1966

Josephson Effect

“Four years ago Brian D. Josephson, a young graduate student in physics at the University of Cambridge, made a startling prediction. On the basis of a purely theoretical analysis of the phenomenon of superconductivity (the abrupt disappearance of electrical resistance in certain substances at temperatures near absolute zero), Josephson came to the conclusion that in principle a ‘supercurrent’ consisting of correlated pairs of electrons could be made to flow across an insulating gap between two superconducting bodies, provided that the gap was small enough. He further suggested that this ‘tunneling’ of electron pairs through an insulator could take two forms, which have come to be known as the Josephson effects. Both forms have been observed in recent experiments.”

Josephson shared the 1973 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work.

Indicting Detroit

“Book review: Unsafe at Any Speed: The Designed-In Dangers of the American Automobile, by Ralph Nader. Grossman Publishers ($5.95). For decades we have followed the policy that greater automobile safety was to be achieved primarily by campaigns of driving legislation, law enforcement, technical education and moral exhortation. This view has had, and for many it still has, the force of an ideological commitment. Nader's book can be described as an analysis and a critique of this ideology. It is an adversary work that points an accusing finger at the automobile manufacturers, charging them with indifference, callous-ness and arrogance in the face of genuine possibilities of safer automobile design. In his conclusion Nader advocates publicly defined and Federally enforced standards of safety in design and manufacture, supported by continuous research. —David Hawkins”

1916

News from the War

“After almost five months of siege the British forces under General Townshend at Kut el Amara, in Mesopotamia, have been compelled to surrender. This force, which originally constituted the flying column which attempted to take Baghdad, was reduced at the time of surrender to something less than 10,000 men. Shrinking to this almost negligible number of men was brought about by losses incurred during the advance on Baghdad, the retirement from the battle of Ctesiphon and the subsequent investment of Kut. General Townshend's surrender was primarily caused by lack of food, ammunition, and the dearth of equipment to meet sanitary needs.”

The defenders lost Kut despite being the first in the history of warfare to be resupplied by aircraft.

1866

Technology for Farming

“A regular and steady demand exists for good agricultural implements. Farmers are always looking out for those which are really durable and advantageous to them, and they seem willing, to judge from the quantities of all varieties sold, to give them a fair trial. In this engraving [see illustration] we have shown a new fodder cutter (for cutting up animal feed) recently introduced in the West [in this case, Richmond, Ind.]. It is substantially made and capable of being repaired by any ordinary mechanic or blacksmith, should an accident happen to it.”

A slide show of more great ideas from 1866 is at www.ScientificAmerican.com/may2016/inventions

Bad Air

“The steamship Virginia arrived at this port recently with a large number of passengers on the sick list. She was immediately put in quarantine, the sick cared for and isolated from the city until cured. Investigations made by the proper officers show that none of the passengers came from ports infected with cholera, and that it was not until some eight days after the departure of the Virginia from Liverpool, that disease broke out on board. It appears that the ventilation was so defective that the passengers suffered greatly, and being enfeebled by bad air and insufficient food, were especially liable to attack. It seems passing strange that with all the modern appliances for obtaining fresh air and creating a thorough circulation in apartments, that so little attention is paid to it. The loss to the owners by the detention of their vessel amounts to a large sum, and if not for humanity then for the pocket's sake, a little more interest in the welfare of the steerage passengers would pay.”