July 1963

Laser Bloom
“The latest device to fascinate the technical community is the optical maser, or, as it is now often called, the laser. By conservative estimate about 500 research groups are engaged in laser development and exploitation in the U.S. alone. Much of this effort is directed toward the use of laser beams in communication systems. The amount of information that can be carried by a communication channel is proportional to its frequency, and in principle the visible region of the spectrum between the wavelengths of 4,000 and 7,000 angstrom units could accommodate 80 million television channels. —Arthur L. Schawlow”

The author shared the 1981 Nobel Prize in Physics.

True or False?
“A warning against the increasing and largely unrestricted application of lie-detector techniques in business and industry has been issued by a psychiatrist and a psychologist at the University of Virginia. The polygraph merely measures involuntary responses. It cannot determine whether the response was stimulated by conscious deception or by a factor which might be unconsciously motivated. Yet an examiner usually seeks to impress the subject with the idea that the machine ‘can't be beat’ and so to encourage confessions, he ‘uses deception in his effort to detect deception.’ The authors conclude that lie-detector tests ‘should be carefully and continually scrutinized, lest we find that George Orwell's 1984 is upon us.’”

July 1913

Eve of War
“Germany has devoted most time, money, and skilled research to the development of the various types of the dirigible; France, to that of the aeroplane, or avion, in all its forms. A similar comparison as to aeroplanes and trained pilots shows France to be much superior to Germany; and it is also stated that though the French machines are frailer looking, they are much better constructed than the German ones, which are still too heavy. Obviously, then, in case of war there would be a contest between German dirigibles and French aeroplanes—like battleships and torpedo boats.”

For a slide show on weapons and warfare from our archives of 1913, see www.ScientificAmerican.com/jul2013/warfare

July 1863

Salt Mine
“It appears from scientific investigation that the salt deposit at New Iberia, Louisiana, is of the most extensive and wonderful description. For vastness and purity it is unequaled on the globe. One account says: ‘Imagine, if you can, the granite quarry of Massachusetts or the marble quarry of Vermont to be solid deposits of pure rock salt, clean and transparent as so much clear white ice, in one solid, inexhaustible mass, underlying the earth.’”

The rock salt mine on Avery Island, Louisiana, yielded more than 10,000 tons of salt for the Confederacy.

Sleep Technology
“The engraving represents an improved mode of constructing spring beds; Letters Patent have been granted. In point of economy, ease, and durability these beds are unsurpassed. It is confidently asserted that they will last fifty years.”

Letter from Mr. Fix-It
“Messrs. Editors: All machinery requires attention, and occasional ‘fixing’; and the women are not good at such work. Every now and then it is: ‘John, I wish you would look at that sewing machine’; or ‘John, that wringer has something wrong about it’; and so on. Well, the only way to meet that is to buy the very best machinery; you will then have little trouble. Some churls may say: ‘I won't buy so-and-so; what else have the women got to do? Let them work!’ All I have to say to such is that I hate to see the women of the family borne down with the fatigue of severe labor; and if it is a little troublesome to fix machinery for them, I for one am content to endure that trouble. —John Gray”