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Archive for October, 2010

Winners: Driver Shea & Rosebud

Halloween trivia, with many of the 14 players in costume,  was so close it was scary. Driver Shea was originally declared the sole winner with only 3 wrong, but Rosebud immediately challenged and threatened to put a hex on all involved. After review, the decision was changed and Rosebud was declared co-winner.

Artie was not happy having to share the kitty. His hat even looked somewhat deflated, for a moment. Steve finished right behind and our new player, Jailbird, did not even make it to the finish. Perhaps that was all for the good.

Although there was no prize for best costume, there were some strong efforts that should be recognized. Ellen’s outline of a body was thought provoking, and we saw another side of Darin as a strong, blonde Valkyrie behind the bar. Pluto and Daphne stayed in character, with Pluto as an hombre from a spaghetti western, and Daphne, scary as always, this time as a skeleton. But the most courageous costume has to have been Bren’s pink rabitt, with his Buddy Holly glasses.

Good Question!: What does the B stand for in SCUBA diving?

Answer: Breathing

The term SCUBA, an acronym for Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus, arose during World War II, and originally referred to United States combat frogmen‘s oxygen rebreathers, developed by Dr. Christian Lambertsen for underwater warfare

Scuba diving is a form of underwater diving in which a diver uses a scuba set to breathe underwater for recreation, commercial or industrial reasons. Unlike early diving, which relied exclusively on air pumped from the surface, scuba divers carry their own source of  breathing gas (usually compressed air), allowing them greater freedom than with an air line. Both surface supplied and scuba diving allow divers to stay underwater significantly longer than with breath-holding techniques as used in snorkelling and free-diving.

Water normally contains the dissolved oxygen from which fish and other aquatic animals extract all their required oxygen as the water flows past their gills. Humans lack gills and do not otherwise have the capacity to breathe underwater unaided by external devices.

Early diving experimenters quickly discovered it is not enough simply to supply air to breathe comfortably underwater. As one descends, in addition to the normal atmospheric pressure, water exerts increasing pressure on the chest and lungs—approximately 1 bar (14.7 pounds per square inch) for every 33 feet (10 m) of depth—so the pressure of the inhaled breath must almost exactly counter the surrounding or ambient pressure to inflate the lungs. It generally becomes difficult to breathe through a tube past three feet under the water.

By always providing the breathing gas at ambient pressure, modern demand valve regulators ensure the diver can inhale and exhale naturally and virtually effortlessly, regardless of depth.

Who can forget Sea Hunt, an American adventure television series that was aired from 1958 to 1961 and was popular in syndication for decades afterwards. It starred Lloyd Bridges as ex-Navy frogman Mike Nelson, now a free-lance scuba diver, who had various adventures. He outmaneuvered villains, salvaged everything from a bicycle to a nuclear missile, and rescued a downed Air Force pilot (in his sunken jet, in the pilot episode). Since no dialogue was possible during the underwater sequences, Bridges provided voice-over narration for all the installments. Nelson almost always became imperiled by someone or something cutting a hose on his dual-hose (scuba set) air supply: “By that time, my lungs were aching for air.”

After Bridges was cast, he was given a crash course in scuba diving and over the course of the show’s run, Bridges got more involved in the underwater stunt work, graduating from close-ups in the earliest episodes, to doing all but the most dangerous stunts by the end of the series’ run. The series served as a stepping stone for some of Hollywood’s most notable actors, including Leonard Nimoy, Robert Conrad, Bruce Dern, Ron Foster, Larry Hagman, Ross Martin, Jack Nicholson (in the last episode of the series), and Bridges’ own sons, Beau and Jeff.

click on these photos to enlarge.

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Water on the Brain

Winner: Rosebud

Tonight’s game was a dogfight from the start, with the lead changing back and forth. With only 9 players, it was a bit surprising that 4 finished tied for first, resulting in a rare sudden death playoff. Even more surprising  – one of the 4 tied for first was Dumbo, who hasn’t been recognized on this blog since it’s very first posting in April 2010. It was good to see him back on his game.

Rosebud faced off against 3 men (Coffee Bill, Droppin’ Dave and Dumbo) in the playoff and emerged triumphant, adding to the recent string of success by the ladies. The payoff question – what % of the brain is water? Using her head, Rosebud guessed 90%, which was close enough to the correct answer (77- 78%) to win. Of course, she was probably thinking of the brains in this pub, which towards the end of a typical night are all fluid.

Next week is Halloween Trivia night, so come with your most scary face, or come just as you are.

BTW, don’t forget that if a sheep and a goat mate, the offspring is called a geep.

“Good Question!”: In what year was the transistor radio invented?

Answer: 1952

Transistors

The vacuum tube had helped push the development of telephony, radio and computers forward a great deal. However, the metal that emitted electrons in the vacuum tubes burned out. The tubes were too big, not reliable and required so much power that big and complicated circuits took too much energy to run. In the late 1940’s, big computers were built with over 10,000 vacuum tubes and occupied over 93 square meters of space.

The problems with vacuum tubes lead scientists and engineers to think of other ways to make three terminal devices. Instead of using electrons in vacuum, scientists began to consider how one might control electrons in solid materials, like metals and semiconductors.

A picture of the first transistor ever assembled, invented in Bell Labs in 1947. It was called a point contact transistor because amplification or transistor action occurred when two pointed metal contacts were pressed onto the surface of the semiconductor material. The contacts, which are supported by a wedge shaped piece of insulating material, are placed extremely close together so that they are separated by only a few thousandths of an inch. The contacts are made of gold and the semiconductor is germanium. The semiconductor rests on a metal base.

The invention got little attention at the time, either in the popular press or in industry. Today, Intel produces billions of transistors daily on its integrated circuits, yet the inventors Bardeen, Brattain, and Shockley earned very little money from their research. The three men did receive the 1956 Physics Nobel Prize for their joint invention.

The shape of the transistor has changed dramatically since it was invented at Bell Labs in 1947 as a replacement for the vacuum tube. Clockwise from the top: 1941 vacuum tube used for telephone communications; the point-contact transistor as it was introduced June 30,1948 to the world, six months after its invention; 1955 transistor which replaced vacuum tubes in network communications equipment; 1957 diffused base high frequency broadband amplifier; 1967 microchip, used to produce the tones in a touch-tone telephone set, contained two transistors; and (center) a Lucent Technologies digital signal processor chip, which can contain as many as 5 million transistors, used in modems and cellular communications.”

The transistor proved to be a viable alternative to the vacuum tube. Transistors played a pivotal role in the advancement of electronics – their small size, low heat generation, high reliability, and small power requirements made possible the miniaturization of complex circuitry such as required by computers. During the late 1960’s and 1970’s individual transistors were superseded by integrated circuits in which a multiple of transistors and other components (diodes, resistors, etc.) were formed on a single tiny wafer of semi conducting material.

Transistor Radios

Transistors may have been useful to the phone company and to a handful of scientists building computers, but that wasn’t enough to build an industry. Companies were eagerly buying transistor licenses from Bell, but if they were going to succeed, they had to come up with sales. They had to catch the attention of the public. That happened with the hand-held radio.

Texas Instruments demonstrated a prototype all-transistor AM (amplitude modulation) radio as early as 1952, but their performance was well below that of equivalent vacuum tube models. The first practical transistor radio made in any significant numbers was a joint project between the Regency Division of Industrial Development Engineering Associates and Texas Instruments. TI knew that it needed a fun product to catch the nation’s attention. They thought a radio was just the thing to make a splash. TI built the transistors; Regency built the radio.

On October 18, 1954, the Regency TR1 was put on the market. It was a scant five inches high and used four germanium transistors. When it was released in 1954, the Regency TR-1 cost $49.95 (roughly $364 in 2006 USD) and sold about 150,000 units.

While the Regency sold out everywhere, it didn’t stay on the market. Texas Instruments caused the sensation it wanted and then moved on to other things!

In the 1950s and 1960s, most U.S. companies chose to focus their attentions on the military market in producing transistor products. But over in Japan, a tiny company had other ideas. A tape recorder manufacturer called Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo had also decided to make small radios. In fact, they were going to devote their whole company to commercial products like that.

Tsushin Kogyo was close to manufacturing its first radios when it heard that an American company had beaten them to the punch. But they kept up the hard work, eventually producing a radio they named the TR-55. When Regency quit producing the TR1, in the Spring of 1955, the Japanese company was poised to enter the US market.

The only problem was that the company name was unprouncable for Americans. They needed a new name. Masaru Ibuka and his partner Akio Morita thought and thought. First, they found a latin word sonus meaning “sound.” That was a good start. At the time, bright young men were referred to as “sonny boys,” and that was a good image too. Combining the two concepts, they developed a new name: Sony.

Who can forget their first transistor radio?

The use of transistors instead of vacuum tubes as the amplifier elements meant that the device was much smaller, required far less power to operate than a tube radio, and was more shock-resistant. It also allowed “instant-on” operation, since there were no filaments to heat up. The typical portable tube radio of the fifties was about the size and weight of a lunchbox, and contained several heavy (and non-rechargeable) batteries: One or more so-called “A” batteries to heat the tube filaments and a large 45- to 90-volt “B” battery to power the signal circuits. By comparison, the “transistor” could fit in a pocket and weighed half a pound, or less, and was powered by standard flashlight batteries or a single compact 9-volt battery. (The now-familiar 9-volt battery was introduced for powering transistor radios.)

Listeners sometimes held an entire transistor radio directly against the side of the head, with the speaker against the ear, to minimize the “tinny” sound caused by the high resonant frequency of its small speaker enclosure. Most radios included earphone jacks and came with single earphones that provided only mediocre-quality sound reproduction due to the bandwidth limitation of AM (up to 10 kHz).

With the transistor radio, music and information suddenly became portable. No matter how isolated you were, you could hear news of the world. And for teenagers who could suddenly listen to music anywhere they wanted — far away from an adult’s ears — it sparked a musical revolution: rock n’ roll (especially from Cousin Brucie’s show or Murray the K’s, Swingin’ Soiree).

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BTW, if you are wondering what a night of passion between a sheep and a goat leads to, here is Lisa the geep:

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Winner: Driver Shea

Tonight’s game was no contest. Driver Shea dominated a dozen players from start to finish, lapped everyone, and won going away.  Who knew that Artie was such a big fan of the Cosby show and Laverne and Shirley? The game was pretty much over when Artie showed his hands on knowledge of the NYC “pooper scooper” law. Way back and tied for second place were a gaggle of players – Ellen, Rosebud, Dropin’, JohnnieG, and Pluto.

Good Question!: Who invented the American football huddle?

Answer: A school for the deaf

The modern-day circular huddle, in which the players all face inward in a tight circle, was invented by Gallaudet University quarterback Paul Hubbard in 1892. Gallaudet was the first school intended for the advanced education of deaf and hard-of-hearing students.

When quarterbacking, Hubbard realized that his hand signals could be read by opposing players, a particular concern when Gallaudet played other schools for the deaf. To remedy this, he had his players form a circle so that his sign-language signals could be sent and received without anyone on the sidelines or on the opposing team seeing.

This type of huddle is still in common use today, typically between plays in as the quarterback assigns the next play to the offense. Some teams use the no huddle offense, a football scheme where the offense of a team returns immediately to the line after a play instead of calling the new one in a huddle.

It is a great tool to have for any football team because it tires and disorients defenses, conserves valuable clock time and, frankly, makes the game more exciting. However, to properly run a no huddle takes tons of preparation. The players all need to be on the same page or it can easily backfire.

And let’s not forget that William “Dummy” Hoy (1862-1961), the first deaf Major League baseball player, was the reason umpires adopted hand signals: “out”, “safe”, and “strike”.

“Dummy” Hoy was one of the bettter major league players of his era. He garnered more than 2,000 hits during his 1,784 games. He also threw three runners out at home plate in one game for the Washington Senators in 1889, a record that stands to this day!

Before he suggested the hand signals to an umpire in 1887, Hoy had to read the lips of the umpire to know if each pitch was a strike or ball. The pitchers on the other teams often took advantage of the situation to throw the next pitch before he was ready. Now that’s what I call poor sportsmanship.

sources: fookembug@wordpress, wikipedia, all sands – 7000 grains of knowledge and counting.

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Winner: Droppin’ Dave

A medium- sized crowd of eleven hopefuls competed this week, including first timers Katherine and Melanie.  Some grumbling was heard as the mostly science-based questions took their toll, but all in all it was judged to be a fairly easy quiz.  Just have another beer, relax, and enjoy the free peanuts.  It was anybodyʼs game until the end, but Droppinʼ finished strongest by acing the second half and edging out Melanie and Ethan.

Good Question!: “What weapon did German gunsmith August Kotter unload on the world in 1520?”

Answer: The rifle.

Before Kotter, gun barrels were smooth on the inside and fired round lead bullets that were slightly smaller than the diameter of the barrel.  When fired, the bullets careened down the barrel and emerged at unpredictable angles, making accuracy impossible except at close range.  By finding a way to cut spiral grooves on the inside of the barrel, Kotter imparted spin to the bullets, making them fly straighter and farther, like a Dan Marino football.

The spiral grooves themselves are called rifling and can be created in a number of ways. Typically rifling is a constant rate down the barrel, usually measured by the length of travel required to produce a single turn. Occasionally firearms are encountered with a gain twist, where the rate of spin increases from chamber to muzzle. For best performance, the barrel should have a twist rate sufficient to stabilize any bullet that it would reasonably be expected to fire, but not significantly more. Large diameter bullets provide more stability, as the larger radius provides more gyroscopic inertia, while long bullets are harder to stabilize, as they tend to be very back heavy and the aerodynamic pressures have a longer “lever” to act on.

Kotterʼs invention is very much in use today, and deserves credit for our ability to deliver death at great distance and with great accuracy.    Kotter himself is little remembered except for a brief reappearance in a 80ʼs sitcom, where he was welcomed back, and ended up being executed by a firing squad of TV execs.

Thanks to our special Guest Blogger this week – Droppin’ Dave.

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