Black Bodies and Quantum Cats: Tales of Pure Genius and Mad by JENNIFER OUELLETTE


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Hubble made headlines again in March 2004 when it produced the deepest look yet into the visible universe, showing galaxies that formed between 400 and 800 million years after the big bang—a time that is very brief on the grand cosmic scale, because the big bang is believed to have occurred 12 billion to 14 billion years ago. The relative smattering of photons detected—compared with the millions detected per minute from closer galaxies—were so ancient that they had begun their journey across the universe before the Earth even existed, limping exhaustedly into Hubble’s field of view billions of years later.

However, relations between the two brothers were not good, and James even beat Benjamin occasionally. In 1723 Franklin ran away, eventually landing in Philadelphia. He initially found work as an apprentice printer, then borrowed money to DRAWING DOWN THE FIRE 45 set up his own printing business, which soon became successful. Franklin also purchased his first newspaper, the Pennsylvania Gazette, and in 1733 founded Poor Richard’s Almanack. By 1749 he had retired from business to focus on scientific experiments and inventions, concentrating on the mysterious phenomenon of electricity.

A Leyden jar is nothing more than a glass jar partially filled with water, with a conducting wire projecting from its cork. (It was invented in Leyden, the Netherlands, in 1745 by the Dutch physicist Pieter van Musschenbroek, who nearly electrocuted his best friend during the first successful test run. ) To test his theory about the nature of lightning, Franklin published a paper proposing an experiment with an elevated rod or wire to “draw down the electric fire”from a cloud, with the experimenter standing in the protection of an enclosure similar to a sentry box.

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