We observe Veterans’ Day on this date – it was once Armistice Day, the day World War I ended on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month – and are particularly grateful this year to all the veterans’ groups that are helping those dealing with the effects of Hurricane Sandy.
This is also the date in 1930 that Albert Einstein and Leo Szilard filed their patent for a gas absorption refrigerator which had no moving parts and needed only a heat source to get it working. The fact that Einstein and Szilard spent time improving something as mundane as a refrigerator seems on the face of it quite hilarious – a Nobel Prize physicist and the creator of the cyclotron focusing on a household appliance?
But Einstein had been prompted by two things: reading about a family killed by poisonous fumes leaking from a refrigerator and also by the desire to create an additional source of income. He was already trying to help Jews get out of Germany and foresaw a greater need for funds for that purpose in the years ahead.
Sadly, the Einstein refrigerator (see the details here) was never put into production, though eventually some of the Einstein-Szilard patents were bought and used by Electrolux.
But the idea lives on and interest in it has been revived – Malcolm McCulloch is one of a number of scientists working on an improved version – because the Einstein refrigerator is not only practicable for regions without reliable electricity, but does not use freon, a gas more damaging even than CO2.
And btw, when you think of the technology of 1930 – cars, telephones, radios, stoves, refrigerators, even television – doesn’t it seem odd that the only one that has hardly changed is the refrigerator? Granted, it’s gotten much more efficient, but it is not smaller, lighter or cheaper, always the direction of technology. Why is it such a dinosaur?
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A very happy 72d birthday to Barbara Boxer, our junior senator from California. When Representative Stephanie Tubbs-Jones from Ohio wanted to object to certification of Ohio’s EC votes in 2004, she needed at least one Senator to join her in petitioning Congress. The Solons of the Senate were unanimous in their refusals – until Senator Boxer stepped up. She is shown here with some of the hundreds of roses we sent to her in gratitude on Valentine’s Day in 2005.