The mad dash for riches that would later become known as the California Gold Rush began innocently enough. On the morning of January 24, 1848, James W. Marshall discovered bright specks of gold running through the channel of water that passed under the sawmill where he worked – Sutter’s Mill. Word spread quickly of the discovery of gold – and opportunists flocked to the area to pan for gold. By late 1848 into early 1849, hordes of men (and women) were flocking to California. The adventurers became known as “49ers,” named after the year in which many of them arrived.
While many gold seekers made a profit, especially the earlier to arrive, few became wealthy, and many were left poorer than before they made the trip. The biggest effect of the California Gold Rush was on California itself. In 1846, San Francisco was a small town of about 200 settlers. By 1852 – just six years later – the population had swelled to 36,000. By 1870, the population had reached 150,000.
Photo courtesy of OSUCommons
When Abbey Road, one of the Beatles’ most famous albums, was released in September of 1969, the last track listed on the second side of the record was “The End”. However, fans soon discovered that if they left their records playing after the conclusion of that song, they would hear 14 seconds of silence, and then a 23 second song titled, “Her Majesty.” This is considered to be the first “hidden track” in the history of popular music.
In most cases, a hidden track is included on a record to be an inside joke or special surprise to fans. But in the case of “Her Majesty,” its inclusion was a complete accident. The song was originally intended to appear in the middle of the second side, but it was removed, and Paul McCartney asked for it to be destroyed. However, EMI Music had a strict policy of saving everything the Beatles recorded, so it was instead placed at the end of the tape, separated from the rest of the recordings by a liberal amount of silence. When the tape was transferred to vinyl record, “Her Majesty” was unintentionally included in the album.
Pierre de Fermat is widely held as one the most influential mathematicians in Western history. He lived from 1601 to 1665, and though he made a number of contributions to the study of mathematics, he is perhaps bet known for the problem that became known as Fermat’s Last Theorem.
In 1637, in the margins of one of his books, Fermat wrote that he has proven that no three positive integers can satisfy the formula an + bn = cn, if n is greater than two. Unfortunately he wrote, “I have discovered a truly marvelous proof of this, which this margin is too narrow to contain.” This proof could never be found in his papers, and no other mathematician could prove that this statement was true for all positive integers. This problem was the subject of much speculation, and large cash prizes were offered throughout the 19th and 20th century to anyone who could supply a valid proof. However, it wasn’t until 1994, 329 years after Fermat’s death, that the theorem was finally successfully proven, by British-born mathematician Andrew Wiles. Three years later, Wiles collected $50,000 from the German Göttingen Academy of Sciences, a prize that was initially established in 1908 and went unclaimed for 89 years.
Many of us think of Santa Claus as a timeless figure, but in fact the image we have of him is a relatively modern one. Much of what makes Santa look like, well, Santa, stem from this illustration by cartoonist Thomas Nast, which appeared in the January 1, 1881 issue of Harper’s Weekly.
The platypus, native to the eastern coast of Australia, is by all account one of the stranger creatures on Earth. As a monotreme, it has many of the characteristics of other mammals, but different from other mammals in some important ways (for example, platypuses lays eggs). Here are four more things you may not have known about this creature.
- Platypuses are venomous. The male playtpus has spurs on its back legs that release a fairly powerful vemon. While it won’t kill a human, it would cause severe pain.
- Platypuses use electrolocation. The playpus contracts special muscles along its body to emit an electrical field which they can then “read’ with receptors located on their bill. This is the only sense they use when hunting for food (they eat shrimp, crayfish, worms, and other small creatures).
- Platypuses have a lower body temperature than most other mammals, averaging only 90° F.
- Platypuses can sleep for up to 14 hours per day.