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See Inside January 2012

50 Years Ago: Bottling the Atomic Incubus

Innovation and discovery as chronicled in past issues of Scientific American



SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, VOL. VI, NO. 1; JANUARY 4, 1862

JANUARY 1962

Nuclear Genie
“As the nuclear powers resumed their deadlock at the Geneva test-ban conference, most of the nations of the world were maneuvering to keep themselves clear of the atomic incubus. Acting through the United Nations, these countries passed a quick succession of anti-atom resolutions. First, the General Assembly voted 71 to 20 to request all powers to stop nuclear testing immediately and permanently. Voting against the measure were the nuclear powers—the U.S., Great Britain, France and the U.S.S.R.—who also declared that they would not be bound by the resolution.”

Sonic Boom
“Last year Congress appropriated $11 million for the Federal Aviation Agency to begin the development of a prototype supersonic transport, with technical support from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Among the large questions of design, construction and operation that remain to be solved before airliners travel faster than sound, one of the most difficult is the problem of sonic boom: the explosive sounds generated when an object moves through the air at supersonic speed. Sonic booms have caused alarm and damage when they have been produced in isolated cases by supersonic military jets flying over thinly populated areas; to allow a new fleet of booming supersonic transports to pass over cities at low altitudes during operations near metropolitan airports is clearly impossible.”

JANUARY 1912

The Business of Flying
“The third International Aviation Salon was held in Paris from December 16th to January 2nd. It was noteworthy that, as compared with the exhibitions of previous years, the collection of exhibits on view was more or less international in character. Besides great structural changes, improvements have been made looking to the comfort of pilots and passengers; and given the Deutsch ‘taxicab’ to begin with, the coach builders will soon be called upon to make closed bodies for aeroplanes the same as they do for automobiles. —Stanley Yale Beach”
For a slideshow on new airplanes for 1912, see www.ScientificAmerican.com/jan2012/aviation

Concrete Solutions
“Mr. Thomas A. Edison has conceived the idea of building furniture of concrete, for use in his concrete houses, the advantage of concrete furniture lying in its cheapness. He has already built a sample piece of furniture. The cost of this cabinet is but $10. Mr. Edison explains that this will not be the selling price, and he does not venture to name the store price of the cabinet, as he has no idea how much the middle man may require for his share of the profits. In order to test the ability of this piece of furniture to stand the rough handling of freight men, he recently sent the furniture to Chicago and back.”

JANUARY 1862

Sewing Machines
“We give herewith an illustration of some important improvements added to the Wheeler & Wilson sewing machine. Though the radical operation of this machine has not been changed since its first introduction to the public, now nearly ten years, valuable attachments have from time to time been added. One of the more recent is the Corder, a simple attachment for laying cord on shirt bosoms, collars or on gentlemen’s vests and coats and on ladies’ clothing.”
Wheeler & Wilson was at the time the biggest manufacturer of sewing machines in the U.S. By 1907 Singer had acquired all of their manufacturing and retail operations.

Noble Hearth, Wretched Stove
“How vividly the picture of one of those spacious kitchens of the olden times comes to our mind. The crowning glory of that kitchen was the old-fashioned fire-place, with its blazing embers, huge back-logs and iron fire-dogs, that shed a glory over the whole room, and gilded the plain and homely furniture with its bright light. How pure was the air in those days! The huge fire-place, with its brisk draught, carried off the impurities of the atmosphere, and left the air pure, life-giving and healthful. Now, we crouch around hot cooking stoves, and think it strange that we feel so stupid and drowsy of an evening; or we huddle about air-tight stoves, and wonder that the air seems burned and impure.”

This article was originally published with the title "50, 100 & 150 Years Ago."

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