December 10th Nobel Prize Day

Alfred Nobel loved peace, it just so happened that he create the most devastating weapon in history, dynamite. Born in 1833 he was able to bring the detonation of nitroglycerin in 1863, an extremely dangerous substance to work with. In 1865 he developed the blasting cap making his product even safer, but still not ideal. In fact, in 1864 his factory blew up killing his little brother and several co-workers. In 1867 he discovered the use of kieselguhr, a porous material, would stabilize the nitro even further and dynamite was born. He named it for Dynamis, a Greek word for miraculous power.

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Nobel’s invention made his a wealthy man, wealthy beyond most of our dreams. But he regretted his invention, eventually winding up with the name”Merchant of Death”. He continued to work on his invention making blasting gelatin in 1875 and ballistite, a smokeless nitro powder, in 1887. Most of his work came in Stockholm, Sweden, his home after living for a short time in Russia as a child. When he died on December 10th, 1896 his will stated that his fortune was to be given out in awards to the best of the best in physics, chemistry, medicine, literature and peace. 5 years after his death the awards began being issued from Stockholm.

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Recipients receive a gold medal and nearly 1,400,000 in cash. The awards are given out on December 10th every year, on the anniversary of Nobel’s death. It is considered one of the most prestigious awards given to anyone, whether Bob Dylan thinks so or not!

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Among those holding this honor are Marie Curie, Theodore Roosevelt, Albert Einstein, George Bernard Shaw, Winston Churchill, Ernest Hemingway, Martin Luther King Jr. and the Dalai Lama. Though some who have been given the award remain in question, most have deserved the award for their accomplishments serving mankind.

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How to celebrate – Look up all the award winners and see how many you feel have accomplished something worthy of the Nobel Prize for yourself. Read about Nobel’s troubled life. Watch for the list of award winners given out every year.

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November 4th National Candy Day

Today is National Candy Day. It is every child’s dream and most parents’ nightmare! The word candy actually comes from Middle England around the 13th century. That came from Old French, “culre candi”, which came from the Persian “Qand” or “Qandi”, which means sugar cane. The first “candy” was made from honey that was used to preserve fruit and flowers. The honey coated the fruit which happened to make a nice tasting treat. It also helped the digestive track and soothed sore throats.

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It is believed that the first “candy” to reach America came from either Britain or France, or perhaps both, in the form of “Rock Candy”. Rock Candy was basically nothing but crystallized sugar, all of which was clear. That would have been in the 18th century and the process to make Rock Candy was so expensive that only the very wealthiest could afford it. Over the years we have learned how to add food dyes and flavoring to Rock Candy to make it somewhat more popular.

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Chocolate did not come into the picture until centuries later even though Columbus took the cocoa plant back to Europe after his first voyage to the Americas in 1492. Other milestones for the candy industry came in the 1800’s when candy was made cheaper by production lines and crude machines. This candy was known as “Penny Candy” and for the first time in history, everyone could afford a sweet, at least on special occasions. By 1847 a candy press was invented making candy as cheap as it had ever been and in quantities that made it available even in remote locations. In 1851 the steam pan became available to melt down the sugar even faster and an industry was born.

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In 1928 Hershey’s introduced Reese’s peanut butter cups, the first real sign that chocolate could be mass produced as well and sold in a package to consumers. The peanut butter filling was something new for the industry but was extremely well received.

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During World War 2, soldiers were given M&M’s made by Mars Inc., for a pick me up because they were coated in a hard candy shell that did not melt while they were in the field. The first real use of M&M’s was actually reported during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930’s where Ernest Hemingway noted seeing soldiers with a hard shelled candy they carried around with them for an energy burst.

How to celebrate – Whatever type of candy you like best, today is the day to enjoy a piece or two. Try to invent your own new candy! Go back to the basics with this recipe for Rock Candy and make your own!