Wednesday Roundup: Archives Month, Accelerometers, Roller Skates and Great Debates

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For the record, October is American Archives Month—To celebrate, the Smithsonian Collections blog, SIRIS, is hosting a 31-day blogathon, where Smithsonian museums and affiliates will be blogging about their archives, giving an insider's look at what goes into preserving and storing so many precious artifacts. The Institution is also hosting the "Ask the Smithsonian" program, where members of the community can set up appointments to bring in objects and learn how best to care for them. An online version of the program will be available on the Smithsonian's Facebook page.

Cell Phones and Far Beyond—You know that nifty feature on your iPhone that flips your display vertically or horizontally depending on how you hold it? According to a post this week on the AirSpace blog, that mechanism is called an accelerometer, and consists of a tiny chip inserted into the phone that can sense the acceleration of gravity. This technology has apparently been used for years in automobiles, video games and even ballistic missiles, and was designed in 1970 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology by Charles Stark "Doc" Draper.

Skating Through the Week—It might be time to dust off those old roller skates and take them for a spin. As we emerge from the dog days of summer and enter early fall, there couldn't be a better time for National Roller Skating Week, which the Smithsonian Libraries blog let us know about yesterday. They also posted a charming trade advertisement of Plimpton's Patent Roller Skates from around 1879 (Plimpton's roller skates were patented in 1863 and 1866).

It Has Been Fifty Years... Since Vice President Richard Nixon faced off with John F. Kennedy for the first ever nationally televised presidential debate. The Portrait Gallery's Face to Face blog has two posts on the debates, and we published an article about the changing dynamics of debating on television this month as well.

Unexpected New Bird Species—Smithsonian researchers at the Conservation Biology Institute and Natural History have discovered that the magnificent frigatebirds living on the Galapagos Islands are genetically distinct from those living on the mainland of the Americas, and have been for over half a million years. This comes as quite a surprise, as frigatebirds are able to travel hundreds of miles and are not particularly isolated from those on the mainland.

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