CHARLOTTE, NC, March 16, 2016 – We are doing Trivia Lite today with items about Splenda and illumination. Plus, we threw in some dinosaur facts, just for variety.
1 – How the “Obie” light got its name: In the world of stage and film lighting a small spotlight designed by cinematographer Lucien Ballard in 1944 has become a standard fixture in the industry.
We have all seen an “obie” even if we have no idea what it is called, but there’s an interesting story behind its invention.
In 1937 a beautiful well known Hollywood actress was involved in a traffic accident that almost ended her career. The actress, a native of India who concealed her heritage throughout her adult life by claiming she was born in Tasmania, Australia, suffered facial injuries that kept her off the silver screen for nearly two years.
On her return to acting in 1939, the actress gave her most memorable performance in Wuthering Heights, even though the damage to one side of her face did not allow for the filming of close-ups .
While shooting another picture about Jack the Ripper called The Lodger in 1944, Lucien Ballard designed a small spotlight so the female lead in the picture could be photographed at close range without highlighting the rash that had become a perpetual problem since her accident. In the most general sense, the light had a similar effect to air-brushing in contemporary photography.
Today, theatrical, motion picture and television productions could not be done without “obies” as a primary source of lighting.
As for the actress, Merle Oberon was a screen legend during the 30s and 40s, but it was Ballard’s invention which added years to her career. As such the “Obie” was named after actress Merle Oberon.
As an aside, Merle was in no way related to Obi-wan Kenobi.
2 – Splenda: How sweet it is: Believe it or not, in the summer of 1975 two researchers at Queen Elizabeth College, University of London were working on a substance they thought might have the makings of an excellent insecticide.
Shashikant Phadnis and his adviser, Leslie Hough, were told to “test” the powder for toxicity. Misunderstanding the message, Phadnis thought that he needed to “taste” it, and placed a small amount of the substance on the tip of his tongue. In so doing, the researcher discovered that the compound was extremely sweet.
Hough was so excited that he called the substance Serendipitose and then set about putting some of the powder in his coffee.
When a stunned Phadnis reminded his colleague that it could be toxic, Hough replied, “Oh forget it. We’ll survive!”
Survive they did. For the next year, Hough and Phadnis worked closely with Tate & Lyle to create over a hundred chlorinated sugars before settling on one that had three chlorine atoms that were approximately six hundred times sweeter than sugar.
Thus, the potential for insecticide became a thing of the past, but the powder found a new use as a food item known as “sucralose” in its purest form.
Today, the bright-yellow packets have been mixed with fillers to become the best selling artificial sweetener in America known as Splenda.
Ahhh, the sweetness of success.
3 – T. rex and the stegosauraus: As little orphan Annie used to say “Leapin’ lizards.”
For whatever reason, dinosaurs have always held a unique attraction for many of us. Though time-travel movies or representations of early man often place humans in the same era as many of those massive beasts that once roamed the earth, mankind was never actually part of the food chain for the hulking carnivores.
Even so, that does not diminish our need to understand “dinosaur time.”
The Mesozoic Period lasted from about 250 million to 66 million years ago and is frequently known as the “Age of Dinosaurs.”
When discussing numbers of such magnitude however, it is easy to become disoriented with periods that somehow reduce our ability to comprehend the separation of such vast expanses of time.
Stegosaurus and his buddies were rambling around western North America about 150 million years ago during the end of an era known as the Jurassic Period. However, Tyrannosaurus rex, or T. rex, did not come along until the late Cretaceous Period which began a mere 67 million years ago.
If you do the math, the separation of time between the Stegosaurus and Tyrannosaurus was about 83 million years. When the non-flying dinosaurs disappeared, it ushered in the so-called “Age of the Mammals” approximately 66 million years ago which the time frame during which humans evolved.
So why is all of this numerical manipulation significant? Because it means that more time elapsed between the era of Stegosaurus and Tyrannosaurus than has passed between T. rex and humans.
It’s an interesting idea to ponder, no bones about it.
Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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