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See Inside Scientific American Volume 307, Issue 1

50 Years Ago: Nuclear War Planning




Scientific American

July 1962

Nuclear War Planning “The May 31 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine considers in detail the consequences of the 20 megatons scheduled for Boston in a nuclear attack scenario: ‘It is likely that the vectors of epidemic disease would survive radiation injury better than the human population. Eastern equine encephalitis, hepatitis, poliomyelitis and other endemic disease could easily reach epidemic proportions under these circumstances.’ Prompt disposal of the dead will be essential for ‘control of epidemic disease and its vectors, flies and rodents’ and for ‘equally important, though less apparent,’ psychological reasons. Citing a study by the Office of Civil Defense Mobilization, the authors concur in the view that ‘the demolished city must be fenced in or cordoned and placed under quarantine.’”

Shark Danger “Data from recent experiments may serve to remind bathers, skin divers, small-boat sailors and others who venture into the ocean that there is as yet no sure protection from sharks in open water. It has long been suspected that sharks possess a remarkable ability to locate their prey, often at a considerable distance. Study has accordingly been focused on the sensory organs [see photograph] that direct their predatory behavior. —Perry W. Gilbert”

July 1912

Artificial Wave Pool “Probably no feature of the International Hygiene Exposition held in Dresden last year attracted more general interest than the Undosa artificial surf bath. The receipts from the sale of bath tickets [about six cents apiece] were unexpectedly large, amounting sometimes to $450 in a single day. It is evident that the artificial surf bath may be made a very profitable as well as a very beneficial institution. All persons may derive benefit from the massage effected by the moving water.”

For an image of these baths and a slide show on the emergence of leisure time, a moneyed middle class and consumer technology, see www.ScientificAmerican.com/jul2012/leisure

Daring Feats “Among the well-known vaudeville entertainers must be mentioned Mr. Harry Houdini, whose celebrated feats with handcuffs, strait-jackets and various restraints used to confine the insane and fractious are well known. On Sunday, July 7th, Mr. Houdini invited a party of newspaper men and those interested in magic, to witness a very remarkable box-trick on New York Bay. The box, in which Houdini was ‘packed for export’ was dumped into the water. In exactly a minute and ten seconds Houdini emerged from the water, swimming toward the lifeboat which had been provided. The act was witnessed by thousands of spectators who crowded the decks of three ferryboats.”

Collisions at Sea “The wreck of the ‘Titanic’ was a severe and painful shock to us all; many of us lost friends and acquaintances by this dreadful catastrophe. I asked myself: ‘Has Science reached the end of its tether? Is there no possible means of avoiding such a deplorable loss of life and property? Thousands of ships have been lost by running ashore in a fog, hundreds by collisions with other ships or with icebergs, nearly all resulting in great loss of life and property.’ At the end of four hours it occurred to me that ships could be provided with what might be appropriately called a sixth sense, which would detect large objects in their immediate vicinity. —Sir Hiram Maxim”

Maxim's concept anticipated SONAR.

July 1862

Rabies Danger “The most effectual means of preventing dogs biting, and thereby communicating the disease, seems to be muzzling them. M. Renault, the distinguished veterinarian, states that the assertion that muzzling dogs, by the constraint it produces, is itself a cause of rabies, is utterly unsupported by any well-established facts. On the other hand, he points out the results which have been obtained in Berlin. When in 1854 the muzzling was ordered and strictly executed upon all dogs not tied up, the Berlin Veterinary School verified from 1854 to 1861 only nine cases have occurred, and none of these since 1856.”

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

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