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“The great excellence of this operation was its mechanical Roughness and simplicity”–on Moving a Brick House, 1875

JF Ptak Science Books  Quick Post

This is one of the many small articles that appear in major sci/tech/engineering journals in the 19th century that are absolutely so filled with human spirit that it fills your heart with hope for humanity (even if everyone involved has been dead for at least 125 years.  This one is a ravishingly simple three-page report on how to move a (substantial) brick house with a few guys and a horse. The title of this post is taken from the report1, where (I feel) the writer just took a step back from his work and said “holy ____!”, and admired the sheer beauty of the simple and successful approach to a major task. And as it turned out, the house was all of 1/4″ from where it should have been, and that was quickly rectified with a screw jack.


Plana’s Perpetual Calendar in Turin, Italy

Plana's Perpetual Calendar.

By the time world-famous Italian astronomer and mathematician Giovanni Antonio Amedeo Plana published his book theorizing the motions of the Moon on 1832, he had already begun constructing his Perpetual Calendar: an amazing mechanical device that allows anyone to easily discover details about any date between years 1 and 4000.

Plana’s Perpetual Calendar is discreetly hanging on the sacristy of the small Chapel of Merchants and Bankers in Turin, Italy. It operates by turning a wooden handle below the calendar’s adorned golden frame.

Inside, vintage machinery cranks into motion: nine carefully inscribed cylinders begin to roll simultaneously via gears and toothed chains. Tiny windows within the elaborate display transmit information about the phases of the Moon, solar cycles, tides, moveable Catholic holidays (such as Easter or Carnival), and also the day of the week for any given date across 40 centuries. It accounts for the shift from the Julian to Gregorian calendar, leap years, and more. 


Monochrome Vintage Photos of Early NASA Facilities

Monochrome vintage photos of early NASA facilities including wind tunnels that assisted in making space flight possible to analog machines that were the forerunners to the present computer. A visual history of this innovative industry is depicted here.

Story as posted via Amaze and Amuse


By: Neatorama
Via: Feedbin Starred Entries
Source: http://j.mp/2IYj0yz

These Massive, Uncanny Artworks Will Give You the Chills

Tara Donovan, “Untitled (Mylar)” (2011), Mylar and hot glue, (image courtesy the artist and Pace Gallery, photograph by Christopher Burke Studios)

DENVER — Tara Donovan’s artworks are unexpected: they borrow manufactured goods, but they are never readymades; they are theatrical and serial, but rarely considered minimalist; and they are massive in scale, but never outsourced. Fieldwork at the MCA Denver revisits Donovan’s contributions from the last 20 years, bringing her wall-based and free-standing sculptures together under one roof for the first time. Her art is not a metaphor, it is not about identity, and it is not historical. So what is it?

Tara Donovan, “Untitled” (2014), Styrene index cards, metal, wood, paint, and glue, (image courtesy the artist and Pace Gallery, photographed by Christopher Burke Studios)



For many years car manufacturers hired illustrators to paint photo-realistic pictures of cars in brilliant, eye-catching colors.

by the famous team of Van Kaufman and Art Fitzpatrick

These pictures were designed to radiate power.  Their perspective was deliberately distorted and the cars were stretched to make the cars appear more muscular.  The colors were enhanced to shine like the sun.  The chrome was intensified.  These ads, which typically employed little text or white space, were masterpieces of propagandistic art.

But when cars were first invented, illustrators didn’t have such tools.  They had no access to sharp, accurate color printing, photo projection or some of the other devices crucial to later car illustrations.  They painted small, black and white pictures for text-heavy ads reproduced on inferior, uncoated paper.  These limits called for a different aesthetic but the illustrators made it work.  Here is an ad campaign for Packard from the early 20s:

Rather than show a photographic full view of the car, these artists selected an important detail– a front grill or a tire or a silhouette– to imply power and class.  Without a full color palette they used the advantage of black and white art: strong compositions.  Here are other illustrations from the same series.

There was one painting for each new ad.  They were done by different talented illustrators (such as the great Andrew Loomis) but in a similar style. 

What interests me is how, even without the tools that later illustrators employed to convey horsepower, these illustrations still conveyed their own strength.  There is a strength that radiates from selectivity, from strong compositions, from opinionated designs.



Vaka Valo’s Dream Diary 3

[Show your support for 50 Watts here.]

Vaka Valo, from the Dream Diary series, 2018

Vaka Valo has just unleashed new works in his “Dream Diary” series, and for the first time he is making prints available. Sign up for notice of the very limited-edition prints here.

Previously: Vaka Valo on 50watts.

A note about the series: “All of my works involve chance, contextual change, and strict limitations. For this project, the pieces begin as tiny collages from old instructional manuals I have meticulously mined. After sorting through thousands of images, I scan the hundreds of individual components, then create the collages digitally, revamping the colors completely, then have the compositions digitally printed and stretched onto canvas VERY large (adding a few more touch-ups by hand), as the dot gain patterns in the colors are clearly discernible upon viewing. There is only a single tangible canvas for each composition.”

Carbon County: 1940

August 1940. Carbon County, Pennsylvania. “Street in Upper Mauch Chunk, a small historic coal mining town in the Lehigh Valley.” Medium format negative by Jack Delano for the Farm Security Administration. View full size.

By: Shorpy | Historical Photos – Framed Prints
Via: Feedbin Starred Entries
Source: http://j.mp/2TtJ320

The Ghost of a Flea in London, England

Detail of painting.

In the Tate Britain gallery hangs a small painting by the 18th-century artist William Blake, who claimed he was inspired to create this phantasmagoric gothic masterpiece after encountering a terrifying entity in a vision, which introduced itself as “The Ghost of a Flea.”

Blake claimed he was “visited” by this entity, which posed for him as he sketched it. He was able to “communicate” with the monstrous being, who revealed that all fleas were inhabited by the souls of men who were “by nature bloodthirsty to excess.”

It is a subject of scholarly debate whether Blake’s gothic visions were simply creative exercises of imagination whereby he was able to summon forth a sort of Jungian archetype to be captured artistically, or whether these were in fact hallucinations borne of a mental illness. Others have claimed less convincingly that the artist used psychedelic drugs or that the hallucinations were, in fact, real religious visions. Blake may have also been inspired after seeing images of fleas from the book Microphagia by the early English scientist Robert Hooke, who produced illustrations based on his pioneering documentation of organisms as seen through microscopes. 


When Mickey Mouse was sent to a Nazi concentration camp

In 1942, Horst Rosenthal was sent to the Vichy concentration camp Gurs, where he drew a comic-book that survived him: Mickey au Camp de Gurs, it tells the story of Mickey Mouse being snatched from the street and sent to Gurs, and features a tour of Gurs that uses a brave face of humor to cope with enormous suffering.

Two more of Rosenthal’s comics from Gurs survive; Rosenthal did not. He was sent to Auschwitz and killed on arrival.

Alister Wedderburn, a researcher at the Australian National University’s department of International Relations, has documented Rosenthal’s story in a new paper in Millennium: Journal of International Studies entitled (more…)