General Science

Who invented the toilet?

While Thomas Crapper was indeed a 19th century plumber in England, he did not invent the modern flushing toilet. That honor goes to Sir John Harrington who came up with a prototype for Queen Elizabeth I’s palace in the 16th century. Also more than 60 years before Crapper was even born, Alexander Cummings received the first patent for a flushing toilet in 1775.

Thomas Crapper was an interesting man though. He became an apprentice plumber in his teens and owned his own plumbing business by 25. He did come up with several patents for improving plumbing, some of which were for flushing. So was it merely an ironic coincidence that a man by the name of Crapper did a lot of work on toilets? Yeah, probably so.

Now is it possible that the term “crapper” being synonomous for toilet originated because this guy was a well-to-do plumber? You might think so, but it’s not likely. Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary says the term dates back to 1846, well before Thomas became the master plumber that we all know and love him for.

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Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Admin - 01/18/2012 at 1:08 pm

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Do people live in Antarctica?

The general answer is no, as there are no permanent residents of Antarctica. Several contries however, do maintain permanent research stations with scientists and support personnel that number up to 5,000 in the summer and about 1,000 in the winter. Most researchers do not stay through the winter but those that do are typically there on one-year assignments.

The United States has two primary bases there: Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station and McMurdo Station.

An interesting aside: the South Pole has no solar time so a station there could theoretically be in any of the world’s 24 time zones. They use New Zealand time (UTC +12) since all flights to the continent come from Christchurch.

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Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Admin - 01/08/2012 at 12:11 am

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What the heck is a pedicar?

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The pedicar was a pedal-powered, all-weather one passenger vehicle introduced in 1973 as a response to the energy crisis of the mid-1970s. According to the Handy Science Answer Book, it had straight-line pedal action, disc brakes, five forward speeds, neutral AND reverse. It’s 1973 cost was about $550 (US) which was fairly expensive as you could have bought a new Volkswagen beetle for at the time for about $1,300, and a used one for less than the cost of the pedicar.

The pedicar was conceived to be an alternative to the automobile. Claims of its speed were between 8 and 15 mph (13-15 k/h). It never quite took off in popularity and ended up mainly being used as a novelty conveyance around parks, resorts, country clubs and some college campuses.

It’s too bad this car didn’t become more popular as I would have enjoyed pedaling this thing to work every day at about 8 mph. Yeah, right.

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Admin - 04/01/2011 at 10:24 pm

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Who coined the term “Spaceship Earth”?

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Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983), an American scientist, author, inventor and environmentalist is credited with coining the term “Spaceship Earth.” He used it to represent the need for our technology to be self-contained. Think of the earth as a spaceship… it has to produce it’s own fuel, food, and usable resources, as well as take care of its own waste products. Basically, the earth has to be as self-contained as a spaceship.

One quote attributed to Fuller: “We have not been seeing our Spaceship Earth as an integrally designed machine which to be persistently successful must be comprehended and serviced in total.” [Source: Ashworth, William. The Encyclopedia of Environmental Studies]

On another note, Fuller is perhaps most remembered for his architecture work which included design of the geodesic dome.

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Admin - 03/28/2011 at 9:13 pm

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Who is the oldest person in the world?

As of March 2011, there are two age-verified Americans over 114 years old. Besse Berry Cooper of Georgia and Walter Breuning of Montana. Besse was born on August 26, 1896 and Walter was born on September 21, 1896 (26 days her junior).

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According to Wikipedia, there are less than 100 verified centenarians (persons living past the age of 100). And of centenarians, about 1 in 1,000 will live to be a super-centenarian (one who is living into their 12th decade.) Even rarer, is one who lives past the age of 115, which current estimates predict only 1 in 50,000 centenarians will reach.

An interesting study is observing the trend life expectancies have been changing over the past century. The following graph is the average life expectancy in the United States for each decade since 1900.

Life Expectancy TrendNote, statistics weren’t as accurately kept for the first part of the century but the overall trend is probably fairly accurate. Source of these data: U.S. Dept. of Commerce, Bureau of the Census. The report can be downloaded here.

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Admin - 03/23/2011 at 12:13 am

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Who was the first man to climb Mount Everest?

Source:, 2008

In 1953, Sir Edmund Hillary of New Zealand was the first person to make it to the top of Mt. Everest. He was immediately by Tenzing Norgay of Nepal. The two were part of an eleven man expedition led by Colonel John Hunt. Of the eleven men in their party, only four were able to attempt the final trek to the summit.

Colonel Hunt picked Tom Bourdillon and Charles Evans for their party’s first attempt. They got within 100 meters of the summit, but couldn’t make it all the way to the top. Hillary and Norgay reached the summit on May 29, 1953 at 11:30 a.m. Even though Hillary placed Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Admin - 10/18/2010 at 9:35 pm

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Who discovered the mitochondria?


The mitochondrian was first identified at the end of the 19th century by a German pathologist and histologist (tissue researcher) named Richard Altmann. It was given the name “mitochondria” by Karl Benda, a German physician. (1857-1933). [source: Read more…

8 comments - What do you think?  Posted by Admin - 09/19/2010 at 9:13 pm

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