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
I found this down in the warehouse this morning, published in Popular Science Monthly, September 1951. It sin't every day that you see a periodic table with drawings showing the employment of the elements, especially the stained glass windows for the element with the atomic number 92. Actually uranium glass was a "thing" once upon a time,, at least until the Cold War kicked in, putting a crimp in the supplies of uranium for glass plates and beads and that sort of thing.
A Picture-Book about the Costs of Medical Care was composed by the Julius Rosenwald Fund in 1932. One of the major data visualizations in the short pamphlet was the distribution of medical care according to income--and it comes as no surprise that during the Depression that the wealthiest people are enjoying more medical care than the other classes. The stats are mostly not displayed in this pamphlet so there's not much that I think I can say about them--except that it seems that the class distinctions/percentage in this chart are similar to the William Thompson & Joseph Hickey (2005) class model.
So from the Rosenwald Fund the numbers are described like so (with the addition of the bureau of Labor Statistic's calculated figures for teh purchasing power of the 1932 dollar in 2016):
<$1,299, 15% of the population, ($20,957 in 2016 dollars)
$1,200-$2,000, 35% of the pop, ($34,938 in 2016 dollars)
$2,000-$3,000, 25% of the population ($52,392 in 2016 dollars)
$3,000-$5,000, 15% of the population, ($87,321 in 2016 dollars)
$5,000-$10,000, 7% of the population, ($174,643 in 2016 dollars)
$10,000+, $2.9% population, (greater than $174,643 in 2016 dollars)
The Thompson/Hickey model
Upper middle class 15%
Lower Middle Class 32%
Working class 32%
Lower classes (including the working poor 20%
The bottom two classes in the Rosenwald could constitute the poor and the working poor, making 50% which is what is most in-line with the Thompson/Hickey model. It is a little more difficult to work the numbers and try to distinguish the super rich, rich, upper middle class, and middle class in other models against the Rosenwald graphic. However when you look at two other models the poor and the working poor add up to about the same as above; the Dennis Gilbert model (2002) finds 55% in this category and the Leonard Beeghley (2005) finds 57%. This is real smashmouth statistical surfing, I know, but it does seem as though there is a good correlation between the Rosenwald working class/working poor/poor numbers from 1932 and more recent models.
You wouldn't know about the highly-designed images in the work Highway Transportation by its title ("published in the interests of the shipping public") by Consolidated Motor Lines Inc (1939). Nor would you assume how dry the interior was by the pamphlet's cover. In any event the Earth (with the poorly-drawn North America and the trunk-running ring around it)seems to be well under control by trucks, standing by in deference to the enormous quantities of oil consumed by trucks and other truck-related truck things, sweeping past it like the tail of a comet. It is just an odd map, and that's pretty much that. The sharp and streamlined plastic cover must've been shiny enough for everyone to think of it as an advanced work.
And the equally odd and slightly disturbing streamline-y cover:
Thomas Wright (1711-1786) saw about as deeply into the deep as just about anyone else--he looked into the night sky and pretty much saw all of it. In his book, An Original Theory or New Hypothesis of the Universe, Founded upon the Laws of Nature1, he described a version of the universe that was influential in the thinking of Kant and Herschel, finding a rectangular/squashed "finite infinity" of stars, "a vast infinite Gulph, or Medium, every Way extended like a Plane, and inclosed between two Surfaces".
Our Milky Way, which at the time was thought to be the entire universe rather than a galaxy as it was later discovered to be--one galaxy in a seemingly endless sea of galaxies--was presciently seen by Wilkins as being but one assembly of stars in an "endless immensity" of stars:
"And farther since without any impiety; since as the creation is, so is the Creator also magni- fied, we may conclude in consequence of an in- finity, and an infinite all-active power; that is the visible creation is supposed to be full of si- derial systems and planetay worlds, so on, in like similar manner, the endless immensity is an unlimited plenum of creations not unlike the known Universe."--page 143. (Again, the "Universe" referred to here is the Milky Way galaxy.)
Wright's vision of this plethora of universes, in which each creation is one like the Milky Way--a radical thought in 1750:
And another view of this idea, from Wright's A synopsis of the universe, or, the visible world epitomiz’d (1742, being 13 maps on 3 sheets):
[Source: the Library of Congress. https://www.loc.gov/item/2008621668/ Part of me wants to include the first Wright engraving in this blog's series on the History of Lines, seeing as how they represent the great Something that seem to be infinitely binding the infinity of universes...]
And another from these sheets:
[Source: the Library of Congress. https://www.loc.gov/item/2008621668/]
Wright on the "plurality of systems" ( from his An Original Theory or New Hypothesis of the Universe … 1750)
Wright also writes on the minuteness of the human condition, of the perfect sense of nothingness that is the Earth in a sea of infinite possibilities of other earths and earthy creations, which was definitely an outpost of thinking in 1750:
"In this great celestial creation, the catastro- phe of a world, such as ours, or even the to- tal dissolution of a system of Worlds, may pos- sibly be no more to the great author of nature, than the most common accident in life with us, and in all probability such final and general doom-days may be as frequent there, as even birth-days, or mortality with us upon the Earth. This idea has something so cheerful in it, that I own I can never look upon the Stars without wondering why the whole world does not be- come Astronomers; and that men endowed with sense and reason, should neglect a science they are naturally so much interested in, and so ca- pable of enlarging the understanding, as next to a demonstration, must convince them of their immortality, and reconcile them to all those lit- tle difficulties incident to human nature, with- out the least anxiety."--page 132
1. The full title: An Original Theory or New Hypothesis of the Universe, Founded upon the Laws of Nature, and solving by Mathematical Principles the General Phenomena of the Visible Creation ; and particularly the Via Lactea. Comprised in Nine Familiar Letters from the Author to his Friend. And illustrated with upwards of thirty graven and mezzo-tinted Plates by the best Masters. London, MDCCL." Full test, here.
2. An odd note about Thomas Wright's personal history, from Science, 1902: "A word, in passing, about Wright. Like many another, so unfortunate as to live ere the times were ripe, he has been consigned to unmerited oblivion. Even the writer of the entry upon him in the ' Dictionary of National Biography '—a work so uniformly accurate — is unaware of the sources from which information could have been obtained, and so has nothing to tell, — does not even know the dates of his birth and death, or why he was called 'of Durham."--[Science, N. S. Vol. XIII. No. 321. 2-22-1902
An interesting poem by Rafinesque to start of his edition of Wilkins:
"Where ends the range and limits have been set To mortal eyes, there mental sight begins To fathom space, and worlds invisible Surveys, admires The mind must feel that space can have no bound*, Whatever number be of things or thoughts Others may be beyond—and thus behind The Nebulas and Belts, our Galaxies Of stormy clouds and oceans There stands the central land and throne Of our wide Universe, the home of Angels, The seat of Love Divine" Rafinesque, Poem on Instability, found at the beginning of Rafinesque's 1837 American edition of Wright's 1750 work.
The quick post this morning centers on design and the presentation of information--and it comes from a very uncommon and unsavory source. The pamphlet is by Rudolf Kasper, Sudetendeutsche Wirtschaftsnot! : Der Niedergang der sudetendeutschen.Wirtschaft seine Ursachen und der neue Weg zu Arbeit, Freiheit und Brot which on the cover of the publication becomes Volk in Not. It was published in 1932 by DNSAP (German National Socialist Workers' Party), which was an anti-Communist, anti-Capitalist, anti-Semitic, and other anti- things, and written by the German Nationalist Kasper, who after the Czech sell-out and invasion of 1938 became a Nazi and ultimately a Waffen SS. Well, penultimately he became a prisoner of the Soviets and then ultimately dead at their hands, somehow, in 1947, under unknown conditions. (As Mr. Vonnegut would say, "so it goes".) The pamphlet is an appeal to the Sudeten Germans, offering an explanation for their failure at teh hands of the Czechs as well as a broad determination of how to fix things for the future, fixing the unemployment situation (there and so far as I can tell worldwide) for people to have a chance at "Work, Freedom, and Bread" ("zu Arbeit, Freiheit und Brot"). Ah, yes. Once the Nazis took control in Czechoslovakia, the DNSAP disappeared, outlawed--of course Kasper didn't and simply moved on to his new Nazisness. I'm posting about this because the pamphlet just doesn't appear anywhere--there is only one copy of it located in libraries worldwide (Bayerische Staatsbibliothek) according to WorldCat/OCLC--and I just wanted to surface the thing.
The montage cover (8"x 5"):
And the display of the unemployed (2"x 2.5"):
("You are Suffering Famine and Distress!")
So, there you have it. There's a lot of unpleasant stuff in this pamphlet that would be fervent feed for the developing downfall of Czechoslovakia six years hence, though we don't need to get into that where--as I said, I just wanted to surface this pamphlet and bring some notice to its existence.
It might have made it more exciting for the readers to know that the fall would've taken about 2.73 seconds from 120'--I think the results are pretty much exactly the same whether the 60mph man was in a car or not so far as the effects of the sudden stop at the bottom goes. In any event, it was an effective way of relating the dangers of ultra-auto-speed in 1932.
This is a detail of 10% or so of a document here, something that was printed regarding the socio-political temper of the liberated Netherlands in February 1945.
And so: "S.H.A.E.F. Mission (Netherlands) Political Intelligence Report No. 5. (For Fortnight ending 14 February 1945) Intelligence from the Liberated Netherlands" are the running headers. And of course there's the "S-E-C-R-E-T" part of it, no doubt necessary then but hardly now. The paper includes a report on food and fuel and living conditions, labour and employment, attitude of the population to the Netherlands government, attitude of the population to Allied troops, and so on. What I found very interesting besides the report are the trails of where the document has been.
First, here's the front page of the document in full:
To interpret, SHAEF was "Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces"--the hand annotations and stamps do say where the document has been. First off, we'll start with the stamp on the back, which may have been the first stamp overall:
The paper was received by the CID on 1945 Mar 3--now the CID could have been a number of things but when placed in context with the notes on the front, the CID becomes the "Central Information Division", which was the O.S.S. (Office of Strategic Services, and the precursor to the C.I.A.) and the R & D ("Research and Analysis Branch"). Underneath the hand-written "O.S.S" is a most-erased name, a Lt. Col. ________. This is where the Found-Art comes in, because here I tried my trickery and foolery to pull out the name, but I failed, only being able to grab a couple of letters. The result though was interesting in itself, if not for who Lt. Col. ______ was. And so, there you have it, a little exercise that went off into the rabbit hole, producing something interesting but not useful. That happens a lot.
The fine infographic below displays the size and might of the Cunnard line's newest ship, "534", which would be christened the RMS Queen Mary two years from when this image was published (in Popular Mechanics, January 1932). It was a beast, a thousand feet long with a crew of a thousand, it shuttled 2,100 passengers across the Atlantic for 33 years, and for a number of those years held the record for the quickest crossing. I particularly like it standing next to the newly-completed Empire State building.
There is probably a more elegant way of asking this question and still be catchy/popular, like "Speed of Stuff" or "On the Speed of Stuff" or some such--fact is though I should have begun a series by this (sort of) name years ago. It is a nice catch-all for mostly unrelated stuff, except for the "speed" part, which would be a nice thread. In any event, I came upon this article today while looking for the beautifully-named Fleeming Jenkin article on a very unusual telegraph. It appeared in the May 5, 1870 issue of Nature, which is actually the first series in volume II of the then brand-new journal, and this was just issue #27. But right up front in this issue was a great-looking paper by a "M. Foster" called "The Velocity of Thought". (This was not by a wonderful Mr. Foster from high school who warned us kinds in 1970 that we will one day be fighting in Afghanistan, "you mark my words,boys"--a bold position given that we still had a few years to go in Vietnam at that point.) I think that this "M. Foster" is Professor Michael Foster, who in time would add (if he hadn't already) an M.D. and then a F.R.S. to his surname. In any event I append the entire article below, which I found online at the University of Wisconsin.
(I should add that there is a nice book review by the great W. Stanley Jevons in this issue as well--anyone interested in purchasing the original issue cane write me at the addy found in the "About" section of this blog.)
Before the internet the idea to the idea of the internet existed to some extent in the head of a great unsung hero of the U.S. WWII figure, Vannevar Bush, a person who may well have invented the notion of hypertext. Vannevar (pronounced “van ee var”) was a flinty no-nonsense New Englander who was an organizational and mechanical genius who as a professor at MIT developed a remarkable analog computer that greatly advance computation capacities for solving differential equations. This was in the 1930’s, and even after creating an improved electromechanical version of the machine still chose the wrong way to go in the soon-to-materialize digital computer revolution. During WWII Bush was one of the most important Americans in the war effort, overseeing the entire scientific effort of the U.S.—an enormous effort dispatched beautifully (and successfully). His importance in this regard is difficult to overstate. He also published a short paper on the hypertext idea in an article in The Atlantic in 1945.
The article, “As We May Think”, outlined his idea for a device he called the MEMEX (“memory” and “index”), which compressed and organized all that its user could remember and whatever information would be obtained in the future via electromechanical apparatuses, and available with associative tracking between the microtext frames. So all manner of book and papers and reports and newspapers and images would be microphotographed and stored in a beautifully-indexed mechanical retrieval system where it would live with the information of others. There was also the possibility of real-time textual additions to whatever it was that was retrieved, the genetic precursor of hypertext. Bush’s thinking has been deeply recognized (and also by the creators of the internet) as the intellectual grandparent of the modern internet.
And so I had a mostly-comical response to the image that I found (left) in the pages of the March 1932 issue of Popular Mechanics--it was actually on the back of the page that I was looking for (on passenger rocket travel across the Atlantic). With Bush in mind, this image of a man reading a miniaturized book using the system of Rear Admiral Bradley A. Fiske (1854-1942), and the photo shows the reader with the equivalent of a 100,000-word novel. The article only mentions this one book, and doesn't venture out into imagining anyone carrying a library with them, nor does it mention searches of organizing systems, but it does bring to bear the possible power of having access to a vast amount of info held on a strip of paper about the size of a newspaper column. And for 1932, that was a strong idea.
That's what I reckon this column of soldiers would represent of the total casualties of WWI.
Generally images like this are a virtual image-host for me, a bucket of ice cold water thrown onto a sizzling summer sidewalk, all sorts of ideas steaming from it. But for photographs of Doughboys1 marching, especially assembling for parade, this one struck me a little more oddly than most, giving instant pause, making me concentrate on the haze, or dust, that allowed the columns of soldiers to blend into one another and fade, losing their boundaries with their mass receding into a dull blur.
The Western Newspaper Union was selling this image for insertion in newspaper or journal stories about the war, for a small use fee. There were a few American organizations like Western Newspaper that were created to photographically cover the war, using pools of photographers who would distribute their work anonymously and which was available for common, general use for a small charge. The photographs allowed out were certainly restricted and censored, though in my stash of these of objects (numbering about a thousand) I'd say that 10% of them look pretty edgy to my eyes. Most of the action of war was not covered, but then again this aspect was still fairly technically difficult in 1918. Images of pain were almost never allowed, and certainly not pain of Allied troops. Aid stations were almost never covered as well, as were dead bodies, or at least those again of Americans or Brits or French or Canadian. The imaging of the war was certainly under a fair amount of supervision and control. (The original is available for purchase through our blog bookstore. here.)
The image shows American troops assembling for a parade through the streets of London before being deployed. The mistiness of the composition looks like a statistic to me, these men standing for those who had come before and fallen.
The U.S. lost .13% of its population to casualties (125,000 killed and 205,000 wounded) during the war--a war which by the time America got here had already been visciously fought for three years, costing dozens of millions of lives. The figures for everyone else weren't nearly so "fortunate" as the U.S.: New Zealand's 18,000/41,312 killed/wounded amounted to 1.6% of its population. The U.K. lost 2.19% (964,000/1,663,000), Italy was 3.48% (650,000/953,000 plus 650,000 civilian casualties), while France suffered a 4.29% (1.4 million/4.27 mil) blow of its total population to war. Things were worse on the other side: Germany 3.82% (2 mil/2.4 mil plus 426,000 civilian deaths, and the Ottoman Empire 12% (400,000/771,000 plus 2.1 million civilian deaths. Worst of all was the Ally Serbia, suffering a catastrophic 16% loss of its population to war, including 275,000/725,000 plus 426,000 civilian casualties. As gruesome as the numbers were, the Americans felt only a small percentage of the total sting of war--by 11 November, more than 21 million soldiers would have been wounded, with 9.7 million soldiers and 6.8 million civilians killed. It was an enormous price.
And that's what I see in the mist of what may be something like 10,000 soldiers on display in this photograph. .003% That's two of these columns every day, twice a day, for the entire 1550 or so days of the war.
1. The origin of the term "Doughboy" is unclear, or varied, or rich, but it is at least pretty oldm beginning around the time of the Mexican American War in 1846-1848--evidently when the soldiers marched through dry, tough terrain they wound up being covered by earth with the color of dough. Doughboy.
This item is actually for sale from the blog's bookstore: Western Newspaper Union original photograph. 5/25 x 7 inches. Includes the attached printed description on a separate piece of paper, affixed at image bottom. Fine copy. $300.00
I came upon this table of the heights of structures while looking for another chart showing the heights of mountains and the lengths of rivers, with the lengths of rivers nestled between the mountains in an upside-down pyramidal mountain form in the sky--yes, it is a striking design. In the attempt of not finding a good copy that could be downloaded and shared there was however success in the serendipitous find of the following print:
SOURCE: I was happy to find this at the tumblr account of Atlas of Affinities: http://atlasofaffinities.tumblr.com/image/76306197926 Barbie du Bocage, "Tableau Comparatif de la Hauteur des Principaux Monuments", 1852.
The color isn't quite right but that came as a result of manipulating the sharpness and clarity (and contrast) to make the legend somewhat more legible than in the original, which wasn't a very chunky scan. In any event there is a clearer image if you click on this, and I'm pretty sure that all of the numbers and structures are reasonably legible.
I was looking through some of the astronomical prints here and came upon this lovely piece of frammento, a bit detached from its source. I think it may be from Elijah Burritt's astronomical atlas, but probably not. From what I can tell my guess for the source is the U.S., mid 19th century--or at least after 1846 when Urbain Le Vernier brought its mathematically-suspected existence into the world, and as we can see in the chart Neptune is clearly included in the realm of the planets. In any event the image is very striking, and it does its job.
This yellow is similar to the cover of Dr. Seuss' One Fish, Two Fish..., the color yellow symbolizing courage/nobility in Japan, wisdom in Islam, and a deity-color in Hinduism; the color so fond of many great writers like London and Doyle, and Harte and Stevenson that they employed in in titles of the books. The favorite color of Van Gogh1, and perhaps not-so-favorite of Shakespeare (appearing in references to bile and melancholy and falling leaves), it is usually a positive color--except that it also can signify cowardice, ego, caution, and illness (malaria, jaundice).
And so, yellow. The yellow here is a color of soil, and a beautiful yellow it is, the chart a piece of found-art in itself, a found-Abstraction. It actually was published in the Atlas of American Agriculture, lithographed by A. Hoen, and published in 1936--a particularly bad year for U.S. western soils.
And a detail:
1. The Van Gogh museum's "Van Gogh Letters" is a must-visit if you are interested in his correspondence. http://vangoghletters.org/vg/ Actually the word "green" pops up about 15% more often than "yellow" as the most often mentioned color in the correspondence, though I think that the scholars say that his favorite color hands-down was yellow.
Some of the most interesting Found-Art images in the history of science belong to astronomy, and within that, some of the most expressive and least-populated images of great appeal and haunting beauty are for early images of comets. And so it goes for this ("tinted") engraving of Biela's Comet, which illustrated an article by London-born W.T. Lynn (at the time with the Royal Observatory, Greenwich) which was published in the April, 1867 issue of The Intellectual Observer. The comet was named for Wilhelm von Biela who discovered the periodic nature of the comet (6.6 years, it had been identified as early as 1772), and had disappeared by the 1850's, but not before breaking up into at least two large pieces, which is what we are looking at below: