The Short Life Of A Beautiful Idea: The Soviet ‘Sormovich’ Passenger Hovercraft

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A gas-turbine hovercraft 'Sormovich' was built in 1965. During the tests  the 'Sormovich' reached  the speed of 120 km / h, went above the surface of the earth at a height of 0.25-0.3 m, it had easily overcame the shallow water and landed gently on the beach.

‘Sormovich’ was built in 1965. During the tests she reached the speed of 120 km/h (75 miles/hr), and went above the surface at a height of 0.25-0.3 m (approx. 1 ft), – she had easily overcome the shallow water and landed gently on the beach.

It looks like an airplane’s fuselage zipping on the water…

The Soviet Sormovich: A gas-turbine passenger hovercraft that operated on an experimental passenger line along the Volga River (Gorky – Cheboksary) in 1971-1972, which was 274 km (170 miles). A round trip from Gorky to Cheboksary took one day.

The ship had a crew of 3 people and could carry up to 50 passengers. The passenger lounge was placed at the bow. Operation was complicated by problems with the dispensing gear that failed. According to the statistics the Sormovich served about 6,000 passengers.

The 'Sormovich' In A More Pastoral Scene

The Sormovich In A More Pastoral Scene

1971 'Sormovich' winter conditions test.

1971 Sormovich winter conditions test.

In 1971, tests were conducted with the Sormovich to determine the feasibility of passenger traffic in the winter.

The tests were successful, but the idea of ​​passenger traffic in the winter was refused.

This decision was unclear, because the ship was designed to operate in the winter months. Perhaps it was connected with almost completely absent infrastructure for winter navigation on the Volga river.  (English Russia)

The Sormovich decommissioned, abandoned, and in disrepair.

The Sormovich decommissioned, abandoned, and in disrepair.

The gas-turbine hovercraft was decommissioned in 1974. The Sormovich met her end on a base in the Gorky Region. There it fell into a complete state of disrepair. It was cut into pieces of lifeless metal.

(Source material and photos: English Russia)

Have You Ever Heard About ‘Gamma Gardens’ And The ‘Atomic Gardening’ Fad?

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The first public showing of an ‘atomic garden’ took place on March 4, 1961 at the Home and Flower Show in Cleveland, Ohio - (Photo by Frank Scherschel for Life)

The first public showing of an ‘atomic garden’ took place on March 4, 1961 at the Home and Flower Show in Cleveland, Ohio – (Photo:  Frank Scherschel for LIFE Magazine)

The ‘atomic gardening fad’ was part of the ‘Atoms For Peace‘ program – it occurred during the late 50s to the mid-60s. Citizen gardeners, were encouraged to compete with one another in the field of radiation-induced mutagenesis – using irradiated seeds for plants and crops in order to mutate the offspring to make them bigger, more colorful, more resistant to disease and parasites, or to enhance fitness in stressful environmental conditions, such as drought, frost, or poor soils.

Dr. Speas' Atomic Seed Advert

Dr. Speas’ Atomic Seed Advert, Chicago Daily Tribune (Graphic via LSF Magazine)

In 1960 dentist-turned-entrepreneur, Clarence J. Speas, founded Oak Ridge Atom Industries, Inc. to sell ‘atomic’ products. Speas, via Oak Ridge, became a major player in the citizen ‘atomic gardening fad’ – to encourage interest, Oak Ridge sponsored a contest for the ‘most unusual plant’ with a prize of $3,000 and agreed to ‘purchase or pay royalties on new varieties deemed to have commercial value.’

This atomic age fad has pretty much faded from history and is usually only referred to in relation to contemporary arguments that surround the use of GMOs by major corporate players like Monsanto.  Supporters for the use of GMOs argue that genetic modification of plants and crops is a part of agricultural history for thousands of years – the ‘atomic garden fad’ is an example of how state, corporate, and citizen cooperation can go a long way in viable research through understanding and acceptance of this fact. Those more suspicious of corporate GMO research and implementation of genetically modified plants and crops point out that the ‘atomic garden fad’ was a rare moment of open and shared information between science and the citizen – today’s genetic-modification programs are sheltered from discussion by copyright claims and intellectual property privacy.

Nanotechnology researcher and gardening enthusiast, Paige Johnson, hopes to shed some new light on this mid-century fad. From her research so far she notes that very little information is available about the results related to the citizen gardening. It’s possible that the government may have some research data but it is not easily found. An interesting 2011 interview is posted at the Pruned website here.

It’s interesting to note that while the atomic backyard gardening fad pretty much faded from public attention in the mid-60s, no one is quite sure how many irradiated seeds are still in circulation, or if and how many smaller crops are offspring from generations of genetically modified parents. Also, large scale radiation breeding never actually stopped and is now experiencing a renaissance due to the introduction of ‘new methods that speed up the identification of mutants.’ Below is a photo of the world’s largest ‘gamma garden’ located in Hitachiohmiya, Japan. It has an ‘88.8 Terabecquerel Cobalt-60 source, ringed by a 3,608-foot radius Gamma field, and a 28-foot high shield dike around the perimeter.’

Aerial view of the Institute of Radiation Breeding, Hitachiohmiya, Japan

Aerial view of the Institute of Radiation Breeding, Hitachiohmiya, Japan (Photo via Edible Geography)

Info and Photographic Resources:
Life Science Foundation
Edible Geography
Pruned

Exposing The Device – The Unbelievable ‘Miss Honeywell’

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In the 1960s there was a flurry of electronic and computer innovation and breakthroughs. Near the end of the decade, in 1968, London, England, hosted a trade fair – the Instruments, Electronics and Automation Exhibition at the Olympia conference center. One would imagine that it should have been filled with all kinds of new and exciting examples of modern ingenuity. After a very thorough search through several databases, only one exhibit appears to have made an impression.

The video below is from the fantastic British Pathé collection on YouTube. It features Miss Honeywell – “a futuristic ‘robot girl’ demonstrating various pieces of equipment by computer company Honeywell Controls Ltd..” The commentator is skeptical. The observers seem fascinated.

 

Yes indeed. The commentator is correct – the man at the controls is illusionist Mark Wilson. Wilson has been credited as the man who brought stage magic innovation to television. He’s since had a very successful career, earned the title of Master Magician, and has been honored with numerous national and international magician awards by his peers. ‘Miss Honeywell’ was more than likely Wilson’s wife and longtime assistant, Nani Darnell.

It appears that the innovation that stole the show in 1968 wasn’t an electronic computerized automation at all – it was instead a dazzling low-tech illusionist invention. Below are two pages of Mark Wilson’s ‘APPARATUS AND METHOD FOR PRODUCING DISPLAY ILLUSIONS’ abstract. It was filed in January 1969 and was patented October 1971.

US Patent 3,612,516 Abstract

US Patent 3,612,516 Abstract  (Image via cyberneticzoo.com)

US Patent 3,612,516 Figures 1 and 2

US Patent 3,612,516 Figures 1 and 2  (Image via cyberneticzoo.com)

Just one last thing about the ‘robot girl’ – she wasn’t a one-trick-automaton. Wilson’s creation traveled to a number of exhibitions and trade shows. Earlier in ’68 she did a gig for Hamilton Beach as the highly efficient housecleaner ‘Roberta the Robot’ at the Home Furnishings Exposition in San Francisco. By 1970 she developed a glitzy glammish look and took to speaking French – La ‘femme robot ménager’ can be seen here.

An Actually Useful Tchotchke: Scotty, The Peeing Dog

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My maternal great-grandparents were both originally from the city of Danzig and were of Prussian descent. Danzig was a very cosmopolitan city and my great-grandfather spoke five languages. One of the words that had passed down the generations is an old yiddish term, tchotchkes. Tchotchkes are those kind-of useless little kitschy-like knick-knacks you find around the house. They were very popular in early to late mid-twentieth century America and some folks have made it their life’s mission to collect the most desirable ones. They are quite amusing and every once in a while one pops up that can be just hilarious.

Enter Scotty, The Not Housebroken Dog ashtray. Scotty’s advert was featured in the February 1939 issue of Science And Mechanics. This tchotchke was not at all useless:

Scotty Ashtray - February 1935 (Photo: Modern Mechanix)

Scotty Ashtray Advert – February 1935 (Photo: Modern Mechanix)

NOT HOUSE BROKEN!
We call him Scotty. When your guests put cigarettes in the ash tray- and pat Scotty’a head he’ll raise his little hind leg and-PUT OUT THE CIGARETTE. Convenient water sack inside Scotty is easily filled. At last a canine’s most inconvenient habit has been turned into a practical and extremely funny use! Scotty mounted on ash tray both in attractive bronze finish.

Scotty may be had for $1.50 postpaid. Money back if not completely satisfied.

Pretty clever. An eBay search just might be in order.  Ha!

Fare Thee Well, Al Feldstein

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Al Feldstein by Michael Netzer

Al Feldstein by Michael Netzer

The great Al Feldstein crossed the great divide this week – Tuesday, 29 April – he was 88.

His most enduring legacy will perhaps be that centerpiece of American satire, Mad magazine. After Feldstein took the helm in 1956 the magazine rocketed upwards and became one of the most popular periodicals in the nation. He captained the ship for twenty-nine years. While Feldstein’s success with Mad magazine is certainly worth the acclaim, his earlier work with EC Comics should not go unrecognized. From 1948 until 1955, he was prolific as writer, illustrator, and editor for this highly poignant line:

As EC’s editor, Feldstein created a literate line, balancing his genre tales with potent graphic stories probing the underbelly of American life. In creating stories around such topics as racial prejudice, rape, domestic violence, police brutality, drug addiction and child abuse, he succeeded in addressing problems and issues which the 1950s radio, motion picture and television industries were too timid to dramatize.
wikipedia

Below is the cover of Panic #2 issued 1 April 1954. The dangerous looking boy is playing with a ‘Junior Kem-Kit For the Budding Scientist.’ In the 1950s atomic everything was in vogue – in 1951-52 Gilbert produced the ‘Atomic Energy Lab’ that included four types of uranium ore. Also in the ’50s Chemcraft produced the ‘Porter Atomic Energy Kit’ that included a vial of uranium ore, a vial that contained a ‘uranium chemical’ and a ‘screen’ of radium. Was Feldstien the only person at the time who recognized the bizarre nature of such things? Be that as it may – his illustration is one that we can all relate to today.

Fare thee well, Mr. Feldstein – you done good.

Panic #2 - 1 April 1954

Panic #2 – 1 April 1954 – Illustration: Al Feldstein