Staff Picks: Books
Staff-recommended reading from the
This Week in Science History May 20
May 18, 1980 Mount St. Helens erupted in Washington State. Although the volcano had been quiet for a period of time, scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey report that Mount St. Helens is the most active volcano in the Cascade Mountain Range. The cataclysmic eruption began with a 5.1 magnitude earthquake at 8:32 a.m. on the 18th, and within 15-20 seconds the largest landslide on earth in recorded history took place as the volcano’s summit and bulge slid away from its top. The eruption blasted ash and gas more than 15 miles up into the atmosphere. 520 million tons of ash were blown eastward across the U. S. by the prevailing winds and the Spokane area experienced complete darkness.
May 19, 1885 Jan Matzeliger began the first mass production of shoes in the U. S. in Lynn, MA. A shoemaker by trade, Matzeliger emigrated from Dutch Guiana (now Suriname) when he was 18 where his father was a white engineer and his mother a black slave. He found a job in a shoe factory in Philadelphia and worked hard to revolutionize the shoe making process. Shoes were tediously hand-made before this, and Matzeliger developed a shoe lasting machine which would attach the sole to the shoe in 1 minute! He had obtained a patent for this machine in 1883. Sadly, Matzeliger died in 1889 at the young age of 37 from tuberculosis but his invention made shoes available for the first time to ordinary people at a reasonable price and provided more jobs for workers.
May 20, 1990 the Hubble Space Telescope sent its first photograph from space. It was an image of a double star 1,260 light years away. The Hubble was named after American astronomer Edwin P. Hubble and is a large space-based observatory which has revolutionized the area of astronomy and has provided unprecedented clear deep views of the universe for scientists. The Space Telescope is about the size of a large tractor-trailer truck. It has circled the Earth more than 97,000 times and provided more than 4,000 astronomers access to the stars not possible from here on Earth. Coincidentally, the final mission to the Hubble to make much needed repairs and upgrades is currently in the home stretch. The crew will return to Earth Friday May 22 from its successful mission and the Hubble is expected to remain another 5 or more years in space. Check out the NASA website for updates on the mission.
The Universe in a Mirror:The Saga of the Hubble Telescope and the Visionaries Who Built It