May 1965

The Scythians “In central Siberia, a land whose prehistory has been almost completely unknown, Soviet archaeologists have in recent years uncovered the remains of an ancient people kept remarkably intact. The find consists of a number of burial mounds high in the Altai Mountains on the border between Siberia and Outer Mongolia. Here, in these chambers of eternal frost, the bodies of ancient chieftains, with their horses, clothing and varied possessions, have been preserved from decay. The Altai finds have opened up a significant ancient culture. These buried horsemen belonged to one of the great tribes of ‘barbarians’—nomads who roamed the steppes of Eurasia in the time of ancient Greece and Persia and were called by ancient writers the Scythians. —Mikhail I. Artamonov”

The Truth about Lie Detectors “A Congressional committee has issued a report casting serious doubt on the validity of polygraph ‘lie detector’ tests and castigating the Federal Government for their indiscriminate application. The committee's primary conclusion was: ‘There is no “lie detector,” neither machine nor human. People have been deceived by a myth that a metal box in the hands of an investigator can detect truth or falsehood.’ The report points out that the polygraph is an instrument that records a person's respiration, blood pressure and pulse and also his ‘galvanic skin response.’ These are physiological responses that ‘may or may not be connected with an emotional reaction—and that reaction may or may not be related to guilt or innocence.’”

May 1915

Lusitania Sunk

“The sinking, on sight, of the Lusitania is the latest and most atrocious instance of a relapse to that gratuitous cruelty which we all thought had been relegated to a bygone and far-distant age. One of the most remarkable psychological phenomena of the present war is the specious sophistry with which Germany has attempted to justify her multitudinous breaches of the humanitarian laws of war; and surely the most amazing instance of this is the fact that to-day Germany is justifying this slaughter of innocent non-combatants by stating that she gave them full warning that she was going to perpetrate the deed. This is a new philosophy, indeed!”

The attack killed 1,200 civilians onboard the liner, 120 of them U.S. citizens. The ship's cargo included four million rounds of rifle ammunition.

Poison Gas for War “In the present European war the application of knowledge seems to be reaching the utmost limit of ingenuity. It may almost be called a chemist and physicist war. Latest of all is the manufacture of poisonous gases to be used for tactical purposes [see illustration]. The reports seem to show that the gas so far used is chlorine. The greenish yellow color, the strong smell, the great density of the gas causing it to flow along the ground are indications of chlorine. The symptoms shown by its victims are those exhibited by persons who have been poisoned by chlorine in industrial accidents.”

A slide show of images from the Great War in our archives from 1915 is at www.ScientificAmerican.com/may2015/wwi1915

May 1865

Gatling Gun “This invention promises to revolutionize the art of war. From experiments made under the inspection of ordnance officers, a rate of three discharges per second was kept up, the penetration being superior to the Springfield rifle. It was conceded that one of Mr. R. J. Gatting's [sic] guns worked by two men would put a larger number of shots into an average target at four hundred yards than one hundred men. The barrels and locks rotate in concert and continuously, and each load is delivered as its barrel arrives at a certain point. Fixed ammunition [metal cartridges containing bullet and powder] is fed to the gun from cases set into a hopper.”

Beef Jerky “South American jerked beef, or beef dried in the air, is being largely exported to England, where it is consumed by the poorer classes; it being sold at three pence, English money. It is not very delicate food, being tough and stringy, but it is said to be better than going without meat altogether.”