr. Howard’s Picks:
- The Dragonback series by Timothy Zahn, featuring an alien dragon poet-warrior who’s also a living tattoo. Starting with Dragon and Thief, this sci-fi action series is part Star Wars, part mystery, and part coming-of-age tale, and all terrific.
- Squirrel Girl, from The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl graphic novels. Okay, not a monster, but a superheroine with the combined powers of a squirrel and a girl, which turns out to be awesome. And yes, she can beat anyone, even the most powerful villains of the Marvel Universe. Take that, Galactus.
- The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey, being the purported memoirs of an assistant to a 19th century monster hunter who hunts down the “those can’t be real” monsters of fable (including those “face in their stomach” guys). Scary, realistic, and very intense, Yancey pulls off turning nonsensical creatures into a horrific threat. And then does it again in two more books in the series!
- The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, by Terry Pratchett, seems like a light, funny fantasy “con game” story… until the legendary “Rat King” monstrosity enters the picture, in a sequence that will have you looking over your shoulder with every word.
- The Hungry Cities Chronicles, beginning with Mortal Engines, by Phillip Reeve, which has the best mash-up ever: a city and a tank. Okay, no that’s not a monster, but actual cities on tank treads that gobble up other cities? How could your inner monster-mashup muscle not love that? Just because it’s mechanical, doesn’t mean it’s not a monster!
- The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. The President of the Galaxy, who’s also a starship thief, has two heads. And he’s one of the more normal monstrosities the hapless British hero meets in this over-the-top scifi laugh fest.
Or come by the Teen Room and peruse our Dungeons & Dragons manuals, ‘cause nothing says ridiculous monster mash- up like an Owlbear. (Yes, it’s a bear. That’s also an owl! Oooo, scary!) Unless it’s a Gelatinous Cube, which is, uh, basically acidic Jello. Shaped like a giant cube. That moves.
Sharknado, you’ve got nothing on us!
By Katy Searcy, Children’s Department
My childhood was largely influenced by my obsession with Harry Potter. I spent far too much of my time writing and reading Harry Potter fanfiction, having analytical discussions with strangers on Harry Potter forums, and creating perfect Harry Potter costumes. I even took a fantasy lit class in college just because Harry Potter was on the syllabus. Embarrassing confessions aside, Harry Potter helped me through some difficult experiences and taught me lots of life lessons along the way. Needless to say, I was devastated when I finished the seventh book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, less than twenty-four hours after I’d waited in line at midnight to secure a copy. I just knew that I would never find another book to love like I loved Harry Potter.
So in honor of the tenth anniversary of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, I bring you read-a-likes! This list of recommendations is for you, Harry Potter lovers of all ages. I know they won’t be the same, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy them.
The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare (J F BLACK)
Warned away from magic all of his life, Callum endeavors to fail the trials that would admit him to the Magisterium only to be drawn into its ranks against his will and forced to confront dark elements from his past.
The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann (J F MCMANN)
In a society that purges thirteen-year-olds who are creative, identical twins Aaron and Alex are separated, one to attend University while the other, supposedly Eliminated, finds himself in a wondrous place where kids hone their abilities and learn magic.
Bliss by Kathryn Littlewood (J F LITTLEWOOD)
Twelve-year-old Rose Bliss wants to work magic in her family’s bakery as her parents do, but when they are called away and Rose and her siblings are left in charge, the magic goes awry and a beautiful stranger tries to talk Rose into giving her the Bliss Cookery Booke.
Sky Raiders by Brandon Mull (J F MULL)
Whisked through a portal to The Outskirts, an in-between world, sixth-grader Cole must rescue his friends and find his way back home–before his existence is forgotten.
The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani (J F CHAINANI)
At the School for Good and Evil, failing your fairy tale is not an option. Best friends Sophie and Agatha are about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime. With her glass slippers and devotion to good deeds, Sophie knows she’ll earn top marks at the School for Good and join the ranks of past students like Cinderella, Rapunzel, and Snow White. Meanwhile, Agatha, with her shapeless black frocks and wicked black cat, seems a natural fit for the villains in the School for Evil. The two girls soon find their fortunes reversed–Sophie’s dumped in the School for Evil to take Uglification, Death Curses, and Henchmen Training, while Agatha finds herself in the School for Good, thrust among handsome princes and fair maidens for classes in Princess Etiquette and Animal Communication.
Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas (YA F MAAS)
Celaena Sardothien is an assassin serving a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, and she is summoned to the castle; not to kill the king, but to win her freedom. If she defeats twenty three killers, thieves, and warriors in a competition, she is released from prison to serve as the king’s champion. But when competitors start dying one by one, her fight for freedom becomes a fight for survival.
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo (YA F BARDUGO)
Orphaned by the Border Wars, Alina Starkov is taken from obscurity and her only friend, Mal, to become the protegé of the mysterious Darkling, who trains her to join the magical elite in the belief that she is the Sun Summoner, who can destroy the monsters of the Fold.
The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan (J F FLANAGAN)
Fifteen-year-old Will, always small for his age, has been chosen as a Ranger’s apprentice. What he doesn’t yet realize is that the Rangers are the protectors of the kingdom. Highly trained in the skills of battle and surveillance, they fight the battles before the battles reach the people. And as Will is about to learn, there is a large battle brewing.
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir (YA F TAHIR)
Laia is a Scholar living under the iron-fisted rule of the Martial Empire. When her brother is arrested for treason, Laia goes undercover as a slave at the empire’s greatest military academy in exchange for assistance from rebel Scholars who claim that they will help to save her brother from execution.
Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older (YA F OLDER)
When the murals painted on the walls of her Brooklyn neighborhood start to change and fade in front of her, Sierra Santiago realizes that something strange is going on–then she discovers her Puerto Rican family are shadowshapers and finds herself in a battle with an evil anthropologist for the lives of her family and friends.
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (F MORGENSTERN)
The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night. Behind the scenes, two young magicians prepare for a duel that they have been trained for since childhood. Despite themselves, the duo fall in love, but what they don’t know is that this game can only leave one standing.
The Magicians by Lev Grossman (F GROSSMAN)
Quentin Coldwater is brilliant but miserable. A high school math genius, he’s secretly fascinated with a series of children’s fantasy novels set in a magical land called Fillory, and real life is disappointing by comparison. When Quentin is unexpectedly admitted to an elite, secret college of magic, it looks like his wildest dreams have come true. But his newfound powers lead him down a rabbit hole of hedonism and disillusionment, and ultimately to the dark secret behind the story of Fillory. The land of his childhood fantasies turns out to be much darker and more dangerous than he ever could have imagined.
The Passage by Justin Cronin (F CRONIN)
The latest test subject in a covert government experiment, abandoned six-year-old Amy is rescued by an FBI agent who hides them in the Oregon hills, from which Amy emerges a century later to save the human race from a terrifying virus.
Storm Front by Jim Butcher (F BUTCHER)
For Harry Dresden—Chicago’s only professional wizard—business, to put it mildly, stinks. So when the police bring him in to consult on a grisly double murder committed with black magic, Harry’s seeing dollar signs. But where there’s black magic, there’s a black mage behind it.
A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness (F HARKNESS)
Witch and Yale historian Diana Bishop discovers an enchanted manuscript, attracting the attention of 1,500-year-old vampire Matthew Clairmont. The orphaned daughter of two powerful witches, Bishop prefers intellect, but relies on magic when her discovery of a palimpsest documenting the origin of supernatural species releases an assortment of undead who threaten, stalk, and harass her.
By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department
On July 14, 1881, Billy the Kid was killed by Sheriff Pat Garrett. Those are the facts, nothing but the facts. Oh, but the legends on these two and how they are linked forever in history makes this killing as important as the OK Corral in the annals of history.
So, who exactly was Billy the Kid? History gives him several names: probably born as Henry McCarty, and took the aliases Henry Antrim and William H. Bonney. Information is sketchy about his early years: it is known that he was born in New York City in to a poor Irish family. Not much is known about his early years but he ended up in New Mexico Territory in 1873. Again, not much is known about him at this time, but 4 years later he arrived in Lincoln County, New Mexico. This is where he makes history, mostly of the notorious type.
Lincoln County had just been established and was divided between two factions of cattlemen, the John Tunstall/ Alexander McSween side and the James Dolan faction, allied with the county sheriff William Brady. William Bonney (Billy the Kid) joined the Tunstall side, which was ultimately the losing side as well. Each faction had enforcers (gunfighters and criminals). Tunstall was murdered and in revenge, his men, “the regulators”, killed the sheriff. That brought on what came to be called the Lincoln County War, a five day gunfight and siege battle. The regulators were surrounded, McSween was murdered and the Tunstall men that were able to escape scattered. Billy the Kid was on the run for two years before being captured by Pat Garret the first time. The Kid was tried, convicted and incarcerated. He escaped from jail, after shooting both guards, and rode off into the sunset—for a while.
And Pat Garrett?? More is known about him (there usually is for lawmen). He was born in Alabama in 1850, but the family moved to Louisiana in 1853, and lost everything after the Civil War. In 1869, he headed west, resurfacing in 1876 as a buffalo hunter. As the buffalo disappeared, he headed to New Mexico territory. He became a ranch hand for Pete Maxwell, married and had children. Pat Garrett was sworn in as the new sheriff of Lincoln County in 1880 with the understanding that he would clean up Lincoln County. Several times he almost caught Billy, but each time he slipped away or Garrett was given the wrong information. He finally caught him, arrested him and put him in jail. Garrett was away from jail when the Kid escaped. Eight months later, Garrett found out that Billy was staying with Pete Maxwell, at his ranch. He came at night, and shot and killed Billy the Kid.
Almost immediately, Billy the Kid became a folk legend, which in turn mage Garrett seem an assassin. Garrett wrote a book about tracking and killing Billy. It didn’t sell well, but has become quite the collectible. The book was later found to be full of errors and imaginative tales. It was ghost written by a friend of Garrett. Pat did not run for sheriff again, but moved with his family to Texas and briefly became a Texas Ranger. He returned after a year or so to Roswell, New Mexico where his ranch was. He had several businesses that never prospered and moved back to Texas in 1892. In 1896, he returned to New Mexico where he was appointed sheriff of Dona Ana County. He was nominated by President Teddy Roosevelt as customs officer in El Paso, and confirmed by the Senate. He burned his bridges with Roosevelt and was in deep debt the rest of his life. He also was highly disliked for killing Billy, as the Kid had become a folk hero. He was shot in the back as he was going from his ranch into town. His murder was never solved.
As time passed, some people started the rumor that Pat Garrett either shot somebody else and claimed it was Billy or helped him fake his death. Someone even claimed to be Billy in the 1940s. Even so, historical records show that Billy’s body was identified by several different people—most generally agree that Pat Garrett got the right man—Billy the Kid.
- Billy the Kid was involved in at least nine murders. He was said to have committed as many murders as he had years—he was killed at age 21. (He may have been his own best publicist.)
- Over 50 movies have told this famous historical event. He worked on his reputation before his death, and afterward his legend only grew. The first movie was the silent film in 1911, entitled Billy the Kid. Other stars who played him on the silver screen have been Paul Newman, Val Kilmer and Emilio Estevez (in Young Guns, which we have in our collection.)
- When Bill Richardson was governor of New Mexico, Billy the Kid found another champion. Richardson was a New Mexico history buff and was publicly thinking about pardoning William Bonney posthumously. Before Billy the Kid died, he appealed to then governor, Lew Wallace (who while in office wrote Ben Hur!) for a pardon for his role in the Lincoln County Wars. Wallace agreed, but the pardon was never given to him because he was killed. So when Richardson was thinking about this pardon, he churned up old history. The descendants of Pat Garrett started a petition to stop the pardon from going ahead. Bill Richardson is no longer governor of New Mexico, so this pardon will never happen, but it just goes to show that the past is not that far away.
By Lance Hickerson, Reference Department
Someone told me they thought that living in Williamson County is like living in the “Australia of America.” Just like in Australia, there are many strange bugs here as compared to the rest of the world. This is most certainly an overstatement, but due to our mild winters, Williamson County does have significant insect concerns. Some insects are mostly nuisances, such as Japanese Beetles munching on tree leaves. Other insects, however, can cause significant injury or damage. What follows are five of the bugs of Tennessee that register higher degrees of fear among residents of our area. We will go from number five to number one.
Numbers Five and Four: Hard working but harmful Beetles or Borers. Most give little thought to various beetles that fly about our area, but those who manage our forests and those who love beautiful landscape trees soon learn to respect the menace that certain beetles pose. Landowners and cities see some of their favorite, older shade trees die within three years after being attacked by the Southern Pine Beetle and the Emerald Ash Borer.
5. Emerald Ash Borers (EAB)
Adults are dark green and fly in Tennessee especially in May and June. They spend the rest of the year as larvae eating away under the bark of ash trees, leading to the decline and death of their host tree. EABs emerge from the trees as adults and leave a small, distinctive D-shaped hole in the bark.
4. The Southern Pine Beetle
It is native to our area, causing extensive damage to pine trees during times when its population expands. When Tennessee’s southern pine beetle population gradually began to build in 1998, the beetles killed close to 350,000 acres and $358 million of pine in the years that followed.
3. Imported Fire Ants (IFA)
Lest the reader think I am exaggerating, I will quote from the Tennessee Department of Agriculture regarding this newcomer to the county which has a low tolerance for humans.
Imported Fire Ants (IFA) were accidentally introduced into the United States from South America, beginning in about 1918, and have spread to many counties in Tennessee, including Williamson County…. Imported Fire Ants are very aggressive when disturbed and cause a painful sting that produces a small white pustule about 8-24 hours following the sting.
Fire ant colonies build mounds that may be 10 inches or more in height, 15 inches or more in diameter, and 3 feet or more in depth. ….
Imported Fire Ants cause harm and economic losses in a variety of ways. Stings from fire ants inflict intense pain to millions of Americans each year with thousands requiring medical treatment. A small number of people develop a life-threatening allergic reaction to IFA stings. The number of human fatalities resulting from IFA stings is not known due to lack documentation. However, there have been confirmed deaths due to IFA in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. Imported Fire Ants also attack and kill domestic animals and wildlife as well as destroy seedling corn, soybeans, and other crops. Fire ant mounds can damage farm equipment and lawn mowers. IFA are attracted to electrical equipment and chew on insulation, resulting in short circuits and interference with switching mechanisms. Fire ants can shut down air conditioners, traffic signal boxes, and even airport runway lights. Approximately $2 billion in damage, including costs for insecticide for fire ant suppression and eradication, is caused by IFA in the United States each year.” [https://www.tn.gov/agriculture/article/ag-businesses-ifa]
2. Yellowjackets (Paper Wasps, and Hornets runners up)
UT Assistant Professor of Entomology, Karen Vail, tells us: “Yellowjackets are often considered the most dangerous stinging insects in the United States. They are more unpredictable than honey bees and will sting readily if their nest is disturbed….. During late summer and fall, yellowjacket colonies are near maturity and large numbers of workers forage for food. Sweets support large populations of foraging
wasps. They are particularly fond of sweets (e.g., fruit, soft drinks, ice cream, beer), but they will also eat meats, potato salad and just about anything we eat.”
Many county residents are unaware of where yellowjackets build their paper nest. They nest mostly underground, which makes their presence harder to detect. They can be highly aggressive and sting multiple times.
1. The Brown Recluse Spider
The most feared bug of Tennessee as reported by several exterminators is the brown recluse spider.
Most of us are familiar with the Brown Recluse, if not by sight, then certainly by its reputation. I have unfortunate personal experience with the Brown Recluse, receiving two bites over the years that left the horrendous pain and scars that their bites can sometimes do.
So I am an informal “expert” on the spider, trying to avoid being bitten again. I even discuss them with our “bug man” exterminator named Joe from All-Pest Solutions, who sprays our house four times a year. He recently added to my knowledge about the spider when I explained the enormous size of one I saw last week. The “bug man” said that Recluses do get that big, but no bigger. What I saw was likely a female adult (larger than the males) in her prime (who can give birth to 130 little recluses just like that). So they will be around.
But the exterminator also gave me some good news. He said, “Did you know that they can’t bite you without help? Their mouths are too small. They have to be mashed or pushed into the skin, most often by ourselves, and then they have the force to bite.” I asked for clarification, “You mean if one just gets on you, or you hold it in your hand, it can’t bite you?” “Yes, that’s right. They have to have help.” That was news to me, and good to know.
Something else came out about the spider during my second bite (this one to the temple of my head from lying on an old, rolled up blanket for a pillow while camping). The venom of the Brown Recluse is interesting. It is only 15% or so actual poison, so it basically tricks the body into turning on itself in reaction. It is powerful through deception. Further, unlike the immediately painful and burning bite of the Black Widow spider, the Brown Recluse bite seldom hurts at first. In fact, the venom, for the first 24 hours, tends to create a state of euphoria (extreme gladness) in the human victim. I experienced this very thing. But afterward, the effects of the tricky venom begin to turn living tissue into dead tissue. The victim must wait and see just how deep the wound will go.