Jan Ingenhousz: Who was the little-known scientist who discovered …
Jan Ingenhousz, Father of Photosynthesis, Celebrated With Google Doodle
Today’s Google Doodle celebrates another important figure in the history of science: Jan Ingenhousz, the 18th century Dutch chemist who “ sprouted a flowering understanding of the secret life of plants,” according to Google. Ingenhousz, who would have turned 287 today, was also a physician and a biologist, but his best-known contribution to scientific knowledge is the discovery of photosynthesis: the process by which plants convert light into energy.
Ingenhousz began his career as a physician, developing an early interest in innoculation and immunizing hundreds of Londoners against the threat of smallpox. His aptitude caught the attention of the Austrian Empress Maria Theresa, who brought Ingenhousz to Vienna to inoculate the entire royal Habsburg line.
Ingenhousz didn’t limit himself to the study of medicine, and it was his unraveling the secrets of photosynthesis that ultimately made his fame. While it was already known that plants interact with atmospheric gases, it was Ingenhousz who first noticed that plants produce oxygen when exposed to light — tipping him off to the process of photosynthesis, whereby plants harness light to convert water and carbon dioxide into sugar, which plants use as energy, and oxygen, which fills the air we breathe.
Ingenhousz also made contributions to the study of electricity, thermal conduction, and particle motion, which brought him into correspondence with some of the other scientific luminaries of his day, including Benjamin Franklin and Henvy Cavendish.
He died England in 1799, but whether you’re bent over a biology textbook or enjoying a sunny day in the park, you can thank Jan Ingenhousz for helping us understand how the plants around us work.
Write to Eli Meixler at [email protected] .
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Jan Ingenhousz: The Man Who Discovered Photosynthesis
Today, Google is celebrating the 287th birthday of Jan Ingenhousz. While you may not be familiar with the name, you almost certainly learned about his most famous finding in your junior-high science class.
Ingenhousz , a Dutch physician born in 1730, discovered photosynthesis—how plants turn light into energy. In this process, chlorophyll in plant cells absorbs light and uses it to convert atmospheric carbon dioxide and water to sugars, which the plants consume for energy. The cells give off oxygen as a byproduct of the whole cycle.
Previous research by the English chemist Joseph Priestley had revealed that plants produce and absorb oxygen from the atmosphere, and after meeting Priestley in 1771, Ingenhousz conducted further experiments on plants’ physiology. He saw that green plants released bubbles of oxygen in the presence of sunlight, but the bubbles stopped when it was dark—at that point, plants began to emit some carbon dioxide. Ingenhousz concluded that light was necessary for these steps to take place. He also found that plants give off far more oxygen than carbon dioxide, thus identifying the benefits of having greenery around to purify the air.
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From Farts to Floozy: These Are the Funniest Words in English, According to Science
Fart. Booty. Tinkle. Weiner. We know these words have the ability to make otherwise mature individuals laugh, but how? And why? Is it their connotations to puerile activities? Is it the sound they make? And if an underlying structure can be found to explain why people find them humorous, can we then objectively determine a word funnier than bunghole?
Chris Westbury, a professor of psychology at the University of Alberta, believes we can. With co-author Geoff Hollis, Westbury recently published a paper (“Wriggly, Squiffy, Lummox, and Boobs: What Makes Some Words Funny?”) online in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. The two analyzed an existing list of 4997 funny words compiled by the University of Warwick and assessed by 800 survey participants, whittling down the collection to the 200 words the people found funniest. Westbury wanted to see how a word’s phonology (sound), spelling, and meaning influenced whether people found it amusing, as well as the effectiveness of incongruity theory—the idea that the more a word subverts expectations, the funnier it gets.
In an email to Mental Floss, Westbury said that a good example of incongruity theory is this video of an orangutan being duped by a magic trick. While he’s not responding to a word, clearly he’s tickled by the subversion of his own expectations:
With incongruity theory in mind, Westbury was able to generate various equations that attempted to predict whether a person would find a single word amusing. He separated the words into categories—insults, sexual references, party terms, animals, names for body parts, and profanity. Among those examined: gobble, boogie, chum, oink, burp, and turd.
Upchuck topped one chart, followed by bubby and boff, the latter a slang expression for sexual intercourse. Another equation found that slobbering, puking, and fuzz were reliable sources of amusement. Words with the letters j, k, and y also scored highly, and the vowel sound /u/ appeared in 20 percent of words the University of Warwick study deemed funny, like pubes, nude, and boobs.
In the future, Westbury hopes to examine word pairs for their ability to amuse. The smart money is on fart potato to break the top five.
[h/t Live Science ]
A Simple Trick for Defrosting Your Windshield in Less Than 60 Seconds
As beautiful as a winter snowfall can be, the white stuff is certainly not without its irritations—especially if you have to get into your car and go somewhere. As if shoveling a path to the driver’s door wasn’t enough, then you’ve got a frozen windshield with which to contend. Everyone has his or her own tricks for warming up a car in record time—including appropriately-named meteorologist Ken Weathers, who works at WATE in Knoxville, Tennessee.
A while back, Weathers shared a homemade trick for defrosting your windshield in less than 60 seconds: spray the glass with a simple solution of one part water and two parts rubbing alcohol. “The reason why this works,” according to Weathers, “is [that] rubbing alcohol has a freezing point of 128 degrees below freezing.”
Watch the spray in action below.
[h/t: Travel + Leisure ]
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