Daily Update: Sunday, February 28th, 2016

02-28 - Dord

Today is the Third Sunday of Lent. We have no Saints again, but on this date in 1939, an editor of Webster’s Third New International Dictionary realized that the word “dord” and its definition had been inserted into the Dictionary in error.

The editor of Webster’s Third New International Dictionary in 1939 had noticed that the entry for the word ”dord” lacked an etymology and investigated. He found that on July 31, 1931, Austin M. Patterson, Webster‘s chemistry editor, had sent in a slip reading “D or d, cont./density.” This was intended to add “density” to the existing list of words that the letter “D” can abbreviate. The slip somehow went astray, and the phrase “D or d” was misinterpreted as a single, run-together word: Dord. (This was a plausible mistake because headwords on slips were typed with spaces between the letters, making “D or d” look very much like “D o r d”.) A new slip was prepared for the printer and a part of speech assigned along with a pronunciation. The would-be word got past proofreaders and appeared on page 771 of the dictionary around 1934. Soon after the 1939 discovery of the erroneous word in the dictionary, an order was sent to the printer marked “plate change/imperative/urgent”. In 1940 bound books began appearing without the ghost word but with a new abbreviation (although inspection of printed copies well into the 1940s show “dord” still present). Philip Babcock Gove, an editor at Merriam-Webster who became editor-in-chief of the dictionary wrote that this was “probably too bad, for why shouldn’t ‘dord’ mean ‘density’?”

On Saturday night I started reading The Letter of Marque by Patrick O’Brian. Our #7 ranked LSU Baseball team lost the second game of their three-game home series with Sacramento State by the score of 4 to 5. Our New Orleans Pelicans lost to the Minnesota Timberwolves by the score of 110 to 112; our Pelicans will next play an away game with the Houston Rockets on March 2nd. And our LSU Men’s Basketball team beat Florida by the score of 96 to 91; they will play their last regular season home game with Missouri on March 1st.

I did my Bathroom Devotional Reading, and on our way to work I did my Internet Devotional Reading. Once we clocked in at the casino Richard was on Mini Baccarat, and I was on Three Card Poker until at 9:00 am they moved me to Pai Gow.

On our way home from work we stopped at Wal-Mart so that Richard could get groceries and household items, and we deposited the in town bill payments in the collection boxes. Once home I ate my lunch salad and read the Sunday papers. Julie and I settled through Facebook Messenger that we will meet in New Orleans on Thursday, March 17th. I then took a nap for the rest of the day. Our LSU Women’s Basketball lost their last regular season game to #3 ranked South Carolina by the score of 39 to 75; our Lady Tigers will now play Alabama in the SEC Tournament in Jacksonville, Florida on March 2nd. And our LSU Baseball team beat Sacramento State in the third game of their three-game home series by the score of 11 to 1; our Tigers will next play a single away game with Nicholls on Wednesday. I did not do my Daily Update, and Richard gathered up the trash.

We do not have any Saints to honor tomorrow, but tomorrow is Leap Year Day. This only happens once every four years, just like Presidential elections, except that we will not have a Leap Year in 2100. On my breaks at work I will do my Daily Update for yesterday. Once home from work I will make my lunch salads for Monday and Tuesday and eat my Monday salad. And I will probably go to bed early, but not before doing my Daily Update.

On this Sunday afternoon our Parting Quote comes from Donald A. Glaser, American physicist, molecular biologist, and neurobiologist. Born in 1926 in Cleveland, Ohio to Russian immigrants,  he attended Case School of Applied Science (now Case Western Reserve University) in Cleveland, Ohio, where he completed his Bachelor’s degree in physics and mathematics in 1946. During the course of his education there, he became especially interested in particle physics. He played viola in the Cleveland Philharmonic while at Case, and taught mathematics classes at the college after graduation. He continued on to the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), where he pursued his Ph.D. in physics. His interest in particle physics led him to work with Nobel laureate Carl David Anderson, studying cosmic rays with cloud chambers. He preferred the accessibility of cosmic ray research over that of nuclear physics. While at Caltech he learned to design and build the equipment he needed for his experiments, and this skill would prove to be useful throughout his career. He also attended molecular genetics seminars led by Nobel laureate Max Delbrück; he would return to this field later. Glaser completed his doctoral thesis, The Momentum Distribution of Charged Cosmic Ray Particles Near Sea Level, after starting as an instructor at the University of Michigan in 1949. He received his Ph.D. from Caltech in 1950, and he was promoted to Professor at Michigan in 1957. While teaching at Michigan, Glaser began to work on experiments that led to the creation of the bubble chamber. His experience with cloud chambers at Caltech had shown him that they were inadequate for studying elementary particles. In a cloud chamber, particles pass though gas and collide with metal plates that obscure the scientists’ view of the event. The cloud chamber also needs time to reset between recording events and cannot keep up with accelerators’ rate of particle production. He experimented with using superheated liquid in a glass chamber. Charged particles would leave a track of bubbles as they passed through the liquid, and their tracks could be photographed. He created the first bubble chamber with ether, and experimented with hydrogen while visiting the University of Chicago, showing that hydrogen would also work in the chamber. His new invention was ideal for use with high-energy accelerators, so Glaser traveled to Brookhaven National Laboratory with some students to study elementary particles using the accelerator there. The images that he created with his bubble chamber brought recognition of the importance of his device, and he was able to get funding to continue experimenting with larger chambers. Glaser was then recruited by Nobel laureate Luis Alvarez, who was working on a hydrogen bubble chamber at the University of California at Berkeley. Glaser accepted an offer to become a Professor of Physics there in 1959. Glaser was awarded the 1960 Nobel Prize for Physics for the invention of the bubble chamber. His invention allowed scientists to observe what happens to high-energy beams from an accelerator, thus paving the way for many important discoveries. After winning the Nobel Prize, Glaser began to think about switching from physics into a new field, as he had found that as his experiments and equipment in physics grew larger in scale and cost, he was doing more administrative work. He also anticipated that the ever-more-complex equipment would cause consolidation into fewer sites and would require more travel for physicists working in high-energy physics. Recalling his interest in molecular genetics that began at Caltech, Glaser began to study biology. He spent a summer at MIT as a visiting professor and attended biology seminars there. He also spent a semester in Copenhagen with Ole Maaloe, the prominent Danish molecular biologist. He worked in UC Berkeley’s Virus Lab (now the Biochemistry and Virus Laboratory), doing experiments with bacterial phages, bacteria, and mammalian cells. He studied the development of cancer cells, in particular the skin cancer xeroderma pigmentosum. As with the bubble chamber, he used his experience designing equipment to improve the experimental process. He automated the process of pouring out agar, spreading culture, and counting colonies of cells using a machine he called the dumbwaiter. It took photographs, administered chemicals, and had a mechanical hand to pick up colonies. While continuing to work at UC Berkeley, Glaser started Berkeley Scientific Laboratory with Bill Wattenberg in 1968. The short-lived partnership worked on automating diagnostic procedures. In 1971 he founded Cetus Corporation with Moshe Alafi, Ron Cape, and Peter Farley. Glaser’s position was Chairman of the Science Advisory Board. The founders felt that the knowledge scientists had gained about DNA had not yet been applied to solve real problems. The company did microbial strain improvement, and then genetic engineering, becoming the first biotechnology company. Cetus was purchased by Chiron Corporation in 1991. As molecular biology became more dependent on biochemistry, Glaser again considered a career change. His experience automating visual tasks in physics and molecular biology led him to an interest in human vision and how the brain processes what is seen. He began to work on computational modeling of the visual system and visual psychophysics (died 2013): “Physics is a wrong tool to describe living systems.”

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