Posts about interesting events or people from history.

🦴📹 California oil history

I had no idea how common oil seeps were in California. Back when I was a kid I spent a lot of time on the beach in Carpinteria and always thought the tar I found on the bottom of my feet was from the oil rigs offshore. Turns out the oil was probably coming from the land just down the beach from the house where we stayed. I’d love to go on an oil seep hunt one day up here in the Bay Area.

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🦴📹 Excellent motorcycle history

Discovered this YouTube channel over the weekend. I’m not sure if it’s just called “Bart” or if it’s “Bart Motorcycle”, or maybe “Bart Moto”. Whatever the case, the videos this channel produces are excellent. Insightful, deep, and well researched. I’ve found motorcycle history rather opaque and tough to learn about. The first couple videos I watched from Bart Motorcycle immediately cleared up a couple points of confusion I had long held. If you’re interested in motorcycles, Bart Motorcycle is definitely a channel you want to subscribe to.


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📰🦴 Why is it called “Skyline Blvd”?

There were few all-year residents. The Mountain’s main use was light recreational, primarily summer use. Why, then, was Skyline Boulevard built in 1924 if there was no one here to demand it? Amazingly, the first urgings came from the military. The thinking ran like this: “With a good road down the ridge, we can quickly place heavy armorments anywhere best suited to stop a Pacific Coast invasion.”  They thought invaders would have difficulty fighting uphill against well positioned artillery.  They called it the “Sky-Line.”

They Called it the “Sky-Line” [Kings Mountain Online]

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🦴 The Day The Dinosaurs Died

The long read article below is incredibly fascinating. If you’re like me and can’t make it through more than a few pages without falling asleep, you’re in luck because there’s a spoken version of this article available. Simply look for the play button at the top of the article.

The Day The Dinosaurs Died [The New Yorker]

I’ve pulled out some interesting quotes below.

A 2013 study in the journal Astrobiology estimated that tens of thousands of pounds of impact rubble may have landed on Titan, a moon of Saturn, and on Europa and Callisto, which orbit Jupiter—three satellites that scientists believe may have promising habitats for life. Mathematical models indicate that at least some of this vagabond debris still harbored living microbes. The asteroid may have sown life throughout the solar system, even as it ravaged life on Earth.

It is fascinating to think about finding life on the moon of another planet in our solar system only to discover that it was seeded there by the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs. The model of ‘panspermia’ works in both ways.

Computer models suggest that the atmosphere within fifteen hundred miles of ground zero became red hot from the debris storm, triggering gigantic forest fires. As the Earth rotated, the airborne material converged at the opposite side of the planet, where it fell and set fire to the entire Indian subcontinent. Measurements of the layer of ash and soot that eventually coated the Earth indicate that fires consumed about seventy per cent of the world’s forests.

I cannot imagine forest fires on this scale. The entire Earth would have been a smoke-filled room. There would not have been a spot on the planet with breathable air.

After the fires died down, Earth plunged into a period of cold, perhaps even a deep freeze. Earth’s two essential food chains, in the sea and on land, collapsed. About seventy-five per cent of all species went extinct. More than 99.9999 per cent of all living organisms on Earth died, and the carbon cycle came to a halt.

The numbers above do not add up. How do 99.9999% of all living organisms die, but only 75% of species go extinct? That does not make sense. A scientist somewhere needs to check their math.

At the bottom of the deposit, in a mixture of heavy gravel and tektites, DePalma identified the broken teeth and bones, including hatchling remains, of almost every dinosaur group known from Hell Creek, as well as pterosaur remains, which had previously been found only in layers far below the KT boundary. He found, intact, an unhatched egg containing an embryo—a fossil of immense research value. The egg and the other remains suggested that dinosaurs and major reptiles were probably not staggering into extinction on that fateful day. In one fell swoop, DePalma may have solved the three-metre problem and filled in the gap in the fossil record.

The dinosaurs were indeed killed by a giant rock from outer space.

The Tanis site, in short, did not span the first day of the impact: it probably recorded the first hour or so. This fact, if true, renders the site even more fabulous than previously thought. It is almost beyond credibility that a precise geological transcript of the most important sixty minutes of Earth’s history could still exist millions of years later—a sort of high-speed, high-resolution video of the event recorded in fine layers of stone. 

Geology normally happens on the timescale of months, years, and decades, if not longer. The fact that an archeological site can hold a geological record in the timeframe of hours is astonishing!

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🦴📝 University of Maryland football helmets

Over the past half decade or so many college football teams have become experimental with their helmet and jersey designs. The University of Oregon knows a thing or two about this subject. When I was watching the Clemson v. Maryland game this afternoon I was blown away by the design of Maryland’s helmets and jerseys, specifically the helmets. They were badass. More badass than any football helmets I’ve ever seen. But why? What was it about these helmets that made them so much more attractive than any other football helmets?

As I started thinking about this question I realized I didn’t know much about the history of football helmets, so I did some digging. My research on helmets in the National Football League in the United States surfaced some interesting information. Apparently the origin of the football helmet dates back to 1896 when leather was fashioned into a protective headpiece. Eventually these primitive helmets contained padded leather which made them closely resemble the helmets used by aviators at the time. Despite the creation of the leather football helmet, injury rates remained high and many players chose not to wear one. It wasn’t until the 1920s that leather football helmets became widely used, but still they provided little protection and were uncomfortable to wear.

The year 1938 marked the first time football helmets were made out of plastic rather than leather. These plastic helmets were much more comfortable to wear and provided better safety for the players. Following this big advance in technology, the NFL required most players to wear helmets during the 1940s and by the 1950s nearly every NFL player wore a plastic helmet. While further advancements to the football helmet have produced modern helmets with a different look than their predecessors, the basic concept of helmet design remains the same: protect the player’s head with a hard outer shell and padding inside.

Alright, so that’s the history of football helmets. When did designs and logos enter the picture? Well, again we go back to the 1940s when Fred Gerhke, a halfback for the Los Angeles Rams who was also trained in art, hand painted his interpretation of the Rams’ logo onto his leather helmet. I can’t find information about whether he was the only player on the field with a painted helmet, but if he was I’m sure that must have been quite a remarkable sight.

An early Rams helmet from the 1950s.

Gerhke’s logo was eventually reproduced onto plastic helmets and remains on the Rams’ helmets today. Currently, the Cleveland Browns are the only NFL football team with no logo on their helmets. In fact, the Browns’ current helmet design is what nearly all of the helmets looked like in the NFL in 1960. The solid color with a stripe down the center design was ubiquitous. A few teams threw the player’s number onto the helmet, but there were no logos. That fact changed from 1962 onward. During this season many teams slapped logos onto the side of their helmets with little to no change to the existing ‘solid color with a stripe down the middle’ design. The landscape hasn’t changed very much since then either.

Football helmet design in the NFL has historically been dull despite its beginnings with the artist Gerhke. Its approach since the 60s has been based purely on logic: if players spend most of their time looking lengthwise down the field and most of the spectators are on the left or right side of the field, put the team’s logo on the left and right sides of the helmet. Every team except the Pittsburgh Steelers have done exactly that. They’ve taken the team’s logo, centered it on the side of the helmet, and provided plenty of negative space around the logo. This way of thinking is boring, dated, and played out.

However, the old way of thinking about helmet design may be coming to an end as college teams embrace progressive looking uniforms. This shift has largely been pushed ahead by the clothing and shoe companies which sponsor college teams. The effort to give teams more distinctive uniform designs is causing uniforms to break the traditional design rules.

Modern broadcast television and video games are changing uniforms as well. Gone are the days when the TV broadcast of a game only used a few cameras on the sideline. Nowadays, the crew covering a game may be using as many as two dozen cameras which focus on various aspects of the field, sidelines, and spectators from all sorts of different angles. The near-360º coverage of the game means that fans are no longer seeing the players exclusively from the left and right sides. Instead, we see close-up shots of players in high definition from all imaginable angles.

When it comes to football video games, few have reached the level of popularity attained by the Madden NFL series. In fact, Madden video games have become so popular that the primary camera angle from the video game has entered television broadcasts. Colloquially known as “Madden Cam”, the shot from the Skycam positioned above and behind the running back is becoming ever more common in broadcasts. For many years football video games sought to imitate real life, whereas today we are seeing real life imitate elements of video games.

The “Madden Cam” shot.

The people who design modern football uniforms now consider all of the factors mentioned above when preparing next year’s jerseys. When I viewed Maryland’s uniforms on TV and thought, “Wow, those look good!”, I was witnessing the successful efforts of designers who understand how to make a uniform attractive from many angles. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that Maryland’s helmets look like they could pass for motorcycle helmets.

Before I end this post with complete praise for Maryland football, I need to note that not all of their uniform designs have been successful…

Thankfully no, that writing on the helmet is not the Constitution. It’s a poem called “Defence of Fort McHenry”.

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