‘Now I Am Become Death…’ – 69 Years Ago Today, The Dawn Of The Atomic Age

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The test site, named the White Sands Proving Ground, was built in the Jornada del Muerto (route of the dead man) desert. The good news for today is — we haven’t blown ourselves to kingdom-come just yet.

The Trinity Test, July 16, 1945:

At 05:29:21 (plus or minus 2 seconds) local time (Mountain War Time), the device exploded with an energy equivalent to around 20 kilotons of TNT (84 TJ). It left a crater of radioactive glass in the desert 10 feet (3.0 m) deep and 1,100 feet (340 m) wide. At the time of detonation, the surrounding mountains were illuminated “brighter than daytime” for one to two seconds, and the heat was reported as “being as hot as an oven” at the base camp. The observed colors of the illumination ranged from purple to green and eventually to white. The roar of the shock wave took 40 seconds to reach the observers. The shock wave was felt over 100 miles (160 km) away, and the mushroom cloud reached 7.5 miles (12.1 km) in height. After the initial euphoria of witnessing the explosion had passed, test director Kenneth Bainbridge commented to Los Alamos director J. Robert Oppenheimer, Now we are all sons of bitches. Oppenheimer later stated that, while watching the test, he was reminded of a line from the Bhagavad Gita, a Hindu scripture: Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.  – wikipedia

To Look A Demon In The Eye: Nuclear Tests and Rapatronic Imaging

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For the early nuclear weapons scientists, being able to observe the rapidly changing matter in nuclear explosions was vital to their understanding of the phenomena and the effects. Several aspects of the blast (e.g. the blinding light, the speed of the nuclear reaction in the bomb, and the need to be miles away from the detonation) made it very difficult to capture the initial stages on film.

In 1947 the Atomic Energy Commission contracted innovative photographic engineer Harold ‘Doc’ Edgerton and two colleagues, Kenneth Germeshausen and Herbert Grier – their mission, improve imaging results.

By 1950 EG&G, Inc. had invented a device capable of capturing images from the fleeting instant directly following a nuclear explosion. Enter the rapatronic (for Rapid Action Electronic) shutter – a shutter with no moving parts that could be opened and closed by turning a magnetic field on and off.

Magneto-optic shutter, for micro-second photography (e.g. Rapatronic camera); 1952

Magneto-optic shutter, for micro-second photography (i.e. Rapatronic camera), 1952 – Photograph via Edgerton Digital Collections (cc)

The single-use rapatronic cameras were able to snap a photo one millisecond after detonation – at times even less – from about seven miles away. The duration of the exposure was as little as two microseconds.

The resulting images were eerie and fascinating.

This is an image of a 'shot cab' - the housing at the top of the tower that contains the explosive device.

This is an image of a ‘shot cab’ – the housing at the top of the tower that contains the explosive device. (Photo via Edgerton Digital Collections)

This is a rapatronic image of a at the moment of atomic bomb explosion. The cab appears to be fluorescing with X-Ray energy making it transparent. (Taken at Eniwetok, ca. 1952)

This is a rapatronic image of a ‘shot cab’ at the moment of an atomic bomb explosion. The cab appears to be fluorescing with X-Ray energy making it transparent. Blogger James Vaughn at ATOMIC-ANNIHILATION made this comment: …the most prominent feature is in the middle-upper (left) which looks like a giant friggin’ eye! Is that the ‘device’ caught in some weird moment of percolating itself into and out of existence before it becomes an … atomic explosion?  (Photo via Edgerton Digital Collections, taken at Eniwetok, c. 1952)

The explosion of  Boltzmann (30 K) during Operation Plumbbomb.

The detonation of Boltzmann (12 kt)) during Operation Plumbbob – 28 May 1957. In this rapatronic image the spikes below the fireball are the shot tower support cables vaporizing as they absorb thermal radiation – known as the ‘rope trick’ effect. (Photo via sonicbomb)

Operation Plumbbomb's Priscilla Detonation Image

The detonation of Priscilla (37 kt) during Operation Plumbbob – 24 June 1957. Instead of being housed in a shot cab, the Priscilla device was held 700 feet aloft by a balloon with steel cable mooring. This rapatronic image captures the burst of explosive and thermal energy equivalent to 37.000 tons of TNT. The ‘rope trick’ spikes are prominent and dramatic. The spots are fragments of the bomb casing and shot cab debris ‘splashing’ against the inside of the expanding shock front. (Photo via sonicbomb)

The detonation of How (14kt) during Operation Tumbler-Snapper - 5 June 1952.

The detonation of How (14 kt) during Operation Tumbler-Snapper – 5 June 1952. This rapatronic image captures the expanding plasma ball in all its monstrous majesty. The heat generated through the ‘rope trick’ effect caused the desert floor to turn to glass. (Photo via sonicbomb)

The detonation of How (14kt) during Operation Tumbler-Snapper - 5 June 1952. In another millionth of a second after the previous rapatronic image, a planet of fire exists,  silhouetting and dwarfing the Joshua Trees.

The detonation of How (14 kt) during Operation Tumbler-Snapper – 5 June 1952. A millisecond after the previous image, another rapatronic captures a different picture of the detonation. A globe of fire emerges. The Joshua trees silhouetted at the base of the rapidly expanding explosion will quickly be engulfed by the shock and heat waves and incinerated. (Photo via sonicbomb)

The detonation of Mohawk (360 kt) during Operation Redwing - 3 July 1956.

The detonation of Mohawk (360 kt) during Operation Redwing – 3 July 1956. The thermonuclear Mohawk was a more powerful device than the above three combined. This rapatronic image captures the burst of explosive and thermal energy equivalent to 360.000 tons of TNT. The cloud rose to 65,000ft/~20km. The plasma colossus resembles some sort of strange living organism. (Photo via AtomCentral)

The Mohawk detonation heavily contaminated the island (of Eberiru /Ruby) and strong radiation was detected on the north end of the (Enewetak) atoll, strong enough to fog the film of photographs taken by aircraft in the area. Recovery operations were delayed for several days as a result of the high radiation levels.  - sonicbomb

With the assistance of EG&G’s rapatronic shutter the scientists studying the Mohawk blast were able to clearly see the embryonic demon that was unleashed that day. The experiments continued on with the discharge of devices even more powerful. The scientists had become like wizards, charmed by their own sorcery.

When Music Is So Bad It’s Thought To Be Good: The Case Of The Shaggs

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The Shaggs - Philosophy Of The World LP Cover (Reissue 1980)

The Shaggs – Philosophy Of The World LP Cover (Reissue 1980) (via Bradley Loos)

The Shaggs / Philosophy Of The World
LABEL: Rounder / Red Rooster
COUNTRY: USA
DATE: originally released 1969, this is a 1980 reissue

Not sure if this was tongue-in-cheek, but Zappa rated The Shaggs the #3 best band in history in a Norwegian newspaper (April 1988). It’s said that Kurt Cobain liked them as well. While the girls never had the interest in making a band, they did so at the insistence of their demanding father – their father had been told in a palm reading by his mother that his daughters would form a popular musical group. When dads felt the time was right, he took the girls out of school, gave them instruments, and this happened.

Music critic and musician, Cub Coda, wrote this about The Shaggs first album release, Philosophy Of The World:

The guilelessness that permeates these performances is simply amazing, making a virtue out of artlessness. There’s an innocence to these songs and their performances that’s both charming and unsettling. Hacked-at drumbeats, whacked-around chords, songs that seem to have little or no meter to them (“My Pal Foot Foot,” “Who Are Parents,” “That Little Sports Car,” “I’m So Happy When You’re Near” are must-hears) being played on out-of-tune, pawn-shop-quality guitars all converge, creating dissonance and beauty, chaos and tranquility, causing any listener coming to this music to rearrange any pre-existing notions about the relationships between talent, originality, and ability. There is no album you might own that sounds remotely like this one. – ALLMUSIC

Reportedly, during the recording sessions the band would occasionally stop playing, claiming one of them had made a mistake and that they needed to start over, leaving the sound engineers to wonder how the girls could tell when a mistake had been made. – wikipedia

Since 1980 there has been spurts of rediscovery for The Shaggs – a reissue of their first album on vinyl, a reissue on CD, reviews from The Wall Street Journal, The Rolling Stone, and The New Yorker, a Shaggs tribute album, a stage musical, and a BBC4 Radio documentary.

Like ‘em or hate ‘em, they sure make for some lively conversation around the interwebs. So, prepare yourself, this is The Shaggs performing their positive parent message Who Are Parents?:

Maybe It’s A Good Thing We Can’t See Noise

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The June 1961 issue of Parents’ Magazine featured a story entitled, You Can Make Your Home Less Noisy, in the Better Homemaking section. Writer H. Robert Childs made some common sense suggestions, i.e. acoustical fiberboard ceiling tiles, wall-to-wall carpeting, heavy drapes, felt cushions to ‘dissipate the vibration of such devices as typewriters,’ etc.

What stood out most about the article, though, were the illustrations. Imagine if you could see the noise that is all around you. Illustrator Robert J. Lee presents that scenario in a just-short-of-jarring almost whimsical way. Below are select scans from the article provided by flickr member Leif Peng.

You Can Make Your Home Less Noisy top illustration, Parent's Magazine, 1961

You Can Make Your Home Less Noisy top illustration, Parents’ Magazine, June 1961

You Can Make Your Home Less Noisy full illustration, Parents' Magazine, 1961

You Can Make Your Home Less Noisy full illustration, Parents’ Magazine, 1961

You Can Make Your Home Less Noisy girl's room detail, Parents' Magazine, 1961

You Can Make Your Home Less Noisy teenage girl’s room detail, Parents’ Magazine, 1961

You Can Make Your Home Less Noisy dad's workshop detail, Parents' Magazine, 1961

You Can Make Your Home Less Noisy dad’s workshop detail, Parents’ Magazine, 1961

You Can Make Your Home Less Noisy dad's  little helper detail, Parents' Magazine, 1961

You Can Make Your Home Less Noisy dad’s little helper detail, Parents’ Magazine, 1961

You Can Make Your Home Less Noisy little cowboy detail, Parents' Magazine, 1961

You Can Make Your Home Less Noisy little cowboy detail, Parents’ Magazine, 1961

Maybe it’s a good thing that we can’t see noise. Sometimes hearing it and feeling it can be just about enough. *heh*

A Housewife’s Tale From The House Of Googie

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Susan smiles during her drive in the '57 Chevy.

Susan smiles during her drive in the ’57 Chevy.  (photo source:amour sournois)

Susan blinked. What was she doing in the car? Where was she? She didn’t remember getting into the car, or starting the engine, or driving all the way from sunny Saskatchewan to the depths of southern Chile. Maybe her valium prescription was getting a little overzealous, she thought, as she pondered how she was going to get back home before her husband finished work.

The House Of Googie

The Space Age Office

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Scout Paget:

Quintessential checklist for the perfect office space.

Originally posted on The Invisible Agent:

Check out the items I found on Ebay for the perfect Space Age Office:

Teak desk for any business man

Teak desk for any business man

End table lamps for perfect mood lighting

End table lamps for perfect mood lighting

Desk Lamp for all that paperwork

Desk Lamp for all that paperwork

Art for the wall

Jere art for the wall

Sofa

Sofa

Ash Tray

Ash Tray

Decanter for after those stressful mettings

Decanter for after those stressful meetings

Pen Holder...If your pocket protector is full

Pen Holder...If your pocket protector is full

Desk Chair

Desk Chair

The perfect table for sharing information with co-workers

The perfect table for sharing information with co-workers

Knick Knacks for your desk and table

Knick Knacks for your desk and table

Painting for your wall

Painting for your wall

//theinvisibleagent.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?action=edit&post=60rkcloth for curtains

Barkcloth for curtains

Wall clock for counting down the minutes until cocktail hour

Wall clock for counting down the minutes until cocktail hour

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The Art Of Math – you could do that with SPIROGRAPH

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Spirograph is a geometric drawing toy that produces mathematical roulette curves of the variety technically known as hypotrochoids and epitrochoids. – Wikipedia

The Marvelous Wondergraph drawing (1907-1908) - Manufactured by E. I. Horsman Co., U.S.A.

The Marvelous Wondergraph drawing kit (1907-1908) – Manufactured by E. I. Horsman Co., U.S.A. (Photo: © The Strong)

A forerunner of the 1960s Spirograph, the 1908 Horsman WONDERGRAPH allowed kids to create roulette curves with the help of a mechanical device. It was sold through the Sears catalog in 1908.

Fast forward to 1962.

Inspired by a Victorian idea for creating patterns using cogs and wheels, an English mechanical engineer named Denys Fisher designed a tool originally intended as an industrial drafting instrument. Using perforated interlocking gears and the point of a pen, Fisher’s invention would trace sine and cosine waves by using the gears as a moving stencil. This idea never materialized – Fisher had another plan.

In 1965 Fisher introduced his repurposed invention at The Nuremberg International Toy Show – SPIROGRAPH was a hit.

Denys Fisher original Spirograph - 1965

Denys Fisher original SPIROGRAPH set – 1965 (Photo: Ralph Stephenson)

Unlike earlier mechanical geometric design drawing kits – i.e. the WONDERGRAPH – SPIROGRAPH’s varied cogs, wheels, and racks, allowed for more interactivity and hands-on play. The relative ease of use made it possible for people of all ages to feel that they too could create interesting bits of art.

Found Spirograph Drawings (1)

Found Spirograph Drawings (1) via Mike Leavenworth on Flickr: ‘We found a nearly complete Spirograph Set with these (essentially) flawless images – all on one page and no do-overs!’

Found Spirograph Drawings (2)

Found Spirograph Drawings (2) via Mike Leavenworth on Flickr

The mathematical formulas inherent in Spirographs are intuitively recognized by the user. The visible interplay between art and math helps teach logical pattern rules. In the UK, SPIROGRAPH won the Educational Toy of the Year three years running from 1965 to 1967 and became Toy of the Year in 1967.

1967 UK SPIROGRAPH Drawing Set - The British version manufactured by The Denys Fisher Toys Group contained instructions on how to create drawings of animals, including the owl pictured on the box.

1967 UK SPIROGRAPH Drawing Set – The British version manufactured by The Denys Fisher Toys Group contained instructions on how to create drawings of animals, including the owl pictured on the box. (Photo via Daily Mail)

In 1966 Kenner Toys purchased the marketing rights to SPIROGRAPH for American consumers. It became the number one selling toy in the US for Christmas in 1967.

Kenner's 1967 SPIROGRAPH Set

Kenner’s 1967 SPIROGRAPH Set (Photo via eBay)

In 1969 Kenner introduced SUPER SPIROGRAPH PLUS. This set included interlocking arced racks, a geared square, and a triangle, adding larger and even more interesting design possibilities.

The 1969 Kenner SUPER SPIROGRAPH PLUS

The 1969 Kenner SUPER SPIROGRAPH PLUS set (Photo via eBay)

Various other Spirograph-related products were sold, including a SPIROTOT (a Spirograph designed for toddlers), and various refill packages. Other Spirograph products included the Spiroscope, with a kaleidoscope capable of bringing new depth and view to your Spirograph drawings; a Sparkle Spirograph, featuring glitter pens; and a kinetic art Spirograph in which the pen swings on a pendulum, drawing the pattern with the power of physics. As of 2009, there are electronic versions of Spirograph for creating designs on the computer. Math Playground has an online version called, Spiromath – The Intersection of Math and Art – it can be found here.

Denys Fisher’s SPIROGRAPH has gone on to become an art design classic for the ages.

In 1970 Fisher sold his company to Hasbro (making SPIROGRAPH a registered trademark of Hasbro, Inc.) and Fisher became a wealthy man. In 2002, the inventor of the Spirograph passed away at the age of 84. While Fisher the man may be gone, his legacy endures in the countless number of artists, mathematicians, and designers whom his drawing toy inspired throughout the years.

Sound Feelings believe in carrying on the SPIROGRAPH tradition and they market a ten color pen that features ‘the original “thin-style” ballpoint pen tips that are required to fit through the narrow holes of the Spirograph gears.’ Their promo graphics cover the virtues of Fisher’s invention.

Spirograph Learning Math Through ArtSPIROGRAPH, Eye-Hand Coordination

SPIROGRAPH, Universe Of PossibilitiesSPIROGRAPH, Like Life Itself

Nat is a bookbinder and crafter extraordinaire. After her husband gave her a vintage SPIROGRAPH set in 2011 she’s added it as another tool in her creativity tool-kit.

One of Nat's early SPIROGRAPH works: I couldn't help myself!  Of course I just had to draw one straight onto my current embroidery, and stitch it up.

One of Nat’s early SPIROGRAPH works: I couldn’t help myself!
Of course I just had to draw one straight onto my current embroidery, and stitch it up. (Photo: Smallest Forest)

Kathrin Jebsen-Marwedel is an artist who presents her love of illustration in Moleskine planners. She posted the entry below on Flickr in August 2009.

Fabulous SPIROGRAPH inspired illustration - Kathrin Jebsen-Marwedel's Moleskine Collection

Wonderful SPIROGRAPH inspired illustration – Kathrin Jebsen-Marwedel’s Moleskine Collection, 2009

This post ends with a splendid example of SPIROGRAPH in the early-21st century. Si Keshi created a multi-color multi-patterned design called, Spirograph Madness. Afterwords, using the basic Paint computer app, Keshi inverted the image creating Spirograph Madness Inverted. The original Spirograph Madness can be seen here. Denys Fisher would have been pleased.

Spirograph Madness Inverted - Si Keshi, 2008

Spirograph Madness Inverted – Si Keshi, 2008

Info Resources:
Retrowow UK
The Journal Of Antiques and Collectables
eHOW