JF Ptak Science Books Post 1724
It is difficult not to stand in complete respect of something being Very Well Done--especially if that "something" is something very simple, a "something" that is generally invisible because it is so much part of the visual or social or mental environment. I've touched on this topic earlier in this blog, particularly here on a post on a beautiful and quick pamphlet written on the care and painting of flag poles. It is a monumental work in its subject area of the Very Small--a very well written, concise and what seems to be complete treatment and mastery of its subject. The subject just happens to be flagpoles--but if you ever needed something to describe what to do if faced with the task addressed by this pamphlet, then you have certainly found the Ulysses of the subject.
This tall (11x8 inch) 35-page 1945 work with an impossible title has everything that you would need to know--as its title promises and delivers--to repair a zipper. Not replace a zipper--repair it.
It is so beautiful as to want to make every engineer residing in the deepness of everyones' soul just simply weep in the glory of this pamphlet. The work is simply but well illustrated and addresses 50-odd contingencies for zipper malfunction and failure, and speaks to a particular WWII mindset that that addresses problems in this very fashion. Repair rather than replace. The bottom line here is that this is as good as any book of the history of fluxions or the making of the atomic bomb or cooking up a virus, given the parameters and limitations of its subject.
These memories were brought to the surface tonight because of a pamphlet that I found that had burrowed itself deep inside a box of science pamphlets written by folks in the D-H part of the alphabet on particle physics in the 1940's and 1950's. It just popped out: Decay of Poles.
I really wasn't sure what the book could be about. Having just finished a short post on the work of Jules Verne's Moon Gun being used to alter the axis of the Earth to make Polar exploration easier, I thought that, well, perhaps someone put something "special" together on how the Earth's poles were decaying. Or "decayable".
The title page of this sweet, small pamphlet says otherwise: it is written by Howard Jones ("A.B., A.M., M.D.") of the "Universal Pole and Post Preservation Company" of Circleville, Ohio. (The story of Circleville is extraordinary--we'll deal with that tomorrow.) Dr. Jones addresses the issue of decay and wood, particularly and of the utmost importance was the decay of the wood in poles and posts. When you think of it just a bit, you'll see that Decay of Poles was an essential work, as there must have been tens of millions of poles and posts slowly (or not) rotting themselves away into splinters in holes in the ground all over the United States. As a matter of fact that are still tens or hundred of millions--billions--of wooden poles still in this country: its how we support the very backbone of the digital infrastructure of the world economy, strung on wires in between poles made of dead trees, and stuck in holes in the ground.
And lastly for tonight, I'd like to address one more thing, something that took my breath away when I saw it for the first time. It was the following article in the relatively obscure magazine, Illustrated World--a sort of more-popular Popular Mechanix--for June, 1917. I saw the title which suggested doing something that I had never considered doing before, or thought about anyone else doing--building your own phonograph at home.
And of course the lovely schematic, which suggests that you could pull this thing together with bits of stuff from the kitchen junk drawer and fluff from the basement; then, Things Happen, and you have a phonograph.
This just seems to me to be so perfectly right, correct. Why not make your own phonograph? IF you remind has heard the music before it will fill in the pops and hisses and misses that your homemade will invariably produce, so why not make something that will play your vinyl without necessarily killing it?
All of these items speak to an appreciation for the recognition of The Small Job Well Done. This may be a key ingredient to what we may not be doing for ourselves, collectively, today. This is lovely work brightly done with basically unseeable results--unless you look for them. And then you can find the beauty.