See Every Nuclear Explosion in History: 2153 Blasts from 1945-2015

There have been more than 2,000 nuclear explosions in all of history — which, in the case of the technology required to detonate a nuclear explosion, goes back only 76 years. It all began, according to the animated video above, on July 16, 1945, with the nuclear device code-named Trinity. The fruit of the labors of the Manhattan Project, its explosion famously brought to the mind of theoretical physicist Robert J. Oppenhemier a passage from the Bhagavad Gita: “Now I am become Death, destroyer of worlds.” But however revelatory a spectacle Trinity provided, it turned out merely to be the overture of the nuclear age.

Created by Ehsan Rezaie of Orbital Mechanics, the video offers a simple-looking but deceptively information-rich presentation of every nuclear explosion that has so far occurred. It belongs to a perhaps unlikely but nevertheless decisively established genre, the animated nuclear-explosion time-lapse, of which we’ve previously featured examples from Business Insider’s Alex Kuzoian and artist Isao Hasimoto here on Open Culture.




The size of each circle that erupts on the world map indicates the relative power of the explosion in its location (all information also provided in the scrolling text on the lower left); those detonated underground appear in yellow, those detonated underwater in blue, and those detonated in the atmosphere in red.

Trinity created an atmospheric explosion above New Mexico’s Jornada del Muerto desert. (Otherwise Oppenheimer wouldn’t have been able to witness it change the world.) So did Little Boy and Fat Man, the bombs dropped on Japan in World War II. Those remain the only detonations of nuclear weapons in combat, and thus the nuclear explosions everyone knows, but they, too, represent only the beginning. As the Cold War sets in, something of a testing volley emerges between the United States and the Soviet Union, culminating in the colossal red dot of 1961’s Tsar Bomba, still the most powerful nuclear weapon ever tested. With the USSR long gone today, the explosions have only slowed. But in recent years, as the data on which this video is based indicates, nuclear testing has turned into a one-player game — and that player is North Korea.

Related Content:

Every Nuclear Bomb Explosion in History, Animated

53 Years of Nuclear Testing in 14 Minutes: A Time Lapse Film by Japanese Artist Isao Hashimoto

200 Haunting Videos of U.S. Nuclear Tests Now Declassified and Put Online

Watch Chilling Footage of the Hiroshima & Nagasaki Bombings in Restored Color

U.S. Detonates Nuclear Weapons in Space; People Watch Spectacle Sipping Drinks on Rooftops (1962)

J. Robert Oppenheimer Explains How He Recited a Line from Bhagavad Gita–“Now I Am Become Death, the Destroyer of Worlds” — Upon Witnessing the First Nuclear Explosion

Haunting Unedited Footage of the Bombing of Nagasaki (1945)

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

How Italian Physicist Laura Bassi Became the First Woman to Have an Academic Career in the 18th Century

The practice and privilege of academic science has been slow in trickling down from its origins as a pursuit of leisured gentleman. While many a leisured lady may have taken an interest in science, math, or philosophy, most women were denied participation in academic institutions and scholarly societies during the scientific revolution of the 1700s. Only a handful of women — seven known in total — were granted doctoral degrees before the year 1800. It wasn’t until 1678 that a female scholar was given the distinction, some four centuries or so after the doctorate came into being. While several intellectuals and even clerics of the time held progressive attitudes about gender and education, they were a decided minority.

Curiously, four of the first seven women to earn doctoral degrees were from Italy, beginning with Elena Cornaro Piscopia at the University of Padua. Next came Laura Bassi, who earned her degree from the University of Bologna in 1732. There she distinguished herself in physics, mathematics, and natural philosophy and became the first salaried woman to teach at a university (she was at one time the university’s highest paid employee). Bassi was the chief popularizer of Newtonian physics in Italy in the 18th century and enjoyed significant support from the Archbishop of Bologna, Prospero Lambertini, who — when he became Pope Benedict XIV — elected her as the 24th member of an elite scientific society called the Benedettini.




“Bassi was widely admired as an excellent experimenter and one of the best teachers of Newtonian physics of her generation,” says Paula Findlen, Stanford professor of history. “She inspired some of the most important male scientists of the next generation while also serving as a public example of a woman shaping the nature of knowledge in an era in which few women could imagine playing such a role.” She also played the role available to most women of the time as a mother of eight and wife of Giuseppe Veratti, also a scientist.

Bassi was not allowed to teach classes of men at the university — only special lectures open to the public. But in 1740, she was granted permission to lecture at her home, and her fame spread, as Findlen writes at Physics World:

 Bassi was widely known throughout Europe, and as far away as America, as the woman who understood Newton. The institutional recognition that she received, however, made her the emblematic female scientist of her generation. A university graduate, salaried professor and academician (a member of a prestigious academy), Bassi may well have been the first woman to have embarked upon a full-fledged scientific career.

Poems were written about Bassi’s successes in demonstrating Newtonian optics; “news of her accomplishments traveled far and wide,” reaching the ear of Benjamin Franklin, whose work with electricity Bassi followed keenly. In Bologna, surprise at Bassi’s achievements was tempered by a culture known for “celebrating female success.” Indeed, the city was “jokingly known as a ‘paradise for women,’” writes Findlen. Bassi’s father was determined that she have an education equal to any of her class, and her family inherited money that had been equally divided between daughters and sons for generations; her sons “found themselves heirs to the property that came to the family through Laura’s maternal line,” notes the Stanford University collection of Bassi’s personal papers.

Bassi’s academic work is held at the Academy of Sciences in Bologna. Of the papers that survive, “thirteen are on physics, eleven are on hydraulics, two are on mathematics, one is on mechanics, one is on technology, and one is on chemistry,” writes a University of St. Andrew’s biography. In 1776, a year usually remembered for the formation of a government of leisured men across the Atlantic, Bassi was appointed to the Chair of Experimental Physics at Bologna, an appointment that not only meant her husband became her assistant, but also that she became the “first woman appointed to a chair of physics at any university in the world.”

Bologna was proud of its distinguished daughter, but perhaps still thought of her as an oddity and a token. As Dr. Eleonora Adami notes in a charming biography at sci-fi illustrated stories, the city once struck a medal in her honor, “commemorating her first lecture series with the phrase ‘Soli cui fas vidisse Minervam,’” which translates roughly to “the only one allowed to see Minerva.” But her example inspired other women, like Cristina Roccati, who earned a doctorate from Bologna in 1750, and Dorothea Erxleben, who became the first woman to earn a Doctorate in Medicine four years later at the University of Halle. Such singular successes did not change the patriarchal culture of academia, but they started the trickle that would in time become several branching streams of women succeeding in the sciences.

Related Content: 

Marie Curie Became the First Woman to Win a Nobel Prize, the First Person to Win Twice, and the Only Person in History to Win in Two Different Sciences

Jocelyn Bell Burnell Changed Astronomy Forever; Her Ph.D. Advisor Won the Nobel Prize for It

Women Scientists Launch a Database Featuring the Work of 9,000 Women Working in the Sciences

“The Matilda Effect”: How Pioneering Women Scientists Have Been Denied Recognition and Written Out of Science History

The Little-Known Female Scientists Who Mapped 400,000 Stars Over a Century Ago: An Introduction to the “Harvard Computers”

Real Women Talk About Their Careers in Science

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Watch an Exquisite 19th Century Coffee Maker in Action

Pourover

Cold brew

Single origin

Coffee snobbery may seem like a recent phenomenon, but the quest for the perfectly brewed cup has been going on for a very long time.

Behold the Continental Balancing Siphon, above — a completely automatic, 19th-century table top vacuum brewer.




There’s an unmistakable element of coffee making as theater here… but also, a fascinating demonstration of physical principles in action.

Vintage vacuum pot collector Brian Harris breaks down how the balancing siphon works:

Two vessels are arranged side-by-side, with a siphon tube connecting the two.

Coffee is placed in one side (usually glass), and water in the other (usually ceramic). 

A spirit lamp heats the water, forcing it through the tube and into the other vessel, where it mixes with the coffee. 

As the water is transferred from one vessel to the other, a balancing system based on a counterweight or spring mechanism is activated by the change in weight. This in turn triggers the extinguishing of the lamp. A partial vacuum is formed, which siphons the brewed coffee through a filter and back into the first vessel, from which is dispensed by means of a spigot.

(Still curious? We direct you to Harris’ website for a lengthier, more eggheaded explanation, complete with equations, graphs, and calculations for saturated vapor pressure and the approximate temperature at which downward flow begins.)

The balancing siphon was to 1850’s Paris and Vienna what Blue Bottle’s three-foot tall Japanese slow-drip iced coffee-making devices are to early 21st-century Brooklyn and Oakland.

Does the flavor of coffee brewed in a balance siphon merit the time and, if purchased in a cafe, expense?

Yes, according to Maria Tindemans, the CEO of Royal Paris, whose 24-carat gold and Bacarrat glass balancing siphon retails for between $17,500 and $24,000:

The coffee from a syphon can best be described as “crystal clear,” with great purity of flavor and aroma and no bitterness added by the brewing process.

More affordable balancing siphons can be found online, though be forewarned, all siphons are a bitch to clean, according to Reddit.

If you do invest, be sure to up the coffee snobbery by telling your captive audience that you’ve named your new device “Gabet,” in honor of Parisian Louis Gabet, whose 1844 patent for a counterweight mechanism kicked off the balancing siphon craze.

via Boing Boing

Related Content:

How to Make the World’s Smallest Cup of Coffee, from Just One Coffee Bean

The Life Cycle of a Cup of Coffee: The Journey from Coffee Bean, to Coffee Cup

Wake Up & Smell the Coffee: The New All-in-One Coffee-Maker/Alarm Clock is Finally Here!

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday

A Dancer Pays a Gravity-Defying Tribute to Claude Debussy

Most dancers have an intuitive understanding of physics.

Choreographer Yoann Bourgeois pushes this science beyond the standard lifts, leaps, and pirouettes, drawing on his training at the Centre National Des Arts du Cirque for a piece marking the centenary of composer Claude Debussy’s death, above.

Given the occasion, the choice of Clair de Lune, Debussy’s best loved piano work, feels practically de rigueur, but the trampoline comes as a bit of a shock.

We may not be able to see it, but it plays such an essential role, it’s tempting to call this solo a pas de deux. At the very least, the trampoline is an essential collaborator, along with pianist Alexandre Tharau and filmmaker Raphaël Wertheimer.




Bourgeois’ expressiveness as a performer has earned him comparisons to Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. His choreography shows that he also shares their work ethic, attention to detail, and love of jawdropping visual stunts.

Don’t expect any random boinging around on this tramp’.

For four and a half minutes, Bourgeois’ everyman struggles to get to the top of a stark white staircase. Every time he falls off, the trampoline launches him back onto one of the steps — higher, lower, the very one he fell off of…

Interpret this struggle how you will.

Psyche, a digital magazine that “illuminates the human condition through psychology, philosophical understanding and the arts” found it to be “an abstracted interpretation of a childlike experience of time.” One viewer wondered if the number of steps — twelve — was significant.

It’s no stretch to conceive of it as a comment on the nature of life — a constant cycle of falling down and bouncing back.

It’s lovely to behold because Bourgeois makes it look so easy.

In an interview with NR, he spoke of how his circus studies led to the realization that “the relationship between physical forces” is what he’s most interested in exploring. The stairs and trampoline, like all of his sets (or devices, as he prefers to call them), are there to “amplify specific physical phenomenon”:

In science, we’d call them models – they’re simplifications of our world that enable me to amplify one particular force at a time. Together, this ensemble of devices, this constellation of constructed devices, tentatively approaches the point of suspension. And so, this makes up a body of research; it’s a life’s research that doesn’t have an end in itself. 

The relationship with physical forces has an eloquent capacity that can be very big; it has the kind of expression that is universal.

Watch more of Youann Bourgeois’ physics-based choreography on his YouTube channel.

Related Content: 

Hear Debussy Play Debussy: A Vintage Recording from 1913

Quarantined Dancer Creates Shot-for-Shot Remake of the Final Dirty Dancing Scene with a Lamp as a Dance Partner

One of the Greatest Dances Sequences Ever Captured on Film Gets Restored in Color by AI: Watch the Classic Scene from Stormy Weather

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

How Richard Feynman’s Diagrams Revolutionized Physics

If you want to understand theoretical physics these days—as much as is possible without years of specialized study—there are no shortage of places to turn on the internet. Of course, this was not the case in the early 1960s when Richard Feynman gave his famous series of lectures at Caltech. In published form, these lectures became the most popular book on physics ever written. Feynman’s subsequent autobiographical essays and accessible public appearances further solidified his reputation as the foremost popular communicator of physics, “a fun-loving, charismatic practical joker,” writes Mette Ilene Holmnis at Quanta magazine, even if “his performative sexism looks very different to modern eyes.”

Feynman’s genius went beyond that of “ordinary geniuses,” his mentor, Hans Bethe, director of the Manhattan Project, exclaimed: “Feynman was a magician.” That may be so, but he was never above revealing how he learned his tricks, such that anyone could use his methods, whether or not they could achieve his spectacular results. Feynman didn’t only teach his students, and his millions of readers, about physics; he also taught them how to teach themselves. The so-called “Feynman technique” for effective studying ensures that students don’t just parrot knowledge, but that they can “identify any gaps” in their understanding, he emphasized, and bolster weak points where they “can’t explain an idea simply.”




Years before he became the foremost public communicator of science, Feynman performed the same service for his colleagues. “With physicists in the late 1940s struggling to reformulate a relativistic quantum theory describing the interactions of electrically charged particles,” Holmnis writes, “Feynman conjured up some Nobel Prize-winning magic. He introduced a visual method to simplify the seemingly impossible calculations needed to describe basic particle interactions.” The video above, animated by Holmnis, shows just how simple it was—just a few lines, squiggles, circles, and arrows.

Holmnis quotes Feynman biographer James Gleick’s description: Feynman “took the half-made conceptions of waves and particles in the 1940s and shaped them into tools that ordinary physicists could use and understand.” Feynman Diagrams helped make sense of quantum electrodynamics, a theory that “attempted to calculate the probability of all possible outcomes of particle interactions,” the video explains. Among the theory’s problems was the writing of “equations meant keeping track of all interactions, including virtual ones, a grueling, hopeless exercise for even the most organized and patient physicist.”

Using his touch for the relatable, Feynman drew his first diagrams in 1948. They remain, wrote Nobel Prize-winning physicist Frank Wilczek, “a treasured asset in physics because they often provide good approximations to reality. They help us bring our powers of visual imagination to bear on worlds we can’t actually see.” Learn more about Feynman Diagrams in the video above and at Holmnis’ article in Quanta here.

Related Content:

The “Feynman Technique” for Studying Effectively: An Animated Primer

The Feynman Lectures on Physics, The Most Popular Physics Book Ever Written, Is Now Completely Online

What Made Richard Feynman One of the Most Admired Educators in the World

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Behold the Steampunk Home Exercise Machines from the Victorian Age

The pandemic has resulted in a lot of people reinventing their fitness regimens, investing in pricey items like Mirror and Peloton bikes to turn homes into home gyms.

Personally, we’re saving our pennies until some Etsy seller replicates the mechanical therapy systems of Dr. Gustav Zander (1835–1920).

From the mid-19th century through WWI, these machines were at the forefront of gym culture. Their function is extremely similar to modern strength training equipment, but their design exudes a dashing steampunk flair.




If the thing that’s going to help us work off all this sourdough weight is going to wind up colonizing half our apartment, we want something that will go with our maximalist thrift store aesthetic.

We might even start working out in floor length skirts and three piece suits in homage to Zander’s original devotees.

His 27 machines addressed abs, arms, adductors—all the greatest hits—using weights and levers to strengthen muscles through progressive exertion and resistance. Specially trained assistants were on hand to adjust the weights, a luxury that our modern world has seen fit to phase out.

Just as 21st-century fitness centers position themselves as lifesavers of those who spend the bulk of the day hunched in front of a computer, Zander’s inventions targeted sedentary office workers.

The industrial society that created this new breed of laborer also ensured that the Swedish doctor’s contraptions would garner accolades and attention. They were already a hit in their land of origin when they took a gold medal at Philadelphia’s 1876 Centennial Exhibition.

The flagship Therapeutic Zander Institute in Stockholm expanded, with branches in London and New York City.

The New York Times described the latter as giving the “uninitiated observer an impression of a carefully devised torture chamber more than of a doctor’s office or a gymnasium, both of which functions the institute, to a certain degree, fills.”

Surely no more tortuous than the blood lettingblistering, and purging that were also thought healthful at the time…

See more of Dr. Gustav Zander’s exercise machines here.

via @ddoniolvalcroze

Related Content:

The Amazing Franz Kafka Workout!: Discover the 15-Minute Exercise Routine That Swept the World in 1904

Walt Whitman’s Unearthed Health Manual, “Manly Health & Training,” Urges Readers to Stand (Don’t Sit!) and Eat Plenty of Meat (1858)

This Is Your Brain on Exercise: Why Physical Exercise (Not Mental Games) Might Be the Best Way to Keep Your Mind Sharp

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. This month, she appearsas a French Canadian bear who travels to New York City in search of food and meaning in Greg Kotis’ short film, L’Ourse.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

The Geometry of Sound: Watch Artist Kenichi Kanazawa Make Amazing Geometric Designs Out of Sand, Using Sound Waves Alone

Before our eyes, Japanese artist Kenichi Kanazawa creates crisp shapes and geometric patterns with no special tools but sand and sound, the kind of work that at first looks expressly designed to go viral on social media. But he’s been at it much longer than that: “Originally a sculptor by trade,” according to Spoon & Tamago’s Johnny Waldman, “Kanazawa began working with steel and sound in 1987 after collaborating with the late sound artist Hiroshi Yoshimura. Today, his work primarily involves elements like sound, vibration and heat: making the invisible, visible.” Or in other words, using what critic and music Ted Gioia calls, in a tweet of one of Kanazawa’s short tabletop performances, “the power of sound to create order out of chaos.”

Kanazawa doesn’t use just any old tables, but special ones made of steel, the better to resonate when he taps and strokes them with his variety of mallets. Nor does he use just any old sand, opting instead for either a pure white — for maximum visual starkness against the black steel — or a set of bright colors, as in the video at the top of the post.




Whatever its place on the spectrum, the stuff seems to rearrange itself across the surface in response to the tones created by the artist. The striking precision of the effects produced by this interaction of sand, steel, and sound gets viewers wondering what, scientifically, is going on here. The underlying set of phenomena has a name: cymatics, coined in the 1960s by a Swiss doctor named Hans Jenny.

In his book Healing Songs, Gioia calls Jenny’s study of cymatics “the most impressive and rigorous inquiry yet made into the nature of vibrations and their impact on physical objects of various sorts.” In such a medium sensitive to sonic vibrations, Jenny himself writes, “a pattern appears to take shape before the eye and, as long as the sound is spoken, to behave like something alive.” This also fairly describes Kanazawa’s dancing sand, whether seen from up close or at a distance. Physically speaking, sound is, of course, a form of vibration, which is itself a form of motion. But for an observer like Jenny — an adherent of esoteric philosopher Rudolf Steiner’s anthroposophy, a school of thought oriented toward the observation of the spiritual world through sensory experience — Kanazawa’s work would surely have, as it were, much deeper resonances.

via @TedGioia

Related Content:

The Geometry of Sound Waves Visualized

What Does Sound Look Like?: The Audible Rendered Visible Through Clever Technology

The Physics of Playing a Guitar Visualized: Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters” Viewed from Inside the Guitar

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

Trips on the World’s Oldest Electric Suspension Railway in 1902 & 2015 Show How a City Changes Over a Century

Today we take a ride on the world’s oldest electric suspension railway—the Wuppertal Schwebebahn in Germany.

Actually, we’ll take two rides, traveling back in time to do so, thanks to YouTuber pwduze, who had a bit of fun trying to match up two videos discovered online for comparison’s sake.

The journey on the left was filmed in 1902, when this miracle of modern engineering was but a year old.

The train passes over a broad road traveled mostly by pedestrians.




Note the absence of cars, traffic lights, and signage, as well as the proliferation of greenery, animals, and space between houses.

The trip on the right was taken much more recently, shortly after the railway began upgrading its fleet to cars with cushioned seats, air conditioning, information displays, LED lighting, increased access for people with disabilities and regenerative brakes.

An extended version at the bottom of this page provides a glimpse of the control panel inside the driver’s booth.

There are some changes visible beyond the windshield, too.

Now, cars, buses, and trucks dominate the road.

A large monument seems to have disappeared at the 2:34 mark, along with the plaza it once occupied.

Fieldstone walls and 19th-century architectural flourishes have been replaced with bland cement.

There’s been a lot of building—and rebuilding. 40% of Wuppertal’s buildings were destroyed by Allied bombing in WWII.

Although Wuppertal is still the greenest city in Germany, with access to public parks and woodland paths never more than a ten-minute walk away, the views across the Wupper river to the right are decidedly less expansive.

As Benjamin Schneider observes in Bloomberg CityLab:

For the Schwebebahn’s first riders at the turn of the 20th century, these vistas along the eight-mile route must have been a revelation. Many of them would have ridden trains and elevators, but the unobstructed, straight-down views from the suspended monorail would have been novel, if not terrifying.

The bridge structures appear to have changed little over the last 120 years, despite several safety upgrades.

Those steampunk silhouettes are a testament to the planning—and expense—that resulted in this unique mass transit system, whose origin story is summarized by Elmar Thyen, head of Schwebebahn’s Corporate Communications and Strategic Marketing:

We had a situation with a very rich city, and very rich citizens who were eager to be socially active. They said, ‘Which space is publicly owned so we don’t have to go over private land?… It might make sense to have an elevated railway over the river.’

In the end, this is what the merchants wanted. They wanted the emperor to come and say, ‘This is cool, this is innovative: high tech, and still Prussian.’

At present, the suspension railway is only operating on the weekends, with a return to regular service anticipated for August 2021. Face masks are required. Tickets are still just a few bucks.

Related Content: 

The Flying Train: A 1902 Film Captures a Futuristic Ride on a Suspended Railway in Germany

Trains and the Brits Who Love Them: Monty Python’s Michael Palin on Great Railway Journeys

A New Digitized Menu Collection Lets You Revisit the Cuisine from the “Golden Age of Railroad Dining”

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

More in this category... »
Quantcast
Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.