ADVERTISEMENT
See Inside January 2009

100 Years Ago: Inaccurately Explaining Earthquakes

Innovation and discovery as chronicled in past issues of Scientific American

More In This Article

JANUARY 1959
A VOICE FROM THE SCOPES TRIAL— “‘This is Clarence Darrow,’ said the voice at the other end of the wire, ‘I suppose you have been reading the papers, so you know Bryan and his outfit are prosecuting that young fellow Scopes. Well, Malone, Colby and I have put ourselves in a mess by offering to defend. We don’t know much about evolution. We don’t know whom to call as witnesses. But we do know we are fighting your battle for academic freedom. We need the help of you fellows at the University, so I am asking three of you to come to my office to help lay plans.’

That afternoon in Darrow’s office three of us from the University of Chicago—Horatio Hackett Newman, professor of biology; Shailer Mathews, dean of the Divinity School; and I—met to outline the strategy for what turned out to be one of the most publicized trials of the century. —Fay-Cooper Cole”

[NOTE: In 1925 Cole was an anthropologist at Chicago who wrote the 1959 article "A Witness to the Scopes Trial"]

THE ATOMIC NUCLEUS— “In fact the trouble in the recent past has been a surfeit of different models [of the nucleus], each of them successful in explaining the behavior of nuclei in some situations, and each in apparent contradiction with other successful models or with our ideas about nuclear forces. In the past few years great progress has been made in bringing some order into this confusion and in understanding the justification for each of the models in the domain to which it is properly applied. A picture thus emerges in which the various, apparently contradictory, models of the nucleus are seen as consistent parts of a whole, each appropriate for answering certain questions about the behavior of nuclei. —R. E. Peierls”

JANUARY 1909
WHY EARTHQUAKES?— “In all probability, an earthquake is one of the necessary consequences of the gradual cooling of the earth. As terrestrial heat is gradually declining through its radiation out into space, it follows that the bulk of the earth must be gradually shrinking. Accordingly the crust of the earth has from time to time to accommodate itself to the fact that the whole globe is slowly but surely getting smaller. Even a slight displacement of one extensive surface over another would be accompanied by violence greatly exceeding that which we might expect from so small a displacement, resulting in the wholesale destruction of houses, villages, and even large cities, and infrequently great sacrifice of human life.”

WOOD FOR THE IRON HORSE— “So serious is becoming the question of supplying ties for our railroads, that the Santa Fe system recently sent its manager of the timber and tie department on a tour to the Orient and Europe, to make a study of conditions. It was learned, among other things, that three hundred years ago the Japanese government began to conserve its forests; and that, as a result of its foresight, Japan is now selling ties to railroads in this country and Mexico. That we should be paying a twenty per cent import duty on ties is one among many constantly accumulating evidences of the thoughtless extravagance with which our magnificent timber supply has been ruthlessly swept away.”

JANUARY 1859
WHAT USE ARE COMETS?— “The question of the utility of comets has always held a conspicuous place. S. W. Fullom, well known as the author of some pleasant books, suggests a use for comets in his ‘Marvels of Science’: Descartes, Euler, and many others believed that there is a subtle media pervading all space, which they called ‘ether,’ and which forms the ocean in which the planets and fixed stars swim. In this media the comets act as scavengers, preventing any accumulations of ether, and keeping it in such a proper and equable state of tenuity that the forces of nature, as gravity, electricity, and light, always act with regularity and precision.”

Rights & Permissions
Share this Article:

Comments

You must sign in or register as a ScientificAmerican.com member to submit a comment.
Scientific American MIND iPad

Give a Gift & Get a Gift - Free!

Give a 1 year subscription as low as $14.99

Subscribe Now >>

X

Email this Article

X