Profile of Dr. Percy Spencer from a 1958 Issue of Reader’s Digest

An old profile of the man who invented the microwave oven.

PERCY SPENCER is the nosiest man I have ever known. Now 63, he still has an intense, small boy’s compulsion to explore every wonder in the world around him. The results of his relentless curiosity have touched the lives of each of us.

Recently I walked into his office at the Raytheon Manufacturing Co. in Waltham, Mass. – an office befitting the senior vice-president of one of the nation’s largest electronic’ manufacturers. “Hi, Don,” the stocky, shirt-sleeved Down-Easter shouted from behind his desk. “Where’d you get the shoes?”

The moccasin-type shoes weren’t that different, but I knew Percy. Were the shoes comfortable, he asked. Would they wear? Why were they stitched like that? In a minute I had one shoe off, so that he could examine it. He wanted to know just how it was made.

The story is typical of Percy Spencer’s direct, homey approach, which he brings even to the miracle world of modern electronics. One day a dozen years ago he was visiting a lab where magnetrons, the power tubes of radar sets, were being tested. Suddenly, he felt a peanut bar start to cook in his pocket. Other scientists had noticed this phenomenon, but Spencer itched to know more about it.

He sent a boy out for a package of popcorn. When he held it near a magnetron, popcorn exploded all over the lab. Next morning he brought in a kettle, cut a hole in the side and put an uncooked egg (in its shell) into the pot. Then he moved a magnetron against the hole and turned on the juice. A skeptical engineer peeked over the top of the pot just in time to catch a faceful of cooked egg. The reason? The yolk cooked faster than the outside, causing the egg to burst.

The Sphinx’s Nose

Did Napoleon’s army use it for target practice?

There exists an interesting account written by historian Muhammad al-Husayni Taqi al-Din al-Maqrizi (died CE 1442), in a book called al-Mawa`iz wa al-i`tibar fi dhikr al-khitat wa al-athar (G. Wien, ed., 1913). In vol. 2, page 157 of the Wien edition, al-Maqrizi states that the face, specifically the nose and ears, were demolished in 1378 by a Sufi from the khanqah of Sa`id al-Su`ada named Sa’im al-dahr. The reason for the vandalism, according to al-Maqrizi, was to “remedy some religious errors:” at that time some Egyptians were still burning milk-thistle (shuka`a) and safflower (badhaward) at the foot of the Sphinx while murmuring a verse 63 times in hope that their wishes would be fulfilled. “From the time of this disfigurement also,” al-Maqrizi wrote, “the sand has invaded the cultivated land of Giza, and the people attribute this to the disfigurement of Abul-Hol [i.e., the Sphinx].”

It is interesting that al-Maqrizi mentions that the ears were demolished. As far as I can see, the Sphinx still has his ears.

From Catchpenny’s Mysteries of Ancient Egypt.

Salem Witchcraft Trials

From Famous American Trials:

From June through September of 1692, nineteen men and women, all having been convicted of witchcraft, were carted to Gallows Hill, a barren slope near Salem Village, for hanging. Another man of over eighty years was pressed to death under heavy stones for refusing to submit to a trial on witchcraft charges. Hundreds of others faced accusations of witchcraft. Dozens languished in jail for months without trials. Then, almost as soon as it had begun, the hysteria that swept through Puritan Massachusetts ended.

Why did this travesty of justice occur? Why did it occur in Salem? Nothing about this tragedy was inevitable. Only an unfortunate combination of an ongoing frontier war, economic conditions, congregational strife, teenage boredom, and personal jealousies can account for the spiraling accusations, trials, and executions that occurred in the spring and summer of 1692.

YouTube vs. UTube

A company called Universal Tube & Rollform Equipment Corp (web address is is suing YouTube because they are getting too many mistaken hits to their website.

This action has been filed by uTube, to stop the violation of its lega rights by Defendant YouTube, Inc., whose illegal acts have resulted in the direction of millions of nuisance internet visitors to the Plaintiff’s website. Plaintiff has used the internet domain name [] since 1996 for its business of selling used tube and pipe mills and rollform machinery.

Due to confusion in the minds of consumers, the spillover of nuisance traffic to Plaintiff’s neighboring website at [] has destroyed the value of Plaintiff’s trademark and internet property, repeatedly caused the shut down of Plaintiff’s website, increased Plaintiff’s internet costs by thousands of dollars a month, and damaged the Plaintiff’s good reputation. Plaintiff seeks preliminary and permanent Injunctions, the transfer of the [] domain to Plaintiff, damages, costs and attorneys’ fees as authorized by the Lanham Act and Ohio Law.

I did a quick search to see what happened to their lawsuit and they’re still sticking to it but have figured out a way to make a quick buck out of all the attention their site is receiving.

“The site has installed a ring tone search engine and lists scores of cell phone ring tones atop its highly trafficked page,” reports Red Herring’s Scott Martin. “People can find Shakira and Britney Spears ring tones along with links for gambling, concerts, and dating.” Not to mention Nissan cars, Tai Chi, and Louis Vuitton.

That’s a pretty far cry from the aforementioned rollformers (although I’ve heard the 8 Stand x 2 x 10” Dahlstrom #550-8 is popular with some young people). But Red Herring quoted Baris Karadogan, who wrote, “[F]rom what I hear, that is generating them north of $1000/day. That’s $360K straight to the bottom line, at 10% pretax that’s like finding $4M of revenue all of a sudden. That’s luck.”

Mr. Girkins may not entirely agree – he’s apparently still pursuing a lawsuit filed against YouTube when this all first started. It almost seems as if the problem has taken on a life of its own, as Mr. Girkins said the new search engine “more than covers costs for hosting. But we have a lot of attorney costs, too.”

(Thanks Fabio)