Thursday, August 02, 2007

Past American Presidents

Can you name all the American Presidents as they are presented in order in this YouTube video?

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

History Carnival LV

The newest addition is History Carnival LV up at Civil War Memory. Kevin M. Levin has done a nice job and there is a lot of good stuff to read.

The next History Carnival will be hosted by Timothy Abbott at Walking the Berkshires on or about September 1. Submit your blog article to the next edition of history carnival using the carnival submission form.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Infamous Non-Drug-Related Sports Scandals

Sports Illustrated (via has a nice photo essay of the top twenty-five non-drug related scandals in sports history. The list is biased towards American scandals (although there are international examples too) and the last 100 years. Nonetheless, I found it fun to browse through.

Here are a few examples from the list:

1. Black Sox scandal, 1919 - When eight Chicago White Sox players were implicated in throwing the World Series against the Reds, it shook the sporting world as nothing had before. Though the guilt or innocence of the players is still debated (did Shoeless Joe Jackson play well anyway? Should Buck Weaver have been barred from the game?), the Black Sox scandal stained baseball's reputation and ruined the game for many.

2. Diego Maradona's World Cup goal, 1986 - Six minutes into the second half of the quarterfinals of the 1986 World Cup, Argentine superstar Diego Maradona scored a goal ... with his left fist. The referee did not see the infringement, and the goal stood, despite protests from the English team. Argentina won the game 2-1 and eventually the World Cup. A few months later Maradona admitted the goal had been scored by his hand and not the "hand of God," his original claim.

7. The Danny Almonte age scandal, 2001 - Almonte led the Rolando Paulino All-Stars to the Little League World Series, where he pitched a perfect game in leading his team to a third-place finish. However, scandal tainted the world of youth sports when the team was stripped of all victories that year and its third-place Little League World Series finish after it was proven Almonte was actually 14, two years older than the Little League age limit.

15. The IOC strips Jim Thorpe of his Olympic medals, 1912 - Thorpe won gold medals in the decathlon and pentathlon at the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, but was stripped of both medals after it was revealed he had been paid small sums of money to play baseball in 1909 and 1910, when Olympic rules prohibited professional athletes from participating. Many said Thorpe, one of the greatest all-around athletes of all time, was discriminated against because of his ethnic background, a hybrid of Irish, French and American Indian heritages. In 1983 his results were reinstated by the IOC and his medals were returned to his children.

Monday, July 30, 2007

The Fast Lusitania

The August 1907 Scientific American had this news item:

“On a preliminary speed trial for the new turbine liner Lusitania of the Cunard Line, the great ship easily reached a speed of 25 knots, and this in spite of the fact that her bottom was ‘heavily coated with the chemically-saturated mud of the River Clyde.’ The constructive features of the ship are novel, and because of her mammoth proportions are of unusual interest."

Of course, this is the same Lusitania that met a tragic end as a casualty of the first World War when she was torpedoed by a German submarine on May 7, 1915. The ship sank in just 18 minutes killing 1,198 people.

It was kind of eerie reading this account from 1907 of the speed of the ship knowing what eventually happens to it. It is nice that there is a record of this ship in the literature which denotes something positive and does not focus on how the ship ended.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Naming Stars

I spent the weekend with my family visiting Frankenmuth, Michigan. It is a town right in the middle of Michigan that is themed to look like 19th century Bavaria. That may sound odd but the town is a lot of fun. While visiting a toy store there, my oldest son convinced me to buy him a stuffed frog.

The frog comes with instructions for creating a virtual frog online that can interact with other people. One of the perks is that you can have a star named after your stuffed virtual frog. That made me read the packaging again. You can have a star named after a stuffed animal?

Heck, if a stuffed frog can have a star named after it, how about me? The Miland Brown Star sounds cool. I can spend some time doing research on a star likely to have a planetary system and maybe thousands of years from now human colonists will look up into the light of Miland Brown. If it is cheap, why not take a crack at being a part of history?

Alas, it is not this simple. There are a lot of companies selling star names online. And not a one of them is official as the International Astronomical Union (IAU) does not recognize the names. And as scientists use the IAU classification system, that means any star name purchased is just a novelty and not really the name of the star.

The article Name a Star? The Truth about Buying Your Place in Heaven by Robert Roy Britt has more information. Britt wrote, "Only the International Astronomical Union (IAU) has the right to officially name celestial objects. It does so for scientific purposes only and does not recognize any commercial naming systems. The IAU, viewed by astronomers as the reputable governing body, is well aware of the sea of commercial star vendors. It has this to say: The IAU dissociates itself entirely from the commercial practice of 'selling' fictitious star names."

Mind you, these online companies selling star names are doing nothing legally wrong. Anyone can create their own star naming system and use it to sell naming rights to the public. As long as they admit (no matter how deeply buried in their sites) that the names are not recognized by science (and hence not the official names of the stars), no law has been broken. And the business idea is sound. If a company will spend millions to have a football stadium named, why wouldn't I spend fifty bucks to have a star named after me? There are a lot more stars than people and everyone who has ever lived could have a star named after them with plenty of left over stars remaining.

Which make me think, why doesn't the IAU sell star names? Think of the money it could raise for astronomy education and research. If people will buy dubious unofficial names, I think they would buy official names even more readily.

Britt has an answer for this. He wrote, "The IAU does recognize a handful of ancient star names, given to some of the brightest stars in our sky. But with millions and millions of stars out there, it wisely decided long ago that a numbering system is more useful for scientists. As the IAU puts it,'Finding Maria Gonzalez in Argentina or John Smith in Britain just from their names is pretty hopeless, but if you know their precise address (perhaps from their social security number) you can contact them without knowing their name at all.' As a web site called Name a Star admits, 'Scientists will never want to deal with finding Aunt Martha's Star.' This company deserves a gold star for forthrightness."

I would argue that the IAU should keep the current numbering system for stars which scientists use for record keeping . However, every star could have a database entry for official name where bought or bestowed names could be added. The astronomer could still use the number system but there could still be an official name that people could look up. And as an added perk, a "real" name would be of more interest to the media when a new finding was announced. What is more interesting to you, HIP 110991 or Miland Brown Star?

It seems to me everyone would win with this system. Astronomers could still use a logical numbering system. People could have stars named after them. The IAU could raise some well needed cash. And just perhaps, these novelty online star naming companies would go out of business.

If this system is adopted, and this post had anything to do with it, please name a good star close to Earth as the Miland Brown Star. I would appreciate it.