Old Print Books
Balloon steered by magnet

We stay in topic of the balloons. In the first years of the ballooning, one of the serious problems was steering the aerostat, because, as it’s commonly known, a balloon has neither propulsion, nor steering device. There were lots of different attempts to solve this problem, but most of them failed.




One idea came from a polish poet and royal chamberlain, Stanisław Trembecki (1739-1812), who came up with a brilliant idea to steer a balloon with a magnet. How did he visualize it? Now, in his project there was an iron plate attached to the surface of a balloon and a magnet at the end of an arm, sticking out of the basket. A proper magnet would pull a balloon in the desired direction. You can see it in his project:



Trembecki introduced his project to the king Stanisław August Poniatowski, who not only got interested in this idea, but also sent it to scientific academies in Berlin and Petersburg. Unsurprisingly, he didn’t receive positive response.

The whole idea was of course ridiculous, because you can’t expect to pull yourself with magnet attached to you. It would be something like pulling yourself up by your hair, but unfortunately only baron Münchausen can do this. The idea of Trembecki proves him poorly educated and shallow thinking, but unluckily the same applies to the king.

In the polish version of this article I would end at this point, but as you may not be familiar with polish Enlightenment, I’ve got to explain some things. First of all, the case of Trembecki may sound comical, but he was an example of a mind that tried to be progressive and serve his country with inventions, even if he didn’t have any intellectual base. Such was the polish Enlightenment.

Fortunately, that period gave birth to authentic polish ‘savants’ that were respected among their European colleagues, not to mention Jan Śniadecki (1756-1830), who was one of the first to carry out experiments with real balloons. But I will tell more about him later.



Source:

I. Z. Siemion, O polskich osiemnastowiecznych próbach balonowych, „Wiadomości Chemiczne”, 2009, nr 63, s. 713.

Obscene balloons

Have you heard about first balloon flights in France? It was in 1780s, it’s not enough to say that people enjoyed it. They loved balloons. They went mad about balloons. They printed so many paintings, drawings and figures with balloons, that you probably have seen at least one of them. But some of them were caricatures. Peculiar ones. As libertine as French Enlightenment itself.


Source: Bibliothèque nationale de France


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Sir Karl Popper on role-playing games


By accident I found very interesting letter from 50 years ago. What was it about? Role-playing games. What is more, it was written by sir Karl Popper, one of the most brilliant minds of philosophy and logic of 20th century.

Letter is dated 20 July 1961 and was addressed to Thomas Szasz, Hungarian psychiatrist. In one point Popper apparently responds to a question, concerning role-playing games (unfortunately I don’t have that letter of Szasz). It looks like that:

(2) Role Playing and Game playing. I shall make
only quite dogmatic remarks. Role playing is for
those who do not dare to be what they are. It is
itself already a shoddy and dangerous substitute for
genuine learning, that is, for genuinely changing
oneself to become more nearly what one wants to be.
This learning new roles is not the kind of learning
which is really desirable, and an end in itself.

Learning a new role has only an instrumental
value - for survival. But none of us survives long;
and instrumental values are not enough. Learning - as
opposed to learning a new role - and growing up, until
we die, is, or can be, a value in itself. To perform
constantly the miracle of lifting oneself out of the
swamp by one’s own shoelaces is, indeed, a purpose.

[…] Now role playing is a bad
philosophy of life, and so is the theory of learning
by repetition (which is inapplicable in a changing
environment anyway).


(source)


In brief: Popper states that role-playing (in actual RPGs, because back then there weren’t computer RPGs, as well as computers themselves) are poor and potentially harmful alternative for traditional ways of learning.

It’s not surprising. In 60s there weren’t good RPGs (the original Dungeons&Dragons game was released in 1974), the gamers were joined in few small groups, which reminded rather sects. Certainly, you’d attract less attention doing LSD than playing with imagined armor and sword.

ornamentedbeing:

1720s-1730s
The V&A says: Pattens were worn to lift the shoe out of the dirt and damp. Being somewhat heavy and clumsy, they were mainly used by working-class or country women.
These pattens, however, have pointed toes to fit a fashionable woman’s shoe and a depression at the back where a small heel could sit. The shoe would have been fastened into the patten by means of ribbon-laced latchets. All this, and the fact that the latchets are covered in velvet, suggests that the patterns were worn by someone of considerable wealth.

ornamentedbeing:

1720s-1730s

The V&A says: Pattens were worn to lift the shoe out of the dirt and damp. Being somewhat heavy and clumsy, they were mainly used by working-class or country women.

These pattens, however, have pointed toes to fit a fashionable woman’s shoe and a depression at the back where a small heel could sit. The shoe would have been fastened into the patten by means of ribbon-laced latchets. All this, and the fact that the latchets are covered in velvet, suggests that the patterns were worn by someone of considerable wealth.

Ahh, so illuminating.


Poster “Electricidad Tapies y Comprubí” by Joan Llaverias. 1899.

Museum of the History of Catalonia in Barcelona.

Ahh, so illuminating.


Poster “Electricidad Tapies y Comprubí” by Joan Llaverias. 1899.

Museum of the History of Catalonia in Barcelona.

Abbé Nollet and electrified cats



The 18th century physics made an impressive discovery, a completely new branch of science: the electricity. There were some suppositions about electrical phenomenons since Antiquity (mainly considering amber and natural magnets) but they were detached and insufficient to form a complete theory of electricity. Great researches of Stephen Gray, Benjamin Franklin, Charles François Dufay and many others, paved the way to new understanding of electricity, but there were many unknowns, like for example, the effects of electricity on human body. Was it at all safe? Or may be able to cure diseases?

The easiest way to find it out, was to make an empiric experiment on it (experiments were back then quite a new and fashionable way of doing science). Jean-Antoine Nollet, a famous French physicist, performed a lot of experiments on electricity but some of them can be considered odd. Let’s look at one of them.

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Let’s get it started

This is the first post in blog, in which I’d like to share with you some interesting things, that I often find in old books. I’m studing history and it comes naturally, that if you read a lot of old stuff, you eventually accumulate a number of interesting ideas, that alone provide not enough material for an article, but ares still worth sharing. I’m mostly interested in 18th and 19th century, especially in history of science, but I believe I’ll go beyond that.

So let’s get it started, in short time I’ll put some things here. For now, look at those electric machines from polish physics handbook: F. Scheidt, O elektrycznośći uważaney w ciałach ziemskich i atmosferze (On electricity regarded in ground bodies and atmosphere), published in Kraków in 1786.

Link to the bigger image. Note, that one is really big. : x