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See Inside January 2010

100 Years Ago: The Perfect Car

Innovation and discovery as chronicled in past issues of Scientific American



SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, VOL. CII, NO. 3; JANUARY 15, 1910

JANUARY 1960
ASTOUNDING TALES— “The press of the Soviet Union has been astounding its readers with accounts of a ‘revolution’ in science and a ‘miracle’ of technology. Nikolai A. Kozyrev, an astrophysicist, was said to have wrought the revolution, with his hypothesis that the passage of time is the source of cosmic energy. The miracle was the harnessing of a ‘concentration of energy.’ Speaking for the Presidium of the U.S.S.R. Academy of Sciences, three distinguished physicists joined in a public rebuke to the press for ‘cheap sensationalism’ and for placing its pages ‘at the disposal of absolutely incompetent people.’ They declared: ‘We are not against bold hypotheses, provided they are given substantiation.’ However, ‘This is not a case of the concentration of energy but of the concentration of amazing ignorance.’”

JANUARY 1910
WAVE VS. SHIP— “Was it a last despairing protest of Old Ocean, when he lifted his giant hand in the blackness of night on January 10, and smote the Cunard liner ‘Lu­sitania’ a blow which racked and splintered her lofty bridge and pilot house, 75 feet above the sea, and crushed down her forecastle deck and decks beneath, giving them a permanent depression of several inches? When the mass of the wave struck the breastworks and pilot house, every one of the stout wooden storm windows was burst in, the woodwork being stripped clean to the sashes—and this, be it remembered, at an elevation of 75 feet above the normal sea level. We are inclined to agree with her captain in his belief that many smaller and less stoutly built ships which have disappeared utterly at sea, may have been sent to the bottom by the crushing in of their decks under so-called ‘tidal waves’ of these dimensions.”

[NOTE: The Lusitania survived the rogue wave but was torpedoed and sunk by a German U-boat five years later.]

THE PERFECT CAR— “Convincing evidence that the automobile of today is as far perfected as the materials of construction and mechanical ingenuity will allow, is afforded by the fact that the cars shown in the two annual exhibitions this year exhibit no novelties of a radical character as compared with the cars of the preceding year. The present flood tide of prosperity in the automobile industry is due to the fact that people of moderate means, who have been waiting until a thoroughly serviceable car embodying the latest improvements was placed on the market at a low price, are now being accommodated."

JANUARY 1860
FIELDS AND FERTILIZER— “A very valuable letter has lately been written by Professor Liebig, the eminent chemist at Munich, in Bavaria: ‘In consequence of the farmer restoring with guano and bones but a small portion of the very same elements of seeds and of fodder which had been withdrawn from his fields by centuries of cultivation, their products are wonderfully increased. Experiments with special reference to this end, in six different parts of the kingdom of Saxony, showed how enormously the corn and flesh production of Europe has been increased by the yearly importation of 100,000 tons of guano.’”

DR. LIVINGSTONE— “The celebrated African traveler Dr. Livingstone relates by letter from the Zambesi: ‘The luxuriant valley of the Shire River is marshy and abounding in lagoons, in which grow great quantities of the lotus plant. The people were busy collecting the tubers, which when boiled or roasted, resembled chestnuts. They are thus real Lotophagi, such as are mentioned by Herodotus. Another part of the valley abounded in elephants. Herd upon herd appeared as far as the eye could reach; and noble animals they were. We sometimes chased them in our little steamer. The upper part of the valley is well peopled, and many of the hills are cultivated high up. But never having seen Europeans before, they looked on us with great suspicion. They watched us constantly, well armed with bows and poisoned arrows, ready to repel any attack, but no incivility was offered.’”

This article was originally published with the title "Sensational Press Stylish Cars Lotus Eaters."

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