These Air Wonder Stories magazine covers are just absolutely delightful--full of abolute hope and belief in the possibilities of what the future might bring i the forms o fair travel. THe first shows an enormous jet-powered craft that is breaking through a waterspout, seemingly undisturbed.
I'm not sure if I've ever seen a 16th century human perspective drawing showing the body in plan and elevation and cross-section. Jehan cousin the younger (1522-1595, in France), the son of Jean Cousin the Elder (1490-1560), a painter and sculptor, produced such an image in his Livre de Perspective, which was published in 1560. Well, the image definitely was published in 1560, though the artist may have been father and it may have been son--they worked closely together, and the Younger was taught at great length by the Elder, so much so that their work became indistinguishable. Nevertheless, the images I think are quite extraordinary, as we see below:
And so by Andreas Mantegna, a classic example:
The following images come from the 1608 edition of the Cousin Perspective. a number of which are fairly unusual (all from the Library of Congress site, here):
Several years ago I purchased part of an archive of David Katcher, who was the founding editor of the journal Physics Today.
Before that, several years before that, in 1945, David Katcher was Lt.
Katcher, serving as a correspondent/writer in the public relations
office of the U.S. Army Headquarters of the Western Pacific (GHQ
USAFPAC). There's a 6-inch stack of paper here with what seems to be his
(and associated) mimeographed offprints of the daily grind of running
the PR department of the Army in the Philippines, which, taken as a
whole, is pretty interesting, showing the concerns and trials of the
Army in reestablishing the government and infrastructure of the
country. Some of the individual reports/publications are stand-alone,
straight-up fabulously interesting things, and so far as I can
determine, have not been published anywhere else. These two examples
are both related to the subduing of the last remnants of the Japanese
Army still fighting in the dense nether lands of northern Luzon, the
Philippines, fighting after the surrender had been made (14 August 1945)
and signed (formally, on the USS Missouri, 2 September) , fighting after the war had ended.
And in all of this comes this unexpected item, dated 1 October 1945, from "Headquarters. United States Army Forces Western Pacific, Public Relations Office, APO 707, General Release 56--Manila" and which--in the midst of the end of the war and the dropping of two atomic weapons--concerns a brave and battle-distinguished and heroic pigeon, "Blackie Halligan".
"Blackie carried a number of messages to this location, one of which was
extremely important because it gave the location of some 300 Japanese
troops. He carried out this message despite being badly wounded. Word of
his accomplishment reached General Patch, Commander of the American
Division, who made a special trip to the loft where he decorated
Blackie. Later, Blackie saw action at other islands in the Pacific."--CECOM Historical Site, U.S. Army, source.
Sometimes, in the midst of great loss in the throes of great victory, in the balance of stories great and true and tried, the small story of sacrifice may be the perfect antidote for large needs.
There is of course a long history to the pigeon in war, and frankly I was surprised to find this story in 1945. Most of the famous pigeons of war come from the First World War:(the image below coming from The Illustrated London News for 2 October 1915):
I have a hard time resisting long and detailed engravings, and the great sculptural victory column with the enormous numbers of bas relief depicted by Giovanni Piranesi ("Trofeo o sia magnifica colonna ... ove si veggono scolpite le due
guerre daciche fatte da Trajano, inalzata nel mezzo del gran foro ..." and printed in 1770) certainly takes a stellar position. It is of course a depiction of the epic victories of Roman Emperor Trajan's campaigns against the Dacians (101-102 and 105-106 ACE), and is located at Trjan's Forum, north of the Roman Forum. The story of Trajan's efforts on the 100'-high column (125' with pedestal) wraps itself around 23 times, rendering a 625'-long storyline of defeat for the Dacians.
It is a beautiful thing, even if Sixtus V (the Sixtus who came after Sixtus IV who commissioned the Sistine Chapel, or the chapel dedicated to the Sixtus popes) placed that statue of St. Peter on the top of it.
Here's a fantastic site that interprets and presents all of the 500+ sculptures on the column: http://www.stoa.org/trajan/
This is a very quiet image of a major device in the history of the animated/moving picture: Joseph Plateau's phenakistoscope, a device which was based on the persistence of vision principle that would allow th emind to believe it was witnessing a continuous (though segregated) motion.
Oddly enough, this device brings to mind this ulatra-stable depiction of motion:
Which is a detail from this lovely illustration [Source: found by Eric Edelman, collage artist, in Funk & Wagnall's Dicitonary, 1920]:
1. "On 10 December 1830, Michael Faraday(1791-1867)
gives a lecture at the Royal Institution. The publication appears
in February 1831: "On a peculiar Class of Optical Illusions". Continuing
on what Peter Mark Roget (1779 - 1869) had published in the Philosophical
Transactions, he describes two parallel discs, revolving on the
same axis, in opposite directions, each having 16 cogs. When viewed
in a mirror a stationary image is seen. He does not refer to Plateau's
work, done before 1831 and which had been published in the Correspondance
mathémathique et physique. Later Faraday writes that the
honour is due to Plateau."--source, here. s
in --February 1831: "On a peculiar Class of Optical Illusions". Faraday writes that the
honour is due to Plateau.
This image comes relatively early in the history of the German rearmament and the subsequent march to WWII. These infographics come from the Illustrirte Zeitung (Leipzig) in March 1932 and depict the various low levels to which the German military had reached. Germany's military situation was dictated by the terms of the Treaty of Versailles some six months after the Armistice was signed, the terms of which were decided over months and for which Germany was not an invited member to the negotiations. In any event, the protocols of the treaty were fairly strict (some felt not strict enough, while others like J.M. Keynes felt the economic restrictions and concessions were too harsh), and so far as the military was concerned the army, navy, and air force were all severely limited in size and development.
The 1919 treaty began to unravel in earnest by 1932, at which time Germany--reeling still from the Depression and from the economic hardships and concession placed on it by the treaty, suffering large unemployment and with a disastrous economy--by June of that year had decided to ignore the military restrictions of Versailles and sought to rearm. By July Germany withdrew from the nearly half-trillion-dollar (in 2013 American dollars) concessions agreement, and started to accumulate funds for a vast new military restructuring program. In a year Hitler was chancellor, and the Nazi Party made huge gains in the Reichstag. And the war was in motion.
Few people in Germany would have to be reminded that the military was in dire straights, but these infographics hammered the point home in a very stark visual manner.
("Germany is Disarmed!" shows the difference in man- and fire-power between 1913 anbd 1932)
I imagine that tree wagons had been around for quite some time by the time this Daguerreotype was made ca. 1860--the very unusual aspect of this is that it must be a very very early photograph of the process. And, actually, it is probably rare among images in general to see the transportation of a mature tree--frankly I think it is a very mature tree in spite of its height (is this the slow-growing American Hemlock?), mainly because the trunk seems to be as thick as the observer at right. The tree and roots look to be suspended in a wooden container, and the wheels look thick and tall (at least 5' and probably more)--it no doubt was a very heavy load, and it would be interesting to know what was going to pull it along that open field.
This is a detail from an image of great hope lost. Here's the full picture, one of many, of hundreds like it:
This is a letter from a woman named Emma Hauck, a "pateint", a committed person, in an asylum for the "fatally" insane, a schizophrenic, an incurable who simply wanted to go home. She was not insane enough to know where she was, not insane enough to not want to get out, not insane enough to know that she was in desperate straights, not insane enough to try to get some help. Emma Hauck wrote letters to her husband, Mark. Mostly, the letters were composed of single words (like "kommen, kommen", "come/come" and "Herzensschatzi komm" or "sweetheart/come") written concisely and tightly, over and over again, layers of kommen/kommen, so many that there is a geology of letters, though there is no geologist.
The images appear in the book and collection of psychiatrist and art historian Hans Prinzhorn (1886-1933), in his Bildnerei der Geisteskranken: ein Beitrag zur Psychologie und Psychopathologie der Gestaltung1, which was published in Berlin in 1922. Prinzhorn was among the first in his profession to study the art of the insane, and to use it in diagnosis. In the meantime, over dozens of years, he accummulated a collection of thousands of works of art (many coming when he was an assistant to Karl Wilmanns at the psychiatric hospital of the University of Heidelberg), most of which are housed today in the Sammlung Prnzhorn (UniversitätsKlinikum Heidelberg, here).
The Emma Hauck images are astounding, and deeply private, communicating hope and despair in an illegible performance. Letters sent in hope to her husband to come and save her; letters which were never sent.
"Mr. Bulwer, through art, has almost created a genius. Mr.
Dickens, through genius, has perfected a standard from which Art itself
will derive its essence, in rules."--E.A. Poe on Charles Dickens, 1841.
Edgar Allan Poe
was a brilliant and insightful and more-than-occasionally a vicious/wicked surgeon as literary critic--in his collected works there is one entire volume dedicated to those works, and it is well worth a read.
Poe reviewed Master Humphrey’s Clock and The Old Curiosity Shop for the May 1841 issue of Graham’s Magazine--that's because they were written and published serially at about the same time, both ending in late 1841, and written by a man who was seemingly several brilliant writers at the same time. (fFor all that he wrote, he must have been several people, because he managed to do it all in a life-span of 58 years1.)
something of Dickens that is pretty remarkable. To be sure he was not always this glowing, and not necessarily supportive, and was a razor-sharp critic when the need arose--that need seemingly being most of the time)--but this is what he had to say on Dickens, and it reads quite true to me:
"The Art of Mr. Dickens, although elaborate and great, seems only a
happy modification of Nature. In this respect he differs remarkably from
the author [Edward Bulwer Lytton] of Night and Morning . The latter, by excessive care and by
patient reflection, aided by much rhetorical knowledge, and general
information, has arrived at the capability of producing books which be
mistaken by ninety-nine readers out of a hundred for the genuine
inspirations of genius. The former, by the promptings of .the truest
genius itself, has been brought to compose, and evidently without
effort, works which have effected a long-sought consummation- which have
rendered him the idol of the people, while defying and enchanting the
critics. Mr. Bulwer, through art, has almost created a genius. Mr.
Dickens, through genius, has perfected a standard from which Art itself
will derive its essence, in rules."
Following up on a post from yesterday on a make-it-yourself baseball history calcul-computer is this glorious spinning arrow pocket game board from 1876. An enthusiast could easily cut and paste their way to their very own baseball game for lost moments on the train or in line at the Piggly Wiggly. Enjoy.
Concevons qu’on ait dressé un million
de singes à frapper au hasard sur les touches d’une machine à écrire …
[translation: Let us imagine a million monkeys typing haphazardly on
[Gasoline Alley, 1931]
There are some ideas that leave me with a powerful sense of nothing.
To me, "nothing" can be very important--especially in writing and speaking and action, doing or saying nothing has been the important and the correct thing to do. "Nothing" isn't necessarily an ending, and, just a period or a coma, can just be a placeholder for something that is developing. There can be long nothings and short one, forever- and micro-nothings, and nothing that is nothing for almost nothing. Nothing can be implied, insinuated, broadcast and defined, though self-defined extended nothingnesses (like John Cage's 4'33") is a tricky thing to make happen with success.
The ideas that leave me with a sense of nothing are interesting things. And there are a lot of them. When I can remember them they are in my nothing file, waiting for nothing--or something--to happen.
This is the sense I had when I was trying to explain randomness to my 10-year-old daughter and her 11-year-old cousin, sitting out in a park, looking at stuff. Somehow I reached into the past and pulled up the infinite monkey theorem, and tried to make that interesting, but just couldn't do it. Maybe it was the difficulty of super-large numbers, or the fascinating but incomprehensible thought-threats of Borges and his infinite library, but I was left with nothing.
It is Borges who writes a lovely piece on the history of producing everything from nothing, appearing in his "The Total Library" in 1939 (and then again in "The Library of Babel" in 19412), reviewing machines and such of spectacular randomization that could produce the whole of what we recognize as what we know.
Emile Borel wrote on it in 1913, finding the possibility of one million monkeys pounding away at one million typewriters. In his wonderful work, The Math Book3, Cliff Pickover looks at 250 big ideas in the history of mathematics and gives each of them one page only for presentation and explanation. He approaches the infinite monkey theorem by looking at one monkey wailing away at one typewriter, striking the keys, and analyzing how long it might take for the one monkey to produce one line from one book. The line is "In the beginning..." at the beginning of one great nothingness, from the Old Testament, a 56-object sentence (including punctuation and spaces) and, Pickover reasons, that if there is a 93-character keyboard,then this monkey will have a 1/9356 possibility times 10100 of getting it right, and that if it worked for 24 hours a day striking one key every second then it will have used all of the time in the present universe--the Big Bang Monkey.
All I got back were big stares, and a big sense of nothing in my gut. It reminded me of the cartoon featured above, a toss-off sub-cartoon in a panel of the Gasoline Alley series. Did he actually look at the coin? Did he just decide to keep it? And why keep a phoney nickel? And who counterfeits nickels, even during the Depression? What is the outcome of the panels--just some guy walking down the street with a nickel in his pocket. Something may have happened, but it was a lot of nothing.
I know that I should have a bigger sense of what Felix Edouard Justin Emile Borel and Jorge Francisco Isidoro Luis Borges were writing about and in many ways I do, but in the end I know that I am left with nothing. But I have it in my pocket.
1. Émile Borel (1913). "Mécanique Statistique et Irréversibilité". Statistical mechanics and irreversibility) J. Phys. 5e série3: 189–196.
2. Jorge Borges, "La biblioteca total" (The Total Library), Sur No. 59, August 1939. Translated by Eliot Weinberger, in Selected Non-Fictions (Penguin: 1999)
3. Clifford Pickover, The Math Book, (2009), Sterling, page 328.
Like many religious leaders and clerics, Martin Luther in 1539 took a dim and critical view of Copernicus and his new and substantiated theory of planetary motion and placement--he was also among the earliest important criticisms of the work, unable to provide any harmony between the new ideas and the overwhelming authority of the Bible. How did Luther come to say these things about a work that wasn't published until 1543 (as De revolutionibus orbium coelestiumor On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres)? As it turns out Copernicus' book was largely finished a decade or so before it was finally published, being constantly revised and amended and corrected, with parts of the work presented for review and comment to such people as Pope Clement VII (who came to believe in the book and who volunteered to pay for its printing but dying before this could be set into place).
The work was discussed for ten years before publication, with part of the theory finding its way into a small but select circulation in Copernicus' 40-page summary of his major work, Commentariolus1, which would have been passed hand-to hand and which itself would not see publication for another 400 years (as the De Revolutionbus was the mature version of what the Commentariolus summarized)--though few copies existed, people did lecture on the work, which is probably where Pope Clement came into contact with its ideas. So it is entirely plausible for Luther to have come into contact with these ideas before publication.
"There is talk of a new astrologer who wants to
prove that the earth moves and goes around instead of the
sky, the sun, the moon, just as if somebody were moving in a
carriage or ship might hold that he was sitting still and at
rest while the earth and the trees walked and moved. But that
is how things are nowadays: when a man wishes to be clever he
must needs invent something special, and the way he does it
must needs be the best! The fool wants to turn the whole art
of astronomy upside-down. However, as Holy Scripture tells
us, so did Joshua bid the sun to stand still and not the
earth." And there was more.2
Even still Luther never did issue a retraction for his statement, and
the Catholic Church designated the book to its list of prohibited books,
in spite of a vetting element that took place prior to publication--it should also be noted that the
book was also respectfully dedicated to Pope Paul III, leader of the Catholic Church, which was somewhat ambivalent to the work for several decades.
I've accumulated 50 or so paper computer/calculators of various shapes and sizes and descriptions, ranging from calculating the mileage for a 1959 Rambler, the ground speed for a B-25, radiation dosimetry, one-handed bridge, nuclear weapon yields, political history quizzes, and many others--including this "Ball of Fame" baseball historical paper volvelle.
I've seen this online a bit, but I've not seen the guts/data of the thing, so I decided to take mine apart and scan it so that the baseball folks among the readers of this blog can make their own. I've scanned at 200 dpi so there's plenty of detail--just print out the four sections, grab your exacto knife, and you're in business.
The computer has an awful lot of detail, the most interesting to me being located at top-center, for "Park Dimensions"--in that quarter-inch square window we see info for the team, nickname, name of park, seating capacity, and the distances to the five points of the fences. Terrific! The rest of the info, fpr the years 1901-1960:
Batting (showing leading batter, team, average, home run leader, leading team for home runs, rbi leader and rbi team leader).
Pitching (showing leading pitcher, w/l record, team, KO leader, team strike outs, ERA pitching and team leaders.
Pennant winner: (showing the winning team, manager, W-L, and winning percentages.
Stolen bases: leader and team leader.
And, lastly, MVP.
There are bits and pieces that wouldn't fit the scanner, but they're replaceable.
The Future of Nuclear Science, Princeton University Bicentennial Series, Series I Conference I (1946), with a forward by the director of the conference, E.P Wigner, is mostly just a short (36-page) introduction to the conference, though it does contain a very nice and not commonly seen photograph of the conference's participants. Of particular interest is the accompanying ghost/outline guide to identifying the group, which seems to take on its own life when viewed out-of-context.
It is a considerably heavyweight group of physicists--among them are Hofstadter, S.K. Alison, Kistiakowsky, Ladenburg, W.J. Eckert, L.A. Turner, R.H. Dicke, E. Amaldi, Urey, Conant, Tolman, Pais, Turkevich, Condon, Wheeler, Smyth, Chandrasekhar, Weisskopf, Seaborg, Wilson, Morrison, Veblen, Bargmann, Feynman, Van Vleck, Rabi, Eisenhart, Compton, Kramers, Dirac, DuBridge, Bridgman, Fermi, Blackett, and others. It is a wonderful photograph:
Here's a relatively-random detail featuring (bottom left -to-right) Compton, Kramers, Dirac, Bohr, plus (middle left-to-right) Margenau, Bargmann, Feynman, Harnwell, Tate, and (third row) Wheeler, Smyth, and Chandrasekhar. This was an extraordinary group.