Fireworks of 1870s, by Louisa May Alcott

Louisa May Alcott described a fireworks display in Eight Cousins, a book published in 1875.

Uncle Mac takes 13-year-old Rose Campbell into Boston Bay to watch fireworks from his boat:

“…they are going up all over the city, and how pretty they are,” said Rose, folding her mantle about her and surveying the scene with pensive interest.

“Hope my fellows have not got into trouble up there,” muttered Uncle Mac, adding with a satisfied chuckle, as a spark shone out, “No; there it goes!  Look, Rosy, and see how you like this one; it was ordered especially in honor of your coming.”

Rose looked with all her eyes, and saw a spark grow into the likeness of a golden vase, then green leaves came out, and then a crimson flower flowing on the darkness with a splendid lustre.

“Is it a rose, Uncle?” she asked, clasping her hands with delight as she recognized the handsome flower.

“Of course it is!  Look again and guess what those are,” answered Uncle  Mac, chuckling and enjoying it all like a boy.

A wreath of what looked at first like purple brooms appeared below the vase, but Rose guessed what they were meant for and stood straight up, holding by his shoulder and crying excitedly,__

 

“Thistles, Uncle, Scotch thistles! There are seven of them, one for each boy [her cousins]!  Oh, what a joke!”  and she laughed so hard that she plumped into the bottom of the boat and stayed there until the spectacle was quite gone.

 

I think I’ve read elsewhere about fireworks in a stars-and-stripes pattern–or did I see or imagine that?

Do we have such spectacles today, nearly a century and a half after?  Has anyone seen a fireworks display with identifiable flowers or patriotic symbols?

Albert Einstein Didn’t Wear Socks!

Harry Cauley’s claim to fame (one of them) is that he mowed Albert Einstein’s lawn.

Actually, Harry Cauley can claim a great deal more.   He has not only written plays, but directed and produced them.  He has written and produced for popular TV shows.  He writes novels.

The book he wrote that I like best is Speaking of Cats, but that’s another post.

Harry Cauley was a special guest at my writers’ club.  We could have listened to him talk for hours!  He told us about growing up on the street where Albert Einstein lived, a close enough neighbor so he was the boy who mowed the Einstein’s lawn.  As far as Harry was concerned, Mr. Einstein was not a famous man—he was a neighbor.

Harry’s mother said Mr. Einstein didn’t dress properly.  (But it was still okay for Harry to earn pocket money mowing his lawn.)  She was shocked because “Mr. Einstein doesn’t wear socks!”

You can see for yourself in a photo by the National Geographic. I don’t have the right to use photo, but you can see it at: https://news.nationalgeographic.com/content/dam/news/photos/000/866/86633.jpg

Do YOU ever wear sandals without socks?  Don’t we usually wear sandals when we don’t want to wear socks?  Do mothers ever fuss about little stuff?

Oldest Computer—The Antikythera Mechanism

  • Antikythera is the Greek island near where it was found.
  • It predicted lunar and solar eclipses, held a calendar, and signaled the next Olympic Games.
  • When scientists studied the device with x-rays, they discovered you could use it to track the sun, moon, and planets.
  • CT scans—the same procedure that might tell your doctor whether your appendix needs to come out–revealed tiny writing engraved on its parts, not exactly a built-in instruction manual, more like parts labels, but important clues to where it might have been made and what it was supposed to do—enough for scholars now to understand at least some of the workings.
"The first computer" found in shipwreck near the Greek island of Antikythera
The Antikythera mechanism on display at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens. Image credit: Tilemahos Efthimiadis via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0.

The Antikythera Mechanism was found with a 2000-year-old wrecked ship in 1902.  It’s the only one found, but perhaps something similar will turn up elsewhere to answer questions about when it was made, who made it, and did anyone, a thousand years ago, build anything like it?

This model of the Mechanism, built by science modeler Massimo Mogi Vicentini, is an attempt to show what its insides might have looked like 2000 years ago:

Mogi Vicentini via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.5

 

Eclilpse Through a Collander

We stayed home for the historic eclipse and watched totality five times on the NASA live-streaming site for which we didn’t need eclipse glasses. We aren’t on the path of totality, but we did feel a slight cooling like when the sun sets, although our sky remained bright blue.

The NASA site offered tips for safe viewing.  One was:  “You can use a kitchen colander for a pinhole view.”

YES!

The colander, such as you might use to drain spaghetti.

I held it over a sheet of white paper.   Our photos show about how much of the sun was eclipsed in our part of Southern California.

Our colander view is fuzzy, but you can see that almost half the sun was eclipsed where we are.