A Daily History of Holes, Dots, Lines, Science, History, Math, the Unintentional Absurd & Nothing |1.6 million words, 7000 images, 3.6 million hits| Press & appearances in The Times, The Paris Review, Le Figaro, MENSA, The Economist, The Guardian, Discovery News, Slate, Le Monde, Sci American Blogs, Le Point, and many other places... 3,000+ total posts
"Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose."--G. Stein, (Sacred Emily, Geography and Plays)
"A rose is a rose is an onion."--E. Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls
By all measures, this window is of course a window. It is almost not a window because in the mass of the structure it is almost not there. But it certainly was--even if its height is great than ten times its width--when this cathedral at Asti was being built in the 13th century (and into the 14th). In any event, whatever the "is" might be here and in spite of the apparent isn'tness, it has a very appealing appeal.
--Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta, found in Cesar Daly (editor), Revue Generale de l'Architecture et des Travaux Publics, ca. 1860 (not sure of the volume).
[Detail of image below: "War Manufactures at Woolwich Arsenal: 700-lb Palliser Shells for the 38-ton Gun". Source: Scientific American Supplement, June 1879.]
I've written earlier on this blog on the Woolwich works ("Very, Very Heavy Metal--the Woolich Infant, 1876") that touches on some very heavy artillery, superior monsters all, with the "Infant" in question being an 80-ton gun. That came to mind seeing this big full-page engraving in Scientific American of Woolwich in 1879 and this stationary parade of potential of death and destruction (and we're glad to have them on our side) 700-lb shells. That's Sir William Palliser shells, which were manufactured as armor-piercing, and intended to do major damage to armor-plated warships--hyper-damage, actually, considering the 410-pounder in this variety was very highly effective. This shell was just an absolute brute.
This is a detail from:
[Apologies for the waviness--the book is very large and getting it to lay flat was not really a consideration.]
On the heals of two water-related posts in the last two days (one of the waterless Jornada del Muerto in New Mexico and the other on the well at the Turin citadel as a reverse-tower) comes this fine image of a geological/hydrological cross section of London, from the Illustrated London News for July 20, 1929.
All elements of this collage are very (screen-filling) clickable, and sharp:
I've bumped into three interesting instances of using replacements for the actual equipment in preparing for war. When you think of the action and order and behavior expected of them, and then observe the materials they were given to prepare to do so, it is absolutely remarkable to think of how they responded, and of the enormous valor and courage with which all of this was accomplished.
Case A: Flight Simulator, 1911
Just three years after the Wright Brothers arrived in Europe to revolutionize European flying, and following an order of magnitude series of advancement and achievement, the British Navy was already beginning to train classes of sailors as aviators in dynamic flight-free devices. This idea of simulating flight enabled the training (and more importantly, the selection) of aviators before anybody actually got into a plane, speeding the process of determining who was fit for flight and who was not, quickening the British pace to form a fighting force in the air.
This interesting graphic appeared in The Illustrated London News for 29 July 1911, and was entitled "Jack Goes Aloft--New Style...Trying to Keep a Stationary Machine Steady in a Wind; Sailors Practicing with a Dummy Aeroplane". This was five months before the establishment of the Royal Naval Flight School, but more importantly, just a few months after the historic flight of Eugene Ely, who took off in his aircraft from the deck of the USS Pennsylvania in the Mare Island Navy Yard--of more profound interest perhaps is the fact that Ely landed his plane on the same restricted deck space. (In a way the primitive stopping mechanisms use by Ely are sort of in use today. ) I am sure that few naval people missed the significance of this event--I know that across the ocean Winston Churchill was instantly at work on the idea of using aircraft on ships. But it seems that after all of the initial successes in the U.S. that when everything was said and done, the Brits took the lead in modernizing their navy to include aircraft.
The moveable book (flapbook) has long been interesting to me--unfortunate though that in my own fields they weren't used very often. There are some very notable exceptions--early geometries would occasionally be published with many of the geometric illustrations made to pull out a little with the tug of a string to show you the construction in 3-D. Then of course there are the paper dissection manikins, where you can find nearly-life-sized paper anatomies with hundreds of movable/liftable flaps, and smaller examples of the body and specific organs that can be simple or not simple whatsoever. These were time-intensive efforts, and in their own way they provided a sort of pre-MRI MRI by revealing the various layers of 3-D objects with 2-D tools--and they're beautiful and captivating objects.
(And this example is for sale at the blog bookstore, here.)
This plate appears in Der Maschinenbau. Modelle.Zeichenerklärungen zu den Modellen des Werkes, by R. Georg, printed by Heinrich Killinger in Nordhausen in 1925. The major detraction here is an old 5-inch tear that has been repaired verso with aacid-free tape, otherwise in nice condition.
I've written a number of times on this blog about my interest in collecting the artwork of children--kid art from say before 1900--and how difficult it is to actually find examples. Most of that has been serendipitous, finding scribbles and drawings of notebooks, and ledgers, and free endpapers of schoolbooks, that sort of thing. There are a number of reasons for this scarcity--the greatest being lack of paper, and pencils, or paints; that, coupled with the stuff needing to survive multiple generations of house cleans and moves and so on, well, it just means that not a lot has survived.
[Source: Scientific American, September 13, 1890]
Lack of paper or paper being too expensive was a big deal, and so kids used slates, which means that very little has survived on the slate itself. And to further point out the ephemeral nature of slate-written/drawn material, I present the slate eraser sponge! It is a little bit of a thing that fits over the slate stylus and allows a really thorough erasure/sponging of anything on your slate. No only was the slate stuff gone, it was double-gone.
This is also an invention that is remarkably well nested in the dustbin of abandoned and unnecessary useful inventions that worked superbly for about two decades, and were never heard from again.
Life going on underground has always been very interesting to me--particularly so when a good tech story is accompanied by great art. This is certainly the case with the cover story for the September 15, 1890 issue of Scientific American, featuring the St. Claire Tunnel between Ontario and Port Huron, Michigan. This was the world's first "full size" (that is, large enough for a train) tunnel and spanned (?) 6,025' between tunnel portals and 2,290 of river width, making for a great technological achievement.
[The issue is too large for the scanner so it is reproduced in two scans with a gap in the middle.]
The Scientific American celebrates the meeting of the two tunneling halves, each just about to join their excavation efforts at midway under the river. It is interesting that the artist would include those 40 tiny figures at work around the "Great Shields", which were functioning as a sort of enclosure for the working going on to remove the earth. Better yet is the smallish inset at bottom depicting the scale of the venture--in Real Life those images of people in the inset are only 1mm tall.
This issue is available for purchase via the Blog Bookstore, here.
We have nearly 4000 Scientific American issues available, overall, some bound as half-year issues, some as single weeklies, from 1845-1930 or so. If you have any interest in this journal please send an email...
J.G. Heck wrote and compiled a fascinating and complex work entitled The Iconographic Encyclopedia of Science, Literature and Art, and was published in America for the first time in 1851 following Spencer Baird’s translation from its original German.
The key to his work is the amount of data displayed on each of the 500 engraved plates illustrating this work and the way in which it is arranged. The design and layout of the 30,000 items on these 500 plates was a work of genius, and for my money it is easily the best-presented complex means of the display of data and objects that was published in the 19th century.
Here are some general examples of scientific instruments and experimental display apparatus in the physical and chemical sciences.
All are available for purchase via the blog's bookstore, here.
I'm sure that there's a song in this, somewhere, if only we had the power to return to 1925 to write the thing. This add spoke to the married couples of the U.K., an appeal from the Telephone Development Association (TDA, of London), reminding people what the telephone was good for. Not the least of the reasons for installing a 'phone in the house to help reduce worries to insignificance, and rid her of "that womanly feeling of loneliness".
[Source: The Illustrated London News, February 21, 1925.]
The Texaco Company was not kidding around when they expressed appreciation for their customers who still bought their product when available after rationing restrictions--they addressed their customers and showed them the result of channeling their rationed petroleum into the production of TNT. The graphic is the result of Texaco applying themselves to the war effort, and they did not want their current and future customers to forget it.
[Source: LIFE magazine, November 15 , 1943.]
Additionally, in a similar vein and from later in the year in LIFE, comes this from Shell Oil:
I'm perfectly okay with the "fly...high and spy" part.
This fine design belongs to the Cincinnati Shaper Company (Cincinnati, Ohio and "Pioneers of he Steel Press Brake") Catalog B-1, displaying and promoting their massive and extremely powerful machines for forming shapes in metal. These were true and beautiful beasts of machinery, ready to punch and curve and trim and notch all manner of metal. And the cover of their catalog gets that point across very nicely:
Just a year after the invention of the telephone appeared this wonderful piece of music--with great cover art that actually took a pretty strong and accurate look into the future. In 1877 we are told in the lyrics that "all of our secrets will be known" which isn't such a great thing, and that the "prattle of the distant Mothern' Law" will become fully available; on the other hand, "the whole world" will be united , and that in the end "we will never be alone" because of the telephone. For a quick sonnet to the new invention the lyricist invoked a number of fair insights into the future of the telephone.
Shells as far as the eye can see, at the National Filling factory at Chilwell, Nottinghamshire. Even though I enjoy calculating estimates at vast quantities of things (like all of the life that has existed on Earth, from multi-cellular onwards, how many Legos it would take to build a Dyson sphere around our Solar System, what distance the Enterprise has covered under the command of Capt Picard, that sort) I really can't get a comfortable picture of the vastness of this factory to estimate the number of pounds of explosives under that roof.
Given that the factory produced about 19 million shells during WWI, I think it would be a safe guess that some 1 billion pounds of explosives were processed through the factory--and perhaps several billion. But it is difficult to say what we are looking at in these photos, except to say that the number is "big".
[Source" John Hughes-Wilson, The First World War in 100 Objects, Firefly Books, 2014.
["Female munitions workers guide 6 inch howitzer shells being lowered to the floor at the Chilwell ammunition factory in Nottinghamshire, U.K."--Source: "British official photographer : Nicholls, Horace - This is photograph Q 30040 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums."]
I've seen other straight-on cross sections of lighter-than-air aircraft before, though seldom have they been at night, and seldom in color, making this one fairly unusual to my experience.
Under discussion in the article were the current great lighter-than-air ships and their future. Mentioned prominently were the Graf Zeppelin (which flew it first intercontinental flight just months earlier in October 1928 (and which flew until 1937)), and the British R-101, which was under construction at press time of this article, and which would crash and burn in its maiden voyage in October 1930. But in 1929, with these great new developments, and with airplane service across the ocean still seemingly in the relatively-distant future, the future of the dirigible looked pretty goo. But even by 1932 the great Graf Zeppelin's service would be extremely curtailed by the new airplane services, and by that point the days of the dirigible were numbered--especially come May 1937 when the Hindenburg crashed (and burned) so spectacularly.
Again, January, 1929, was a good time for the dirigible--but hundreds of days later, the situation would be reversing.
This is the heart of the beautiful orrey created by William Pearson (1767-1847, and one of the founders of the Royal Astronomical Society) as found in the magisterial if not occasionally problematic Cyclopedia of Abraham Rees (1743-1825). It was published in 1817 and features the main gearing for a mechanical display of the functioning of the Solar System:
This is the detail from the following, full-length version, which is 8"x10"--so there's a fair amount of detail in a limited field:
And the beautiful Dadaist detail of Jupiter and Saturn:
The original print is available from the blog's bookstore, here.