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
This pamphlet enumerates the benefits of Communism and the pact of the Soviet Union with Hitler. It was printed in February 1941, and after describing the Imperialist world war, the war and the Middle Classes, "how the war hobbled the working classes", it goes on to (obtusely) describe how the understanding between the Soviet Union and Germany has saved 150 million lives. All of this goes away four months later when the Soviet Union is viciously and brutally attacked by Germany in Operation Barbarossa, and then, most of those "saved lives" turn out not to be so.
I can't recall seeing Adolf Hitler portrayed in an editorial/political cartoon as being part of a race riot in the U.S., though it does make sense, and also makes for a very strong message. The artist here--Bernard Seaman--was a busy guy working for labor and social organizations like the ILGWU (International Ladies' Garment Workers Union) and newspapers like the superb leftie PM, and he chose Hitler to exemplify the great divisive wrong in U.S. society, "the foul blot upon our best American traditions..." and quote President Roosevelt to underline it all: "Remember the Nazi technique: pit race against race; religion against religion; prejudice against prejudice; divide and conquer".
This image appears in a pamphlet without a clear, recognizable title, and was published ca. 1943/4.
Displayed below is one of the many dozens of graphs/charts/maps created with the data collected for the 1890 and tabulated by William Hollerith's glorious machines. It was the first use of the machines for the U.S. census and they offered a far-reaching and increased ability to tabulate and organize the data. The 1880 census had cost about $6 million and took 9 years to tabulate; the 1890 census using the Hollerith machines cost $10 million and took seven years. The main focus of many in government was the cost differential—not the incredible amounts of new controllable information. The rent of the Hollerith machines was only $750,000 for the conduct of the entire census, so the differential must’ve been in the extra utility costs (for electricity, for example, which was used for the first time to run the tabulators) and for the small army of statisticians and data entry people. Be that as it may, the government was not amused, particularly when Hollerith figured that he had actually saved the government $5 million. The two parties left each other grumbling, though the roar of the trickle down from the Hollerith success drowned it out. The tabulating system was quickly exported, and large private concerns in the U.S. saw a savior in the system that would soon rescue them from the sea of paper in which they were beginning to drown. The Hollerith company did very, very well for itself, and soon merged with three other companies (in 1911) to ease the burden of success. The resulting company was called the Computing-Tabulating-Research Company (CTR), which after a short while became the International Business Machine Corporation (IBM).
The beautiful circle appears on page one and occupies the full 20-inch tall sheet. This could have been more complex, but as it stands it is a very fine piece of the artfully-enhanced representation of data. (As a pie chart the image isn't very old, though the genre is a little uncommon in the 19th century. Pie charts appear at least as early as William Playfair's Statistical Breviary in 1801 and then probably more famously in the work of Charles Minard and Florence Nightengale in the 1850's--this work to me seems cleaner and brighter, and definitely "modern".)
This small ad for Sanitas (a non-poisonous"the disinfecting fluid", composed of hydrogen peroxide and camphor as main ingredients) appeared in the quarter panel of the Illustrated London News on November 13, 1915, and told a definite story. Here we see a British soldier, sitting squarely on Germany, asking the reader "Did any one say that there was a GERM anywhere?" in a not-subtle connection between the German enemy and disease. I hadn't noticed this before, and so thought I would share...
The masks devised to deal with the gas attack of WWI were sometimes effective, sometimes not--and sometimes they were occasionally lethal enhancers. The earliest masks were creepy, unworldly, Coraline-like burlap-and-button-faced affairs--I'd hardly want to imagine seeing thousands of these guys come running up to me with rifles and grenades in their hands attacking my position (as we can see in the image below of an attacking British force at Loos in 1915).
And yes, of course, they started out as "anti-gas masks" because that is what they are--the "anti-" prefix is dropped not long afterwards.
And the attack on German lines at Loos, from the Illustrated London News, October 30, 1915:
There is almost nothing so spirited and heartbreaking and proud than people who find themselves in very difficult situations and who try to provide for themselves some comfort of a peaceful time, something far away from what they are experiencing, something that calls to some sort of peace and normalcy. An this is what we have here, for me, in this picture of a French soldier and his unit's jury-rigged automatic shower. From the looks of the engineering, I'm assuming that the ting worked just fine, and I am certain that it provided no end of relief for those able to use the machine. You'll notice that teh soldier is also standing on a very small piece of wood elevated above the ground, so that the bather's feet don't become muddy.
[Source: Illustrated London News, November 13, 1915--there would be nearly three more years of war to go. This image is very expandable.]
The caption makes note of the drawings of Mr. Heath Robinson (1872-1944) who was a lovely, quirky, charming, skewed, dark, stiff-bouncing and creative illustrator capable of considerable whimsy (light and complex) and deep skepticism. It really does a small disservice to the battlefield engineers who built the shower--the thing is really pretty elegant, and seems to be quite light in spite of its size. Those guys did a good job.
The two following images are from one of his three WWI books, Hunlikely, published in 1916 (Some "Frightful" War Pictures (1915), and Flypapers (1919), were the other two) and depict scenes from the intra-trench tunnel wars, which were battles fought in the midst (or, actually, beneath) other battles. This was a savage, grueling, post-adjectival affair—exceedingly dangerous, difficult, awful. And it happened a lot during the war, given the experience of stalemates between vast armies sunk into mole city trenches, with no one going anywhere for long periods because there was nothing in between the two impervious lines but a death vacuum.
So one of the solutions was to try and tunnel underneath the opposing army’s defenses, fill the far end with high explosives, and blow them up. The other side was doing it too, and in the middle of it all was the incorporation of newer/better listening devices to detect forces rummaging around underneath your position dozens of feet into the ground. It was a bad business. (One of the other means of breaching the trench lines was aerial combat, but bombers carrying tons of HE were still yet to be invented; poison gas was another. Most of the time the armies would just meet in the middle in wide plains of nothingness in a sea of hot, expanding metal, where to this day in many of those places nothing can live).
Robinson’s illustrations are odd, and oddly funny, the dark humor coming at the expense of both sides of the conflict, piercing each. This one is more in line with the French battlefield shower, and shows Robinson's over-the-top (so to speak) apparatus for stealing German beer:
Now, that is quite a name for a product--for a glow-in-the-dark product, for something that will not darken. The advertisement displayed here was for a product that "doesn't get dark in the dark", and appeared in the Scientific American on May 1, 1920. The particularly cringeworthy part of Undark, viewed from the future of this advertisement, is that the spots of light on the wall and etc. that make Undark what it was was an applied radium paint. And it was the famous or infamous case of "The Radium Girls" (that really brings the cringe into sharp focus, as it was this same company and product that was being advertised (left) that brought all of those workers into their sometimes-lethal encounter).
[It is a little difficult to make out what is going on in that dark patch, but essentially it is the room at left, in the dark, and the little specks of white are the items on which the Undark has been painted. So if you needed to find the fobs of a lamp or the edge of a table or a gun in the dark, Undark will get you there.]
The women were workers for the U.S. Radium Corporation--which started out its business life as the Radium Luminous Materials Corporation--who worked with radium and luminous paints and who contracted radiation poisoning from their close contact (and ingestion) of the paint, a result of "sharpening" their paint brush tips by touching it to their lips and tongues. The injurious effects of radium was well known to the chemists and executives at U.S. Radium, but that information was kept from the women hired to apply the paint to (in this case) watch dials.
Historic litigation ensued in the early 1920's, and when the case was settled in 1928 the workers received relatively modest settlements--the result of the case though was wide-reaching in labor rights law and also in occupational health and safety--all of that was a lot more valuable than the $10k payment and $660/year annuity awarded to the Radium Girls.
Evidently the inventor of the first radium-based luminescent paint, Sabin Arnold von Scohocky (1883-1928) developed aplastic anemia (a developing deficiency and failure to produce all three blood cell types) most probably as a result of his prolonged exposure to radioactive material. Marie Curie, Max Valier, Otto Lillienthal (and so on) also died as a result of working on their discoveries/breakthroughs, though what ultimately cost von Scohocky his life was nowhere near as significant as the work of the other three.
Evidently the U.S. Navy determined to sell off some segment of its seaplanes 18 months after the end of WWI. The half-page advertisement appeared in Scientific American for May 1, 1920, and promised "planes are new--never have been flown". There is no mention of how many complete aircraft were available for purchase, though it is stated (with a little detail) that eight different types of seaplanes and flying boats, priced from $2000 to $12,000, were available--all of which could be purchased with just 5% down (and the balance paid out to the U.S. Navy in 30 days).
Here's another found bit whilst looking for an article in the 1920 Scientific American by Robert Goddard--no Goddard though I did find this fine "geologic clock" in the January 10 issue for that year. As you can see if you look a little closely, the Quaternary is about the last 10 minutes of the 24-hour clock of existence on Earth, with the last 6000 years occupying the last 12 seconds. In any event,it is an artistic and informative representation of data, created nearly 100 years ago. (It would be interesting to know when the first graphical representation of geologic time as a clock face appeared--offhand, I do not have that answer.)
I was just looking for a good link for the full text of Donald Knuth's 1965 paper on "Very Magic Squares" when instead I found mention of his earliest publication, a playful paper that was published in MAD magazine in issue #33 for June 1957. The work by the 19-year-old Knuth, "The potrzebie system of weights and measures", suggested that, among other things, the "potrzebie" as a standard unit of measure--and that was equal to the width of the issue #33 or 2.263348517438173216473. There were more fanciful measures for Knuth, which suggests that these "standard" units are infinite, one measure of infinite being the length of the finite over its negative.
This brings us to measuring things in terms of units of Mt. Everests found in this short notice in Popular Mechancis for September 1933. Truthfully this is a simple dataviz tool, comparing the depth of one unknown and not visualized entity--in this case, the "deepest spot in the Pacific"--with another that is known and highly visible (after a fashion), and so we get to appreicate the great depth by comparing it to Mt. Everest. There are no stackings of Everests in this image though I can see a future use for the visual--I have after all posted many unusual pieces to this blog where heights/depths are measured in terms of stacks of Eiffel Towers, or mammoth bread, or gigantic piles of wood, or nails, and uprighted ships, and of course numerous Great Pyramids filled with excavated dirt from the digging of the Panama Canal and stretched over the island of Manhattan. Those are more involved, while the present unit of measure is just suggesting itself for future use.
On the other hand it might be more beneficial to use stacks of the Empire State Building to convey the sense of deep depth. In 1933 it was just two years old and a world-wide sensation as an icon art deco building and the tallest building in the world, so if you said that the deepest depth could absorb 32 Empire State Buildings one on top of the other, there may have been a greater understanding of the consequences of that much depth. In any event, I like that more as a unit of measure.
Knuth. Selected Papers on Fun and Games, http://www-cs-faculty.stanford.edu/~uno/fg.html (From the website: "I've never been able to see any boundary between scientific research and game-playing. ... The topics treated here were often inspired by patterns that are visually compelling, or by paradoxical truths that are logically compelling, or by combinations of numbers and/or symbols that fit together just right. These were papers that I couldn't not write.)
I guess I've seen this question before, though not nearly as full-frontal-assault as this one. One of the odd things in this little pamphlet (Capital Punishment, When Man Becomes Degenerate is Woman then to Blame?", self published by Franklin E. Parker at the appropriately-named Ariel Press in Westwood, Massachusetts in 1907)is that the question in its title is only relatively lightly addressed and that at the end of the short work. What Mr. Parker is mostly concerned with is capital punishment, which in the end he sees only as another form of murder, and makes a number of biblical arguments against it. Relative to the responsibility of woman in the degeneracy of man (which doesn't seem necessarily related to the issue of capital punishment) the argument is made that she is not--conditionally. That is, if a woman stays with the degenerate man than she does share responsibility--on the other hand in 1907 I do not know what religious beacon suggesting what a woman might do about that situation. On the third hand another statement maintains that is a "soul-part of man"...(and is) "dominated more or less by his superior will and subject to his ruling", which presents a different issue altogether so far as being married to a degenerate man goes.
I only gave about five minutes to this pamphlet, so there may be a more adaptable answer somewhere--there is actually a long poem at the end that was light and sugary and withering, and I knew that reading it would be like watching a baseball player adjusting his batting glove for a full five minutes, which means you needed it to stop as soon as it started. Anyway, I think the ultimate answer to this woman/blame question was both "yes" and "no".
I'm returning to this earlier post, expanding it some, and correcting it a little--usually that comes with a fresh eye to something old and done. The work on hand is a mathematics manuscript by a man named Charles Fisher. It is an impressive collection of work on square roots, from √2 to √628. It is 13.5 x 8.5 inches and 160 pages long--it is all gathered together in separate quires, the text now just floating inside the original binding, which is very thick paper wrappers that have been handled so much that it feels like leather. Most of the manuscript is still bound, though several "signatures" are now loose within the binding. It is a good, solid copy in spite of what I just wrote--and it is a definite work of art.
The book is paginated according to the sq rt that Mr. Fisher was working on, so the first page is page 2 for √2. Also, the work figuring the square roots of 2 through 196 takes place on the top half or portion of the first 80 leaves, at that point he turns around and starts on the first leaf again, working out his answer for √197 (and √198) on the first page (or page 2) and so continues to the end of the book again, ending up at 628. The square roots seem pretty complete through the 400s and then gets very spotty after that, for whatever reason Mr. Fisher leaving some numbers alone. So far as I can determine the work is complete in itself.
The (seeming) author of this manuscript, Charles Fisher, evidently took a solitary pleasure in calculating the square roots of numbers from 2 to 628 not bothering to write down the 24 perfect squares to 576. (The sqrt being r2 = x for every non-negative real number x.) From the few bits that I have checked the man seems to have done a good job back there in the 1830’s. (Note: we'll deal with square root of 3 at another time...)
I cannot determine where this book was written or who Mr. Fisher was. There is a transcription in the last leaf of the book of a community meeting dedicating people to building a meeting house in "Wertham" (?) near "Cumberland', and that something like the minister or preacher would be shared with the local Baptist Church or something like that, and signed in January 1767. Fact is though that there is at least one contemporary date in the work and that is 1833 for figuring the √193.
Fisher's work is pretty elegant. Take for example his solution (and proof) for the square root (hereafter sqrt(x)) 309,
which the calculator living under this page says is 17.578395831246947 Mr. Fisher’s answer is 17 10/17 = 799/17=89401/989=309 100/989, and after some more involved arithmetic comes t the lovely proof number of
4121989960986322995025 /13339773336525317136 or
Which is getting pretty close.
The only note that Mr. Fisher makes on his calculations is for the sqrt(193), which he notes as “the hardest number to find the approximate root of any between 1 and 200. I have found it after repeated trials and have this evening wrote it in as above. March 1st, 1833. CF.” (This may actually be 1838--I think it is dependent on interpretation.)
I think that I'd like to start a new category of observation for this blog--complicated work explained with celebrated brevity and clarity. Earlier today I wrote a post on a 24-page effort by the great polymath and mathematical titan, Henri Poincare, describing his Newtonian-clad version of relativity, and it certainly classifies as a superior effort in a short, clarifying description of a wide and complex topic. Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus is another--it is considerably longer though incredibly short for the work that it undertakes, ending with a sentence that has become an independently-standing aphorism, "Whereof one cannot speak, one must pass over in silence".
But for right now, I'd like to look at a splendidly short work.
Much is owed to people like Peter Naur1, a Dane who made an enormous contribution in the development of computer languages by being the lead developer in the creation of ALGOL. As a matter of fact Naur (b. 1928) received the computing world’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize (“highest distinction in Computer science")–the Turing Award–for this work, receiving the high honor in 2005. The official short description–again in the manner of the Nobel Committee– was “(f)or fundamental contributions to programming language design and the definition of ALGOL 60, to compiler design, and to the art and practice of computer programming”.
This all came to mind while looking through Report on the Algorithmic Language ALGOL 60 (published in the Communications of the Association for Computing Machinery, May 1960) which was edited by Naur. ALGOL was the creation of 40+ minds, twelve of whom were listed contributing to this paper-–it is a great testament to Naur to control all of that input, producing a superb fifteen page report of great brevity, beautiful logic and utter accessibility. Perhaps If the team was given a lot more time Naur could’ve made his work even more succinct, but I really doubt it. It is written in a language that is somewhat foreign to me, but I can certainly appreciate the way the work is structured its precise manner of presentation. It seems to me a hallmark of communicating complicated ideas in a small space.
1. NAUR, P. (with J. W. Backus, F. L. Bauer, J. Green, C. Katz, J. Mccarthy, P. Naur, A. J. Perlis, H. Rutishauser, K. Samelson, B. Vauquois, J. H. Wegstein, A. Wijngaarden,M. Woodger) . Report on the algorithmic language ALGOL 60. Offprint: Communications of the ACM, May, 1960, vol 3, #5. 25x21cm, pp 299-314. Rare. There is evidently an two months earlier-but-not-circulated report (no citation for this), as well as a later printing appearing in Numerische Mathematik, 2/1, December, 1960, followed in 1962 with a longer edition.
There's a definite real-or-imagined synesthesic olfactory reaction to this image--for me, at least. The ceiling seems a little low for what's going on inside this building, and none of the skylights seem to be open, and the windows in the walls don't seem to be letting much air in, which means that there is probably a high order of oil and carbon and other hammering smells going on here, locomotives being assembled/fixed check-to-jowl. It looks to be about 12/15 locomotives in one stage of completion or another in this structure, which means that there must've been 100-200 engineers and workmen in there too. The Baldwin Works--pictured here in a detail of the front page of the Scientific American for May 31, 1884--is shown at a very strong point in U.S. railroad development, and there's nothing quite like an image like this that spells out "work" than something like this.
Joseph Plateau, "On a New and Curious Application of the Permanence of Impressions on the Retina", in Philosophical Magazine, volume 36, January-June 1850, pp 434-436; followed immediately in a much longer paper, "Second Paper on a New and Curious Application of the Permanence of Impressions on the Retina", pp 436-452, with two plates.
From: An Annotated Bibliography of Flicker Fusion Phenomena...1740-1952, by Carney Landis, p.
Plateaun (1801-1883) was the inventor of the Phenakistoscope in 1829, and contributed often (especially with considerable papers in 1835 and 1836) on the issue of persistence of vision. Here he writes of that and the flicker effect, which is the optical illusion in which individual sequential units of images are viewed as a continuous motion of images, which is a trick of the visual system and makes such this as the movies and cartoons and animated shows possible. It is a terrible irony that this great writer on physiological optics would be blind or nearly so by the 1840's, this a result of an experiment conducted requiring him to stare at the sun for nearly half a minute.
"Plateau studied in great detail the phenomena of accidental colors and irradiation, both of which he considered as arising from a similar cause related to the persistence of the image on the retina. Accidental colors are those that appear after staring for some time at a colored object and then at a black surface, or closing one’s eyes and pressing one’s hands over them. An image of the object appears, usually in complementary color and slightly diminished in size. Plateau’s results include his discovery that accidental colors combine both with each other and with real colors according to the usual laws of color mixture. In irradiation luminous objects on a dark background appear enlarged, a factor clearly of interest to astronomers, among whom the question of the extent of the enlargement was causing controversy. Plateau showed that enlargement occurs regardless of the distance from the object and—explaining the varied experiences of the controversialists—that the mean amount of enlargement from the same source varied considerably from one individual to another."--Dictionary of Scientific Biography
Also in this volume: J. Locke, "On the Phatascope", pp 453-457, "instrument for giving single vision with two eyes" (--Living pictures; their history, photoproduction and practical working. With a digest of British patents and annotated bibliography, Henry Hopwood, 1899.)
Among the many other articles in this volume is William Fishburn Donkin's "On the Geometrical Interpretation of Quaternions", pp 489-502. (See Alexander MacFarlane's Bibliography of Quaternions..., 1904, full text here: http://ow.ly/kFRy304gfVD
See The History of Discovery of Cinematography timeline, which is especially interesting for the pre-1850 entries http://precinemahistory.net/1850.htm