A Daily History of Holes, Dots, Lines, Science, History, Math, the Unintentional Absurd & Nothing |1.6 million words, 7500 images, 3.9 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... 4,000+ total posts
Just a collection of hands on the covers of books and pamphlets. I guess it is sort of interesting that the hands that started this small collection in the first three examples are two fists and a gloved half-fist snuffing out a lamp; the fourth example is a power thumb, and the the rest of the examples I came up with were almost entirely open-handed. I'm sure that there must be plenty of fist images on book covers out there, but in my brief soiree I only found a few.
At first (and second) glance this image comes very close to looking like a display of Rene Descartes' illustrated cosmology (featuring his vortices ("tourbillons")). The images are indeed similar--first, the mystery image, followed by one of the Cartesian tourbillons (from Principes de la Philosophie from 1644):
[Primary image, detail.]
And the image from Descartes:
[Primary image, receding.]
Is the primary image another incidence of the Cartesian cosmology as we see in the original and in other places, like in Nicholas Bion (in 1710)?
The primary image in question is actually a plowed-over landing strip, the place done in by German sappers sometime in 1944, to render the airfield useless once the Germans pulled back. In any event the image struck me as being similar in design to Descartes, though for the Germans it represented more a catastrophic collapse more than anything else.
These are two full-cover pamphlets that promise a compelling amount for the ten-cent admission fee. The first is newer, published for ten cents in 1932; the second was printed in 1908, and for the same amount (and worth about 14 cents in 1908 monies, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator). They are each Outsidery-flavored efforts in their fields, so far as I can tell--they are also not quite interesting enough to spend any time with outside of remarking on their remark-able covers, which is sometimes that is all you need. (The second pamphlet is actually by a very well known and influential theological person, Edward Hine, who may have achieved his greatest fame I try to establish that England is Israel, among other things, and developed a considerable following.)
I have other remarkable books with title similar to these in length, and composition--I'll need to pull them all together, someday. I think that the most glorious days of enormous titles are hundreds of years in the past, and mostly 17th century from my perspective; these more-modern examples are not only long, but they are challenging and promising, all at the same time.
This is one of those fascinating bits that you come across that in the moment are just thrilling, but overall really doesn't have anywhere particular to live in your memory. Still, it was curious to find this data on the positions and pay to the members of the U.S. Navy in 1820 and to see the amount and distribution of pay, and to see the aggregates.
The pay ranges (for example) from $100/month for (52) Captains, $50/month for ( 52) surgeons, $40/month for (10) chaplains, $20/month for (21) sailmakers, $18/month for (24) cooks, $12/month for (1388) able seamen, $10/month for 1370 ordinary seamen, and $7/month for (278) boys.
[Source: can't remember. This is a detail from a loose, folding sheet from a U.S. government document from 1820, probably looking at the finances of armed forces, or some such.]
So it looks as though the total pay for U.S. naval personnel in 1820 (excluding "rations", which I believe included food and housing allotments) was $867, 578.00 (or pretty close to that) for 4,550 sailors/etc., which is about $200 per year per person, on average. 41% of that total outlay went to the 3,158 able and ordinary seamen, who composed 71% of the total naval force. So it looks like if your removed the pay for "boys" then the highest paid officer made about ten times what the lowest paid seaman made, which by today's standards is pretty corporate-responsible (a la Ben & Jerry's).
I'm not yet finding what a carpenter/laborer would make in salary for that year for comparison, but I will add that here later.
This title, drawn from the identifier of an illustration from Scientific American (for September 13, 1890), I think would be a great way of teaching sci/tech principles, using stuff from your desk or hallway etc to illustrate the scientific method and to see how "science" can be found in Real Life. Of course this was from an era in which books like Ganot's Physics would instruct not only on the principles of a pump but how to fix it as well--and also how to make the hardware like the nuts and bolts that you needed for the fix-up, and so on. In general Scientific American was great for this sort of thing--these were the additional bits to the scientific news and drama of the week, the recipes on how to make the blackest ink and other such potentially useful recipes.
I've included this illustration because of the <sigh> requirements necessary to see what has been lost in scientific education at the elementary levels, and also due to its high/found artistic qualities. It also looks like a puzzle, but isn't.
I was quite taken with the sign behind the preacher in this picture. The photograph decorated the front page of the Illustrated London News, December 17, 1910, and showed the healing/clairvoyant "Antoine the Healer", with a definite Rasputin-ish look to him. His deal was "fluid influence" in the good and evil fluid influence of magnetism, of reckoning the good/bad magnetism between people, and of course communicating with the good fluids in people. Or something like that--I have no idea what he was talking about with the fluid/magnetism stuff. In any event he collected 160,000 signatures of the faithful and whomever to present to the government of Belgian the case for Antoine and his fluids and Antoinettes as a recognized religion.
"Antoine's followers obey him unhesitatingly in everything. In appearance he is a tall, rather round-shouldered man, with grey hair; he wears a black frock coat, but is always without a hat. He chews gum continually."--The World's News, January 14, 1911, pg 13. [Source: http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/128264839]
In any event it was the enormous sign behind Antoine that attracted my attention--the fluid magnetism stuff is not so interesting, or attractive.
I have not been a very faithful blogger to the Daily Dose of Dr. Odd series on this blog--certainly not from want of material, because when you allow yourself to see and record it then it is all around you; probably it is because there is so much material that it just washes over a person, like unexpected moonlight.
Anyway, I opened this 1926 volume of Popular Mechanics right at page 636, and this remarkably unnecessary use of, well, a hat. A similar design with little bottles of Scotch might make more or less sense--and what ever it turned out to be didn't matter one way or the other.
"One must go into oneself armed to the teeth"--M. Teste, Paul Valery
“Do what you love. Know your own bone; gnaw at it, bury it, unearth it, and gnaw it still." --H.D. Thoreau
Sometimes odd images just need to be surfaced for the pure sake of it. Such is the case with this glorious photo by Greg Villet1 of Delphine Binger in LIFE magazine for 24 May, 1954 . Ms. Binger ("a Manhattan spinster") actually collected the wishbones with a business utility in mind, fashioning them into objets d'os. (LIFE unfairly classified Ms. Binger in this way. In other accounts I have read of her Ms. Binger is described as a funny, fun-loving person, and Pete Hamil/Meyer Berger describe her as "generous", "bubbling" and "caring" in their 1954 Meyer Berger's New York.)
She purchased the wishbones for nothing, added a few bits of half-penny decorations, perfume, a pin, and SO! a piece of jewelry is born. She evidently was able to sell her creations for $2.10 apiece, which in 1954 translates into 25 2009 dollars; so I guess if she sold some here and there she would be able to supplement her income. Of course there's the issue of overkill on the bones: she seems to have probably two (or more) orders of magnitude more than she "needs", so there may have been something else going on there. But then again, at the point where you collect 500k of anything you will have become expert enough to have any mostly-invisible nuance convey a large field of interest to your keen appreciation--the bigger something gets, the smaller it gets, in parts.
An old friend of mine--we'll call him Mr. Tulipfields, a brilliant mathematician/physicist/compsci guy with a deep appreciation for music--started buying classical cds when cds were a relatively new phenomenon. Rare recorded material was being placed back into "print" at such a rate that he couldn't really afford the appropriate sound system to actually listen to all of his new purchases. He hurried into buying many of the cds because he thought that they would drop out-of-print again, and that he needed to act quickly. I thought that the cds would stay available basically forever—as it turned out he was right (as usual) and I was wrong (ditto). And so Mr. T amassed an enormous collection of music—in the dozens of thousands—many of which are now impossible to find.
In some ways my friend didn’t need the cd player—he already knew the music, could play it in his head.Somehow he was keeping all of this music on course in forming this fabulous collection And once he had explained his reasoning behind the whole effort, it all made perfect sense, and you’d wonder why he didn’t have 100,000 more choice cds.
On the other hand I’m not sure why Ms. Binger2 needed her extra 497,500 bones—you'd expect there to be not very much difference from bone-to-bone, but there very well may be. A centimeter here and there may make all the world of difference and interest to the practiced eye, particularly if the bones are from many species of animals. Once a collection of almost anything gets to be that big, someone somewhere is going to be interested in preserving it.
But how does one get to 500,000 wishbones? Simply put: bone by bone.
And that's what Ms. Binger did.
See also this note in Popular Science from the Popular Mechanix site ("Wishbones Made Her Dreams Come True").
1. I don't know much about Greg Villet. He took a lot of preparations for this photo, stringing 5,000 wishbones on black string on a black backdrop--that is considerable dedication to the idea of an image. I also know that he did some very significant documentary photography with Rosa Parks and the Montgomery strikes of 1955/6, which tells you maybe all you need to know about the man.
2. I can't help but wonder what happened to all of those bones on Ms. Binger's passing? (She died in 1961, and I can't find anything about the disposition of the collection. It sounds like the vast majority of the bones were kept with relatives and not in her two-bedroom apartment at 145 W. 96th St in NYC. And by the way according to Zillow a two-bedroom unit now rents at this address for $8700/month. My guess is that Ms. Binger paid maybe 100/month in 1951.
This title sounds a little stretched and disingenuous, but it is not, not really--there was a plan to destroy periscopes of subs, rendering them ineffectual while submerged, and it did involved exploding birds, so the title to this quick post is largely true.
The article/note explaining it all appeared in the February 1918 issue of Popular Mechanics, which is reproduced here in full. It is brief and to the point: a falcon would be trained to hunt a metal tube protruding from water, which is would attack while carrying a pouch of high explosives around its neck that would detonate when it came into contact with water. No more periscope, no more sub, no more falcon.
It does seem to be a wooden-cog reaction to a metal gear problem...and very off-putting.
I haven't seen very many bits on using animals as actual weapons of mass destruction, though the ones I recall catapulted diseased animals over and into enemy lines, and a few other truly bad things not worth repeating. But I must say that I found this approach to warfare particularly repugnant, even for warfare of desperation.
Dr. Benway lining up his colors before weighing them...
Jarring experiences are good as displacers of the stuff that you've come to know without knowing and without explanation because they make you think about these things--along with thinking about why you haven't though about thinking about them. For example, color: on the low end there is seeing Cary Grant in color (which is half-expected) and then seeing Humphrey Bogart (which is less so). Seeing Star Trek in color for the first time in 1967 at my grandparents' house (a small miracle in that they only could receive a few stations with a good antenna given the mountains and such in that beautiful and then two-season Great Barrington MA).
I'm reminded of this today while looking through a decorating pamphlet by Johns-Manville from 1941. The images of the interiors of the Standard American Home started out in the pamphlet in black and white, and then, suddenly, came the appearance of color--and a lot of it, and in unexpected combinations. And then: unexpected colors in the unexpected color. And in this case, perhaps the new color scheme is not one that is today seen as a beautiful thing.
Color in magazines and journals and newspaper was of great rarity before 1939, as color roll film was really introduced until the mid-20's, and then the first book illustrated with color photographs didn't appear until I think 1938 (was it an Agfa catalog, or Zeiss?). In any event, the book/pamphlet illustrated with color photos was still a very newish thing when these photos appeared in the Johns-Manville The Home Idea Book1of 1941
It is an unusual exercise--for me, anyway, a mostly b+w guy--to imagine these colors, together. It is also surprising because my experience with so many of these catalogs is from an earlier period and the majority of them were illustrated with black and white photos or color drawings, or colorized photos. To see the color of the real walls and doors and tiles and carpeting is jarring.
This hand-out pamphlet seems to be a case where the sale of an edible product is made for the sale of its packaging.
The pamphlet shouts that CANDY IS DELICIOUS FOOD, which is certainly a correct statement if food=digestible. It tells/sells the story of candy as a profit-maker to the grocery seller, saying that "32% average gross profit on home consumption units", those delicious-sounding unit-things being the candy.
There are bits and pieces about candy display and placement, all on the advice of the maker of the stuff that in which the candy was wrapped--cellophane. The publisher and distributor of the pamphlet, the "Cellophane" Division of the E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. Inc., had a huge vested interest in candy sales: candy was mostly wrapped in Cellophane (starting with Whitman in 1912) and by the time du Pont achieved its water- and moisture-proof Cellophane in Delaware the product accounted (in 1938) for 25% of the company's profits. That's pretty big, and so candy as a major muncher of Cellophane would be promoted by du Pont as pretty big, too. And as food, for added Bigness.
Here's an extraordinary find, a bump in the grazing field in the Scientific American Supplement for January 19, 1878. The article is about dust--but not the cosmic dust that some folks say is what is being seen in the Big Bang (and not a background radiation signature), nor is it like the dust equation nor the dust of Einstein's great dust paper of 1905. It is more like a lower-level plague dust as we see in Arthur Rothstein's iconic dust bowl photograph made in parched Oklahoma in 1936. It is about the residue of industry and commerce that did't get carried of by the mysterious carry-off winds associated with the high and higher chimneys of Victorian London and other industrialized cities, and the leftover bits of the operation of daily cosmopolitan life involving say horses and trains. It is an article about the significant particulate matter of dust, which we know today is a high-percentage contributor to air pollution, not to mention the low-level "atmosphere" of the kicked-up business that people would breathe in every day.
And, evidently, this dust was very heavy-metal rich in composition, which is not so good.
The article is "Street Dust", and the author, Henry G. DeBrunner (who would become professor of chemistry at the Pittsburgh College of Pharmacy), decided to take a look at the dust of Pittsburgh and compare it to reports of the dust of major European cities. He notes that Paris and London and other cities consist of 35% of "metallic iron, given by the shoes of horses to the stones, besides from 30 to 40% of good glue from the hoofs". Now that seems an extraordinary figure, and surprising too in many ways that it came from horse shoes.
[Source: an advertisment from Scientific American, volume 79, 7 January 1893, back wrapper.
DeBrunner conducted a study at Thirtieth and Smallman Streets (Pug) and found out that 30% of the sample of dust ("a deep black color") consisted of silic acid, 26% of "fixed carbon", ferric oxide at 12%, sulphuric acid at about 1%, gluten 1%, Metallic iron 8.55%. The details of how all of this was extracted can be seen below, where the entire article is reproduced. There were other samples, and it is interesting to note that in one sample near horse tracks contained 32% heavy metal and lots of glue.
The entire article, January 19, 1878, Scientific American Supplement, No. 107: