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
It was an amusing to find these designs using square elements in the design of advertisements--interesting and odd, mainly because I hadn't seen much like this, before. And here were three examples ina single issue of Illustrirte Zeitung for June 1923. It seemed as though the idea might be endemic--as it turned out, there were no other examples for the use of squares like these for any other advertisers for the rest of the year. In any event, the square details are an attractive thing.
The public baths of Caracalla served Romans for about 400 years--the complex was complex, and massive. I've long liked this architectural plan of the place--it is necessarily neat and orderly, and fits a lot of data and detail on a 11x8" sheet of paper while at the same time still having a lot of white breathable space on the page. Here's a sample of the detail, which in real life is less than one square inch:
And the full engraved sheet (printed in 1820 for Rees' Dictionary):
The following quote is from the great work by Rodolfo Lanciani, Ancient Rome in the Light of Recent Discoveries, Boston/New York, Houghton, Miflin & Company, 1898, pp 91-2, on the Caracalla baths (http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Gazetteer/Places/Europe/Italy/Lazio/Roma/Rome/_Texts/Lanciani/LANARD/4*.html):
"Next to forums I must speak of the baths as places of public resort. At the end of the third century after Christ, Rome numbered 11 large public thermae, and 926 smaller ones conducted under private enterprise. The baths of Caracalla alone could accommodate, at one time, 1,600 people; the baths of Diocletian, 3,600. Taking 1,500 as the average accommodation of each of the public thermae, and 50 as that of each of the private baths, we learn that in ancient Rome, at any minute, 62,800 citizens could restore their strength in baths of every nature and description; and this, without bringing into the calculation the Tiber, the Anio, the Lake of Agrippa, and the bathing accommodations with which every Roman house was abundantly furnished..."
["Ten Fathers Before the Flood"--what a great title for a book!]
Dublin-born James Ussher (1581-1656) was born into a well-placed family and achieved high theological orders, being the Irish Archbishop of Armagh and the Primate of All Ireland, and of course a polyglot and scholar above all. What he is remembered most for today--at least outside of Ireland--is his chronology of the world which placed the creation of all things at a very specific time, on the evening of 22 October 4004 b.c.e. (I guess the b.c.e. should be redundant, but it isn't.)
I should point out that I'm writing about this today because Thony Christie (of the excellent Renaissance Mathematicus blog https://thonyc.wordpress.com/) shared a tweet of Ussher's table of chronology from Australian Peter Harrison and it brought back memories of dealing with Ussher from years ago. It is easy now to take a few potshots at the man and his work, daring to think that Ussher could figure this out using Biblical chronology and establishing the date of the creation of all things to an afternoon 6019 years ago.
The thing about Ussher is that he was a very smart guy--very. His work puts me in the mind of Robert Burton and his Anatomy of Melancholy, which is a great and probably unreadable book, filled with a staggering amount of everything. Ussher as it turns out uses the Bible of course but uses a vast amount of secular references as well, reaching out to all sorts of important and obscure sources, some of which have disappeared over the last 470 years. As a piece of scholarship (he wrote on general history from Gensis to the destruction of the temple at Jerusalem) and the product of the mid-17th century, Ussher's work (completed evidently in just four years, though how long the overall research took is anyone's guess) is a tremendous accomplishment. All it takes is a little dip into it (forgetting the modern knowledge of geology etc.) to realize that this is a fantastic work.
Full text of the Annals of the World appears here: https://archive.org/stream/AnnalsOfTheWorld/Annals_djvu.txt
In his introduction/epistle Ussher remarks that many of the great historians considered marking the event of creation to be an impossible task, some saying that only divine intervention would lead to the ultimate cause. He cites the preface of Censorinus in his (fantastically titled) Explication of Times Intervals: "If the origin of the world had been known to man, I would have started there." (Consor. in c. 20.) And also Ptolemy in his Astronomical Supputations on the impossibility of this knowledge, "To find the details of the history of the whole world or such an immense period of times, I think it is beyond us that desire to learn and know the truth." (Ptolem. 1. 3.)
Ussher calmly explains how he did came upon doing it for himself without much fuss: "Anyone can do this who is well versed in the knowledge of sacred and profane history, of astronomical calculations and of the old Hebrew calendar. If he should apply himself to these difficult studies, it is not impossible for him to determine not only the number of years but even the days from the creation of the world. Using backward calculations, Basil the great, told us we may determine the first day of the world."
Ussher signs off from the epistle to start his work so: "Other things the prudent reader will figure out for himself. I wish you the enjoyment of these endeavours and bid you farewell." Even if you don't get past this intro you'll still get a decent understanding of how deep Ussher went, and why he should be remembered for the content of his work in context of his time rather than just that beginning-of-creation date.
1. And we wont discuss here the whole end-of-creation thing, which should have come to pass about 11 years ago, if not earlier (if using the calculation of others), as found in 2 Peter 3:8King James Version (KJV) "8 But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." So six days of creation=6,000 years, 4004bce+6k=2004 ace.
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.
This is another entry in a series of posts on maps and the representation of quantitative data, this one being early in the development of this genre of imagery. The map (a little guy at 5x7") is from An Atlas Accompanying Worcester's Epitome of Geography, published in Boston by Hilliard, Gray & Co., in 1828.
[Source: Images of the Hilliard map found at David Rumsey's map website, here: http://www.davidrumsey.com/luna/servlet/s/xz62g8]
In the 46 river lengths displayed here, 45 have distinct measurements; one--the Niger--does not, or almost does. The indistinct and suggested delineation shows what was know of the river, and what wasn't, with bits on either side of the middle section (reached and surveyed by the fabulously-named Mungo Park, 1771-1806, at the turn of the century). Much of the Niger wasn't well known at this point, though it had been plotted in part since antiquity--with all of that the overall length was well approximated (very close to its nearly-2500 mile length, the main river in West Africa). The line/dot combination was an honest approximation of displaying the river's length, and not often seen.
This is a rare broadside (about 24" tall) seeking household items and money for the relief of the striking workers of the hard/tough/brutal Somerset Mine strike of 1922-3. The miners struck for union representation from the United Mine Workers against the Berwind-White Company, which ran a very tight ship, evidently. The miners for Somerset lived in a classical company-town existence, with their pay being mostly entirely absorbed by the company via rent for company-owned houses, stores, food, water, and so on, all aspects of life controlled by the employer who/which retrieved the salary of its underpaid workers by controlling all aspects of the workers' lives. So the miners struck for representation from the union for more money and management resisted, especially since it would cost them profit during a year that saw coal production falling by a third. So the strike began and lasted from 1922 to 1923, during which Berwind-White employed scabs and security and thugs to intimidate and control their workers, evicting 1200, sending hundreds of families into a Pennsylvania tent life for the winter, stopping the flow of water, and general thuggery. The strike ended unsuccessfully in 1923, though the union came in by 1933.
Reading this summation and plea is a heartbreaker, and will no doubt make a person appreciate the idea of unions, especially in the U.S.A. of the 1920's/1930's.
The "Pantography of Modern History" packs a lot of information into a relatively small space, surveying a good chunk of the history of the West from the year 14 to 1800. (It is very similar and may be a pirated English version of a French effort that I describe in this post, earlier on this blog.) The sheets are 16x20" making the full pantography 32x20" or so--I reckon that there are about 1000 data points on the four square feet or so of paper. There are some descriptions of events but most of the effort is keeping the ruling heads in order. This version is a little easier to follow than the French because the design is somewhat sparser, making the bits easier to discern.
I'm a big fan of this sort of data display.
Published in Lavoisne's Complete ....Geographical Atlas, printed by J. Barfield, 1815. "Pantography of Modern History. Or, a Description of the relative Situations of the States and Sovereigns of Europe, during the first Ten Centuries of the Christian Era" Accompanied by "... from the Beginning of the Eleventh Century to the Year 1828".
This square-within-a-square appears in a table of squares in several pages of square collections. They represent "Bullion product per capita" for U.S states and territories, and published in the U.S. Geological Survey Annual Report for 1881 (plate XLIX). The "bullion" is silver bullion, and as we can there twelve leading states for silver production worth discussing before the rest become melded into one solid whole in square 13. It is a beautiful display, in its pre-non-representational-art sort of way. Kandinsky was still more than 30 years away from calling this sort of thing "art", and the representation itself was 95 years after the first graphic displays to convey info (in Playfair's Commercial and Political Atlas of 1786)and still, it is very captivating in a simple, squarey sort of way.
In August 1940 Popular Mechanics reported on another example of cloudy thinking on the coming world of warfare--the "Floating Wall of Fire" of Romanian defensive consideration. The article tells the story of how Romania "girdled itself, like a medieval castle, with avast moat stretching for 750 miles....which, at the moment of invasion, can be turned into a river of flaming oil". The canals which make up this open-pit Maginot line were 50' wide and 12' deep, the longest of them running some 400 miles, the combined efforts of the big dig meant top protect the country from invasion from Hungary, Poland, the Soviet Union, Yuoslavia, and Bulgaria--and of course from Germany which at the time could advance from a number of different positions. There were also hundreds of gun emplacements facing the pit, I guess to fire on whomever if they decided to try and break through/over the moat, which would have been flooded with crude oil and set ablaze when invasion occurred.
The problem of course was that even a year after the Blitzkrieg in Poland with the combined assault by land/air forces the lesson had not been learned here--unless of course the flames were 20,000' high. And obviously the river of fire would last only so long--depending on available amounts of crude oil I wonder how long they determined the wall of fire could be maintained? A day? A week? (I know that from controlled burns of oil spills that in one case some 16,000 barrels of floating oil was burned off in a controlled burn in about four hours--it seems to me that if there was an invasion front that was miles wide and striking at numerous point along a 100-mile front that...well, the problems are obvious.)
Could anyone have expected an invasion force to arrive and then once confronted by a burning moat turn back and retreat?
In spite of fulfilling expectations during a "rehearsal of a large-scale invasion", it seems very highly dubious that anyone could really have been comfortable with the first line of national defense being fire in a long hole.
[It should be mentioned that after the once-neutral-ish Romania settled into its relationship with the Axis that the worst single-mission air losses for the U.S. Army Air Force occurred in the bombing of petroleum facilities in the area of Ploiesti, Romania, on 1 August 1943. In an unsuccessful attempt to damage the flow of petroleum to Axis forces, Operation Tidal Wave targeted this location but with devastatingly bad consequences, with 53 aircraft and 660 servicemen lost in the action.]
Perhaps there are no more "basic" a collection of lines than those made in sand, either at the beach, in water, or in the desert, created by water or wind, changes to the surface of a mass at the intefave of the fluid. They seem to be about as basic as things can be, line-wise, or at least in lines that can be found in nature and not made by humans. These lines are called "ripples", and ripples have numerous names and classifications. Not many, though, in 1883, where I found this lovely article in Nature by Charles Darwin's son, George. (This is a shorter version of a 25-page earlier paper "On the Formation of Ripple-mark in Sand," In the Proceedings of the Royal Society, November 22, 1883, vol. 36.)
It is a wonderful thing this thinking on the movement of sand, and dirt, these wave-formed ripples, created in forms straight, sinuous, cantenary, lingoid. It also is followed closely in by George Darwin's article on the formation of mudballs (volume 27, page 507). Who could not but read an article like that?
Also it brought to mind his father's Power and the Movement in Plants, and specifically a letter to the editor of Nature in the April 28, 1881 issue of Nature, "The Movements of Leaves" in response to bright light...)
As we can see here he had the idea of constructing a straightaway through the three famous bends of the River Thames in East London. The straight part would be used for commerce while the bends would become docks and yards.
Another vision by Reveley is seen below, from page 113 of Alexander Forrow's The Thames and its Docks, a Lecture (London), 1877 (the full text available at the Internet Archive):
With all of this straightening-out of the river thinking going on in Reveley it is interesting to see that when he applied his brain to the the world of very straight lines as they exist in prisons that he went the other way--following the idea and commission by Jeremy Bentham, Reveley created plans for a circular prison. Bentham's Panopticon was an idea that wouldn't leave Bentham and occupied at least one small part of his brain throughout the 1790's--I'm not sure where in Reveley's head the idea lived, but it didn't live there for long, as the architect died at a very young 39 in 1799. Bentham (born in 1748) lived until 1832, and never did see his Panopticon constructed. (Then again, he may come to see it if someone showed it to him, as his head has been preserved as an on- and off-again display at University College...)
My experience with technical and industrial product catalogs (1900-1950) is that they have the potential for superlative or at least challenging design. Such is the case for the following catalogs issued by Mannesmann Export of Dusseldorf. The designs are unexpected, sharp, colorful, heavy, and anything but the spareness of its product. The catalogs below were all issued in the 1950's.
“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.”
There were many integral components to firing a cannon on a ship, not the least of which were the Powder Boys, the small, young, semi-strong kids who would run the gunpowder from a below-decks armory to whatever gun deck was needed. It was a relatively simple procedure, filling up a longish tube (cannon derived from the Italian cannone--or large tube--which came from the Latin canna from the Greek kannē, meaning something like a reed or any similar hollow thing) with gunpowder and then cannonball/shot and then wad, then causing the gunpowder/propellant to ignite and throw the ball. Basically, that was it, though you needed to maintain the cannon, aim it, and so on (don't forget to first swab the bore from unexploded gunpowder so you don't blow things up!).
The (first) image above of found modernist/semi-dadaist artwork comes form 1812 and was found in Rees' Encyclopedic Dictionary from the article on "Shipbuilidng" and illustrates the ways in which the stern of a ship can be outfitted with cannons--actually, the sterns of the HMS Bodiceae (28 18-pounders) and HMS Hamadryad (36 guns). Also by this time cannons had been carried on naval ships for nearly four hundred years, while the first cannons appeared on the ground in Europe another few hundred years before that.
In the third detail (below) we see the coverage of the four cannons placed in the stern of the Bodicae, mainly pointing out its weaknesses, showing the undefended arc, which comprises about 1/3, or about 60 degrees of the defensive posture. The Hamadryad on the other hand shows 100% coverage of the 180+ degrees of attack possibilities shown, along with secondary and teriary areas of fire coverage covered by more than one gun.
A fine,tiny detail from the full engraved sheet:
And the full sheet:
This is pretty much all that was needed to fire a cannon, except the men of course.
[Image from John Comenius, Orbis Senfualium Piélus: Omnium Principalium in Mundo Rerun/Vita Аllопит, translated as Pictura et Nomenclatur, the Visible World, or A Nomenclature, and Pictures of all Chief Things that are int he World, translated into English by Charles Hoof...1726. See an earlier post here for more on Comenius. Image Source: PROJECT GUTENBERG.]
A Vapour, (1). ascendeth from the Water.
From it a Cloud, (2). is made, and a white Mist, (3). near the Earth.
Rain, (4). and a small Shower distilleth out of a Cloud, drop by drop.
Which being frozen, is Hail, (5). half frozen is Snow, (6). being warm is Mel-dew.
In a rainy Cloud, set over against the Sun the Rainbow, (7). appeareth.
A drop falling into the water maketh a Bubble, (8). many Bubbles make froth, (9).
Frozen Water is called Ice, (10). Dew congealed, (13) is called a white Frost
Thunder is made of a brimstone-like vapour, which breaking out of a Cloud, with Lightning, (11). thundereth and striketh with lightning