A Daily History of Holes, Dots, Lines, Science, History, Math, the Unintentional Absurd & Nothing |1.6 million words, 7000 images, 3.6 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... 3,000+ total posts
This interesting graph of cosmic discovery (and re-discovery) is found in the open pages of Martin Harwitt's Cosmic Discovery, the Search, Scope, and Heritage of Astronomy, Basic Books, 1981 (page 14). It is an interesting advanced-introductory book which has a number of surprises, including this astro-discovery graph (below). There's another unusual display of historical data in an optical power of telescopes graph, which plots "Sensitivity improvement over the eye" of telescopes with astronomers and observatories over time, from Galileo to 1980 (and which is found on page 175). They're handy and useful and tell in a quickish glance some parts of the history of astronomy.
Well, not a chemical-chemical slide rule/computer, not a biological thing, "just" a push-pull homemade bit cut-out from an article on chemical equivalents from 1814. But very neat, and a major bit of thinking and articulation for the early 19th century. The original occurs in 1814 in a paper published by the Royal Society in the Philosophical Transaction by the eminent chemist William Wollaston, and a good description of the effort appears on Carmen Giunta's excellent Chemistry Classics site (http://web.lemoyne.edu/giunta/):
“In late 1813 he read a paper [published in 1814] that included an extensive compilation of "equivalent weights" or combining masses (closely related to molar masses) and a sort of chemical slide rule on which the weights were arranged. Wollaston's paper included not only a table of equivalent weights but a summary of data from which he compiled the table, mainly analyses published by other chemists...”
The copy of the slide rule that I'm using here is found in the great encyclopedia by Abraham Rees and which was published a few years later (1818)--its just a sharper copy with different design details than found in the original.
And a photograph of an antiquarian version from the Science Museum (U.K.): [Source, #2, below)
1. Full text of the 1814 paper: William Hyde Wollaston, "A Synoptic Scale of Chemical Equivalents," Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society 104, 1-22 (1814).
Never pass the opportunity to pick up a dropped book. Picking books up from the floor (in bookstores, libraries) has proven to be a definite education for me. It is where I first learned of the name of Ludwig Wittgenstein when I was (picking up the skinny Tractatus... which was not only on the floor but open and upside down, in D.C. in 1974), and the first exposure I had to Kurt Vonnegut (in the old Brentanos in Manhattan in 1969, finding Player Piano), just to name a few. I know it would be interesting to make a list of all of the good and bad that I've found on the floor, but the lost books are lost to uncaring and neglect of memory. One that came up just today is Andre Breton's selection of Black Humor--found on the floor of a bookstore I can't remember the name of but was on Rue Milton in Montreal in 1978. This was interesting because even though it was upside down it had an interesting rear cover design--flipped over it became a must-buy. I'm pretty sure I had heard of Breton at that point but had never read him--and there he was, in an unusual-looking little paperback, waiting for me to buy it for two dollars. I bumped into this old friend this morning, moving a box to get to a pile of the journal Comptes Rendus..., and then losing sight of the Angelo Secchi papers on spectroscopy from 1866 I was supposed to find in favor of looking through the in-the-way box. And in the bottom of the box was the Breton.
[I like the "i" in "noir" most of all.]
It was a collection of people who wrote wincingly and oddly and funny-bitterly, exposing things with uncomfortable not-sustained laughter. Breton includes selections form the work of 45 writers, many of which I admit to having never heard of before, and a number of others whose names were under years of braindust, and most of which I cannot read now with my mostly-failed French.
The book was published in 1940 and was immediately banned by the Petain French State government of occupied and controlled France, the government that was known more familiarly known by the name of the town in which the government's center was in, at Vichy. Breton (1896-1966) escaped France and spent the war in the U.S. and Canada and the Caribbean, but returned to Paris in '46 and saw his anthology (one of his many books) back into print in 1947. It was re-issued in 1966 (my copy) as the "definitive edition", though I am not sure that it is any different from the two earlier printings. That's okay, because it was Breton who moved out of Dada to found Surrealism, so he can say what he wants to say while saying it and not saying it.
Good French or bad, the references are still very useful--so far as I can recall, all of these writers were worth pursuing. (I left Picasso off the list even though he is represented in the collection because, well, I just don't like or need him.)
I'm certain that Breton would approve of this floor-reading education.
And by the way some give the term "black humor" to Breton. It is much older than that in the history of medicine, as a bilous, disease-causing agency. (For example, it is found in Shakespeare Love's Labour's Lost i. i. 228 "Besedged with sable coloured melancholie, I did commende the blacke oppressing humour to the most holsome phisicke of thy health-geuing ayre".) It may well be: the OED finds an obscure 1916 reference using the term as it is intended today ("C. V. Stanford & C. Forsyth Hist. Mus. x. 212 They [sc. Russian songs] give utterance to a ‘yearning without hope’... Humour there is. But it is the black humour of the drunken headsman") and then another for 1951. No mention of anything in the mid-ground. Perhaps it is the first common usage of the phrase...
Not long after Hitler's election in 1933 this curious pamphlet appeared: Ein Kampf um Deutschland (1933), short and thin, is a work filled with anti-Communist photos and images portraying them in as harsh a bad light as you could muster in 32 pages.One of the images is this map showing in no uncertain terms threats to Germany from the west, but most importantly a gigantic threat coming from the Communist east, the arrow striking right through the heart of Germany, with the hammer and sickle (the symbol only about 16 years old at the time) coming to rest just about on top of Berlin.
For all of this Hitler would sign a Non-Aggression Pact with the Soviet Union six years later (22 August 1939) with the plan of dividing some Eastern conquests with the Russians. Less than two years later came Operation Barbarossa, with Hitler launching a massive surprise invasion of the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941. Dozens of millions of lives later, it would all be over in four years.
And the opened cover for the pamphlet, or what is left of it:
Yesterday I posted a lovely octahedron map showing intercontiental air routes in 1956 (here). Today, looking in LIFE magazine for some images and a story about U.S. GI's being exposed to nuclear blast tests I bumped into this unusual two-and-a-half dimension map showing domestic air routes of American Airlines (November, 1951). The national service areas are chunked-up, given some enormous height, not making things very comfortable-looking for the Pacific W and northern Mid-West, and almost the entire South. I guess the question would be, were the service areas heightened, or the rest of the world lowered?
The first transcontinental flight competition called for crossing the country in 30 days (for a $50k prize) and was accomplished in 1911. By 1933 the fist transcontinental through-flight (a one-day, not-overnight flight) occurred just 22 years later in 1933; only 5 years before this map was made was the first 1-stop service (1946), which is one reason why there are so many intermittent stops; it would be another two years (1953) for there to be non-stop service. The of course the not-slow explosion of competing airlines and flights.
It is interesting to recall that the first transcontinental railroad for the U.S. was in 1869, and the first European transcontinental railroad was 14 years before that (in 1855), thus getting people across the country and continent 80 and then nearly 100 years ago. On the other hand ,the first trans-Australian RR was completed in 1917--that was east-west. North-south is a different issue for Australia, which has been an historically very highly difficult crossing., In any event that line was not completed until 2004. All things considered, I think, this transcontinental air business was extremely successful and fast, coming less than 50 years after the first Wright powered flight.
F.V. Botley's map of international airline routes--interesting the author points out that the routes have stayed "substantially unchanged for the last two decades". The (above) is based on a regular octahedron, which opens to a star-shaped design (in figure 2, below) and which is not truly related in the larger map--it is "an oblique gnomonic projection designed on this principle", making it an easier read. [Source: Journal of Geography, 1956, pg 397.]
I admit to making some impressive typos and even though I'm pretty diligent about finding all of my reversed letters many will still slip through my broken and tangled editing nets--but this one, the typo I found above, is really a typo of Enormous Dignity.
When I first saw this I thought, well, there were a couple of other published Einsteins at this time who were not our Albert, but I wasn't aware of an "E.Einstein" writing in physics, and also writing in A. Einstein's area. But then I opened the pamphlet and saw that, yes, indeed, in 1931 someone had goofed and the name of the world's most famous physicist (and perhaps "person") appeared on the cover of a physics journal in a not-quite-right manner. Unfortunately, it was also the inaugural issue of Annales de L'Institut Henri Poincare (published in Paris in 1931). Perhaps it was the ghost of the great mathematician/physicist/everything man, Poincare himself, who ruled over the situation, as he and Einstein didn't quite "get along". after all there was very little that one had to do with the other, in spite of their standings. And even though Poincare died in 1912, Einstein had his monumental year seven years earlier and had a number of highly important publication in the following years. He was so wel though of in fact that Einstein was approached to write the great Poincare's obituary (for a journal that I do not recall presently), but Einstein declined. Perhaps it was the Dreyfus Affair and the underlying causes of it? I don't know. But I do know that someone really got Einstein's name wrong, somehow, on the cover of the journal's first issue. Fermi and Darwin appear with Einstein on the cover and their initials are correct. But not Herr Einstein.
It isn't quite that--wait a minute: yes, it is. But it wasn't a "million", but "millions". The reference is to a thought experiment in which "millions of violinists performing every conceivable sound within the octave, with a view to the production of the purest and most ethereal of sounds".
It seems like a musical experiment best left to stay inside the head, though I would of course love to hear a million of anything do anything at all.
The experiment occurs as a sidelight to a very interesting and very early article by Sedley Taylor, "Analogy of Colour and Music", found in Nature, volume 2, February 24, 1870, in the letters to the editor section, p. 430. His work on analogy in music and color is very early, particularly by someone who was conversant in both worlds. (Taylor would translate von Helmholt's great work on the sensation of tone into English (On the Sensations of Tone as a Physiological Basis for the Theory of Music, publishing it in 1875.) Also in 1875 Taylor published his work on the color/sound subject in a book, Sound and Music. According to Cyril Rootham (1920):
“Sound and Music,” was... the earliest general exposition in short compass by a writer competent on both sides of the subject. An event which his characteristic energy rendered prominent was his invention of an apparatus which he named the phoneidoscope. It consisted essentially of a resonant cavity, with an aperture over which a soap-film was stretched: when the operator sang to it a note nearly in unison with the cavity, the aerial vibrations revealed themselves visibly in whirling movement of the coloured striations of the liquid film."--quote via Wiki article on Taylor
Unlike the history of the vast majority of musical instruments, the piano could sort of play itself about 160 years after its invention. The idea of making a device that would record notes from a piano, and then punch them out onto long strips of paper, and have them play through a music box or other automatic instrument (and later on, by Centennial time, on a player piano) was a truly inspired thing, I guess. That's all fine and good, but none of these inventions really allowed for you to understand how a piano was actually played by a performer, and how that performer touched the keys--that would be interesting on many levels beyond the mechanistic reproduction of note-playing. It seems though that it wasn't until the close of the century that an invention was capable of recording the subtleties of key touch. And that was the work of A. Binet and J. Courtier who published their results of their experimentation with new instrumentation in "Recherches graphiques sur la musique" (Graphic research on music) in Revue Scientifique. The invention has been called "the start of the study of technical empirical musicology".1
The machine was described by C.H. Judd in Psychological Review2in 1896: "When a key is struck the style is deflected in such a way that the height of the deflection is proportional to the force of the pressure; the length of the deflection records the time; and finally the form of the curve gives a detailed account of the manner in which the movement was carried out."
In 1914 in "The Psychology of Piano Instruction" we find the following appraisal: "In much the same way have Binet and Courtier blazed the trail as Seashore puts it by tracing graphically the intensity form and time of finger movements in piano playing They point out the immense psychological interest there is in determining the kind of experience involved at the keyboard of a piano and the type of movements executed while at the same time graphic results obtained in this manner act as checks upon the performance Illustrations are given for instance to show the curve of a trill well performed in contrast to that of a trill poorly performed..."3
In any event I found this article by chance in Nature for October 17, 1895, and thought the machinery and idea were fascinating. This was probably the first English translation of the paper, which soon again appeared in an article in Popular Science in the U.S. in the next month:
“When a certain point of perfection has been attained in piano playing it becomes very hard to distinguish inequality of touch yet owing to the varying strength of the fingers it is only with much practice that perfect equality is possible. As will be seen further on involuntary movements and irregularities scarcely perceptible to the shown by the graphical method...”
“The apparatus...is quite simple in construction and consists chiefly of an india rubber tube placed under the key board united at its two extremities by a registering drum also of india rubber When the notes of the piano are played the pressure on the tube causes a wave of air to be sent through it into the drum upon which is attached a pen that in the ordinary way is made to record its movement on a moving roll of paper The wave makes the drum vibrate which in its turn jerks the pen thus causing irregular marks to be left on the paper The board on which the tube rests is regulated by means of w edges adjusted by a screw the board being either lowered or raised When raised it almost reaches the notes of the piano and in this case the registering action takes place but if it is lowered the whole apparatus is disconnected from the key board...”
The summation at the end of the Nature article:
"1. Dealing with its advantage from the psychological point of view it is found that the voluntary movements of the pianist can be observed without putting him to any restraint or embarrassment for the small tube does not affect the resistance of the notes nor is the exterior of the piano altered."
"2. For teaching purposes the device has been of great use. The record on the roll of paper shows the faults so precisely that although they are scarcely perceptible to the ear there is no denying their existence."
"3. We are well aware that written music cannot show every slight change in the time the composer might desire. By applying the graphical method this difficulty is eliminated and the time will be reproduced with the smallest details."
1. Empirical Musicology : Aims, Methods, Prospects: Aims, Methods, Prospects edited by Eric Clarke Professor of Music University of Sheffield, Nicholas Cook Professor of Music Royal Holloway, p. 77
2. Psychological Review in 1896, Vol 3(1), Jan 1896, 112-113.
3. Journal of Educational Psychology, vol 5, 1914, "The Psychology of piano Instruction."
Frederick Erastus Pierce (1878-1935) is the creator of the extraordinary The Tenement-House Committee Maps: printed on one sheet of paper for Harper's Weekly in 1895, Pierce presents his data on the distribution of the population of Manhattan with two maps, one showing the densities of Manhattan populations (on top) and the other the distribution of nationalities (at bottom).
[I should point out that the original of this map is for sale at our blog bookstore, here.]
Here's an overall view of the maps--this example from the Library of Congress, as I could not make an accurate image of the one I have here--I do include some details of the maps from my own copy, however, which are found just above, with several below.
One of my favorite popular technical illustrators of the 20th century was G.H. Davis (1881-1963), who worked enormous accomplishments for the Illustrated London News for some forty years. His specialty seemed to be the cut-away schematic, showing half-exposed/half-not technical schematics on mostly oblique angles. The example below is a fine one, showing the (not-named) British 1925 tank, which I believe must be the Vickers Medium I or variation thereof. It was certainly an improvement over the tanks used in WWI, and for all intents and purposes it seems a "modern" tank.
In 1929 Germany was still abiding by the Treaty of Versailles, which was the peace treaty ending WWI and signed in 1919. The 440-clause treaty spent the first two dozen or so clauses were spent on President Wilson's League of Nations, while the rest was a distribution of punishment and reparations against/on Germany. The German military as directed by Versailles was limited to 100,000 soldiers, and had 1926 machine guns, and 2886 cannons. as stipulated Germany could have no tanks and no air force, and was limited to six ships and no subs, and had to keep the Rhineland free of all armed forces.
By 1928 Germany was certainly having multiple regressive thoughts about the Treaty, and public demonstrations of questioning its efficacy began to appear with more frequency. In this example--from the Illustrite Zeitung (Leipzig)--a strong statement was graphically displayed showing the state of the German military situation. As you can see, there is scant measurement for just about anything in the military sphere for Germany--and to press the matter home ever more so, in addition to the nulls and tiny numbers, there (in the sixth section down, and magnified above) is a helmeted German soldier with a large magnifying glass inspecting the German totals of the nearly-invisible machine gun totals.
This would all be completely changed by 1934, when the Nazis were already well on the way to having a competitive (and modern) fighting force which counted 4.5 million troops. It would only get worse.
In January, 1915, in the pre-Luistania/post beginning of WWI (by six months) days, Scientific American declared an interest in the state of the United States military and found it lacking. It posted this very strong statement to advertise a coming special issue investigating the status of the armed services.
Perhaps the most telling image in that special issue (of 5 February 1915) was an image of soldiers scaling a fortress wall--that's pretty much the polar opposite of what training should have been happening, what with trench warfare and all. There is also a photograph of practicing cavalry--and not a hint of a tank. There was little or no attention being paid to the developments in aerial/gas/tank/trench warfare, the armaments and munitions of war were ancient-esque, and the standing army numbered around 100,000 (plus 120k in National Guard), which was hardly anything at all compared to the fact the French Army on a single day (August 22, 1914) in the Alsace-Lorraine region lost 27,000 dead and 40,000 wounded, and that there were already 3 million dead/wounded in the European theater. There would be readiness factions and peace factions at work for the heart and mind of the U.S., but that wouldn't really start for another month or two. In the meantime, though, Scientific American took stock of the military situation, and found that the U.S. was militarily-prepared for almost nothing, so far as global war was concerned.
In one of the articles celebrating its 70th Anniversary, Scientific American published these two graphs showing the development of patents from 1836 to 1915. They appeared in the June 5, 1915 issue, and distributed the patents also according to type. It is interesting to note that for decades that the magazine kept one page (or part of it) devoted to displaying newly-recorded patents--that practice was abandoned by the time the 1915 article appeared, which is too bad, because it was enjoyable to dip into the archive and see what was being patented at weekly intervals over the years. In any event I'm not sure that I've seen visual displays quite like this, and so I share them:
This is an image of a philosopher's cabinet, engraving (on copper?) by "I. Friedlein fec", who was Johnann Friedlein, an emigree from North Germany to Denmark, and who worked ca. 1680-1705. It shows the tools of the trade for someone working in natural philosophy (the name "scientist" would not come into use for another 130+ years or so1) and is an interesting insight into a small, polite gentleman's club for experiment and investigation.
The men surround a decent collection of scientific instruments--I can locate a compass, dividers, oil lamp, magnifying glass, microscope2 (at the right elbow of the figure on the right), terrestrial and celestial globes, a (large) clock, barometer, and various weights and scales, and behind it all looms a rather large refracting telescope3 (is it five inches?)
For all of these expensive and current instruments, the lighting these gentlemen set up for themselves is pretty poor, though of course it does add to the mystery and dark experience of the image.
Here's another example of Friedlein's work, a frontispiece to Cryptographia, oder geheime Schrifften by Johann Balthasar Friderici, printed in 1685:
Nyt dansk kunstnerlexikon: bd. Indenlandske kunstnere (fortsættelse ...)by Philip Weilbach:
1. "Scientist", in the Oxford English Dictionary ("science" is a much older word in English):
1. A person who conducts scientific research or investigation; an expert in or student of science, esp. one or more of the natural or physical sciences.computer, earth, mad, natural, rocket scientist, etc.: see the first element.
It is possible that the ‘ingenious gentleman’ referred to in quot. 1834 is Whewell himself.
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. Whewell Philos. 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. "Microscope" (as a noun) in its earliest uses in English, in the OED:
1648 Bp. J. Wilkins Math. Magick i. xvi. 115 We see what strange discoveries of extream minute bodies, (as lice, wheal-worms, mites, and the like) are made by the Microscope, wherein their severall parts (which are altogether invisible to the bare eye) will distinctly appear.
1651 N. Highmore Hist. Generation viii. 70 The white circle..by a Microscope appears now to be the Carina or back and neck of the Chick.
3. "Telescope" (as a noun) in its earliest uses in English, in the OED:
[1619 J. Bainbridge Astron. Descr. Late Comet 19 For the more perspicuous distinction whereof I vsed the Telescopium or Trunke-spectacle.]
1648 R. Boyle Seraphic Love (1663) xi. 59 Galileo's optick Glasses,..one of which Telescopioes, that I remember I saw at Florence.