A Daily History of Holes, Dots, Lines, Science, History, Math, the Unintentional Absurd & Nothing |1.6 million words, 7500 images, 4 million hits| Press & appearances in The Times, Le Figaro, MENSA, The Economist, The Guardian, Discovery News, Slate, Le Monde, Sci American Blogs, Le Point, and many other places... 4,200+ total posts
Maybe you don't see it, but the first thing I thought of when I saw this small (and here enlarged) ad in The Engineer for 1869 was its remarkable-ish similarity to hieroglyphs. The point is fairly strong, and a person can get a very good idea of how things were being built in 1869--especially if you were an alien and had deciphered what the purpose of all these things was. Granted it isn't as simple or complex as the SETI plaque on the Pioneer 10 and 11, but it does have the flavor of a message to the future, or to another life form in another place.
The Cement and Concrete Association of Great Britain had issued several pamphlets in 1938 regarding air raid shelters for the protection of individual families, groups, and cities. In the pages of the Illustrated London News, writer and war correspondent John Langdo-Davies (1897-1971) reviews (or at least shares) the associations plans for underground fortified military airfields, the illustration for which I reproduce below:
Langdon-Davies saw utility in these ideas, no doubt tempered by his experience covering the Spanish Civil War, which saw the first modern wide-scale use of bombing from aircraft, including the work done by the German Luftwaffe the impact of which was not lost on too many people. In any event, the aviation facilities were not moved underground for a variety of general reasons, some of which have to do with the utility of the vast scale of the operation versus the introduction of replacement aircraft. This doesn't address some of the most adventurous ideas shown in the drawings, like the (assumed to be) very large hangar "deep underground", the planes hauled up and shot into the air on a catapult, which is a different matter entirely. The overall interest here though is the recognition--growing in 1938--that there is something going on in Germany that requires this sort of response.
That's part of a short (12pp) and stiff little report from President James Monroe asking if Indians of all sorts did indeed have title to their lands within the United States, which means, I guess, that this was really a question in 1822. Given the number of treaties and the number of treaties with the Indian Nations abrogated and annulled, it still didn't set me up for this basic question, which really surprised me. The publication comes a few years after the end of the first Seminole War (1816 or so to 1819), the aim of which was to move the Seminoles from north Florida (Florida having just been ceded to the U.S. a few years earlier) to, well, somewhere else--this occurred in 1819, when the Indians succumbed and were forced to live in central-ish Florida. This didn't last for long, though, as the Second Seminole War (a much more expanded conflict fought 1835-1842) decimated the Seminole population, the remaining people subsequently were removed from central Florida completely away to Indian Territory. This was all before the official "removal policies" begun under Monroe and John C. Calhoun (and many others), something that people like Ben Franklin and George Washington were against back in their late days.
The answer seems to be that the question was too big for an answer. and that each treaty had to be treated individually--in short to me it reads like a null response.
The question asked by Roy Hudson in 1937 (with the striking red-question-marked cover and the germ-y, bacterial typeface for "Reds":
And the answer--the Reds are us, the U.S. turned inside out by none other than Franklin Roosevelt by using The New Deal to incorporate Marx/Engels Communism and scuttle Capitalism and Democracy:
And the rear cover:
It Can Happen Here is an early version of a title of numerous variants, including the pre-trumpian 1935 Sinclair Lewis novel It Can't Happen Here, the 1964 movie It Happened Here (where Hitler has taken over England, and includes machine-gunning murders of children), and of course Frank Zappa's "It Can't Happen Here" (which has nothing to do with the previous bits or anything else, except "Suzy") to name a few. It Can Happen Here is a bit of a lie, as the case is made that Can=Did.
No, not my last words, and not the last words of a dying person that hangs like concrete in a cloud-like word-balloon above the speaker's head, and not an obituary, but the last words of a great (or any) book. Not the last line, mind you, but the last word, or two.The plural is mainly added to accommodate the one entry in particular (the last page of Lewis Carroll's Euclid and his Modern Rivals, a find made by Jeff Donlan out at high altitude in Salida, Colorado)--in this wonderful book, the last page is occupied by the very lonely but definitive "The End", and it would be a little uneven to display he page with the two words in a post about single words. In any event, I'm going to try two examples out today and then add some others over time, and see if there is enough material of last words to use as the available tools for a poem about last words.
[By the way I did a post related to this, in a way: "An Alphabet of Opening Lines of Charles Dickens' Works", here: http://longstreet.typepad.com/thesciencebookstore/2015/10/an-alphabet-of-the-opening-lines-of-charles-dickens-works.html]
Lewis Carroll, Euclid and his Modern Rivals:
Neither Jeff or I could tell what the little figure/anagram is before "the", but under magnification it looks to me a little like a running figure.
I might have to manipulate the findings a little with a few rules, like eliminating FINIS or THE END as necessarily last words, and ignoring errata pages, and perhaps indexes--I guess that would mean staying with the last word of the text of a book. For example, Isaac Newton's Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica... (1687):
Here we have the last "words" being "Q.E.I." as in
QEI: quod erat inveniendum (latin), which was to be found (or what had to be discovered); QEF: quod erat faciendum (latin), which was to be done; QED: quod erat demonstrandum (latin), which was to be demonstrated.
which of course is something that can really be worked with, and something of high potential poetical application (HPPA). Perhaps it will wind up being the last three words (used together as a word unit), as there would be more of a possibility of cadence and proto-beauty.
Here are a few examples, heavy on the books near me:
William H. Gaddis, The Recognitions (1955): "...with high regard, though seldom played".
Charles Dickens, Great Expectations: "...parting from her".
Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises (1926: "Isn’t it pretty to think so?”
Herman Melville, Moby-Dick (1851): "...only found another orphan."
Herman Melville, Bartleby the Scrivener (1853): "Ah Bartleby! Ah humanity!"
Not that there is a beginning or end to this one, but-- James Joyce, Finnegans Wake (1939): "...a lone a last a loved a long the"
Popular Mechanics, volume 50, July-December 1928: "...simplicity of the walls". [Unexpected!]
William Cobbett's Political Register, February, 1831,: "...up in his house".
Institution of Civil Engineers, Proceedings, volume 4, 1845, "American Excavations": "...portable five feet staff".
George Orwell, 1984 (1949): "...He loved Big Brother".
A. A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner (1928): "...a little boy and his Bear will always be playing".
No doubt it will take dozens of these Last Words to have enough material for something that looks like a poem--we'll see what happens. Stay tuned.
Franklin, Benjamin. Suite de la Lettre de M. Benjamin Franklin, a M. David le Roy, Membre de pluisseurs Academies, Contenant Differenres Observations sur la Marine, a three-part series printed in Observations sur la Physique sur l'Histoire Naturelle et sur les Arts, avec des Planches en Taille-Douce....dedicated to M. Le Comte d'Artois, and edited by l'Abbe Rozier, J.A. Mongez, and M. de la Metherie, in the issue for July-December 1787, volume 31, and Printed in Paris at the Bureau of the Journal de Phyique, 1787. (he title of the Franklin, translated: (A) Letter(s) from Dr. Benjamin Franklin, to Mr. Alphonsus le Roy, member of several academies, at Paris. Containing sundry Maritime Observations.) The papers appeared in September pp 224-231; October, pp 254-264;December pp 456-468.
By the time Benjamin Franklin published these three pieces—letters he had written at sea— he already had a lot of experience with the voyage, having made numerous trips oversea since 1754. At this point he was the American envoy to France, and had been (very successfully!) busy at securing arms and agreements from France, and put his time during the crossing to some concentrated use.
These three letters by Franklin to le Roy are remarkable for their insight and invention, describing new types of ship sails and anchors, propulsion systems, hull and planking designs—and of course the first description in a scientific publication of the Gulf Stream. And in all of this Franklin as shipboard, biding his time at sea, thinking and experimenting, coming up with ideas that were of high interest though not necessarily workable, and some just frankly beyond his big grasp.
I was really shocked when I started piecing my way through this volume, and finding the Franklin. Honestly, I didn't know the significance of the Franklin starting into it, the thing only dawning on me as I got half-way through the second letter, and with a squint recognizing that what he was talking about in the waters off of the coast of “Floride” was in fact the Gulf Stream. “Oh” is what I said to myself. This is that paper. At least it wasn't a terribly obvious overmiss—this version of the famous description of the Gulf Stream didn't come with a map, and the illustrations were little bits showing flouncy sails (of dubious application, sorry) and sea brakes. Even when I realized that this was the Gulf Stream Paper, its significance still wasn't significant, as the great report occupies just a small portion of one of three letters. So it goes.
The first publication of these letters appeared in the Transactions of the American Philosophical Society of Philadelphia (the society founded by Franlin in 1743) about a year earlier, and which contained the famous map (15x8” or so, A Chart of the Gulf Stream with Remarks Upon the Navigation from Newfoundland to New-York In order to avoid the Gulf Stream . . . and nor included here) which he completed with the help of his first cousin Thomas Folger. Actually the two had printed an earlier version, in 1769/70, though the map received basically no circulation and was famously disappeared for 200 years before being unearthed.
There were earlier references to the Gulf Stream—as with the ignored Walter Haxton chart of 1735—though nothing nearly so complete and accurate as the Franklin map.
This is the first French version of the letters, and so the first French translation of the description of the Gulf Stream; it was also the first appearance of the article in Europe.
It has been said that the work by Franklin was ignored and associated with inferiority by the Brits because of the adolescent nature of the American Republic and the inexperience of its navy, especially in regard to the Royal Navy. The Gulf Stream simply couldn't be a discovery of a “river in the ocean” as described by a bunch of fisherman in a colony far from the birthright of a proper navy and scientific inheritance. But of course the Brits were wrong.
Here's a bit from the letters on the Gulf Stream, appearing in my journal on page 460-1, translated:
“This stream is probably generated by the great accumulation of water on the eastern coast of America between the tropics, by the trade winds which constantly blow there. It is known that a large piece of water ten miles broad and generally only three feet deep, has by a strong wind had its waters driven to one side and sustained so as to become six feet deep, while the windward side was laid dry. This may give some idea of the quantity heaped up on the American coast, and the reason of its running down in a strong current through the islands into the Bay of Mexico, and from thence issuing through the gulph [gulf] of Florida, and proceeding along the coast to the banks of Newfoundland, where it turns off towards and runs down through the western islands. “
Well, sheesh. There was a lot of thinking going on in this letters—not bad for a guy with other things going on in his head regarding the founding of a new nation.
This is just a quick picture-post sharing the cover art for anti-Communist works by the Jesuit priest, Raymond Feely. Fr. Feely was not a fan of the Communists, who he felt amidst all other things raised the importance of the state to a religion and beatification of the State, and that of course just would not do. He wrote these in the mid-1930's before the bestial stuff of Joseph Stalin had come out popularly in the West, and also before the Great Terror enveloped the U.S.S.R. There was still some interest in Stalin's brand of Communism in the U.S., though that was the left-over mythological and chromed-over trumpian gilted Communism that people thought existed earlier, but actually didn't.
Anyway, Feely had no use for that, and wrote about it--you can pretty much tell by the cover art what he thought of Communism.
JF Ptak Science Books (Expanding an earlier post, not having previously noticed the robot baby)
Punch, or the London Charivari published this delightful and somewhat prescient illustration ("Harlequin Aluminum; or, Jack and the Pharaoh's Serpent") in its 27 January 1866 issue. It is for me an excellent, sort-of early depiction of a steam-man, a steampunk man, a steam-driven clown robot person, that is very deeply and frequently hinged, with smoke belching from a curved smokestack coming from the back of its head, and controlling its own destiny enough so that it is actually attacking and blowing up a steam locomotive.
And that's what this image is all about--in the age of steam, the future looks more so; that, and given its extraordinarily frequent use (16 times) in the very short text, things in the future are going to get very "scientific1".
And what the (aluminum2) robot seems to be doing with its scientific poker is exploding a scientific locomotive, for reasons unknown, except that the application of the poker was very successful, if that is the proper word to describe this action--it does act to control its steam technology is busting the new technologies of the era, a rub and at the same time a statement of hope or expectation in a high-Victorian manner, a rationalism of all things via technological means. And at this time, in the mid-1860's, the new wellspring of hope was being found in electricity-based solutions--moving away from the pervasive steam-driven technologies--though as the cartoon suggests those expectations might be too soon, too fast and too deeply placed. After all, these things are being exploded by a "scientific clown" with a "scientific poker"--and that clown is being driven by steam.
Further, the steamrobot clown is pulling a scientific baby from a mortar--this is something that is unique to my experience, a robot generating a newer, younger, baby-robot in some undescribed manner. This is a generational moment among robots and something that is certainly not common in the history of early robots.
In the background-right we see a string of "scientific fairies" suspended by electricity, and beyond them, center-rear, is a comedian reading from Joe Miller's joke book (of "scientific puns") into a telephone-like device, with an audience to his mirth sitting and listening on the other end of the line--and this still 11 years away from the invention of the telephone. And so on. It is a marvelous piece of work, especially considering what was probably an ephemeral status.
(Also, the "Pharaoh's Serpent" part of the title of the illustration refers to a three-year-old phrase: "1863 W. AllinghamJrnl. 3 Oct. in H. Tennyson Mem. Tennyson (1897) I. 513 Mrs Cameron showed a small firework toy called ‘Pharaoh's Serpents’, a kind of pastille which when lighted twists about in a wormlike shape"--from the OED.)
1. It is well-known that William Whewell created the word "scientist" relatively recently, in 1834 (see below). "Scientific" goes back quite a bit further, deep into the 18th c in some uses; farther back in others.
"Scientist" in the OED: 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. WhewellPhilos. 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. "Aluminim" is a word created by Humphrey Davy in 1812.
I was working my way through a stack of volumes of William Cobbett's Political Register containing reporting for the war years for the War of 1812--this magazine/newspaper was a weekly journal of news and interpretation by an American-sympathizing radical journalist reformer Brit. Looking for one event in particular, I came across it in an official report of September 19, 1814, dated from Washington City, in the November 14, 1814 issue of the Register, Nestled in the "official reports" section is this summation of the action of September 13, 1814, in the city of Baltimore, which was under siege by a large British fleet, which was "successfully resisted by the steady and well-directed fire of the fort and batteries opposed to it".
Here's the snippet:
Source: William Cobbett, Cobbett'sPolitical Register, London, printed for the author and sold by Richard Bagshaw in Covent Garden, volume 26, November 5, 1814.
Much of the critical bombardment of the fort occurred at night, and for one observer--an official U.S. representative then being held in custody by the British on board a ship in the harbor--the outcome of the battle would not be known until the first light of day. What he saw that morning by dawn's early light was what he had seen in the evening, hailed at the twilight's last gleaming,--a U.S. flag (a "star-spangled banner") flown above the fort, meaning that the fort had survived, the defense maintained, with a victory in hand.
The fort was Fort McHenry, and the U.S. representative here of course was Francis Scott Key, who turned his experience into a national witnessing, presenting it in a poem later to to music that would become the national anthem.
There was no mistaking the victory described here at Baltimore (and also the mention of the major victory at Plattsburg), though there was not much flavor to the reporting. But here it is, a great national moment, appearing as a single sentence with four commas. Given the scanty capabilities of overseas reporting perhaps these were the scant public facts that were presented to the British people buying Cobbett's two-penny weekly (much scorned by the wealthy/well-do-do and much read by the actual working class), so the emotive significance of the event was lost to detail and translation. The impact of the victory was certainly felt very quickly in the U.S.
This is one reason why it is so interesting to read the original reports and publications of historical social and scientific events.
A Possible-reality from the visionary Robert Fludd
[Source: University of Utah, http://content.lib.utah.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/naturae/id/1587/show/1265/rec/1]
Robert Fludd’s (1574-1637), title page for his Utriusque Cosmi . . . Historia (1617) features this complicated astrological wheel with a Vitruvian-man-like image at the vortex of the imaged pulls and pushes of the cosmos. In addition to everything else, real and imagined, Rosicrucianism and astrology and puffy-birds, Fludd, who was an English physician, delved deeply into the real stuff of the world in this book in addition to all of the other make-believe--optics, the musical intervals, perspective drawing, hydraulic engineering, construction of lifting machines, military engineering and many other interesting, physical science topics. But this drawing, right there on the title page, reveals Fludd’s real interests and shows what governs what he does. Everything else, the math and and the physics, services this need. Of course the image is beautiful, which is why it is here, but it is also a deeply personal, exploitative, cover-all for the things that Fludd wanted to find.
But there is a lot of other interesting, and potentially-applicable, real-world stuff and proposals in the book as we can see in the exotic and wonder-full image of the high-Renaissance "tank" that leads this short post. I'm not so sure that this thing would actually move--I assume that it has wheels or something in the front part to help it move along, otherwise that weapon would go nowhere. Even if it was assumed to be mobile, I wonder about whether four horses is enough to move along something that size plus six canon and at least three men. Even with 5'/6' wheels, it seems not so likely that this would roll across a battlefield. All that said, this did exist in the realm of possibility, and Fludd had much else. Since I've been doing research on the first battlefield appearances of tanks, this one particular image caught my attention.
This leaflet was dropped on German forces by the R.A.F. and the U.S.A.A.F. soon after the breakout of the Battle of the Bulge/Ardennes in the end of January 1945, which is one of the two failures that this propaganda sheet screamed about. It is a little odd though that in the map it would show the German offensive at its worst for the U.S. troops, with the bulge extending far west and Bastogne being surrounded. Yet the leaflet told of the German losses of its failed offensive ("Operation Watch on the Rhine") though it did not show the progress of the month-long battle on the map, which should have shown the battle line back to its more-or-less original position by 25 January. In describing the catastrophe of the German position in the east (leading with the loss of "380,000 soldiers") the date of 24 January is mentioned, which supports the late January estimate for a printing date. This was of course the Vistula-Oder Offensive. which saw the Soviet Army advance more than 300 miles in a month, right to the Oder, only 40-odd miles from Berlin. In that campaign the German Army Group A was just about killed--of the 450,000 soldiers in retreat along this long and disastrous front during the month of January, the overwhelming majority were casualties, including nearly 300,000 killed. The wounded and other survivors became POWs. The bottom line of course was that the winter of 1945 for the German soldier was bitter and deadly, and was leading nowhere except defeat--there was no doubt what lay ahead after seeing that map of the Eastern Front.
I've been looking at early flying machines--real and imagined--and came upon this at the Library of Congress. There is very little information provided there, and I can't find anything useful online, so I'm going with this being a poster for J.M. Gaites' "musical farce comedy" The Air Ship, which was copyrighted in 1898. The cover shows a "Fly Cop" making a rather forward advance on a young woman with babies in a basket fashioned as a part of the stern of a delicate self-propelled flying machine. The cop is attached to a min-dirigible that has a small fan for its propulsion, as does the remorseful-looking butcher bringing up the rear to the scene. And the whole thing takes place high over Manhattan, looking to be well north of midtown, and probably 3k feet high. Looking south over the island we see the rivers (and a hint of the Brooklyn Bridge) and then in the harbor a suggestion of the Statue of Liberty.
In 1869 there weren't yet catchy tunes or jingles to help you remember the name of a product that you didn't need though purchased because of some subliminal twitch, and there weren't many images of a well-turned ankle stretched over the bottom rung of a farm-intended three-horse equalizer, and the colorfully pulsating repetitive splash imagery wasn't close yet to being part of The Daily Life of the Average Person--what certainly did exist was the misleading/phony bait-and-switch lede, which today I guess would be called "click bait". Here's a great example of that, not-so-deeply-nestled in the back pages of the June 1869 issue of American Agriculturalist. The column seems to announce AN EARTHQUAKE perhaps on JUNE 30TH--but all it is is an advertisement for becoming a subscriber, and it turns out to be that the journal is a very useful farmer's friend. The ad did however try to grab the attention of the passing reader--and it was still working, 147 years later.
This landscape brings to mind a certain style if not a particular artist, someone working a lonely, cool-if-not-cold landscape, and although the terrain is certainly representational nothing on the hills seem to be, save for the tree in the foreground. It seems a little in the school of Grant Wood, or 1930's, or something along those lines.
The image is a detail, and when you pull back a little, there is more a suggestion of time and place:
When I look at the scene in context, it becomes very confusing, because it is sitting in the background of a painting by Giovanni Bellini, which was painted ca. 1500. There is no doubt that this is a Renaissance painting--but for me, seeing this grab of a modernity 400 + years into the future, I wonder what it was that moved Bellini in this way.
[Source: a catalog for the sale of the paintings collected by the Bourgeois brothers (which is also a good band name), Catalogue des Tableaux Anciens et Modernes composant la Collection Bourgeois Freres .printed in Cologne, 1904, painting number 3. ]
There is hardly anything that is nothing, or a hardly-nothing that is nothing, because the more of a suggestion that in something exists nothing than we are forced to consider the nothingness which of course defeats the cause of identifying that something as a nothing. The image below is a good example of the greater expanse of a supposed nothingness--it is a simple cross section of a doric entablature ("a horizontal, continuous lintel on a classical building supported by columns or a wall, comprising the architrave, frieze, and cornice") or more simply put, the stuff between the pediment and the column. In this case we see the anatomy of the entablature more so than anything else, most of the decoration and design pretty much left aside. We are left with a map of lines, a picture of stability, firmness, and a cold comfort, somehow.
I just like the engraving.
Master G.A. (Italian, active ca. 1535) Doric entablature
[Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art, http://metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/415345?sortBy=Relevance&ft=doric+entablature&pg=1&rpp=20&pos=1]