February 1965

Planetwide Tinkering
“The American Association for the Advancement of Science Committee on Science in the Promotion of Human Welfare report, entitled ‘The Integrity of Science,’ was specifically critical of failures to evaluate ahead of time the broad effects of scientific experiments or technological innovations. On these grounds it cited the widespread use of pesticides and detergents without preliminary tests of their effects on environmental pollution. Two major American military projects came in for similar criticism: Project Starfish, a high-altitude nuclear explosion above the Pacific Ocean, and Project West Ford, an attempt to orbit millions of tiny copper needles as a reflecting layer for military communications. ‘Science has developed powers of unprecedented intensity and world scale,’ the committee wrote. ‘The entire planet can now serve as a scientific laboratory.’”

February 1915

Coast-to-Coast Telephone
“Thirty-nine years ago, in his bedroom in a Boston boarding house, Alexander Graham Bell picked up a crude telephone transmitter and cried: ‘Mr. Watson, come here; I want you’; Thomas A. Watson, in the adjoining room, listening at the other end of the wire, heard the first sentence ever transmitted by telephone and, full of excitement, burst into the bedroom to congratulate his associate. Last week, over the same wire, and with a replica of the old instrument, Dr. Bell again called up Mr. Watson. But this time Bell was in New York, in the office of the president of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company, and a whole continent separated him from his former associate, in San Francisco.”

Puzzling Sunshine
“Three different hypotheses have been advanced to explain how the sun has for ages been emitting substantially the same quantity of heat, viz.: by chemical reaction, by intra atomic energy (such as is exhibited by radium), and by the attraction of gravitation. Some precise calculations based upon recent data seem to indicate that the last theory, advanced by Helmholtz, is the one that is most tenable. The energy produced by mass falling on the surface of the sun may be calculated as four hundred times less than necessary for the maintenance of solar heat. Hence, there is but one hypothesis left—that of the generation of heat by the contraction of the sun itself; and this alone can and must account for all the heat the sun is radiating.”

X-rays for War Work
“Though X-ray work has, even in normal times, become so valuable an aid to the medical practitioner that no up-to-date hospital can do without it, it is even more useful and necessary in warfare. Whenever, for instance, the shape and position of a projectile in the body of a patient are to be ascertained, Roentgen photography will quickly give all the desired information. Special transportable Roentgen outfits have been perfected for army hospitals installed at halting places, which generally remain stationary for some time. Beside the X-ray generator, these comprise a current generator, mostly a gasoline dynamo, so as to be independent of any electric installation.—By the Berlin correspondent of the Scientific American

February 1865

Fighting Smallpoxwith Cows
“At Naples they vaccinate directly from the cow. The subject has been seriously taken up in Paris, and it is estimated that a good commercial speculation can be made of it. A cow, it is said, will produce 100 pustules each, at 5 francs each, bringing in 500 francs, the cow suffering no deterioration in value. The practice is greatly recommended by the safety it ensures that no other contagion will be communicated along with the cowpox. Smallpox is rather prevalent in and around Paris, and people are becoming anxious on the subject.”