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February 19, 2008

The Inventors Hall of Fame Class of 2008

LED-hand.jpgLast week the National Inventors Hall of Fame announced its 2008 inductees. To be inducted, inventors must hold a U.S. patent (sorry Leonardo da Vinci) and "the invention must have contributed to the welfare of mankind and have promoted the progress of science and the useful arts."

Take a look around you. Perhaps you see a digital clock, a solar-powered desk calculator, or your lunch in a Styrofoam container. Each was made possible by one of this year's inductees.

  • Nick Holonyak, Jr. invented the first LED (light emitting diode).
  • Daryl Chapin, Calvin Fuller, and Gerald Pearson were the first to convert the sun's energy into electricity using silicon solar cells.
  • Ray McIntire invented polystyrene foam while working at Dow Chemical.
Other important inventions include Sir John Charnley's low-frictional torque hip replacement in the 1960s and Malcom McLean's concept of containerized shipping. A personal thanks to Robert Adler (ultrasound TV remote) and Ruth Benerito (wrinkle-free cotton). Brief bios for all 18 inductees are available on the website.

The hall was created by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and the National Council of Intellectual Property Law Associations in 1973. It now contains 371 inductees.

The 2008 National Inventors Hall of Fame Inductees

Image from joelogon's Flickr stream

December 5, 2007

The World at a Glance: Arts and Media

World Almanac 2008 Stacks Once again, here's a peek at "The World at a Glance" from the pages of The World Almanac 2008. This time, some assorted facts about Arts and Media.


Number Ones

Top-grossing U.S. movie, 2006: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, $423.3 mil
All-time top-grossing U.S. movie: Titanic (1997), $600.8 mil
#1 syndicated TV program, 2006-07: ESPN NFL Regular Season, 8.7% of TV households
All-time most watched TV program: M*A*S*H finale, Feb. 28, 1983, 50.2 mil households
#1 commercial radio format in U.S., 2007: Country, 2,034 stations
#1 recorded music genre in U.S., 2006: Rock, 34% of all music sold
All-time top-selling U.S. album: Eagles/Their Greatest Hits 1971-75, Eagles, 29 mil copies


Then and Now


1957 2007
Highest-rated TV show I Love Lucy (1956-57) American Idol (2006-07)
Best Picture Oscar Around the World in 80 Days The Departed
Emmy Awards
Comedy The Phil Silvers Show 30 Rock
Drama Requiem for a Heavyweight The Sopranos
Album of the Year Grammy1 No award2 Taking the Long Way, Dixie Chicks
Tony Awards
Drama A Long Day's Journey Into Night The Coast of Utopia
Musical My Fair Lady Spring Awakening
Pulitzer Prizes
Fiction No award3 The Road, Cormac McCarthy
Drama A Long Day's Journey Into Night, Eugene O'Neill Rabbit Hole, David Lindsay-Abaire
(1) Awards for 1956 (Then) and 2006 (Now). (2) The first Grammy Awards weren't awarded until February 1958--the same year that the first Gold Records were certified. 3) No prize for Fiction awarded in 1957.

February 23, 2007

Books: Praise and Challenge

Banned_Books_Week.jpg Receiving a Newbery Medal is usually cause for celebration. Aside from the honor bestowed by the award, the increased public attention that accompanies a Newbery allows publishers to ramp up sales of an award-winning book.

But Susan Patron, author of The Higher Power of Lucky, has received ire from certain quarters following her book's win of the 2007 Newbery Medal. Some school librarians have objected to the book's inclusion of the word "scrotum," which the book's 10-year-old protagonist overhears.

A New York Times article quotes a librarian who said she would not be ordering the book for her elementary school: "I don’t think our teachers, or myself, want to do that vocabulary lesson." In the same article, Pat Scales, a former chairwoman of the Newbery Award committee, is quoted as saying, "The people who are reacting to that word are not reading the book as a whole."

The American Library Association (ALA), which gives out the Newbery Medal, celebrates Banned Book Week every year. In connection with the event last year, the ALA released the following list, based on the number of formal complaints submitted by schools and libraries:

Most Challenged Books of [the] 21st Century (2000-2005)

  1. Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling
  2. The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
  3. Alice series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
  4. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  5. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
  6. Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers
  7. It's Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris
  8. Scary Stories series by Alvin Schwartz
  9. Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey
  10. Forever by Judy Blume

Links:
Banned Books (ALA)
Newbery Medal Home Page (ALA)
"With One Word, Children's Book Sets Off Uproar" (NYTimes.com)

January 18, 2007

BMJ's Top Medical Advance Since 1840

dreamybathroom.jpg Have a glass of tap water, take a shower, give a 21 flush salute! Sanitation has been rated the top medical advance since 1840 according to the British Medical Journal. The competition was tough (anesthesia, vaccines, the oral contraceptive pill, full list here), but clean water and sewage disposal gathered the most votes in an online poll that asked voters to rank the top 15 milestones, as selected by a panel of BMJ’s editors and advisers.

BMJ Summarizes:

In the 1800s acute infectious diseases that killed male breadwinners were a major cause of poverty. Believing that diseases were caused by air contaminated by poor urban drainage, governments built new sewage disposal and water supply systems. This revolutionised public health in Europe, and mortality from infectious diseases fell dramatically. Nowadays we know that better water supply and sanitation can cut diarrhoea among children in developing countries by about a fifth. The 19th century “sanitary revolution” shows that effective intervention does not always need accurate knowledge, that environmental measures may be more effective than changing individual behaviour, and that universal measures may be better than targeted measures in reducing health inequalities.
The poll was made to commemorate the launch of BMJ’s new website. The entire issue, including articles on all 15 milestones, is free online.

Photo of "Haiku and High Design", runner up in the National Kitchen & Bath Assoc.'s 2006 Bathroom Design Awards.

About Awards

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to The World Almanac in the Awards category. They are listed from newest to oldest.

Astronomy is the previous category.

Computers is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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