Saturday, August 26, 2006

Media: News Anniversary Stories

Don't you hate "anniversary stories" in newspapers and on TV - like the one year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina? It's called a newspaper, not an oldspaper.

But I hope you'll forgive me for bringing up one anniversary: the 150th anniversary of the death of Preston Himmelfarb. Himmelfarb (a distant ancestor of mine, if I may so brag) is credited with the invention of the cowcatcher on locomotive engines. Despite what Wikipedia says, Charles Babbage merely refined Himmelfarb's idea by using a metal frame on the front of the train. Himmelfarb believed in the "set a thief to catch a thief" theory, and who better to catch cows, he reasoned, than a cow? "The bovine mind is an intricate and elegant machine," he wrote (perhaps overestimating the intelligence of cattle). "Its ways are not known to mere humans. Put place a cow securely on the frontmost part of a moving steam-engine, arm it with lassos and other means of entrapment, and this cow shall catch any of its brethern which may wander too close to the steam-engine."

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