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See Inside April 2010

100 Years Ago: Card Cheats

Innovation and discovery as chronicled in past issues of Scientific American



SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, VOL. CII, NO. 16; APRIL 16, 1910

APRIL 1960
RADIATION— “With the new measurement of the mean lethal dose for reproductive function of mammalian cells, it is now possible to explain the relatively low mean lethal dose of 400 to 500 roentgens for the entire body. Such a dose leaves only about 0.5 per cent of the body’s reproducing cells still able to multiply. Death, however, will not be immediate. The cells have each absorbed an almost infinitesimal amount of radiation energy. Though they have suffered an appreciable amount of chromosomal damage, their enzymatic machinery is, by and large, still active. Each such cell continues to perform its physiological functions in reasonably normal fashion until the time comes for it to reproduce. But at the next division, or at the next one or two divisions, reproduction will fail. ­—Theodore T. Puck”

APRIL 1910
VERMINOUS RAILROADS— “The Potsdam rail shops have been confronted with the difficult task of disinfecting the rail cars. It seems that the coaches which return from Russia are literally a-swarm with vermin. Even after the cars had been cleaned with true Teutonic thoroughness, there was still the possibility that living disease germs might lurk in the walls and hangings. The problem seems to have been successfully solved. The disinfecting apparatus consists of an iron cylinder, of a length of about 72 feet. Even during the coldest weather the cylinder can be raised to 140 degrees F by steam pipes. After which the air is pumped out of the cylinder. All moisture is evaporated from the car without injuring the parts by excessive heat.”

CARD CHEATS— “Games of chance have a fascination for all classes of individuals, and the professional ‘sharp’ has made this weakness a means for earning an easy livelihood. Cards are the most fertile field for the gambler’s revenue. Various devices have been employed called ‘hold-outs,’ mechanical contrivances concealed in the sleeve or vest which by a very slight pressure or movement in one direction, will instantly shoot out a card into the gambler’s hand and recede again into the sleeve. One of the most ingenious and perfect of these was invented by a gambler named Keplinger (‘the Lucky Dutchman’), and has ever since been known as the Keplinger ‘hold-out.’ The apparatus was worked by the knees, so that no motion of the arms or body was necessary. A simpler device is the ‘bag,’ stuck into the wood of the underside of the table. Cards can be inserted into the clip thus formed.—­Hereward Carrington”

APRIL 1860
ELECTRIC THEORY— “The results of the experiments instituted by Sir William Grove are exceedingly curious, and must be regarded as all but proving the truth of the modern theory, which assumes that electricity is not, in any sense, a material substance but only an affection (state) or motion of the particles of ordinary matter. If electricity is unable to pass over or through a vacuum, it is probable that all the other so-called imponderable forces—light, heat, magnetism, and possibly attraction—obey the same law, and as these agencies freely travel the interplanetary spaces, the supposition of Newton that such spaces may be filled with an ethereal form of matter receives an indirect but powerful support.”

EPIZOOTIC— “The terrible epidemic of cattle disease, by its continuous spreading, threatens to become one of the greatest scourges that has ever visited the country. The imagination is appalled at the con­templation of the thousands of herds from Maine to Texas being visited by this wasting and fatal malady. The dread of its loss among the agricultural community, and the fear of diseased meat in all our cities, may be partly conceived but cannot be fully realized. In Massachusetts three commissioners are to be appointed to investigate the subject. Authority has been given them to have slaughtered, at the expense of the state, all the cattle that are sick or that have been exposed to the contagion. It is purely a disease of the lungs, affecting the animal in no other organ.”

[Note: The disease was probably contagious bovine pleuropneumonia.]

This article was originally published with the title "Lethal Dose Russian Vermin Fear of Meat."

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