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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Today in science history: February 25

United States Navy
The fast combat support ship USNS Arctic (T-AOE 8), left, conducts an underway replenishment with the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) Jan. 15, 2007. Eisenhower and embarked Carrier Air Wing 7 are on a regularly scheduled deployment in the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command area of responsibility in support of maritime security operations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Miguel Angel Contreras) (Released)

February 25th is a day just like any other, but it has held a number of major scientific discoveries and innovations through history. Ranging from technologically advanced aircraft carriers to patented handguns, February 25th is worth remembering.

The USS Ranger CV-4 launched into World War II

The U.S. Navy launched its first purpose-built aircraft carrier on February 25th, 1933.

Though initially designed with speed in mind, so as to move quickly from location to location as needed, she was deemed too slow. Ranger was largely confined to an escort role, but still participated in many important battles in World War II.

The planes she carried provided aerial support during the Battle of Casablanca, as well as contributing to a number of other naval operations and patrols around the Atlantic. Her roles jumped from combat carrier to a training carrier in 1944 and she began ferrying both equipment and military passengers. In 1947, her service came to an end, and Ranger was sold for scrap.

Ranger was unusual in that she was the first aircraft carrier that was built with this task in mind, as opposed to earlier vessels repurposed to launch aircraft. The legacy she left extends to the modern day’s supercarriers.

RELATED: Today in science history: February 23

Supposed proof of humans, mastodons, and elephants coexisting is uncovered

In 1866, a group of miners claimed to have found a human skull while mining in California. The State Geologist of California and professors at Harvard University were convinced that the skull was clear evidence of a period where humans had lived alongside both mastodons and elephants. Because the skull had supposedly been found beneath volcanic deposits a million years old, many scientists agreed with this assessment.

However, upon closer examination, it was revealed that the skull itself, known as the Calaveras Skull, showed no evidence of the evolution mankind would have gone through and was therefore not as ancient as they thought. William H. Holmes, a Smithsonian archaeologist, concluded that the skull was a hoax and had been planted by the miners as a practical joke.

The Calaveras Skull is still used in debates about evolution today, with creationists claiming that it is proof that humans never evolved and were created in their current state.

Samuel Colt patents first his revolver

Samuel Colt patented his first revolving handgun in the United States on February 25th, 1836, founding his first company to manufacture them in the same year.

These pistols were the first to allow a user to fire more than one or two shots before reloading. While the gun still utilized the same cap and ball ammunition system as other weapons of the time, Colt’s new revolvers offered five or six shots to be loaded at once.

Factories to product Colt products spread across the country and into Britain, causing a conflict with local gunsmiths. Colt’s weapons were used in the Crimean War, and the company thrived during the American Civil War. This boom continued until World War I.

While Colt was the not the first to suggest a revolver design for pistols, his efforts produced the first successful example and revolutionized the gun industry. 

RELATED: 100 years of February 10 in science

Faulty radio altimeter brings down commercial airplane

On this day in 2009, Turkish Airlines Flight 1951 crashed during its attempt to land at a Netherlands airport. The passenger flight did not cause a fire, but resulted in the deaths of nine passengers and crew, with all three pilots perishing.

A faulty radio altimeter misrepresented the plane’s altitude as below sea level and activated the aircraft’s automated response, which caused the engine power to decrease. The plane stalled when the pilots were unable to increase speed and subsequently crashed into a plowed field.

A radio altimeter measures an aircraft’s distance from the ground below it using radio waves. Commercial aircraft use the tool when landing to ensure a smooth descent and warn the pilot if they are approaching the ground at an unsafe speed.

After the accident, airplane manufacturer Boeing issued a warning about the use of autopilot while landing to prevent radio altimeter malfunction and advised pilots to maintain airspeed, altitude and control over their instruments.

Follow Nicole Morin on Twitter.

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