If you’ve ever complained about how heavy your work laptop is (and we certainly have more than a few times over the years), know that your chunky business class laptop, no matter how the laptop bag digs into your shoulder, has nothing on the biggest computer system ever built.
The AN/FSQ-7 Combat Direction Central, thankfully just called “Q7” in day to day usage, was a collection of Cold-War-era computers built by IBM in the late 1950s for the U.S. Air Force. Each of the machines weighed 250 tons and had two computers. The entire system was comprised of 24 machines linked together to perform radar analysis for the Semi-Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) air defense network and, collectively, weighed 12 million pounds.
Today we take soda for granted, but the early history of the popular carbonated drink is filled with curiosities and fascinating trivia. For example, one of the reasons the early soda experience was so closely mated to pharmacies (most early soda shops were connected to or located within existing pharmacies) was not just because of the early medicinal use of carbonated water, but because the carbonated water was made on site—and that required the kind of safe material handling and chemistry knowledge pharmacists already had.
That wasn’t what kept people coming back to soda shops for decades, however, as carbonated water could have easily been made at factories instead of pharmacies. What kept people coming back was that bottle design and technology took ages to catch up with the soda craze and it just wasn’t possible for people to bring the soda home for later consumption in a safe or appealing manner—even if the bottle didn’t crack, it would quickly go flat.
It wasn’t until cheap and sturdy mass produced bottles coupled with an equally cheap and sturdy seal like the bottle cap came along, that the soda industry really took off as consumers could now buy soda anywhere, no soda jerk or pharmacist required, and they could take it home with them to enjoy whenever they wanted it.
You might have looked over the list of potential answers for today’s trivia question and, if you’re the nervous sort, started contemplating how your food choices might be exposing you to unnecessary radiation and cancer risks. Don’t worry! Not only are the amounts of radiation found in even the most radioactive foods tiny, but all food, being made up of organic materials, is very slightly radioactive due to the different isotopes found in it.
In the case of Brazil nuts, the most naturally radioactive food around, the radioactive compounds are potassium and radium—which it uptakes at a higher rate than other food sources from the soil in which it grows (the soil isn’t more radioactive, mind you, it’s just that Brazil nut trees have a very extensive root system that covers large areas).
How radioactive is a Brazil nut? It emits over 6,600 pCi/kg of radiation (that’s pico-Curies, named in honor of Pierre Curie by his wife and famed radiation researcher Marie Curie, per kg of mass). Not only is that a small amount of radiation, but almost all of it passes harmlessly out of our bodies and further, the nutrients we get from “high” radiation foods like nuts, bananas, and vegetables like carrots and potatoes significantly outweighs any risk we would incur from the tiny level of radiation found in them.