Monday, January 22, 2007

In the Line of Duty

The first US Congressman to be killed in the line of duty was Leo Joseph Ryan, Jr. He was a representative from the 11th district in California.

In 1978, he was asked by family members to investigate the People's Temple, which had relocated from California to Guyana. The People's Temple was a religious cult led by Jim Jones.

Congressman Ryan, his aide, and several others visited the compound on November 17, where at first, they were well received. However, things eventually turned sour, and a first attempt was made on the Congressman's life. It was decided that the group should leave and try to resolve the problems at Jonestown at a later time. Upon leaving, Jim Jones decided that Congressman Ryan should not be allowed to return to the US. He ordered the Congressman killed and Leo Ryan was gunned down in at an airstrip, waiting for his flight.

Sources: Rick A. Ross Institute, Wikipedia, Political Graveyard

Friday, January 12, 2007

Crepuscular Animals and Rays

Crepuscular animals are those that are active during twilight hours or bright moonlit nights. During the day and during the darkest hours of night, they are hiding or sleeping. Many animals are considered crepsucular. A short list includes:
  • mosquitoes
  • dogs
  • cats
  • nighthawks
  • moose
  • rabbit
  • ferret
  • mouse
  • rat
The word derives from the French and Middle English word, crepuscule, which means twilight.

Source: Wikipedia
Take a quiz and identify the crepuscular animals: Zoobooks

Another use of the word is to describe a light scattering phenomenon called crepuscular rays. We are all familiar with these rays: they are often on inspirational photographs where the sun creates rays that seem to shine like lines against the background of a large cloud.

Crepuscular rays are created when a large object like a cloud blocks the sun. The rest of the sun's rays are shining around the object and when there are atmospheric effects, the light is scattered and easier to see, like dust in sunlight in your home.

For more information and the source: Crepuscular Rays

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Soul Weighs 21 grams?

Dr. Duncan MacDougall of Haverhill, Massachusetts attempted to weigh the human soul. In 1907, he placed 6 dying patients on a homemade scale, which also acted as a bed for the patients. He then recorded their weights before and after death. According to Dr. MacDougall, there was a difference of 21 grams between the heavier, living patients and their dead bodies.

He also experimented on 15 dogs and found no loss of weight between the living dogs and their dead bodies. He believed this was because animals do not have souls.

His experiments were criticized since of the six patients, two tests had to be discarded and the level of error was very high. Obviously, it was not a very scientific study.

I think the most interesting part of this bit of trivia is that someone actually tried to weigh a soul.

Source: Urban Legends Reference Page

Saturday, January 06, 2007

One of the oldest drugs

Besides alcohol, which may have been invented before bread, aspirin seems to be one of the oldest drugs to be continually used by human beings.

Aspirin has been used since the times of Ancient Greece in the form of willow bark and leaves. The willow trees contain a chemical called salicin which relieves pain and fever. Hippocrates (circa 460 B.C.E and 377 B.C.E) prescribed aspirin for pain, fever and headaches.

It wasn't until the early 1800's that the chemical compound, salicylic acid (SA), was isolated. Later, in 1897, a chemist created a stable, synthetic version of salicylic acid which is known as acetylsalicylic acid (ASA). His name was Felix Hoffmann, and he worked at Bayer, Germany.

The name "aspirin" is a compound word where 'a' stands for ASA, 'spir' from the spirea plant which also has a lot of salicin, and 'in' to indicate that the product is a drug.

Sources: Aspirin History, History of Aspirin