When Granddad Threatens To Harness The Power Of The Sun

Nat Geo 9/48

I don’t know anything about machines, so that looks like a cross between one of my mixing bowls (which reminds me, I need to make tuna salad tonight) and a hubcap, next to some cans of motor oil. It is, in fact, a solar-powered steam engine built by noted astrophysicist Dr. Charles G. Abbot. As any fool can see, the reflector focuses the sun’s rays on the boiler tube, which generates steam that drives the tiny engine. No duh.

But Abbot was smarter than the whole lot of us, retiring as both the director of the Smithsonian’s Astrophysical Observatory, as well as the first Smithsonian Secretary not to die in office. Furthermore, it appeared that he might never die out of office, as the bloke who was already 76 in the above image still yet had another quarter century to fiddle around with gadgets. He spent over 40 years developing and maintaining solar monitoring systems as his mission in life. Here you see him (in an almost Chester Conklin mustache) with his silver-disc pyrheliometer, which measured direct beam solar irradiance.

He invented the solar cooker, which was first built at Mount Wilson Observatory, the solar boiler, and held fifteen other patents related to solar energy. At 96, he was still going strong, holding what appears to be an extensive CVS receipt, but is actually a print-out of solar observations.

wikipedia

My observation: it’s hot.

My, What Lovely Scales You Have!

by Anthony Stewart for Nat Geo 9/48

Curator of fishes, the vested Dr. Leonard Schultz, takes measurements of a parrotfish from Bikini Atoll in 1948. Bikini Atoll is a coral reef in the Marshall Islands, whose inhabitants were relocated in 1946, after which the islands and lagoon were the site of 23 nuclear tests by the United States until 1958. Before and after the Navy’s blasts, 70,000 marine life specimens were collected for testing, some of which you see in jars behind the good doctor. At this point, they had determined that surviving fish showed no anatomical changes, but they were concerned about future sterility and abnormal growths caused by radiation. The article states that “eventually, with the passage of time, the fish population will return to normal.”

getty images

While fish returned, the Atoll’s residents did not. In March 1946, the residents gathered their personal belongings and  were transported 125 miles eastward to the uninhabited Rongerik Atoll, one-sixth the size of Bikini Atoll. A deep-rooted traditional belief that the island was haunted by the Demon Girls of Ujae, as well as inadequate food and water (and fish that made their legs go numb), made the move a complete failure. Families were moved to other islands and moved again.

In 1970, three families were resettled on Bikini island, totaling about 100 residents. But scientists found dangerously high levels of strontium-90 in well water, and the residents were carrying abnormally high concentrations of caesium-137 in their bodies. Even coconut crabs retained high levels of radioactivity and could not be eaten. Women noticed genetic abnormalities in their children. They were evacuated in 1980.

At this point, the atoll is occupied by a handful of caretakers. Marine life, despite being radioactive and sharks perhaps missing dorsal fins, seem to have thrived in the absence of humans.

Kryptonite Used In ‘Rona Vaccine Trial

all images 1943 Cactus

That’s probably not kryptonite. In fact, the only thing I recognize in the whole image is dreft, and a man in an apron. A sturdy apron. The rest of it is all science.

This might also be science. Or maybe it’s engineering. I don’t know. It’s machines.

This guy is looking at the things, maybe liquids or gasses.

She is noticing how the thing has changed and is about to take notes on her hypothesis.

More bubble things. Too late to switch careers now, Bud. At least you have at lots of keys.

More liquid things and jars and gravity.

Maybe this is chemistry.

And finally, badda bing, badda boom, vaccines, fresh from the icebox.

Next On My To-Do List For Never

I may have conquered using apps on a smart phone or removing jams from testy copy machines, but the technology of yore frightens me. I don’t get it now, and I certainly wouldn’t have gotten in back in 1955, at the University of Colorado.

“the university’s prized electronic brain”

Nope. Too many wires.

Next up: isotopes. Haven’t talked about proton/neutron stuff since high school, and I’m not gonna start now.

the isotopes lab for atomic research equipment

She is clearly steering a cardboard ship, but I know not what the men do.

engineering the thing

Too many black holes and knobs in the cube. It doesn’t even fit in my pocket.

“the latest electronic equipment available to AIEE-IRE members”

Get a load of this jet engine compressor! I’d rather feed a porcupine.

And this last one takes the cake, with “nurse aids performing the pleasant task of hairbrushing for a paralytic.” Pleasant? That looks like a nightmare. 

Rapture, take me now.

Living/Not Living

"Science for Work & Play"
“Science for Work & Play”

Living things: 99-year-old author Beverly Cleary

http://oldfloridabookstore.blogspot.com/
http://oldfloridabookstore.blogspot.com/

Things not living (even though he was last month): Abe Vigoda on Late Night With Conan O’Brien.

http://www.nydailynews.com/
http://www.nydailynews.com/

Who is the oldest person you know? A WWII veteran? A great-aunt? How old do you want to live to be?

She Blinded Me With Science

Kathleen Doering, Assoc Professor of Entomology
Kathleen Doering, Assoc Professor of Entomology 1942

Fun entomology-related fact of the day: The term cuckoo bee is used for a variety of different bee lineages which have evolved the kleptoparasitic (no, not like Winona Ryder) behavior of laying their eggs in the nests of other bees, reminiscent of cuckoo birds. Female cuckoo bees can be easily recognized, as they lack pollen-collecting structures and do not construct their own nests (you mean the males do chores?). They often have reduced body hair, an abnormally thick or heavily-sculptured exoskeleton, and saber-like mandibles (wikipedia).

Try using that in a sentence today: saber-like mandibles.