October 1960

Jab Fight “By next spring a live-virus vaccine against poliomyelitis will be in limited but regular use in the U.S. Licenses will be granted to manufacturers, as each qualifies, for commercial production of the vaccine developed by Albert B. Sabin of the University of Cincinnati. The licensing of the Sabin vaccine caps 10 years of heated controversy between supporters of live-virus vaccines and those who have favored killed-virus vaccines of the Salk type. Advocates of live-virus vaccines have contended that a vaccine containing living polio viruses attenuated to eliminate risk of paralysis would give longer lasting, more certain protection against paralytic polio than a killed vaccine, and that live-virus vaccine would be simpler to administer because it can be given by mouth. (The Salk preparation must be injected.)”

NOTE: The Sabin version became the standard vaccine in the U.S. for the next four decades. As of about 2000, however, an updated version of the Salk vaccine is currently the only one given.

October 1910

Racing Airplane “It is possible to predict with some degree of certainty the leading characteristics of the aeroplane of the future which will be built purely for racing purposes. The speed of the aeroplane in straight-away flight has risen during the past year from 50 to 75 miles an hour. In answer to the question as to what speed may be expected from a machine of this general design, we think that in view of its sweetness of form, the complete absence of wires, struts and other energy consuming surfaces, and because of the smoothness of the steel surface of its skin, it is conservative to expect from such a machine speeds of from 100 to 125 miles an hour.”

NOTE: This article is available in full on the Web at www.ScientificAmerican.com/oct2010

Wasted Seaweed

“It is evident that seaweeds are not quite as useless as they are usually supposed to be. Japan alone among nations prevents the exhaustion of its seaweed resources, and engages in ‘seaweed farming’ in order to supply the demand for certain species. Experimental planting on a small scale has been undertaken by the government, with encouraging results. In other sections of the coast seaweeds are extensively ‘planted,’ the variety employed being the red laver (Porphyra laciniata). This is manufactured into a great variety of food products. Its cultivation is one of the most profitable branches of agriculture.”

October 1860

End of the Earth “Encke's comet, which revolves about the sun in 3½ years, has been observed to complete its revolution in a constantly shortening period, showing that it is being drawn inward towards the sun. This fact has led to the general conclusion that the planets are moving in a resisting medium, far more attenuated than our atmosphere, but still sufficient to affect their motions. It follows by strict necessity that our earth and its sister orbs are all winding spirally towards the sun, and that they must eventually strike against it and become incorporated with its mass. The time required for this fate belongs to those inconceivable periods with which geology and astronomy have to deal.”

Against Homework

“A child who has been boxed up six hours in school might spend the next four hours in study, but it is impossible to develop the child's intellect in this way. The laws of nature are inexorable. By dint of great and painful labor, the child may succeed in repeating a lot of words, like a parrot, but, with the power of its brain all exhausted, it is out of the question for it to really master and comprehend its lessons. The effect of the system is to enfeeble the intellect even more than the body. We never see a little girl staggering home under a load of books, or knitting her brow over them at eight o'clock in the evening, without wondering that our citizens do not arm themselves at once with carving knives, pokers, clubs, paving stones or any weapons at hand, and chase out the managers of our common schools, as they would wild beasts that were devouring their children.”