February 1961

Protein Structure
“Only when the structures of large numbers of proteins have been worked out will biochemists be in a position to answer many of the fundamental questions they have long been asking. It is well to point out that the chemical approach does not provide a complete solution to the problem of protein structure. The order of links in the chain is not the whole story. Each chain is coiled and folded in a three-dimensional pattern, no less important than the atom-by-atom sequence in determining its biological activity. Chemical methods can provide only a partial insight into this three-dimensional, or ‘tertiary’ structure. In the past few years the spatial problem has begun to yield to x-ray analysis. —William H. Stein and Stanford Moore”

Stein and Moore were awarded a share of the 1972 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their work on the complex protein ribonuclease.

Fail Safe
“‘Radar reflections from the moon set off a missile scare at the nation’s air defense centers on October 5,’ the Associated Press reported. ‘The incident ... occurred when computers at the Ballistic Missile Early Warning Station at Thule, Greenland, picked up radar signals it had bounced off the moon, 250,000 miles away.’ According to the Air Force, the dispatch continued, ‘the scare was only momentary, since a quick check turned up the error.... The Air Force said that its equipment had been adjusted to avert more such flurries.’”

February 1911

Inventors and Farmers
“In all the history of empire building there is no chapter to compare with that which tells the story of the development of the great West from a vast stretch of prairie, desert and primeval forest into the richest and most extensive agricultural empire in the world. The rapidity and completeness with which this transformation has been effected are chiefly due to the invention of agricultural machinery of wonderful precision and capacity. The mechanical engin­eer has at once simplified work and increased output from the farm.”

Rats and People
“In 1905 the Plague Research Commission was appointed to investigate the plague in India, and early turned its attention to the relationship of rat plague and human plague. Every outbreak of bubonic plague, when adequately investigated, was found to be associated with the disease among rats—the rat epizootic preceding the epidemic by an interval of ten to fourteen days. In Bombay the rat population is an enormous one. Mus decumanus (the brown or gray rat) swarming in the sewers, gullies and outhouses in the city, and Mus rattus (the black rat) living in countless numbers in the houses of the people—it may almost be said to be a domesticated animal.”

Read the article in full here.

February 1861

Pyrethrin Insecticides
“A vegetable powder, under the name of ‘Persian Insect Powder,’ has lately been introduced into the drug market, for the extermination of insects, vegetable parasites, &c. Until recently, the botanical source of this powder has not been known, except to its maker. For a number of years it was erroneously considered to be a native of Persia, but it has been traced beyond question by Dr. Koch, as having its origin in the Caucasian provinces, and to the contused blossoms and flowers of Pyrethrum roseum and Pyrethrum carneum. It is of a yellowish, gray color, perfectly odor­less, yet slightly irritating to the nostrils; at first almost tasteless, but afterwards leaving a burning sensation upon the tongue. As its effects for the destruction of bugs, roaches, parasites on delicate plants, &c. have been fully established, and it being otherwise harmless, its introduction into general use would be of great importance to families and horticulturists.”

Safe Fail
“The safe-key of the Revere Bank, Boston, with a million combinations, became disarranged recently, and the mechanical skill of the maker could not open it. Business was at a standstill. A gang of workmen were at last set to work to batter down the masonry.”