Jan-24: California Gold and Dangerous Falls


Two gold rushes began in California on this day – the original gold rush in 1848 and the first sale of Apple’s Macintosh.  The day is also marked by dangerous falls from the assassination of Emperor Caligula to near nuclear explosion in North Carolina and a radioactive Soviet satellite over Canada.


Caligula Assassinated

Roman Emperor Caligula, known for his eccentricity and sadistic despotism, is assassinated as a result of a conspiracy by officers of the Praetorian Guard, senators, and courtiers. The conspirators’ attempt to use the opportunity to restore the Roman Republic was thwarted: on the day of the assassination of Caligula, the Praetorian Guard declared Caligula’s uncle, Claudius, the next Roman emperor.



The California Gold Rush Begins

James Marshall found gold at Sutter’s Mill in Coloma, California near Sacramento thus beginning the California Gold Rush.  The first to hear confirmed information of the gold rush were the people in Oregon, Hawaii and Latin America and they were the first to start flocking to the state in late 1848.



Goldsboro B-52 Crash

A B-52 Stratofortress carrying two 3-4 megaton Mark 39 nuclear bombs broke up in mid-air, dropping its nuclear payload in the process over Goldsboro, North Carolina. The pilot in command ordered the crew to eject at 9,000 feet (2,700 m). Five men successfully ejected or bailed out of the aircraft and landed safely. Another ejected but did not survive the landing, and two died in the crash

The two 3-4 megaton MK. 39 nuclear bombs separated from the gyrating aircraft as it broke up between 1,000 and 2,000 feet (300 and 610 m). Three of the four arming mechanisms on one of the bombs activated, causing it to execute many of the steps needed to arm itself, such as charging the firing capacitors and, critically, deployment of a 100-foot-diameter (30 m) retard parachute. The parachute allowed that bomb to hit the ground with little damage.  Lt. Jack Revelle, the bomb disposal expert responsible for disarming the device, stated that the arm/safe switch was still in the safe position, although it had completed the rest of the arming sequence.



Soviet Satellite Sprays Radioactive Debris Over Canada

Kosmos 954  was a reconnaissance satellite launched by the Soviet Union in 1977. A malfunction prevented safe separation of its onboard nuclear reactor; when the satellite reentered the Earth’s atmosphere the following year, it scattered radioactive debris over northern Canada, prompting an extensive cleanup operation.



Apple’s Macintosh Goes on Sale

Apple’s Macintosh went on sale on this day in 1984.  It was his was the company’s first mass-market personal computer featuring an integral graphical user interface and mouse.  The computers went on sale two days after its iconic Super Bowl ad.





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