Blacklight

We have already talked about Infrared, so now we will talk about the other side of the visible spectrum, ultraviolet. We commonly refer to ultraviolet light bulbs as black lights but this is a misnomer because the light is not actually black but a deep purple since that is the part of the visible spectrum that is closest to UV. As we discussed before, if we could see infrared, it would be on the top of a rainbow whereas with ultraviolet, it would be on the bottom. In the first decade of the 20th century, Robert Wood created a filter that only allows ultraviolet light to pass through but blocked visible light, the filter was called fittingly enough Wood’s Glass. Murdoch, who create a filter similar to this but about ten years earlier, used his “new source of light” to see blood that was invisible to the naked eye that was cleaned out of a carriage. The problem with blood is that it does not fluoresces under black light so to see the blood you need to be lucky enough and have the a material that fluoresces under black light so that it will create darker regions where the blood is. Despite some historical inaccuracy, a little bit of anachronism is forgivable when you manage to figure out who Jack the Ripper was.

 

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A Delicious Discovery

In the Tesla effect Constable Crabtree envisioned a yam cooking room that would harness the power of microwaves to cook delicious yams. An entire room dedicated to quickly cooking food sounds ridiculous, but most of us don’t think using a microwave oven is. The use of microwaves to cook food was discovered by accident. In 1945, Percy Spencer was working on a radar transmitter, the magnetron, and noticed that the chocolate bar in his front pocket was melting. He quickly realised that it was from the magnetron and the high-frequency microwaves that it was producing so he decided that he would start the microwave popcorn craze and he tried to pop a kernel of popcorn. It needless to say popped. He then contained the microwaves in a box and the microwave was born.  It took several years afterwards for the first microwave oven to be produced and it was huge, not quite the size of the room that Crabtree mentioned but the size of a modern refrigerator and cost about $50,000 in today’s dollars. Now we have units that are a lot smaller and most of us couldn’t live without.

The Green Muse

The green muse or absinth was central to the plot of the episode The Green Muse, but you might be surprised to know that it doesn’t have hallucinogenic effects like Murdoch though. Absinthe is a light green spirit with a bitter taste, it is prepared with a neutral alcohol from white grapes and it’s three constant ingredients:  grande wormwood, green anise, and florence fennel. The major factor that gave absinthe is bad name is that in 1864 a scientist conducted an experiment where he expose one guinea pig to alcohol vapour and another to wormwood vapour. The guinea pig exposed to the wormwood started to have convulsions whereas the one exposes the alcohol did not. This led him to believe that the active chemical in wormwood Thujone was responsible for the seizure.  His result help push bans in many countries starting from the early 20th century and in some case like France not being unbanned until very recently, 2011 in France’s case.  Recently studies have concluded that the amount of absinthe that you would need to consume to have dangerous amounts of Thujone would cause alcohol poisoning long before you reach dangerous levels; about 50 liters of absinthe.  Please drink responsibly and if you are seeing green women then either it is St. Patrick’s day or there is something seriously wrong.

Heavy Metal

Mercury has had a long history of being used erroneously for medicine. The people who have fallen victim to heavy metal poisoning range from an ancient Chinese emperor who took mercury to become immortal to Beethoven who took it to cure syphilis. Dr. Ogden gave it to Murdoch to “ward off infection” after he sustained a serious injury, but this was not bad medical practices it was actually considered to good practice. In Victorian times, Mercury was thought to be a general cure, but it took a while to figure out that it should not be in the human body. It was being used in teething powder for infants in the 1920! Mercury poisoning is rare today but it still occurs, the biggest cause of Mercury poisoning is from eating seafood because there is a high concentration of mercury in them, this is due to Biomagnification, think of the food chain, the big fish eat the small fish and the small fish eat algae. Each link in the food chain absorbs a little more mercury from the one below it and mercury is hard to break down so mercury accumulates in the fish. Some of the symptoms of Mercury poisoning include shedding your skin and profuse sweating. So the moral is don’t eat fish too often and politely refuse the mercury injection next time you are in 19th century Toronto.

This Begs the Question

In Confederate Treasure, Brackenreid uses the phrase begs the question wrong. Here’s what he says:

Which begs the question, how does a Minister in the Canadian government end up being chucked into Toronto harbour?

Actually, sir, begging the question is a term for a logical fallacy in which the proposition to be proved is assumed in the premise.

It’s not a question that begs to be asked?

No.

Then why the hell do they call it that?

Murdoch’s response may be a little dense but is is exactly what it is, a statement that uses the argument as part of the argument. Another way of say this is that X is true because of X, where X is the same thing. You might think that a statement like this would be obvious but they are often a lot more subtle, either disguising the fallacy in long twisting sentences or by using synonyms. To answer Brakenreid’s last question, why is it called begging the question, it is from Latin  it came from the latin petitio principii which means “assuming the initial point”. Aristotle came up with this idea around 350 BC and the phrase has been misused ever since. Finally, yes, the title did use it wrong.

Floating Compass

In the Tesla Effect James Pendrick made a compass from very simple materials, and I’m going to show how you can make one yourself. First you will need a needle, a cork, a magnet, and a cup of water. The first thing you have to do is rub the magnet along the side of the needle but in only one direction. This push the elections to one side and will magnetize the needle. You can then push the needle through a small circular piece of cork so that it will float on the water. Once you have done this you can put it in the water and you will see it point towards magnetic north. You might have noticed from the picture that you don’t necessarily need a cork and you can float the needle on the water itself using the water’s surface tension, you need to make sure the needle is completely dry and you need to put it in gently. The surface tension method works just as well as the cork but it is a less permanent solution because it is easy to knock the needle and make it sink. You can experiment by moving a magnet close to your compass and see what happens. Another thing to try is take a different compass, one that is not made with water, and take it near some of you electronics. If the needle points towards the device and away from the North Pole, then you are seeing the effects of the magnetic field created by electronics just like in the episode.

WiiU

This has nothing to do with Murdoch Mysteries but I thought it would be a good place to express my excitement upon getting a Nintendo WiiU. If you don’t know what the WiiU is, it is the new video game console from Nintendo that is kicking off the next generation of video game hardware. It’s main feature is that the controller is a touch screen and can be used in conjunction with the TV  to give all sorts of new ways to play games. One of the games that impressed me the most was a game of tag but instead of people being able to look at your screen and see where you are and tag you, one person has their own screen and is trying to get away from the others. Anyway, next time I’ll talk about how to make your own floating compass. Until next time.