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
I picked up Bayard Tuckerman's History of English Prose Fiction (printed in New York City in 1886) part of my Borgesian-Eccoian anti-Library, and found this fantastic design on the free endpaper and pastedown:
And a close-up, which is about one square inch:
There are about 5000 of these on a 10x6" space, some 15,000 lines. That's a lot of work in a small space, about 289 squares per square inch. Tiny. Impressive.
Q: Oh: how many squares and rectangles are there here? A: a lot.
Here's an interesting set of delightful photographs (and one painting) of some great scientists as babies and kids. Many of them are obvious, I think, and you can see their developed and mature faces in themselves from very early on. For example in the first photo is Niels Bohr, his arched eyebrows and halfways-kinda-grin already there at age 4 or 5. Paul Dirac is gorgeous as a kid and he keeps those eyes throughout his life. The Einstein is an uncommon images, plucking him from a class photo--I guess you can see him in there, somewhere, though it isn't as Einstein-y as some of the other early photos of him where his eyes are just unmistakable. Feynman looks like Feynman, sly and smart-as-hell; and the impish and sparkling Turing seems as he would be decades on. On the other hand the fabulous Kurt Goedel baby could be almost anyone--though I have to say it isn't often you see photos with the baby's arm raised.
Four of these came from a very nice post on exactly this topic at Kuriositas: (http://www.kuriositas.com/2011/10/famous-scientists-as-children.html) though even at the outset there are more science babies and kids together here than I can find elsewhere.
Niels Bohr, 1890, age about 5. Source: http://www.nbi.ku.dk/english/www/niels/bohr/barndom/
Years ago when I still had a big, open bookstore specializing in books in used/rare physics/maths I had several bookcases dedicated to quantum mechanics. In general I had the standard works and great classics, and few were more "standard" and "classic" at the same time than P.A.M. Dirac's Principles of Quantum Mechanics.
On rare occasions I would have all four editions (the first of 1930 is very scarce and valuable nowadays) but usually there would be editions 2, 3, and 4. In order to respond intelligently to the differences between the editions I went to the library and photocopied reviews of each (this in the pre-intertubeweb days). Today I managed to bump into the most interesting of the reviews (for the second edition of 1935 and published in the September 14, 1935 issue of Nature) which I reproduce below.
My friend Jeff Donlan (who writes a fine and insightful blog, At the Library) cent (ha!) me this article on the false tyranny of the penny--rather it is about getting rid of the penny, which the author claims has run its course of usefulness, swallowed by the history of economic need for it. Maybe it takes more money to deal with the one-cent piece than it is worth, I don't know--the author of the article goes through that along with a short history of other currencies dumping their minuscule and antiquarian denominations.
What I wonder about is what happens to the number "9"?
My made-up statistical reference notes that about half of all prices on all the stuff in the U.S. use at least one nine; many use two. What happens to people excitedly advertising ",..and all your's for only three small payments of $19.99!!! And what about gasoline prices which are $2.89 and 9/10? Assuming that we keep the nickel, prices will have to re-adjust to accommodate the five-cent piece, dropping the "9" in millions of prices. No doubt tens of millions of people will think that prices have been raised across-the-board.
And what will we do with this enormous surplus of 9s?
Seriously though why not just get rid of the whole lot of less-than-a-dollar currency? I know that would be very problematic, but no doubt it there will be less time between the introduction of the penny to its demise than there will be from now to the elimination of all coin-and-paper currency, After all, in for a penny, in for a pound.
Sometimes there's nothing better in finding the absurdity in quiet mundane than actually finding it, rather than creating it. This is the case with the following images, all of which have a certain flat, blatant, absurd quality to them--for their conversation (or lack of it), poses, stares, direction of vision, and so on. All of them come from "Maintaining Good Relationships" a chapter in the provocatively-named Tested Selling Methods (1939). None of the following conversations say very much, and on the face of them (presented without their captions) most are about nothing, or seem to be.
Women of course are approached differently from the men, almost like children, though mostly salesmen were warned to place women in the position of making decisions for the household.
This is a picture of the future--the main square, Eger, Czechoslovakia in June 1938, from the page of the Illustrated London News. It depicts the massive outpouring for two slain Sudeten farmers, supposedly murdered by Czech border guards. If you look a little closely, you'll see that everyone is giving the Nazi salute. This comes just a few months after the Nazi seizure of Austria in the Anschluss (March 11-13, 1938), and a few months before the Sudetenland was handed away to Hitler in the Munich Agreement (September 29, 1938). Then it would all be over.
It is a picture of the future--the very near future. Hitler would be in that same square in a few months, on a "goodwill tour"; the next year he would return as the conqueror. Six years later, the war would be over, and the great figurative majority of the people in this photo would be gone.
It is a big picture of a big group of people making a big mistake.
Never pass the opportunity to pick up a dropped book. Picking books up from the floor (in bookstores, libraries) has proven to be a definite education for me. It is where I first learned of the name of Ludwig Wittgenstein when I was (picking up the skinny Tractatus... which was not only on the floor but open and upside down, in D.C. in 1974), and the first exposure I had to Kurt Vonnegut (in the old Brentanos in Manhattan in 1969, finding Player Piano), just to name a few. I know it would be interesting to make a list of all of the good and bad that I've found on the floor, but the lost books are lost to uncaring and neglect of memory. One that came up just today is Andre Breton's selection of Black Humor--found on the floor of a bookstore I can't remember the name of but was on Rue Milton in Montreal in 1978. This was interesting because even though it was upside down it had an interesting rear cover design--flipped over it became a must-buy. I'm pretty sure I had heard of Breton at that point but had never read him--and there he was, in an unusual-looking little paperback, waiting for me to buy it for two dollars. I bumped into this old friend this morning, moving a box to get to a pile of the journal Comptes Rendus..., and then losing sight of the Angelo Secchi papers on spectroscopy from 1866 I was supposed to find in favor of looking through the in-the-way box. And in the bottom of the box was the Breton.
[I like the "i" in "noir" most of all.]
It was a collection of people who wrote wincingly and oddly and funny-bitterly, exposing things with uncomfortable not-sustained laughter. Breton includes selections form the work of 45 writers, many of which I admit to having never heard of before, and a number of others whose names were under years of braindust, and most of which I cannot read now with my mostly-failed French.
The book was published in 1940 and was immediately banned by the Petain French State government of occupied and controlled France, the government that was known more familiarly known by the name of the town in which the government's center was in, at Vichy. Breton (1896-1966) escaped France and spent the war in the U.S. and Canada and the Caribbean, but returned to Paris in '46 and saw his anthology (one of his many books) back into print in 1947. It was re-issued in 1966 (my copy) as the "definitive edition", though I am not sure that it is any different from the two earlier printings. That's okay, because it was Breton who moved out of Dada to found Surrealism, so he can say what he wants to say while saying it and not saying it.
Good French or bad, the references are still very useful--so far as I can recall, all of these writers were worth pursuing. (I left Picasso off the list even though he is represented in the collection because, well, I just don't like or need him.)
I'm certain that Breton would approve of this floor-reading education.
And by the way some give the term "black humor" to Breton. It is much older than that in the history of medicine, as a bilous, disease-causing agency. (For example, it is found in Shakespeare Love's Labour's Lost i. i. 228 "Besedged with sable coloured melancholie, I did commende the blacke oppressing humour to the most holsome phisicke of thy health-geuing ayre".) It may well be: the OED finds an obscure 1916 reference using the term as it is intended today ("C. V. Stanford & C. Forsyth Hist. Mus. x. 212 They [sc. Russian songs] give utterance to a ‘yearning without hope’... Humour there is. But it is the black humour of the drunken headsman") and then another for 1951. No mention of anything in the mid-ground. Perhaps it is the first common usage of the phrase...
Not long after Hitler's election in 1933 this curious pamphlet appeared: Ein Kampf um Deutschland (1933), short and thin, is a work filled with anti-Communist photos and images portraying them in as harsh a bad light as you could muster in 32 pages.One of the images is this map showing in no uncertain terms threats to Germany from the west, but most importantly a gigantic threat coming from the Communist east, the arrow striking right through the heart of Germany, with the hammer and sickle (the symbol only about 16 years old at the time) coming to rest just about on top of Berlin.
For all of this Hitler would sign a Non-Aggression Pact with the Soviet Union six years later (22 August 1939) with the plan of dividing some Eastern conquests with the Russians. Less than two years later came Operation Barbarossa, with Hitler launching a massive surprise invasion of the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941. Dozens of millions of lives later, it would all be over in four years.
And the opened cover for the pamphlet, or what is left of it:
Here's a fine piece of work on Charles Babbage from a very early period (volume 5) of Nature--succinct and tight and only two pages. (It was buried in the middle of the issue, which surprised me, as I thought he'd be placed up front rather than tucked into the middle. So it goes.)