The molecular chemistry of dots of 1947 is a beautiful thing, worthy of a powers-of-ten episode, though I can only do a gigantically scaled down version of it (a powers-of-two maybe) given pixelation and its dot-defeating and necessary tendency to relieve roundness and introduce squares everywhere.
Well, there's busy and then there's busy. Somehow Dickens and Shakespeare managed to produce dozens of superb works--enough for one great work by dozens of other writers--all in a surprisingly short period of time, like 25 concerted years each, before they gave in to the immortal anti-beloved of eternity. John Ruskin--writer and art historian and critic--wrote a lot of books in his long life, and generally worked on many other things at the same time, all by hand, all hand-written, all stored in wooden files, all data fetched directly from books that he owned or had to make his way to.
I bring up Ruskin because of the letter I found that he wrote to Charles Eliot Norton outlining his activities. It is an impressive list (pp 180-181):
This is emphatically not a robot-type contraption, not by a long shot--it just happens (if you look at it in a certain way) to look like one. The automatic man was still a bit away, though Steam People and the like had certainly made appearances decades before this one.
The toys--Crandall's Acrobats, patented in 1867--came in boxes, a number of "acrobats" per box, as seen in the following post from Tracy's Toys blog:
It has been quite a while since my last contribution to this series, and I'm sorry that this addition is such a quick one--it is, however, unexpected and lovely.
The engraving, "Monument of Nicholas Gaynesford and his Wives in Carshalton1 Church" was published in Lyson's The Environs of London, 1796 (though this may be reprinted just a bit later), and depicts the very large monument to Gaynesford (1471-1548). What is particularly remarkable for me is the incredible stipple work that forms the background. On first glance the background treatment seems to be solid, but there is something else there that gives it a depth and causes the collection of stark white figures to seemingly float on the page. This is the cause:
This detail is about 20 square millimeters from the original and is just absolutely filled with small dots. A closer look reveals even more:
There's a few hundred thousand of these marks in the image, which measures only about 35 square inches.
We saw it, and prepared for it, the Impossible Thing, the oncoming of megakilll, or what Henry Adams called The Distinguished Thing, acknowledged and prepared and built ourselves a reserve of anti-fear for it.
Once the Soviets demonstrated their capacity to field and then deliver an atomic weapon in August 1949, the great race to Armageddon was underway, a zero-sum game of nuclear dimensions, where an canonical victor is mostly that in name once the million-megaton war was fought and over.
The best that could be done so far as the general American population was concerned was to stockpile foods, recognize the sounds and sights of an attack, pay attention to the EBS, and possibly prepare for teh worst by digging a fallout shelter, or hide under your wooden desk at school, or wear an atom bomb suit, or build an atom bomb house. Of course if you lived in the 100+ metro areas that were deemed targetable you could also plan your escape route; however, since hundreds of thousands
(and more) other drivers would be thinking the same thing, getting out of town might not be a possibility. (This was true even if you paid to one of the government-issue nuclear attack evac maps and stayed to the even/east odd/west as dictated by your car's tags, there would still be an impossible mess.)
The Atom Bomb House, by Robert C. Scull and Jacques Martini, was designed and published in 1946, and for all intents and purposes supposed that the house and furnishing and all inside it would be safe from an atomic attack. The blast walls around the house's perimeter are a curious touch, and actually look pretty nice--I don't know how much they would deflect the effects of an atomic bomb, though. Still, it was a way around thinking about the impossible.
Making the next logical leap, I guess, the architect Paul Laszlo presented Atomville in 1954, which was a collection of dwellings and structures that were bomb-survival as part of a design-survivable community.
And of course there was some thinking about making each person their own Atomville, with atomic bomb suits (which I wrote about earlier on this blog, here):
So for 15 or 20 years of getting ready for the Soviets to attack Americans were probably desensitized to what that attack actually meant--after hundreds or thousands of warnings and exposure to the possibility of war and nuclear holocaust, many people grew immune to what it all actually meant, swirling away in the mists of Mutually Assured Destruction like a bad song that you know by heart because you've heard it on the radio fifty times.
Then there were those like Ed Teller who thought to spend the equivalent of many multiples of trillions of dollars in the hopes of spreading the country out so that there was an equal distribution of people and factories and such, making the U.S. impossible to attack because there were no centers of population and industry, meaning that the USSR would have to attack everything, everywhere. This would have involved building 20 million new homes and all of the infrastructure that goes along with that, as well as moving all business andf relocating all of the means of production in the United States. That was a towering idea that towered low, but it did represent another line of thinking on survivability that moved from the Atom Bomb House to Atomville to the seeming opposite of those, to AtomExUrbia. (See here for the fuller story.)
So preparing for the worst, preparing for the thing that you really couldn't prepare for, became an object of desire.
It was as though people could not see the forest for the trees--which is quite ionic, because one piece of nuclear weapon test films that is no doubt very familiar to most anyone over 40 depicts a "forest" being blown apart by a blast. The "forest" was actually a stand of trees constructed in the Nevada desert to see what would happen to flammable trees in a nuclear conflagration. ("...The U.S. Forest Service brought 145 ponderosa pines from a nearby canyon
and cemented them into holes lined up in tidy rows in an area called
Frenchman Flat, 6,500 feet from ground zero. Then the Department of
Defense air-dropped a 27-kiloton bomb that exploded 2,423 feet above the
model forest..." on May 8, 1953.1) Not surprisingly, they were mostly destroyed, even using a tactical nuclear weapon. I guess that the issue was not if they would be destroyed but how destroyed they would be. Still, looking at a forest and looking at a nuclear weapons test would leave little doubt that the forest would be pretty-well destroyed--it's just the distance that the destruction would reach would be open to question.
1. Check here for the atomic bomb test on the artifical forest in the Nevada desert (an article by Ann Finkbeiner in Slate).
This is a very special effort on behalf of logic and the law, and may have been the first effort to codify the idea of the law in symbolic logic. It appeared in the journal Nature on 24 April 1913, and I think in spite of it being interesting and even pretty, it just doesn't work for me. But I'm reproducing the article (a long one for Nature) because it is really such an audacious thing, and a terrific idea, if not a good one.
At some point I think I would like to post an exhibition of some of the collection of the vastly/quietly weird/surreal/Outsidery titles from my BizzaroLand Today! pamphlet collection. Sometimes the titles are just incredibly weird, or wrong, or they're not titles at all but something else, or they're unintentionally absurdist of dadaist or Surreal, or they are just Outside what we might come to expect in the world of logic and its extensions. Sometimes the titles are just odd and the work is real; sometimes not. Sometimes they're just terrifically understated or heartbreakingly simple, and even useful, like this example (from Clymer, New York, 1945):
There are different types of mystery as any quick look at Medieval legacies will tell you. Some are mysterious mysteries never meant to be understood outside of obliqueness given their allegorically ambiguity, and some are just, well, different, but answerable.
The history of the future lends itself a little to the Ecclesiastical (or first) sort of mystery as just described--sometimes, anyway. Sometimes looking at an imagined future drawn years ago for a period of time that has already passed may lend itself to some fair-game comedy. But getting things "right" as a futurist/illustrator may be quite beyond the point, as with the example above, drawn by Jim Powers.
Being furiously correct was not the point Powers was trying to achieve. TO me he was drawing to a certain deep sight, presenting an allegory of possibility, trying to excite some interest in speculation in someone by elements of what he was drawing, not in the overall image.
In the alphabet of 'RAMAS, perhaps the most famous of them all is futurama, which (real or imagined) is part of the continuum of motoramas version of raceoram's spaceorama. It was in this envelope of futurama that Jim Powers worked his mysteries in a series of images for Life in the Year 2000, laboring away at insight in the mid-1950's. Surely he could0 not have believed in these rocket-stuffed ultra-streamlined mega-finned interplanetary autos would come into being in five decades, but I'm pretty sure that he believed that somewhere in the details of his work were useful bits/ideas for someone else. Surely he did not think that the overall vision was more significant than the sum of all of his very interesting parts.
There was a Bible-studying group headquartered in Haverhill, Massachusetts whose inspiration/idea interpreting the true nature of what was "Israel" according to bits and pieces in the Old Testament, and which found something to be radically different from what was seen to be the case. The pamphlet documents that the place we think of as Israel is not really so, and that the country best fitted to these OT statements was actually Great Britain. There are many reasons for this and they get mistily presented in the pamphlet Restoration of Kingdom Administration the Anglo Saxon Responsibility (published by the Anglo-Saxon Federation of America in 1929), but it is rather too much and tedious and tiresome to get into the milky details, except to say that Israel as was currently recognized could not be so unless they adopt the Christian faith. And so on.
The address of the organization put it on Merrimack Street in Haverhill, a block away from the river--the four story building now has it middle floor obscured by some teal 1950's architectralolypse facing, and the bottom floor is now a dollar store (with redundant signs) with a sandwich board out front (captured by the Google car) reading "Design Perfume on Sale Beauty Supply". I'm sure the store is necessary and fills a need, but it is a long way and many years from redefining the concept of Israel.
I've posted a number of bits in this blog about stupendously large and enormously small things, but it is infrequent to find the story of something made exceptionally large in a reduced world. Perhaps it is normal fare in the science fiction world, but I found the not-obvious but still-obvious making of a giant in microland to be, well, less than obvious.
There have been countless stories told of shrinking people, or the discovery of vastly small communities living withing a larger host community, and so on, like the following:
This is a story by Henry Hasse and it involves a great scientist and the his elixir called "Shrinx" which after it has been injected into his assistant shrinks the man immeasurably, so science-fictionally small, that he has passed through the microscomos and "subuniverses" to the point where he emerges on a primitive place called Earth. The assistant has traveled from a planet in a solar system revolving around a sun in a solar system in a galaxy in a universe to something small, something sub-atomic, landing in an electron holding within it its own universe.
And then there is this piece of magnificent ne plus ultra, where we remain in the microworld but where there are also micro-giants.
of Fantastic Novels (1921?) seems to tell a straightforward story, but as it turns out the giant is giant but one living within a world in an atom of a gold wedding ring.
Ray Cummings (1887-1957) found a nice writing niche for himself in his
fictional discovery of a drug that could make people as small as atoms
and then, once inside the microworld, could be made as immense as
micro-mountains. The Girl in the Golden Atom was one of a five-part trilogy(?)1 and
so far as I can tell, Cummings used the hell out of his original idea.
The prose reads like it is punctuated with invisible periods every
fifth word--evidently Cummings was so very busy writing 750
books and short stories that it left him little time to edit or, maybe,
It was a very nice surprise for me. That said, I can only imagine the giddiness and suspension of (dis-)belief when the mass market readership of Robert Hooke's Micrographia got a look for the first time on what the small creepy crawlies that lived around them looked like under magnification. Suddenly the blots and blotches took on real--and sometimes terrifying--forms. These were basically unseen during their long interactions with human beings, until, suddenly, Mr., Hooke made his investigations and put a face on the unseen microworld and shared it with the General Public.
"It is my hope, as well as belief, that
these my Labours will be no more comparable to the Productions of
many other Natural Philosophers, who are now every where busie about greater
things; then my little Objects are to be compar'd to the greater and
more beautiful Works of Nature, A Flea, a Mite, a Gnat, to an Horse, an
Elephant, or a Lyon" said Mr. Hooke
at the end of his 28-page preface to Micrographia in 1665.
[Mr. Hooke's drawing of his flea, in full and unexpected glory, with as much detail and armor as anything that had ever been imagined--only this thing was real, and common, and lived on you.]
It may have been a similar shock to those seeing these images for the first time as it was for people to see Galileo's images of the Moon, or to read him announcing that the perfect sky of Creation was actually not so, and that his telescope revealed ten-fold the number of stars that people could see with only their eyes, and which faith alone could not elaborate.
Yes, the incredible shrinking giant woman was a surprise but not on this order, not by a stretch--though it seems to be the world of science rather than scifi that has delivered the most shocking stories of the big and the small.
Albert Einstein was many things--including a designer of clothing, and a patented one at that. He applied for and was granted a patent in 1936 (not an unbusy period in which he must've been noodling this thought around in his head, that blouse thing along with gravitational lensing, that pesky quantum mechanics, and the EPR paradox and all that) for an expanding waistcoat.
Well. Einstein had his hand in other patents, including a rather famous one regarding a refrigerator with no moving parts (along with the great Leo Szilard, the "Einstein-Szilard electromagnetic pump), as well as part interest in gyroscompasses and a hearing aid, and better yet a "light intensity self-adjusting camera" with an "electric eye". And the "ornamental blouse". I suspect that it was all in fun, except that once the thinking had been done, it was thought to take it to the next logical step.
In 1664 Philipp Jakob Sachs (Sache de Lewenbheimb) wrote an influential book on the circulation of the blood. It was the advanced work of a learned man, a naturalist and physician who was also the editor of the Ephemerides Academiae naturae curiosorum, which was the first journal in the field of natural history and medicine and one of the founders of the Academia Naturae Curiosorum (Leopoldina). His work came 40 years after the great work by William Harvey, who published Exercitatio Anatomica de Motu Cordis et Sanguinis in Animalibus in 1628, a work in which he essentially brought the idea of circulation of the blood into the modern age, building on earlier ideas of Michael Servetus, whose 1561 work on circulation (and his religious ideas) brought him to be executed by flames.
For centuries the pulse was
a vaguely understood thing reaching back into the murky medical past as far
back as Galen. The association of course
was with the heart, and the association of the heart was as the great
controlling center of all function and control of the human body—a theory that reached
far forward into the 16th century.
Servetus (physician, cartographer, theologian, writer and
general all-adept Humanist of a high order) was in trouble with the church for
many reasons, not the least of which was trying to dislodge the theory of the
heart as sacred and the seat of wisdom.
But he did establish that the heart was an organ, which didn’t sit well
with very many people, least of all the Calvinist court in Vienna
which found him guilty on many anti-Humanist grounds, including his
anti-Trinitarian Christology, which made him a reviled figure to Catholics and
Protestants. He was tried and found to
be dangerously heretical, and sent to the flames.
withstood blistering attacks on his correct statements on the circulation of
the blood (costing him nearly all the patients in his practice), though he at least
lived to see a brighter day: Servetus, on the other hand, didn’t, and was
burned at the stake for his heresies, one of which his attack on the spiritual
In any event, the frontispiece to Sachs' work is an interesting allegorical composition showing a connection between the place of the very prominently featured heart in the circulation of the blood, and the water cycle, and the cosmos of creation (the breath of life coming from the winds of the Sun and the Moon).
Notes: (Sachse de Lewenheimb, Philipp Jakob Sachs, 1627-1672 , Oceanus macro-microcosmicus, seu Dissertatio epistolica analogo motu aquarum ex et ad Oceanum, sanguinis ex et ad cor... 1664, with full text via Google books here).
Abcedarian n.s. [from the names of a, b, c, the three first letters of the alphabet.] He that teaches or learns the alphabet, or first rudiments of literature.
This word is used by Wood in his Athenae Oxonienses, where mentioning Farnaby the critic, he relates, that, in some part of his life, he was reduced to follow the trade of an abecedarian by his misfortunes.
--Johnson, Samuel. "Abecedarian." A Dictionary of the English Language: A Digital Edition of the 1755 Classic by Samuel Johnson. Edited by Brandi Besalke. http://johnsonsdictionaryonline.com/?p=296.