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See Inside November 2008

150 Years Ago: Using Light as a Cure

Stories from past issues of Scientific American

NOVEMBER 1958
POLITICS BEFORE DATA— “The school of Soviet genetics led by Trofim D. Lysenko seems to have acquired a new lease on life. It had been expected that various non-Lysenkoist geneticists would represent the U.S.S.R. at the International Congress of Genetics in Montreal, but none arrived. Their absence, and the last-minute sub­mission of several papers, gave the Soviet contribution to the meeting a distinctly Lysenkoist flavor. The Congress adopted a resolution condemning ‘any at­­tempts on the part of governments to in­­terfere on political, ideological or other grounds with the free pursuit of science and free dissemination of scientific information.’ ”

THERE WILL BE COSTS— “In the deeper ­sections of a 20,000-foot well the drilling costs increase to more than $100 a foot; with crude oil at $3 a barrel, the well must be a good producer to pay for itself. When it comes to exploratory drilling, these costs look even more forbidding. The world record 25,000-foot well may be close to the economic limit of present drilling methods. Yet sedimentary rock deposits in some areas are over 40,000 feet thick, and there seems to be no geologic reason why oil should not be found at these enormous depths. If the rapidly increasing demand for oil products is to be satisfied, we must find ways of exploring and tapping these deep formations.”

NOVEMBER 1908
ANXIOUS WORK— “The famous Cullinan diamond has been successfully divided into eleven stones. The diamond was a white elephant in its way. Too big and too precious to find a purchaser, the problem of disposing of it perplexed the company not a little. Finally it was decided to present the stone to King Edward, who en­­trusted an Amsterdam firm with the splitting and polishing. The London Times states that in the original state the Cullinan weighed over 1.3 pounds avoirdupois. Normally a brilliant has fifty-eight facets. In view, however, of the immense size of the Cullinan it was determined to give seventy-four facets. This decision has been abundantly vindicated by the results.”

NOVEMBER 1858
LET THERE BE LIGHT— “Sir James Wylie, late physician to the Emperor of Russia, attentively studied the effects of light as a curative agent in the hospitals of St. Petersburg. He discovered that the number of patients cured in rooms properly lighted was four times greater than that of those confined in darkness. This led to a complete reform in lighting the hospitals of Russia, with the most beneficial results. These results are due to the agency of light, without a full supply of which plants and animals maintain but a sickly and feeble existence. The health statistics of all civilized countries have improved greatly in the past century. This may be justly due to the superior construction of houses, by admitting more light into them.”

CIGAR BOAT— “Two weeks ago we noticed the novel steamship in course of construction by Messrs. Winans, of Baltimore, Md. We now give a view of it taken from a photograph. The propellers are arranged between the two halves of the ship, protected by a sleeve or guard from being damaged by floating timber, drift, or the piers at which it may be lying. To the hull will be added ventilators, smoke stacks and pilothouse. Such is the construction in this boat, which is without sails, so that if any accident occurs to the machinery, it must lie a helpless log upon the waves. However strongly its parts may be secured, its shape is an unstable one, as any one can see for themselves by observing the motion of a barrel on waves or any rough water.”

[NOTE: The ship, designed for surface travel, had some innovative ideas but despite extensive modifications was never truly seaworthy.]

Note: This story was originally published with the title, "50, 100, 150".

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