February 1964

Danger from Tobacco
“‘Cigarette smoking is causally related to lung cancer in men; the magnitude of the effect of cigarette smoking far outweighs all other factors.’ This unqualified statement in the report issued January 11 by the Public Health Service answered a question that had been debated for more than a decade. The first large-scale statistical studies showing the harmfulness of cigarettes were published in 1954. In the nine years since these studies were reported, more than 300,000 Americans have died of lung cancer. Throughout the nine-year period the cigarette industry placed its faith in a single argument: A statistical association between cigarette smoking and disease does not prove a cause-and-effect relation.”

Danger from Movies
“It is possible to suggest that the observation of aggression is more likely to induce hostile behavior than to drain off aggressive inclinations; that, in fact, motion picture or television violence can stimulate aggressive actions by normal people as well as by those who are emotionally disturbed. I would add an important qualification: such actions by normal people will occur only under appropriate conditions. The experiments point to some of the conditions that might result in aggressive actions by people in an audience who had observed filmed violence. —Leonard Berkowitz”

Berkowitz is currently professor emeritus in psychology at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

February 1914

Existence of the Ether
“The notion of a universal medium, permeating all space, has undergone many vicissitudes. At the present time there are at least three theories: one considers the ether as an incompressible medium, very rigid and very dense; another considers it composed of particles much smaller than electrons; and the third denies its existence altogether and seeks to eradicate it from the list of physical theories. It is this last theory which gains more and more adherents day by day. And once more we see reappearing the mysterious, and rather terrifying, notion of the absolute ‘nothingness’ of outer space which one imagined to be successfully abolished by the introduction of the ether.”

Big Steel
“The writer recently had occasion to visit the works of the Illinois Steel Company at South Chicago, and was struck by the ‘safety first’ atmosphere that pervaded the whole works. Safety signs in five languages were set up at all points in the works where there was a possibility of accident. Not only that, but the men themselves seemed imbued with the safety spirit and enthusiastic in their support of safety methods. Our illustration shows a huge ladle containing fifty tons of molten metal.”

For a slide show on engineering with iron and steel in 1914, see www.ScientificAmerican.com/feb2014/steel-1914

February 1864

Politics of the Metric System
“English Toryism is up in arms at the proposition to introduce the decimal system of weights and measures in England. This proposition, which was earnestly urged upon the general consideration of Christendom at the recent National Congress, in Berlin, and in which the Hon. S. B. Ruggles [of the New York City Chamber of Commerce] represented the United States, has been brought before the House of Commons by Mr. William Ewart. The Tory organ in the weekly press of London, the John Bull, denounces it as ‘absurd and impudent,’ and as ‘an idea which could only enter the heads of dunces, Whigs, and revolutionary tyrants.’”

The metric system had been introduced in revolutionary France in 1799.

America and Measurement
“Messrs. Editors: The following reflection occurs upon reading an account of the French metrical system. The time and money expended in propagating and maintaining our chaotic system are sufficient to give collegiate education to the whole population. —J. Edi.”

Heard it through the Grapevine
“California raisins are the greatest novelty. They are equal to the best imported and don't cost as much. Very few have appeared in the Atlantic States, but in course of time they will drive the foreign fruit from the market.”