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
This mammoth German aircraft appeared in the pages of the Illustrated London News on 31 March 1928, a sneak-peek into the future. It may have been a shock to British aviation sensibilities--it was supposed to dwarf the largest such plane that the Brits had (the Calcutta) : 158' to 93' wingspan; 44 tons to 9 fully loaded wright; engine power, 6000hp to 1500hp, with twelve very impressive 500 hp fore-and-aft engines.
The plane made an appearance in real-life in the air in July 1929 as the Dornier Do X, the largest and heaviest flying boat in history, with pretty much the stats that appeared on it a year earlier. (Stuff happens) and the Dornier is broken up for scrap by 1937.
As stated, this is a simple post of an interesting piece of graphical display of data, this time coming from Life magazine, August 28, 1950. It vividly compares the general production of military aircraft for 1949/50 versus what was coming in 1950/1. We can see comparisons for budget, workforce, aluminum, copper, engines, and of course aircraft (trainers, fighters, transports, bombers), and shows the huge difference between the relative peace of 1949 and the beginning of the Korean War two months earlier than this article in 1950.
JF Ptak Science Books (Expanding Post 693 from 2009)
Also have a peek at my post on pre-historic space flight: de Bergerac, Leonardo & Co.
Herman Geertz--a mysterious, unknown quality of a person to me--made a major contribution to the history of American spaceflight, albeit an unusual, ephemeral one. In 1898 he published a song—with the firm of Broder & Schlam of San Francisco—called “A Trip to Mars (a March Two Step)”, and is perhaps the first piece of music ever published in the United States about interplanetary spaceflight. The musician--whose portrait appears in a frame at the upper left—also includes an odd view of the planet Mars, and, most important, an image of a space ship. It actually took about 20 years for this sort of popularization of Mars to grab a hook in song, even though the interest in the planet and the possibility of life there had been bubbling since Schiapparelli’s (misunderstood) work on the planet in which he famously identified its “canali” (and which was infamously and wrongly translated as “canals”. Much of this great misunderstanding was rooted in Percival Lowell’s book Mars in which he takes the canali idea and runs with it to the goal line of Martian civilization).
One year later, in 1898, Kurd Lasswitz—a professor of math and physics, a Kant expert and philosophe, and an historian of science—published what was to make him the equivalent of Germany’s Jules Verne/H.G. Wells (in importance if not in quantity). Auf Zwei Planeten (first published in Leipzig in 1898) was an immediate best seller, as it was Germany’s first work of science fiction, and it made its scientist/historian an instant sensation. It was an interesting, high-tech-utopian story that describes humans finding and dealing with an isolated Martian colony existing at the North Pole; humanity has its ups and downs, as do the Martians, the species trading moral highgrounds and such, until a peaceful co-existence comes into play between the two planets. It was pretty heady stuff for the time. Lasswitz saw into the future in this book, bits here and bits there: space travel is rather accurately summarized as is a sort of television (that was actually a Martian tele-telescope) and synthetic fuels and foods.
This period right before the turn of the century was particularly progressive for the sciences and for science fiction. In the world of science fiction, for example, in 1895 there was Lowell’s Mars, Williams Morris’ The Wood Beyond the World; for 1896 there was Morris' The Well at the World's End, H. G. Wells The Island of Dr. Moreau and The Invisible Man, and Louis Tracy’s The Final War. 1897 saw Lasswitz’ Two planets, Bram Stoker’s Dracula and William Le Queux The Great War in England in 1897. 1898 rounded things out very nicely with Well’s War of the Worlds.
Frankly though science outstripped the fiction part of the creativity index: the end of 1895 saw an entirely new world intruded by Roentgen’s X-Rays; 1896 saw Becquerel’s discovery of radioactivity and Langely’s aerodrome; 1897 Thomson’s discovery of the electron; 1898, the discovery of radium by the Curies; 1899, Collin’s invention of the wireless telephone, 1899/1900 the introduction of the quantum theory by Max Planck and also the rediscovery of Mendel’s work by Correns. It was, in short, a remarkable and remarkably-intense period whose outward reach seemed to be more dominated by the fiction aspect of science (with spaceflight and invading aliens) while the vast new interior worlds of the previously unseen were totally dominated by the sciences, which was of course the stuff that would stick, If you stretched this period by just another five years, the Einstein annus mirablis would be included, further deepening this unbelievable period of achievement. Then again, nearly the whole of modernity is invented during this time: from 1875-1915 or so nearly every genre of human pursuit entered the modern period. New methods of writing in literature and for the stage, new ways of painting (from impressionism to non-representational art), through music and the sciences, biology and geology. Everything changes, except for one field: political science. Actually, if you included the invention of the concentration camp during the Boer War(S) then I guess you could throw polysci into this group, though but by screaming and kicking.
I'm posting these following sheet music covers because of their lovely airplane covers. They are located at the wonderful (and highly available and useful) Lester Levy Sheet Music Collection at Johns Hopkins University.
"Sixty Miles an Hour. March and Two-Step', Frederick W. Hager, 1910. [Image source: http://levysheetmusic.mse.jhu.edu/catalog/levy:059.065]
I found this interesting image in Illustrirte Zeitung, 18 July 1918, though I very nearly passed it by. I saw its neighbor photo of a machine gunner and his ammo and a quick pass over this photo made it look very similar, my mind filling in cartridges before my brain recognized that the ammunition was actually a pigeon.
[For other posts on WWI pigeons, enter that term in the google box at left]
This is an image of German aviator pigeons, I know, but I included this U.S.-based explanation of the general practice of using pigeons in aircraft as a means of communicating with the ground in pre-airborne radio communication days:
"U.S. Navy aviators maintained 12 pigeon stations in France with a total inventory of 1,508 pigeons when the war ended. Pigeons were carried in airplanes to rapidly return messages to these stations; and 829 birds flew in 10,995 wartime aircraft patrols. Airmen of the 230 patrols with messages entrusted to pigeons threw the message-carrying pigeon either up or down, depending on the type of aircraft, to keep the pigeon out of the propeller and away from airflow toward the aircraft wings and struts. Eleven of the thrown pigeons went missing in action, but the remaining 219 messages were delivered successfully."--Wiki quoting Adrian Van Wyen, Naval Aviation in World War I. 1969. Washington, D.C.: Chief of Naval Operations. p. 30.
Here's the contiguous photograph, the gunner looking as though he was reading for some abusive weather:
I found these schematics in the November 16, 1918 issue of Engineering, published just a few days after the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. No doubt the plans were made from a downed aircraft, and I suspect it was probably not published during the war. This was about the largest plane produced during WWI, and it was a beast. In any event, I've reproduced the plans below.
And a larger version of the above, just because it looks so cool:
I'm pretty sure that I've only written a plural of "Mona Lisa" a few times before in my history of writing--and that in reference to the real one, when it was stolen by Vincenzo Perugia (and company?) in 1911. (My guess is that it was stolen on demand for a collector and then offered for sale to a number of other underworld-y collectors who were sold fakes--at that point, what could they do (?) given that they couldn't exactly report the swindle to the police.) For me there are some iconic image of flying machines that made the news in the pre-Wright Brothers era, and I would consider the one here to be one of them.
It was designed by W. Ayres and happily and nattily appeared in the pages of the Scientific America (1885). It seems to have been a kind of helicopter/ornithopter, partially human powered and partially powered by compressed air that would run a generator that would run the little propellers situated around the aircraft. The frame of the craft was made of 1/4" steel tubes, though there is no indication of their thickness. Given that there's something like 40 feet of this pipe superstructure, I'm going to guess that the pipe was a pound/foot; then given the weight of the pilot, and the other bits and pieces, this antique drone would have to work very hard to lift its 200' payload. The (May 9th) article states that there is enough power generated to lift that 200 pounds, but...
Dr. William W. Christmas (1865-1960) a long-lived deep pioneer in the history of early aviation, proposed this interesting, streamlined, and odd underground airport, the image appearing in Popular Science Monthly in April 1935 (volume 126 for January-June 1935). The numerous levels seem to establish a subway line, four lanes of vehicular traffic, a mall-type concourse, then perhaps something else, topped by a rotating platform of aircraft, above which was a pedestrian/passenger concourse above which was an access area for the aircraft. I'm not sure why this was designed, but it is certainly engaging--and compact.
Here's a photo from Smithsonian of Dr. Christmas and a cross section of the model of the airport:
This half-modern helicopter appeared in the Popular Science Monthly for February 1935--it seems t o have the fundamental of the body of the helicopter to be about right, and then adventures out with huge wings and two eight-blade rotors. It was a monster of a machine, and appeared in print just about a year before the successful introduction of the Focke Wulf FW 61, and four years before Sikorsky's true helicopter (VS-300) of 1939. The idea for a helicopter had been around for quite a while, at least from the time of Leonardo's "aerial screw', and through the coining of the word in 1861 by d'Almecourt, and was a long time in the making, though the main bits for the development of the aircraft came together in the 1930's. The "flying whiligig" here does have a squinty resemblance to the V-22 Osprey, but that would be a long time in coming.
There's another interesting story on the use of "Archie" as a nickname in another military situation, here, in an earlier post, "George and Archie: Two Misty Names in Making Everything Into Nothing. Hiroshima, 1945."
This interesting graphic appears in the article "Airmen's Sensations in Battle" in Popular Mechanics, November 1916. It hows a cross-section, of sorts, of an air battle with antiaircraft involvement, and to my experience is of a very unusual design. The author writes of being chased by Fokkers and then met by "Archie" (British slang for antiaircraft guns) fire from below. Overall it is an effective design that heightens the sense of the story.
"Archie": "Nickname given to anti-aircraft fire during First World War. Said to derive from a British pilot who reacted to enemy anti-aircraft fire by shouting the line from a music hall song 'Archibald certainly not'. This caught on and was inevitably shortened to Archie."-- Phil Jobson Royal Artillery Glossary of Terms and Abbreviations Briefly put, the AA situation during WWI was, well, primitive--necessarily primitive, I mean. There was some improvisation against balloons earlier on but the first AA-downing of a military aircraft was evidently in 1912 in the Italo-Turkish War. In 1916, two years into the war, the development of firepower against aircraft (and the detection of them, which extended to acoustical devices for the greatest part) was still in its very earliest stages.
V.I. Feodosiev (with his two initials looking ironically similar to the V1 that he wrote about) and G.B. Simiarev wrote a classic textbook1 in rocket technology which was published in Moscow in 1958. Even though it was translated and published in English the following year by Academic Press, the version here seems to have been translated in the same year as its Russian edition. I've had some translations-on-demand in the store that were fast-tracked for the particular agency that needed the work, translations that sometimes didn't appear in English for years afterwards. In this case the Feodosiev was translated (anonymously) for an undisclosed agency, though this copy wound up in the library of the NASA Division of Research Information2. It could well be that the work was produced for NASA but frankly there are many other candidates for the point of origin of interest. This copy is definitely different from the Academic Press translation, so at least two different translations were made of the text.
I really don't have that much to offer here on this edition, except to note its differences from the Academic Press version, though this may be of some use to someone working in this area.
The original is available via the blog's bookstore, here.
Here's an abstract/summary of the work (which has a slightly different title) by the Academic Press 1959 version of this publication:
"Introduction to Rocket Technology focuses on the dynamics, technologies, aerodynamics, ballistics, theory of servomechanisms, principles of navigation instruments, and electronics involved in rocket technology."
"The publication first takes a look at the basic relationships in the theory of reactive motion; types of jet propelled aircraft and their basic construction; and types of reaction motors and their construction. Discussions focus on air breathing motors, anti-aircraft rockets, long range bombardment rockets, surface to surface, short range bombardment missiles, thrust of a rocket motor, and operating efficiency of a rocket motor. The text then examines rocket motor fuels and processes in the combustion chamber of a rocket motor."
This two-page spread in the Illustrated London News appeared at the end of June, 1940, nine months into WWII, just two weeks or so before the beginning of the Battle of Britain. This was an extended battle lasting until September 1941 in which there were hundreds of German bombing raids flown over the U.K., with most of the damage and civilian deaths centered in London. In all some 40,000 civilians were killed in the raids, about half of them in London. Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Coventry, Glasgow, Hull, Manchester, Portsmouth, Plymouth, Sheffield, Southampton, Swansea, and other cities were also bombed, some of them pulverized--for example, Hull received an enormous amount of attention for being a port city and easily identifiable by air, and was attacked more than 80 times, and Coventry's central city was decimated. (Enter "Battle of Britain" or "Blitz" in the Google search box for the other posts on this blog on this subject.)
But right at the beginning of this period the popular weekly published this listing of enemy planes--it was a smart thing to do, because it made millions of people into observers and data gatherers.
The artist of this work was the very very busy and talented G.H. Davis, who I have written about numerous times on this blog (just enter his name in the Google search box and you find a number of interesting tech drawings that he completed for the ILN).
I've seen a number of "found" USS Enterprise outlines in antique images recently: this one occurs in the May 1935 issue of Popular Science Monthly. This image shows a proposal for a versatile hangar for dirigibles: the airship could moor itself to a traveling mooring mast that looks like it could do a 360 on tacks around the landing area, and then brought down to a landing on the circular pad, which can be lowered to place the dirigible in an attached hangar. It looks as though multiple hangars could be attached to this complex.
Here's another view, from the cover--a non-"found" NCC-1701 design:
The days of the great airships were pretty numbered by this point, its future only 600 days away or so from crashing and burning along with the Hindenburg in May 1937.
For other related posts on this blog just enter "dirigible" in the Google search box at upper left.
This was the vision of future high-altitude flight, at least according to Illustrated World magazine in their July/August 1920 issue , page 806. It was reported in these pages that at about 22,000 feet the sky above is perfectly black and all of the stars are visible. This of course is not near the limit of the atmosphere, and not very close to the Karman line "outer space" it may have been believed to be (though the blackness part does come into play at around 60,000'. and at 100,00 kilometers the Karman line is far beyond that).
In any event the record for the highest altitude achieved by humans was still at the mark of 39,000' set in a balloon in 1862, a record which would not be broken (at 43,800') until 1927, when the achievement cost the aviator/balloonist his life. The article was slim on the atmosphere and slimmer on the necessaries for the high-altitude aircraft--except to say that the current open-cockpit approach just wouldn't do at cold temperatures, thus giving rise to a tiny discussion on the only mentioned feature of the future aircraft: that it would have an enclosed cockpit.
Flight altitude records via Wiki https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flight_altitude_record
I recovered this sample Air Raid Precaution poster from a box of WWII material, received by the Library of Congress on the very day that many historians declare to be the very end of the Blitz. Of course the poster was printed earlier, collected in this case by the OSS and put in a folder and then sent off to the Library of Congress.
It is a remarkably level-headed document, clear and concise, very stiff-upper-lip. And these posters were very necessary, as we can see by the map following:
This incredible story (centered on Westminster) is a detail from an incredible (and interactive) map showing every bombed dropped by the Germans on London during the Blitz 7th October 1940 to 6th June 1941 [Source: http://bombsight.org/?#14/51.5005/-0.1281]
The following are instructional newsreels (all found on youtube) about what to do in an air raid (1940), while the second demonstrates the sounds of the air raid sirens discussed in the document above, and the third is a short history of the Blitz: