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Natural Rubber and Dandelions

Several years ago, Sir Isaac Newton offered proof that the Earth is a sphere flattened at the poles and bulging at the equator but French scientists disagree so the French send an expedition to South America to take measurements. One of the French scientists takes an overland route and collects plant samples along the way. That includes a rubber tree. He is fascinated with the possible uses for rubber including a rubber syringe that he has seen the natives make. He also sends back bark from a quinine tree. Quinine has been used to treat malaria, and frankly, all of the plants he sends back are already known to Europeans. They simply haven't been studied in a systematic way, yet. The study begins now. It will be several years before a comprehensive scientific paper on the uses for rubber will be published, but it will be published in France. [1] [2] [3] [4]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
Even though rubber trees came from the New World, 98% of natural rubber is now produced in the Old World. This is probably because there are fewer natural pests of rubber trees in the Old World so they grow more prolifically. However, the rubber tree noticeably changes the environment. It gets real quiet in the forest when the bugs and small animals have nothing to eat, so scientists have searched for alternatives. Synthetic rubber was invented at the beginning of the 20th century by the Bayer Company (the guys who gave you aspirin, and heroin). Most applications for rubber nowadays use synthetic, but it tends to crack under certain conditions so research has been devoted to extracting rubber from the sap of Russian dandelion plants. The advantage is the fast growth of the plants and it doesn't require a subtropical climate to grow. It is still in development so don't expect a commercial product any time before 2024, at the earliest. [5] [6] [7]

The Watt and the Coulomb (KOO-lahm)

James Watt is born in Scotland to a father who is a ship builder and carpenter. The key to his education is his father's workshop where James Watt will have his own workbench, tools and a small forge. In the years to come he will be asked to repair one of the early steam engines. After some experimentation he will notice how much heat is wasted and where. He will add a condenser and make modifications to conserve the heat where it is needed and move the heat away quickly when it is not needed. Later he will patent his system, but his poor business sense will force him to take on a partner. This partner will push Watt to add a mechanism to translate the reciprocal arm of the engine into rotational motion so that it can run looms and similar equipment. Later, Watt will patent a way to produce power on the forward and back stroke of the engine and after the invention of the pressure gauge, the modern steam engine will nearly be complete. He will turn what is essentially a weak vacuum pump into a powerful engine of the industrial revolution. Water wheels and windmills limit the locations for powered equipment (that is, equipment powered by belts). With a modern steam engine a factory with powered equipment can be located wherever it makes economic sense. [8] [9] [10] [11]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
Most people know the name "Watt" due to the light bulbs they buy. They are rated by watts of electrical power. The rating system was named in his honor in 1889. Another unit associated with electricity is named after a fellow born in 1736... Charles Augustin de Coulomb (KOO-lahm). He will come up with the inverse square law of magnetism similar to Sir Isaac Newton's inverse square law of gravitation. Essentially, as metal gets closer to the magnet the attractive force gets very strong very quickly and as you move the metal away, the force becomes weaker very quickly. (I'm simplifying the heck out of this. Do not attempt to build an electron super-collider based on this description.) The electrostatic force is measured in coulombs (KOO-lahms), named after the fellow who came up with this law. Just for reference, a fully charged alkaline AA battery contains about 5000 coulombs of electrostatic charge.

'Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death!'

Yes. Patrick Henry is born this year in the Old Dominion... that is... the Virginia Colony. His father is a Scottish immigrant. His mother is a wealthy widow of a prominent family. He is born into the middle gentry... about the same level as George Washington. He will try to make it as a farmer with a wife and the six slaves given to him as a wedding gift from his father, but with the land played out, the yields will be poor so... after moving into a tavern, he will take up lawyering. In 1765 he will be elected to the House of Burgesses (the Virginian legislature) and jump in with both feet. He will give a rip-roaring speech against the Stamp Act. The tale of the speech will grow in the telling. The line that most people cite was probably not said exactly this way, but most people have settled on this....

"Caesar had his Brutus; Charles the First his Cromwell; and George the Third ....may he profit by their example. If this be treason, make the most of it!" --Patrick Henry, 1765.
My Take by Alex Shrugged
History can be fuzzy. In 1775 Patrick Henry made another speech that most people remembered more clearly than his "treason speech." The Virginia legislature was arguing about whether to mobilize their troops in defense of Virginia against the mounting British threat. Patrick Henry's speech in favor of mobilization was not written down at the time. It was reproduced years later after his death from the recollections of others. Memory tends to smooth out the rough spots. Most of the name-calling was edited out. Whatever he actually said, he swung the vote in favor of mobilization. Years later people believe he said the following...[12]
Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death! --Patrick Henry, 1775.[13]

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1736, Wikipedia.

See Also


  1. Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft (28 October 2013). Making rubber from dandelion juice. ScienceDaily.com. Retrieved on 22 February 2016. “For production, only the Russian variety of our domestic plants can be used. This is the only type that features large quantities of rubber within its white latex sap. It is immense potential hidden inside the dandelion. Compared to the rubber tree, it has three decisive advantages: Its vegetation period only lasts one year, not several years. Afterwards, the plants can be harvested immediately, and be further optimized by breeding. At the same time, it is less vulnerable to pests. And finally, it does not require a subtropical climate and can be planted on domestic croplands.”
  2. Oblate - definition of oblate (2016). Retrieved on 22 February 2016. “Having an equatorial diameter greater than the distance between poles; compressed along or flattened at the poles:”
  3. Prolate - definition of prolate (2016). Retrieved on 22 February 2016. “(Mathematics) having a polar diameter of greater length than the equatorial diameter.”
  4. (1918) "Cinchona. U. S. Cinchona, Cinch. Peruvian Bark, Yellow Peruvian Bark. Cinchona Rubra, Red Cinchona.", The Dispensatory of the United States of America, Joseph P. Remington (editor), Horatio C. Wood (editor). Retrieved on 22 February 2016. “'Though the Peruvian bark was introduced into Europe so early as 1640, it was not until the year 1737 that the plant producing it was known to naturalists. In that year La Condamine, on a journey from Quito to Lima, through the province of Loxa, had an opportunity of examining the tree, of which, upon his return, he published a very complete description, with plate, under the name Quinquina, stating that three species were recognized.” 
  5. Nunn, Nathan; Qian, Nancy (Spring 2010). "Columbian Exchange: A History of Disease, Food, and Ideas, The". Journal of Economic Perspectives, The (American Economic Association) 24 (2): 163-188. http://www.jstor.org/stable/25703506. Retrieved 22 February 2016. "Because of the greater prevalence of pests and parasites in tropical regions, tropical plants benefited most from being transplanted (Dean, 1987, pp. 59-60). This benefit partially explains why today 57 percent of the production of coffee (which originated in the Old World) is produced in the New World, and why 98 percent of natural rubber is produced in the Old World from transplanted rubber trees originally from the New World.". 
  6. U.S. Synthetic Rubber Program - National Historic Chemical Landmark - American Chemical Society. acs.org (2016). Retrieved on 22 February 2016. “The first major use for rubber was balloon cloth, fabric coated with rubber dissolved in turpentine. In 1823, Charles Macintosh, using naphtha, a better solvent, laminated sticky rubber cloth and fabric together to make raincoats.”
  7. Tire makers race to turn dandelions into rubber - Reuters. reuters.com (2014). Retrieved on 22 February 2016. “So within a decade, rather than being a backyard bane like their wild cousins, the new flowers might be seen in neat rows in hundreds of thousands of acres across Europe and the United States, where they can grow even in poor soil.”
  8. Grun, Bernard. The Timetables of History: A Horizontal Linkage of People and Events. Simon and Schuster, 338-339. 
  9. Charles-Augustin de Coulomb - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 22 February 2016. “He was best known for developing Coulomb's law, the definition of the electrostatic force of attraction and repulsion, but also did important work on friction. The SI unit of electric charge, the coulomb, was named after him.”
  10. James Watt - Scottish inventor - Britannica.com. britannica.com (2016). Retrieved on 22 February 2016. “While repairing a model Newcomen steam engine in 1764, Watt was impressed by its waste of steam. In May 1765, after wrestling with the problem of improving it, he suddenly came upon a solution—the separate condenser, his first and greatest invention.”
  11. Sun and planet gear - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 22 February 2016. “The sun and planet gear (also called the planet and sun gear) was a method of converting reciprocating motion to rotary motion and was used in the first rotative beam engines.”
  12. William Wirt, 1772-1834. Sketches of the Life and Character of Patrick Henry. docsouth.unc.edu (1817). Retrieved on 22 February 2016. “It was in the summer of 1805 that the design of writing this biography was first conceived. It was produced by an incident of feeling, which however it affected the author at the time, might now, be thought light and trivial by the reader, and he shall not therefore, be detained by the recital of it. The author knew nothing of Mr. Henry, personally. He had never seen him; and was of course, compelled to rely wholly on the information of others. As soon, therefore, as the design was formed of writing his life, aware of the necessity of losing no time, in collecting, from the few remaining coevals of Mr. Henry, that personal knowledge of the subject which might erelong be expected to die with them, the author despatched letters to every quarter of the state in which it occurred to him as probable, that interesting matter might be found; and he was gratified by the prompt attention which was paid to his inquiries.”
  13. Give me liberty, or give me death! - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 22 February 2016. “The speech was not published until the Port Folio printed a version of it in 1815.[1] The version of the speech that is known today first appeared in print in William Wirt's 1817 biography of Henry.[1] There is debate among historians as to whether, and to what extent, Henry or Wirt should be credited with authorship of the speech and its famous closing words.”

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