The big news today is that it is the 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s historic flight into space. Gagarin was the first human to ever be shot into orbit. Also, as a side note, he landed back on Earth safely.
It was April 12th, 1961 aboard the Russian flight Vostok 1 that Gagarin made his epic journey. The trip lasted 108 minutes; in order to land Gagarin had to eject from his capsule while still 23,000 feet above the Earth’s surface.
Upon reaching orbit, Gagarin had this to say:
“I feel splendid, very well, very well, very well. Give me some results on the flight!”
Shortly after saying this, Gagarin went out of radio range from mission control, and was on his own for a short while.
How freakin’ scary is that!?
The site on which Gagarin eventually landed is now a monument park. The Vostok 1 capsule is on display in the museum, and a new documentary showing exactly what Gagarin would have seen from his window, shot from the International Space Station, has been released.
And now, Gagarin has received the most magnificent of all accolades: his very own Google Doodle!
So hurray for manned spaceflight, and for the incredible courage of those who were the first to go into space inside a metal tube full of flammable material!
Three pieces of sci-fi news in my Google Reader grabbed my attention this morning.
The first is that John Williams is turning 79 today. Don’t know who John Williams is? Well you’ve heard his music, even if you don’t realize it. He has worked on the soundtracks for Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark and even Harry Potter!
The second is that Jeri Ryan has confirmed that she will reprise her roll as Sonya Blade in the upcoming Mortal Kombat webseries and movie.
And finally, as you have probably seen from the Google homepage, today is Jules Verne’s birthday.
He is perhaps the most famous science fiction author of all time and deserves all the attention he is getting.
There is one for pretty much every sport, a Walk of Fame for Hollywood stars, and one for Rock and Roll stars.
But there has never been a Science Hall of Fame, even though scientists have had a larger impact on our world than all the people in them other Halls of Fame put together!
A few weeks ago, a paper was published online (and appears in print this week) in Science entitled “Quantitative Analysis of Culture using Millions of Digitized Books”. What these researchers did was use Google’s effort to digitize books (Google Books) which has currently digitized about 15 million books, roughly 12% of all books ever printed.
They used a subset of these already digitized books, 5.2 million, and were able to create a corpus of data wherein you could search for a particular word or group of words (i.e. “slavery” or “The Great War”) and see how often those words appeared in print as a function of the year. The years available are between 1800 and 2000.
This ability to study how often certain names and subjects appear in print allow researchers to study human history and culture in a new quantitative fashion. The authors of the study call it “culturomics”.
The authors found some pretty interesting results, including finding that the English language has grown by 70% in the last 50 years; they were able to see the decline in use of certain words (who says “chide” anymore?) and found that the average age of peak prominence for a celebrity is 75.
After this study was published, John Bohannon, writer for Science, and an author of the culturomics paper Adrian Veres, teamed up to find which scientists were most popular in literature, and create this Science Hall of Fame. It is highly quantitative in nature, which is quite poetic for a science hall of fame if you think about it.
Scientific fame is measured in units of milliDarwins, one-thousandth of the average annual frequency that Charles Darwin’s name appears in English-language books from the year he was 30 years old (1839) until 2000. Here are the top 25:
You can go to the site and look up your favourite scientists, or you can also play with the raw data yourself and do your own studies, which has already caused me to be very unproductive at work today.
I’d also like to point out that the first 3 Nobel Prize Winners on that list are all physicists. Just sayin…
It is the 115th anniversary of the discovery of x-rays by Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen.
To celebrate, Google has put up a ‘Google Doodle’ featuring x-ray radiography.
This is awesome! It gives worldwide attention to one of the greatest medical discoveries in history. Hell, it’s one of the greatest scientific discoveries in history!