January 24, 2013 5:25 pm
If you’ve ever drank beer out of a can, you can thank Gottfried Krueger Brewery. They were the first ones, 78 years ago today, to put the tasty beverage in a can and offer it up to consumers. Wired writes:
Krueger had been brewing beer since the mid-1800s, but had suffered from the Prohibition and worker strikes. When American Can approached with the idea of canned beer, it was initially unpopular with Krueger execs. But American Can offered to install the equipment for free: If the beer flopped, Krueger wouldn’t have to pay.
So, in 1935 Krueger’s Cream Ale and Krueger’s Finest Beer were the first beers sold to the public in cans. Canned beer was an immediate success. The public loved it, giving it a 91 percent approval rating.
Compared to glass, the cans were lightweight, cheap, and easy to stack and ship. Unlike bottles, you didn’t have to pay a deposit and then return the cans for a refund. By summer Krueger was buying 180,000 cans a day from American Can, and other breweries decided to follow.
Just think of all the things you couldn’t do had they never filled those aluminum cans with beer? There would be no shotgunning, no crunching the can on your head, no beer can chicken. And, a lot of people would be way less rich. The History Channel says:
Today, canned beer accounts for approximately half of the $20 billion U.S. beer industry. Not all of this comes from the big national brewers: Recently, there has been renewed interest in canning from microbrewers and high-end beer-sellers, who are realizing that cans guarantee purity and taste by preventing light damage and oxidation.
That big business means lots of engineering and development to can a ton of beer as fast as possible. And those higher end breweries, making less beer than the big guys, have to figure out how to do it cost-effectively. How On Earth radio writes:
If you’re a beer drinker, you’ve probably noticed that there are a lot of cans on liquor store shelves these days. Here in Colorado, and elsewhere, more and more breweries are choosing to put their beer in cans. There are some good reasons for that, as you’ll hear in this segment.
But for the smallest of small breweries, canning can still be a real challenge. It’s expensive, and it takes up a lot of space. Enter Mobile Canning, a Longmont-based company that offers brewers a solution to both of those problems: put the canning line on a truck, and take it to any brewery that needs it. We speak with co-owner Pat Hartman in our Boulder studio.
Of course, designing a fully-automated canning line is no small feat – to say nothing of designing one that can be packed into a delivery truck. For that, we turn to Boulder firm Wild Goose Engineering. Chief Technology Officer Alexis Foreman also joins the conversation.
Whether high end of tailgate style, canned beer is here to stay. So dedicate your next crushed can to Gottfried Kruger.
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January 23, 2013 11:51 am
First devised in the early 1970s under the innocuous title “The Fantasy Game,” Dungeons & Dragons grew into a cultural juggernaut. Although it’s still stigmatized as a pastime for geeks—with the iconic 20-sided die symbolizing all that’s (to an outsider) unnecessarily complicated about it—the game’s influence can be seen in the archetypes and underlying structure of modern gaming.
From its initial launch the game itself has grown more complexed and nuanced, and at times, designers have revised entirely the way it is played. Though some Dungeons & Dragons fans map out their own adventures (with one person controlling the enemies and the story, and the other players controlling the protagonists), others follow preset guides. Wired‘s Ethan Gilsdorf:
For many of us, those early experiences of exploring dungeons, slaying monsters and devouring bowls of Cheetos are inextricably linked to specific gaming products and their charmingly amateurish artwork of animated skeletons, spider queens, and aqua-colored dungeon maps.
…Alas, many of those rulebooks and adventures from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s have disappeared — forgotten, made obsolete, or discarded with the trash by parents when young gamers went off to college. (Thanks, Mom!). Only occasionally do these out-of-print products resurface at yard sales, online shopping sites, or at specialized auctions. If they can be located, they’re often only available for exorbitant prices.
In advance of Dungeons & Dragons’ upcoming fortieth anniversary, the publisher of many of those old paperback guides has opened a digital archive that should eventually include every edition of the game ever produced—some of which are accessible for free. Though this archive may be designed with profit in mind, it will also help to preserve these original, increasingly rare pieces of gaming history.
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December 17, 2012 12:21 pm
Most people know the story—or at least the image of Rasputin—the bearded, mystical monk who infiltrated the Russian aristocracy. But his favor with the rulers of Russia didn’t last forever, and on this day in 1916 the monk was murdered, although it’s still a mystery who exactly orchestrated and carried out the deed.
The official account given by each of the conspirators, including Prince Felix Yusupov and Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich, among other members of the political elite, doesn’t line up with each other, nor with the autopsy report. What they say is that they invited him over on the day of December 16, 1916. Before arriving, they supposedly put copious amounts of cyanide into the wine and cakes they would serve him. That’s about as far as they can all agree, in terms of what happened next. One account states that he initially declined to eat or drink, (his daughter said this was likely due to the fact that since he was stabbed in the abdomen by a prostitute and nearly died a couple years before, he avoided eating sweet or acidic foods as they caused him pain). However, despite his initial rejections, he eventually accepted and ate and drank. A different account by other of the conspirators states that he ate several cakes and drank a large amount of wine when initially offered them. In either case, to the great distress of the conspirators, he did not die, nor showed any ill effects at all.
They then discussed the issue away from Rasputin as to what to do now. It was decided that they should just shoot him, so Prince Yusupov went back downstairs to the cellar and shot Rasputin. After Rasputin fell and appeared to be mortally wounded, they stated they left the cellar for a time to plan how to dispose of the body.
The next part is hazy. In one account, the Prince shook Rasputin to see if he was dead, at which point the monk woke up and began to strangle Prince Yusupov. In reaction, the conspirators shot him three more times. In another account, the three came back down to see him; he was trying to get away, so they shot him. The nearly dead Rasputin was then beaten, bound and thrown into the Neva River.
There’s also a strange British connection. The bullet that hit Rasputin’s forehead came from a British gun, and the British certainly wanted Rasputin dead. But no one knows just how involved they were in the actual murder.
So what made the monk deserve all this? Rasputin came from a mysterious background—no one really knows much about his life before he showed up in St. Petersburg in 1903 at the age of 34. But once he was there, he slowly rose to fame. The Russian news channel RT writes:
Rasputin met Bishop Theophan, who was at first shocked by Rasputin’s dirty look and strong smell, but he was nonetheless mesmerized by the ‘holy’ man and shortly introduced him to the Montenegrin princesses, Militsa and Anastasia, who also fell under his spell. He was then introduced by the sisters to Nicholas II and Aleksandra (the Tsar and Tsarina). Aleksandra was impressed by him straight away and he became a regular visitor to the palace; she spent hours talking to him about religion. Rasputin would tell her that she and the Tsar needed to be closer to their people, that they should see him more often and trust him, because he would not betray them, to him they were equal to God, and he would always tell them the truth, not like the ministers, who don’t care about people and their tears. These kinds of words touched Aleksandra deeply; she absolutely believed that he was sent to the royal family by God, to protect the dynasty. To her, Rasputin was the answer to their hopes and prayers. The Tsar and Tsarina shared with him their concerns and worries, most importantly, over their son Aleksey’s (the only male heir to the throne) health. He suffered from hemophilia. Rasputin was the only one who was able to actually help their son, how he did it will always remain a mystery, but Aleksey got better.
Rasputin had tons of fans, like these people:
Soon, Rasputin was in with Nicholas and became his trusted advisor. Not everyone liked that, of course, especially not the other nobles who saw Rasputin as weird, smelly drunk guy. They wanted him out, and finally, on this very day in 1916, they got their way.
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December 10, 2012 9:38 am
One hundred and eleven years ago today, the first Nobel Prizes were awarded in Stockholm, Sweden, for physics, chemistry, medicine, literature and peace. The day marked the five year anniversary of the death of Alfred Nobel, the award’s namesake and the inventor of dynamite. The History Channel writes:
In 1875, Nobel created a more powerful form of dynamite, blasting gelatin, and in 1887 introduced ballistite, a smokeless nitroglycerin powder. Around that time, one of Nobel’s brothers died in France, and French newspapers printed obituaries in which they mistook him for Alfred. One headline read, “The merchant of death is dead.” Alfred Nobel in fact had pacifist tendencies and in his later years apparently developed strong misgivings about the impact of his inventions on the world. After he died in San Remo, Italy, on December 10, 1896, the majority of his estate went toward the creation of prizes to be given annually in the fields of physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, and peace. The portion of his will establishing the Nobel Peace Prize read, “[one award shall be given] to the person who has done the most or best work for fraternity among nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies, and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.” Exactly five years after his death, the first Nobel awards were presented.
The prizes are actually announced earlier in the year, in November, but the actual ceremony for handing them out is always December 10th to a bit less international fanfare. In 1901, the first nobel prizes ever were awarded to the following people:
- Physics: Wilhelm Conrad Rontgen “in recognition of the extraordinary services he has rendered by the discovery of the remarkable rays subsequently named after him”.
- Chemistry: Jacobus Henricus van ‘t Hoff “in recognition of the extraordinary services he has rendered by the discovery of the laws of chemical dynamics and osmotic pressure in solutions”.
- Physiology or Medicine: Emil von Behring “for his work on serum therapy, especially its application against diphtheria, by which he has opened a new road in the domain of medical science and thereby placed in the hands of the physician a victorious weapon against illness and deaths”.
- Literature: Sully Prudhomme “in special recognition of his poetic composition, which gives evidence of lofty idealism, artistic perfection and a rare combination of the qualities of both heart and intellect”.
- Peace: Henry Dunant and Frederic Passy (with no explanation given)
You might notice that there’s no Nobel Prize for math, which is a bit odd. Among mathematicians, there’s a story that goes something like this: Alfred Nobel’s wife was cheating on him with a mathematician named Gosta Mittag-Leffler. Mittag-Leffler was a really good mathematician. So good that, should there have been a prize to award, he would have won it. And, therefore, there isn’t one.
Of course, that story is a bit too good to be true. Nobel never had a wife, and even his mistress seems to have had nothing at all to do with Mittag-Leffler. In fact, even without the cheating, it’s hard to find any evidence that Nobel had any hard feelings at all towards the mathematician. It’s far more likely that Nobel simply wasn’t interested in math.
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December 7, 2012 1:00 pm
Though not as well known as the late Neil Armstrong or Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt hold a similarly significant place in the history of human spaceflight—they are not the first, but rather the last, men to walk on the moon. Forty years ago today, a Saturn V rocket bore Cernan and Schmitt, as well as command module pilot Ronald Evans, to the Moon. Their mission, Apollo 17, was the last voyage of the Apollo program, the last time a human set foot on the Moon, and, in fact, the last time a human being can truly be said to have left the Earth: the International Space Station resides in low Earth orbit, still well within the planet’s upper atmosphere.
Lifting off after midnight, says Space.com, “the massive, 363-foot tall (111 meters) Saturn 5 rocket turned night into day as the long flames from its five powerful F-1 engines bathed the dark sky with a brilliant, bright-as-the-sun light that appeared to spectators to slowly climb skyward from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla.”
Space.com goes on to explain:
Landing at Taurus-Littrow four days after they launched, Cernan and Schmitt remained on the surface for just over three days, the longest duration lunar expedition to date. Like the two Apollo missions that preceded Apollo 17, the astronauts had a “moon buggy,” the Lunar Roving Vehicle or lunar rover, to extend the distance they could traverse across the rocky valley.
Before leaving the moon, Cernan proclaimed, “America’s challenge of today has forged man’s destiny of tomorrow. And, as we leave the Moon at Taurus-Littrow, we leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind.”
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