December 1967

X-ray Stars

“In the five years since Scorpius X-I was discovered a total of about 30 X-ray stars, or at least sources of X radiation, have been detected in rocket surveys. A general, diffuse background of X rays in space has also been observed. About a dozen rockets have been flown on these missions, and the total observing time so far adds up to only one hour (five minutes being available in each flight). Technical means and devices that are just over the horizon will soon enable us to study the X-ray stars in much greater detail. For one thing, before long the instruments will be installed in satellites rather than in short-lived rockets. —Riccardo Giacconi”

Giacconi was a co-winner of the 2002 Nobel Prize in Physics.

Bacterial Resistance

“Until recently it was assumed that the appearance of drug-resistant bacteria was the result of a predictable process: the spontaneous mutation of a bacterium to drug resistance and the selective multiplication of the resistant strain in the presence of the drug. In actuality a more ominous phenomenon is at work. It is called infectious drug resistance, and it is a process whereby the genetic determinants of resistance to a number of drugs are transferred together and at one stroke from a resistant bacterial strain to another bacterial strain, of the same species or a different species, that was previously drug-sensitive, or susceptible to the drug's effect. Since its discovery in Japan in 1959 it has been detected in many countries.”

December 1917

Film for Movies

“A grain of dust, a slight variation in a chemical solution, an impure water supply, an otherwise insignificant fluctuation in the voltage of the current supply of the printing lamps, a trifling rise or fall in the temperature, an inconsiderable shrinkage of the film—all these factors can mark the difference between a clean, clear and steady picture on the motion-picture screen and a spotty, indistinct, and jumpy film unfit for use. Which means that once the film leaves the camera, the work of the actors, director and cameraman is entirely in the hands of the laboratory staff. Our color image shows the celluloid strips after they are sent to the drying room. Here they are wound on huge wood or metal drums which are revolved at a fair speed.”

December 1867

Caribbean Tsunami

“‘Sir: I have to state, with deep regret, that the United States steamship Monongahela, under my command, is now lying on the beach in front of the town of Frederickstadt, St. Croix, where she was thrown by the most fearful earthquake ever known here. The first indication we had of the earthquake was a violent trembling of the ship, resembling the blowing off of steam. This lasted some 30 seconds, and immediately afterward the water was observed to be receding rapidly from the beach. When the sea returned, in the form of a wall of water 25 or 30 feet high, it carried us over the warehouses into the first street of the town. This wave in receding took her back toward the beach, and left her nearly perpendicular on the edge of a coral reef. Providentially only four men were lost.’ —S. B. Bissell, Commodore Commanding”

The U.S.S. Monongahela, a 2,078-ton steam-powered, propeller-driven sloop, was refloated six months later.

Wouldn't It Be Luvverly?

“Riding downtown these cold mornings in the horse cars, the unpleasant sensation of chilled feet reminds us of the plan adopted in France to keep the feet of car passengers warm. This is accomplished by inserting a flattened iron tube along the bottom of the car. When the car leaves the depot, this tube is filled with hot water from a boiler kept heated for the purpose. This water retains heat, generally, for about two hours. We would be glad to see this plan introduced here. But it is not to be expected that our city railroad companies will do anything for the comfort of their passengers, while without such trouble they continue to reap rich harvests. Very likely the idea of loading a lot of hot water upon their cars for passengers to stand upon, would strike them as a good joke. Their poor, broken down, spavined horses, could not stand any additional load.”