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
"Nets Launched on Rockets to Snare Airplanes" ran the header on this article from Popular Mechanics (volume 44, July 1925). "Nets fastened between parachutes and shot high into the air with shells or rockets are being tested by anti-aircraft branches of the Japanese army and navy as snares for airplanes..." Evidently the plan was to locate the approaching plane and fire these things in their vicinity and hope for the aircraft to find and run into that speck of net occupying .00001% of the sky.
In January, 1915, in the pre-Luistania/post beginning of WWI (by six months) days, Scientific American declared an interest in the state of the United States military and found it lacking. It posted this very strong statement to advertise a coming special issue investigating the status of the armed services.
Perhaps the most telling image in that special issue (of 5 February 1915) was an image of soldiers scaling a fortress wall--that's pretty much the polar opposite of what training should have been happening, what with trench warfare and all. There is also a photograph of practicing cavalry--and not a hint of a tank. There was little or no attention being paid to the developments in aerial/gas/tank/trench warfare, the armaments and munitions of war were ancient-esque, and the standing army numbered around 100,000 (plus 120k in National Guard), which was hardly anything at all compared to the fact the French Army on a single day (August 22, 1914) in the Alsace-Lorraine region lost 27,000 dead and 40,000 wounded, and that there were already 3 million dead/wounded in the European theater. There would be readiness factions and peace factions at work for the heart and mind of the U.S., but that wouldn't really start for another month or two. In the meantime, though, Scientific American took stock of the military situation, and found that the U.S. was militarily-prepared for almost nothing, so far as global war was concerned.
"I am the first woman to make a flight across London, in one of His Majesty's war machines; I am the first woman who has been presented by the War Office with a view of Hyde Park from an altitude of almost eight thousand feet."--Jane Anderson (1916)
I was somewhat surprised to see that this pamphlet was co-written by a woman—my experience with WWI pamphlets is that it is vastly dominated by male writers, and I would have expected it to stay so especially for this subject matter. Jane Anderson was an interesting writer with a free style, and I can tell that she had a good time with her experiences. She starts with this, and tells an unusual story in an easy way:
“Seven thousand feet above Hyde Park, an American Girl looked straight ahead and saw "the roof of the Sky" from England's finest Warplane.” An example of her writing on the sub:"When I looked at her lying with her exposed tubes shining in the sunlight and her bulkheads in strips of rusty iron, it seemed incredible that she had been under the coast guns of the enemy, that she could have made in her damaged condition a journey of three hundred miles, returning to a safe harbour with the information she had been sent to obtain. And, added to this, was the fact that she had made the voyage in a high sea, that for twenty hours, defenceless, she evaded the enemy patrols....” The pamphlet really is worth a read, and it is available here for free via the Internet Archive. The second part of this story is not so great--checking Ms. Anderson's biography
reveals an ugly twist and deep turn to the far and distant fascist/Nazi right. She was certainly an adventurer, and at some point she winds up marrying nobility in Spain and covers the Spanish Civil War--but she goes from journalism to propaganda and begins to write and broadcast for the Fascist government. Her good works there come to the attention of the Nazis, who pursue their interest in her. Anderson responds, and goes to work in service of Adolf Hitler. She writes propaganda, and then is given her own radio show. She seems to have been useful for a time, and then perhaps wasn't, but she stayed in Germany until the end of the war, arrested after flight finally in 1947 in Austria. She was charged with treason, but released for lack of evidence. She survived herself, went to Spain, and lived to be 84, dying in 1972.
I have my doubts that these two pamphlets have ever been placed side-by-side like this before this morning. They are both, well, "reaching" in their respective pursuits, perhaps one more than the other. The first, on the Roosevelt "mystery", was published in 1947, and really had nothing to do with a conspiracy surrounding the president's death--it was more a polemic against Roosevelt's social policies, an anti-Communist and -Socialist screed of some sort, a sort of awful thing. The cover though is full of weird questioning demands, which would make it either (a) hard to not pick up or (b) impossible to pick up--it is a close call.
Now the second pamphlet is even more of a mystery, a mysterious secret mystery of questionable and excited mystery logic. Published in 1943, it starts "In the beginning God made man from the mineral eggs in the rocks...God left man the job to make the devil, and Hitler's co-workers took over the job." I have no problem with the anti-Hitler-casket's-waiting stuff, though it is wrapped up in swaddling-spaghetti-created-speak that is hard to unravel--again, that isn't that big a problem, except that all I started to find was cold and wet spaghetti when statements were unraveled. So I include these two items in the "Book Titles, Strange and Unusual" category and wait for the day that the many hundreds of these that I have here can be all displayed in a single room for their greater questionable glories.
In one of the articles celebrating its 70th Anniversary, Scientific American published these two graphs showing the development of patents from 1836 to 1915. They appeared in the June 5, 1915 issue, and distributed the patents also according to type. It is interesting to note that for decades that the magazine kept one page (or part of it) devoted to displaying newly-recorded patents--that practice was abandoned by the time the 1915 article appeared, which is too bad, because it was enjoyable to dip into the archive and see what was being patented at weekly intervals over the years. In any event I'm not sure that I've seen visual displays quite like this, and so I share them:
Earlier in this blog, about seven years ago, I wrote about an extraordinary book by an aesthetician named Emily Vanderpoel called Color problems : a practical manual for the lay student of color (1902). It is "extraordinary" in a narrower sense, and that "extraordinary" might not actually be positive for its original intent. The extra-intent of the book, what has come out of it for me, was something that was unintentionally accomplished by the author. The images that she used to illustrate her color theory ideas--the basis of which are not really comprehensible to me--turn out to be artwork in themselves, a found art, the artistry of the images taking over the original intention for the arrangement of their color. She winds up with beautiful illustrations all on their own, a pre-abstract art abstract art, predating the non-representational art world by 11 years.
Here's an example of her vision:
Here are some earlier posts on Vanderpoel on this blog:
What Color "Is"--an Unintentional Modernist Masterpiece of Book Illustration? (Here)
Quantifying art: the Art-ematics of Roger de Piles and Emily Vanderpoel (Here)
Color theory is old and pretty—as a matter of fact there is a very attractive gathering of color theory models (in black and white, though) displaying some two dozen or more color models from the last 400 years. People like Della Porta (1593), our old friend and resident oddball polymath crank Kircher (1646), the smarter-than-you-could-imagine Newton (1660), Waller (1686), Lambert (1772), the wide ranging and again polymathic Goethe (1792), Herschel (1817, who also ushered in our understanding of the other light-sensitive shape spacing medium of photography in 1840), the semi-forgotten Chevreul (1835), the beautiful Maxwell (1857), Wundt (1874, the early experimental psychologist who also looked for spirits/spiritmus and ghosts), von Bezold (1878), Rood (1879), Munsell (1918) Kandinsky (1914 and not decipherable by me) and Klee (1924), and so on towards the present, all tried to analyze the prospects of color.
The funny thing is here is that I didn't look at the Klees, so I didn't see how much they have in common with the Vanderpoel color studies. In a way it seems that they were both after the same thing: an understanding of the object in color-sense.
Here are some examples of Klee's grid paintings, so-called (by Will Grohmann) "Magic Squares", which weren't square and not even straight, necessarily, but they were magical, and they did generate a divisional articulation of the color field that Klee was studying. And in their way they do remind me of the earlier Vanderpoel work.
There is of course a lot that has been written on this aspect of Klee's work,by Klee himself and many others, so I'm not going down that road this morning--I really just wanted to get on board with the Vanderpoel/Klee attributions.
This is an image of a philosopher's cabinet, engraving (on copper?) by "I. Friedlein fec", who was Johnann Friedlein, an emigree from North Germany to Denmark, and who worked ca. 1680-1705. It shows the tools of the trade for someone working in natural philosophy (the name "scientist" would not come into use for another 130+ years or so1) and is an interesting insight into a small, polite gentleman's club for experiment and investigation.
The men surround a decent collection of scientific instruments--I can locate a compass, dividers, oil lamp, magnifying glass, microscope2 (at the right elbow of the figure on the right), terrestrial and celestial globes, a (large) clock, barometer, and various weights and scales, and behind it all looms a rather large refracting telescope3 (is it five inches?)
For all of these expensive and current instruments, the lighting these gentlemen set up for themselves is pretty poor, though of course it does add to the mystery and dark experience of the image.
Here's another example of Friedlein's work, a frontispiece to Cryptographia, oder geheime Schrifften by Johann Balthasar Friderici, printed in 1685:
Nyt dansk kunstnerlexikon: bd. Indenlandske kunstnere (fortsættelse ...)by Philip Weilbach:
1. "Scientist", in the Oxford English Dictionary ("science" is a much older word in English):
1. A person who conducts scientific research or investigation; an expert in or student of science, esp. one or more of the natural or physical sciences.computer, earth, mad, natural, rocket scientist, etc.: see the first element.
It is possible that the ‘ingenious gentleman’ referred to in quot. 1834 is Whewell himself.
1834 W. Whewell in Q. Rev.51 59 Science..loses all traces of unity. A curious illustration of this result may be observed in the want of any name by which we can designate the students of the knowledge of the material world collectively. We are informed that this difficulty was felt very oppressively by the members of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, at their meetings..in the last three summers... Philosophers was felt to be too wide and too lofty a term,..; savans was rather assuming,..; some ingenious gentleman proposed that, by analogy with artist, they might form scientist, and added that there could be no scruple in making free with this termination when we have such words as sciolist, economist, and atheist—but this was not generally palatable.
1840 W. Whewell Philos. Inductive Sci. I. Introd. p. cxiii, We need very much a name to describe a cultivator of science in general. I should incline to call him a Scientist. Thus we might say, that as an Artist is a Musician, Painter, or Poet, a Scientist is a Mathematician, Physicist, or Naturalist.
2. "Microscope" (as a noun) in its earliest uses in English, in the OED:
1648 Bp. J. Wilkins Math. Magick i. xvi. 115 We see what strange discoveries of extream minute bodies, (as lice, wheal-worms, mites, and the like) are made by the Microscope, wherein their severall parts (which are altogether invisible to the bare eye) will distinctly appear.
1651 N. Highmore Hist. Generation viii. 70 The white circle..by a Microscope appears now to be the Carina or back and neck of the Chick.
3. "Telescope" (as a noun) in its earliest uses in English, in the OED:
[1619 J. Bainbridge Astron. Descr. Late Comet 19 For the more perspicuous distinction whereof I vsed the Telescopium or Trunke-spectacle.]
1648 R. Boyle Seraphic Love (1663) xi. 59 Galileo's optick Glasses,..one of which Telescopioes, that I remember I saw at Florence.
As soon as I saw this pamphlet--and its cover--I thought that it was one of those perfect statements for a particular year:
The pamphlet is a program for an international expo in Brussels: Bulletin Officiel de l'Exposition Universelle et Internationale de Bruxelles, and it is very heavily laden with trains and signals and track and such, all the properties of powerful movement and promise, gigantic power in a directed environment. And beautiful.
This brochure for the Computer Control Corporation Inc (of Berry Drive, Los Angeles) has that peculiar background feel similar to 1950's baseball cards--detail of the subject, while the rest of the platform is a sharp, no-nuance solid color. On the other hand I have no doubt that work was getting done in this place. For all of its simplicity, and for all that they were doing, this is a miniature and quiet monument to People Thinking.