8 Dazzling Facts About Hedy Lamarr

Public Domain
Public Domain

You may know Hedy Lamarr, the sultry siren of the silver screen. But have you heard of Hedy Lamarr, inventor, engineer, and "the mother of Wi-Fi"? Allow us to introduce you.

1. SHE WAS A SERIAL—AND STRATEGIC—BRIDE.

Born Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler in Vienna, Austria, the artist eventually known as Hedy Lamarr married six times between 1933 and 1965. Her last wedding vows were spoken to her own divorce lawyer, though he, too, eventually got the boot. But Lamarr didn't go through all that for nothing. Alongside her first husband, arms dealer and Mussolini sympathizer Friedrich Mandl, Lamarr was privy to the ins and outs of Austrian weapons manufacturing and trade—information she would later offer to the U.S. military during World War II. 

2. THAT MARRIAGE HAD A HOLLYWOOD ENDING…

Believe it or not, Lamarr did not especially enjoy her marriage to a fascist. But she also didn't feel safe simply asking the powerful, controlling man for a divorce. Instead, she resorted to a most theatrical strategy: dressing as her own maid and fleeing to Paris by moonlight.

3. …WHICH BROUGHT HER TO HOLLYWOOD.

Color lobby card showing Hedy Lamarr embracing a smirking Clark Gable.
MGM, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Lamarr had been acting since she was a teenager, but it was a chance encounter with MGM studio chief Louis B. Mayer that made her a household name. Lamarr left Europe and moved to California, where Mayer cast her as the vampy love interest opposite superstars like Spencer Tracy, Jimmy Stewart, and Clark Gable.

4. THE STARLET LIFE WAS NOT ALL IT WAS CRACKED UP TO BE.

Black and white image of Hedy Lamarr and George Sanders in the film The Strange Woman.
MGM, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Studio executives loved Lamarr for her looks (Mayer regularly billed her as "the most beautiful woman in the world") and her exotic persona. But they didn't seem to care much about letting her act. "Any girl can be glamorous," Lamarr once said. "All you have to do is stand still and look stupid."

Before long, Lamarr tired of standing still. She got bored. And then, fortunately for us, she started tinkering.

5. SHE HAD A MIND FOR ENGINEERING.

Lamarr became a prolific inventor. She created a fizzing cube that turned water into instant cola. She started sketching blueprints for unheard-of machines. She took up with millionaire aviator Howard Hughes and drafted new fish- and bird-inspired designs for the wings of his airplanes.

6. WE MIGHT NOT HAVE WI-FI WITHOUT HER.

One night while standing over a piano at a party, Lamarr made friends with composer George Antheil. The two discovered they shared a passion for creating and an intense curiosity about how things work. Using Lamarr's knowledge of weapons design and Antheil's of musical instruments, they created what they called a "frequency-hopping system": a device inspired by the roll of a player piano that could allow military torpedoes to sidestep enemy efforts at radio interference. The fundamental structure of this system would go on to inform many of the devices we rely on today, including GPS and wireless internet.

7. THE GOVERNMENT IGNORED HER TALENTS AT FIRST.

Lamarr offered both her invention and her knowledge to aid the U.S. war effort, but was dismissed. Charles F. Kettering of the National Inventors Council told Lamarr she could serve her country better by using her fame and pretty face to sell war bonds. Gamely, she did, raising $25 million (that's about $340 million today) for the military through public appearances. 

Two decades later, the Navy finally caught on to the potential of Lamarr and Antheil's invention and built frequency-hopping technology into the all-important radios used during the Cuban missile crisis. 

8. SHE GOT THE RECOGNITION SHE DESERVED…EVENTUALLY.

Lamarr received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960, but it wasn't until 2014—fourteen years after her death—that she was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

NASA Reveals How Living in Space for a Year Affected Scott Kelly’s Poop

NASA, Getty Images
NASA, Getty Images

When you agree to be part of a yearlong space study, you forfeit some right to privacy. In astronaut Scott Kelly’s case, the changes his body endured while spending a year at the International Space Station (ISS) were carefully analyzed by NASA, then published in a scientific journal for all to see. Kelly submitted blood samples, saliva samples, and cheek swabs. Even his poop was subjected to scrutiny.

As PBS reports, Scott Kelly’s fecal samples revealed that his gut microbiome underwent significant but reversible changes during his time in orbit. In what was surely good news for both Kelly and NASA, his gut bacteria didn’t contain anything “alarming or scary,” according to geneticist Martha Hotz Vitaterna, and it returned to normal within six months of landing on Earth.

Even after being subjected to the challenging conditions of space, “Scott’s microbiome still looked like Scott’s microbiome, just with a space twist on it,” said Vitaterna, who was one of the study’s authors.

The fecal probe was one small part of a sweeping NASA study that was just published in the journal Science, more than three years after Kelly’s return. Dubbed the Twins Study, it hinged on the results of Kelly’s tests being compared with those of his identical twin, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, who remained on Earth as the control subject.

NASA’s goal was to gain insight into the hazards that astronauts could face on proposed long-term missions to the Moon and Mars. The agency has gone to great lengths to get this information, including offering to pay people $18,500 to stay in bed for two months in order to replicate the conditions of anti-gravity.

It also explains why NASA was willing to launch unmanned rockets into space to collect samples of Kelly’s poop. On four different occasions at the ISS, Kelly used cotton swabs to pick up poo particles. When the rockets arrived to drop off lab supplies, they returned to Earth with little tubes containing the swabs, which had to be frozen until all of the samples were collected. The process was tedious, and on one occasion, one of the SpaceX rockets exploded shortly after it launched in 2015.

The study also found that his telomeres, the caps at the ends of chromosomes, had lengthened in space, likely due to regular exercise and a proper diet, according to NASA. But when Kelly returned to Earth, they began to shorten and return to their pre-spaceflight length. Shorter telomeres have a correlation with aging and age-related diseases. “Although average telomere length, global gene expression, and microbiome changes returned to near preflight levels within six months after return to Earth, increased numbers of short telomeres were observed and expression of some genes was still disrupted,” researchers wrote.

Researchers say more studies will be needed before they send the first human to Mars. Check out NASA's video below to learn more about what they discovered.

[h/t PBS]

Astronomers Want Your Help Naming the Largest Unnamed Dwarf Planet in the Universe

iStock.com/jgroup
iStock.com/jgroup

Part of the fun of becoming involved in science is naming things. Entomologists are notorious for branding new species of insects with fanciful names, like the Star Wars fans who labeled apoid wasps Polemistus chewbacca and Polemistus yoda. Sometimes scientists invite the public’s opinion, as in the 2016 petition by the UK's Natural Environment Research Council to have internet users name a polar research ship. They dubbed it Boaty McBoatFace. (That choice was overruled, and the ship is now known as the RRS Sir David Attenborough.)

Now, astronomers are looking to outsource the name of a dwarf planet. But the catch is that there’s no write-in ballot.

The planet, currently known as (225088) 2007 OR10, was discovered in 2007 in the Kuiper Belt orbiting the Sun beyond Neptune and may have a rocky, icy surface with a reddish tint due to methane present in the ice. It's bigger than two other dwarf planets in the Kuiper Belt—Haumea and Makemake—but smaller than Pluto and Eris.

The three astronomers involved in its identification—Meg Schwamb, Mike Brown, and David Rabinowitz of Caltech’s Palomar Observatory near San Diego, California—are set to submit possible names for the dwarf planet to the International Astronomical Union (IAU). They’ve narrowed the choices down to the following: Gongong, Holle, and Vili.

Gonggong, a Mandarin word, references a Chinese water god who is reputed to have visited floods upon the Earth. Holle is a German fairy tale character with Yuletide connotations, and Vili is a Nordic deity who defeated a frost giant.

The team is accepting votes on the planet’s website through 2:59 EDT on May 11. The winning name will be passed on to the IAU for final consideration.

[h/t Geek.com]

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