April 1966

Technology and Employment

“According to the National Commission on Technology, Automation, and Economic Progress, the ‘vast majority’ of people recognize that technological change ‘has led to better working conditions by eliminating many, perhaps most, dirty, menial and servile jobs…. Perhaps the [concern] most responsible for the establishment of the Commission has arisen from the belief that technological change is a major source of unemployment…, that eventually it would eliminate all but a few jobs.’ The members of the commission, for their part, concluded ‘that technology eliminates jobs, not work.’”

X-ray Cosmology

“The first two sources of X radiation outside our galaxy have been discovered in data obtained a year ago by means of rocket-borne X-ray detectors. The new sources have been identified by their discoverers at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory as coinciding with two of the most powerful radio-emitting galaxies, designated Cygnus A and M 87. The X radiation from both galaxies appears to be from 10 to 100 times stronger than the energy they emit in the form of light and radio waves. Because the earth's atmosphere is essentially opaque to X rays from space, instruments are placed above most of the atmosphere by means of Aerobee rockets fired from the White Sands Proving Ground in New Mexico.”

April 1916

Sports for the Blind

“Never before has the problem of finding employment for blind men been so vast as at present, when the European war has added tens of thousands to the already large number of such unfortunates. Recently, however, the French have also endeavored to create various diversions for those whom the war has deprived of their sight, among which is fencing. To the lay mind it is indeed difficult to conceive how an active sport such as fencing can be indulged in by sightless persons. Yet fencing tournaments in which blind men are the only participants are now common in Paris.”

The Largest Elephant

“Three or four years ago a party of Royal Engineers were digging a trench on the banks of the Medway, at Upnor, opposite Chatham Dockyard. They came across a number of bones and part of a huge tusk. Not until the summer of 1915, however, was it found possible to accomplish the task of salvaging these remains. The limb-bones of the straight-tusked elephant (Elephas antiquus) afford very convincing evidence as to the size of this animal, which must have been enormous. It is calculated, indeed, that it must have stood at least 15 feet high [see illustration], which far exceeds that of any other species living or extinct.”

Images from the science of natural history in 1916 are at www.ScientificAmerican.com/apr2016/natural-history

April 1866

Paper from Wood

“The Manayunk Pulp Works, we were informed, were completed during the present month. These are without doubt the most extensive works of the kind in the world, and are capable of producing from twelve to fifteen tons of paper pulp per diem. These works will increase the daily production of printing paper by about 13,000 pounds, lessening to that extent the consumption of rags, thus diminishing the price of both. The present process for pulping wood was begun about the year 1850, by Mr. Hugh Burgess.”

The “soda process,” co-invented by Burgess, efficiently extracted cellulose from wood.

High-Tech Goofing Off

“The diving bell has been abandoned on the Thames in favor of the diving bell dress [diving suit], because the men employed were found, while the Westminster Bridge was being built, to spend their time at the bottom in playing cards, and there was of course no effectual means of keeping a check on them. It is not easy to play cards in a diving dress alone, however, and the remedy has proved very satisfactory in its operations.”


Find original articles and images in the Scientific American archives at scientificamerican.com/magazine/sa