5 "Fathers" You Didn't Know You Had

5. Gary Gygax, the father of role playing games

Gygax invented Dungeons and Dragons in 1974, and fathered most subsequent iterations of the classic tabletop game, including Advanced D&D, various Dungeon Master guides, and was heavily involved with the licensing of D&D to become a cartoon in 1983. (Check the cartoon's intro out -- I've never seen so much plotting compressed into so few seconds.) Gygax grew up in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, and lived there until his death last year. Near the end of his life, he said "I would like the world to remember me as the guy who really enjoyed playing games and sharing his knowledge and his fun pastimes with everybody else." And so we will.

4. Art Ingels, the father of karting

As in go-karting, which Ingels invented in 1956 while he was a designer at Kurtis Craft, which built Indy race cars. Ingels assembled the first go kart out of scrap metal and a surplus two-stroke cycle engine and tested it in the parking lot of Pasadena, California's famous Rose Bowl. Pictured below: a modern kart.

3. Abū Yūsuf Yaʻqūb ibn Isḥāq al-Kindī, the father of perfume

An early Islamic philosopher (c. 801"“873 CE) known for his pioneering work in astronomy, chemistry, logic, psychology and other diverse fields, he's best known for inventing a variety of scented perfume products through his extensive chemical research involving plant compounds. He also wrote the first perfume recipe book, the Kitab Kimiya' al-'Itr (Book of the Chemistry of Perfume), which included the first instructions for the production of camphor.

2. Al-Jazari, the father of robots

Another genius from the Islamic Golden Age (he lived between 1136"“1206), Jazari was an inventor, mechanical engineer and craftsman who contributed much to mechanical science, including development of the first crankshaft, and various pumps and water supply systems. But his most astounding work was in the field of automata, or robotics: Jazari built automated moving peacocks driven by hydropower, the earliest known automatic gates, a humanoid, drink-serving waitress, a hand-washing machine --

"Pulling a plug on the peacock's tail releases water out of the beak; as the dirty water from the basin fills the hollow base a float rises and actuates a linkage which makes a servant figure appear from behind a door under the peacock and offer soap. When more water is used, a second float at a higher level trips and causes the appearance of a second servant figure — with a towel!"

-- and long before the animatronic Rockafire Explosion band at Showbiz Pizza, Jazari created a band of musical robots. It was a boat with four automatic musicians that floated on a lake to entertain guests at royal drinking parties, which performed "more than fifty facial and body actions during each musical selection." (Pictured below.)

1. Frank W. Cyr, father of the yellow school bus

Kid_hack.jpgIn the American heartland during the 1930s, there was no standard for school busing. Cyr, who had been a superintendent of schools in Nebraska and was working as a teacher educator, found that students were riding to school in all manner of contraptions, from old jalopies and hay wagons to horse-drawn kid hacks (pictured at left). With help from the Rockefeller Foundation, Cyr organized a conference between transportation experts and education experts in 1939, at which they agreed upon 44 standards, such as bus height and aisle width, which every school bus should meet. Most of those standards have since changed and been updated, except for one: the color. Known as School Bus Yellow, it was chosen for its high visibility to other motorists.

Next week: 5 "mothers" you never knew you had!

Big Questions
Why Does Turkey Make You Tired?

Why do people have such a hard time staying awake after Thanksgiving dinner? Most people blame tryptophan, but that's not really the main culprit. And what is tryptophan, anyway?

Tryptophan is an amino acid that the body uses in the processes of making vitamin B3 and serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep. It can't be produced by our bodies, so we need to get it through our diet. From which foods, exactly? Turkey, of course, but also other meats, chocolate, bananas, mangoes, dairy products, eggs, chickpeas, peanuts, and a slew of other foods. Some of these foods, like cheddar cheese, have more tryptophan per gram than turkey. Tryptophan doesn't have much of an impact unless it's taken on an empty stomach and in an amount larger than what we're getting from our drumstick. So why does turkey get the rap as a one-way ticket to a nap?

The urge to snooze is more the fault of the average Thanksgiving meal and all the food and booze that go with it. Here are a few things that play into the nap factor:

Fats: That turkey skin is delicious, but fats take a lot of energy to digest, so the body redirects blood to the digestive system. Reduced blood flow in the rest of the body means reduced energy.

Alcohol: What Homer Simpson called the cause of—and solution to—all of life's problems is also a central nervous system depressant.

Overeating: Same deal as fats. It takes a lot of energy to digest a big feast (the average Thanksgiving meal contains 3000 calories and 229 grams of fat), so blood is sent to the digestive process system, leaving the brain a little tired.

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More Details Emerge About 'Oumuamua, Earth's First-Recorded Interstellar Visitor

In October, scientists using the University of Hawaii's Pan-STARRS 1 telescope sighted something extraordinary: Earth's first confirmed interstellar visitor. Originally called A/2017 U1, the once-mysterious object has a new name—'Oumuamua, according to Scientific American—and researchers continue to learn more about its physical properties. Now, a team from the University of Hawaii's Institute of Astronomy has published a detailed report of what they know so far in Nature.

Fittingly, "'Oumuamua" is Hawaiian for "a messenger from afar arriving first." 'Oumuamua's astronomical designation is 1I/2017 U1. The "I" in 1I/2017 stands for "interstellar." Until now, objects similar to 'Oumuamua were always given "C" and "A" names, which stand for either comet or asteroid. New observations have researchers concluding that 'Oumuamua is unusual for more than its far-flung origins.

It's a cigar-shaped object 10 times longer than it is wide, stretching to a half-mile long. It's also reddish in color, and is similar in some ways to some asteroids in own solar system, the BBC reports. But it's much faster, zipping through our system, and has a totally different orbit from any of those objects.

After initial indecision about whether the object was a comet or an asteroid, the researchers now believe it's an asteroid. Long ago, it might have hurtled from an unknown star system into our own.

'Oumuamua may provide astronomers with new insights into how stars and planets form. The 750,000 asteroids we know of are leftovers from the formation of our solar system, trapped by the Sun's gravity. But what if, billions of years ago, other objects escaped? 'Oumuamua shows us that it's possible; perhaps there are bits and pieces from the early years of our solar system currently visiting other stars.

The researchers say it's surprising that 'Oumuamua is an asteroid instead of a comet, given that in the Oort Cloud—an icy bubble of debris thought to surround our solar system—comets are predicted to outnumber asteroids 200 to 1 and perhaps even as high as 10,000 to 1. If our own solar system is any indication, it's more likely that a comet would take off before an asteroid would.

So where did 'Oumuamua come from? That's still unknown. It's possible it could've been bumped into our realm by a close encounter with a planet—either a smaller, nearby one, or a larger, farther one. If that's the case, the planet remains to be discovered. They believe it's more likely that 'Oumuamua was ejected from a young stellar system, location unknown. And yet, they write, "the possibility that 'Oumuamua has been orbiting the galaxy for billions of years cannot be ruled out."

As for where it's headed, The Atlantic's Marina Koren notes, "It will pass the orbit of Jupiter next May, then Neptune in 2022, and Pluto in 2024. By 2025, it will coast beyond the outer edge of the Kuiper Belt, a field of icy and rocky objects."

Last week, University of Wisconsin–Madison astronomer Ralf Kotulla and scientists from UCLA and the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) used the WIYN Telescope on Kitt Peak, Arizona, to take some of the first pictures of 'Oumuamua. You can check them out below.

Images of an interloper from beyond the solar system — an asteroid or a comet — were captured on Oct. 27 by the 3.5-meter WIYN Telescope on Kitt Peak, Ariz.
Images of 'Oumuamua—an asteroid or a comet—were captured on October 27.

U1 spotted whizzing through the Solar System in images taken with the WIYN telescope. The faint streaks are background stars. The green circles highlight the position of U1 in each image. In these images U1 is about 10 million times fainter than the faint
The green circles highlight the position of U1 in each image against faint streaks of background stars. In these images, U1 is about 10 million times fainter than the faintest visible stars.
R. Kotulla (University of Wisconsin) & WIYN/NOAO/AURA/NSF

Color image of U1, compiled from observations taken through filters centered at 4750A, 6250A, and 7500A.
Color image of U1.
R. Kotulla (University of Wisconsin) & WIYN/NOAO/AURA/NSF

Editor's note: This story has been updated.


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