The Condenser

Thursday, May 28, 2009

My Fifty-Two Billion Dearest Friends

Posted by Dave
As inane predictions go, nothing quite beats this gem from an issue of the journal Notes and Queries, published in 1905. One can only wonder what use could be gleaned from an estimate of the world's maximum population based on, apparently, the number of people that can physically fit in a square mile. And with no consideration for agriculture, much less wildlife, it's safe to assume all 52,000,000,000 of us will be eating a steady diet of Soylent Green. Standing up.

World Full In 2250. Mr. J. Holt Schooling, in an article, " When will the World be Full ? " in The Cosmopolitan for July, 1901, of twelve columns, illustrated, sums up his investigations and researches that in 2250 the world will be full. The following is his summary and forecast:

As there are 52,000,000 of square miles of land on the earth, and as we are to consider 1,000 persons to each square mile as the equivalent of the world as being full, it follows that we want a world population of 52,000,000,000 of persons to fill the condition. A glance at the above statement of growth in the world's population shows that the necessary growth from 1,600,000,000 in the year 1900 to the 52,000,000,000 in the year 2250, almost 350 years ahead of the present time, when, as the illustration suggests, it may be necessary to hang out a notice to the effect that the world is full to the utmost limit.

At the present time the density of population in the world is about one and one-half times that of the United States. In the year 2000 the density of the world population will still be considerably under the present density of China or of Spain; in the year 2100, however, this density will be on the track of Germany's present density of population, and will have passed the present density of France; while in the year 2200, the density of the world population will have gone beyond the present high density of Belgium's population; and in the year 2250, there will be 1,000 persons to every square mile of land on the earth, and the world will be full.

Image from Victorian Shopping


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Condenser Bijou Theatre Presents "By A Waterfall" from "Footlight Parade" (1933)

Posted by Meg
Whenever I feel that life is too whimsical and carefree, that I'm much too happy and need to come back down to Earth, I rely on the hardened realism of a Busby Berkeley number to set me straight. Tell it like it is, Buzz.


Monday, May 25, 2009

He Otter’ve Had Some Foresight

Posted by Edwin
This bittersweet tale of love and regret comes to us via the March, 1838 issue of the New Yorker literary and news journal (not to be confused with that other New Yorker). Had this poor sap known that feral woodland creatures made great pets he would have had a real corner on the market. With the exception of pelt hunters and the seven Native Americans still left in the region, I don’t think anyone else paid much mind to those round bellied rascals. Is it possible that this man sowed the sinister seed that is to blame for the utter evaporation of the creatures in the once otter-rich New York metropolitan area?

The Sussex County Register says that M. Meacham, of that place, caught an otter in that vicinity three weeks since, which he has succeeded in rendering perfectly docile and obedient. It follows him like a dog, and a child may handle it with entire impunity. He killed its mate and its mother; but he is now confident that if he had not done so, he could have made a business of rearing otters for market.


Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Delightful Vocabulary of Torture

Posted by Dave
With the ethics of torture a major topic in the news, it seems like a good time to reexamine some of the more traditional methods for extracting unreliable and inaccurate confessions from prisoners, witches, and anyone else who might have something to hide. Waterboarding? I'll take the thumbikens and pilniewinks, thank you very much.

From the
Edinburgh Magazine and Literary Miscellany, Volume 1, August - December 1817.

The thumbikens, as the name imports, was an instrument applied to the thumbs, in such a way as to enable the executioner to squeeze them violently ; and this was often done with so much force as to bruise the thumb-bones, and swell the arms of the sufferer up to his shoulders. The thumbikens used in torturing Principal Cantares was an iron instrument fastened to a table with a screw, the upper part of the instrument being squeezed down upon the thumbs by means of another screw, which the executioner pressed at the command of his employers.

The torture of the boots occurs at an earlier period in our history than that of the thumbikens ; and is mentioned in conjunction with some other torturing instruments, of which we have not been able to find any description in the writings of our antiquaries. Thus we read, that, in 1596, the son and daughter of Alison Balfour, who was accused of witchcraft, were tortured before her to make her confess her crime, in the manner following : "Her son was put in the buitt, where he suffered fifty-seven strokes ; and her daughter, about seven years old, was put in the pilniewinks.' In the same case, mention is made, besides pilniewinks, pinniewinks or pilliewinks, of caspitaws or caspicaws, and of tosots, as instruments of torture. Lord Hoyston, in his manuscript notes upon Mackenzie's Criminal Law, conjectures, that these may have been only other names for the haitt and thumbikens; and thus much seems certain, that in those times, there was some torturing device applied to the fingers, which bore the name of pilniewinks; but it will immediately appear, that the most authentic accounts assign the introduction and use of the instrument known by the name of thumbikens, to a much later period.


Friday, May 22, 2009

On the Infant's Digestive System

Posted by Edwin
I’m not one to criticize bad parenting; lord knows I am a product of benign neglect and I turned out just fine. However, when one sincerely questions whether or not violently throwing an infant child around is dangerous, Ye Olde Child Welfare Services should probably step in.

Fortunately for us Dr. Pye Henry Chavasse‘s 1839 parenting guide Advice to Mothers on the Management of their Offspring clears up any ambiguity on the subject. Chavasse also supplies us with a perfectly sensible recipe for eliminating infant flatulence in lieu of the common quack's recommendation that mothers administer opium to their farting children.

Q: Do you approve of tossing an infant much about?
A: Violent tossing of a young infant should never be allowed it only frightens him and has been known to bring on fits. He should be gently moved up and down not tossed such exercise causes a proper circulation of the blood promotes digestion and soothes to sleep. He should be always kept quiet after taking the breast if he be tossed directly afterwards it interferes with digestion and is likely to produce sickness.

Notwithstanding these precautions if the infant should still suffer from flatulence a little aniseed may be added to the food. Take three drops of oil of aniseed or oil of dill and two lumps of sugar rub them well in mortar together. Then add drop by drop three tablespoonfuls of spring water a teaspoonful of this may be added to each quantity of food or two or three teaspoonfuls of carraway seeds may be boiled in a teacupful of water for ten minutes and then strained one or two teaspoonfuls of the carraway tea may be added to each quantity of food or a dose of rhubarb and magnesia may be occasionally given. Godfrey's Cordial and Dalby's Carminative are frequently given in flatulence but as most of these quack medicines contain opium in one form or another and as opium is a most dangerous remedy for infants all quack medicines should be banished the nursery. Although I strongly object to the internal administration of opium yet its external application frequently gives an infant labouring under pains of the stomach and bowels from flatulence instant relief

Image of dapper doctors doing something undoubtedly important and groundbreaking courtesy The National Library of Medicine


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Condenser Bijou Theatre Presents "Those Awful Hats" (1909)

Posted by Meg
Welcome to the Condenser Bijou Theatre. Sorry I haven't updated in awhile, but I was visiting my great-grandmother who just turned 100. In honor of her, I will be playing a film from 1909, the year of her birth. Our feature is Those Awful Hats, directed by D.W. Griffith, a film that expresses the displeasure of having a person with a ridiculously large hat sit in front of you in a theatre, a common problem even today. Enjoy.


Monday, May 18, 2009

Electric Girl a Sham!

Posted by Dave
Our dear Electric Girl, Angelique Cotton (sometimes Cottin)-- she who flings chairs across rooms, attracts pieces of paper and detects true north through the tingling of her fingertips-- was declared a hoax by the Academy of Sciences in 1846. Her only authentic ability, according to the Academy, was in causing the chair upon which she was sitting to shake and move - leaving the Condenser to wonder if, perhaps, she suffered from nothing more than a mild case of hyperactivity. Fortunately, her routine was good enough to keep her making the rounds on the drawing room circuit even after her unfavorable review.

So if Angelique in fact had no powers, why would she submit to a careful examination? And why, in those circumstances, would she abandon her usual tricks? Please discuss.

From Meteorological Essays (1855) by François Arago:

At its meeting of the 16th of February last, the Academy received from M. Cholet and M. le Docteur Tanchon two notes, respecting the extraordinary faculties, said to have developed themselves for about a month past, in a young girl of the de- partement de l'Orne, named Angelique Cottin, of about fourteen years of age. The Academy, conformably to its usual practice, named a commission to examine the alleged facts and report the results. We will acquit ourselves of this duty in very few words.

No appreciable effect of this kind was witnessed by the Commission.

In the accounts communicated to the Academy, it is said that under the influence of this young person's arm, a magnetised needle first vibrated rapidly, and then came to rest at a considerable distance from the magnetic meridian.

In the presence of the Commission, a delicately suspended magnetic needle did not experience under these circumstances any displacement, either permanent or momentary.

M. Tanchon thought that Mademoiselle Cottin possessed the faculty of distinguishing the north from the south pole of a magnet, by simply touching the two poles with her fingers.

The Commission assured themselves, by varied and numerous experiments, that this young girl does not possess the supposed faculty of distinguishing the poles of a magnet by the touch.

The Commission will not pursue further the enumeration of failures; its members content themselves with declaring, in conclusion, that the only one of the announced facts which was realised in their presence, was that of the sudden and violent movements in chairs in which the young girl sat. Serious suspicions had arisen as to the manner in which these movements were produced, and the Commission determined to subject them to an attentive examination. The Commissioners announced, without disguise, that their examination would be directed to discover what share certain skilful and concealed manoeuvres by the hands and feet might have had in the effect witnessed by them. From this moment it was declared that the young girl had lost her attracting and repelling faculties, and that whenever they should reappear we should be apprised. Many days have since elapsed, and the Commission has received no such intimation. We know, however, that Mademoiselle Angelique Cottin is still daily presented in drawing-rooms, where she repeats her experiments.

Having weighed all these circumstances, the Commission is of opinion that the communications presented to the Academy on the subject of Mademoiselle Angelique Cottin ought to be set aside, or regarded as not having taken place.

Image of some highly investigative research (being performed on, remarkably, an entirely different electric girl) courtesy of The Telegraphic and Electrical Review, 1891


Saturday, May 16, 2009

On the Sound of a Meteor

Posted by Dave
The following is an excerpt from an article by John Pringle in the Royal Society's Philosophical Transactions, Volume 51, 1759. While he goes into great detail around all aspects of meteors, his description of the sound - and the way an observer in the 18th century would perceive the sound - seems particularly interesting.

The hissing noise, taken notice of by some while the meteor passed them, was a deception of that kind, which frequently connects sound with motion; and is the case of those who fancy they hear something, when they see the shootings of the aurora borealis; I say a deception, because if the meteor, during its course, really made any noise, so great was the distance of that body, and so short its continuance, that this sound could not have been heard till some minutes after the return of darkness. But the final report, so frequently mentioned, not only heard by those who saw the light, but by others who knew nothing of what had happened, was a real sound, and immensely greater than any we are acquainted with. For, at the distance of 70 miles and upwards, it was compared to loud thunder, the report of heavy artillery, the fall of the gabel-end of the house the person was in, and to a musket fired off in the garret. If this noise was produced when the body threw out those masses of burning matter (by the observers called sparks of fire, the bursting of the tail, and delineated in Fig. 5. as balls of a smaller size in the train itself), we shall find, that at this time the meteor, by being more than 41 miles high, was in a region where the air is three thousand times rarer than on the surface of the earth; that is, about six times rarer than in a common exhausted receiver, where sonorous bodies are not heard, and even where gunpowder and the pulvis fulminans take fire, and are exploded, but without noise. Hence I would infer, that the separation of the elastic matter must have been performed with a velocity exceeding all imagination.

1833 engraving of a meteor shower courtesy of this blog.


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A Mystical Prank?

Posted by Dave
From "Superstition and Knowledge," printed in The London Quarterly Review, 1823, we get an interesting Middle Eastern recipe guaranteed to annoy the neighbors. If you thought filling your dorm with shaving cream last year was a laugh, wait 'til they get a load of this one.

Gather the herb which the Latins call Salvia, but which, in the Chaldee tongue, bears the name of Colerican, and bury it in a vessel of glass, and a wonderful serpent, Albertus assures us, will be generated by the decaying herb. If the reptile is cast into the fire, the loudest thunder will he heard to roll: place its ashes in the lamp, and the delusive light will fill the dwelling with more monsters than ever crawled in the Libyan desert.

Image via this site.


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A Night of Submarine Cinema

Posted by Dave
On Sunday, May 17, Brooklyn's own Secret Science Club and the Criterion Collection will be hosting an evening of films by Jean Painlevé. If you enjoyed our post about Le Vampire a while back, you won't want to miss seeing some of his best underwater work. There's something about grainy black and white film that makes undersea creatures seem even more otherworldly.
The event will be held at Bell House at 7pm - click here for more details.

Image of Painlevé via this site.


Sunday, May 10, 2009

Birth of an Island

Posted by Dave
The following passage is taken from Petralogy: A Treatise on Rocks (1800) by John Pinkerton.

On the 23d of May 1707, after an earth- quake that happened the night before, the last mentioned island was discovered early in the morning by some seamen, who, taking it for a wreck, rowed immediately toward it; but finding rocks and earth instead of the remains of a ship, hasted back, and spread the news of what they had seen in Santorini. How great soever the apprehensions of the inhabitants were at the first sight, their surprise soon abated; and in a few days, seeing no appearance of fire or smoke, some of them ventured to land on the new island. Their curiosity led them from rock to rock, where they found a kind of white stone that cut like bread, which it nearly resembled in its form, colour, and consistence. They also found many oysters sticking to the rocks; but while they were employed in gathering them, the island moved and shook under their feet, upon which they ran with precipitation to their boats. With these motions and tremblings the island increased, not only in height, but in length and breadth; yet sometimes while it was raised and extended on one side, it sunk and diminished on the other. Our author observed a rock to rise out of the sea, forty or fifty paces from the island, which, having continued four days, sunk, and appeared no more; but several others appeared and disappeared alternately, till at last they remained fixed and unmoved. In the mean time the colour of the surrounding sea was changed: at first it was of a light green, then reddish, and afterwards of a pale yellow, accompanied with a noisome stench, which spread itself over part of Santorini.


In the night between the 19th and 20th of July, flames began to issue with the smoke, to the great terror of the inhabitants of Santorini, especially those of the castle of Scaro, who were not above a mile and a half distant from the burning island, which now increased very fast; large rocks daily springing up, which sometimes added to its length, and sometimes to its breadth. The smoke also increased, and, there being no wind, it ascended so high as to be seen at Candia, and other distant islands. During the night it resembled a column of fire, fifteen or twenty feet high; and the sea was then covered with a scurf or froth, in some places reddish, and in others yellowish, from which proceeded such a stench, that the inhabitants throughout the whole island of Santorini burnt perfumes in their houses, and made fires in the streets to prevent infection. This, indeed, did not last above a day or two; for a strong gale of wind dispersed the froth, but drove the smoke upon the vineyards of Santorini, by which the grapes, in one night, were parched up and destroyed. This smoke also caused violent headaches, attended with retchings.

Image of the Santorini volcano via Travel to Santorini


Monday, May 4, 2009

The Condenser Bijou Theatre Presents "The Enchanted Drawing" (1900)

Posted by Meg
J. Stuart Blackton directs and stars in this week's feature, considered to be one of the first films to use animation. Before he was a director Blackton was in vaudeville, performing under the name the "Komikal Kartoonist", where he would draw up "lightning sketches". The camera adds a fantastic twist to Blackton's vaudeville talent. I guess you can say he started a movement.

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