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The Great War in Europe: A Look at World War I

Innovation and discovery as chronicled in past issues of Scientific American
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Military Strength of armies in Europe, 1914
Credit: SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, VOL. CXI, NO. 10; SEPTEMBER 5, 1914

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September 1964
Quanta of Space “In the theory of relativity, one of the two most notable scientific advances of this century (quantum theory is the other), the gravitational effect of gross matter has been reduced to geometry. Just as the geometry of a mountainous region requires a distance formula that varies from place to place to represent the varying shape of the land, so Einstein's geometry has a variable distance formula to represent the different masses in space. Matter determines the geometry, and the geometry as a result accounts for phenomena previously ascribed to gravitation. Geometry has ingested part of reality and may have to ingest all of it. Today in quantum mechanics physicists are striving to resolve the seemingly contradictory wave and particle properties of subatomic matter, and they may have to generate both from quanta of space. Perhaps matter itself will also dissolve into pure space.—Morris Kline”

September 1914
The Great War “To appreciate the stupendous character of the War of the Nations which is now in full swing on the continent of Europe, we must bear in mind two facts: first, that it is a war to the death; second, that in the full realization of the absolute finality of the result, every one of the contending nations has already called out or has stated that it will do so, the whole of its trained reserve, thus putting some sixteen millions of men under arms. In the interests of humanity it is better that the nations which go down in absolute defeat should realize that the verdict is one against which there is no appeal.”

Another View of War “People are so suspicious about wars nowadays. One wonders even if patriotism isn't rather stupid. One has the preliminary thrill; there is flag-wagging, the blast of a trumpet, the glorious traditions of the Fatherland, and then this vague but persistent vision of a fat, beady-eyed financier lurking in the background. We have been sold so many times, one becomes wary. One could fight wholeheartedly in a war for the end of war, but in no other sort of war whatever.”

Jupiter's Moon “An announcement of much interest comes in a recent telegram from Prof. Tucker, who is at present acting director of the Lick Observatory. On July 21st, Mr. Nicholson, at that observatory, photographed a faint object in the vicinity of Jupiter, near the eighth satellite, but still fainter. Further observations have been secured, and the telegram states that the calculation of the orbit of the newly discovered body proves it to be a satellite of the great planet—the ninth to be discovered. This tiny body, however, is so faint that it must be near the limit of visibility, if not beyond it, in the greatest telescopes, and it can only be observed photographically.”

It was not until 1975 that the ninth of Jupiter's 67 known moons was named Sinope.

September 1864
Down with Housework “When Charles Dickens wrote ‘Bleak House’ he created a prominent character: Mrs. Jellaby. This lady had a mission. She was obliged to look after the heathen, and she looked after them so fast and so far that her own children were in rags and tatters; her house was a scene of disorder. This was simply the natural result of neglecting her duty. But if the same distinguished author should revisit this country and write about ladies with missions, he would find a very different state of things to chronicle. Look at what the simple machinery of the household has done for society. Years ago the housewife sat of an evening and plied her needle when the heavier labors of the day were done. The garments that rose before her aching sight threatened to overwhelm her. It is not so now, and we may thank inventors that have provided machines to do the drudgery of the needle.”

A Great Piece of Fish “The first salmon caught in the Connecticut River for forty years was taken at Chicopee the other day, and served at the Massasoit House, Springfield, Mass.”


September 1964

September 1914

September 1864

This article was originally published with the title "50, 100 & 150 Years Ago."

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