Friday, February 16, 2007

Odd and Interesting

Here are several links that make for good reading.

First, there's a very interesting article over at MSNBC about the origins of The Cat in the Hat. Here's an excerpt:
In 1954, the novelist and journalist John Hersey wrote an angry essay in Life magazine that condemned the “See Spot Run” style of children’s reading textbooks. If Johnny couldn’t read, Hersey argued, it was because he was bored to tears by what he had to read. Hersey called for more imaginative reading texts and he challenged children’s-book authors, including Dr. Seuss, to write such a book. Seuss accepted the challenge, thinking it might take him “a week or so.” But then he discovered the limitations he would be laboring under. First-reader vocabularies are slim—that’s where the 236 words came in. Not even all one-syllable words were permitted. “King” worked fine, for example, but “Queen” did not. In the end, it took him a year and a half to write and draw the book, an experience that he once described as like “being lost with a witch in a tunnel of love.”

The full article is here.

Next there's this from the BBC:
A bionic eye implant that could help restore the sight of millions of blind people could be available to patients within two years.

...The new devices work by implanting an array of tiny electrodes into the back of the retina.
A camera is used to capture pictures, and a processing unit, about the size of a small handheld computer and worn on a belt, converts the visual information into electrical signals.
These are then sent back to the glasses and wirelessly on to a receiver just under the surface of the front of the eye, which in turn feeds them to the electrodes at the rear.
The whole process happens in real time.

Here's one of the most remarkable war stories you'll ever hear (sent in by Daniel Quock):
Charlie Brown was a B-17 Flying Fortress pilot with the 379th Bomber Group at Kimbolton, England. His B-17 was called 'Ye Old Pub' and as in a terrible state, having been hit by flak and fighters. The compass was damaged and they were flying deeper over enemy territory instead of heading home to Kimbolton.

After flying over an enemy airfield, a pilot named Franz Steigler was ordered to take off and shoot down the B-17. When he got near the B-17, he could not believe his eyes. In his words, he 'had never seen a plane in such a bad state'. The tail and rear section was severely damaged, and the tail gunner wounded. he top gunner was all over the top of the fuselage. The nose was smashed and there were holes everywhere. Despite having ammunition, Franz flew to the side of the B-17 and looked at Charlie Brown, the pilot. Brown was scared and struggling to control his damaged and blood-stained plane. Aware that they had no idea where they were going, Franz waved at Charlie to turn 180 degrees. Franz escorted and guided the stricken plane to and slightly over the North Sea towards England. He then saluted Charlie Brown and turned away, back to Europe.

It's a truly remarkable story, and you can read it here.

Lastly, from Meg McReynolds, a link to an outstanding video that would have fit in just fine as a Monty Python skit. Very funny, and you can watch it here.

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