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Summer 2006

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St. Swithin’s Day: Rain or Shine?
 

St. Swithin’s Day, if it does rain

Full forty days, it will remain

St. Swithin’s Day, if it be fair

For forty days, t’will rain no more.

So, the old rhyme goes, but what are the origins of St. Swithin’s Day and does it hold true? St. Swithin (or Swithun) served Egbert, King of the West Saxons, as councilor. As such, he may have supervised the education of the king’s son Ethelwulf. King Egbert was also probably influential in the election of Swithin as Bishop of Winchester.

On his deathbed in July of 862, Swithin requested that he be buried outside the wall of the Winchester Cathedral so people could pass over him and the rain would fall upon him.  His wish was granted at first, but in 931, his body was moved to a new church built under the leadership of Bishop Ethelwulf. After numerous miraculous cures occurred at the shrine, the people clamored for Swithin’s canonization. Then in 1093, St. Swithin was once again moved to another new church by Bishop Walkelin. By 1538, the shrine was destroyed and the relics scattered.

According to legend, when the monks of Winchester attempted to remove Swithin’s remains to the shrine inside the cathedral on July 15, 971, there was a heavy rainstorm either during the ceremony or on its anniversary. Folklore grew up around the event which said that if it rained on July 15, it would rain for the next 40 days, but if the sun shone, there would be no rain for 40 days. The tale has been tested more than 50 times and this old wives’ tale holds not a grain of truth.

 
 

Nanotechnology: Making Things Smaller and Better

If your only exposure to nanotechnology was from a B movie aimed at pre-teens, here’s your chance to learn a bit more. Nanotechnology is the process of understanding and manipulating matter at the molecular/atomic scale. Nanotech is anything engineered on the scale of a nanometer, which is only three to five atoms wide. Through the science, nano technicians can manipulate atoms to do different things.

Nanotechnology can be compared to plastic in that it will be used to make things better and cheaper. You can already find nanotech in many everyday items. Nano particles in sunscreens block ultraviolet rays. Major stores sell pants that repel water using nanotechnology. Factories already use it for quick-drying paint that lasts longer. Eventually tires, bridges, buildings and satellites will be made stronger and lighter. One of the most far-reaching impacts is the creation of diamonds using nanotech. These diamonds cost one-third of the amount for mined diamonds and you can only tell them apart from the real thing with special machinery.

This growing field requires four or five technicians for each Ph.D. and will create between one and two million technical jobs. The industry is expected to reach $2 trillion by 2010.