November 1965

Artificial Heart “Up to a very few years ago the goal of planting an artificial heart in the body was not recognized as a bona fide scientific effort worthy of support, and papers describing experiments in that endeavor were not accepted by scientific or medical societies. Within the past five years, however, all of that has changed. Experimental animals (dogs and calves) have been kept alive for many hours with an artificial pump substituted for the natural heart in the chest. Artificial hearts in various versions are now available to investigators in a number of laboratories. The National Heart Institute is supporting the work by giving contracts to industry for development of these devices.”

Gerrymandering “In Baker v. Carr, its historic decision of March, 1962, the U.S. Supreme Court implied that the Constitution precludes inequality of population between state legislative districts. The Court has partially spelled out its view of what ‘population equality’ is required: the apportionment of seats and districting in the state must be so arranged that the number of inhabitants per legislator in one district is substantially equal to the number of inhabitants per legislator in any other district in the same state. The arrangements for legislative representation in many states were soon demonstrated to be a wonderland of alleged inequities. The prize went to the state of Vermont, where it was found that the most populous district had 987 times more people than the least populous district.”

November 1915

Electric Railways “Representing the last word in the electrification of steam railroad lines, the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway is electrifying 440 miles of its transcontinental system in connection with its through service between Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul, Minneapolis and the Pacific north coast. The current for operating the locomotives on the opening stretch of the electrified railroad is derived from Montana water power.”

Detecting Buried Shells “When the erstwhile battlefields of Europe are reclaimed for the peaceful purposes of agriculture, there is an ever-present risk of death or serious injury to both the farmers and their horses as the result of plowshares coming in contact with buried shells that have failed to explode when fired. The instrument that has been devised by the French for the detection of buried shells is an adaptation of the Hughes induction balance. The original instrument was made by Professor C. Gutton at the request of the prefect of the Department of Meurthe-et-Moselle [in the Lorraine region], and with it the constructor was able to detect the presence of a small caliber shell at a depth of about 40 centimeters (nearly 16 inches).”

France and Belgium still clear hundreds of tons of unexploded ordnance a year from these century-old battlefields.

November 1865

Life in Other Solar Systems? “Professor Miller and Mr. Huggins have constructed an instrument with which they have compared the spectra of the moon and planets and some of the fixed stars, and even of the nebulae with the spectra of the principal metals. It is observed by the authors of these valuable communications ‘that the elements most widely diffused through the host of stars are some of them most closely connected with the constitution of the living organisms of our globe, including hydrogen, sodium, magnesium, and iron.’ On the whole, we believe that the foregoing spectrum observations on the stars contribute something toward an experimental basis on which a conclusion, hitherto but a pure speculation, may rest, viz.: that at least the brighter stars are, like our sun, upholding and energizing centers of systems of worlds adapted to be the abode of living beings.”