Today is the 10th birthday of iTunes, the online store that lets you buy songs, movies, apps for your smartphone, videos…all kinds of stuff that you can enjoy on your phone or computer. Before iTunes, the only way we old-timers could buy songs was on something you could hold in your hand, like a CD, a tape cassette or a vinyl record. Or you could get songs electronically from various illegal websites, which was exciting but felt icky. So the idea that you could get onto your computer, buy any song you wanted (legally), and get it within seconds was mindblowing. iTunes opened with just 200,000 songs on it, all priced at 99 cents, and within just one week they had 1 million song downloads. As of today, iTunes has sold over 15 billion song downloads from a collection of 26 million different songs. Let’s just say, it takes far more than one person to listen to it all.
On this day in 1876, Alexander Graham Bell finally got his invention working: the telephone. It worked nothing like our phones today: the very first phones were sold in pairs, where each phone could call only that one other phone (you had to pick that other person carefully). Then came the “switchboard,” which let you call any other phone, but the “operator,” a phone company person in the middle of town, had to plug in wires to connect your call for you. Now we can call anyone anywhere on our own within seconds, and through the air. But that first phone, that first time talking to someone through a wire, must have looked like magic.
The last week of January often marks the coldest week of the year, at least for the northern half of our planet. We’ve been tilted away from the sun for weeks, we’ve had short days of sunlight, and in some places cloudy gray skies make matters worse. So it’s no surprise that many states have had their coldest temperature ever in late January or early February. When you see some of the records set over the decades, you might find that a bowl of ice cream at 3 degrees F could warm you up.
On this day in 1930, a certain cartoon character showed up in U.S. newspapers for the first time: Mickey Mouse. When Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks first drew this friendly rodent two years earlier, he probably had no idea that a mouse could become so popular. With his high voice, red shorts, and poofy yellow shoes that look impossible to walk in, Mickey is one of the world’s most famous cartoon characters. He was also the first cartoon character to get a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame alongside real humans – after all, he wears clothes, too.
First, a really fun announcement: Bedtime Math is throwing a giant Pajama Party at the new Museum of Mathematics in New York! If you live in the NYC area or will be visiting, on Saturday Feb. 2 kids from ages 3-8 can come to MoMath in their PJs and play home-baked Bedtime Math games. You all get first dibs before this gets announced publicly, so click here to get the details and register!
And as long as we’re talking about math, it’s a great time to ponder the number 2013, our very cool new year. It’s the first year in a long time where all four digits are different – more on that below. Also, because the number 13 is prime – meaning it’s divisible only by itself and 1, and can’t be split into equal-sized groups – 2013 looks kind of yucky and prime also, but it actually isn’t. While the number 13 is considered unlucky by a lot of people, we’re thinking 2013 is going to be a good year.
As people in Alaska like to say, “If Texas doesn’t quit saying they’re the biggest state, we might just cut ourselves in half and make them third biggest.” Alaska may be the baby of the American family – it became the 49th state out of 50 on this day in 1959 – but it is by far the largest. There are only 18 countries bigger than Alaska, and it’s also bigger than the 22 smallest U.S. states combined. Thanks to having all that space, Alaska has lots of room for huge mountains, beautiful glaciers, and lots of cool animals, including 200,000 of the state animal, the moose. By comparison, there are only about 730,000 people – not surprising for a state with a record low temperature of negative 80 degrees. At the least, everyone has lots of space.