Tag Archives: JF Ptak Science Books

A Guide to German Trenches and Aircraft, 1915

JF Ptak Science Books   Quick Post

WWI was into its sixth (of fifty-one) months of war when these helpful graphics appeared in the pages of the Illustrated London News on Feb 6, 1915.  Distinguishing trenches was interesting though not very essential, and certainly not as potentially useful to the broad population as the sheet identifying German aircraft. This image is a version of a poster that was distributed far and wide in Great Britain and France teaching ordinary citizens the differences between airplanes of friend and foe. There were a large number of designs of aircraft,especially so when you threw the British and French planes into the mix. It certainly would’ve been a bit involved at first to make these distinctions, though if your survival depended on perhaps knowing the differences in all of these aircraft then no doubt the learning curve would flatten out. It is also remarkable that all of these developments in aviation come just a dozen years after the Wright brothers first made their powered flight at Kill Devil Hills.  

(more…)

Russian Trench Cross-Sections, 1917

JF Ptak Science Books  Quick Post

I’ve made a number of posts to this blog on trenches/trench life (findable by entering the search term in the google box at right) and I believe that I’ve not made one regarding Russian trenches, until today. This image (“Russia’s Masterly Underground Defenses”) appears in a news-of-the-world section of Popular Mechanics for July, 1917, and includes a number of very smart smaller cross sections of division of the works. The whole of it is headed by a plan of the works, followed by  several smaller works, including the central image which shows the great depth at which the sleep chambers are set. (I also enjoy the bit of free will by the illustrator to include some tiny laundry drying out in the barracks.) Its a lovely work of an uncommon visual.

(more…)

A Massive Triple Tandem Triplane (1921)

JF Ptak Science Books  Quick Post

What we see here, below, is a rather extraordinary flying machine, a mammoth beast with 8,000 square feet of wings (more than 40% greater than that of a 747). It was a triple tandem triplane, which is a glorious-sounding and possibly epic description of the aircraft—a plane with three independent triplanes fixed to one fuselage. The article appears in Popular Mechanics for May 1921, and describes this aeronautical attempt as the work of Giovanni (Gianni) Caproni (1886-1957), which was to be a transport for 300-mile round trip excursions at about 80mph cruising speed. It was powered by 8 12 cylinder 400 hp Liberty engines operating on push/pull arrangements on different wings, carrying a crew of eight and 100 passengers. Unfortunately the flying boat crashed on its second test flight, and then the remains were towed badly toward shore, and that was the end of the plane.

(more…)

“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.

(more…)

Tri-Triplane Monster Plane (1921)

JF Ptak Science Books   Quick Post

A short article (with a smaller photo illustration)  on a very big topic appeared in Illustrated World in June 1921. The photo showed a remarkable plane constructed by aeronautical engineer Giovanni Caproni (1886-1957)–three planes, really. Three triplanes were attached to a floating Pullman-like fuselage, making this the largest/heaviest aircraft ever built at that time. It was 32′ high, 66′ long, and 130′ wide, and was made to seat 100 and make a transatlantic voyage. This was the “Noviplano” (the Caproni Ca. 6c, and translated in the article as “Nine-plannen”), and presented itself in an impressive if not complicated manner–it was a prototype, though, and was crashed and finished on its second flight.  

(more…)

Radio and Television, a Peep into the Future of 1930 from 1929

 JF Ptak Science Books   Post 2740

Pop Mech 1929 radio of the future

The odd thing about this odd speculation for an odd look advancing a single odd year into the future is that it is so, well, odd. Here on page 1009 of the January-June volume of Popular Mechanics the editors speculated on what the approaching year might bring in the evolution/revolution of the radio. Radio as a popular medium was relatively new-ish in 1922 and the in six quick years very much developed for wide use, and so it must have appeared not too long a leap to jump into a radio for 1930 that offered images to accompany the broadcast. The idea of “seeing by wireless” was already upon folks back then, or at least the technology was.

(more…)

How High is Blue? (1851)

JF Ptak Science Books   Quick Post

What struck me in this technical illustration is the cross-section of the ocean of air, and the attempt to depict the characteristics of the atmosphere in receding qualities of blueness. This seems a natural thing to attempt, but I can’t really remember seeing anything quite like this from the mid-19th century–sure there there are images showing the height of the atmosphere, but I just can’t recall the point being made in shades of blue. The image itself is a large detail from “Illustrations of Natural Philosophy, Pneumatics”, a colored lithograph by John Philipps Emslie, and made in 1851.  This copy is from the Wellcome Collection, London, and try as I might I have not yet been able to find out in what book (if any) in which this work was published. Emslie was very active, and composed a number of complicated technical and data visualization efforts like this one, but I can’t yet find publication details.  In the meantime, I’m posting this, concentrating on the atmosphere.

(more…)

The 50 Million Volt Dust Curtain of Nikola Tesla (1934)

JF Ptak Science Books  Post 2695    

Pop Mech 1934 TeslaThe “dust” in question here is not intended to be weaponized versions of those famous dancing bits of Brown and Einstein, but a very very high voltage-invisible-something that would obliterate any attacking air force or army. The idea is one in a long history of “death rays”, though this one belonged to Nikola Tesla (who had a much earlier outline for an idea on militarizing wireless telegraphy technology) and as such was received with considerable respect in the public and scientific spheres—or, at least in scientific areas, the low/no detail plan was given inspection and testing before it was dismissed.

(more…)

Another Episode in Our Bulbous Future (1931)

JF Ptak Science Books   Quick Post    

I’ve written several posts here on the great science fiction/speculative science illustrator Frank R. Paul, and I am returning to him now with this glorious image of spaceflight commercial services. It appears in Everyday Science and Mechanics, published in November 1931 (volume 2/12), and the great Bulbosity is featured splashily on the cover. The airship was supposed to get its passengers 628 miles into space to complete a one-hour arc from Berlin to New York City, and the image shows us the end of a flight,  the craft slowing above the bay, just south of Manhattan and Brooklyn and north of Staten Island:

(more…)