No. 390: On relativity, finger-licking and extra Voices – and happy birthday, almost-2,000-year-old man

Chicken run: KFC is now the second-largest restaurant chain in the world -- and it all started with the small café Col. Harland Sanders opened in Kentucky on this date in 1930.


Spring in your step: Welcome to Wednesday, dear reader, and not just any Wednesday but the first day of spring in our lovely Northern Hemisphere – the vernal equinox occurs today at 5:58 p.m. Eastern Time.

We really had an easy winter. But the 15-or-so inches of snow measured by the National Weather Service’s Islip monitoring station won’t be a record low, according to historical accumulations recorded by Brookhaven National Laboratory.

Veggie tales: This March 20 also marks the 34th annual Great American Meatout, which has nothing to do with Lent or anything so pious, and everything to do with balanced eating (and farm animal rights).

And: World Sparrow Day. Once common in suburban trees and gutters, the little tweeters are in dramatic decline around the world.

Black eye for science: Happy anniversary, Black Death! The plague – which killed 25 million across Europe and points east during the 14th century – was “created” on this date in 1345 by what University of Paris scholars (at the time) called “a triple conjunction of Saturn, Jupiter and Mars in the 40th degree of Aquarius.”

Other, better scholars would determine that Black Death, a.k.a. bubonic plague, is caused by the yersinia pestis bacterium.

Shocking: All that reporting on StorEn – the Stony Brook startup developing vanadium flow batteries, founded by Italian immigrants – and we never noted that Italy is the birthplace of the battery. Como-born scientist Alessandro Volta first described the electric battery in a March 20, 1800, letter to the president of the Royal Society of London.

Speaking of StorEn, that’s just one of two dozen amazing innovators we’re honoring at next week’s Innovator of the Year Awards. The curtain rises 8 a.m. Tuesday at the Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury. Good seats still available.

Life Among the Lowly: Changing the national tenor about slavery, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” was first published in Boston on this date in 1852.

Step on it: Paramaribo Dutch Guiana-born inventor Jan Ernst Matzeliger earned a U.S. patent on March 20, 1883, for a shoemaking machine that increased productivity by 900 percent.

For the record, Paramaribo Dutch Guiana is Surinam now.

It’s all relative: Einstein published his general theory of relativity, still the gravitational standard, on this date in 1916.

Finger-lickin’ good: And Southern-fried entrepreneur Harland Sanders opened the Sanders Court & Café – essentially, the first Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant – in North Corbin, Ky, on this date in 1930.

Louisville-based KFC is now the world’s second-largest restaurant chain, behind McDonald’s.

Middle Eastern Renaissance man: Baha ad-din Muhammad ibn Husayn al-Amili (1546-1622), the revered Muslim scholar whose genius stretched from mathematics to philosophy to architecture and beyond, was born on March 20.

So were barrier-breaking archaeologist Lucy Myers Wright Mitchell (1845-1888), among the first women in the field (literally); engineer and “father of scientific management” Frederick Taylor (1856-1915); immortal children’s TV host Fred “Mr.” Rogers (1928-2003); and oft-snubbed film auteur Spike Lee (born 1957).

Bimillennial man: And (gently) take a bow, Carl Reiner – the Bronx-born comedy legend, just getting started when he recorded this classic bit with Mel Brooks in 1960, turns 97 today.

Wish them all well at Feel free to share your favorite Baha ad-din Muhammad ibn Husayn al-Amili moment, and possibly a story tip or calendar item.


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Scouts’ honor: To mark its 100th anniversary, the Suffolk County Council of the Boy Scouts of America is looking to collect 100,000 pounds of nonperishables during its Scouting for Food event, coming Saturday to numerous collection locations.

The annual Scouting for Food effort unites Boy Scout councils across the nation on behalf of their local food banks. The Suffolk squads are gathering for Island Harvest Food Bank, with Scouts staking out 13 Stop & Shop markets on Saturday (locations here) and welcoming donations via a “virtual online food drive” (every dollar donated equals two pounds of food).

Stop & Shop, which donated 30,000 recyclable bags and $1,000 in gift cards to get the 100,000-pound ball rolling, is “delighted” to support the Suffolk County Council, which is “teaching its members the importance of caring for neighbors in need,” according to Community Relations Director Jennifer Brogan. “We are proud to work with the Scouts, as well as our longtime partner, Island Harvest Food Bank, to end hunger on Long Island.”

Sustained: A doctoral student in Stony Brook University’s College of Engineering and Applied Sciences has earned a rare academic honor.

Jiajie Cen, enrolled in the college’s Department of Materials Science and Chemical Engineering, has earned a 2019 Graduate Student Award from the American Chemical Society. Cen was selected for his research into new materials that could be used to generate sustainable energy – specifically, for developing materials that could convert solar energy into chemical fuels.

The Graduate Student Award, given annually to only 20 national environmental chemistry students, is based on “student transcripts and records of research productivity,” according to the ACS, along with a faculty letter of recommendation – in Cen’s case, from Alexander Orlov, associate SBU professor of materials science and chemical engineering, who trumpeted Cen’s 18 journal articles and 15 peer-review publications on sustainable energy, among other accomplishments.



Business blueprint: Combining technical savvy and keen business principles, Hofstra has crafted a new engineering management master’s degree program.

Spur of the moment: There’s a new private co-working club in town, as The Spur – a hub for East End entrepreneurs – expands into East Hampton.



Lost in translation: Schools that don’t embrace new technology risk the academic success of English Language Learners, warns K-12 education insider Harry Aurora.

Vote of confidence: It’s a bonus Voices installment as politics and government ace Jeff Guillot explains why Albany’s new voting laws could bring big changes to Long Island.



Out with the old: From Forbes, the year’s most innovative marketing strategies.

In with the new: From Wallethub, the year’s most innovative states (good news/bad news for New York).

Global buffet: From FoodBev Media, results from Monday’s 2019 World Food Innovation Awards.



+ Imara, a Massachusetts-based clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company focused on sickle cell disease and other hemoglobinopathies, raised $63 million in Series B financing co-led by OrbiMed Advisors and Arix Bioscience, with participation from RA Capital and Rock Springs Capital and existing investors New Enterprise Associates, Pfizer Venture Investments, Lundbeckfonden Ventures, Bay City Capital and Alexandria Venture Investments.

+ CesiumAstro, a Texas-based provider of high-performance phased-array communications systems for space and airborne platforms, closed a $12.4 million Series A funding round led by Airbus Ventures, Kleiner Perkins, Franklin Templeton Venture Fund, Lavrock Ventures, Honeywell Ventures and Analog Devices Ventures.

+ Populus, a California-based platform promoting safe and efficient city streets, raised $3.1 million from backers including Relay Ventures, Precursor Ventures and a fund exclusively supporting MIT alumni, among others.

+ Gencove, a New York City-based, low-pass genome-sequencing platform, raised $3 million in funding led by Spero Ventures, with participation from Alexandria Venture Investments, Burst Capital, Third Kind Venture Capital and Version One Ventures.

+ Kerauno, an Indiana-based global communications workflow provider, raised $25 million in Series A funding from backers including The Joan Hanley (Steinbrenner) Trust and Michael Andretti, chairman and CEO of Andretti Autosport.

+ FoodBoss, an Illinois-based online food ordering search engine, completed a seed-plus funding round exceeding $2 million, led by Cleveland Avenue, a food/beverage VC/consulting firm founded by former McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson.



Three cheers: Town and Country invites you to raise a glass to the three mothers of champagne.

Triple helix: The Korea Times gushes over the university/industry/government collaborations redefining innovation in Kenya.

Location, location, location: Fast Co. examines Walmart’s clever attempt to out-Amazon Amazon.

Accountability, principles, passion: Three reasons why you should support accounting giant EisnerAmper, one of the great firms that support Innovate LI.