A Daily History of Holes, Dots, Lines, Science, History, Math, the Unintentional Absurd & Nothing |1.6 million words, 7000 images, 3.6 million hits| Press & appearances in The Times, The Paris Review, Le Figaro, MENSA, The Economist, The Guardian, Discovery News, Slate, Le Monde, Sci American Blogs, Le Point, and many other places... 3,000+ total posts
There is an indeterminate quality of quiet malice in these pictures, somehow--they seem bland and also threatening in some way. Perhaps it is the assumption of these Human Types that is so off-putting, with this 1939 pamphlet happy to categorize people into three major "types". "Active Man" seems like an aspiring non-perspirer, eager to let someone else do it; "Thin Girl" seems to be daring her simple classification; the "Housewife" needs to prove her name is accurate not only with the apron, but with a pot as well; "Mature Person" is urgently directing attention to high-attentioned-bits while maintaining a stiff unwrinkled nature; and "Office Girl" is stiff-backed with a pencil knife at ready. The whole cover for this diet regimen just seems softly-defined creepy--perhaps not so much for the titles, or the postures, but for the aggressive contrasting color.
Continuing this blog's occasional thread on the great, idiosyncratic, and troublesome Fr. Athanasius Kircher, I report on this spectacular image. It is supposed to be an engraving of a found-image in a piece of agate or some such, showing the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus, surrounded by s curiously radiating display of "light". According to one reference the image first appears with Ulisse Aldrovandi (1522-1605) who must have included it with one of the natural histories before it founds its way into Kircher's Mundus1.
The partial description above the print references the Church Grottes Vald (in Lucerne), where this relic was to be found.
And the full sheet, in two parts:
And the bottom half that wouldn't fit on the scanner:
In reality these are simply on the same sheet, uninterrupted.
The second image is identified so: "Sceleton humani corporis in saxum conversum..."2, and refers to what was supposed to be fossilized human remains covered by some sort of fossil -something. The remains weren't fossilized, of course, but in 1657, that was the difficult leap that was make.
1. The full title by Kircher (1602-1680): Mundus subterraneus, in XII libros digestus : qvo divinum subterrestris mundi opificium, mira ergasteriorum naturae in eo distributio, verbo [pantamorphon] Protei regnum, universae denique naturae majestas & divitiae summa rerum varietate exponuntur, abditorum effectuum causae acri indagine inquistae demonstrantur, cognitae per artis & naturae conjugium ad humanae vitae necessarium usum vario experimentorum apparata, necnon novo modo & ratione applicantur. Ad Alexandrum VII. pont. opt. max, 1665.
2. This image can be seen in full text in a somewhat later edition of the Mundus of 1678 at Heidelburg http://digi.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/diglit/kircher1678bd2/0062 and another series of images at University of Oklahoma, http://hos.ou.edu/galleries//17thCentury/Kircher/1665-det-composites/.
[Detail from the cover of a juvenile adventure story taking place in the trenches, 1918; source below.]
I'm accumulating some titles for trench warfare in WWI that are all available online. I was a little surprised to find as many as I did. Here it goes:
There are a number of useful diagrams, including the following (which reminds me in a vague way of Feynman diagrams):
Source for the two above images: Use of mines in trench warfare (from the French school of St. Cyr) Translated and edited at the Army war college. July, 1917. by United States. Army War College, Washington, D.C. Published 1917
Selections of WWI Trench-related Manuals--Full text:
Trench warfare, by Major Jas. A. Moss, U.S. Army; being a practical manual for the training and instruction of officers and men in trench warfare, based on the latest... by Moss, James A. 1872-1941. Published 1917 http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=njp.32101042554194;view=thumb;seq=1
JF Ptak Science Books (Expanding Post 693 from 2009)
Also have a peek at my post on pre-historic space flight: de Bergerac, Leonardo & Co.
Herman Geertz--a mysterious, unknown quality of a person to me--made a major contribution to the history of American spaceflight, albeit an unusual, ephemeral one. In 1898 he published a song—with the firm of Broder & Schlam of San Francisco—called “A Trip to Mars (a March Two Step)”, and is perhaps the first piece of music ever published in the United States about interplanetary spaceflight. The musician--whose portrait appears in a frame at the upper left—also includes an odd view of the planet Mars, and, most important, an image of a space ship. It actually took about 20 years for this sort of popularization of Mars to grab a hook in song, even though the interest in the planet and the possibility of life there had been bubbling since Schiapparelli’s (misunderstood) work on the planet in which he famously identified its “canali” (and which was infamously and wrongly translated as “canals”. Much of this great misunderstanding was rooted in Percival Lowell’s book Mars in which he takes the canali idea and runs with it to the goal line of Martian civilization).
One year later, in 1898, Kurd Lasswitz—a professor of math and physics, a Kant expert and philosophe, and an historian of science—published what was to make him the equivalent of Germany’s Jules Verne/H.G. Wells (in importance if not in quantity). Auf Zwei Planeten (first published in Leipzig in 1898) was an immediate best seller, as it was Germany’s first work of science fiction, and it made its scientist/historian an instant sensation. It was an interesting, high-tech-utopian story that describes humans finding and dealing with an isolated Martian colony existing at the North Pole; humanity has its ups and downs, as do the Martians, the species trading moral highgrounds and such, until a peaceful co-existence comes into play between the two planets. It was pretty heady stuff for the time. Lasswitz saw into the future in this book, bits here and bits there: space travel is rather accurately summarized as is a sort of television (that was actually a Martian tele-telescope) and synthetic fuels and foods.
This period right before the turn of the century was particularly progressive for the sciences and for science fiction. In the world of science fiction, for example, in 1895 there was Lowell’s Mars, Williams Morris’ The Wood Beyond the World; for 1896 there was Morris' The Well at the World's End, H. G. Wells The Island of Dr. Moreau and The Invisible Man, and Louis Tracy’s The Final War. 1897 saw Lasswitz’ Two planets, Bram Stoker’s Dracula and William Le Queux The Great War in England in 1897. 1898 rounded things out very nicely with Well’s War of the Worlds.
Frankly though science outstripped the fiction part of the creativity index: the end of 1895 saw an entirely new world intruded by Roentgen’s X-Rays; 1896 saw Becquerel’s discovery of radioactivity and Langely’s aerodrome; 1897 Thomson’s discovery of the electron; 1898, the discovery of radium by the Curies; 1899, Collin’s invention of the wireless telephone, 1899/1900 the introduction of the quantum theory by Max Planck and also the rediscovery of Mendel’s work by Correns. It was, in short, a remarkable and remarkably-intense period whose outward reach seemed to be more dominated by the fiction aspect of science (with spaceflight and invading aliens) while the vast new interior worlds of the previously unseen were totally dominated by the sciences, which was of course the stuff that would stick, If you stretched this period by just another five years, the Einstein annus mirablis would be included, further deepening this unbelievable period of achievement. Then again, nearly the whole of modernity is invented during this time: from 1875-1915 or so nearly every genre of human pursuit entered the modern period. New methods of writing in literature and for the stage, new ways of painting (from impressionism to non-representational art), through music and the sciences, biology and geology. Everything changes, except for one field: political science. Actually, if you included the invention of the concentration camp during the Boer War(S) then I guess you could throw polysci into this group, though but by screaming and kicking.
The caption for this photograph describes it as action at St. Quentin, though I can find no evidence as to what particular battle at St. Quentin it refers to, which means it can be from 1914 to 1918. The photograph was taken by the German photographic journalist Hermann Rex, and was published in Der Weltkrieg in seiner Rauhen Wirklichkeit...in 1926. I've written a little about Rex elsewhere on this blog, and how his work seems to have been subjected less to censorship of "difficult" images than many. Certainly his book is grittier than many I have seen, though I cannot identify his work as it was published during the war. (It is my impression, in general, that after having looked at all of the issues of Illustrated London News and Illusrirte Zeitung for 1914-1918, that the German illustrations/photos seem to have been less restrictive in displaying death and destruction.)
The image below made a very strong impression, stronger still as I looked more closely.
Nicholas Saunderson (1682-1739) was an extraordinary mathematical talent—he was also blind (from about the age of one), and invented, principally for his own uses, what I think is the first mathematical calculator designed specifically for the use of the blind. He was supremely gifted and creative, and rose to become the fourth Lucasian professor at Cambridge, succeeding the expelled William Whiston, who had in turn succeeded Isaac Newton—Saunderson also held the post for one of the longest periods of time, 1711-1739. HE was friend and associate to Newton, Whiston, Roger Cotes, Halley, De Moivre and others during a particularly rich intellectual period in the history of physics and the maths.
His calculator was smart and simple, based on a cribbage-board –like device, that was able to perform arithmetical and algebraic functions—it consisted of nine rows and was worked with two pins, the positioning of the pins on the engraved board telling the user their value. (There was another calculator for the blind constructed by Meyer (below, left) using a sort of reverse principle to the Saunderson model where it was the shape and placement (leaning or not, for example) of the pegs in the hole that annotated value rather than their placement on the board.
The Saunderson computer was described in his The Elements of Algebra…,1 published at Cambridge in the first edition just after the author’s death, in 1740. The device was described in the book by John Colson (who succeeded Saunderson to the Lucasian chair), who commented that it was via the use of the device that Saunderson could compose his treatise on algebra. (At right is another Saunderson-based calculator allowing for the construction and study of geometrical figures).
[Image source for Saunderson portrait: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicholas_Saunderson#/media/File:Nicolas_Saunderson.jpg]
!. Here's a link for a later-n-the-century (1792) edition of the Saunders book via the Internet Archive: https://archive.org/details/selectpartsofsau00saun
Also see MacTutor History of Mathematics biography of Saunderson, here: http://www-history.mcs.st-and.ac.uk/Biographies/Saunderson.html
I was thinking about the opening line from Dicken's Tale of Two Cities, yesterday, one of the author's great books, and probably one of his greatest sentences, period.This longish, single-sentence opener is 115 words long and punctuated with 16 commas, most of which are in the first half of the sentence, and all of which seem to work together like a piece of music. It is lyrical, and sweeping, and tells the story of everything and nothing.
So I decided to round up all of Dickens' opening sentences for all of his books, and place them alphabetically, just for the sake of comparison.
And here we are to begin, the beautiful opening sentence of a Tale of Two Cities, published almost at the same time as on the Origins of Species, in 1859:
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way–in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”
And by the way, TOTC has a great ending line, as well:
‘It is a far far better thing I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”
I was going to add ending sentences to this list but this time, before looking all of it up in Gutenberg, I tried finding the list online, already completed—and there it was, on the literary/writing blog of Brett James, http://brettjanes.com/charles-dickens-last-sentences. It turns out that Brett James also has a list of opening sentences, too, with his listed chronologically—I would have done the same if I didn't already have a bunch of posts on alphabets and the alphabetization of stuff. So it is unnecessary to reproduce that list here—just follow that link to James.
And so to the list:
American Notes, 1842
"I shall never forget the one-fourth serious and three-fourths comical astonishment, with which, on the morning of the third of January eighteen-hundred-and-forty-two, I opened the door of, and put my head into, a ‘state-room’ on board the Britannia steam-packet, twelve hundred tons burthen per register, bound for Halifax and Boston, and carrying Her Majesty’s mails."
Barnaby Rudge, 1841
“In the year 1775, there stood upon the borders of Epping Forest, at a distance of about twelve miles from London–measuring from the Standard in Cornhill,’ or rather from the spot on or near to which the Standard used to be in days of yore–a house of public entertainment called the Maypole; which fact was demonstrated to all such travellers as could neither read nor write (and at that time a vast number both of travellers and stay-at-homes were in this condition) by the emblem reared on the roadside over against the house, which, if not of those goodly proportions that Maypoles were wont to present in olden times, was a fair young ash, thirty feet in height, and straight as any arrow that ever English yeoman drew.”
Charles Dickens made a tour of the United States in the first half of 1841--the results of his visit were a critical appraisal of U.S. society and culture, and in general he didn't like much of what he saw. He published his impressions and observations in 1842 in his American Notes, and it was in chapter 17 (the final chapter) that Dickens undertakes a thunderingly blistering condemnation of the U.S. institution of slavery--he found it repugnant and inhuman, and a demonstration of a hypocritical American way of life. There was plenty that he didn't like about the U.S., but it was the slavery issue that really set him on fire.
Here's the beginning of the chapter:
CHAPTER XVII SLAVERY
"The upholders of slavery in America—of the atrocities of which system, I shall not write one word for which I have not had ample proof and warrant—may be divided into three great classes."
"The first, are those more moderate and rational owners of human cattle, who have come into the possession of them as so many coins in their trading capital, but who admit the frightful nature of the Institution in the abstract, and perceive the dangers to society with which it is fraught: dangers which however distant they may be, or howsoever tardy in their coming on, are as certain to fall upon its guilty head, as is the Day of Judgment."
"The second, consists of all those owners, breeders, users, buyers and sellers of slaves, who will, until the bloody chapter has a bloody end, own, breed, use, buy, and sell them at all hazards: who doggedly deny the horrors of the system in the teeth of such a mass of evidence as never was brought to bear on any other subject, and to which the experience of every day contributes its immense amount; who would at this or any other moment, gladly involve America in a war, civil or foreign, provided that it had for its sole end and object the assertion of their right to perpetuate slavery, and to whip and work and torture slaves, unquestioned by any human authority, and unassailed by any human power; who, when they speak of Freedom, mean the Freedom to oppress their kind, and to be savage, merciless, and cruel; and of whom every man on his own ground, in republican America, is a more exacting, and a sterner, and a less responsible despot than the Caliph Haroun Alraschid in his angry robe of scarlet."
"The third, and not the least numerous or influential, is composed of all that delicate gentility which cannot bear a superior, and cannot brook an equal; of that class whose Republicanism means, ‘I will not tolerate a man above me: and of those below, none must approach too near;’ whose pride, in a land where voluntary servitude is shunned as a disgrace, must be ministered to by slaves; and whose inalienable rights can only have their growth in negro wrongs."
Then comes this incredible listing of runaway/escaped slaves—in attempting to identify their “property” properly, the slave owners described the various injuries made to the slaves' bodies and how they happen to have been bound before their flight to freedom. It is an unknowing self-indictment, each ad a testimony to cruelty and viciousness.
"The following are a few specimens of the advertisements in the public papers. It is only four years since the oldest among them appeared; and others of the same nature continue to be published every day, in shoals.
‘Ran away, Negress Caroline. Had on a collar with one prong turned down.’
‘Ran away, a black woman, Betsy. Had an iron bar on her right leg.’
‘Ran away, the negro Manuel. Much marked with irons.’
‘Ran away, the negress Fanny. Had on an iron band about her neck.’
This postcard was provided to British servicemen during WWI for a brief, highly abbreviated, communication with folks at home. The writer could choose between being well, or being in the hospital (via illness or being wounded), or being sent "down to the base". There's a following bit about whether the soldier had received mail and what kind, and then a memory note, telling the receiver that they had "received no letter" from them "lately" or for a heartbreaking "long time".
There's room for a signature--the only writing not a circle--and then room for nothing else. (Another version of this postcard below has been utilized with the "writer" placing a line through the text that was not applicable. In this case the postcard was identified as being for use by British POWs.)
As the card states very explicitly, any other writing would lead to the card being destroyed.
It wasn't much, but for the recipient, it might have been enough. Pity those who received this card with only "for a long time" circled.
"The reverse of a field service postcard showing entries, such as 'I am quite well', to be deleted by the sender as appropriate." MH 34058" Source: Imperial War Museum http://www.iwm.org.uk/history/podcasts/voices-of-the-first-world-war/podcast-21-news-from-the-front
See also this post with another example of a WWI "form letter" : "An Extraordinary POW Postcard 1918" [http://longstreet.typepad.com/thesciencebookstore/2014/09/an-extraordinary-censorable-pow-postcard-1918.html]
“Heaven and earth were one form…. (then they were separated from one another…)”
“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven..” --John Milton, Paradise Lost
In ancient times the representation of the gods and beliefs was handed from one writer or storyteller to the next, on and on, changes here and deletions there, for many generations.This practice was possible (necessary?) because there really wasn’t a solitary scripture to follow (as in the Koran or the Bible) and no priestly class to guard and cherish a particular strong story line in all of its barbed details.
[Image source: wikicommons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Juden_1881.JPG The image is greatly expandable.]
And the key to the map:
There are of course bits that have survived intact for millennia.One of these is this fragment from one of Euripides’ lost plays (only 20% or so are complete), The Wise Melanippe, and begins a statement of cosmogony that states the creation of all things.The separation of heaven and earth has always stuck with me, because this separation begins with Euripides with the creation of the world seems to continue on its way with mini-separations of all things over the course of time—like the cosmological world-bearing turtles—all the way down.
I’m not sure how or who exactly did this heaven-rending, or to what force it owed its being:evidently the Presocratics tended to depersonalize the actions of the gods and grant their actions to natural forces, so the issue with the heaven-separation business may well have been a motive force rather than a god.Anyway it’s the tearing apart, the removal, the separation phenomena that got my attention to begin with, and one which has stayed with me, though I’m sure that Euripides didn’t have that sort of violent rending in mind while describing the birth of the earth.
And so it is with this map1 showing the concentrations of the Jewish people in Europe in the late 19th century. Between the time of the publication of this map—1881—and the beginning of the Nazi regime in Germany in 1933, there were many persecutions and Pogroms and deportations of the Jewish people.Nothing prepared anyone for the concentration camps and the systematic extermination of that people between 1935 and 1945.What this map shows is the distribution of the Jewish people (by percentage of the total population) before they were eviscerated:the difference between this map in 1881 and the map of 1945 would be completely different.The Jews were gone:killed.Some deported.Others escaped.But they were basically torn from Europe in the cruelest manner so that in almost every case the only indicators of their existence were shadows.
There are large-scale maps of this sort of evidence for other groups of people in their pre-Euripidean tearing from their home:maps showing the locations of Indian tribes in North America (pre-Columbian, 17th century, 19th century, they’re all telling pretty much the same devastating story) is one good example of a slender category.There aren’t maps for the mass extermination by starvation created by Joe Stalin, or the millions murdered by Pol Pot or Mao.There are of course more small-scale, localized maps depicting the results of forced relocations or devastating war or drought or hunger or floods.But few, I think, take such a compelling x-ray of a people’s past on a continental scales such as this.
1. "Die Verbreitung der Juden in Mitteleurope" found in Richard Andree's , Volkskunde der Juden..., Verlag von Velhagen & Klefirg in Bielfeld und Leipzig: 1881.