A Daily History of Holes, Dots, Lines, Science, History, Math, the Unintentional Absurd & Nothing |1.6 million words, 7000 images, 3.5 million hits| Press & appearances in The Times, The Paris Review, Le Figaro, The Economist, The Guardian, Discovery News, Slate, Le Monde, Sci American Blogs, Le Point, and many other places... 3,000+ total posts
I came upon the following document (ca. 1968-72) in a collection of ASW material--it seems to be a coding form for military ships, both for the United States and for the Soviet Union, and runs about 20 pages, the section titled "Structuring and Colelction of Ship Characteristics Files SCF). It must be a preliminary study for something, because even though there are hundreds of data points, it doesn't seem like, well, enough. The doc is titled "ADP FORMAT, Scientific and Technical Intelligence Center, Naval Intelligence Command" which is the Navy Scientific and Technical Intelligence Center (NAVSTIC), which was "established in 1968 and merged with the Navy Reconnaissance and Technical Support Center (NRTSC) in 1972" (Office of Naval Intelligence).
The document is unclassified now, and I know I'm missing what it must really be, but what struck me was the "Secret (When Filled In)" on one of the pages...
This is a little peek behind the curtain, a tiny view into the process of funding an experiment using cosmic rays to look for hidden chambers in the pyramids by a Nobel Prize recipient. The letter is from Merle Tuve (a very major player in the development of RADAR and much else) when he was the director of the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism (part of the Carnegie Institution), writing from its beautiful campus in a leafy section of NW DC. The letter was written in 1964--its actually a carbon of the letter that Tuve sent to Leonard Carmichael (VP at National Geographic who must've gone fishing for the money for the research), the copy being sent to Caryl Haskins, who was president of the Carnegie.
The Nobelist ('68) in question was Luis Alvarez, who charged ahead everywhere and was right about tons of stuff, in all sorts of different areas, not the least of which was with looking for hidden chambers in the Chephren pyramid by using cosmic rays. His plan was to use a detector and search for discrepancies in the way cosmic rays might pass through the pyramid, that there would rate differences if the particles passed through empty areas in the other-wise solid limestone structure. Anyway, it was much more involved than that, but for our purposes here it is enough. Tuve likes the idea, and says "yes".
This document is available for purchase at the blog's bookstore, here.
This item is offered for sale at our blog bookstore, in "recent additions".
Leonardo Torres y Quevedo1 (1852-1936) was a superior engineer, pioneer of remote control, a "prolific and successful inventor"2, and creator of the what is believed to be the first chess automaton3--in effect, the first human-machine game where the machine answered back. (There are earlier examples of chess machines, perhaps the most famous/infamous of which is the celebrated "Turk", a faux chess automaton created in the 1770's by Wolfgang von Kempelen, a supposedly mechanical device taking on all comers performing at a very high level, except that it was a fraud, a model of a machine with a human inside of it making the decisions, a sort of reverse robot.)
[Image of Torres' chess playing machine from Scientific American Supplement, November 6, 1915, pg 297 (bottom)]
Torres wrote very little, mainly because he didn't like to,4so mostly what is known of his work in print (outside of patent reports) is primarily a secondary source reporting on his efforts. There are three earlier appearances in print on the automaton--in Revista de la Real Academia de ciencias... de Madrid in 1913, La Nature5in 1914, and Asociación Española para el Progreso de las Ciencias, Congreso de Valladolid6, in 1915.
"In 1912 Torres built a robot capable of playing the chess endgame of king and rook against king and defeating a human adversary. This device, perfected in 1920, and the Telekino must be recognized as conceptually related to the calculating machine of Charles Babbage, as Torres Quevedo acknowledged in “Ensayos sobre automática. Su definición. Extensión teórica de sus definiciones” (Revista de la Real Academia de ciencias... de Madrid, 12 , 391–419). His work in this field culminated in an electromechanical calculating machine introduced 26 June 1920, the prototype of which demonstrated that calculations of any kind can be effected by purely mechanical processes. In 1913 Torres Quevedo had established that a machine could proceed by trial and error, in contrast with current belief–“at least when the rules that have to be followed in trial and error are precisely known...”--Dictionary of Scientific Biography, vol 13, pp 431-2.
The first appearance of the chess playing machine to appear in English seems to have been in the Scientific American Supplement, November 6, 1915, pp 296-298 (appearing with seven photographs of inventions three of which are for the chess machine, and four schemtics all of which pertain to the chess machine): "Torres and His Remarkable Automatic Devices, He Would Substitute Machinery for the Human Mind".
His superb creation, which he called "El Ajedrecista"7 ("the Chess Player") was an electromechanical device which pitted an endgame between a King/King-rook, and was fully and completely hand's-free functional. A later version attempted an improvement on this magnificent machine using magnets.
The machine was exhibited and demonstrated in 1951 by Torres' son, Gonzala, showing how the machine worked to the inventor of cybnertics, the big-brained Norbert Wiener. A photograph of the meeting appears in the Eames' great book, The Computer Perspective, though I downloaded this image (below) from Cybnertic Zoo:
ALSO: this fantastic video from youtube of the machine at work:
1. Nice piece on Torres y Quevedo in Wikipedia, here. And another, "Cyber Heroes of the Past", http://wvegter.hivemind.net/abacus/CyberHeroes/Quevedo.htm
2. Brian Randell, Annals of the History of Computing, 4/4, October 1982, on the contributions of Ludgate, Torres, and Bush, with full text here: http://www.cs.ncl.ac.uk/publications/articles/papers/398.pdf
3. _____. "This chess automaton, believed to have been the world's first..." ibid.
4. Torres Quevedo disliked writing–“for me a form of martyrdom,” he called it–and thus his scientific contributions must be traced from the few reports he did write and, especially, from the patents he obtained and the machines he built." --Dictionary of Scientific Biography, volume 13, p 431.
5. Henri Vigneron "Les Automate" La Nature, 1914, found here: http://cyberneticzoo.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/Automates-La-Nature-Torres-1914.pdf]
6. "El autómata ajedrecista", from Asociación Española para el Progreso de las Ciencias, Congreso de Valladolid, Vol. 2 (1915). 549-556pp. The scientific bookseller Jeremy Norman has a copy of this rare work offered at his bookshop, here.
7. "El Ajedrecista", here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Ajedrecista#cite_note-3
This interesting and arresting images appears in Scientific American Supplement, October 23, 1915 (page 269). It is an excellent view of topside from 30' or so below. The article describes simple, compound, tele-objective, direct-reflected, panoramic, and periscopes with annular fields--sort of simple, but not really. In any event the panoramic periscope gave a view of a directed point-of-view as well as a slender (but versatile) 360o.
This is a group of materials from the estate of Ralph Mullendore (see below), an early and integral team member of the electronic computation section of the U.S. Bureau of the Census, who was responsible for the installation and maintenance of the UNIVAC there, at Census. The papers are on their way to a history of computer science section at the library at North Carolina State University where they will hopefully be enjoyed by any and all who have an interest in the early stages of the maintenance and tinkerings on America's first commercial computer. It should be remembered that the hands of the man who wrote all of these notes were the same hands that worked on this monumentally important machine, the first of its kind in existence.
Looking through a (massive, 20-pound!) volume of Electrical World1 I found that it contains some of the earliest work published in the United States on Wilhelm Roentgen's seminal discovery of the X-Ray, which he published on November 8, 1895. And there were a lot of papers--more than 100. One reason why the work was done by so many and so quickly is that Roentgen did not seek to patent his invention (much like the Curies would do so afterwards) and so there was a land-grab by hundreds of physicists and experimenters to do work in this astonishing new field.
The photograph ("Hand with Ring") below is Roentgen's own, an x-ray of his wife Bertha's hand--it is one of the iconic images in the history of modern science:
Electrical World is the third place that the Roentgen paper was reprinted, this time for the first time in an American journal, one day before the appearance of the The Electrician article, which was one day after the publication of the paper's first appearance in English, in the journal Nature, on 23 January 1896. (The Electrician would also publish Roentgen's second article later in that same year, in March.) The Roentgen article does not seem to be reprinted in full anywhere else in 1896/1897. (See Charles Phillips, Bibliography of X-Ray Literature and Research, (1896-1897), published by The Electrician, 1898.)
This is a survivor of some sort, found at the bottom of a box of German aviation pamphlets--I'm sorry that it is in this condition, but at least there is some of it that remains, because the design is quite striking. It comes in the 24th year of the publication Luftfahr(t), Deutsche Luftfahrer Zeitschrift, and published in 1920. It is just the cover of one issue, and I expected to see a fuller image of the thing online thinking it not to be so uncommon, but I couldn't find any, which I thought unusual. And so I share this rag-tag copy.
“It is concluded that the sun's gravitational field gives the deflection predicted by Einstein's general theory of relativity.”
I've bumped into a famous piece of phsyics history, a semi-popular report on the verification of the Einstein theory of general relativity. The article is “Eclipse Photographs Verify Einstein's Prediction” adn is found in Popular Astronomy (published in Northfield Minnesota, volume 28, 1920, the issue for January, #1, 1920, with the notice appearing on pp 69-70.) At about the same time there appears the famous and deciding report by F. W. Dyson, A. S. Eddington, and C. Davidson, "A Determination of the Deflection of Light by the Sun's Gravitational Field, from Observations Made at the Total Eclipse of May 29, 1919" which appeared in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series A, Containing Papers of a Mathematical or Physical Character for 1920 (pp 291-332). This is the integral report on which Popular Astronomy reports on for a more general astronomy readership.
This report repeats the famous finding: “It is concluded that the sun's gravitational field gives the deflection predicted by Einstein's general theory of relativity.”
The history of RADAR (RAdio Deection And Ranging, and something I've always written in caps, for whatever that is worth) is absolutely not what I'm thinking about now--that is a long story with lots of twists and turns, complicated, complex--and it ranges depending upon location as for the most part RADAR (from the 1930's anyway) was developed in secret, kept as a military secret. And that's because it was a very important development, with the victor of the Battle of the Beams being the possible victor, period.
All I want to do presently is note the significance of this particular pamphlet in the history of RADAR. This work was printed by PHILCO Corporation, (and dated January 4, 1946), and has an inserted leaflet stating that this "makes public for the first time the salient facts about the Corporation's development and production of airborne radar equipment for the United States Army and Navy". PHILCO and other companies made significant contributions to the war capacity of the Allied forces, and--for this company in particular--much of that went unknown for quite some time afterwards, and of course there are some stories that just won't get told. But for PHILCO the story gets told here.
This is also a fabulous nighttime map of NYC--produced by RADAR.
[RADAR on Wings, Philco, 1946. 10x8", 30pp (unpaginated) with lots of photographs and an occasional schematic. Available from this blog's bookstore.]