Ben Franklin DID NOT Invent Daylight Savings Time!

Well, today we say goodbye to Daylight Savings time.  I hope you all enjoyed your extra hour of sleep.  Before the middle of the 19th Century, keeping time was more of an art than a science.  Time pieces and clocks were available, even common in certain circles but they were notoriously inaccurate.  However, the act …

Supplying the Army with Muskets – The birth of Mass Production in America

 “A good musket is a complicated engine and difficult to make — difficult of execution because the conformation of most of its parts correspond with no regular geometrical figure.” – Eli Whitney We all know Eli Whitney for his invention of the Cotton Gin but it was his contribution to industrial engineering and the manufacture …

Serendipity!

Sometimes the most interesting things are the things you learn by accident.  So, I did my normal Spymaster program at Princeton on September 12, 2021 and in this program, I demonstrate invisible inks.  My invisible ink (for cost and safety constraints) is a Na2HCO3 (baking soda) and turmeric reaction.  Unfortunately, when the people who graciously …

Early Meteorology — Predicting the Weather 18th Century Style: scientific beginnings in England

The shift from superstition to scientific study of meteorology began when proper measuring instruments became available in the mid-17th century. By the early 18th century, Daniel Fahrenheit produced accurate mercury thermometers calibrated to a standard scale that ranged from 32 to 96 degrees (i.e., from the melting point of ice to body temperature).  Early work …

Making Whiskey

Whiskey’s origin lies somewhere between 1,000 and 1,200 AD when traveling monks migrating across Europe, introduced the distillation practice into Scotland and Ireland.  Because of the lack of vineyards in these countries, the monasteries turned to fermenting grain mashes and then distilling them into whiskey.  For the next 400 years, whiskey spread throughout the Celtic countries.  …

Basic Colonial Brewing #18 — Proof your Whiskey, Sir

When it comes to arcane historical terms for spirits and other alcohol, proof is one of the frustrating ones.  In our modern vernacular, with the blessing of modern analytical chemistry as support, we simply think of “proof” as two times the alcohol by volume (ABV).  But why is this measure even a thing?  After all, …

Early Meteorology — Predicting the Weather 18th Century Style: old wives tales and superstitions

In the 18th century, families relied on almanacs to help them make many weather and seasonal decisions, such as when they should plant their crops or travel. However, almanacs only gave a long-term idea of what the weather might be based on weather in the past. Furthermore, in an age where all travel, especially by …

Blowing Smoke Up Someone’s Arse‡

Maybe I’m just having a bad day but after several government meetings, the term “Blowing smoke up someone’s ass” has been used way too much.  Just to set the record straight, this was not always a simple figure of speech indicating someone was being an insincere flatterer. Tobacco smoke enemas became a mainstream medical practice …

“And the Rockets’ Red Glare” – Rockets were originally used AGAINST the British in the 18th Century!

Missiles and missile rocket technology is a mainstay in the modern military.  In fact, most modern fighter aircraft have dispensed entirely with guns and typically are armed with various offensive and defensive rocket powered munitions.  While we are all familiar with the Chinese invention of fireworks, it was actually the INDIANS who turned these interesting …