The great Katherine Johnson, one of the legendary African-American mathematicians who were essential to the Apollo 11 moon landing, has died at age 101. You'll recall that Johnson, who worked at NASA’s Flight Research Division for more than three decades, was the central character in the film Hidden Figures. From the New York Times:
Mrs. Johnson was one of several hundred rigorously educated, supremely capable yet largely unheralded women who, well before the modern feminist movement, worked as NASA mathematicians.
But it was not only her sex that kept her long marginalized and long unsung: Katherine Coleman Goble Johnson, a West Virginia native who began her scientific career in the age of Jim Crow, was also African-American.
In old age, Mrs. Johnson became the most celebrated of the small cadre of black women — perhaps three dozen — who at midcentury served as mathematicians for the space agency and its predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics.
In 2015, President Barack Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, proclaiming, “Katherine G. Johnson refused to be limited by society’s expectations of her gender and race while expanding the boundaries of humanity’s reach.”
In 2017, NASA dedicated a building in her honor, the Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility, at its Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va.
More: Katherine Johnson (NASA)
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In this amusing and rather frightening footage, a runaway utility cart turns in circles on the asphalt at Chicago's O'Hare airport, slowly making its way toward a plane at the gate. Workers hover nearby, hoping for an opportunity to leap in and wrest control of the vehicle, but it's whirling too fast and the risk of injury is too great. But all is not lost!
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Born into slavery, Harriet Tubman (1822-1913) escaped to be become one of the most heroic and effective activists and abolitionists leading up to the American Civil War and after. Her courageous efforts as a "conductor" on the Underground Railroad directly saved the lives of hundreds of people and inspired countless others. She is a true American hero whose courage and impact can't be overstated. And now she's the subject of a big Hollywood biopic. Harriet, directed by Kasi Lemmons and starring Cynthia Erivo, will be released November 1.
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It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood!
It only takes one person to inspire a world of kindness. Based on the true story, #ABeautifulDayMovie in theaters this Thanksgiving.
If you haven't seen Morgan Neville's documentary about Fred Rogers, Won't You Be My Neighbor?, be sure to before the Hanks movie hits. Read the rest
In this video, Jim Browning (previously at BB) calls back a tech support scammer, knowing what not to do and what to say to lure them into making revealing mistakes. Browning also appears to be a gifted hacker, presumably knowing of security flaws in the remote desktop software that scammers tend to use, giving him free rein on their machines. He's quite willing to expose the details, call them in person and mess up their operations -- I laughed like a drain when he got into the scammer's PayPal and started issuing refunds to victims.
The video is amazing: when he calls the scammers directly, tells them their real names and home addresses, and puts it all to them, it's like one of those unsettlingly calm Liam Neeson revenge calls from the movies. Read the rest
This man's calling is to unclog drains in public infrastructure. As you can see from this footage, he's rather good at it.
I was walking by this place and saw that the drain needed to be cleared so I had my father drive me up here the next day, this time with a pair of tall boots. I cleared the drain in about a half an hour. Those logs are heavier than you think, their waterlogged which makes them heavier than a regular log. Also the leaf debris was being held down with a lot of suction and was hard to remove. I returned today and the lake had dropped about 5 in and the Culvert was no longer raging. The water level is back to normal. Thanks for watching
Things get exciting about 4 minutes in. Read the rest
This Norwegian sailer is one cool dude. While sailing in the Pacific Ocean, he spots what he at first thinks is trash. He wants to clean it up, and then realizes that it's actually sea turtles – four in all – trapped inside of tangled plastic fishing nets. Not only does he calmly untangle and set these creatures free, but some of his commentary is priceless. Read the rest
The Nazis never got close to building the bomb, but they understood the science and knew what was coming. A top-secret raid led by Norwegian resistance fighter Joachim Rønneberg destroyed a heavy water-producing plant in Rjukan, Telemark in 1943—a key victory that put Nazi nuke research to bed. Ronneberg died this week at 99.
The following year, Ronneberg chose a team of five other commandos in an Allied operation codenamed Gunnerside.
"We were a gang of friends doing a job together," he told the BBC during the 70th anniversary of the mission.
The men parachuted on to a plateau, skied across country, descended into a ravine and crossed an icy river before using the railway line to get into the plant and set their explosives.
"We very often thought that this was a one way trip," he said.
After the explosion, the men escaped into neighbouring Sweden by skiing 320km (200 miles) across Telemark - despite being chased by some 3,000 German soldiers.
With a wry smile, Ronneberg described it as "the best skiing weekend I ever had".
Rønneberg told a BBC interviewer that he only realised the importance of the mission after the bomb on Hiroshima. When reading elaborate counterfactual histories concerning different outcomes to World War II, remember that in all of them Germany gets nukes for Christmas in 1945. Read the rest
When three masked burglars tear through a betting office in Ireland, threatening people with hammers and a sawed off shotgun, an 85-year-old great grandfather comes to the rescue. Watch how he fearlessly tackles one of them, and then chases them out with a chair. When it was all over he refused to be interviewed, preferring to spend his morning playing pitch and putt.
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In a world that all too often heaps accolades on those who claw and manipulate their way to the top with cruelty and hate, it feels so good to chase a story about someone being praised for being a decent human being.
Earlier this week, our Rusty Blazenhoff shared the story of Mamoudou Gassama: a 22-year old Malian living in Paris, France, who climbed four floors, on the outside of an apartment building, to save a young child from falling. Gassama was in France as an undocumented immigrant – a fact that quickly changed after saving the child’s life. He was called to meet with the French President who immediately fast-tracked his application for citizenship. Amidst all the hubbub of his good deed, Gassama mentioned two things: That he loves children and that he wants to be a firefighter. The first, because of his selfless deed, is pretty obvious. The second is being taken care of by the people of the city he lives in.
From The Guardian:
After Gassama’s immigration papers were fast-tracked on Tuesday morning, he visited a fire station to sign up for a 10-month internship with the fire and rescue services, which is expected to pay around €600 (£525) a month. He will receive French citizenship within around three months.
Is France perfect? No. Are they seizing on the opportunity for some great optics in light of their less-than-stellar treatment of migrants who come to their nation looking for a better life? Maybe. In any case, I don’t care. Read the rest
At the Under the Radar Festival in New York City earlier this month, a crowd of soon-to-be singers rehearsed "back ups" for David Bowie's "Heroes." After an hour, they were performing the song with David Byrne as a Choir! Choir! Choir! tribute to Bowie.
According to Consequence of Sound, Byrne gave his thoughts on working with the choir group, in a press release:
"There is a transcendent feeling in being subsumed and surrendering to a group. This applies to sports, military drills, dancing… and group singing. One becomes a part of something larger than oneself, and something in our makeup rewards us when that happens. We cling to our individuality, but we experience true ecstasy when we give it up. So, the reward experience is part of the show.”
Byrne is beginning an ambitious tour in March for his new album, American Utopia. The album is his first solo LP in 14 years. Read the rest
This puppy looked so far gone, I don't think most people would have thought they could bring it back to life. But the determined, resourceful cyclist who found the pup did everything right, including cutting off the bottom of a water bottle and then using it as a tube to breath air into the puppy's mouth. The incredible rescue in this video is hard to watch, but seems to have a happy ending – I only wish we could find out how the puppy is doing now. Read the rest
The story goes that David Bowie wrote "Heroes," with Brian Eno, after spotting a couple kissing at the Berlin Wall. The couple was Bowie's producer and engineer Tony Visconti and his girlfriend Antonia Maass:
Visconti went for a walk by the adjacent Berlin Wall with backing singer Antonia Maass, and this couple then unwittingly aided the songwriting process by indulging in what they thought was a spot of covert smooching. "David could see us, and we quickly got written into the lyrics as the lovers who kissed by the wall," Visconti admits. "He wrote the entire lyrics looking out through the windows of Hansa Studios, and when I returned after a couple of hours and asked him how it was going, he said 'Oh, I've finished.' His assistant, Coco Schwab, then took me aside and said 'I think you and Antonia are in the song.' I was married at the time, so this story was never allowed to be made public, but I don't mind now.
Bowie's performance at the wall in 1987 is said to have had a role in its destruction.
Now, for the 40th anniversary of the song's release on September 23, 1977, "Heroes" is being performed by Depeche Mode both in concert and in the studio.
(Consequence of Sound)
Previously: Hear Motorhead's edgy cover of David Bowie's 'Heroes' Read the rest
A man in Russia is hitchhiking from Vladimir (near Moscow) to the Kursk region to attend his mother's funeral when he is overcome with grief. He decides to jump off an overpass on the Minsk highway, and as he stands over the passing cars below him, a man on a motorcycle spots him. The driver has to turn around and drive against traffic to get back under the suicidal man. He shouts over the traffic in Russian, from the highway to the overpass, and talks the man into stepping away from the ledge. He then rides up to the overpass to talk to the man face to face. But that isn't the end of it. Although on YouTube the description of what happened, even after what you see in the video, is written in Russian, I put it through Google's translator. It's a bit rough but clear enough:
"Suicide attempt on the viaduct of the Minsk highway"
"I saw him from the corner of my eye, but it was clear that a person was already ready to take a step. Forgive me, I knew that I was breaking the rules, and I did it as carefully as possible, since I understood that there was no time for another solution."
"He could jump just under the car. So I decided to stop the flow of cars. After the end of this video, he tried to escape from us, we ran after him. He lied that he was going to the Smolensk region. Read the rest
Gökhan Güçlü is on trial in Turkey for participating in the failed coup against the Erdoğan regime last year. In July, Güçlü made authorities angry when he wore a T-shirt with the word "hero." Now, Turkey has made it a crime to wear similar T-shirts.
At "least 35 people have been arrested for wearing "hero" t-shirts in the last month," reports the Turkey Purge website.
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The latest was detained on Monday while drinking juice at cafe in Adana province, according to the website which was set up by exiled journalists to monitor post-coup rights abuses.
“There will be no more coming to courts wearing whatever they want,” Erdoğan said, according to the daily newspaper Hürriyet. “They will be introduced to the world like that.”
Erdoğan had previously called for defendants to be dressed in Guantanamo-style orange jumpsuits.
According to Turkey Purge, those arrested range from factory and hotel workers to university students. Many of those detained claimed that they had not been aware of the word’s meaning.
Some of them were reportedly arrested following tip-offs from members of the public.
Lee Parker and Ivan White found and reported a bomb allegedly planted by Ahmad Khan Rahami in Elizabeth, New Jersey. You can thank them by supporting the local homeless program. Read the rest
Comic Book Resources broke the sad news today that the great car customizer George Barris, who created the Batmobile for the 1966 "Batman" TV series, has passed away.
Barris died early this morning at his home. He was 89 years old. Read the rest