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Anecdotes from the Archive

Fortress of Water, 1915

“Night attack by German armored motor boats in a flooded section of Flanders” in late 1914 or early 1915.  Image: Scientific American, January 23, 1915

Reported in Scientific American, This Week in World War I: January 23, 1915 The cover of this issue of the magazine has a boisterous scene from the opening months of the First World War, titled “Night attack by German armored motor boats in a flooded section of Flanders.” There is no story inside relating to [...]

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Anecdotes from the Archive

Extreme Submarine, 1915

The Simon Lake design for the ultimate sneaky submarine: crawling around on the seafloor and nudging mines out of the way. Image: Scientific American, January 16, 1915

Reported in Scientific American, This Week in World War I: January 16, 1915 Before the First World War, Simon Lake designed and built some innovative submarines for the U.S. Navy—and also for the Russian, Austro-Hungarian and Imperial German navies. A few months after the outbreak of the war, he seems rather smugly pleased by the [...]

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Anecdotes from the Archive

An American Pilot at War, 1915 (Part III)

1915-01-09-Hild3-image3MB

Reported in Scientific American, This Week in World War I: January 9, 1915 In this issue of Scientific American from 1915, we published the last installment of a three-part account: “War Experiences of an Air Scout: A Battle in the Clouds,” by Frederick C. Hild, an “American volunteer with the French Aviation Corps.” Hild joined [...]

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Anecdotes from the Archive

An American Pilot at War, 1915 (Part II)

An early aerial weapon: steel darts. Hild called them steel “pencils” or “arrows” and accurately stated “after a fall of say, 6,000 feet, they will penetrate almost anything.” However, they were not accurate when dropped from 6,000 feet and only occasionally effective. Aerial darts have been used occasionally as skyborne weapons since 1914. Image: Scientific American, January 2, 1915

Reported in Scientific American, This Week in World War I: January 2, 1915 In this issue of Scientific American from 1915, we published the second installment of a three-part first-hand account: “War Experiences of an Air Scout: Patrol of the Sky” by Frederick C. Hild, “American volunteer with the French Aviation Corps.” We were introduced [...]

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Anecdotes from the Archive

An American Pilot at War, 1914 (Part I)

Frederick C. Hild, an American volunteer in the French air forces, photographed in his issue leather coat, 1914. Image: Scientific American, December 26, 1914

Reported in Scientific American, This Week in World War I: December 26, 1914 In this issue of Scientific American from 1914, we published the first installment of a three-part first-hand account: “War Experiences of an Air Scout: The Diary of an American Volunteer With the Aviation Corps of the French Army,” by Frederick C. Hild. [...]

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Anecdotes from the Archive

Ramming a Submarine, 1914

“Ramming a Submarine,” says the caption for this image on the cover of the issue. It illustrates the British HMS Badger ramming the German U-19. Image: Scientific American, December 19, 1914

Reported in Scientific American, This Week in World War I: December 19, 1914 Scientific American in 1914 sometimes used large, single-theme images for the issue cover. Some of these images have no information with them at all. This cover has only a short caption: “Ramming a Submarine,” but no story inside. The image apparently illustrates [...]

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Anecdotes from the Archive

Lawrence in Arabia: from Archaeologist to Spy, 1914

Hittite soldiers from the 9th century B.C., on a freize excavated at Carchemish (Karkemish) a site that is now on the border between Turkey and Syria. Among the archaeologists working at the site in 1914 was T. E. Lawrence, known later in life as “Lawrence of Arabia.”

Reported in Scientific American, This Week in World War I: December 12, 1914 Here’s a short, cryptic note from our December 12, 1914, issue, about scientific work being carried out in the Middle East: “Survey of Southern Palestine.—A considerable amount of surveying and exploration has recently been done along the southern frontier of Palestine under [...]

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Anecdotes from the Archive

Battleships and Diplomacy, 1914

SMS Goeben, a German battle-cruiser transferred in 1914 to the navy of the Ottoman Empire under diplomatically dubious circumstances and renamed the Yavûz Sultân Selîm. The ship here flies the Ottoman flag.

Reported in Scientific American, This Week in World War I: December 5, 1914 Two ships from the German navy had an outsize part in the history of the First World War: the Goeben and Breslau. Our coverage in the December 5, 1914, issue gives a description of them—size and guns and whatnot—and hints at their [...]

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Anecdotes from the Archive

Battleship Disaster Coverup, 1914

HMS Audacious as she looked in her prime, commissioned in August 1913: a powerful modern battleship of 23,000 tons, armed with a main battery of ten 13.5-inch guns.

Reported in Scientific American, This Week in World War I: November 28, 1914 On this date 100 years ago Scientific American reported on the sinking of HMS Audacious, one of the British Royal Navy’s most modern “dreadnoughts”—the largest and most powerful battleships in existance in 1914. Only one man died, but the loss of the [...]

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Anecdotes from the Archive

Care of the Wounded, 1914

Dogs for medical use: “Major Richardson of the British army and two of the famous hounds that he has trained for Red Cross work on the battlefield.” Image: Scientific American, November 21, 1914

Reported in Scientific American, This Week in World War I: November 21, 1914 From the Scientific American Supplement issue of November 21, 1914, we note, “The first object of an army in war is to disperse or destroy the enemy, but a correlative duty is the care of its own men when wounded or otherwise [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

Our public affair with food porn

Image by Phil Thomas, CC. Click on image for license and information.

Do you ever feel like your social feed is overrun by pictures of food? A report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project from October 2013 found that more than half of all Internet users have posted original photos or videos to a website. Thanks to the portability of cell phone cameras and the [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

Why did Pirates Fly the Jolly Roger?

Photo by eddiemcfish. Click on image for license and information.

The “pirate brand” has long been tied to the skull and crossbones—the Jolly Roger—as a symbol of terror on the high seas. A 2011 article in The New York Times hails the ominous design as a magnificent exercise in collective hybrid branding, noting that economics drove pirates to adopt a version of this particular symbol [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

How Did Patterns Help Reveal an Older Origin of Mummies?

Coffin and Mummy of Nesmin (Around 250 BC). Photo by Daniel Decristo. Click on image for license and information.

I want to talk about patterns. We take them for granted but they shape our lives. That morning coffee you need to start your day has more meaning than you think. We build our sense of self on repetition, and we draw upon continuity to shape our society. Patterns can provide valuable clues about our [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

Labor Day: It’s About Time

CC, Tom Blackwell. Click on image for license and information.

The first Monday in September is a federal holiday in the United States. It marks Labor Day—a tribute to contributions made by American workers to the growth and development of the country (or at least those in a position to contribute without being exploited). The history of labor day is the history of labor—and laborer [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

What troubles us about unfaithful politicians?

Creative Commons, Maegan Tintari

History is littered with private indiscretions made public—some have just been more public than others: It is believed the Leonardo da Vinci was a passionate instructor to his students; one in particular remained in da Vinci’s favor for 26 years. Cleopatra made no secret of the nature of her political alliances, which included a close [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

The Global Connection at the Heart of Baseball

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Baseball season is officially underway! And what better way to celebrate than by looking at the ball that drives the game? A few years ago, I talked S into helping me take apart a baseball. I wanted to understand the properties that Johan Santana can hold in his hand and with the flick of his [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

You Are What You Eat: Unraveling the Truth in Food Records

A Roman Feast, Roberto Bompiani late 1800s. The J. Paul Getty Museum, 72.PA.4.

The last time I browsed the cookbook section of a bookstore, the options were dizzying. The present day culinary record of our habits and inclinations is diverse. It reflects the need to both speed up and slow down, have quick meals and lingering dinner parties, and preserve the tried and true and dabble with the [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

Cleveland Rocks

Cleveland rocks. Or so the saying goes. I’ve been traveling for work this week, and have spent the last two and a half days in Cleveland, Ohio. It was my first visit, and it offered me a chance to do the things I love most: talk to people, see places through the eyes of others, [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

A Right to Be Clean: Sanitation and the Rise of New York City’s Water Towers

These iconic structures are as much a part of New York City's skyline as any famed landmark. But they play a larger role in New York City's history.

During the morning rush hour in New York City, tourists stand out as being the ones looking up. It’s possible that they see more clearly what most New Yorkers take for granted: water towers. Those archaic looking wooden structures that grace the rooftops of almost every New York City building play an integral, though often [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

Spin Cycle: The Social Realm of the Laundromat

Sunday afternoons should never be spent in a laundromat if you can avoid it. One of the outcomes of our recent move is that I went from having my own washer and dryer to having a washer that floods the basement and a landlord who isn’t inclined to fixing it. That means I’ve had to [...]

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Cross-Check

Thanksgiving guilt trip: How warlike were Native Americans before Europeans showed up?

The approach of Thanksgiving, that quintessential American holiday, has me brooding over recent scientific portrayals of Native Americans as bellicose brutes. When I was in grade school, my classmates and I wore paper Indian headdresses and Pilgrim hats and reenacted the "first Thanksgiving," in which supposedly friendly Native Americans joined Pilgrims for a fall feast [...]

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Food Matters

Variolation, Aviation, and Genetic Modification: Progress in the Face of Fear and Danger

The Wright Brothers' Plane (click for source)

In 1721, a small pox epidemic was ripping through the colonial city of Boston. Cotton Mather, a Reverend and Royal minister, convinced the physician Zebadiah Boylston to perform an arcane medical procedure on two slaves and Mather’s own son. The procedure, called “variolation,” involved piercing the skin of the patient with needle that was contaminated [...]

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Observations

Internet Shopping, as Conceived in 1961: Plenty of Rocket Deliveries Thursday Morning [Video]

I know, you’re disappointed that we don’t have the flying cars and moving sidewalks as promised in those old film reels from the 1950s and 60s that you may have seen in school. But this clip, from the AT&T Archives and History Center, does do a great job predicting how we shop in the digital [...]

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Observations

Yes, Government Researchers Really Did Invent the Internet

“It’s an urban legend that the government launched the Internet,” writes Gordon Crovitz in an opinion piece in today’s Wall Street Journal. Most histories cite the Pentagon-backed ARPANet as the Internet’s immediate predecessor, but that view undersells the importance of research conducted at Xerox PARC labs in the 1970s, claims Crovitz. In fact, Crovitz implies that, [...]

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Observations

Google Pays Homage to Zipper Engineer Gideon Sundback

Google zipper page as of April 24, 2012

Today, an image of a zipper runs down Google’s home page in celebration of the 132nd birthday of Gideon Sundback, who helped make the device an indispensable item for today’s man on the go. (Read that as you will.)  Sundback did not invent the slide fastener, as it is generically called (“zipper” is actually a [...]

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Observations

Aliens and Nazis and Electric History, Oh My!

Red sprites can be 50 kilometers tall but were proved to exist only in 1994. Credit: D. Sentman, G. Wescott, Geophysical Institute, U. Alaska Fairbanks, NASA

I received an odd e-mail recently asking whether an article from December 18, 1886, was likely to have been fact-checked, the implication being whether or not it was “true”: Here’s the 1886 article: The following brief account of a recent strange meteorological occurrence may be of interest to your readers as an addition to the [...]

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Observations

The line between science and journalism is getting blurry….again

Human #1: "Hello, nice weather today, isn’t it?" Human #2: "Ummm…actually not. It’s a gray, cold, windy, rainy kind of day!" Many a joke depends on confusion about the meaning of language, as in the example above. But understanding the sources of such confusion is important in realms other than stand-up comedy, including in the [...]

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Observations

Old oyster shells reveal dry, salty details of Jamestown settlers’ hardships

oyster shells jamestown settlers starvation drought

What can a handful of old oyster shells reveal about the trials some of the New World’s early European settlers? A lot, it turns out. As a prevalent resource in the Chesapeake Bay, eastern oysters (Crassostrea virginica) ended up being a crucial food source for the first full-time European settlers in North America, who arrived [...]

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Streams of Consciousness

Trouble at the Heart of Psychiatry’s Revised Rule Book

By Edward Shorter* Part 3 in a series One might liken the latest draft of psychiatry’s new diagnostic manual, the DSM-5, to a bowl of spaghetti. Hanging over the side are the marginal diagnoses of psychiatry, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and autism, important for certain subpopulations but not central to the discipline. At [...]

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Symbiartic

A September Afternoon on the Grand River, 1825

Damstra_Davisville_mini

One of the most powerful contributions of scientific illustration is to give us an informed visual where it is typically impossible to find one. While creating images for for a nature walk along the Grand River Walter Bean Trail near Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, illustrator Emily Damstra incorporated archaeological evidence as well as records about the [...]

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Symbiartic

Atmosphere and Action: Interview with illustrator Tyler Jacobson

Yuri-Gagarin-Tyler-Jacobson

When I opened the November 2011 issue of Scientific American and leafed through it, I was immediately drawn to one of the highlights of the issue: illustrations for the cover story about The First Americans. They were done by illustrator Tyler Jacobson, with art direction by Michael Mrak and Jen Christiansen. Here in the interview below, [...]

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Symbiartic

SciArt Plugs 1: Lectures, Exhibits, News and More

The intersection of science and art is bustling with activity. With this weekly-ish post, we’ll try to keep you abreast of the most happenin’ happenings around the country. Don’t miss out! SCIART LECTURES/EVENTS Beacon, NY’s Annual Open Studio Event (Beacon, NY) September 24-25, 2011; 12-6pm | Take a tour of scientific illustrator Chris Sanders‘ and [...]

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Symbiartic

Spongelab: gaming the art of science education

Spongelab_NerveSystem-ava

“What famous painting does this remind you of?” I was sitting in the offices of Spongelab Interactive about a month ago speaking with  Jeremy Friedberg, molecular genetics and biotechnology professor, now science education game-guru, and we were discussing the interactive opening image of History of Biology, an expansive mystery game. The image in question, above, contains [...]

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Symbiartic

The Dudley Bug

Coat of Arms of the Dudley County Borough Council, Dudley, U.K. {link url="http://www.civicheraldry.co.uk/worcs_ob.html"}Image source here.{/link}"

One of the things that fascinates me most about the current state of science-based art, are the roots we can retroactively look to in pre-scientific eras. Most artistic movements claim ancestry from previous movements, such as the Surrealists arising out of the Symbolists, who in part arose out of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, who claimed the [...]

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