March 1963

Anxious Times

“Ours is said to be the age of anxiety. But what exactly is anxiety and how can it be measured? Sigmund Freud wrote much about anxiety but was content to fall back largely on introspection and semantics for its definition. He pointed to the solid distinction in his native language between Furcht (fear) and Angst (anxiety), and most psychologists have followed him in considering anxiety to be quite different from fear. Theorists from one U.S. school of learning would have us consider anxiety as being the main drive to action. Almost in polar opposition to this view of anxiety as the effective mover is the clinical view expressed by Frank M. Berger (who discovered the chemical that led to the tranquilizer meprobamate) that anxiety is a disorganizer of effective action. Related to this disorganization concept is the psychoanalytic view that anxiety is the central problem in neurosis. In looser thinking this often degenerates into the notion that anxiety and neurosis are synonymous, with the result that people with a high anxiety level are treated as neurotics. —Raymond B. Cattell”

March 1913

Heike Kamerlingh Onnes

“Lowering of resistance by extremely low temperatures in recently reported experiments of a Dutch investigator have gone far to confirm the theory that the electrical resistance of all conductors would be reduced to zero by cooling the conductors to the absolute zero of temperature. By boiling liquid helium in a partial vacuum a temperature of only three degrees above the absolute zero was attained. At this temperature the resistance of mercury was found to be only one ten millionth as great as at zero Centigrade.”

Police and Thieves

“It is reported that a Washington city policeman profiting by his experience in connection with stolen automobiles, has invented a lock for automobiles for application in the ignition circuit in such manner as to form a part of such circuit. The improved device is said to comprise a rotary electrical switch with which is combined a mechanical locking device. The insertion of any key other than the proper one will not permit the operation of the lock.”

March 1863

Steerable Balloon

“The only practical benefits yet derived from balloons have been those from experiments which the Government has instituted in military operations for observing the position of the enemy. Mr. Thomas L. Shaw, of Nebraska Territory, has been engaged in making experiments with serial machines, and thinks he has discovered a method by which he can control the direction of the balloon and move wheresoever he listeth [wants]. Our engraving represents his device. There is a fan or propeller at the stern of the balloon, which is to be worked by the aeronaut.”

For a slide show on inventors and warfare in 1863, see

Egyptian Astronomy

“The purpose for which the colossal pyramids of Egypt were erected has always been a subject of dispute among archaeologists. Were they tombs of kings, or observatories, or sun-dials? Were they erected as barriers against the sands of the desert, or were they mere granaries? Mahmoud Bey, astronomer to the Viceroy of Egypt, now explains the matter in a novel manner. In his opinion, founded on personal observation, the pyramids were devoted to a divinity having Sirius, the Dog-star, for its emblem. Among the ancient Egyptians the stars were the souls of innumerable divinities emanating from Ammon Ra, the Supreme Being. Sirius represented the dog-of-the-heavens, Sothis, who judged the dead, so that it was perfectly rational to devote the pyramids, considered as tombs, to the star Sirius.”

The Working Stiff

“The hours of labor exacted by some of the Brooklyn railroad companies are so many and the work is so severe that it is astonishing that men can perform the labor and live. The Brooklyn Central Railroad Company requires seventeen and a half hours of labor per day, and allows no time for procuring meals; the food necessary to sustain life being eaten in the cars. The compensation for conductors and drivers is $1.35 per day.”