Science

50, 100 & 150 Years Ago: December 2022

Psychic reward; desert sea

1972, desert sea: “The Mediterranean must have looked something like this six million years ago, when the basin was a great interior desert lying 10,000 feet below sea level. Some 5.5 million years ago, an opening was breached at the Strait of Gibraltar. The inrushing Atlantic water constituted a great waterfall. Within a few thousand years the desiccated Mediterranean would be filled to the brim.” Credit: Scientific American, Vol. 227, No. 6; December 19721972

Nobel Prize Repeat

“The 1972 Nobel prizes in science and economics have been awarded to 10 investigators. For the first time in history a prize has been given a second time in the same field to one individual. Marie Curie and Linus Pauling had previously won two Nobel prizes but in different fields. The new double winner is John Bardeen, who shared the 1956 Nobel prize in physics for discoveries leading to the transistor. Bardeen now shares the prize with Leon N. Cooper and John R. Schrieffer ‘for their jointly developed theory of superconductivity, usually called the BCS theory.’”

1922

Fingerprints by Radio

“The latest obstacle placed in the path of the wrong-doer is the long arm of radio, which not only serves to ensure rapid intercommunication between the various police forces of the world, but also transmits photographs and fingerprints for instantaneous identification. An image of a fingerprint is converted into a relief image and wrapped about a cylinder of the transmitting device. As the image turns, in absolute synchronism with the turning of a receiving cylinder at the distant point, the high and low spots of the relief image are brought under a point or stylus. The stylus is connected to a simple device, which makes and breaks a current according to the raised or the lowered portions of the image.”

A Need to Reseed

“According to the president of the American Forestry Association, Charles L. Pack, statistics show that there is 11 percent more timber in the Black Forests of Germany today than in 1914. He has sent millions of tree seeds to Europe to help reforest the areas ruined by the war, ‘in the hope that the people of [the U.S.] would see the great value of maintaining that backbone of all industry, forest products.’ The commercial exploitation of [U.S.] forests has been that the standing timber throughout the country represents today but a fraction of the glorious forests which were found by the early settlers. The power of the government [should] be employed to demand that where someone cuts down the old timber he shall plant the beginnings of the new.”

Psychic Reward

“We are unable to reach a definite conclusion as to the validity of psychic claims. In the effort to clear up this confusion, the SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN will pay $2,500 to the first person who produces a psychic photograph under its test conditions and to the full satisfaction of the judges. The SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN will also pay $2,500 to the first person who produces a visible psychic manifestation of other character, under these conditions. Purely mental phenomena like telepathy, or purely auditory ones like rappings, will not be eligible.”

1872

Quick Spark

“The extremely short duration of the spark was shown by causing it to illuminate a rapidly revolving disk of paper containing a number of slots. Although it was moving so rapidly that the slots could no longer be seen, it seemed to stand still every time the spark flashed. Professor Rood, of Columbia College, has shown by his beautiful researches that the duration of a single spark is less than ninety-four billionths of a second, a quantity which is entirely inconceivable.”

Fertilized Luxuriance

“M. Jeannel, says Les Mondes, has made a series of experiments, in the use of chemical fertilizers. It has been found that plants can receive, in solution with the irrigation water, the mineral constituents necessary to their organism. The following results are given of potted plants cultivated in sand watered with ordinary water; plants cultivated in mold similarly irrigated; and plants cultivated in sand supplied with common water and receiving weekly mineral manure in solution. The latter became doubly developed, more green, and flowered far more profusely than the plants raised in mold. The plants cultivated in sand without fertilizer proved puny and miserable. The ingredients include nitrate of ammonia, biphosphate of ammonia, nitrate of potash, chlorhydrate of ammonia, sulphate of lime and sulphate of iron.”

This article was originally published with the title “50, 100 & 150 Years Ago” in Scientific American 327, 6, 78 (December 2022)

doi:10.1038/scientificamerican1222-78

ABOUT THE AUTHOR(S)

Mark Fischetti is a senior editor at Scientific American. He covers all aspects of sustainability. Follow him on Twitter @markfischetti Credit: Nick Higgins

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