RIP Roger Miller

Roger Miller

Roger Miller (January 2, 1936 – October 25, 1992)

Roger Dean Miller was an American singer, songwriter, musician and actor, best known for his honky-tonk-influenced novelty songs. His most recognized tunes included the chart-topping country music and pop music hits King of the Road, Dang Me, and England Swings, all of which came from the Nashville sound era of the mid-1960s.

Wikipedia Link

Anniversary of the sinking of the USS Johnston

USS Johnston (DD-557)

USS Johnston (DD-557) was a World War II-era Fletcher-class destroyer in the service of the United States Navy. She was the first Navy ship named after Lieutenant John V. Johnston. The ship was most famous for its bold action in the Battle off Samar. The small “tincan” destroyer armed with nothing larger than 5 inch (127mm) guns and torpedoes would lead the attack of a handful of light ships which had inadvertently been left unprotected in the path of a massive Japanese fleet led by battleships and cruisers. The sacrifices of Johnston and her little escort carrier task unit “Taffy 3” helped stop Admiral Kurita’s powerful Center Force from attacking vulnerable U.S. landing forces, and inflicted greater losses than they suffered.

Wikipedia Link

RIP Don Messick

On October 24, 1997, the animation industry lost a treasure. Don Messick‘s entertainment career spanned seven decades, with forty years of voice work in animation. Messick performed in over 100 animated programs, providing voices for some of the most beloved cartoon characters on television, including Astro and Rudy on “The Jetsons,” Bamm Bamm on “The Flintstones,” Boo Boo and Ranger Smith on “Yogi Bear and Friends,” Dr. Benton Quest and Bandit on “The Adventures of Jonny Quest,” Ricochet Rabbit on “Magilla Gorilla,” Papa Smurf on “The Smurfs,” and his most famous role, Scooby Doo, in countless formats.

Thank you, Don, for one of my most cherished memories of childhood. Scooby Doo was my hero. – James

Mole Day

October 23rd is Mole Day—you know, because 10/23 is like 1023.

THE EARLY HISTORY of chemistry has many interesting stories. Just consider the problems scientists had 200 years ago as they tried to figure out some of the most basic ideas of chemistry. It was clear that there were different substances—for instance, water is different than coal. But it wasn’t so clear what these substances were made of. You could take something like nitrogen gas (N2) and oxygen gas (O2) and combine them together to make another gas (in this case NO2). It thus seemed reasonable to suppose that stuff (molecular gas) was made of smaller stuff (atoms). But the evidence isn’t so easy to see. The primary difficulty is that humans can’t see molecules or atoms. All the scientific ideas have to be built on indirect evidence.

This is where Amedeo Avogadro comes into the picture (of course his real name is Lorenzo Romano Amedeo Carlo Avogadro di Quaregna e di Cerreto—but everyone just calls him Avogadro for obvious reasons). Avogadro developed the following idea:

Avogadro’s Law: If you have two gasses at the same temperature and pressure, they will occupy the same volume only if they contain the same number of molecules.

If you are thinking this is just a version of the Ideal Gas Law, you are correct—but let’s move on to a useful example. Suppose you take water (which is H2O) and run an electric curent through it—called electrolysis. This can break the water molecules into hydrogen gas and oxygen gas (which you could collect). If you had these two gases at the same temperature and pressure, the hydrogen gas would take up twice the volume compared to the oxygen gas. Why? Well, when you break up the water molecule, you get twice as much hydrogen as oxygen. Yes, hydrogen doesn’t just float around as a single atom. Instead it forms a bond with another hydrogen to make H2—but oxygen does the same thing (O2).

In the end, you would know that water is made of both hydrogen and oxygen and that there is twice as much hydrogen as oxygen. That’s a pretty big piece to the whole elements puzzle and you need an idea like Avogadro’s Law to figure it out.

Avogadro’s Number

But what about this number of Avogadro? Why is it important and why didn’t Amedeo know what it was? Let’s start with a definition. If I have 12 grams of carbon-12 (not any other isotopes of carbon) then it would have exactly Avogadro’s number of atoms in it. We can write this number as (approximately):


So we would call this number of carbon atoms, one mole (sort of like 12 eggs is one dozen).

Why is important? Avogadro’s number is sort of like a bridge. It bridges chemistry and atomic physics. In chemistry we measure things based on their bulk properties. Things like mass (total mass), pressure, volume, temperature. However, when we consider these things from an atomic perspective we look at individual atoms and the momentum, velocity of these particles. Avogadro’s number connects these two ideas and allows us to explore atomic-level things by measuring macroscopic level quantities. It’s a big deal.

But why didn’t Avogadro know this number? Because he didn’t directly come up with the idea. Chemists named the number after Avogadro to honor his contributions to chemistry.

Determining a Value for Avogadro’s Number

If you had a carton with a dozen eggs, you could open up the package and count the number of eggs to find out that one dozen equals twelve. You can’t really do the same thing with a mole of carbon. Carbon atoms are too tiny to see and there are too many to count. We have to find another way to get a value for Avogadro’s number. There are quite a few ways to determine this magic number, but let me go over a simple method.

Start with two pieces of copper placed in a solution of copper-sulfate. When you run an electric current through the system, copper is removed from one plate and deposited on the other plate. This means that one of the plates gains mass and the other loses mass (should be by the same amount).

When the copper atom is removed from one plate, it acts as a charge carrier in the complete circuit (battery, wires, copper, solution). If I measure the current in this circuit and record the time, I can use the definition of current to find the total transfer of charge (which would be the transfer of copper ions).


Let’s put this all together.

  • Run current through the copper and copper sulfate.
  • Positive copper ions are transferred from one plate to the other making a change in mass (which I can measure).
  • I can measure the current and time and calculate the total transfer of charge from one plate to another.
  • Since a copper ion has a positive charge of 1 e (charge of an electron), I can get the number of ions transferred.
  • Knowing that 1 mole of copper is 63.546 grams, I should be able to get a relationship between the change in mass and the number of moles—which will give me Avogadro’s number.

In my rough experiment, I had an electric current of 0.42 Amps for 10 minutes. This gives a total change in charge of 252 Coulombs. Dividing this by the charge of one ion (1.6 x 10-19 C) I get 5.575 x 1021 ions. The change in mass of one plate is 0.344 grams. That’s all I need. Now I can write:


That’s not a terrible value for Avogadro’s number. Really, it’s not. If you take the accepted value of 6.022 x 1023, then my estimate is just off by less than a factor of 2. I call that close enough. The idea works even if my method was a little bit sloppy. Still, my value is better than no value.

RIP, Mr. Cunningham…

Tom Bosley

Tom Bosley (October 1, 1927 – October 19, 2010)

Thomas Edward “Tom” Bosley was an American actor, best known for his starring and supporting roles on the television shows Happy Days; Murder, She Wrote and Father Dowling Mysteries, as well as the title role in the Pulitzer Prize-winning Fiorello!

Wikipedia Link

Happy Birthday, Robert Jordan

Robert Jordan was the pen name of James Oliver Rigney, Jr. (October 17, 1948 – September 16, 2007), under which he was best known as the author of the bestselling The Wheel of Time fantasy series. He also wrote under the names Reagan O’Neal and Jackson O’Reily.

Happy Birthday, Atari 2600!

Atari 2600

October 14, 1977

Wikipedia Link

White Christmas

White Christmas

The film was released in theaters October 14, 1954.

White Christmas is a 1954 movie starring Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye that featured the songs of Irving Berlin, including the titular White Christmas.

Wikipedia Link

Yeager Breaks Sound Barrier


U.S. Air Force Captain Chuck Yeager becomes the first person to fly faster than the speed of sound.

Yeager, born in Myra, West Virginia, in 1923, was a combat fighter during World War II and flew 64 missions over Europe. He shot down 13 German planes and was himself shot down over France, but he escaped capture with the assistance of the French Underground. After the war, he was among several volunteers chosen to test-fly the experimental X-1 rocket plane, built by the Bell Aircraft Company to explore the possibility of supersonic flight.

For years, many aviators believed that man was not meant to fly faster than the speed of sound, theorizing that transonic drag rise would tear any aircraft apart. All that changed on October 14, 1947, when Yeager flew the X-1 over Rogers Dry Lake in Southern California. The X-1 was lifted to an altitude of 25,000 feet by a B-29 aircraft and then released through the bomb bay, rocketing to 40,000 feet and exceeding 662 miles per hour (the sound barrier at that altitude). The rocket plane, nicknamed “Glamorous Glennis,” was designed with thin, unswept wings and a streamlined fuselage modeled after a .50-caliber bullet.

Because of the secrecy of the project, Bell and Yeager’s achievement was not announced until June 1948. Yeager continued to serve as a test pilot, and in 1953 he flew 1,650 miles per hour in an X-1A rocket plane. He retired from the U.S. Air Force in 1975 with the rank of brigadier general.

Cupcake Hacked


Redneck Big Mac


Teddy was right!


Say NO


RIP Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe was an American poet, short story writer, editor, critic and one of the leaders of the American Romantic Movement. Best known for his tales of the macabre, Poe was one of the early American practitioners of the short story and a progenitor of detective fiction and crime fiction. He is also credited with contributing to narrative forms of the emergent science fiction genre.

Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe (January 19, 1809 – October 7, 1849)

 Wikipedia Link

October 06, 1866: First U.S. train robbery

On this day in 1866, the Reno gang carries out the first robbery of a moving train in the U.S., making off with over $10,000 from an Ohio & Mississippi train in Jackson County, Indiana. Prior to this innovation in crime, holdups had taken place only on trains sitting at stations or freight yards.

Anniversary of Dr. No

On October 5, 1962, the 1st James Bond film, Dr. No, premiered in London (it would arrive in the US the 8th of May of 1963).

Dr. No poster

RIP Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs (February 24, 1955 – October 5, 2011)

In the late 1970s, Jobs, with Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, Mike Markkula and others designed, developed, and marketed one of the first commercially successful lines of personal computers, the Apple II series.

From such humble beginings, a legend was born… Jobs was the driving force behind the Macintosh (seeing potential in the mouse-driven GUI); founded NeXT after leaving Apple; aquired a little Lucasfilm’s computer graphics division (which became Pixar), and returned to Apple and become CEO.  When Pixar was aquired by Disney, he became Disney’s largest individual shareholder ever.

What a story… Wikipedia Link

Hermit crab with body guards

Happy Birthday, Stevie Ray Vaughan!

Stephen (“Stevie”) Ray Vaughan, born in Dallas, Texas, was an American blues guitarist, known as one of the most influential electric blues musicians in history. He is often referred to by his initials, SRV.

Stevie Ray Vaughan

Stevie Ray Vaughan (October 3, 1954 – August 27, 1990)

Wikipedia Link

September 30, 1954: USS Nautilus commissioned

The USS Nautilus, the world’s first nuclear submarine, is commissioned by the U.S. Navy.

The Nautilus was constructed under the direction of U.S. Navy Captain Hyman G. Rickover, a brilliant Russian-born engineer who joined the U.S. atomic program in 1946. In 1947, he was put in charge of the navy’s nuclear-propulsion program and began work on an atomic submarine. Regarded as a fanatic by his detractors, Rickover succeeded in developing and delivering the world’s first nuclear submarine years ahead of schedule. In 1952, theNautilus‘ keel was laid by President Harry S. Truman, and on January 21, 1954, first lady Mamie Eisenhower broke a bottle of champagne across its bow as it was launched into the Thames River at Groton, Connecticut. Commissioned on September 30, 1954, it first ran under nuclear power on the morning of January 17, 1955.