Archive for the ‘Nature’ Category

Should Dark or Light Clothes Be Worn On Hot Days?

From July 17, 1910

SHOULD DARK OR LIGHT CLOTHES BE WORN ON HOT DAYS?

SHOULD DARK OR LIGHT CLOTHES BE WORN ON HOT DAYS? Interesting Experiments by Government Experts on the Effect of the Color of Garments (PDF)

Summer heat getting to you? Cool off with this lengthy look at experiments carried out in an effort to determine whether you should wear light clothes, dark clothes, light clothes over dark clothes, or some other combination to beat the heat.

The problem of the undergarments has been taken up by the Federal Government very seriously of late and exhaustive tests have been made. The experiments have been carried out on an elaborate scale recently in the Philippines, where a thousand men have been used in the tests which have been carried on for upward of a year. If the soldier can be made to march further, carry more weight, and fight better in hot weather merely by changing his shirt, naturally the United States Government wants to know all about it.

It’s actually pretty interesting to see the lengths they went to, the blood tests, the dietary monitoring, the consideration of dark skin versus light skin, etc., in their research. The conclusion at the time was that our bodies suffer from the short wavelength light rays more than the actual heat, so opaqueness of clothing matters more than the color.

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Written by David

July 16th, 2010 at 10:30 am

Posted in Nature,Science

A Tree Near This City That Is Nearly 320 Years Old

From July 3, 1910

A TREE NEAR THIS CITY THAT IS NEARLY 320 YEARS OLD

A TREE NEAR THIS CITY THAT IS NEARLY 320 YEARS OLD: It Has Withstood the Storms of Centuries and the Axe of Progress and Is a Rarity (PDF)

Alas, the tree described here as “a beautiful spreading tulip tree towering over 125 feet high” is no longer standing. But there is a nice tribute page online which has several photos of the tree, and of the plaque that now marks the spot where the tree once stood.

Should you wish to visit the plaque, you can follow these directions from the article:

For the benefit of those readers who might like, sometime, to pay it a visit — it is really wonderful when one stops to think that there is actualy [sic] one tree in Manhattan of such great age — here are the directions how to find it. Take a Broadway Subway, and get off at the Two Hundred and Seventh Street station. Walk directly west along Emerson Avenue about a mile, or until you nearly reach the edge of the woods — Cold Spring Grove. Then bear off northwest along either one of the two roads — paths they really are — that lead toward the water, and then — well, ask anyone who lives in the little houses bordering the creek to direct you to the “big tree” — they’ll do so.

Well, Cold Spring Grove is now Inwood Hill Park, and the paths may have changed a bit in the past 100 years, but it should still be a nice place to visit. The park is the largest remaining forest land on Manhattan, and walking through those woods it’s easy to forget you’re on the same island as a concrete jungle.

Incidentally, the oldest living tree in the city is now 331-year-old English Elm tree in Washington Square Park known as Hangman’s Elm. Legend has it that the tree was used for public hangings, although there are no records that verify this.

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Written by David

July 2nd, 2010 at 9:45 am

Posted in Nature

The City Is The Landlord Of This Tented Town

From July 3, 1910

THE CITY IS THE LANDLORD OF THIS TENTED TOWN

THE CITY IS THE LANDLORD OF THIS TENTED TOWN: A Rental of One Dollar a Week Is Asked, Which Is Really a Water Tax — 2,000 Persons in a Picturesque Community (PDF)

From the headline, I assumed the article was about a shanty town, perhaps a precursor to the shacks and tents in Central Park during the Great Depression, but I was dead wrong. This is more like a commune on a beach, paid for by the City of New York.

500 permits were available for families to live in tents on Orchard Beach in The Bronx. There was running water, beautiful views of the ocean, porches, social life, music, and festivities. And it was free! The tenants just had to pay one dollar for the running water.

This city on a beach flourished until Robert Moses ruined all the fun in 1934. Here is a bit of history from the website of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation:

By the time Moses was named Parks Commissioner in 1934, the campsite had become a well-established colony, complete with a city-like infrastructure. Campers enjoyed conveniences such as street cleaning, mail and fire service, ice delivery, and garbage hauling. Tents that Parks built in the early part of the century gave way to more stable structures with electricity, running water, and telephone service. After a lawsuit was filed in 1927, the city moved to officially endorse this arrangement. Moses remained wary of the encampment’s elite appearance, however, and devised a plan to create a facility that the entire city could use. In February 1934, he gave the campers a year to vacate the site.

Today, families can still sleep in a tent on Orchard Beach as part of the city’s weekly summer park campouts. They rotate between the city’s parks each weekend throughout the summer. The remaining dates for camping on Orchard Beach this year are July 30 and August 27. Registration is required.

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Written by David

July 2nd, 2010 at 9:30 am

Good School Lunches For Three Cents Prove A Success

From July 3, 1910

GOOD SCHOOL LUNCHES FOR THREE CENTS PROVE A SUCCESS

GOOD SCHOOL LUNCHES FOR THREE CENTS PROVE A SUCCESS: And for a Penny More Dessert Is Supplied — That Is the Interesting Result of Experiments by the School Lunch Committee (PDF)

It’s nice to read an account of a School Lunch Committee that cares about affordable nutrition in schools where poor children are often malnourished.

For a child who is really very ill-nourished one meal a day is not the solution of all its troubles, but it goes a good way toward helping. Moreover, the luncheons are planned so carefully that for each 3 cents the child gets almost half the number of calories that scientists have declared necessary for a day’s nourishment. So the one meal does a good deal. There was some talk when the subject of this experiment was first broached to the effect that it was unnecessary, that no children went to school complaining of hunger. It was the old trouble of confusing hunger with malnutrition. But now, armed with facts and figures, the committee is ready to prove its case. And then they will doubtless ask, “What are you going to do about it?”

Everybody knows that children who have not a fair start in life are likely at some time in some way to become a charge to the State. Fortunately only a small proportion of them ever come to this, for if it were the rule there would be no money for anything but caring for invalids and paupers; still, whenever a child is neglected the State runs the chance of having some day to pay for it.

On all sides we hear about race suicide, and we have it drilled into our ears that the nation whose birth rate declines is well started on the road that leads to degeneration. To all of this everybody is constantly saying “Amen” with pious fervor. Meanwhile what children there are in the country may die from malnutrition without anybody becoming particularly excited over the fact.

The country wants children; the country must have children; and then when children do come the country does not seem to feel that it is its business to keep them alive…

It would really seem to an impartial observer from Mars or some other logically minded planet that we ought either to take care of the children when they are here or else drown them as soon as they are born.

Jamie Oliver would be proud.

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Written by David

July 2nd, 2010 at 9:15 am

How To Get Sleep On Hot Summer Nights

From June 26, 1910

HOW TO GET SLEEP ON HOT SUMMER NIGHTS

HOW TO GET SLEEP ON HOT SUMMER NIGHTS: Advice from Well Known Physicians and Specialists Which Will Make the Sizzling Season Easier to Bear (PDF)

What’s a New Yorker to do when the air conditioner breaks down? How on Earth is anyone supposed to get to sleep? Take some tips from 1910, where sleeping in the heat was the norm. Air conditioners didn’t really become common in public spaces for another ten years.

Advice from the article: eat in moderation and avoid alcohol and cigarettes before bed; try to keep a worry-free mind; avoid meat but enjoy fruits and berries. And if your bedroom is too hot, you can always try sleeping in one of the locations pictured: a rooftop, a pier, a park, or a fire escape.

One photo is labeled “an open-air bedroom.” This downtown brownstone takes that concept literally.

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Written by David

June 25th, 2010 at 9:10 am

Posted in Life,Nature

Can You Tell An Ear For Music By Looking At It?

From June 19, 1910

CAN YOU TELL AN EAR FOR MUSIC BY LOOKING AT IT?

CAN YOU TELL AN EAR FOR MUSIC BY LOOKING AT IT? If Dr. J. J. Kinyoun’s Theory Is True the External Ear Dicsloses Whether You Have the Musical Gift or Not (PDF)

For a minute in 2007, the blogosphere was abuzz about a Hungarian plastic surgeon named Dr. Lajos Nagy who claimed that making your ears pointy would allow you to better appreciate music. He said this craze was huge in New York, and would soon be sweeping the globe.

On his website, he explains scientifically why pointed ears are more sensitive to sound:

One of its reasons is rather simple: pointed ears focus sounds in a better way, which, in the case of animals, is supplemented by the fact that they can orientate themselves towards the source of sounds without turning their heads, by moving only their ears.

The other reason is the own frequency of the pinnae, as being solid objects themselves, which changes together with their shape. Pointed ears resonate with sounds at the frequency of around 8 kHz, thus they amplify sharp sounds instead of the intermediate frequencies. This is the reason why, amongst other things, dogs are sensitive to ultrasonic sounds, which are imperceptible for human ears.

Although turning the pinnae still remains impossible for human beings according to its anatomic features, the advantages of pointed ears can be enjoyed once again with the help of a simple, routine operation.

Of course all of this is ridiculous, and it doesn’t take much poking around on his site to realize that it’s a big joke (see this discussion for more information).

If the hoaxter had seen this 1910 article, perhaps his fictional doctor could have marketed his craft differently. This article claims that ear shape determined not your ability to appreciate music, but to be musical yourself. As one doctor quoted in the article says:

“It is commonly thought that persons who have the musical ‘gift’ have a peculiarity of the auditory tract, which distinguishes them from ordinary folk. There seem to be an actual physical quality in the hearing of musicians whereby they differentiate tones with subtlety, and this quality is congenital…

[There is] a peculiar conformation of the external ear in musicians, first observed by Dr. J. J. Kinyoun of Washington, but never published, which is constant and readily perceptible.”

I’d go on to quote the description of the peculiar conformation, but it makes about as much sense as Dr. Nagy’s explanation for his procedure, so I’ll spare you the details. But the conclusions at the end of the article are still worth a look if you want to know how to tell if your own kids are musical by looking at their ears. And if they’re not, I suppose they can always get plastic surgery.

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Written by David

June 18th, 2010 at 9:06 am

Posted in Music,Nature,Science

Pot Shooting In Central Park

From June 19, 1910

POT SHOOTING IN CENTRAL PARK

POT SHOOTING IN CENTRAL PARK: Archer Hazzler, a Crack Rifle Shot, Has the Unique Privilege of Shooting When and Where He Will in the Great Pleasure Ground (PDF)

Wild animals occasionally make their way into Central Park. Just a few months ago, a coyote in the Park seemed to be the talk of the town. In modern times, these animals are taken down by NYPD sharpshooters with tranquilizer guns. But back in 1910, there was one man whose full time job was hunting animals in New York City’s parks. His name was Archer Hazzler. He had a license to kill.

Hazzler’s method of hunting is very simple. He keeps a small boat ready to be launched on the lakes and, rifle in hand, gently paddles along the shores. These expeditions are usually undertaken early in the mornings before the public is astir.

Early risers in the great buildings facing the Park have doubtless heard the persistent crack, crack of a rifle near by and wondered at it. Hazzler thinks nothing of coming in from such a hunting trip with a bag of fifty or more rats…

The Park sharpshooter must, of course, be extremely cautious in his hunting not to interfere with the safety of the general public. So well has he done his work that there has never been an accident, never a stray shot for all the thousands of birds and animals he has brought in.

He avoids the more frequented sections of the Park, and especially the walks or drives. For this reason very few people of the millions who constantly visit the parks have ever caught a glimpse of him.

But some day if you chance upon a wiry, alert little man wearing a rough rider hat with a faded gilt cord and carrying a polished rifle in his hand you will know that it is he.

Animal hunting is not allowed in Central Park today, but here’s a short list of things you can hunt for: bugs, mushrooms, and treasure.

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Written by David

June 18th, 2010 at 9:04 am

Posted in Adventure,Nature

No Centenarian Living, Says Dr. Woods Hutchinson

From June 19, 1910

NO CENTENARIAN LIVING, SAYS DR. WOODS HUTCHINSON

“NO CENTENARIAN LIVING,” SAYS DR. WOODS HUTCHINSON: And Probably Only Three Ever Lived to be Over 100 Years of Age He Concludes After Studying the Question of Centenarianism (PDF)

Life expectancy is longer than it’s ever been, and there were already hundreds of people claiming to be more than 100 years old in 1910. But Dr. Woods Hutchinson investigated and decided they were all wrong:

“I don’t mean that such men and women are wilful liars. I believe they are mistaken. Many of them don’t know when they were born. Many of them become almost feeble-minded and believe they are a great deal older than they are.

“Oftentimes a person who does not know his age is told at 60 that he looks to be 80, and ever afterward computes his age from that basis. If he lives to be 82 he is declared to have lived to be 102. If he lives to be 90 he is said to have lived to be 110.”

But, the article notes, if Dr. Hutchinson is right, “this means almost all of the rest of the world is wrong”:

Germany, a year or two ago, with a population of 33,600,000, claimed 78 centenarians; France, 213; England, 145; Scotland, 46; Denmark, 2; Belgium, 3; Sweden, 10; Norway, 23; Spain, 410, while the Balkan States outdid the world with a claim of one centenarian to each 100 of population.

For me, the most surprising thing in this article was the revelation that in 1910 elephants were believed to live to 300 years old. According to a recent Discovery Channel article, the median lifespan of African elephants in the wild is actually 56 years.

Dr. Hutchinson, incidentally, died in 1930 at just 68 years old.

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Written by David

June 18th, 2010 at 9:02 am

Posted in Nature,Science

Being Fat Is Like Having Money In The Bank

From May 15, 1910

BEING FAT IS LIKE HAVING MONEY IN THE BANK

BEING FAT IS LIKE HAVING MONEY IN THE BANK: At Last a Physician Rises Up and Seriously Defends Surplus Flesh; Which Should Comfort Thousands (PDF)

In 1910, thin was already in for both health and fashion. But Dr. George Niles has some really practical reasons why it might be good to be fat:

Suppose a ship went down in midocean and a few of the passengers and crew got off on a raft. Suppose on one of the rafters was a man of about 40 per cent fatty matter — the kind that has not seen his shoelaces for ever and ever so long — according to Niles’s theory he would outlive the whole crew, granting of course (which the doctor does not) that the raft does not ground on a cannibal island or the crew draw lots with stacked chips…

Dr. Niles explains it thus: “Fat is like a housewife who, though not apparently earning anything, by her care and industry conserves the fruits of her husband’s labor, enabling him not only to support the domestic establishment, but also lay aside a surplus.”

Furthermore, the doctor “also asserts in so many words that to be fat is to be genial in disposition and optimistic in temperament, while to be thin is to be restless, pessimistic, uncontented and temperamentally dissatisfied with life in general.” Therefore, he adds, “grow fat and rejoice in your fatness.”

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Written by David

May 14th, 2010 at 9:10 am

Posted in Life,Nature,Science

Sunday Schools That Teach Children Anarchy

From May 8, 1910

SUNDAY SCHOOLS THAT TEACH CHILDREN ANARCHY

SUNDAY SCHOOLS THAT TEACH CHILDREN ANARCHY: A Thousand Young Persons Are Being Trained in New York to Be Successors of Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkmann (PDF)

I saw this headline and I thought it was just some overblown sensationalism. But then I read the article, and it turns out they’re literally talking about anarchist-run schools. In particular, they point out the a particular Sunday School on Avenue A, run by Alexander Berkmann, a “leading member of the anarchist movement in the 20th century” (quoting Wikipedia).

I scoffed at first because I typically think of schools as places with strict rules to follow. How could anarchists run a school? But the more I read, the more the school sounded pretty good. It’s just on Sunday, so the students presumably attended a normal school during the week, and it seems like it probably provided thought provoking counterpoint. Here is some of what Berkmann told the Times about the curriculum:

The pupil of the Anarchist Sunday school is taught to reason. The teacher only serves to direct their attention to a problem.

“One child,” said Berkmann, “wanted to know whether he should pray. ‘My mother wants me to pray,’ said the child, ‘but my father says that it is not necessary.'”

“Did you answer the problem?” he was asked.

“No,” he said. “I try to keep back my own views and develop the mentality of the children that they may form their own opinions and arrive at their own conclusions. The question was answered by a little girl, who said, ‘Praying is good because it relieves the soul.'”

Another attempt of a Sunday school pupil along this line was made when a youngster requested to know if it was possible for people to know what God wants them to do.

These occasional inquiries as to the spiritual life have generally ended in the Anarchist Sunday schools with the proposition that some of the remarkable things in life can be understood and that there are questions which never can be settled. The mental attitude of the children might be put in this way: We are not certain whether there are grounds for the belief that we should pray.

That, of course, leaves the question well in the field of agnosticism. The teacher of anarchy does not, with the children, declare that there is no God. Nor does he say that there is a God. The Sunday school class goes frequently to the Museum of Natural History, to Central Park, to the Zoological Gardens, and other places where, with the teacher, nature is studied.

That sounds pretty good to me. At least until the part later where Berkmann speaks against having laws. But in general, I like that the students were being taught to think for themselves and not just blindly follow authority on at least one day a week.

Wikipedia has more to say about the anarchist schools here.

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Written by David

May 7th, 2010 at 9:05 am

Spring’s Iceberg Dangers

From May 1, 1910

SPRINGS ICEBERG DANGERS

SPRING’S ICEBERG DANGERS (PDF)

“To provide against such dangers,” the article says, “ships now are being built to defy the ice.”

Two years later, the Titanic sank.

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Written by David

April 30th, 2010 at 9:04 am

Posted in Nature,Science

Baden Powell’s Boy Scout Plan Invades America

From April 24, 1910

BADEN POWELLS BOY SCOUT PLAN INVADES AMERICA

BADEN POWELL’S BOY SCOUT PLAN INVADES AMERICA: W. B. Wakefield, Who Has Charge of It in England, and Ernest Thompson Seton Will Help Establish It Throughout America (PDF)

I associate the Boy Scouts of America so strongly with Americana in general that I never suspected that scouts began anywhere but in the USA. It turns out that the Scouting Movement was started in England by Baden Powell, the man depicted in the center illustration.

Today the Boy Scouts are the subject of several controversies. For example, they don’t allow atheists or homosexuals as members, and yet they receive support from the Federal Government. The BSA’s ban on gay members is more interesting considering recent speculation that Powell himself may have been a repressed homosexual.

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Written by David

April 23rd, 2010 at 9:02 am

Is The First Born Child Inferior To Its Brothers?

From April 17, 1910

IS THE FIRST BORN CHILD INFERIOR TO ITS BROTHERS?

IS THE FIRST BORN CHILD INFERIOR TO ITS BROTHERS? Sir Francis Galton Says It Is and Upsets English Society (PDF)

Has the practice of hedging a sensational headline by phrasing it as a question always been around? This example suggests it has, and it upsets Jon Stewart.

But what if it’s true? From the article:

[A eugenics professor states that] “we find the neurotic, the insane, the tuberculous, and the albinotic the more frequent among the elder-born… The result of this law is rather remarkable. It means that if you reduce the size of the family you will tend to decrease the relative proportion of the mentally and physically sound in the community.”

In England, the eldest son inherits the throne. So it’s understandable that this would upset them, because it suggests a flaw in that system. But more recent research should make them happy. In 2007, the New York Times reported on a study which indicates first born children have higher IQs than their siblings. More information on recent birth order studies can be found in this Time Magazine article called The Power of Birth Order.

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Written by David

April 16th, 2010 at 9:02 am

Posted in Nature,Science

No Flood If Noah Had Known Hydraulics

From April 10, 1910

NO FLOOD IF NOAH HAD KNOWN HYDRAULICS

NO FLOOD IF NOAH HAD KNOWN HYDRAULICS: Old Testament Story Viewed in the Light of Recent Surveys of the “Garden of Eden” in the Euphrates Valley (PDF)

Let’s just pretend for a moment that the stories in the Bible are literally true, and there really was a flood that happened exactly as described. This article suggests that “the skill of modern engineers… could readily have prevented the inundation.”

Wasn’t the flood supposed to have covered the whole planet? We can barely contain floods today with modern engineering, so that would be a big feat for 1910 hydraulics. The article says, “The Bible records that the flood rose to a height of 15 cubits, or 22½ feet.” That’s it? Just 15 cubits? I always thought the waters rose 15 cubits above the highest mountain. So I looked it up. Genesis 7:20 says “Fifteen cubits upward did the waters prevail; and the mountains were covered” (KJV). I guess they were small mountains.

For comparison, the maximum height of a New Orleans levee in 2005 was 23 feet.

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Written by David

April 9th, 2010 at 12:19 pm

Posted in Nature,Religion,Science

World’s Biggest Sponge Found In The Bahamas

From April 3, 1910

WORLDS BIGGEST SPONGE FOUND IN THE BAHAMAS

WORLD’S BIGGEST SPONGE FOUND IN THE BAHAMAS (PDF)

It is what is known as a wool sponge, which is the finest quality known among spongers. It is in form perfectly round, arched like an immense fruit cake, and is six feet in circumference and two feet in diameter in every direction. When taken from the water it weighed between eighty and ninety pounds, and the fortunate man who captured it had a hard time landing it in his dory. Now that it has dried out and been relieved of all excrescences it weighs about twelve pounds.

This article has a little bonus: a humorous musing on why garlic is always referred to as “he.” Because everyone refers to their garlic as “he,” right?

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Written by David

April 2nd, 2010 at 8:10 pm

Posted in Nature,Science