Cartoon of the Month – Dexter’s Laboratory

A bespectacled boy genius-cum-inventor-cum-bully to his sibling Dee Dee (“Stay out of my laboratory!”), who has a secret elaborate laboratory down in the basement of his very own house, Dexter’s Laboratory is a cartoon which has always been way ahead of its time – concealed buttons and switches such as the one which can be activated by pulling out a specific book from a bookshelf, passwords which need to be spoken out loud in order to gain entry into a particular room in the lab and so on.  Right from the time the cartoon caught my fancy, I’ve been thrilled at the way his secret laboratory was unknown to his parents too; I mean, here I was trying (unfortunately) to have a secret drawer to myself, and this young superhero had a whole, extensive laboratory. Not fair.

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Image courtesy: YouTube

  • The popular cartoon series holds the distinction of being the first original animated series in the history of Cartoon Network.
  • It may sound absurd, but the idea for Dexter started off with a drawing of a ballerina; definitely the stark opposite of what our cartoon hero is. However, it is precisely this play of opposites which came to the mind of creator Tartakovsky – ‘a short little brother with a love of science’.
  • Apparently, it was three different women (and not men) who voiced our little genius – Christine Cavanaugh, Candi Milo and later Tara Strong (credited with voicing cute little Bubbles from Powerpuff Girls).

Such is the popularity of Dexter’s Laboratory that speculation about the cartoon series refuses to die down. For instance, some people claim Dee Dee is not actually his elder sister but his ‘time-traveling daughter’, sent back in time to prevent poor old Dexter from working on an invention that had ultimately blown the world to smithereens in the past. Sounds possible, now that one comes to think of it. Wotsay?

Cartoon of the Month – Scooby Doo

While our cartoon of the previous month was all about the sonorous ‘Yabba Dabba Doo!’, this month I’m taking up another favorite of mine, which has the ‘Doo’ part common – the perpetually 7-year-old (49 years old in dog years),  lovable, talking, brown Great Dane – Scooby Doo.

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Image courtesy: CinemaBlend

I loved mysteries and anything to do with solving them as a kid, and hence two things regarding the same which were an inevitable part of my childhood years were, one, Enid Blyton mysteries and two, the Scooby Doo cartoon series which was also about mysteries, albeit of a relatively comical, supernatural kind solved by the four teenagers – Fred Jones, Daphne Blake, Velma Dinkley and Shaggy Rogers.

  • This children’s all-time favorite holds the distinction of a Guinness World Record for the maximum number of episodes of a cartoon comedy series.
  • The show was initially supposed to be called ‘Mystery Five’, then ‘Mysteries Five’, followed by ‘Who’s Scared’ (which was then believed to be a tad too scary for the targeted kids’ audience) and finally the ‘Scooby Doo’ that we know of.
  • Scooby Doo is not just about cartoons – it has major motion pictures, board games, computer games, video games, comic books and even novels.

Be it the creepy background sounds at the beginning of each episode or the wonderfully relatable characters – the stylish Daphne, the popular and sought-after Fred, the intelligent bookworm Velma and the true-to-his-name Shaggy – Scooby Doo will always make for a fascinating watch, at least for me.

“Zoinks!” as Shaggy would put it!

Cartoon of the Month – The Flintstones

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Image courtesy: Zazzle

The very first animated series to be shown on prime time American television in the 1960s was, surprisingly, set in the Stone Age, somewhere dating back to around 10,000 BC. That was that – and then before we knew it, the two cheerful cavemen families went on to become the second greatest TV cartoon of all time, and one of my favorite shows ever.

A couple of fun facts about Hanna Barbera’s The Flintstones – Fred and Wilma Flintstone, Barney and Betty Rubble, not to forget Pebbles Flintstone and Bamm-Bamm Rubble too:

  • In the age of The Flintstones, there was no electricity, but there were dishwashers; no shoes, but cars ran swiftly on bare feet. Contemporary situations set in prehistoric times were what we call the USP of the show.
  • The Flintstones was known by several different names before it became The Flintstones. Initially it was ‘The Flagstones’, then it turned into ‘The Gladstones’ and finally came the flint as we know it.
  • Did you notice that almost every episode had new, changed furniture in The Flintstones’ residence? And that their pet dinosaur, which barked like a puppy, also changed colors from its basic purple throughout the show?

I vividly remember how melodious The Flintstones opening and closing credits were and Fred Flintstone’s heartful, full-throated ‘Yabba Dabba Doo!’

Cartoon of the Month – Tom and Jerry

The year before last we did a series in which we talked about a different mathematician great every month of the year. This 2017 let’s do something a little less dreary than dry old math… Hence, it’s cartoons raining this year, with a favorite of mine lined up for every month of the year. Let’s begin!

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Image courtesy: Wallpapers Pictures Photos

An intensely lovable pair that has been fighting like cats and dogs (read: cats and mice) from as far back as we can remember; 1940, to be precise. Brought to life by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, this series of comic fights including the mayhem and destruction that follows have found themselves a special place in every heart, kids and adults alike.

Some fun facts about this indomitable cartoon pair which apparently once won an Oscar:

  • In the initial stages, Tom was called Jasper and Jerry was called Jinx (Jasper and Jinx? Doesn’t sound as good as Tom and Jerry!)
  • In spite of their immense popularity, this duo hardly ever speaks in their cartoons; it is music which lends the major emotions to their scenes. (However, soot-blackened Tom’s haunting ‘Don’t you believe it!’ line after being involved in a nuclear explosion struck a chord with many.)
  • Ever heard of the ‘Spike & Tyke’ cartoon? This bulldog father and son series was a spin-off of Tom & Jerry, but didn’t work out eventually. Ditto for the cartoon that went by the name of ‘Herman & Katnip’.

I absolutely loved Tom and Jerry as a kid, my kids adore them now and I’m pretty certain my grandkids will go gaga over the duo too!

Like they say, ‘Some relationships are like Tom and Jerry… They tease each other, knock down each other, irritate each other, but can’t live without each other!’

Mathematician of the Month – Somerville

Mary Somerville, a Scottish science writer and polymath, was nominated to jointly be the first female member of the Royal Astronomical Society at the same time as Caroline Herschel (the great German British astronomer). And coming at a time when women’s participation in science and math was discouraged, this accomplishment was highly praiseworthy on her part.

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The young girl whose favorite pastime once used to be looking after the family chickens and hunting for starfish and crabs on the beach once unexpectedly encountered an algebraic puzzle with X’s and Y’s in a magazine. Our budding mathematician was very intrigued and eager to learn more on the subject. But unfortunately, her parents were of the belief that a woman’s constitution could not handle much intellectual effort without causing damage to her physical and mental health and so discontinued her studies.

But our enterprising lady would not accept defeat. She began by sneaking in on her brother’s math tutorials to learn more about algebra. She also creeped into her father’s study every now and then and read his books on navigation. She taught herself the Latin language so that she could learn more about Euclid and his geometry. Her parents eventually came to know that she was spending her evenings studying and so they confiscated her candles. But Mary found another way around this roadblock – she started memorizing mathematical problems and then solved them in her head in the dark!

An outstanding mathematician, astronomer, geographer as well as scientist of the Victorian period, Mary Somerville has not only the Somerville College in Oxford University named after her, but also an Arctic island by her last name. On her demise, she was rightfully dubbed ‘The Queen of Nineteenth Century Science’ by a newspaper.

Mathematician of the Month – Ramanujan

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The fact that Srinivasa Ramanujan Iyengar has a feature film on his life called The Man Who Knew Infinity: A Life of the Genius Ramanujan speaks volumes about the greatness of this Indian-born mathematician. The downside to his great intellect? He was so far ahead of his time and his work was so unorthodox, that even the most celebrated scholars of his times couldn’t really understand him! It is only now, more than 80 years after he passed away that we are beginning to comprehend his work and apply it to computing and complicated physics.

Thanks to the English mathematician G H Hardy, Ramanujan came to England. But he was known for certain quirks. For instance, he refused point blank to wear shoes or socks. People started referring to him as a nutcase as he was in the habit of lying face down in a cot while working on mathematical problems, and that too on a slate with chalk rather than using pen and paper. The most infuriating habit of all – especially to his fellow mathematicians – was that Ramanujan would rub out all his complicated workings with his elbow once he solved a mathematical problem and just leave behind the solutions on his slate! As a result of which mathematicians, even today, are still in the process of figuring out how exactly this mastermind worked them all out so correctly.

The most popular story about Ramanujan comes from a visit G H Hardy made to him when he was on his deathbed. Hardy didn’t know what to say to cheer him up, so he commented on the boring number of his taxi – 1729. Our genius, even in that ill state, was instantly inspired and sat up: “1729 is a fascinating number! It is the smallest number that can be expressed as the sum of two cubes in two different ways!”

In his short yet extremely fruitful life, this mathematical prodigy rediscovered previously known theorems, produced new theorems of his own accord, independently compiled nearly 4000 results of identities and equations and made remarkable contributions to the fields of mathematical analysis, number theory, infinite series and continued fractions.

G H Hardy summed it up perfectly when he said: “Here was a man who could work out modular equations and theorems to orders unheard of, and whose mastery of continued fraction was beyond that of any mathematician in the world.” Undoubtedly, he was one of a kind, the only one in his league.

Mathematician of the Month – Archimedes

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Archimedes of Syracuse – a mathematician, a physicist, an engineer, an astronomer, an inventor, a scientist – there was absolutely nothing that this brilliant man couldn’t do! No wonder he is considered to be the greatest mathematician of classical times and one of the greatest till date.

Archimedes’ first tryst with fame came when the ruler of those times, King Hieron, built a ship which was too heavy to go into the sea (Why did he build ‘a ship’ anyways if it couldn’t sail? Archimedes must have had a good laugh at the majesty!). Our budding genius was the savior – he came up with a slick contraption made up of pulleys, levers and cog wheels, which allowed a single individual to launch the massive ship into the waters, all the while sitting back in a chair and relaxing with a cool drink in his hands! And hence the famous Archimedes quote: “Give me a place to stand and I will move the earth!”

What’s more, this prodigy also had a hand in fighting with the Romans. Legend has it that he helped the army build huge wacky catapults that hurled boulders through oncoming ships and mirrors that reflected the sunlight onto ships, which resulted in them erupting into flames, even before they got close to the land! The best story of all is that of a gigantic crane he constructed that had the capability to reach over the wall, lift entire ships up, shake them around till they rattled and then drop them back into the seas – upside down! Must have been a sight to behold!

To put it in a nutshell, here is a man who invented the water screw, made war machines, made a heat ray, created a miniature planetarium, worked with pulleys and levers, invented calculus (to the woes of many like me, no doubt), invented the odometer and is more famous for his inventions in life than just math alone!

His last words supposedly were: “Don’t disturb my circles!” as a Roman soldier walked across his drawings in the sand for his latest mathematical theorem. The soldier was so incensed, that he stabbed the mathematician. Thus came to an end the extraordinary life of the greatest ‘Eureka’ genius in Greek history.