Sunday, January 28, 2007

Apple #220: Ten-Cent Beer Night in Cleveland

I saw a reference to this incident a while back. I had to learn more, and to share what I learned with you.

Sorry there aren't more pictures, but I could find only a few photos from 1974.

  • In June of 1974, the Cleveland Indians were having the worst of seasons. They were in last place and had been for the past five years. Attendance was at its second-lowest since World War II. Desperate times called for desperate measures.

Even though the Indians had a few good players -- like Dick Bosman shown here pitching a no-hitter in 1974 -- the team as a whole couldn't win, and nobody was coming to watch them play. Note the empty seats in the background.
(AP Photo posted at the Examiner)

  • So the Indians owner decided to offer Stroh's beer at 10 cents per 10-ounce cup. Other teams had offered cheap beer nights and it seemed to work pretty well for them, so why not for Cleveland?
  • The week before this fateful game, Cleveland was in Texas, playing the Rangers. The Rangers' stadium happened to be one of those parks offering cheap beer. The Rangers also sucked that year, and the teams more or less took out their frustration on each other.
  • In short, a Ranger player slid hard into an Indians fielder. An Indians pitcher threw close at a Ranger batter's head. Next pitch, the Ranger batter bunted back to the pitcher, shoved the pitcher, and was knocked down in return by the Indians' first baseman. Benches cleared, melee ensued.
  • While the teams were fighting, the Indians players realized that Ranger fans were throwing their beers down onto them from the stands.
  • The following week, on June 4, the Rangers came up to Cleveland to play a three-game series. This same night was the inauguration of the 10-cent beer night. Previous attendances had hovered around the miniscule 8,000 mark. But this particular night, some 25,000 people showed up. A few say that some fans arrived already intoxicated and ready to exact revenge. But I don't suppose it would take more than $1 for just about everybody to get up to speed, so to speak.
  • Pre-game: Fans were setting off fireworks from their seats. Texas manager Billy Martin delivered his line-up to the umpire and was booed. In reply, he tipped his cap and blew kisses to the crowd.

Billy Martin managed the Texas Rangers from 1974 to 1975. He went on to manage several other teams, including the Oakland A's and the New York Yankees.
(Photo from Sports Encyclopedia)

  • Inning 1: Several smoke bombs went off in the stands.
  • Inning 2: A large woman jumped down from the fans into the Indians' on-deck circle, lifted her shirt, and tried to kiss the umpire, Nestor Chylak.

Umpire Nestor Chylak was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1999, seventeen years after his death.
(Photo from

  • Inning 4: A Ranger outfielder hit his second home run of the game, but as he circled the bases, a naked man from the stands ran onto the field and slid into second base.
  • Inning 5: Father and son jumped into the infield and mooned the crowd.
  • Inning 6: Fireworks were shooting toward the Texas dugout. Cleveland fans were hurling anything and everything down onto the field: beer cups, golf balls, rocks, batteries, etc.
"I remember getting spit on a lot and having a lot of hot dogs thrown at me. Somebody threw a gallon jug of Thunderbird wine at me." --Mike Hargrove, Rangers Rookie of the Year in 1974 and current Indians manager

  • Inning 7: Rangers pitchers retreated from the bullpen and stayed in the dugout.
  • Innings 7 and 8: Fans regularly jumped down into right field where Ranger player and American League MVP Jeff Burroughs was stationed. They wanted to say hello to the MVP and shake his hand. Security people escorted these fans off the field, but there weren't really enough security forces to restrain the numbers of people jumping onto the field.
"You can't pull back uncontrollable beasts. The last time I saw animals like that was in the zoo." -- Umpire Nestor Chylak

  • Inning 9: Cleveland was down 5-3. Despite all the projectiles and the occasional fan rushing the field, Cleveland managed to score two runs and tie the game. More fans ran onto the field in celebration. Then someone tried to steal Burroughs' glove for a souvenir. Reports vary about whether the fan was able to get the glove away from Burroughs or not. The fan punched Burroughs; Burroughs punched back.
  • In reply, nearby drunk and angry fans jumped onto the field, swarming around Burroughs. Some still in the stands wrenched their chairs out of their bearings and threw them onto the field, aiming for Burroughs.
  • Texas Rangers manager Billy Martin (known to show his temper now and then) grabbed a bat and said to his team, "Let's get 'em, boys," on his way out of the clubhouse. When Martin and his team rushed the field, thousands of fans streamed out of the stands.

Ranger teammates circling Burroughs, trying to protect him from the fans
(AP Photo sourced from Evening with Sabs)

  • Utter chaos. Teams fought with the fans on the field and tried to duck flying chairs and other projectiles. The fans fought with each other, with the Rangers, with the Indians, with the police. They threw a chair at an Indians pitcher, and they hit the umpire with a folding chair. Martin's bat was later recovered, broken.

"The only thing I can compare it to was when I was covering riots in Venezuela and there were guys with Uzis running around." -- photographer Ron Kuntz

The now-iconic image from that night; an umpire restrains a fan injured during the 9th inning chaos
(AP Photo sourced from Evening with Sabs)

  • Chylak, the umpire who had been struck by a chair, waited until all the Rangers players were off the field -- escorted by the Indians players -- and then he called the game a forfeit to Texas, 9-0.
  • About 65,000 cups of beer had been consumed in four hours.
  • A mere nine fans were arrested.
  • The Indians' ownership had no plans to cancel 10-cent beer night until after the American League president said it would be a bad idea to do that again, remarking, "There was no question that beer played a great part in the affair" of June 4, 1974.
  • All cheap beer nights were subsequently banned from all professional baseball stadiums.

So the next time you're enjoying a beer at your favorite professional ball game but you're not enjoying the price, raise your cup and say, "Thanks, Cleveland!"

James G. Robinson, 10-Cent Beer Night
"Hangover looms from beer melee," Holland Senitinel, June 4, 1999
Bobby Smiley, "Another Mistake By the Lake," Artmuck, July 30, 2004, Major League Baseball Forfeits, July 17, 2004
Coffeyville Whirlwind, This Week in Baseball History: Ten Cent Beer Night
Deadballera, Obit for Nestor Chylak
Baseball Hall of Fame, Induction Speeches, Nestor Chylak

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Apple #219: The Purpose of Pubic Hair

This evening, another of the Daily Apple's intrepid readers informed me that he has been wondering recently, why do we have pubic hair? Compared to most other places on our bodies, there sure is a lot of hair concentrated down there. But what's it for?

I have wondered this very thing myself. So I set about finding an answer.

As with most "why" questions posed to scientists, the answer is, in two words, "Nobody knows." Many theories have been posited, and some are preferred over others, but no particular theory has the scientific community's wholehearted endorsement.

That said, I will relate these theories to you. But first, a few words on the nature of pubic hair.

Androgenic Hair

As most of you are aware, pubic hair emerges on the body at adolescence, that lovely, happy time when your body is thoroughly changing itself and your peers are being absolutely merciless to you and everyone else.

This junior high theater troupe is smiling and giving the thumbs-up sign. Could they be saying, "Hooray! Puberty!"
(Photo from Actors

Pubic hair makes its appearance in response to that onrush of hormones that happens at adolescence. Boys and girls both get a flood of male hormones working in their system. It's the male hormones that stimulate hair growth -- as well as increased muscle strength and deepening the voice and so on -- and they make the hair in your pubic area and your armpits spring into action. These male hormones are known collectively as androgens. Therefore, the hair you get at your special parts is referred to as androgenic hair.

The fact that your pubic hair arrives on the scene at the time when your body gets ready to be sexually active and reproducing cannot be an accident. Therefore, the explanation for pubic hair probably relates to matters reproductive.

Current Favorite Theory - Pheromone Dispersal

The favorite theory about the reason we have pubic hair is at the top of the list because it connects most closely with matters of reproduction. This theory is that pubic hair helps pick up, hang onto, and disperse to the four winds our pheromones. Pheromones are chemicals that many animals produce to signal to other members of their species of their presence. Sex pheromones act particularly powerfully on same-species opposite-sex animals. They say, "I'm here, mate with me."

The idea is that the pubic hair gives a whole lot more surface area where the pheromones can collect, and thus we are better able to distribute our scent so that potential partners can get turned on and come find us to mate with us.

The problem with this theory is that scientists have had trouble demonstrating, without doubt and over and over again, that people respond to other people's sex pheromones. They have shown for sure that other animals do, but they've had trouble proving it when it comes to human interaction. Despite this difficulty, people seem reasonably sure that we do respond to each others' pheromones, however faintly we might perceive them.

A corollary to this theory is that whether or not pheromones are involved, there is a definite scent that the glands around our groins emit.  Pubic hair helps to collect and perhaps intensify that scent, thus increasing the power of our "I'm ready to mate" signal.

Other Theories

Some other theories that have been tossed about but generally rejected for various reasons include:

  • To keep the blood-rich and sensitive areas of our bodies extra warm. Objections to this theory include the fact that we now wear clothing, so wouldn't pubic hair therefore be obsolete?
  • To trap dirt particles and other nasties and keep them from entering a woman's vagina. The major objection to this theory is, why isn't men's pubic hair similarly dispersed so that it could fulfill a similar function?
  • To be another form of visual display in attracting a mate. This one is problematic because we don't go around showing our pubic hair to people, at least not right off the bat.
  • To give babies another sort of handhold to grab onto. Again, the problem with this theory is that we usually don't go around picking up and taking care of babies while we're naked. Also, babies find a heckuva lot of things to grab onto; I don't think they really need your armpit hair to pull themselves up. And a baby grabbing onto your pubic hair? No thank you!

Could this baby really be thinking, "I want to stand up, where's your pubic hair?"
(Photo from Fisher-Titus Medical Center)

  • To provide additional lubrication against chafing in these areas where joints are especially active. I like this theory in part because if you do a lot of walking, you're pretty grateful you've got that extra cushion. But the problem here is that I, for one, shave my armpits, and I'm more likely to get razor burn than I am to suffer chafing due to the absence of that extra cushion of hair. Also, this theory doesn't really have anything to do with matters reproductive.
  • To lend additional sensitivity to these crucial parts of the body. This theory is my own. When you slowly bring your hand close to your forearm, say, the hairs on your arm tell you, before your hand touches your arm, that something is very close and is about to touch you. Wouldn't that be an extra benefit for your highly sensitized genitals? Wouldn't that be a useful feature in matters reproductive? The problem with this theory is that similar hair is also present at your armpits, and that area is not directly involved in the act of reproduction. So while I like parts of my own theory, I'm going to have to agree with everybody else I've read on this subject and say that I like the pheromone dispersal theory the best.

Personally, I think the pheromone/scent dispersal theory is probably the most likely. Well, I don't know about pheromones necessarily, but I'm going to bet that some sort of scent dispersal happens, or is further assisted by, the pubic & armpit hair. It's your body's way of saying, "Hey, I'm sexually mature, and I'm a little bit warmed up already, so come mate with me." Whether you approve that message or not, your body seems to go ahead and say it.

For more about hair elsewhere, check out a very brief entry on head hair and another entry on nasal hair.

A Health Blog, The Human Hair
Wikipedia, Androgenic Hair and Pubic Hair
Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Pheromones and Mammals
Deb Levine, "Pheromones: Potential participants in your sex life," CNN, June 25, 1999
Go Ask Alice! What's the point of pubic hair?
Ask the Sexpert, What is the purpose of pubic hair?
The Straight Dope, What's the purpose of pubic hair?
Katie Grace, Column: Does pubic hair serve a purpose? The News Record, April 7, 2004
Yahoo! Answers, What is the purpose of pubic hair?

Monday, January 22, 2007

Apple #218: Purgatory and Graupel

Purgatory vs. Limbo

Last month, I wrote an entry about the various definitions of limbo (the theological place and the dance). In response, one intrepid reader wanted to know what is the difference between limbo and purgatory. Good question, said I, and hunted for an answer.

Dante's version of purgatory, as illustrated by Gustav Dorè
(Image from Dr. Widger's Library, available through Project Gutenberg)

People use "purgatory" and "limbo" pretty much interchangeably, so it took a while before I found anything that said that there actually is a difference. And I discovered I had described limbo in my previous entry as being both limbo and purgatory, when in fact they are two different places where two different things happen (I have since corrected my error).

Only the truly perfect souls get to go straight to heaven. Purgatory is the unplottable place that is neither heaven nor hell, but someplace in between, where the less-than-perfect souls are sent to purge themselves of their sins before they're allowed to move on to heaven.

Limbo is similarly neither heaven nor hell. However, those souls banished to limbo can never get out of it. Babies who had never been baptized and Jewish, Old Testament heroes are the primary residents of limbo (although some say that after Christ died on the cross, he went down and got all those Old Testament souls out of hell and sent them on up to heaven).

Limbo came about as a way to circumnavigate Thomas Aquinas' strict assertion that if you'd never been baptized, you were going to hell and that was that. Limbo was a way of saying, "That baby doesn't really have to go to hell, does she? Maybe she can go to this other place that's not quite so bad."

Centuries later, the Catholic church now seems to be on the verge of getting rid of the concept of limbo. It no longer appears in the Catholic catechism, and Pope Benedict XVI has asked the International Theological Commission to decide whether it exists or not.

The fact that the Catholic church might be banishing limbo seems to be coming less from a return to strict damnation and more from a growing leniency. Maybe those babies not only don't get sent to hell, they don't even get stuck in limbo anymore but actually do get to go to heaven.


This same intrepid reader also e-mailed me that she had read that Malibu was recently "blanketed with irregularly shaped hailstones called graupel." What, my reader wanted to know, is graupel?

Graupel that climber Steve Eckert encountered on his journey to the top of Lone Pine Peak, California, and back.
(Photo by Steve Eckert at

According to the American Meteorological Society, graupel is clusters of snow pellets covered with rime, a type of ice coating. But of course, there's more to it than that.

Graupel forms as the snow whirls around up in the cloud. It starts out as a snow crystal, the very filamenty sorts of things that we often represent by cutting shapes out of paper. As the crystal flies around up in the cloud, it encounters droplets of supercooled water. These droplets latch onto the crystal and freeze to it. The resulting ice that forms around the droplet and the crystal is kind of opaque and milky; this type of ice is called rime. If you think about what hailstones look like -- sort of like eyes with cataracts all the way around -- that's what rime looks like.

Okay, so we've got snow crystals with supercooled droplets fused to them. These things usually freeze together in some logical shape, surprisingly enough. They make branching crystals, or needle-like shapes, or one of these clusters actually looks sort of like a double-ended bolt.

Snow crystal, becoming a graupel
(Photo from Beltsville USDA ARC)

But this crystal-droplet cluster is still whirling around, still attracting more droplets. Eventually, so many droplets freeze to the crystal, there's no more recognizable shape. And the thing has become a graupel.

Another factor here is that, even though this crystal has accumulated a lot of droplets, the graupel is still very small. Graupel is very like hail and is often called "soft hail". But for a snow pellet to qualify as hail, it has to have a diameter of at least 5 mm. So graupel is smaller, and therefore less ping-y than true hail.

Skiers and people who study avalanches recognize graupel as Styrofoam ball-shaped snow pellets. They tend to roll around a lot and are therefore very unstable in a big mound of snow.

So the lesson of this Apple seems to be, don't get caught in a graupel avalanche, or you may find yourself in purgatory. Right.

Paul Collins, "Lose limbo but salvage purgatory," The Sydney Morning Herald, December 1, 2005
Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, "Limbo - What is it?"
Online Etymology Dictionary, purgatory
Encyclopedia Britannica online version, Purgatory
Daily Apple, Limbo

American Meteorological Society, Glossary of Meteorology, Graupel
Beltsville branch of the USDA Agricultural Research Center, Rime and Graupel, Avalanche Encyclopedia, Graupel, Lone Pine Peak trip report

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Apple #217: Salts -- Kosher and Otherwise

I like to watch cooking shows on TV. I like to watch people making things.

But many of these cooks make a point of mentioning, when they're putting salt on something, that they're using sea salt, or kosher salt, or coarse ground salt. I'm thinking, what's the difference? It's all salt, isn't it? And how can salt be kosher, anyway?
  • When it comes to varieties of salts, the short answer is, it isn't all just salt. As you may have learned in Chemistry class, salt is the vernacular for sodium chloride (NaCl). But different salts that you can put on your food may or may not have other minerals in addition to good old NaCl.

Table Salt
  • The kind you grew up with, perhaps Morton's, is harvested from salt mines, which are actually salt deposits left behind from extinct oceans. The salt is additionally processed to remove any other minerals.
  • Most salt producers then add iodine. This was something salt makers started doing in the 1920's to help combat various thyroid-related diseases that could be easily cured by increasing people's iodine intake. So they put it in the salt, and now, very few people in the Western world suffer from goiter and other such illnesses. Thanks, Morton!
  • Also, most salt makers add some type of anti-caking agent to keep the salt from clumping, which it will try to do if the humidity goes up. Hence, Morton's claim that their salt "always pours when it rains," because it's got an anti-caking agent in it.

See how carefree the umbrella girl is, with her salt pouring all over the place, even in the rain? Such are the benefits of anti-caking agents!
(Image sourced from
Ahorre products)

Sea Salt
  • These types of salts are harvested from seawater that is channeled into enormously wide trays where the sun evaporates the water and leaves behind the salt. The salt is then purified to remove any traces of aquatic life or bacteria and other badness. The salt could be further processed so that the additional minerals are refined out, but those extra goodies are left in with the salt.

Saltwater being evaporated the old-school way to leave the salt behind, in Ile de Re, France.
(Photo from

  • Any given sea salt could therefore include other minerals such as iron, magnesium, potassium, calcium, manganese, zinc, or iodine to boot. These minerals will be present in trace amounts only, so they won't really have any nutritional benefit. But people say that sea salts have more flavor than regular refined table salt because of the extra minerals.
  • Sea salts can come from any body of saltwater, but they are marketed as having come from one particular part of one ocean or another. Apparently, you're supposed to know that Mediterranean salt tastes better than North Sea salt, or something.
Grey Salt
  • This is a type of sea salt, and I mention it specifically only because it is an example of a "moister" salt. The amount of water that is evaporated away from the salt may vary, or it may or may not have that extra anti-clumping chemical added. In this case, a bit more moisture has been left in. This particular type of salt is harvested off the coast of Brittany (near France), and the minerals in the salt that comes from that area give it a greyish tinge. This salt is considered the salt of salts and can be very expensive.

The highly prized grey salt
(Available from Gourmet Sleuth for $6.95 for 8 oz.)

Coarse or Grinder Salt
  • These types of salt don't boast any special flavors; they are simply not ground to fine grains but available in larger crystal forms. You could grind the salt crystals yourself if you like, but many cooks use it in its crystal form, either because they feel they get a better sense of how much salt they're adding, or because it's more effective when salting meat or fish to preserve or smoke it.
  • Generally speaking, the bigger the crystal, the more you'll taste it because it will take that much longer to dissolve in the food and in your mouth.
Flour Salt
  • Conversely, salts can be ground or milled to very fine grains to be used in baking or making pastries. These types of salt also include an anti-caking agent.
Kosher Salt
  • Does not contain iodine
  • Does not contain any other additives that keep it from caking or clumping
  • Is recommended for pickling because those additives will make the brine cloudy
  • The absence of anti-caking additives also means it will adhere better to the food
  • It is usually available in larger crystals, or in flake form, which will also help it cling to the food
  • The salt itself is not kosher -- it cannot be "made" according to Jewish laws of preparing foods -- but it is used in the preparation of meats which then can be called kosher. To make meats kosher, they are soaked and then rubbed with salt so that any traces of blood are washed away.

Morton's also makes a kosher salt. You could buy this three-pound box for $2.99.
(Image from

For a review of various available salts, both in terms of taste and value, check out "Worth One's Salt," by Dan Crane at Slate com.

Salt Works, Gourmet Salt Reference Guide
Gourmet Sleuth, Culinary Salt - a cook's guide
Food Network, What is the difference between kosher salt, sea salt, and table salt?
Ask Yahoo, What is kosher salt? Is it better for you than regular salt?
Walton Feed, Salt (especially good explanation of kosher salt)
Mayo Clinic, Sea salt and kosher salt: Are they better for you than regular salt?
Lynn A Kunts, "The Many Benefits of Salt,"
Food Product Design, October 1994

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Apple #216: Origins of the Earth and the Moon, part II

Not long ago, I posted an entry about the beginnings of the Earth as a planet and the "birth" of the Moon. I mentioned that there is more to the story about the relationship between the moon and the Earth, so I will continue that story now.

Again, I want to state that what I am describing represents a condensed version of many astronomers' theories about the origins of the universe and various planets and so on. It is highly possible and even likely that, as scientists learn more about these sorts of things, this story will change. But for now, here's how it goes:

  • Where we last left the Earth and the moon, the Earth had sustained an enormous collision with another planet, about the size of Mars, and out of this impact the moon was formed.
  • Meanwhile, all kinds of wacky adjustments were still happening out in the rest of the solar system. Planets kept consolidating and getting bigger, and any time that happened, everybody else had to adjust. Scientists aren't exactly sure what triggered it, possibly a change in Jupiter's orbit, but the asteroid belt shifted. And all of a sudden, Earth and the moon were flying into the asteroid belt. You've seen this sort of thing happen in Star Wars, so you know it isn't pretty.
  • Okay, so there were asteroids flying everywhere, right? Since it has larger mass than the asteriods, the Earth's gravity was pulling the asteroids to it. So the Earth was getting shelled by these asteroids, but since the moon was hanging around, too, spinning around the Earth, the moon sometimes got between the asteroids and the Earth. As a result, the moon got clobbered way more than it otherwise would have, simply because it was so close to Earth -- much closer than it is now (you may recall, it's retreating an inch and a half farther from Earth each year).
  • This asteroid bombardment went on for some thousands of years. You can see evidence of this on the moon today, without even using a telescope. All those shadows are enormous craters, caused by thousands upon thousands of asteroids slamming into the moon.

This is the moon's south pole, rife with craters made by asteroids
(Photo from NASA's Clementine Mission)

  • You can't see similar craters on Earth because all the volcanic and tectonic activity over the millenia have changed the surface too much, but some rocks have been found on the Earth that support this theory about the asteroids hitting the moon and the Earth.
  • The moon, however, stopped changing not long after it got hit by all those asteroids. Its surface used to be molten basalt and volcanic stuff, and the channels that are still visible used to be seams of lava. But all that volcanic stuff cooled and hardened and eventually froze into the shapes we see now. The Sea of Tranquility, for example, used to be a giant sea of molten lava which filled in a crater made by who knows how many asteroids.
  • This period when the asteroid shelling happened is called the Lunar Cataclysm or the Late Heavy Bombardment, and this happened about 3.9 billion years ago (long before the other asteroid or asteroids that wiped out the dinosaurs). It came on pretty suddenly, and in terms of astronomical time, it stopped fairly suddenly too.

This graph shows the decline in the postulated number of asteroids that have hit the moon since its inception. The red line represents the new theory of a spike in the number of asteroids that hit the moon during the Lunar Cataclysm.
(Graph by Barbara Cohen)

  • But the interesting thing is, very soon after the asteroid insanity stopped, life on Earth started. Nobody's sure what role those asteroids played, if any. Did the asteroids bring water to Earth? Did the impact of the asteroids alter the molecular composition of surface carbons to form amino acids? Did the heat generated by the asteroids produce enough steam to form water? Nobody is really sure about this part, but people are running lots of tests to try to figure it out.

Drawing of an asteroid hitting Earth -- who knows exactly what could have resulted from such an impact?
(Drawing by Don Davis, sourced from the Australian Spaceguard Survey)

  • Here is one possible theory about how the asteroids helped bring about the genesis of life on earth: Perhaps the asteroids brought a lot of ice with them, which then melted when they hit Earth. Or perhaps the steam issuing from all the molten goo started to condense and fall back to Earth as water. In any case, at some point around 3.9 million years ago, a lot of water appeared on the Earth.
  • The moon, which was still very close to the Earth, was orbiting around the Earth and creating tides. But because the Earth was still spinning really fast from the impact with that other planet, and because the moon was still so close, these aren't just your everyday tides. These are enormous tides, some thousands of feet high. The waves from these things traveled over fantastic distances, then slid back out to sea, scooping all kinds of material with them into the water. Thus, the highly sought-after "primordial soup" was mixed, creating the right environment for life to generate.
  • Something else important about the moon and the tides happened too. Because the moon was still really close to the Earth, its gravitational pull was sucking water toward it in a big bulge some thousands of feet high. This bulge created a drag on the Earth's spin and very slowly started making it slow down.

How the moon's gravitational pull creates tides and helps slow the Earth's spin
(Diagram from Helmer Alasken's page about the moon)

  • In addition, because the Earth was spinning way faster than the moon was orbiting, the Earth was in essence spinning underneath its oceans. This means that the land under the water was creating friction, and that friction also helped slow the Earth's spin.
  • When the Earth slowed its spin, the insanely violent winds calmed down, hurricanes weren't happening as often or as severely, and there was less chaos in general. This meant that the life that was burgeoning in the water could have a chance to survive without being ripped apart by searing winds or tremendous waves.
  • So, in essence, the moon helped make it possible for life to thrive on Earth.
  • And here's another way the moon helped. When that second planet hit Early Earth and knocked it off-kilter, that was crucial because the Earth's tilt is what ensures that no part of the planet is exposed to the sun's heat for too many months at a time. But while that rogue planet set the Earth aslant to begin with, the moon is what keeps it there.

The Earth's tilt is what gives us different seasons throughout the year
(Diagram from

  • Without the moon's gravitational pull tugging at the Earth, the Earth would start to wobble as it spun, the same way a top starts to wobble as it slows down. If the Earth started wobbling, different parts of the planet would be exposed to sun at all kinds of chaotic times, the winds would shift in crazy ways, and the weather would get all chaotic and super-violent again, and we or maybe no life might be able to survive it.
So, thanks, moon, for helping us hang on.

National Geographic Society, Naked Science television series, Moon Mysteries and Birth of the Earth
NOVA Transcripts, Origin: Earth is Born and subsequent segments, September 28 and 29, 2004
David A. Kring, Arizona University and NASA/UA Space Imagery Center, The Lunar Cataclysm Hypothesis
Ron Cowen, "An early cosmic wallop for life on Earth?" Science News Online, December 2, 2000
Lori Stiles, "Asteroids Caused the Early Inner Solar System Cataclysm," University of Arizona Sci/Tech news, September 15, 2005
Lori Stiles, "Lunar Meteorite Ages Strongly Support Lunar Cataclysm," Space Daily, November 30, 2000
Strom et al, "The Origin of Planetary Impactors in the Inner Solar System," University of Arizona Faculty Reprints, April 2005
Bernard Foing, "Linking the Earth to the Moon," Astrobiology Magazine, August 3, 2006
Jeremy Bailey, Australian Centre for Astrobiology, "The Inner Solar System Cataclysm, the Origin of Life, and the Return to the Moon"
G. Jeffrey Taylor, Origin of the Earth and Moon, Planetary Science Research Discoveries, December 31, 1998

Michael Richmond, What if the Earth had no Moon? July 15, 2005

Monday, January 8, 2007

Update: Congratulations, David Lee Roth

Long-time readers of the Daily Apple will remember one of the favorite entries of this blog was about David Lee Roth.

Now the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has decided it is time he join its ranks.

Way to come down the beach with a torch in one hand and a sword in the other, Diamond Dave.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Apple #215: Origins of the Earth and the Moon

I just saw two programs on the National Geographic Society channel, and I want to share with you some of the things I learned.

The shows were about the beginning of the solar system and how the Earth was formed, but there was a particularly interesting section about the role that the moon has played in enabling life to begin and to thrive here on Earth.

So I'll tell you the story of the moon and the Earth, as I understand it. I should say up front that this story I'm about to tell is a series of scientific theories as they exist at this point. One story people used to tell about the universe was that the Earth was at the center and everything rotated around it. Now we have a different story to tell, supported by a lot more evidence. But it's possible and even likely that this story I'm about to tell will change in the future, as we learn more about our universe.

Okay, so here it is.

  • So there was this enormous explosion, right? Astronomers see stars blow up all the time, and what happens is all these enormous rocks and boulders and particles go shooting out in all directions. Just a mass of stuff everwhere, a huge cloud of it. And they say at that the beginning of the universe, the same kind of thing happened except on a massive scale.
  • But everything in the universe was spinning. So all the stuff in this huge cloud all had some spin going on. And you know how, when a figure skater does a spin on the ice, she has her arms spread out and she's going kind of slowly, but as she spins, she pulls her arms in and makes her body tighter, and she goes faster and faster the more compact she makes herself? Well, that's what happened to the stuff in the cloud.
  • As they spun, big rocks attracted littler rocks and got still bigger. Like in that video game, Katamari, if you've ever played it, stuff accumulated more stuff. Eventually, the rocks and particles and dust and all that consolidated to form the ancestors of the planets of our solar system.

One drawing of the process by which the solar system formed. Except I'd suggest that it wasn't quite as neat as that, and bear in mind that everything was more or less on fire for a long, long time.
(Drawing from Aerospaceweb)

  • The big, hulking pre-planets started throwing their weight around, moving in their own special, sometimes looping orbits. There were about twice as many planets then as there are now, and their orbits were quite different from the orbits the planets travel today.
  • One of those planets was ultimately going to be the Earth. But back then, Early Earth was enormously hot, covered with molten lava, a steaming, stinking, intolerable inferno. Within that ball of molten stuff, various elements started to consolidate, too. The heavy stuff like iron sunk to the middle of the ball, and the lighter stuff light carbon stayed at the surface.
  • That iron is still there, still molten, and as it swirls around, its motion generates a magnetic field. There's so much iron in the center of the earth, its resultant magnetic field is large enough to encircle the entire planet. And that's what it did way back at the formation of the Earth.
  • Now, remember, there were these other planets loping around the solar system, doing their wacky things, and combining with other, larger planets. Scientists now believe that one of those other planets, smaller than Earth, got sucked toward Earth and collided with it. This made Earth larger, but it also made the moon.
  • When that second planet hit ours, it got pulverized and a bunch of rocks and stuff also flew out from the Earth. Think of throwing a rock into a pile of dirt: a shower of dirt flies up into the air when you do that. The stuff that flew out from the Earth then over the course of about a hundred years, it coalesced and formed what we now know as the moon.

One rendition of a smaller planet colliding into what is now Earth. The resultant spray of rocks and stuff then was pulled together by gravity to form the moon.
(Drawing by David Darling)

  • After its formation, the moon continued to move farther away from Earth (and still is, at 1.5 inches per year) , but because it was smaller, gravity kept it rotating around the Earth even as it slowly cycled ever outwards.
  • That blow from the other planet, by the way, hit Early Earth at an angle, so it was more of a glancing blow rather than a head-on collision. And that impact knocked the Earth off-kilter, to its present tilt. This is crucial because the tilt is what allows our climates to have seasons and vary throughout the year.
But there's more about why the Earth is the way it is today which, surprisingly, has to do with the moon. I'll put that into a separate entry and continue The Story of the Earth and the Moon there.

Some Astronomy Fun
Choose your asteroid and send it hurtling toward a planet of your choice and see the result

National Geographic Society, Naked Science television series, Moon Mysteries and Birth of the Earth
NOVA Transcripts, Origin: Earth is Born and subsequent segments, September 28 and 29, 2004
Ron Cowen, "An early cosmic wallop for life on Earth?" Science News Online, December 2, 2000
Bernard Foing, "Linking the Earth to the Moon," Astrobiology Magazine, August 3, 2006
Jeremy Bailey, Australian Centre for Astrobiology, "The Inner Solar System Cataclysm, the Origin of Life, and the Return to the Moon"
G. Jeffrey Taylor, Origin of the Earth and Moon, Planetary Science Research Discoveries, December 31, 1998

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Apple #214: Milk on Cereal

Recently, a reader posted a question in response to my Apple on Limbo. It's a very good question, and I will answer it. I just didn't want my first post of 2007 to be about Purgatory.

I've been eating cereal for breakfast again lately, and also sometimes for an evening snack. One morning I was thinking about how I wanted to be sure I had my spoon and orange juice all ready before I poured the milk over the cereal, so the flakes would stay crispy for as long as possible. When I finally poured the milk, it struck me how strange it was to be pouring a liquid over this crunchy stuff that I wanted to stay crunchy.

(Photo from BBC News)

And why milk? Why not water, or some kind of juice? I know from having tried other things besides milk that I like milk on cereal best, but who first thought of putting milk on cereal? Did they try other liquids or beverages first, or has it always been milk and nothing else?

  • Porridge is the oldest known form of cereal. It's basically oatmeal, and you can make it by cooking it either in water or milk. But dry cereals don't really come from porridges. They are descendants of crackers and biscuits.
  • Dry cereals were invented in the United States in the 1860s.
  • At that time, people were eating a lot of sausages or beef or even chicken for breakfast. Also at that time, people were going to places called sanitariums, which were like spas except they helped people improve their mental and spiritual as well as their physical health. Some doctors who ran these sanitaria wanted to offer their patients better food that would make them healthier in body and spirit as a result.
  • An American Presbyterian clergyman, Sylvester Graham, advocated a vegetarian diet, and in 1829 he invented the Graham cracker, which used unsifted, coarsely ground flour.
  • I can find no specific reference to Rev. Graham smashing up his crackers in milk, though that is how many children eat Graham crackers today, so it seems reasonable to think that people might have tried it that way back in the 1830s, too.

Graham crackers and milk. The healthy, sane breakfast?
(Photo from College Cookbook)

  • In 1863, Dr. James Jackson was a vegetarian and he was in charge of the Dansville Sanitarium in Dansville, New York. He broke up hardened loaves of unleavened whole grain bran (reminiscent of the communion wafer, except bigger and thicker and tougher) into little pieces, then soaked them overnight in milk to soften them before serving them. He called this mixture Granula, after the word "granules" or bits of grain. This repast is generally regarded as the first cold cereal.

Dr. James Caleb Jackson, inventor of the first dry cereal, looks a little dry himself.
(Photo from New York History Net)

  • A patron of his sanitarium, Ellen G. White, founded the Seventh-Day Adventist religion. She also established the Western Health Reform Institute in Battle Creek, Michigan, which offered outdoor physical exercise, oatmeal to eat, and Adventist theology for the soul. However, once her guests realized she did not have a doctor on staff, they did not come back.
  • So she sent a member of her church, John Kellogg, off to Bellevue Hospital in New York to get a medical education. When Kellogg came back, he took over Sister White's Reform Institute.
  • Dr. Kellogg was also a strict vegetarian, as required by his Adventist religions, and he also wanted to serve a healthy, vegetarian breakfast to his patients. In 1887 he made a biscuit out of oats, wheat, and corn meal. He called his invention Granula, too, but Dr. Jackson sued him and he changed the name to granola.
  • Dr. Kellogg and his brother Will decided to try to make their granola even tastier for their patients, so they boiled the wheat first, then ran it through rollers to make a much thinner, cracker-like sheet of it. Then they toasted it and ground it up into meal -- much easier to chew and it softened more easily in milk.

John Kellogg on the left and Will Kellogg on the right. I would have thought John would be the severe-looking one, but no.
(Photo from The Detroit News)

I have to interrupt this history to insert some assumptions I've made. In recounting the events that followed, people stop talking about adding milk to the cereal in any way. But I'm assuming that the doctors / cereal inventors did either soak their granules in milk for a while beforehand, or they poured the milk over it prior to serving it. The first guy who made cereal had to add milk to make it edible, and it seems natural that the people who made it after him would include milk, too.

Cereal with milk -- good for you in oh, so many ways?
(Photo from the USDA's Agricultural Research Service)

I should also state that yes, it's true that many of these religious / health advocates thought that their new cereal inventions would also help people stave off their sexual urges.
  • They thought that carnal desires and ill-health went hand-in-hand, one causing the other. If you improved your physical health you were less likely to indulge your lusty impulses and you'd be less likely to suffer the negative consequences to your health, which they thought included indigestion, headache, poor circulation, epilepsy, insanity, and oh all sorts of things.
  • Eating cereal for breakfast was one way to improve your physical health, and therefore, one way to hold back the floodgates of sex that would in turn get you sick.

Now, back to the history of cereal.

  • In 1893, a guy named Charles William (C.W.) Post went to the Kelloggs' sanitarium to recover from a nervous breakdown. While he was there, he got to like the food. His health didn't improve much, but he left with a revived interest in his previous plans to develop a coffee substitute made out of chicory, and to make his own breakfast cereals.
  • A year later, he'd started his own sanitarium, the La Vita Inn. There, he developed Postum Cereal Coffee, his chicory coffee-substitute to be drunk in the morning with cereal, and what we now call Grape-Nuts cereal. He marketed the heck out of his products and made boat-loads of money.
  • Back in the Kelloggs' sanitarium, one night in 1894 the Kellogg brothers accidentally left a pot of their boiled wheat out overnight. The next day they ran it through the rollers to see what would happen, and instead of coming out as one flat sheet, it emerged from the rollers as flakes. The first flake cereal was born. They called it Granose.

The label for Granose wheat flakes. Just how they were supposed to enrich the blood, I'm not sure.
(Photo from Mr. Breakfast)

  • Despite the terrible name, the Kelloggs' patients loved the cereal, and even started asking it to be shipped to them in the mail. Will tried to persuade his brother to ought to sell their cereal to grocery stores, but the strict professional doctor did not want to compromise his medical ethics.
  • Will Kellogg, who was an Adventist like his brother but was not a doctor, had no problem with selling and shipping their cereals. He bought out John's portion of the cereal patents and founded the Kellogg Company.
  • He also came up with a way to make the same flake cereal using corn. His company went on to package and sell millions of boxes of Sanitas Corn Flakes (later, he dropped the "Sanitas"), and other cereals besides.
  • Shortly after Will started selling his Corn Flakes, C.W. Post came up with his own flake cereal, which at first was called Elijah's Manna. He later re-named it Post Toasties.
  • You'll notice that the Post vs. Kellogg's competition which started way back at the very beginning of cereal as we know it rages on today.
  • Cereal makers are also still caught in that same weird struggle between commercial success and being concerned about people's health.
  • They're still trying to make their cereals more healthy -- they add B vitamins, they put the words "whole grain" on the box, and so on. At the same time, they're trying to get more people to buy and eat it -- they add sugar or get some animated bee to sell it for them.

Edit: Happy 70th birthday, Cheerios!

Little fact about Cheerios: they're made by heating balls of dough then they get shot out of a puffing gun at 100 mph.

Mr. Breakfast, The Early Days of Breakfast Cereal, Cereal
Patricia Zacharias, "Snap, Crackle and Profit -- the story behind a cereal empire," The Detroit News
Mary Bellis,, The History of Breakfast Cereals
International Vegetarian Union, Sylvester Graham (1795-1851)
The Straight Dope, Is it true graham crackers were invented to cure the dread fever of lust?
Defense Logistics Information Center, The Battle Creek Sanitarium Years
Porridges message board Jan 23, 2006 Q&A Re: cold cereal and milk
Fitness and Freebies, The History of Cereal
August 7, 1987