June/July 2011 Pulse Rate

The first skydiver in history was Frenchman André-Jacques Garnerin. In Oct. 1797, he jumped out of a hot-air balloon that was floating at about 3,000 feet in altitude over a park in Paris using a silk parachute of his own design.

Ancient Polynesian navigators, who crossed thousands of miles of the Pacific Ocean in canoes, had some interesting wayfinding techniques. These included particular colors of the ocean and sky, the unique look of cloud clusters around certain islands and the way certain species of wildlife congregated.

The New York City Independence Day fireworks show is consistently the biggest in the country. In 2010, more than 40,000 shells, over 20 tons in total, were detonated in the 26-minute display.

Early 19th century ship captain William Driver coined the American flag nickname “Old Glory.” The flag that inspired the moniker flew from his whaling ship mast. Still around today, it is a stoutly constructed 10 ft. by 17 ft. banner with 34 stars (originally it had 24) and a maritime anchor symbol.

Some players in the Japanese baseball leagues have three-digit uniform numbers. American Major League Baseball is currently contemplating adopting this practice, but players have a superstition about getting assigned a high number—they believe it means they won’t make the team in spring training.

July 1933 saw the first solo around-the-world plane journey. Famed aviator Wiley Post took off from Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn in his modified Lockheed Vega “Winnie May” and made stops in Germany, Russia, Siberia, Alaska, western Canada, and back to Brooklyn in just over 7 days, 19 hours.

You can’t swim in it, but it’s there: It was discovered that water vapor is a byproduct of star formation. In fact, it was estimated that a “space cloud” 1,500 light years away near the Orion Nebula contains 1 million times more water than all of Earth’s oceans combined.

Lightning can make trees explode. Tree sap resists the electrical current of lightning, an action that makes its temperature skyrocket, causing an explosive flash into steam.

Definitely more valuable as symbolism: Paris’s Bastille prison contained only 7 inmates (4 forgers, 2 “lunatics” and 1 “deviant”) when it was stormed by revolutionaries on July 14, 1789.

An article in the June 1974 issue of the journal Emergency Medicine introduced to the world the famous maneuver by Henry Heimlich. Interestingly enough, Australian doctors do not recommend the use of the Heimlich Maneuver, they feel that the danger of injury outweighs any potential benefit.

The sport of BASE jumping (essentially skydiving from a natural feature or structure) was officially inaugurated with a videotaped jump using now standard techniques from the El Capitan rock formation in California’s Yosemite National Park in 1978.

While the Wright Flyer I made the first heavier-than-air flight in 1903, the extensively redesigned Wright Flyer III was the first practical airplane design. After a flight of 24 miles in just over 39 minutes in 1905, the Wright Brothers contacted the US government, offering the aircraft for sale.