At the turn of the last century, when aviation was still in its infancy, a German named Julius Neubronner submitted a patent for a new invention—a miniature camera that could be strapped to the breast of a pigeon so that the bird could take flight and snap pictures from the air.
Julius Neubronner was an apothecary who employed pigeons to deliver medications to a sanatorium located near his hometown Kronberg, near Frankfurt. An apothecary is one who makes medicines. A pharmacist is a more modern word, but in many German speaking countries, such as Germany, Austria and Switzerland, pharmacies are still called apothecaries.
Apothecary was Julius Neubronner’s family profession. His father was an apothecary, and so was his grandfather. In those days, homing pigeons were used extensively to carry messages and small supplies. It was Julius’s father’s idea to use pigeons to receive prescriptions from the sanatorium and send out medicinal supplies in a hurry—a practice that continued for more than half a century until the sanatorium closed.
One day, Neubronner let out a pigeon on an urgent errand but it didn’t return. When several days passed and there was still no sign of the bird, Neubronner assumed the pigeon was lost, or it got caught and killed by predators. A month later, the lost messenger showed up unexpectedly at Neubronner’s place. The bird appeared well fed, which got Neubronner into thinking. Where had he gone? Who had fed him?
Neubronner decided that he would start tracking his pigeons’ future travels.
Julius Neubronner with one of his pigeons.
Being a passionate do-it-yourself amateur photographer, it didn’t take long for Neubronner to fashion a miniature wooden camera which he fitted to the pigeon’s breast by means of a harness and an aluminum cuirass. A pneumatic system in the camera opened the shutter at predetermined intervals and the roll of film, which moved along with the shutter, took as many as thirty exposures in a single flight. The entire rig weighed no more than 75 grams—the maximum load the pigeons were trained to carry.
The pictures turned out so good that Neubronner started making different models. One system, for instance, was fitted with two lenses pointing in opposite directions. Another one took stereoscopic images. Eventually, Neubronner applied for a patent, but the patent office threw out his application citing that such a device was impossible as they believed a pigeon could not carry the weight of a camera. But when Neubronner presented photographs taken by his pigeons, the patent was granted in 1908.
Aerial photograph of Frankfurt.
Neubronner exhibited his photographs in several international photographic exhibition gaining him accolades. In one such exhibition in Dresden, spectators watched as the camera-equipped carrier pigeons arrived at the venue, and the photos were immediately developed and turned into postcards which they could purchase.
The technology was soon adapted for use during the First World War, despite the availability of surveillance aircraft then. Pigeons drew less attention, could photograph enemy locations from a lower height, and were visibly indifferent to explosions on a battlefield.
Neubronner’s avian technology saw use in the Second World War too. The German army developed a pigeon camera capable of taking 200 exposures per flight. The French too claimed they had cameras for pigeons and a method to deploy them behind enemy lines by trained dogs. Around this time, Swiss clockmaker Christian Adrian Michel perfected a panoramic camera and an improved mechanism to control the shutter. Pigeon photography was in use as late as the 1970s, when the CIA developed a battery-powered pigeon camera, though the details of the camera’s use are still classified.
Today, aerial photography has been replaced by aircrafts, satellites, and more recently, by affordable drones. But the legacy of Julius Neubronner’s pigeon photography lives on in these images which are among the very early photos taken of Earth from above.
Bonus fact: So what happened to Neubronner’s pigeon who stayed away from the owner for a month and returned fattened up? It had flown away to Wiesbaden, some twenty kilometers away, and was taken care of by a restaurant chef.
Source…..Kaushik in http://www.amusingplanet .com
In Australia, cattle stations—which is the equivalent of an American ranch—tend to be unimaginably large, so large that some of them are bigger than some European and African countries.
Take Anna Creek Station, a well known cattle station in South Australia, near Simpson Desert between Coober Pedy and Lake Eyre. This station covers nearly 24,000 square kilometers. By comparison, Israel is barely 21,000 square kilometers, and the biggest ranch in America is just over 3,300 square kilometers. In fact, there might be close to a hundred cattle stations in Australia that are bigger than the biggest American ranch.
Australia’s cattle stations are huge in size because of the continent’s climate. Most stations are located in the north and the central regions of the Australian Outback, where the climate is so dry and the vegetation so sparse that a large amount of country is needed to support enough cattle to make a living. Even a cattle station as large as Anna Creek Station normally runs about 17,000 animals during a good season.
The Anna Creek Station was bought by Sir Sidney Kidman, Australia’s so-called “cattle king”, who owned large areas of land across Australia during his lifetime. Kidman was thirteen when he ran away from his Adelaide home in 1870 with only 5 shillings in pocket and a one-eyed horse that he had bought with his savings. His teen years, Kidman worked as a drover, stockman and livestock trader, and made money supplying services to new mining towns springing up in outback. Eventually he had saved enough to buy his own station.
Sir Sidney Kidman
Kidman began gobbling up one estate after another until he was the biggest landholder in the world by World War I. At one point, the size of Kidman’s properties exceeded the size of the entire United Kingdom. His family still owns more than 10 million hectares, or about three-quarters the size of England. With a herd of 185,000 cattle, S. Kidman & Co is one of Australia’s largest beef producers.
There are at least nineteen cattle stations in Australia whose size exceeds 10,000 hectares. Four of them exceeds 15,000 hectares. These cattle stations are so large and the grazing area so spread out that it takes weeks to round up all cattle during the mustering season. Back in the old days, cowboys used to ride out in horses gathering up cattle. Today light aircraft is used for spotting animals which are rounded up by stockmen on trail bikes.
Because of the remoteness and size of Australian cattle stations, life is very isolated. The next human settlement is often a day’s drive away. So these stations function like small towns with schoolroom for the kids of the owners and workers, a small general store to supply essentials and possibly an entertainment or bar area. Electricity is typically provided by generators or solar cells. Internet and television is provided by satellite.
Anna Creek Station is currently owned by Williams Cattle Company, after it acquired the property from S. Kidman & Co in 2016.
Bonus fact: The name “Kidman” and “Australia” may remind you of actress Nicole Kidman. The connection is more than a coincidence—Nicole Kidman is actually a descendant of Sir Sidney Kidman.
Photo credit: Planettrekker/Flickr
Source ::::: Kaushik in http://www.amusingplanet.com
With 14.3% of its energy needs being fulfilled through wind and solar energy, it is also a global leader in renewable energy!
In a recent report, the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis(IEEFA), a US-based think tank, ranked Tamil Nadu as one of the top nine markets in the world for acquiring a high percentage of net energy needs from renewable energy sources.
The study was an assessment of the top 15 countries or power markets in the world, where the share of solar and wind energy in proportion to their total energy requirements is high. Denmark leads the way, with 53% of its energy coming from renewable sources in 2017, followed by Southern Australia and Uruguay.
In 2016-17, Tamil Nadu acquired 14.3% of its energy needs from wind and solar energy sources.
“Tamil Nadu also leads India in installed renewable energy capacity. Of the total 30 GW of installed capacity across the state as of March 2017, variable wind and solar power accounted for 9.6 GW or 32% of the total. Firm hydroelectricity added another 2.2 GW or 7%, nuclear 8% and biomass and run of river, 3%. As such, zero emissions capacity represents a leading 50% of Tamil Nadu’s total installed renewable energy. With much of Tamil Nadu’s renewable energy coming from end-of-life wind farms installed 15-25 years ago, average utilisation rates are a low 18%, making the contribution of variable renewables to total generation even more impressive,” says the IEEFA report.
Total installed renewable energy capacity for Tamil Nadu stands at approximately 10,800 megawatts (MW), of which 7870 MW comes from wind and 1,697 MW solar, while the rest comes from biomass and small hydro projects. Although it comes third in solar energy capacity behind Andhra Pradesh (2,010 MW) and Rajasthan (1,961 MW), the state tops the charts in wind power capacity ahead of Gujarat (5429 MW) and Maharashtra (4,752 MW). Tamil Nadu generates more wind energy than Sweden (6.7 GW) and Denmark (5.5 GW), the birthplace of wind energy.
“This rise in renewables is predicted to coincide with a slide in coal’s share in Tamil Nadu’s electricity mix, from 69% in 2017 to 42% 10 years later,” says the World Economic Forum. The state has also diversified into biogas and small hydro plants as well.
“As of March 2017, the state had 1 GW of biomass and run-of-river small-scale hydro, 2.2 GW of conventional hydroelectricity, and 1 GW of gas fired power capacity operational (plus another 1 GW of gas under construction),” reports the IEEFA. In an interesting aside, it also hosts the second largest solar farm (Kamuthi) in the country with a capacity of 648 MW.
This is a heartening development as it comes a time when the Government of India has set a target of sourcing 175 gigawatts of energy from renewable sources by 2022.
When it comes to renewable energy in India, one could consider Tamil Nadu as a pioneer of sorts. Most of its wind farms, for example, were built approximately 25 years back.
The natural conditions in the state favour the growth and development of solar and wind energy. The Tamil Nadu coast receives high wind density and velocity. For six months it receives heavy wind flows, while four months see moderate flows. Also, the state receives 300 or more days of sunshine.
The state’s sojourn into renewable energy began as an emergency attempt to fill the growing deficit between supply and demand of power.
Major industries like automotive parts, textiles, cement and leather-tanning, for example, demanded large amounts of power and consequently, the feed-in tariff (payments to ordinary energy users—people or businesses—for the renewable electricity they generate) for the wind energy sector was encouraging.
The price at which wind energy is sold to the people today is determined at an open auction for power utilities. Earlier, the state power regulators had a stranglehold on determining prices but changed to an auction system in 2016.
With the local textile sector first grabbing the bull by its horns, Tamil Nadu also became one of the first states to allow industrial units to establish their own wind power plants. These 20-year-old wind farms owned by the Tamil Nadu Spinning Mills Association (TASMA) generates a little less than 40% of the state’s total wind energy capacity (3000 MW). The Muppandal wind farm outside Madurai, for example, generates 1.5 GW of energy, making it the largest wind farm outside China.
With favourable tariff conditions, the state also made serious progress in the solar energy arena.
“In recent years, the government has also worked to improve its transmission infrastructure, encouraging firms to expand. Since renewable energy is infirm, managing the fluctuation in power generation is key. Tamil Nadu has begun forecasting the flow so that the grid is ready to handle things,” says this recent report in Quartz India.
Having said that, the IEEFA has argued in its report titled ‘Electricity Transformation in India: A Case Study of Tamil Nadu’, it argued how the state’s growth in wind and solar energy generation isn’t enough.
“Tamil Nadu should double its wind energy capacity to 15GW and increase its solar capacity to 13.8GW by 2026-27 to deliver cheaper electricity to customers,” the report said.
Instead, what the state is doing is looking to build 25,000 MW of thermal power projects. “Despite being a world leader in wind energy, Tamil Nadu’s wind farms have ageing and outdated technology. Upgrading the existing turbines alone could double the state’s leading wind energy capacity,” said Tim Buckley, IEEFA’s director of energy finance studies, Australia.
There are other concerns, as well. “Renewable energy assets in Tamil Nadu are facing significant back down (as state power utilities are buying little power from these plants). This adversely impacts their feasibility,” Kanika Chawla, a renewable energy expert at Delhi-based non-profit Council on Energy, Environment, and Water, told Quartz India.
Primarily, the major concerns stem from state regulation-related issues. For starters, the state-owned power utility Tangedco has proposed an additional imposition of taxes on rooftop solar plants, says this Times of India report.
Last July, Tamil Nadu was unable to use all the solar power it generated. In the wind energy sector, the government could stymie TASMA’s ability to drawing back the excess power it delivers to the power grid in the event of a shortage (wind banking). What one must understand is that TASMA generates and delivers excess wind energy to the power grid.
However, the biggest concern is the dire financial condition of the state power utility. In 2016-17, the Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation Limited (TANGEDCO) posted a loss of Rs 3,783 crore, besides year-long delays in the payment of dues to power-generating units.
As a result, these power generation units are unable to repay loans they had taken from the banks to install all the necessary equipment. The poor state of regulation in the state’s power sector is a real concern.
Source…. Rinchen Norbu Wangchuk
in http://www.the betterindia.com
Stephen Hawking, the world-renowned theoretical physicist and cosmologist, has passed away at the age of 76, leaving a scientific legacy behind him that will undoubtedly be remembered for many centuries to come.
Hawking was born on January 8th, 1942 in Oxford, the United Kingdom to two Oxford University graduates, Frank and Isobel. He had two younger sisters, Philippa and Mary, as well as an adopted brother named Edward.
The family moved to St. Alban’s, Hertfordshire, where they were considered to be both highly intelligent and somewhat eccentric by the locals. They lived frugally in a large, messy house and got around in a converted London taxi cab.
Following his primary and secondary school education, Hawking began his university education as an undergraduate at University College, Oxford in 1959. He was just 17 years old. Although the world only pictures him as a man confined to a wheelchair due to debilitating motor neuron disease that he was diagnosed with aged just 22, Hawking actually gained a reputation as being something of a daredevil during his university years.
He was the coxswain of a rowing crew at the University College Boat Club, and became notorious for steering his crew on risky courses, inevitably leading to a string of damaged rowing boats. He left University College with a Bachelor of Arts in natural science in 1962 prior to starting to work on his doctorate.
His diagnosis with a rare form of motor neuron disease occurred at that time, and it led to him becoming deeply depressed. Nevertheless, he was encouraged to continue his studies by his supervisor, Dennis William Sciama, and was eventually able to demonstrate that Einstein’s general theory of relativity implies space and time would have a beginning in the Big Bang and end in black holes.
During his graduate years at Cambridge, Hawking fell in love with his first wife, Jane Wilde, with whom he had three children. The marriage would end some 30 years later after the marriage succumbed to the pressures of Hawking’s fame, ideological differences and the difficulties surrounding caring for him in light of his disability.
Despite beginning to use crutches in the early 1960s, he long fought off having to use a wheelchair, but when he finally couldn’t do so any longer, he gained notoriety for wild driving on the streets of Cambridge. He also used to run over students’ toes intentionally and would even spin himself on the dancefloor at college parties.
Together with Roger Penrose, Hawking had his first major breakthrough in 1970. They were able to use mathematics to show that a singularity, a region of infinite curvature in space-time, was the point from which the big bang emanated.
After he realized that he was wrong in his argument about black holes being able to radiate, Hawking was in a Cambridge pub with his students when he suddenly turned up his voice synthesizer to full volume and bellowed that he was conceding defeat. Anyone who studied under his tuition or knew him personally knew him for his wicked sense of humor.
Hawking was elected to the Royal Society in 1974 aged just 32 after the series of radical discoveries he made during his early career, and would become the Lucasian professor of mathematics at Cambridge. The latter is often thought as the UK’s most distinguished academic chair and was once held by Isaac Newton.
His 1988 book, A Brief History of Time, catapulted Hawking to international stardom. It sold over 10 million copies and was translated into no less than 40 different languages. It was around that time that his marriage would begin to break down, but he would go on to remarry in the mid-1990s.
During his lifetime, he won the Albert Einstein Award, the Wolf Prize, the Copley Medal and the Fundamental Physics Prize, however, the Nobel Prize for Physics eluded him. He also returned to the White House (he had also visited during the Clinton administration) to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Barack Obama.
His life has also been immortalized on screen, not least thanks to the multiple award-winning movie, the Theory of Everything. He also lent his voice and know-how to various documentaries over the years.
Perhaps it’s not surprising to know that Hawking was not a religious man, and dismissed the comforts of religious belief. With that being said, he had once told an interviewee that he wasn’t afraid of death, but he added that he wasn’t in any hurry to die due to how much work he had left to do. The great cosmologist is survived by his three children from his first marriage, together with his three grandchildren.
Watch Stephen Hawking being interviewed by Charlie Rose: