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100 Years Ago: The Flight of the Zeppelin II

Innovation and discovery as chronicled in past issues of Scientific American

JUNE 1959
SELF-REPRODUCTION— “The construction of a machine capable of building itself might be judged to be impossible and to belong to the category of perpetual-motion engines. Together with Roger Pen­rose, I have approached the problem in a radical manner, without the encumbrance of prefabricated units such as wheels and photoelectric cells. Our idea was to design and, if possible, to construct simple units or bricks with such properties that a self-reproducing machine could be built out of them. —L. S. Penrose”

SPACE MENU— “The problems of eating and drinking under weightless conditions in space, long a topic of speculation among science-fiction writers, are now under investigation in a flying laboratory. Preliminary results indicate that space travelers will drink from plastic squeeze bottles and that space cooks will specialize in semi­liquid preparations resembling baby food. According to a report in the Journal of Aviation Medicine, almost all the volunteers found that drinking from an open container was a frustrating and exceedingly messy process. Under weightless conditions even a slowly lifted glass of water was apt to project an amoeba-like mass of fluid onto the face. Drinking from a straw was hardly more satisfactory. Bubbles of air remained suspended in the weightless water, and the subjects ingested more air than water.”

JUNE 1909
WRITERS NEEDED— “Moving pictures are exhibited in about ten thousand theaters and halls in the United States. With the rapid spread of this new amusement has also come a marked change in the public taste. Spectators were once quite content with a view of factory employees going to and from their work, the arrival and departure of railway trains, and similar scenes. Nowadays, a more or less coherent story must be unfolded, for which reason the makers of moving pictures have been compelled to write plays (or at least to conceive them) and to have them acted before the camera.”

WAY UP HIGH IN THE SKY— “The illustration which appears below will give the reader an excellent idea of the general construction of the latest Zeppelin airship ‘Zeppelin II’ [also designated LZ 5], which recently made a record flight of about 900 miles. The airship consists of a trussed aluminium frame having tapered ends, containing 17 separate gas bags filled with hydrogen. The lifting power of the airship is about 16 tons. Plans are on foot for the establishment of a regular airship line between several of the large German cities.”

SNAIL LAW— “The French Minister of Agriculture, after a careful examination of the subject, has established ‘the legal status of the snail’ by defining snails as animals injurious to vegetation, and therefore legally subject to capture and destruction at all times and seasons. This decision has created dismay among the numerous persons who earn a livelihood by collecting snails for market. Snails are in high favor with French epicures, and immense numbers of these mollusks are eaten in Paris. In the winter of 1900 the consumption of snails in the French capital amounted to some 800 tons.”

JUNE 1859
SAFE AND FORGOTTEN— “The benefits arising from constructing vessels with water-tight compartments were fully displayed in the case of the iron screw-steamship, Edinburgh, which plies between New York City and Glasgow. On the 6th of June, when 186 miles east of St. Johns, Newfoundland [350 miles north of where the RMS Titanic sank 53 years later], she struck an iceberg while in a dense fog, and her forward plates were stoved in by the collision. Being divided into water-tight compartments, two of these at once filled up, but the others floated the vessel for thirty hours, during which period she ran back to St. Johns. Had this vessel not been built in compartments she would have sunk to the bottom in half an hour after she struck.”

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