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50 Years Ago: A Look at the Far Side of the Moon

Innovation and discovery as chronicled in past issues of Scientific American



Scientific American, Vol. CI, No. 23; Secember 4, 1909

DECEMBER 1959
THE FAR SIDE—“Man’s first blurred view of the other side of the moon suggests that current theories of the origin and history of our natural satellite may require revision. The Soviet vehicle, launched on October 3, crossed the moon’s orbit some three days later. Shortly thereafter, in response to radio signals from earth, it pointed its two cameras at the moon and made the photographs. They were developed in the vehicle and were radioed back to the earth. One of them was released in Moscow on October 27. It revealed a number of sizable craters as well as a mountain range of peculiar topography (Soviet workers have christened it the Soviet Mountains).”
[NOTE: The “mountains” later turned out to be rays of material ejected from craters and were quite flat.]

BODY FAT—“For many writers, overeating is identified with weight gain, and no attempt is made to explain the processes involved. If obesity is to be understood, these processes must be recognized. Recent studies have shown that fat tissue is more than a storage depot for excess food. It lives and participates actively in the metabolism of the body. It converts a substantial part of dietary sugar and starch to fat even when a person is at constant weight. It throttles the flow of energy in the body by adjusting the outflow of fatty acids to the needs of working cells. It responds to hormones, which integrate its performance into the coordinated working of the body. Since all of these processes in fat tissue are affected by obesity, a theory of the disease that is based entirely on overeating seems inadequate. —Vincent P. Dole”

DECEMBER 1909
FLYING RAILWAY—“A German engineer has conceived a novel and marvelously impracticable mode of transit, a sort of cross between the airship and the electric railway, in which a balloon supports the weight of passenger cars, which run on aerial cables and are propelled by electricity. The balloon is of the rigid Zeppelin type of construction, and is propelled by electric motors capable of developing an airspeed of about 125 miles per hour. There are engineering as well as financial objections to this scheme.”

BULB SWINDLE—“English technical journals have been warning purchasers of incandescent electric lamps against swindlers who install lamps which purport to contain metallic filaments but which soon prove to be very short-lived carbon filament lamps. The lamps, when first installed, give off a brilliant light and appear to be very economical, as tested with the agent’s ampere meter, but the bulbs soon become blackened, the luminosity diminishes, and in a short time the lamps break. Bulbs of ground glass are employed, so that the purchaser cannot see the alleged metallic filaments.”

DECEMBER 1859
WHALE OIL—“In 1820 the number of ships in England and Scotland engaged in the whale fisheries of the Arctic seas was 156, and the amount of oil obtained yearly was 18,725 tuns. Owing to the increased difficulty of catching whales, and the rapid extension of lighting streets and factories with gas, the whaling business was afterwards almost extinguished. The old vessels were sold for carrying coal, and an immense amount of property was sacrificed. Within the last few years, however, the business seems to be growing up again, even though vast quantities of coal oil are now made and sold. It is believed that the whale oil, especially sperm, is still superior to all other unguents for the lubrication of machinery; hence, as vast quantities are required for railroads and other purposes, there is much to incite persons to engage in the whale fishing.”

Note: This article was originally printed with the title, "Fuzzy Moon; Incandescent Fraud; Whales for Oil."

This article was originally published with the title "Fuzzy Moon Incandescent Fraud Whales for Oil."

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