December 1966

Noise

“The noises of our daily life have been blamed variously for the high divorce rate, social conflict, indigestion and other organic disabilities, nervous breakdown, high blood pressure, heart failure and even insanity. Most of these allegations arise from overvivid imaginations. Studies of the annoyance effect have been conducted among people living in noisy areas: in central London, near the London airport and in several U.S. cities, some of them near military air bases. About a fourth of the inhabitants apparently are able to live happily next to elevated railroads, trucking routes, airplane flight paths and other loud noise sources. At the other extreme, about a tenth of those interviewed seem to be disturbed by almost any noise not of their own making.”

December 1916

Thomas Alva Edison: An Interview on Labor

“‘Americans have a way of blundering into high efficiency. Take, for instance, our low-priced automobiles—they are something that Europe cannot understand. We pay more for labor, but an American laborer is worth more than a foreign laborer. Psychologists would do well to study the mental equations of different countries. When I went through Europe I took the personal equations of the men. In France they were quicker to pay attention to my automobile horn than in any other country. In Switzerland you could nearly run a man down before he heard the horn. It represents the peculiar mental state of the people.’”

Hog Cholera

“‘Hog’ is a term of derision or contempt, by the man in the city. But the farmer calls his hogs ‘mortgage-lifters,’ because the revenue derived from swine raising is responsible for much of farming prosperity. At the present time there are 68,047,000 hogs in the United States. Their value is $571,890,000. The average loss annually, due to hog cholera, during the last forty years is estimated at not less than $40,000,000. A series of experiments looking to the eventual control of hog cholera by quarantine, sanitary measures, and preventive serum treatment, extended during 1914, 1915 and 1916, has demonstrated the possibility of saving from 85 to 90 per cent of the animals.”

Urban Snow Removal

“The problems of snow fighting in New York City are considered long in advance by the Department of Street Cleaning, just as the General Staff of an army develops its strategy and plans campaigns long before war is declared. Where motor trucks with plows are not employed, the gangs of emergency men with scrapers do similar work, shoving masses of snow [see illustration]. Motor-driven snow plows are attached to the front of five-ton trucks. The large fleet of tractors employed for garbage removal is suitable for this task.”

For a look at urban engineering in 1916, see the slide show at www.ScientificAmerican.com/dec2016/urban-engineering

December 1866

Ice Skates for Fun

“That skating has become a fashionable exercise, is evident from the following statements as to the materials consumed during the present year, in one skate factory at Worcester, Mass.: two tons of brass, 5,000 gross of screws; 50,000 brass thimbles, 1,000 pounds of German silver, nearly six tons of rosewood, and ten tons of steel, worked up by 35 men and women into 25,000 pair of skates.”

Coat of Many Colors

“‘Never select colors in the evening,’ is an old maxim, whose value can be attested by many a disappointed purchaser, who, ignorant or disregarding this advice, and deeming himself the favored possessor of some tint of rare excellence, discovers on the return of daylight a color far from equalling his anticipations. The cause of this inconstancy is explained in a late article in the Photographic News. From the spectral analysis, we learn that the flames of our lamps or gas lights contain sodium, which, in burning, yields a yellow flame, as strontium gives a red, and iridium a blue flame. This flame alters the nature of colors, deepening the hues of some and extinguishing others.”