A Daily History of Holes, Dots, Lines, Science, History, Math, the Unintentional Absurd & Nothing |1.6 million words, 7500 images, 3.9 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... 4,000+ total posts
Looking for illustrations of an enormous horse-drawn rangefinder in volume 7 (1879) issue of the Scientific American Supplement I came across these two unusual images of a hand-powered sleigh and "bicycle". The gearwork looks to be about the size of a modern bike wheel, perhaps even bigger--it certainly weighs more, and could weigh more than an entire (good) bike. I don't really understand how the energy is transferred but it seems to be that the gear drives a toothed rod back and forth that reacts with a springed mechanism that in turn moves the wheels. It is a huge gearwork, but that vehicle looks awfully big and not-so-mobile to be driven by that and the springs. On the sleigh the gearwork seems to push a plane of some sort to push the sleigh forward. Even in 1879 there were better and simpler designs for bikes...I don't know what to say about the sleigh....
"A true poet does not bother to be poetical. Nor does a nursery gardener scent his roses"Jean Cocteau.
Maybe so and maybe no, and if not, maybe they should...especially for the poets. But this come from the writer with only the memory of smell for an olfactory sense.
I looked around without success in Walter Benjamin's Arcade Project to find something about this image, which turns out to be a scent dispenser. These buggers were quite popular (at least in France) and used to be hung at entrances to popular venues where patrons could scent themselves with this-and-that for a few pennies. It seems positively Terry Gilliam-ish to me, but that's what it was.
[Reprinted in Scientific American, 1895--sorry, no exact issue was recorded.]
These creative displays are found in Marion Florence Lansing's The Wonder of Life (volume 11, Supplementary), published in 1921. They represent a somewhat humanized-but-roboticized/automated approach to displaying he control of the senses, which seems to have been a developing style in the 1920's giving the popular cultural appearance of mechanical people (the term "robot" appearing for the first time in this same year in Karel Capek's play R.U.R.). The images also appear, appropriately enough, in the chapter titled "The Machinery of Our Bodies".
This interesting image, "The Last Judgment", appeared as a woodcut in a book by Ricius (Rici, Rizzi, Rizius), Paul(us) (Paulus Israelita), Freiherr von Sprinzenstein (1530 Reichs- u. erbländischer Freiherr, 1480-1541), Eruditiones christianae religigionis plurimum utiles & cuilibet christiano ad modum necessarie, which was printed in Paris in 1512. The author was a German Jew who converted to Christianity and wrote and studied a form of Christianized kabbalaism, a philosopher, translator, and a physician who was the doctor to Emperor Maximillian I. What attracted me in all of that in this image had nothing to do with any of this--what I'm seeing here, wrapped around the condemned entering Hell in the mouth of the beast, is a chain. The unhappy group standing in the jaw of the beast, cowering against a very annoyed Archangel Michael, are being collected with the "chain" and pulled downward by a hell-beast.
It is an odd object, and I'm not convinced that it is a chain, though it does look like one. The issue with chain is that outside of being worn for defense and adornment (for centuries) steel chain didn't appear in the west in extended use unto the 19th century. There is a sketch of chain in a Leonardo sketch, but a popular use of a chain really doesn't exist for another two centuries.
Again, this item does have a torus-like shape and does look like a chain of some sort, but that doesn't necessarily make it one. Also I'm not familiar with its symbology if it isn't a chain, so I'm a bit out of my element. I'm glad though to share this should someone out there know what it is, or isn't. It is certain though that it is odd.
A friend on facebook provided an interesting Bible quote on chains/Last Judgment:“For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness….” 2 Peter 2:4.
Also there are:
And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling--these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day.--Jude 1:6
And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain.--Revelation 20:1
I found this interesting graphic in the Illustrirte Zeitung (Leipzig) showing the production of bombs in Germany for last half-year of WWI. The aviator seems happy enough, at least for the readers of the magazine, reassuring that something was goign on in the defense of the country, even though the writing was pretty much on the wall when this image appeared in late August, 1918, six weeks away from the end. It is a small graphical display--about 2.5x4 inches or so--and it is a congratulatory message on the massive amount of munitions that were produced from January-July 1918. This was one among many that just wasn't enough.
This terrific proposal for a miniature, semi-individual monorail appeared in Popular Science Monthly for April 1935:
And the text, which makes you wonder why something like this would be necessary, at least for the version of the vehicle in the interior pages. The cover version at least accommodates eight passengers, perhaps, though there's an awful lot of metal around them. The interior version packs four in its bubbly self, and given the amount of effort that would go into powering and building the vehicle to move around a restricted number of people--though perhaps you can say the same about cars, and then some.
[This bedside nurse's aid appeared in the July 17, 1869 issue of the Scientific American.]
According to the article, "The inventor of this nursing table has endeavored to afford greater comfort to the sick by providing them with the means of supplying in a measure their own wants during the absence of an attendant. In large hospitals the want of something of this kind has been long felt and in many cases its use in private houses would be a great convenience..." Mostly it was a drinking-and-spit-bucket apparatus--still it would no doubt come in handy and loosen the duties of the nurse somewhat.
I'm pretty sure that I've only written a plural of "Mona Lisa" a few times before in my history of writing--and that in reference to the real one, when it was stolen by Vincenzo Perugia (and company?) in 1911. (My guess is that it was stolen on demand for a collector and then offered for sale to a number of other underworld-y collectors who were sold fakes--at that point, what could they do (?) given that they couldn't exactly report the swindle to the police.) For me there are some iconic image of flying machines that made the news in the pre-Wright Brothers era, and I would consider the one here to be one of them.
It was designed by W. Ayres and happily and nattily appeared in the pages of the Scientific America (1885). It seems to have been a kind of helicopter/ornithopter, partially human powered and partially powered by compressed air that would run a generator that would run the little propellers situated around the aircraft. The frame of the craft was made of 1/4" steel tubes, though there is no indication of their thickness. Given that there's something like 40 feet of this pipe superstructure, I'm going to guess that the pipe was a pound/foot; then given the weight of the pilot, and the other bits and pieces, this antique drone would have to work very hard to lift its 200' payload. The (May 9th) article states that there is enough power generated to lift that 200 pounds, but...
These poor early robots--some were designed to pretend-to-clean, others to pretend-to-smoke, and yet others (even at this tender age in the history of robots) were designed to threaten people and whatever else was in front of them with a pistol. It is a sad, thing, really--it is hard not to empathize with the amalgamated sorrow.
[Source: Popular Science Monthly, January 1935, page 19.]
I've written perhaps 15 or so posts on early robots (prior to WWII) and to me it seems that most were relegated to menial tasks--and when not menial, then they were often killing or threatening living humans. Perhaps when our robot overlords of the future (ROOTF) absorb the human interpretation of their early history they will take pity on us for representing their early possibilities in such unfortunate ways--they may get over the images of robots harvesting, pulling wagons, sweeping clergy, squeezing the blood out of workers, savaging scantily clad women of the future, and so on...or they may not.
For other posts on robots, enter "robots" in the google search box at left. If nothing else, the images are very good.
This half-modern helicopter appeared in the Popular Science Monthly for February 1935--it seems t o have the fundamental of the body of the helicopter to be about right, and then adventures out with huge wings and two eight-blade rotors. It was a monster of a machine, and appeared in print just about a year before the successful introduction of the Focke Wulf FW 61, and four years before Sikorsky's true helicopter (VS-300) of 1939. The idea for a helicopter had been around for quite a while, at least from the time of Leonardo's "aerial screw', and through the coining of the word in 1861 by d'Almecourt, and was a long time in the making, though the main bits for the development of the aircraft came together in the 1930's. The "flying whiligig" here does have a squinty resemblance to the V-22 Osprey, but that would be a long time in coming.
Thumbing through the 1869 volume of Scientific American hunting for an image of a wave-powered device I found this unusual woodcut of a bicycle. Actually, it is still at this point mainly referred to as a velocipede, a word that "Scotch Tape" was a brand name for a bike-like invention by the very-busy Nicephore Niepce in 1818. (Niepce was a prolific and high-end thinker having invented the world's first photographic device from which the oldest-surviving photograph was made, towards the end his work being done in partnership with Louis Daguerre with whom he had a business relationship for the development of what would turn of to be Daguerre's improvements on his original breakthroughs. And that was not his only breakthrough--along with his brother Claude Niepce patented what was probably the world's first internal combustion engine--the pyreolophore--in 1807.)
In any event this machine, the McDonald velocipede above and below was interesting mainly for its steering mechanism. (On the other hand, this still is a very early example of a peddled-wheel bike, invented earlier in the decade by Pierre Michaux.) Here the biker would use the joystick that controlled the rear wheel by means of the apparatus on the vertical circular frame surrounding the rear wheel. Interesting to note here that the articles states that the velocipede was relatively easy to construct--and maybe so for the more-adept engineering-type of 1869--as the bike was patented but not in production.
From the Scientific American: "The frame is of hollow pipe the rear being a complete in which the steering wheel rotates on its axis the steering a wheel running between the parallel bars the front portion. The axle of this passes through boxes secured to the bars by screws so it may be adjusted forward or back to suit the physique of the rider. The axle of the steering wheel runs in secured to sliding bars curved to fit the diameter of the circular portion of the frame thus allowing this wheel with its axle to per form an entire revolution within the frame a horizontal plane. Its movements are controlled by means of rods attached at one to he ends of the axle and at the brought together to the lower end of a directly under the rider's seat the handle which comes up in front of the rider the fulcrum being on a cross piece between the portion of the parallel bars serving not that purpose but that of a brace. It will seen from the figure that the guiding of vehicle may be effected by one hand seat need not be so high as represented in engraving it may be lowered until nearly the level of the reach which is the line of the axles."--Scientific American, April 24, 1869, p.264.
There's another interesting story on the use of "Archie" as a nickname in another military situation, here, in an earlier post, "George and Archie: Two Misty Names in Making Everything Into Nothing. Hiroshima, 1945."
This interesting graphic appears in the article "Airmen's Sensations in Battle" in Popular Mechanics, November 1916. It hows a cross-section, of sorts, of an air battle with antiaircraft involvement, and to my experience is of a very unusual design. The author writes of being chased by Fokkers and then met by "Archie" (British slang for antiaircraft guns) fire from below. Overall it is an effective design that heightens the sense of the story.
"Archie": "Nickname given to anti-aircraft fire during First World War. Said to derive from a British pilot who reacted to enemy anti-aircraft fire by shouting the line from a music hall song 'Archibald certainly not'. This caught on and was inevitably shortened to Archie."-- Phil Jobson Royal Artillery Glossary of Terms and Abbreviations Briefly put, the AA situation during WWI was, well, primitive--necessarily primitive, I mean. There was some improvisation against balloons earlier on but the first AA-downing of a military aircraft was evidently in 1912 in the Italo-Turkish War. In 1916, two years into the war, the development of firepower against aircraft (and the detection of them, which extended to acoustical devices for the greatest part) was still in its very earliest stages.
C.B. Tompkins' High-Speed Computing Devices (New York, McGraw Hill, 1950) is probably the best of the pre-1960 textbooks on the computer, complete with stout bibliographies and lots of bits to trail from the golden age of computers. This classic work is enhanced by a (very) unusually complete series of chapter-ending references and bibliographies. Among much else of interest we find a treatment of the Harvard Mark I and II on pp 183-187 in the chapter on "Large-Scale Digital Computing Systems" on pp 182-222 with bibliography occupying pp 218-222. Also, the "Punched-Card Computing Systems" chapter pp 146-181 has a very nice bibliography on pp 166-181.
Even though I've used this book quite a bit I've never collected the chapter-ending references in one document until today. Tompkins now appears in the glorious Internet Archive, and I've taken the 16 pieces of bibliography and gathered them all below in a document that is about 40 pages long. Have a look, and enjoy--thanks to the Internet Archive!
This is considered to be the first textbook on digital computers, the first compendium in English on digital computer technology, and a pioneering work that influenced many computer designers during the 1950s. It provides an unsurpassed picture of the state of the art during the late 1940s, and is further enhanced by the inclusion of several excellent bibliographies. -- Sarrazin F2.
"The book is a careful analysis of the electronic field as of 1950 and was in very large measure written by the late Professor C. B. Tompkins.." - Goldstine 315.
(This book) was written to satisfy "a perceived need, following the end of WW II, for compendium of technologies applicable to the emerging field of electronic digital computers...Because published technical information was scarce in the U.S., there can be little question that the book was an important contribution to computer literature...with its state of the art picture of the period 1947 through 1949, establishes a well-documented baseline fro tracking and evaluating subsequent technological progress."-- Arnold Cohen, from the Introduction to the 1983 Charles Babbage Institute Reprint Series Edition of the ERA Report, published by Tomash Publshing. ERA
High-Speed Computing Devices, by C.B. Tompkins: bibliographies
Chapter 1. Introduction
Chapter 2. Preliminary Considerations
Chapter 3. Counters as Elementary Components
Chapter 4. Switches and Gates
Chapter 5. A Functional Approach to Machine Design
Chapter 6. Arithmetic Systems
Chapter 7. Numerical Analysis
Chapter 8. Desk Calculators
Chapter 9. Punched-card Computing Systems
Chapter 10. Large-scale Digital Computing Systems
Chapter 11. Analog Computing Systems
Chapter 12. The Form of a Digital Computer
Chapter 13. Arithmetic Elements
Chapter 14. Transfer Mediums
Chapter 15. Data-conversion Equipment
Chapter 16. Special Techniques and Equipment
It was a surprise, finding M. Bollee's article ("Sur une nouvelle machine a calculer") in this 1889 Comptes Rendus, peeking around in that big 10-pound volume looking for something else. It was very easy to miss if you weren't looking for it, just a few pages long in a 1000-page book. But there it was, nestled comfortably in pp 737-739. It these few pages Bollee describes his machine and with particular reference to his innovative approach to direct multipilication--a fine addition (ha!) to the long line of contributions by Babbage and Clement, Scheutz, Wiberg and Grant and Hamann.
The article in the Comptes Rendus is not illustrated, though I did find an image of the machine in The Manufacturer and Builder:
V.I. Feodosiev (with his two initials looking ironically similar to the V1 that he wrote about) and G.B. Simiarev wrote a classic textbook1 in rocket technology which was published in Moscow in 1958. Even though it was translated and published in English the following year by Academic Press, the version here seems to have been translated in the same year as its Russian edition. I've had some translations-on-demand in the store that were fast-tracked for the particular agency that needed the work, translations that sometimes didn't appear in English for years afterwards. In this case the Feodosiev was translated (anonymously) for an undisclosed agency, though this copy wound up in the library of the NASA Division of Research Information2. It could well be that the work was produced for NASA but frankly there are many other candidates for the point of origin of interest. This copy is definitely different from the Academic Press translation, so at least two different translations were made of the text.
I really don't have that much to offer here on this edition, except to note its differences from the Academic Press version, though this may be of some use to someone working in this area.
The original is available via the blog's bookstore, here.
Here's an abstract/summary of the work (which has a slightly different title) by the Academic Press 1959 version of this publication:
"Introduction to Rocket Technology focuses on the dynamics, technologies, aerodynamics, ballistics, theory of servomechanisms, principles of navigation instruments, and electronics involved in rocket technology."
"The publication first takes a look at the basic relationships in the theory of reactive motion; types of jet propelled aircraft and their basic construction; and types of reaction motors and their construction. Discussions focus on air breathing motors, anti-aircraft rockets, long range bombardment rockets, surface to surface, short range bombardment missiles, thrust of a rocket motor, and operating efficiency of a rocket motor. The text then examines rocket motor fuels and processes in the combustion chamber of a rocket motor."