Thursday, March 13, 2014

Which Major Discoveries led to the Invention of the Two-Way Radio?

(Asked by ‘Scottish’ Pete from Woolwich)

Hey Pete, how’s everything? Thanks for your question.

…And what a question it is. The modern two-way radio, which is a direct descendent of the WW2-era Walkie-talkie, first became recognizable in the years just before the outbreak of World War 2. Its origins are an interesting story in their own right (but I’ll condense it here).

Three names are usually mentioned with regards to the invention of the walkie-talkie…

The first is Canadian inventor Donald Hings (1907 – 2004), who invented an early version of the technology back in 1937 (although it wasn’t widely acknowledged or used). Then, there’s American inventor Al Gross (1918 – 2000), who patented the name ‘walkie-talkie’ for his own invention a year later in ’38. Because of the ubiquity of the name, Gross became the best known ‘inventor’ of the technology at the time, even though it had technically existed for 12 months beforehand. However, this isn’t to detract from Gross’ claim, because his version of the walkie-talkie was actually quite different from Hings’ (despite operating on the same essential principles).

Then, there’s Dan Noble (1901 – 1980), a Motorola employee who, although he definitely did not invent the technology, certainly did lead the team that created the widely used WW2-era walkie-talkies. Hings’ version of the technology wasn’t used by the military until 1942, which led to Dan Noble being credited with the invention.

So, make of that mess what you will…

Now, to go back further (and get to the meat of your question), here is a list of discoveries that led to the creation of the two-way radio.

James Clark Maxwell (1831-1879), a mathematical physicist (and one of a seemingly endless line of genius Scotsmen) demonstrated that electromagnetic waves could propagate in free space in his 1865 paper ‘A Dynamical Theory of the Electromagnetic Field’ (of which the most famous fan was Albert Einstein). This led German physicist Heinrich Hertz (1857 – 1894) to build on Maxwell’s pioneering work by conclusively proving the existence of electromagnetic waves in 1887.

After that, Serbian-American inventor, physicist, vegetarian and absolute genius Nikola Tesla (1856 – 1943) demonstrated the transmission of radio frequency energy in 1892. After that, Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi (1874 – 1937) built a wireless system capable of transmitting signals over unprecedented distances in 1895 – which is pretty much the birth of radio.

This was an important area of study at the time; the first wireless telephone conversation took place in 1880 and was made by Alexander Graham Bell (1847 – 1922), who was another Scot, incidentally. A lot of people were working on similar technology, so it would not have been unlike the ‘space race’ of the 50’s and 60’s at the time.

Marconi went about taking over pretty much all business related to the invention of the radio (which was, eventually, credited solely to him) and, by 1907, he had established the first commercial transatlantic radio service (and also pretty much screwed Tesla out of any/all royalties he would have been owed. Nice).

Thanks to the work of Julio Cervera Baviera (1854 – 1929) the Spanish army became the first to use radio for military purposes (at least, as far as I’m aware, anyway) in the early 1900’s.

Canadian inventor Reginald Fessenden (1866 – 1932) (who also helped to develop sonar and TV, incidentally), invented AM radio (no, not the ‘Breakfast Show’ –it means that more than one station can broadcast signals) when, on Christmas Eve 1906, he played some violin and read from the Bible.

Eventually, all ships were equipped with radio transmission capability, with Marconi owning a total monopoly over ship-to-shore communication. Ship-to-shore contact became a subject of increased awareness and importance following the Titanic disaster of 1912 and radios began to be seen even more as a crucial safety measure in all areas of industry as a result. Look up the 1913 ‘International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea’ (it has a Wikipedia page, I just checked) for more info.

Skipping forward a bit, now. Throughout the 1930’s, there were a ton of minor (and major) improvements made to the technology, more than a few made by Marconi and his engineers. Some really clever people made their mark on the fledgling technology here, but if I mention them all, we’ll never get to the end.

Oh, by the way, FM radio was subsequently invented by American electrical engineer Edwin Armstrong (1890 – 1954) in 1933.

By the late 30’s, Hings comes into the picture, as does the rising spectre of a terrifyingly advanced Nazi Germany. The race was on to have the best equipped armies out there fighting the Axis powers and the allies wisely put a huge amount of manpower into the development of portable radio communication. It was a decision which led directly to the rapid co-opting of Hings and Gross’ work, as well as the later improvements made by Noble.

This is a long and fascinating story (about which many books have been written), but, as a ‘potted history’ of sorts, I hope that answers your question. 

Which Major Discoveries led to the Invention of the Two-Way Radio?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

What police earpieces are available to civilians

There are quite a few police earpieces on the market right now, Renée, so the high likelihood is that whatever you need, someone, somewhere will be selling it. If it helps, I’ll give you a bit of an overview…

If you’re in the market for an overt earpiece, or even if you fancy something a bit more discreet (like, um, a covert earpiece), you’ll certainly be able to find it on the World Wide Web. Police organizations across the world employ a wide variety of communications equipment, from ‘listen only’ devices to PTT (Push To Talk) earpieces and, as I said, a significant portion of that equipment is available for consumer purchase.

Covert earpieces can be wireless or wired and consist on an in-ear receiver and a hidden mic. The wireless models start at about £200 (240EUR), but the better models will set you back about £500 (607EUR). The more basic ‘wired’ models (the ones with the familiar coiled tube) are FAR cheaper, usually costing around £20 (24EUR).

The tube can fit into your ear canal either via a ‘mushroom tip’ (which blocks the ear canal entirely – hence the name, as there isn’t ‘mushroom in your ear’ once you wear it! Groan), or a ‘gel insert’ (I haven’t got any jokes for this one, sorry!) that is a little less invasive. The mushroom tip tends to block out ambient sounds, not unlike noise-cancelling headphones, while the gel inserts allow more background noise to bleed in. Both types work equally well and frankly it comes down to a matter of personal choice.

Finally, we come to the shapes: the two main shapes that police use are ‘G’ shape and ‘D’ shape. The G shape looks, well, a bit like a ‘G’ and slips over the top of the ear, whilst the ‘D’ shape hooks round the back of the ear and resembles, you guessed it, the letter ‘D’. Once again, this is a matter of personal preference, but according to my reading, the G is considered more comfortable by most users.

The Motorola MTH800 and Sepura SRH series are among the most widely used police radios.

I hope that little info-bomb helps you, Renée. Police communication equipment tends to be sturdy, reliable and high performance, so it is the logical choice for security or surveillance work. It can also be available at very fair prices, which means that everybody has access to decent equipment.

Thanks for your question! 

What police earpieces are available to civilians

Monday, March 10, 2014

Legendary female wrestling pioneer Mae Young passes on, aged 90

Pioneering female professional wrestler Mae Young has passed away aged 90.

To date, Mae Young is the only professional wrestler in history (male or female) to have had documented matches in nine different decades. She began wrestling in 1939, at the onset of the Second World War and her last match took place in 2010.

Young, real name Johnnie Mae Young, was originally billed as ‘The Amazing’, ‘The Queen’ or ‘The Great’ Mae Young but was ultimately far better known simply as Mae Young. She enjoyed one of the most celebrated and unique careers in the history of professional wrestling.

Young’s wrestling debut came whilst she was still a teenager, after starring in the boy’s amateur wrestling team at school. During World War 2, she became a popular attraction, inspiring many other women to become professional wrestlers.

In 1951, Young was crowned as the first ever NWA Florida (National Wrestling Alliance) Women’s Champion and eventually became the NWA’s first United States Women’s Champion.

During the 50’s, Young wrestled for the WWWA (World Women’s Wrestling Association), bringing credibility and popularity to Women’s wrestling. She remained a draw throughout her career.

Modern day wrestling fans know Young best for her stint with the WWF (World Wrestling Federation – now known as World Wrestling Entertainment, or WWE) from 1999-2000, in which she played a more comedic role. However, despite being nearly 80 years old, Young was still highly active as a wrestler. She participated in matches and storylines with her best friend, The Fabulous Moolah, another pioneer of Women’s wrestling and multi-time Women’s Champion (who had been partly trained by Young).

Mae Young would appear on WWE television, playing a number of roles from comedy character to respected veteran, throughout the next decade, with her final appearance being a celebration of her 90th birthday in 2013.

Memorable moments from her WWE tenure include being kissed by The Rock, giving the ‘Bronco Buster’ finisher to former WCW (World Championship Wrestling) boss Eric Bischoff, being beaten up by Tag Team wrestlers The Dudley Boyz and becoming ‘pregnant’ by Olympic weightlifter and former World Heavyweight Champion Mark Henry. “She will be missed as much as anyone I’ve ever known!” said Henry.

In 2008, Mae Young was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.

Since the announcement of Young’s death, tributes have flooded in from the wrestling world. Former WWE Champion-turned actor The Rock said, “She is a wrestling pioneer. I truly had deep affection and respect for ‘Auntie Mae’ Young”

WWE boss Vince McMahon said, “Her longevity in sports entertainment may never be matched, and I will forever be grateful for all of her contributions to the industry. On behalf of WWE, I extend our sincerest condolences to her family and friends.”

‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper wrote, “”May Young was a wonderful lady! When I started in the business May teased me a lot. Love you May!” Multiple time WWE, WCW and NWA Champion Ric Flair called Young “An incredible person and pioneer of the wrestling business” Whilst, in an emotional Tweet, Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts wrote, “Nobody, male or female, loved & respected the wrestling business more than her. True legend.”

Mae Young will be remembered by her fans as a pioneer and a female icon, as well as a charismatic performer with a great sense of humor. She was genuinely among the toughest human beings, be they male or female, to ever step between the ropes. 



Legendary female wrestling pioneer Mae Young passes on, aged 90

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Out of Africa: Earliest Human Footprints Found in UK

The earliest evidence of Human footprints (outside of Africa, where most experts believe modern Humans first appeared) has been discovered in the United Kingdom.

The prints, believed to be some 800,000 years old, were identified on the shores of Happisburgh, a small village situated on the Norfolk coastline. The footprints represent a major prehistoric find, as they are direct evidence of the earliest known Humans in Northern Europe.

Dr. Nick Ashton, of The British Museum, said of the footprints that “(They are) one of the most important discoveries, if not the most important discovery that has been made on [Britain"s] shores,”

The hollow, foot-shaped markings were discovered during a low tide last year, when unusually rough seas exposed an area of sandy beach.

Sadly, the footprints were washed away fairly quickly, but they were visible long enough to be properly recorded, photographed and studied. Dr. Aston and his team worked hard to document the monumental discovery, even as heavy rainfall filled the tracks, “The rain was filling the hollows as quickly as we could empty them,” he told a BBC reporter.

Fortunately, the team was able to obtain a 3D scan of the prints. This scan revealed that the footprints likely belonged to a group consisting of an adult male and a few children. This has led some experts to speculate that the prints are those left by a prehistoric family group. The scan was so accurate, that the adult’s shoe size was determined to have been a comfortable 8.

Dr. Isabelle De Groote of Liverpool John Moore’s University was the first to confirm that the hollows were Human footprints. She told BBC that, “They appear to have been made by one adult male who was about 5ft 9in (175cm) tall and the shortest was about 3ft. The other larger footprints could come from young adult males or have been left by females. The glimpse of the past that we are seeing is that we have a family group moving together across the landscape.”

The family, however, were not modern Humans. Experts believe that they would have likely belonged to a group called Homo Antecessor. Remains of this extinct Human species (or possibly subspecies) have been found throughout Europe, most notably in Spain. They are thought to be among the continent’s earliest Human inhabitants.

It is generally accepted that Homo Antecessor was either a relative of Homo Heidelbergensis (an early Human considered most likely to be the direct ancestor of both modern Humans and Neanderthals), or else the same species. In either instance, h. Heidelbergensis is known to have lived in Britain about 500,000 years ago, which is about 300,000 years after changing temperatures are thought to have wiped out Britain’s Homo Antecessor population.

Homo Heidelbergensis is said to have evolved into Homo Neanderthalensis (Neanderthal Man), who lived, alongside our own Homo Sapien ancestors, until about 40,000 years ago, when the receding ice (and possibly competition for food) signaled the end for our last surviving sister species.

Interestingly, in 2010, Dr. Aston and his team discovered stone tools of a kind known to have been used by h. Antecessor in Happisburgh. It is a discovery that neatly compliments that of the footprints. This find, and other supporting material, effectively confirms the presence of early Humans in Britain about one million years ago.

According to Dr. Aston, the find will rewrite our understanding of British and European prehistory. To put that into perspective a little, the Happisburgh footprints are the only such find of this age to have ever been seen outside of Africa. Even then, there are only three specimens that are considered to be older across the African continent.

800, 000 years ago the earliest Britons left a lasting mark on the landscape. In so doing, they inadvertently sent us a message from the past about who they were and how they might have lived.


Out of Africa: Earliest Human Footprints Found in UK

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Rediscovery of Knee Ligament Validates 19th Century Paper

Doctors have discovered that an important knee ligament, first described in an 1879 paper, before being subsequently ignored for well over a century, is actually a very real and important body part.

Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears are a common problem for many athletes. They are notoriously difficult to repair and the recovery is a tough and painful process that can take up to a year. Following treatment, however, many patients still complain of aches and pains and it is not at all uncommon for the joints to fail the necessary pivot-shift tests (performed so the doctors can check the success of their surgeries). Repeat injuries are also inexplicably common.

Last month, it was announced that a team of Flemish doctors appears to have finally solved this persistently vexing riddle and, in so doing, they validated a discovery made over a century ago.

Paul Segond, a 19th century French surgeon who is known for greatly aiding the development of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (as well as describing the Segond fracture), wrote of the ligament as a “pearly, fibrous band” in 1879. Segond posited that it was an additional ligament, but anatomists did not consider the initial discovery to be accurate.

After reading Segond’s paper and deciding that there may be something to it after all, the team of knee surgeons and an anatomist began investigating the possibility that Segond’s mystery ligament was, in fact, a very real part of the Human body.

The team examined the knees of 41 cadavers, finding that 40 of them actually contained Segond’s ligament, just as he’d described it a hundred years earlier.

With this (re)discovery now published and proven, the ligament has been named as the anterolateral ligament (ALL).

The anterolateral ligament joins the other joint structures in the knee considered most important by doctors and anatomists, such as the lateral femoral epicondyle (LFE), lateral collateral ligament (LCL), Gerdy’s tubercle (GT), popliteus tendon (PT), popliteofibular ligament (PFL), and, of course, the aforementioned anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).

Surgeons are already considering ways in which to repair ALL tears and damage, with the hopes of improving the quality of life for anyone who suffers any ligament damage to the knees. This rediscovery is likely to become a very significant one in the field of sports and athletics, across both amateur and professional playing fields.



Rediscovery of Knee Ligament Validates 19th Century Paper