July 1967

End of the “Monkey Law”

“Tennessee's ‘monkey law’ prohibiting the teaching of evolution in the state's public schools has been repealed. The law was adopted in 1925 and led later that year to the celebrated test case involving John T. Scopes, William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow. The 11-day trial became a bitter contest between religious fundamentalism and biological theory; the judge held, however, that only evidence on whether or not Scopes had taught evolution was admissible, and Scopes was convicted. The conviction was reversed on a technicality, but the law was permitted to stand. In April of this year the lower house of the Tennessee legislature voted to repeal the statute; in May the Senate agreed and the governor approved the repeal.”

Random-Access Memory

“Since the early 1950s the standard random-access memory has been provided by an array of tiny ring-shaped cores made of a ferrite, an easily magnetized material. In its simplest form the array of cores is threaded by 2n ‘word’ conductors in one direction and by m ‘digit’ conductors in the other. Each core can hold one bit of information, which is stored in terms of the direction of imposed magnetization; in other words, the core ‘remembers’ the direction of the effective magnetizing current sent through it last. The cores are wired into arrays by painstaking handwork with only rudimentary mechanical aids.

“The situation is somewhat ironic: the heart of the computer, which itself is the symbol of mechanization, is made by the age-old kind of labor that produced brocades and carpets. Made as they are, the core arrays have provided reliable, fast random-access memories for practically all computers in use today. At the same time one principal goal has been to produce ‘integrated’ memories—memories in which the active elements and their connections are mechanically fabricated in a unitary process.”

July 1917

Night Flight

“It has been suggested to maintain an aerial patrol along the routes followed by shipping, seaplanes and dirigibles taking their supplies of bombs and fuel from mother ships of the class officially known as ‘seaplane carriers’ [see illustration for a seaplane night landing]. With hundreds of aircraft constantly in the air and covering a wide expanse of water, it should be possible to make it extremely dangerous for any U-boat to show itself above the surface during daylight; and at night large seaplanes equipped with searchlights could make it almost as dangerous for submarines to rest on the surface while charging their batteries.”

July 1867

Sweet Tooth

“In 1860, in Great Britain, the average consumption of sugar was 34 lbs. for each inhabitant. In Belgium, though coffee is usually drunk without sweetening, 21 pounds of that sugar is disposed of yearly for each inhabitant. Among the peasantry of Russia sugar must be an unknown luxury, or at least its use by the people must be confined to Holy days and Festivals, for the consumption per head is but 2 pounds a year. Next to the British, the people of the United States use more sugar than any other nation in the world; and if the consumption of molasses and syrup were added—fully 21/2 gallons for every man, woman and child—to that of sugar, it would be found that the free use of saccharine food was far greater among us than with our transatlantic friends.”

French Laundry

“The soiled linen of the Grand Hotel, the Hôtel du Louvre, the Grand Café, and other hotels and cafés in Paris, is washed at the rate of 40,000 pieces a day, at the Blanchisserie de Courcelles, three miles or so from the St. Lazare terminus of the Western Railway. The linen is boiled with soap and soda and then washed in hollow wheels, rinsed, partly dried by centrifugal machines, and for the rest in hot-air ovens, which carry off nearly three pounds of moisture per pound of coal burnt, and is finally ironed between polished rollers, and then packed ready for return to Paris.”