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On This Day In Science And Skepticism

Listeners of The Skeptics’ Guide are well familiar with my fondness for science and skepticism set within the context of history. I would not want to have lived in any other time or place in the past in exchange for the space and time I currently occupy. We are currently at the scientific apex of history, and with each passing day, we can mark new levels of ascension.

And with each passing day, we become a day more removed from our predecessors, our ancestors, and the science, technology, and pseudoscience that went hand-in-hand with their daily existences. To have the advantage of peeking into the rear view mirror of history makes me just a bit more grateful and happy that I live when and where I do.

So in honor of my usual ‘poke into the past’ on the show, here are some of the events that took place on this day in history that strike my fancy as fascinating and enlightening.

On June 13th in science and skepticism …

In 1611, a publication on the newly discovered phenomenon of sunspots was dedicated. Narratio de maculis in sole observatis et apparente earum cum sole conversione. (“Narration on Spots Observed on the Sun and their Apparent Rotation with the Sun”). This first publication on such observations, was the work of Johannes Fabricius, a Dutch astronomer who was perhaps the first ever to observe sunspots.

In 1877, Louis Pasteur began his quest to develop an anthrax vaccine by visiting the slaughterhouses of Chartres to take blood samples from corpses of farm animals that have died of anthrax. In 1925, the first telecast in the U.S. of objects in motion was invented by Charles Jenkins. He called it “visions by radio.” The first mechanical TV system broadcast used 48 scanning lines and showed a model of Dutch windmill with its blades turning.

In 1983, space probe vehicle Pioneer 10 crossed the orbit of Neptune and became the first man-made object to leave our Solar System. It was launched 2 Mar 1972. It is moving in a straight line away from the Sun at a constant velocity of about 12 km/sec. Some 30 years after its launch, on 27 Apr 2002, NASA made successful contact with telemetry received from Pioneer 10 when it was at a distance from Earth of 7.57 billion miles, and the round-trip time for the signal (at the speed of light) was 22-hr 35-min. The probe sent information from the one scientific instrument that was still working, the Geiger Tube Telescope. The spacecraft is heading generally towards the red star Aldebaran, which forms the eye of Taurus (The Bull).

In 2010, a capsule of the Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa, containing particles of the asteroid 25143 Itokawa, returns to Earth. Hayabusa, formerly known as MUSES-C for Mu Space Engineering Spacecraft C, was launched on 9 May 2003 and rendezvoused with Itokawa in mid-September 2005. After arriving at Itokawa, Hayabusa studied the asteroid’s shape, spin, topography, colour, composition, density, and history. In November 2005, it landed on the asteroid and collected its samples.

Oh and as an added bonus, today is also National Juggling Day and Kitchen Klutzes Of America Day. Coincidence? I think not!

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