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
The Texaco Company was not kidding around when they expressed appreciation for their customers who still bought their product when available after rationing restrictions--they addressed their customers and showed them the result of channeling their rationed petroleum into the production of TNT. The graphic is the result of Texaco applying themselves to the war effort, and they did not want their current and future customers to forget it.
[Source: LIFE magazine, November 15 , 1943.]
Additionally, in a similar vein and from later in the year in LIFE, comes this from Shell Oil:
I'm perfectly okay with the "fly...high and spy" part.
In an earlier post on this blog (A Beautiful Confusion) I wrote about some lovely engravings that attempted to sort out time difference and distance before the adoption of Standard Time. The idea was a little awkward and must have been vexing for folks running the railroads, but the notion of time difference was generally prettily and elegantly portrayed.
I'm including an example of these images that doesn't work and seems intellectually jiggly to me--it is fairly obscure and meant to clue in schoolkids to the practice of time difference from palce-to-place, and found in The New Practical Reference Library (1912).
This isn't a terrible thing--it just isn't that well done, especially in comparison to the lovely images found in that earlier post.
This outline appeared n The New Practical Reference Library, Educator Volume, an Invaluable Aid to the Student...volume VI, and printed in Chicago in 1912. What is interesting is not so much the outline itself, but the expectation that this was being used in 6th grade classrooms. So, while the diagrammatic representation of physics is not so impressive, the intended age of its audience is.
Pueblo Bonito--built between 840-1100 SCE-- is a ruin of the ancestral Puebloan peoples and is located in northern New Mexico. It is situated on a small rise in the long Chaco Canyon, and I'd say that viewing the ruins from photos or maps doesn't convey the grandeur as you approach it walking up the slight rise--it really does sit prettily in its environment, and is very impressive. (The ruins are about 50 miles east of Canyon de Chelly and about the same distance from the Four Corners.)
This image--the first ever published of the structure?--appeared via the military and government exploring expedition and published in the report Journal of a military reconnaissance, from Santa Fé, New Mexico, to the Navajo country, by J.H. Simpson. Simpson was in charge of the exploring party, assisted by the guides Sandoval (Navajo), Hosta (Jemez Pueblo), and Carravahal (Mexico)1.
The artwork is by Richard Kern (d. 1853) who along with his brother Edward (1822/3-1863) led extraordinary and near Zelig-like lives of exploration, and were among the first to provide accurate, scientific visual reports of the environment, architecture, and people in the Arizona, New Mexico, and southern Colorado areas (and especially in the Four Corners region).
Full text of the report can be found here: https://archive.org/details/journalamilitar00simpgoog
This is one of the many images made for the work, undertaken under great duress at times, and under severe hardships, by Richard and Edward Kern during this reconnaissance of the Navajo lands of the Southwest. The remarkable thing is not only how they survived, but also how truthful the published images are to the original drawings.
And the original black+white wash, found int eh collections of the Academy of Natural Science of Philadelphia:
[Source: Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, Everett Sale Library http://www.ansp.org/research/library/archives/0100-0199/kern146/]
And the text associated with the drawing, pp 40-42:
Earlier in blog I wrote a post ("Things They Took to War, 1915") about what the soldiers of the U.K. carried into battle. In many ways it was inspirational and heartbreaking to see what there soldiers marched off with to meet their fate. I've stumbled into another visual record like this, though this time for the U.S. just before our involvement in WWII, appearing in the July 1941 issue of Popular Mechanics.
I reckon that this soldier weighs 148 pounds. which means that his gear amounted to about a third of his body weight. I suspect that one of the first things these soldiers learned was what they actually needed to carry, and how to make whatever that was to be quiet and non-reflective. Of course this gear would change in about six months, and change again shortly after that.
For example this private was using the M1917 helmet, which would within months be replaced by the steel M-1 helmet--over 22 million of these helmets would be made by September 1945.
That's a lot of helmets. End-to-end in a line they'd stretch from NYC to L.A. and halfway back. On the other hand that number represents about 1/3 of the total war dead in WWII.
I've bumped into another issue of the Physical Review (December 1911, pp 409-430, volume II (second series), #6) with the important William D. Coolidge paper, "A Powerful Roentgen Ray Tube With a Pure Electron Discharge".
A decade-and-a-half after Wilhelm Roentgen's discovery of x-rays (an epochal paper published at the tail end of 1895) this is the first appearance of what we think of as the modern X-Ray tube--a design that would be used for decades to come, and which provided clear and more accurate that had been seen, in a way opening this world up, well, exponentially. It is a very significant contribution to the history of science, and it was cool to find it again by chance.
[Source: Wikipedia, showing the Coolidge tube ca. 1917.]
Before the Neil deGrasse Tyson version and update of Carl Sagan's landmark television series, Cosmos, there was Alexander von Humboldt, and his enormously influential book of the same title, printed in 1845-1862. Well, von Humboldt's (1769-18591) book was actually Kosmos when published in German, which is where it started its life (and which von Humboldt suffered mightily for in it English translation), and in which this map appears. Von Humboldt was enormously studied and educated and of a high scientific mind over many subjects, one of those 19th century figures who seemed as though they could know everything, a polymath of high order (along the lines of Goethe and von Helmholtz and Thomas Young and others). He was a meteorologist and biogeographer before those sciences existed; a naturalist, geographer, archaeologist, and explorer, a natural philosopher of magnitudes.
The original maps is available for sale at the blog's bookstore, here.
Kosmos reflected his lifelong interest in order, and what he did was astonishing--he attempted to unifying the complexities of nature in one book (of five volumes), binding the various branches of science together in a cohesive whole, attempting to show how the laws of the universe acted here on Earth. It was a very influential work, very progressive, a masterwork of scientific method. Kosmos.
At first glance this detailed and dense map looks foreboding and somehow off-putting--at least for me, and that was before I understood what the numbers represented.
The blue numbers on this section of a larger map refer to soldiers killed on the battlefield of the 1916 Somme battlefield. It is the work of Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Messer (Assistant Director of Graves Registration and Enquiries in France), who undertook to record the crosses of the Fallen on the battlefield and register their location, and then to re-inter the bodies together in larger cemeteries.
[Source: John Hughes-Wilson, The First World War in 100 Objects, Firefly Books, 2014.]
What we are seeing here are pieces of four 6x6 grids (one complete and three partial) numbered (in red) 1-36, each one of these squares further subdivided into four section. Each larger square composed of 36 squares is 1000x1000 yards total, meaning that each one of the 36 subdivisions is about 166x166 yards, and each of the four segments of one smaller square is 83 yards. The blue numbers indicate a soldier killed on that field of battle which means that in the large 36-square "M" subdivision #18 that there were 210+29+372+17 fatalities, or 628 on a 166x166 yard field, or in one case 372 killed on a 83x83 yard plain. The deaths were even more intense on other areas of the field--in Square S #11 there were 749+207+234+126, or 1,416 deaths in that 166x166 yard field, and 749 on the 83x83 yard field. It is hard to visualize such loss. I picture a U.S. football field--there are 22 players on the field during play, and that seems to populate the area pretty well--casualties of 749 soldiers on a similar area would be nearly 35 times that, meaning that placed equidistantly and with a few feet on the sides they would cover the field. There are, what, 75 people on a football team? That means at the beginning of the game when all of the players and coaches and staff and cheerleaders and member of the band run out onto the field to take their places, they would all be dead--and then some. That is a lot of death.
According to the Imperial War Museum, temporary markers for fallen soldiers looked like this:
After the war the Imperial War Graves Commission replaced the wooden crosses with stone markers.
The wooden markers would then returned to the family.
This is a piece of Nazi propaganda showing relative population densities for France, England, and Germany in the 1930's, showing that Germany was far more 'crowded" than the other two countries, and that the necessity for conquering other countries for "living space" was justified. A poor argument believed by millions. (I should point out that the German's Germany is the only one featuring children (eight including an infant in a pram), and that the Brits are shown in a creaky/slouchy fashion.) It certainly got the point across--you didn't even have to read to understand the message.
Isn't it grand to be charting variations on a graph using different-sized aircraft from 1935? Sure, a line would be fine, but this is so much prettier--and of course a simple line is a line and would not display the workhouse military aircraft of the national quantity it was depicting. This appears in the Illustrated London News for September (or thereabouts) 1935--this is the magazine I think that may have been the King/Queen of graphically/representationally displayed data of the 1920s/30s/40s. The interest here of course is British-centric, comparing the air force of Great Britain to the rest of the world, but that is to be expected given the source of the images. It is also remarkable how much this graph would be changed in the next ten years...
There are also three fine inset images at bottom (about 2 x 2.5" in real life) that I've carved out and enlarged--they are all fine works in themselves.
JF Ptak Science Books Post 144 (from 2008) expanded
Understanding the Mississippi River was the skeleton key to understanding pre-Civil War America. There was really nothing else quite like it—the Ohio River and the attention paid it by Collot and others was of great importance to understanding the early far Western (east of the Mississippi River) adventures of Colonial and Post-Revolutionary America, as was the Missouri to early 19th century American exploration and settlement, but the Mississippi loomed over all. Like saying that Babe Ruth was a fabulous baseball player or that Richard Feynman was a brilliant physicist is a bland statement of the obvious—the understatement hollowing and becoming more brittle the more deeply their “records” are studied showing how truly incomparable they were—the Mississippi, “The Father of Waters”, is really the Big Deal in the history of the U.S.
And in spite of the fantastic maps made of river through the 18th and 19th centuries (like these gorgeous and iconic examples by John Senex in 1721 (A map of Louisiana and of the river Mississipi [i.e. Mississippi] : this map of the Mississipi [i.e. Mississippi] is most humbly inscribed to William Law of Lanreston, esq.) or Robert Sayer (Course of the river Mississippi, from the Balise to Fort Chartres; taken on an expedition to the Illinois, in the latter end of the year 1765. By Lieut. Ross of the 34th regiment:Improved from the surveys of that river made by the French. in 1772, or even Coloney & Fairchild’s Ribbon Map of the Father of Waters (below, a whopper, measuring in at 337 cm (and which was issued on a wooden spool for the use of travelers on board steamships moving along the river), there were very few that gave you an idea of the *history* of the river.
That was achieved in spectacular flourish by Harold Fisk (in the map above) in 1944 in his Geological Investigation of the Alluvial Valley of the Lower Mississippi River (U.S. Department of the Army, Mississippi River Commission, 78p)The map showed the very ghost trails of the river over time, and trying to show where it wasn’t was the great question. He tried to reveal the history of the valley by mapping and dating all physiological features of the river and tried to reconstruct the channel changes with what were to become speculative appreciation. Nevertheless, he did make a tremendous attempt at explaining the courses of the Mississippi over time by utilizing his own excellent maps and a little generative thought. This might not be the most accurate map of the courses of the Mississippi over time, but in 1944 it was really a spectacular achievement in cartography and general thought. And the thing was just drop-dead beautiful.
And another detail, from map 15, in the vicinity of Baton Rouge:
The full text is available here from the LSU library: http://biotech.law.lsu.edu/climate/mississippi/fisk/fisk.htm
For a very quick, elegant overview see Radical Cartography which has all 15 of the maps displayed at once, along with a key chart : http://www.radicalcartography.net/index.html?fisk
Also go to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers site and click on the "Fisk oversize" link in the left-hand "documents" column: http://lmvmapping.erdc.usace.army.mil/index.htm
Lloyd's new map of the Mississippi River from Cairo to its mouth:
[Source: Library of Congress, http://www.loc.gov/item/99447107/]
And the great "Ribbon map of the [Fa]ther of Waters.Created / PublishedSt. Louis, Mo. : Coloney & Fairchild, 1866":
(Very zoomable version here: http://www.loc.gov/resource/g4042m.ct000797/ The initial image comes up about 4mm wide (1)--don;t be discouraged, just start clicking away at the magnifier and it will zoom right in...)
I think that if you squinted your eyes a little to deform your visual field and then looked at this map of the Earth's ocean currents that what you might see is...Mars. At least that's what I can see if I concentrate on it, or at least the Mars of 1880 or thereabouts, with its large and blotchy seemingly mobile and ambiguous forms skirting around the planet.
"This map may be purchased at the blog's bookstore, here.
That said this map does represent a high achievement, displaying the elements of the still young-ish science of oceanography (or at least in the form presented by Matthew F. Maury) and showing the movements of the ocean currents.
This maps comes about a century after the first map to truly distinguish the Gulf Stream (the B. Franklin/Folger map of 1768-1785) and shows the remarkable activity that must have come with the acquisition of the data necessary to show on even this popular map. There were earlier attempts, of course, notably by the great/problematic Athanasium Kircher in his Mundus... of 1662 though his effort was largely theoretical (and for what it was worth likened the currents to something similar to blood moving though the body, which at least used the work of William Harvey) given the lack of available hard data. (Eberhard Happel is on a similar wavelength as Kircher with the currents map, and published his map a few years later, though he was mainly a science popularizer who "relied" heavily upon the Kircher map and was nowhere near to being Kircher's intellectual rival, his map is still interesting given its very heavy lining and beauty.)
In any event, the Houston map is clear and concise--and given its 7"x 9" size, remarkably compelling.
The idea of a global map1 of the winds was still something relatively new when this map was published in 1886. It represented a state-of-the-winds accomplishment and was published in the popular press--just a century earlier the idea of the completeness of a map of this sort for such a variable as The Wind was still of great speculation. But aside from the great scientific achievement of being able to display such enormous quantities of data in this way, the map has its artistic element, though almost all of this is done by the reader. For example, out-of-context this map depicts the delightfully- and disturbingly-named Equatorial Calms and Doldrums, Calm of Cancer, Calm of Capricorn, Zones of the Trades, Zones of the Variables (!), Zones of the Polar Winds, and Monsoon Regions.
This map is available for purchase via the blog's bookstore, here.
Really though this small (7" x 9") map is impressive for showing so very much big information in a small place: in addition to the poetic calms and doldrums, it shows areas of drizzle and fog, areas that have snow in spring and autumn, and the periodicity of rain.
It naturally shows trade routes (so dependent upon the winds) and then goes on to display prevailing winds and then to name some of the the important ones, including the Northers (central North America), Simoon (Arabian Peninsula), Sirocco (Mediterranean), Solano (Spain), Chamsin (Egypt), and Harmattan (West Africa).
It is a lovely map that becomes even more so the more closely you look at it.
1. "A world map from 1891 showing the distribution of the winds and rain, together with ocean routes", by Edwin J. Houston, and published in The Elements of Physical Geography (Philadelphia, PA: Eldredge & Brother, 1886). 7x9" Hand-colored lithograph.
The February 1918 issue of Popular Mechanics presents an unusual graphic display of quantitative data--what the $18,000,000,000.00 that the just-ended session of Congress for war expenditure would look like if rendered in different forms, and also what it would buy. The author of "Visualizing the $18,000,000,000 War Fund for for 1918", Leslie Klug, was trying to put that enormous sum into perspective for the popular reader--the results though may have been a little more mystifying than the sum. For example, he stated that $18bn in $5 gold pieces placed face-to-tail would stretch 3,000 miles; if that amount was rendered in pennies, it would form seven lines of coins from the Earth to the Moon. That penny pile would also be thicker and about twice as high as one of the world's tallest skyscrapers, the Woolworth Building.
It is doubtful that this would help the Average Person understand $18bn, mainly because there isn't much to compare a penny skyscraper with.
The author seems to have replaced one semi-incomprehensible number with its representation in something even more removed from daily life, re-equating the one big sum of $18bn into smaller but more numerous chunks of the same figure.
Klug moves on to a more successful visualization--thinking of what that money would buy in planes and tanks.
Of course the allocated war money was allocated to fund the entire war effort, including, well, everything, and not to be spent on one thing, like planes. But Klug does create at least two visual images that hadn't occurred to me before--super-massive numbers of planes and tanks.
"Massive amounts" of tanks in my head has always been represented by the Battle of Kursk, fought in the summer of 1943, where the tide of the war was changed and the German offensive in the East broken. It was also the largest tank battle ever fought. It was an enormous victory for the Soviet Army, and the beginning of the end for the Nazis. 4,000,000 people were involved in the battle (with some 200,000 residents of the city of Kursk killed in the process), along with 70,000 artillery pieces, 14,000 aircraft, and 23,000 tanks. Klug informs the reader that $18bn would buy 2 million tanks--he can imagine the "havoc" it would cost the Germans, but really doesn't even try to imagine what 2 million tanks would look like, unlike the penny cables to the Moon And the illustration really doesn't do any sort of job in displaying the idea of massive tank production, just a little touch of fear. The 2 million tanks bit comes a little bit into focus if there was something to compare it with--the Kursk--even though trying to imagine that battle of tanks time 100 its accessibility really just begins to dissolve.
When I try to think of 2 million tanks in terms of a single advancing army the impossible numbers become slightly more grounded, but not much. A tightly-packed square mile of tanks numbers about, say, 90,000. That means that you could have a 22-mile long mobile front of tanks that was also one mile deep. Ouch.
Planes didn't do the trick of conveying massiveness, either, though the illustration was a little more evocative of fantastic air power, though Klug doesn't say how many planes the money would buy. The author does state that such an air power could destroy "every dwelling and planting field" in Germany. (My guess is there could be 4-6 million aircraft purchased with $18bn.)
Perhaps what seems what would be the most accessible of the visualizations comes with the navy, which would receive 360,000 "sub chasers" for the $18bn, a force which (Klug says) would be capable of covering every square foot of ocean from North America to Europe and beyond--except that the numbers don't work out.
The North Atlantic is a big place, something on the order of 41 million square miles, which means that each of the sub chaser would have to cover 118 square miles to cover the ocean, which I think is impossible to do in pre-SONAR days of sub detection, when basically there was optical observation looking for a pipe sticking up out of the water. I don't know what the observational power is of a ship looking for a periscope in the ocean, but I know it can't be the size of D.C. or anywhere near that. How many ships would it take for this job would be an interesting tea-time question for someone who knows this stuff--but for me, it seems that Klug's visualization on the naval aspect of $18bn is wrong. On the other hand that doesn't matter at all if you're doing a little propaganda write-up, like this one.
In any event that isn't the way war expenses are handled, though it is a nice exercise in thinking about big numbers.
Rabinqueau was a sort of intellectual performance artist provocateur, who made a living on his brain, writing scientific and pseudo-scientifically on a number of subjects as well as being a paid-for scientific performer. he would demonstrate to paying audiences various experiments in optics and light and electricity and magnetism, though he would sometime veer far away from the safely trodden fields of science into new scientific theories, many of which would put a considerable distance between himself and recognition from the Academie Royale des Sciences.
For example, he developed a number of pseudo-magical physical ideas and astrological bits, as well as a fire-based theory of electricity in which the very substance of the universe is occupied by fire. (See Popular Science and Public Opinion in Eighteenth-Century France, by Michael R. Lynn, p 51.) Even though his ideas and results were far from the known science of such topics, he held a special affinity for the superiority of his own ideas, and stuck by them. His universal fire theory at the very least resulted in an insistence for Outsidery consideration of cosmological questioning and display, as see in this beautiful engraving:
The image appeared as the frontispiece to his Le Microscope moderne. [Treatise on cosmography], which appeared in 1781, and which seems to me to be sort of late in the game for these theories to be making an appearance. Source: Newberry Digital Library. (The image also makes an appearance with a different interpretation in Barbara Maria Stafford's Good Looking, Essays on the Virtue of Images, p. 93.)
And a detail:
Rabinqueau also developed an electrical, friction-based theory of the sexes, involving much rubbing and electrified ovaries, but this idea didn't go very far. (See: The Psychoanalysis of Fire, by Gaston Bachelard, page 26.)