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Tool-Making Chimps; Peaceful Competition in Europe



AUTOMOTIVE CRAFTSMANSHIP: Workers in a French firm build up car bodies from wood and wire netting as a base for plaster, 1914


SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, VOL. CXI, NO. 1; JULY 4, 1914

July 1964

Picturephone “By this month it should be possible for a New Yorker, a Chicagoan or a Washingtonian to communicate with someone in one of the other cities by televised telephoning. The device he would use is called a Picturephone and is described by the American Telephone and Telegraph Company, which developed it, as ‘the first dialable visual telephone system with an acceptable picture that has been brought within the range of economic feasibility.’ A desktop unit includes a camera and a screen that is 4 ⅜ inches wide and 5 ¾ inches high. AT&T says it cannot hope to provide the service to homes or offices at present, one reason being that the transmission of a picture requires a bandwidth that would accommodate 125 voice-only telephones.”

Toolmaking Chimps “Jane Goodall of the University of Cambridge has reported in Nature her observations of toolmaking and tool-using among wild chimpanzees over a three-year period in a Tanganyika reserve. The most frequently observed behavior involved the chimpanzees' making probes out of twigs six inches to a foot long by stripping off leaves with their hands or lips. The probes were then pushed into holes in termite nests. When a probe was withdrawn, a few termites that had seized it were eaten. Immature animals frequently watched their elders at work and imitated their actions. She concludes that the chimpanzee population of the reserve is transmitting a series of primitive cultural traditions from one generation to the next.”

July 1914

How Mighty Is the Pen? “A peaceful competition of peoples is taking place this year, for the benefit of civilization and the profit of mankind. The International Exposition of Book Trade and the Graphic Arts at Leipzig, Germany, may fitly be called a symposium of human education; it unfolds before our eyes the history of culture, man's own history, giving an insight into the intellectual evolution of nations, the rise from darkness, superstition, and ignorance to light and joy, education, knowledge, and understanding.”

Electric Hand Dryer “Agitation for the suppression of the roller or common towel for public use has swept over the entire country, as it is considered a menace to public health. The common towel was succeeded by the paper towel. Now the last word in economical and sanitary innovations is the ‘air towel’ used in the large public lavatory in the District Building at Washington, D.C. This ‘air towel,’ or electric hand dryer, is the invention of John M. Ward [patent no. US1108285], superintendent of the District Building. The device consists of a blower that forces air through an electric heating element to ducts and deflectors suitably placed.”

Crafting Cars “A French firm of car manufacturers makes its car bodies by a novel process of plastering, or maybe we should say modeling; for it requires more skill than that of the common plasterer. The framework of the car is made of wood, and on this wire netting is tacked, as shown in our illustration. Then the modeler begins operations with palette and trowel, daubing the wire netting with the plastic material. After the coating has set, it may be dressed down with a plane and sandpaper, just like wood. It is claimed for the new process that a very light and durable body is obtained.”

July 1864

Mummy Wheat “There is a popular belief, according to which wheat found in the ancient sepulchres of Egypt will not only germinate after the lapse of three thousand years, but produce ears of extraordinary size and beauty. The question is undecided; but Antonio Figari-Bey's paper, addressed to the Egyptian Institute at Alexandria, appears much in favor of a negative solution. One kind of wheat which Figari-Bey employed for his experiments had been found in Upper Egypt, at the bottom of a tomb at Medinet-Aboo. The form of the grains had not changed, but their color, both without and within, had become reddish, as if they had been exposed to smoke. On being sown in moist ground, on the ninth day their decomposition was complete. No trace of any germination could be discovered.”

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

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