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
Well, not really. It is however an early diving suit (and perhaps the earliest apparatus worn on the person and submerged) the creative and comparatively lightweight effort of Karl Heinrich Klingert, who produced it at the very end of the 18th century, in 1797 or thereabouts. The suit was made of a metal helmet and wide metal girdle, with the vest and pants made of a waterproof leather, and with leather (?) leg straps. The air would be pumped down to the diver from a turret above (see below, just) and would arrive in the diver's helmet via weighted air tubes.
Looking for (workable) patent models/templates for folding paper chess piece carriers (there are such things) I found these game patents, all of which are based to some degree on chess. I'm not sure why you'd play them if you could simply just play chess, but, well, they do seem like an interesting diversion, though from the little I read on actually playing each of the games they seem somewhat hollow. They are, however, pretty-looking things if not pretty-playing.
Each image is clickable back to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office where there is an accompanying text which sometimes gives enough information so that you could play the game.
Leonardo understood "big", especially when it came to weapons, and he understood what the concept of 'big" meant to adversaries and enemies of the folks with the "big" weapon--a bit of psych-ops in the mid-Renaissance by the High Renaissance man.
Leonardo's crossbow (drawn around 1486) should have worked. He certainly understood the idea of stored power in his many drawings--bent and twisted and torqued wooden arms and such--and the concepts of enormous potential is certainly reeking through-and-through this fantastic weapon. The bow itself seems certainly like a laminated object, adding to its strength via flexibility, the giant bow-string drawn back by a very considerable worm and gear, the whole of which is set to give flight to a large stone more so than an arrow. And that stone was supposed to be able to be delivered to its target over and over again, with minor adjustments, which would have placed it head-and shoulders above cannons, whose recoil made it really quit impossible to re-aim the instrument with any accuracy at the same target over and over again. The main compliment of the crossbow, then, was reproducible accuracies. (In this vein it is interesting to recall "Operation Crossbow", a Combined Bombing Operations during WWII that took place in 1943 and 1944 against the Nazi installations for the V-2 and V-3 weapons--a directed effort to remove a threat which was even more "precise" (if by "precision" we mean marginally guided weapons loaded with high explosives).)
The "atomic" part of the title of this post is I know far from the mark of being metaphorically correct--the scale isn't anywhere near being accurate. Offhand to have an "atomic" crossbow in relation to a nominally normal crossbow in similar scale of the Fat Man weapon in scale with an "average" 500-pound bomb (40 million pounds in relation to 500 pounds) the atomic crossbow would need to be miles wide.
The Death Ray is a long-discussed idea, extending back as far to Archimedes at least--discussed, attempted, abandoned and dismissed. But as a matter of fact, the thing was actually invented, and deployed, though not int he sense of an EM weapon, or LRAD/ultrasonic, or Teller x-ray laser, or even a Wellsian heat ray (below).
The "Death Ray" made its appearance in the 1880's, but not in the normal sense of what we would today think of as a "weapon"--this death ray could locate the enemy hidden miles from the front, or pick out ships at sea far from shore, and so on, removing stealth capacity, making it possible for these elements to be identified as targets, and then possibly removed, though not by the ray itself.
This "death ray" was the search light. In the 1880's when the technology of electric lighting was still in its first practicable decade, the idea of being able to focus a beam of light from a lantern source hauled on a single-mule carriage and powered by an on-board battery, small steam engine and Gramme dynamo was a spectacular. achievement.
[This image appeared in the Scientific American in 1886 and features what is probably a one-foot diameter mirror, making it capable of illuminating an object up to about a mile away. Something with a three-foot diameter could work its magic on object up to four miles away.]
This defensive/offensive weapon/device was very soon afterwards made into a trickle-down appliance that was placed into commercial use almost immediately. The standard use of course would be upgrading lighthouses, but one special use was using a large mirror in a device to project an advertisement on the clouds in a city--ads in the sky.
[Source, La Nature, 1894; also reprinted in Scientific American in the same year.]
Such a device was used experimentally at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago for the World's Fair of 1893, flashing the daily attendance on the clouds. I'm not sure why the greater revenue-generating employment of this technology took another year to develop. And so "The Death Ray", from Battlefield to Breakfast Cereal in a few short years.
These creations weren't so much about exploring the innerEarth than they were about surviving in the outermost, shallowest bits of its depth. Survival gear for The Great Unpleasantness in disastrous adventures at sea was relatively scant for hundreds of years, although the nineteenth century did offer a number of new, Victorian technolust attempts for survival-at-sea.
I know that this first contrivance in some of its particular parts looks enormously compromised, but really the stuff attached to the woman's head just allowed her to breathe about 10 inches higher than her mouth, though it seems to me that this air-catcher might catch more water than anything else. Still, it was an interesting attempt at keeping people floating above the water when in peril.
In general though it seems to me that most of the big adventures in wearable life saving devices were big indeed, big and heavy--if there was just a little more room for a small engine, wed' be in the Steampunk realm, as can be seen in this magnificent attempt by T. Beck in his 14 March 1876 patent:
This was somehow an improvement over a more complicated but still more sensible device that appeared earlier in 1869, the work of Captain John Stoner. He exhibited his creation in NYC off the piers in the East River as demonstration of the suit's effectiveness, the whole of which was big news, appearing in the July 17, 1869 issue of Scientific American. The suit was made of rubber, and was insulated and was equipped with a personal buoy which carried a "Eureka" flag and had a compartment filled with food, water, lighting materials, cigars, and of course reading material to help pass the time. The hand-flippers on the other hand look like a very good idea.
A more streamlined idea of the Stoner suit appeared in F. Weck's patent application of 24 October 1876, again using a rubber suit, but this time the safety device was far less cumbersome, and equipped with little more than an interesting-looking breathing apparatus connected to a towed buoy which of course flew the American flag.
Since I mentioned the possibility of cigars in the above-mentioned case, I should also point out that it took several decades for someone to patent a waterproof case for swimming with cigarettes, "in case the swimmer wanted to swim out to some rocks and then relax with a cigarette".
G. & C. Palmer came forward with another unusual idea in their 11 November 1873 patent, using chess-like figures to pus their idea of an expanding/collapsing life preserver vest, which would move in rhythm with ocean waves and theoretically protect the wearer from being overcome by bad swells. I have my extended doubts about this one.
Most of the patent applications that I've looked at tonight seem to lake one critical element--locomotion. Of course they're assuming that the life vest is doing little more than keeping the wearer from drowning (though sometimes comforted with cigars and flags). A. McDonald went a little further with his invention (patented 17 January 1882) by putting a screw propeller on the belly of his life vest. It all looks very heavy and sinkable.
F. Vaughan continued on the idea of a big, heavy wetsuit preserver by making his even bigger and heavier. This 1879 creation looks to have about 10 inches (or more) or rubber in the suit, which means that if the thing wasn't water-tight, and that if even a very slight leak developed, the wearer would no doubt sink like a stone.
A. Traub (in 1875) created something that was much less bulky and more accessible, a sort of unfolding life vest, that seems really not to do much of anything, but which was at least light:
E.H. Brown (in 1884) had a somewhat different approach to the "life-saving" idea, turning the survival bit into a bucolic if ungainly adventure/romp device for the vacationer on the coast--the "hammock canoe":
Though as cumbersome as this device seems it is quite in step with its contemporaries, at least so far as in being not-very-usable goes:
And somewhere in all of this was the occasional good-looking idea that evidently got caught in the undertow of the heavier/punkier outfits--but in them you can see the beginning of the idea that would eventually work:
This short post is about this remarkable illustration from a 16-page pamphlet by the inventor, architect and cast tion pioneer James Bogardus (1800-1874, Cast Iron Buildings, their Construction and Advantages, 1856 and 1858 second edition).
But before I get to that, I started to wonder about why it was that NYC developed up rather than out, vertically rather than horizontally? There was plenty of room for outward growth--and in mid-1850's, the period that this post addresses, most of the city had already been laid out, or at least up to 96th street. But in the city of about 900,000 people, there were few people living that far north (and not that many structure), with half of the population living below 42nd street. So, the largely flat, largely unoccupied island could well have been developed northward rather than skyward. My feeling is that the reason for vertical development was "running". That in the pre-telephone days and the earliest days of electrical telegraphy, that in order to conduct business rapidly messengers were used to take documents and communication back and forth. And so for the sake of speed of business, rather than have messengers traveling for 20 or 40 or 80 minutes to a more-removed uptown location, that it made more business sense to keep businesses together; and to do that on limited land, one needed to go up. Not out. I've never thought about this, ever, but this seems to make sense to me...
Now, getting back to the Bogardus illustration: what was missing was the building, or the pieces of the building that had previously been thought of as being absolutely essential for a structure of this size to maintain itself. But what Bogardus had done was to figure out a way of using cast iron rather than other building materials--a building tool that was stronger and with greater engineering chops than anything else that had been previously seen, which meant that there were different forces at play in structures using it, and which meant therefore that even though there were large pieces of the building's shell that were "missing", that this structure could and would still stand. It was a fabulous way of communicating a new idea.
What happened with the Boagardus idea is that it developed into the use of steel-framed buildings, which made for very light, very strong structures, which led to skyscrapers, which led to modernity.
The Harper Brothers building (built in 1854 at 331 Pearl Street) was an iron-facade building that was engineered by Bogardus (with the architect John B. Corlies) and was built in response--and partially as a safe, fire-proof building--following the devastating fire (and enormous liability payout) in the previous Harper building. One thing that was certainly different in the face of this building--owing to the efficiency of the cast iron, there could be plenty of windows in place of where there used to be building materials. And there was certainly plenty of glass in the Harper building.
[Patent source: the very easily usable Google Patents, much more nimble than the UST&PO, somehow.]
The trip to modernity didn't necessarily start here with Bogardus of course, but he was a considerable and significant chunk in the engineering developments necessary for the construction of tall buildings...and here it is interesting to note that another big piece of that development that came into being at nearly the same time (1854) as the publication of Bogardus' pamphlet and the construction of the Harper building was the installation of Otis' safety elevator int eh Haughtwout (five storey) store. And of course the elevator was necessary for the creation of tall buildings, just as the invention of the braking systems was essential for the creation of the elevator. And on the story goes.
The Bogardus achievement (patented May 7, 1850) was certainly an important step--it was pragmatic, efficient, and strong, and also led to the possibility of mass production and pre-fabricated structural elements. And for the mid-1850's, this was certainly a big deal.
One of the few remaining Bogardus structures, at 254 Canal Street, today:
And the Bogardus monument in the famous Green-Wood Cemetery, in Brooklyn:
This is an illustration of the approximate times and places that ships at sea could expect to be able to communication with each other by the relatively new invention of wireless telegraphy. (We're talking about Marconi here and just very briefly; this is not the place for the discussion of what he did or didn't "borrow" from his predecessors and contemporaries such as Heinrich Hertz, Oliver Lodge and Nikolai Tesla. He at the very least however owed all of them at least an enormous helping of gratitude, and probably more. Then there's Marconi's very conservative technical continuation in the field which is confusing and interesting. And finally but not the least of all of the stuff about Marconi is his comfort and support of the Fascist regime in Italy, where Marconi became a member in 1923, escalating in his fame through the party ranks to have none other than Benito Mussolini serve as the best man in his second wedding. But as I said that's all for another day.) It appeared in The Illustrated London News for 7 September 1907,surrounded by an article on Obelia in the "Science Jottings" section of the magazine. This chart isn't
quite as complicated as it seems, really: all you need to do is follow one line from the top to the bottom. Simply put, each diagonal line represents a specific ship (all of which are named) and their positions as they make their ways across the North Atlantic ocean; each intersection represents the time and place that two ships can communicate via wireless with one another. So, for example, the Empress of Britain will on its six-day voyage be able to communicate at least 26 times with other ships for news and information.
What this seems to me to be is the supplemental efforts of the ocean-going ships
to the newly established trans-Atlantic radio-telegraphic company and installation opened by Marconi in October 1907. Even though the first transatlantic communication is celebrated as having taken place in 1901, the performance, even in 1907, was still spotty.
This forms the absolute end of something, the "tip" of it, one of two, at the either end of slender cord. Even for this there must be a patent--and there were, evidently, many of them. This is just one, from 1922
It may be that the history of human locomotion is the story of fast sitting. Except for some of the earliest incarnations of powered movement, it seems one of the most significant engineering aspects moving a person forward is how that person should be carried in the vehicle. And, well, it seems that in the vast majority of cases, the person is sitting. (There are of course exceptions, notably in say the standing of the engineer in the Tom Thumb when that locomotive set the land speed record;or the Wright Brothers' powered aircraft, where the pilot was laying down; or say in a chariot powered by a team of horses. Even in some of the earliest versions of steam-powered tractors, the mammoths were steered by a standing operator. It seems though that in very quick order the operator in most of these vehicles find themselves in a seated position.)
A very curious application of moving seated humans is seen in this woodcut of a chaired walkway--for all intents and purposes, the pedestrians looking to use the moving sidewalk would have been offered a chair instead. It seems as though as its base that this was a very simple form of an elevated subway or trolley, though without the train.
The moving seated sidewalk was the dreamchild of Alfred Speer (1823-1910), of Passaic, New Jersey, and it seems as though it might have been the first form of mass rapid transit in the city for which it was intended, which was NYC. It stood fairly high in the opinions of some prominent New Yorkers (like Horace Greeley and Peter Cooper) when it was presented in the early 1870's, and even passed the New York State Legislature in an act authorizing funding for the program in 1873 and 1874--but it was each time vetoed by Governor John Dix, and the people-moving dream ended there, right before the Centennial. (See here for the New York Times obituary for Speer., and see All Ways NY blog for a longer look at Speer's moving sidewalk, here.)
Here's another version of Speer's idea, though this look more like a moving sidewalk, complete with trolley cars, all of which were stationary objects located on the moving walkway. The idea of course was to free up the chaos and gridlock of the very busy areas of Broadway by placing a large chunk of the confusion on a moving second floor. It seems as though it might have been a good half-year idea or so, and the $3.7 million dollar price tag might've been a hefty one if you calculated the cost per minute of relieved traffic.
Apropos of nothing whatsoever, I’d like to look at four “first” F’s. the first is the first known published image of a fork , or forcina in Italian. This was a prickish utensil (seen in the image at the bottom-right), hiding none of its stabbing qualities with a middle tine, and shows for us all its direct decent from Mother Knife. It appears in the Opera dell'arte del cucinare by the great Renaissance chef and cook to Pope Pius V Bartolomeo Scappi (c. 1500 – 13 April 1577, buried in the church of SS. Vincenzo ad Anastasio alla Regola, dedicated to cooks and bakers) was published in 1573.
In the book he lists approximately 1000 recipes of the Renaissance cuisine (some of which, for Renaissance salads, appear at bottom) includes many images of kitchenware, the fork being perhaps the most famous. (I used to know the first time that a fork appeared in a painting--of the Last Supper of course, but I've forgotten, though it does come right on the heals of Scappi.)
The second unrelated but interesting first “F” is perhaps the first image of a modern, canon-proofed fort, by none other than Albrecht Durer. This image appears in 1527 in his Etliche underricht zu bestestigung der Stat, Schloss und Flecken, and although his designs were impracticable (massive and massively expensive forts and fortified cities; pretty but very costly), there were certain elements of the work that were very useful—namely, the new face of some of te walls that he offered to the modern canons of the 1520’s. These weapons were vast improvements over their earlier brethren, and Durer responded to the extra and more accurate firepower by lowering and thickening the walls and giving them greater slope—this would aid in deflecting many of the shots that were not directly spot-on, and also would improve the chances of the fort’s survival against those hits by having thicker walls.
The third F is slightly related to Durer’s fort walls—this is the first appearance of the word “fission”. It appeared as so many of these sorts of 20th century announcements appeared with great sotto voce--this one, in a “Letter to the Editor” of the journal Nature (11 February 1939), by Lise Meitner and Otto Frisch.
The communication, “Disintegration of Uranium by Neutrons: a New Type of Nuclear Reaction” wasn’t a letter to the editor in the conventional sense of course but was meant to be the quickest line of communication of an important result and thus appeared somewhat truncated though the great stuff of the announcement was made known and understood. Niels Bohr’s “The Mechanism of Nuclear Fission” in the Physical Review (1 September 1939) may I think be the first use of “fission” in the title of a paper.)
There is a very big story here with Meitner and fission and Nazis and the Nobel. This leads to our fourth F: and that would be “F” as in “Failure” to the Nobel committee who in 1944 awarded the Nobel Prize to (German, non-Jewish) Otto Hahn for the discovery of nuclear fission while completely ignoring (purposefully, I would say) Meitner, who really, by all rights, should’ve gotten the award, and probably by herself. This is a more complex tale than I would care to deal with now, but I think that it is beyond doubt that the Nobel committee again (think Einstein and others) severely screwed this up in favor of maintaining their dislike for people with Meitner’s heritage. (And yes, she was Jewish; Einstein suffered too at the hands of the committee, not receiving his award, unbelievably, until 1921, *16 years* following what was probably the best single year that anyone ever had in the history of physics, ever, and then 14 years following his great year of 1907 and five years following 1916’s paper. And so on.) Yes, Meitner hung on in a not-good way in Germany for six bad years 1933-1938) until she finally get the hell out, but that really doesn’t tell the story very much. The fission bit with Hahn and Strassmann is a little bedeviling, but it really was Meitner who recognized the whole thing as being the process of fission. Period. And shame again on the Nobel people for getting it wrong, again, on purpose.
The way of the new world, the spread of commercialism and of consumerism, the increase in the size of a middle class that was actually approaching what we today would think of as a middle class, the wanting rise of places for disposable income to go from millions of new people with spare money to spend, led the sellers of stuff-immemorial to start advertising their bits on the side of out-of-doors everything. The fight for the attention span of the new consumer went from the newspapers and magazines to the side of buildings and then, as the motor car began to proliferate, to thousands of miles of roadway.
But when these cartoons appeared in (the first) Life magazine in 1905, the car was still a distant image so far as common ownership was concerned, so the competition for the visual space of the new buying market was center on outdoor displays wherever people might happen to be outdoors. (Remember, there's no radio or television to absorb advert money and viewer attention, so efforts were magnified on billboards.)
So Life took a peep into the future and didn't like what it saw: the possible vast expansion of ugliness in the pursuit of whatever dollar might fall out of whatever pocket. Just a little warning to America is all--the future of the country might not look as pretty it used to be, what with millions of new billboards to place.
The future Niagra Falls, five years hence:
Old Faithful, Yellowstone, as it could be in 1910:
Samuel Clemens (1835-1910), who became Mark Twain in 1863 and then mostly stayed that way, had a great mind and was a superb writer and story teller--he wasn't necessarily a great inventor, however. In the ear;y sea of his great achievements, in 1871--just after the publication of his first real best-seller, Innocents Abroad, 1869)--Clemens applied for and was granted a patent for a bra clasp. I don't know if it is the bra clasp, or not, but for whatever reason Clemens pursued this interest all the way to the end.
In the year after the publication of Roughing It, and three years before the publication of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Clemens patented--essentially--a blank book. It was a special book/holder for the very-popular practice of scrap booking, and it seems rather ironic that someone who filled up so many books with words would get a patent for the sale of books that didn't have any. Curious.
I was about to start a new series of posts on the History of Lines , something left out of this blog, oddly, given the different posts on the History of Dots and the History of Holes (and the History of Blank and Empty Things). A lot of that--the History of Lines business--has to do with the interpretation of things on paper: heart rate, "brain waves", the motion of a bumble bee, navigation, and of course, words. (The great Kickapoo tracker Famous Shoes in Larry McMurtry's Streets of Laredo, one of the Lonesome Dove tetralogy, found that the one thing he couldn't track in this world were the marks on the pages of a book.)
But I was distracted by the idea of seeing something in a different context, of associating something with a sense experience far beyond its origin, and so the History of Lines will wait just a little--something just a little beyond seeing some electrical function of the brain inscribed as a long line on a skinny piece of paper. What I found was this--the invention of Mr. E. Hardy, whose "Formenephone" detected the presence of combustible fire-damp or any other gas in mines, and which would then emit sounds on the accompanying (small) organ pipe. The apparatus would actually vibrate more rapidly as the gas content of the air increased. At the time (the notice of the invention appearing in the Scientific American Supplement #945 for 10 February 1894) the only other means of detecting these gases was by the change of the glow of a candle.
Perhaps this is in a way like the application of musical notes to the numbers pi or tau, though actually useful.
I'll return to the History of Lines tomorrow.
Formene, or marsh gas, is a "hydrocarbon which produces chloroform when the hydrogen in it is replaced with chlorine, loses hydrogen and yields anthracene".
This curious illustration appears in forty-five volume Cyclopedia of Abraham Rees (published 1795-1820), displaying a system for communicating over distances at night. When this part of the Cyclopedia was printed in 1808, the electrical telegraph as we now it was still 37 years away from coming into being--45 years from being somewhat well-used. Before this time (visual) communications over long distances at night were limited to just these sorts of means--lighted semaphores, hand-held torches, that sort of thing. Signaling at sea at night was somewhat different at this time and didn't include anything remotely close to the alphabet. So the rather complex system that we see at left is extremely uncommon--it seems also very cumbersome to put into effect.
Unfortunately I don't have the text volume that would explain then entire system and implementation, so I'm going to guess that there was a large, powerful light source that was covered by a tight, black, covering tablet that would eliminate nearly all light leakage. The symbols for each letter of the alphabet (and numerals) would be cut out from another tablet that would fit over the face of the light source, placed between the blank and the light. To transmit a letter the user would then simply remove the blank covering tablet to reveal the light broadcast by the hole or slit in the tablet underneath. The blank would then be placed back, a new tablet for a new letter placed underneath, and the process would begin again: blank (dark); letter (light); blank (dark); letter (light), and so on to the end of the message. I guess the distance at which these symbols could be seen would be dependent on light source, atmospheric conditions, ad so on. The way that the letters are made into symbols seems to me very intelligent, so that you distinguish the differences from an appreciable distance. I like it--its an elegant idea. (Well, maybe it didn't work in this manner, but it seems to make sense to me.)
One can only imagine what the early 19th-century mind would think if they saw this sort of fire-writing device, and how the progress of the history of technology came to produce such a thing:
Now, does someone look at the pen ashtray and think, "I NEED one of those!", or what? To me it represents one of those representatives in the Humans-are-as-Soft-as-Soup category.
Here's another sort of fire writing, more literal and of course much less applicable, unless you were recording the writing with a stop-action camera:
Lots of these images have to do with walking and falling, walking and falling at the same time, walking and catching yourself from falling over and over again, but in general that walk is only one step, so far as parachutes go.
The parachute has certainly been around for a long time--from ancient times if you squint your eyes hard enough--though it appears that it was in the Renaissance that the idea was taken more seriously as a practicable thing: at least it was first depicted then. Here for example is a form of falling that was seen as flying (Homo Volens or Flying Man), in this depiction of parachute-use by Fausto Veranzio Fausto (1551–1617) in his book of technological marvels called Machinae Novae (1595). Of course Leonardo left a footprint here as well, and before Veranzio.
More convincing and potentially beneficial parachutes were constructed for balloon escapes/aviator descents in the 19th century, as seen with the work of André-Jacques Garnerin (1769-1823), who was the inventor of the frameless parachute (a framed version seen below).
And in all that time of development through the nineteenth century, it still took another eight or nine years or so after the Wright's flights to have employed the idea for pilots of the modern airplane. There was a series of varied "firsts" of leaving an aeroplane by parachute in 1911 and 1912, the earliest of which involved the pilot of an aircraft to fly with his parachute in his lap, then throwing the whole thing from the plane with the pilot following. Parachute history during this time, like 1910-1920, is a little complicated, filled with fits and starts, mostly not very successful, and most of them of a quality and dependability to make you want to land your aircraft even if you were flying only smoke and flame.
The image below seems to depict the 1912 exploits of the American and British inventors who at about he same time developed a parachute that could be worn in a box on the aviator's back, contained in a box with a removable panel. It was a very heady development, and the whole idea--seen here in the pages of The Illustrated London News for 28 September 1912--must have seemed like science fiction to the casual reader, the caption beginning
"...our illustration appears to be somewhat fantastic..." The ripchord, one of the most important elements of a parachute, didn't get introduced into the fray until about 1916, and the real utility of the parachute doesn't seem to be developed until 1920 or so. In the meantime, the whole business of flying was pretty much being done without a safety net, so to speak.
But what I realloy wanted to get to in this post is something that did look "somewhat fantastic" to the readers of its day, as it does to me now: parachute bombs. As a late-night, five-martini idea it looks great, especially in 1937. But the fact of the matter is that it does look like a bar stool plan similar to barrage balloons if barrage balloons were smaller, higher, fell and had bombs. One element of surprise though may have been what would happen to the great percentage of these bombs that were fired above and floated back down to Earth with their warhead still attache to the parachute and unexploded. The article states that the warhead would be disabled
before it hit the ground, but then what? I suspect that there would be thousands of these buggers littering the land/cityscape, which means that there would have to be an equivalent of an ambulance corps riding around finding, collecting and hauling these things off. Seems like a non-started to me. Plus there would be far more effective anti-aircraft elements developed very soon after this, not to mention the terribly significant mathematical and technical developments that would go into the fire control issue of the weaponry. ( But that's another story, another long story, dealing with how to get aircraft out of the air--there's some very sophisticated AA weaponry produced during WWI, s decade and a half before these parachute bombs, that would seem to make these things a bad afterthought.)