February 1963

Smug Prosperity
“U.S. citizens—known for their material prosperity and a certain smug contentment in it—may be surprised to learn that samplings of public opinion in West Germany, Brazil and Cuba have shown that the peoples of these countries are even more buoyant about their recent progress and more hopeful of the future. Americans may be chastened as well to learn that these peoples also identify their personal wellbeing more closely with the fortunes of their countries. These very general statements represent the first findings of an experimental effort to develop a technique for making comparative studies, across national boundaries, of the concerns and aspirations of people around the world. —Hadley Cantril”

February 1913

Death of Scott
“In the desolate, icy waste of an unexplored Antarctic country Capt. Robert Falcon Scott gave up his life, after having reached the South Pole. He died a true hero of science. There was no buried treasure to seek in those untrodden southern snows—nothing but everlasting fame. Only those who are engaged in scientific research can understand the ideals of a man who willingly cuts himself off from the world for a period of three years and perishes in a blizzard—for what? For meteorological information, for geological data, for light on the fauna and flora of a cold, white, silent land that will probably never be peopled, in a word, for things that are infinitely removed from gold hunting.”

Paintings at Altamira
“Why should the primitive artists of the paleolithic paintings at Altamira have chosen to decorate the darker recesses of their dwellings, rather than practice their art where the light of the sun would have helped them? It seems probable that the paintings were made not for the love of beauty, or to ‘show the hand’ of paleolithic Giottos, but with strictly business aims. They were, in fact, primitive pot-boilers, done to supply the larder with material. One hypothesis is that the paleolithic man of Southern Gaul and Northern Spain believed in his own paintings of deer, boars, aurochs, horses (considered good eating) and mammoths as potent to attract the animals themselves.”

Airplane Stability
“The most recent machine having automatic stability is the Drzewiecki following-surface monoplane [see illustration], which was exhibited at the last Paris Salon. This machine is of the Langley type. Its chief point of interest is that the wings are set at a 3-degree difference. The result is the production of righting forces that counteract diving and keep the machine on an even keel. The machine was designed as the result of experiments made in the Eiffel aerodynamic laboratory.”

See a slide show of aviation in 1913 at www.ScientificAmerican.com/feb2013/aviation

February 1863

Shocking Statistics
“The suicides in France now average ten a day. Not a day passes in which a suicide may not be directly traced to want of success in life; to the false moralities inculcated by wicked or ignorant writers; to the failure of parents in obtaining a proper influence over their children; and to unrestrained appetites and passions.”

Good Eats in Iceland
“In Iceland daily food consists chiefly of raw, dried stockfish and ‘skier.’ The latter dish is milk allowed to become acid and coagulate, and then hung up in a bag till the whey runs off. In this form it is both nutritive and wholesome, being more easily digested than sweet milk. To those who take to it, it is light, palatable, and delightfully cooling. Milk is prepared in this way by Shetlanders, who, in the first stage, call it ‘run milk,’ and when made into skier, ‘hung milk.’ Our idea, that milk is useless and hurtful when sour, is merely an ignorant prejudice. Those who depend for their subsistence chiefly on a milk diet prefer to use it sour, and medical authority endorses their choice.”