Our Friends Electric: AEG – Perfekt in Form und Funktion


The post below was written by Kat Gibbons and published at Appliance City UK’s, acitylife blog on 26 November 2015. Gibbons does an excellent job tracing the outstanding history and contributions of the German electrics firm, AEG. For them, everything had electric potential. The image of the one million volt utility transformer, created in Berlin in 1931, is awesome in its design – as well as super in its photographic aesthetic.

AEG – Perfekt in Form und Funktion

From lightbulbs to heavy machinery to airplanes and breaking land speed records, AEG has touched every facet of the electrical industry for more than a century.

AEG was founded in Berlin, Germany in 1883 by Emil Rathenau.

Emil Rathenau

Herr Rathenau had acquired the rights to Edison’s lightbulb patent that same year. It was the beginning of AEG’s extensive and illustrious history in electronics engineering and manufacturing.

AEG’s original name was Deutsch Edison – Gesellschaft für angewadte Elektricität. In 1887, the company changed it’s name to Allgemeine Elektricitäts – Gesellschaft (AEG) removing Edison from the name of it’s company. By this time, AEG had far surpassed manufacturing lightbulbs and had moved on to bigger electrical milestones.

1891 saw one such milestone completed when AEG completed a massive electrical hurdle at the International Electrotechnical Exhibition in Frankfurt. Two of their key electrical designers powered 1000 lightbulbs over the span of 109 miles from a hydro electric power plant to the exhibition. This feat was the beginning of an bringing widespread electricity to Germany.

International Electrotechnical Exhibition in Frankfurt, 1891

In 1894, AEG purchased a third property to house one of it’s factories, a cattle market. This cattle market had rail access. In order for their factories to have rail access between them AEG had Siemens & Halske construct an underground railway tunnel. This tunnel is still standing today and is now in use by Germany’s public transportation department.

In 1896 AEG was already excelling at home appliances and home comfort products. It’s catalogue boasted a fantastic eighty products for customers and businesses to choose from. These products included everything from coffee machines to hot plates.

At an exhibition in 1889 AEG announced a line of electric personal care items including curling tongs, cigar lighters and tea kettles. Only two years later the hair dressing world would be forever changed with AEG’s invention of the hair dryer. I mean, where would we be without them today!? Poofy haired. That’s where.

In 1902 like other electrical manufacturers of the time, AEG entered into the automotive industry. With the purchase of Külstein in 1902, AEG announced Neue Automobil Gesellschaft and it’s production of cars.

From 1902 – 1908 AEG (Neue Automobil Gesellschaft) produced four separate models of cars but discontinued their production in 1908.

1902 – 1908 AEG (Neue Automobil Gesellschaft)

In 1903, AEG (competing with Siemens & Halske) broke the world speed record for rail vehicles at 131 miles per hour with this electric locomotive.

1903 AEG electric locomotive record breaker

Later that year, AEG’s radio company and Siemens & Halske merged to create Telefunken.

Peter Behrens

In 1907 the illustrious Peter Behrens joined AEG as their artistic advisor. Originally he was brought in to design their buildings but he went on to design the bulk of their original appliance product lines as well. From his work with AEG Peter Behrens has been knows as the creator of the corporate identity and the Father of German Industrial Design. In the AEG factory he designed he made room for turbines to move above machinery on the warehouse floor creating a fully workable, efficient factory.

AEG Turbine Factoy

In 1908, AEG begins production of it’s line of electric fans, adding to its line of home comfort products.

In 1910, AEG makes leaps and bounds into a completely different direction than home comfort products and electricity into the world of aeroplanes. Hennigsdorf was the site of the AEG aeroplane factory built in 1910. Their original aircrafts were modelled after the Kitty Hawk, North Carolina Wright Brothers biplane design.


From 1912 – 1918 AEG was the major manufacturer or World War I bombers. The most popular and widely used was the AEG G IV.

AEG Bomber

In 1917 AEG would be in the record books again. This time with one of it’s own aircraft, setting the world record for a high altitude flight. But with the end of World War I in 1918, AEG ended it’s production of aircraft.

long distance electrical locomotive

On the 14th of April 1913 AEG delivered the first of it’s long distance electrical locomotives. These locomotives would go beyond the distances of the electrical trams systems of the time.

)ne-Million Vote Utility Transformer

The 1920’s was a time of fantastic growth for AEG. They increased their electrical goods line massively including the production of steam turbines, electric motors, transformers, vacuum tubes, fuses and starters. They really were the electrical manufacturing company that you could go to for absolutely any of your electrical needs.

With the beginnings of Hollywood and silent films in North America, AEG was making it’s own advancements in television broadcasting in the mid 1920s. In 1924 AEG (AEG Telefunken) started it’s production of television / television sets and in 1928 they put their first television set on display at the German Radio Exhibition in Berlin.

1934-35 Telefunken SEIII 180 line TV

1929 saw AEG further branch out into home appliances with the introduction of refrigerators driven by compressors and irons that included temperature controls. Whilst AEG continued to expand it’s home comfort line it still worked on greater electrical masterpieces, including the first high performance locomotive in 1938.

the first high performance locomotive in 1938

Following the merger of Siemens & Halske and AEG to create Telefunken in 1903 the partnership was steadfast until AEG bought Siemens out in 1941 becoming a single enterprise.

1950 saw an explosion of advanced home comfort appliances including the start of AEG’s cooling range. In 1950 AEG also launched the first automatic washing machine and by 1953 their Nuremburg factory was producing them for general demand.

Erste Lavamat 1958

1938 saw the production of the first fully automatic washing machine by AEG the “Lavamat” and they changed their tagline to “AEG – aus Erfahning gut” meaning “AEG – Good from Experience”.

1955 AEG Generator

3 January 1963 saw another telecommunications advancement with AEG Telefunken. AEG showcased their first colour television for the European Broadcasting Union.

This advancement would change people’s leisure time forever, bringing colour to their entertainment. By 1970 AEG / Telefunken was the 12th largest electronics manufacturer and employed over 175,000 people.

On the utility side of AEG they also saw many advancements during the 1960s. In 1967 AEG achieved heating an entire city – Essen with its electrical stone heaters. Shortly after in 1972, AEG created the world’s largest diesel generator for use in Berlin’s Ghent Municiple Utilities. At this point, AEG had been building generators for nearly 100 years.

1955 AEG Generator

AEG’s ovens and hobs have come quite a way since they first introduced the fully electronic oven in 1976. AEG brought the first generation of induction hobs and other fantastic features to the kitchen since then.

AEG Oven

Since the 1970’s parts of AEG have changed hands with different companies. The majority of AEG was purchased by Daimler – Benz in 1985 then in 1994 the AEG Hausgerate GmbH Nuremburg was purchased by Electrolux, this was the home comforts and appliances line of AEG. In 2004, AEG was fully incorporated into Electrolux.

For over 125 AEG has been innovating every facet of electrical systems and appliances. Today and for the future to come they will continue to set the standard for what is the best in high end white goods.

via ACityLife





The Strange Case of Cosmic Rays: ‘Unlocking The Universe’


The following article appeared in the March 1946 issue of Popular Mechanics magazine. It’s pretty fascinating. During that time, ‘cosmic rays’ were seen by a number of scientists as perhaps the most profound key to understanding the energy composed universe. Their enthusiasm regarding its properties and what it could mean for life on Earth shouts out in this article.

Today, modern scientists look at cosmic rays as more of a nuisance than anything else. The effects of raised levels of radiation exposure on high-altitude urban residents, as flight crews and passengers are something of a concern.

Wikipedia describes the problems of cosmic rays on modern electronic equipment:

Cosmic rays have sufficient energy to alter the states of circuit components in electronic integrated circuits, causing transient errors to occur (such as corrupted data in electronic memory devices or incorrect performance of CPUs) often referred to as “soft errors.” This has been a problem in electronics at extremely high-altitude, such as in satellites, but with transistors becoming smaller and smaller, this is becoming an increasing concern in ground-level electronics as well. Studies by IBM in the 1990s suggest that computers typically experience about one cosmic-ray-induced error per 256 megabytes of RAM per month. To alleviate this problem, the Intel Corporation has proposed a cosmic ray detector that could be integrated into future high-density microprocessors, allowing the processor to repeat the last command following a cosmic-ray event.

Without citing a source the Wikipedia article notes an ‘in-flight incident in 2008 where an Airbus A330 airliner of Qantas twice plunged hundreds of feet after an unexplained malfunction in its flight control system’, and suggests that ‘cosmic rays were suspected as a possible cause…’

The effects of cosmic rays are seen as a significant barrier to interplanetary travel for manned spacecraft, as well as the onboard electronics. Cosmic rays have been suggested as having been responsible for major climatic change and mass-extinction in the past. One physicist, Henrik Svensmark, has recently argued that cosmic ray flux can even be an indirect cause of global warming – the arguments sparking controversy regarding his methods. etc..

One can’t help but wonder – with all the positive aspects to cosmic ray research cited below, and all the negative impacts cited in today’s world of technology and environment, could science and the world of modern technology taken a wrong route? Had developers pursued research more in line with ingenious Nikola Tesla’s work in ‘free energy’ technology, rather than his detractors like Thomas Edison, would the current conflicts with cosmic rays already have had resolutions? If orthodox physics gave a more serious bit of attention to today’s ‘Electric Universe’ theorists, would we come closer to understanding and unlocking the mysteries of the universe?

One wonders…

An added bonus: included at the end of the article is the 1957 film short, The Strange Case of the Cosmic Rays – an episode from The Bell System Science Series produced by the AT&T Corporation.

The Strange Case of the Cosmic Rays is an examination of what cosmic rays are and how they work. It was written by Capra with Jonathan Latimer, a crime fiction novelist and screenwriter. As Gilbert describes it, the third and fourth films “repeated the formulas of his earlier work while ever searching for new contrivances for popularization as well as the best language to express his soft religious message” and that the script was essentially a reworking of ideas Capra had developed for a possible documentary about Robert A. Millikan. The film’s screenplay works from the premise that the nature of cosmic rays is a mystery comparable to the great detective stories. A committee of marionettes representing Fyodor Dostoevsky, Charles Dickens, and Edgar Allan Poe is called upon to decide the question. The film was broadcast on October 25, 1957, apparently with a smaller television audience share and with more unfavorable reviews than for the first two specials.


Unlocking The Universe - Popular Mechanics March 1946

Popular Mechanics March 1946 – University of Chicago athletic field is launching site for balloons which will lift cosmic my equipment into the stratosphere.

YOU IMAGINE a ray so powerful that it will penetrate a solid mass of lead as high as a four-story building, or as thick as live sixths of the distance between the pitcher’s box and home plate? The cosmic ray does exactly that — and even more, it gives promise of unlocking several of the major secrets of the universe.

Coming apparently out of the nowhere– possibly from the Milky Way, maybe from interstellar space beyond this universe — Cosmic rays beat down upon us, day and night, like rain. In fact. 20 rays pass through your body -head to foot if you are standing — every second. Whether one climbs to the top of the highest mountain, hides away in the deepest mine, or plows the surface of the sea as a typhoon rages, the incomparably powerful cosmic rays reach him. Radium rays, X-rays — even atomic rays — bow to the gargantuan might of this king of all radiations.

Dr. Marcel Schein

Dr. Marcel Schein (center) inspects apparatus which makes photographic record of cosmic rays in sky

For more than two decades many of the world’s greatest scientists have kept relentlessly on the trail of the cosmic ray. Expeditions have ascended great peaks, invaded deserts, ridden ocean liners for months at a time, ascended into the stratosphere by planes and balloons and sent delicate registering instruments higher into the sky than man has ever flown — all to fathom the mystery of the giant of rays.

In their quest to solve it. scientists have taken cosmic ray “soundings” in the Paris catacombs, in gigantic glacier cracks, in the fjords of Norway and inside the barrels of cannon big enough to hold the equipment and the researchers alike. They have gone down into brine pits to test the ray under crystallized salts of the sea; they have invaded mines where iron, coal or copper are dug and they have dived deep into the sea for underwater registration of the rays.

They improvised watertight diving bells, complete with cosmic ray equipment from storage batteries to photographic apparatus and automatic registering instruments, which they sank from a quarter to a half mile deep, letting them lie there for days at a time. They built specially designed “cloud chambers” for high altitude studies. They improvised special instruments for registering the rays in the crevasses of glaciers.

The present stage is still that of the hunt. Until more is known about the cosmic ray, little can be done to harness it. To date, rays are controlled to the point of being heard over loudspeakers, operating delicate automatic photo equipment and lighting up indicator lamps. But the world’s best minds say that its secrets will be revetted, and then it may be mastered for the use of man. Scientists, with their usual caution, do not speculate on its practical possibilities. But they do admit that they are illimitable.

Most Penetrating Ray In History

Cosmic rays raining dawn upon the earth penetrate everything with energy measured in billions of volts

Those possibilities are as intriguing a subject as ever comes to the mind of man. Unlimited power is the key— not only that, but unlimited power already created and ready for use. We think of atomic energy, but realise mammoth machinery will be necessary to produce it — at present, an atomic energy driven auto would weigh at least 100 tons! But cosmic power may some day be pulled out of the air by a receiver, exactly as we pluck radio waves out of the air with our sets. In that near or distant day, put a cosmic aerial on your house or your auto, and presto! Power flows in like a Niagara.

To those who puzzle over the composition of the universe, its age, and whether the universe is building up, self-sustaining, or running down, the cosmic ray holds fascinating potentialities.  About unlocking the history of the universe, none other than Dr. Arthur H. Compton, one of the world’s greatest physicists, Nobel prize winner for his research on the cosmic ray, and now chancellor of Washington University, St. Louis, had this to say:

“Very possibly cosmic rays are older than the earth itself, for their energies are so high that calculation shows that if a particle {cosmic ray) is once thrust out into space, it can continue, before it is stopped by the matter in interstellar space, for a time equal at least to the estimated age of the earth. Thus, there is reason to hope that future study of these rays may bring us valuable information regarding the ancient history of the universe.”

Dr. Arthur H. Compton

Dr. Arthur H. Compton adjusts cosmic my counter before balloon test. Right, vertical streak is path of cosmic ray photographed in “cloud chamber.” It has struck an electron (center) and knocked it out of orbit

Some physicists estimate the rays as 10 billion times stronger than radium rays; the most penetrating variety enter outer space with the energy of 15 billion volts.

Not only does the cosmic ray possibly contain the key to terrestrial antiquity, but it also may hold the solution to that even more fascinating proposition: What of the future of the universe? One theory projected by scientists is that the cosmic ray is produced in the building up of atoms, thus indicating that the universe Is perpetually renewing itself. Other eminent men hold to the opposite belief; namely, that the cosmic ray is produced in the destruction of atoms and that the universe is running down. Many affirm that cosmic rays are the basic form of energy.

The romance of the cosmic ray at the present stage is not in actual achievement with it, but in the indefatigable and ingenious research for it. Twenty years ago, Dr. Robert A. Millikan, Nobel prize winner, professor of physics at the California Institute of Technology and pioneer in cosmic ray study, declared, after he had conducted research in the Andes mountains, that “we cannot even begin to assert what change in man’s view of the universe this ray will bring about.”

Photographic Equipemtn

The rays, which have been ranging the cosmos for possibly a billion years or more, first caught the attention of man about 1900, when it was found that nonelectrical gases, perfectly insulated, continued to act like electric current conductors. Scientists tightened up all possible leakages of electricity and radiations but found themselves against a blank wall of mystery.

Two scientists. Lord Rutherford and H. L. Cook, at McGill University in Montreal, buried an electroscope in five tons of lead, a metal then accepted as a substance through which no rays or radiations known to man could penetrate. Yet the delicate instrument continued to register a mysterious electrical action. They could discover no earthly connection. But they, and many others, refused to yield to what seemed inscrutable — their restless minds would not be conquered. In different lands, scientific pioneers kept on the elusive trail. They began to suspect dimly that something beyond terrestrial origin was causing the “trouble.” Spasmodically the search continued. In 1910 a notable contribution was made by a Swiss scientist, Dr. Gockel, who reached unparalleled altitudes in a balloon. His studies tended to show the rays came from somewhere out in space, A year later, V. F, Hess, an Austrian scientist who won the Nobel prize for his research, wrote of his investigations:

“During the past two years I have made seven balloon ascensions, I find no decrease in the intensity of the penetrating radiations at higher altitudes. In fact, there is a truly significant increase. Since, at great heights, any contribution of rays from the earth should have decreased, I have concluded that these radiations almost certainly come from beyond the atmosphere itself.”

The cosmic ray hunt was interrupted for virtually a decade by World War I, but the delay seemed to have added impetus once the search was renewed. Scientists the world over, fascinated and challenged by this Mystery Visitor No, 1 to our universe, got on the trail with the vim of crusaders.

As early as 1922 Dr, Millikan made cosmic ray measurements 50,000 feet high in the stratosphere by suspending instruments from a 15-foot cord strung between two balloons. The instruments included electroscope, barometer and thermometer. The experiment was repeated and material results were attained in determining the energy of the cosmic rays falling upon the earth. Dr. Millikan also took soundings deep in a lake, where the resistance to the rays was the equivalent of 25 feet of lead.

Within a decade, research was going on in various parts of the earth, but the most intense center of all was the University of Chicago, where Dr, Compton directed a “world survey of cosmic rays.” Preparation of this stupendous project was as orderly as the preparation of a nation for war. Largo expeditions were outfitted, the best available scientific minds were enlisted and strategy was developed on a global scale, The climax of action was reached between 1931 and 1934 when 12 expeditions from the great Chicago institution scattered to their observation points. In their travels, the crews covered 250,000 miles.

One went to South Africa, another to Peru, a third to Alaska, a fourth to Australia, and so on. They visited the tropic and arctic regions alike. The earth was used as a gigantic magnet and the mountain peaks as laboratories. Cosmic radiations were measured at high altitudes and compared with those on the surface of the earth and deep in mines.

Compton’s experiments were conducted on the principle that lines of magnetic force are passing constantly around the earth between the north and south magnetic poles. These lines of force deflect the needle of a compass and all substances electrically charged, but they do not affect substances that are electrically neutral. Compton’s expeditions found that cosmic rays were much denser in the Arctic Circle than near the equator. At the time this seemed to indicate that cosmic rays are deflected toward the magnetic poles of the earth and are therefore electric ally charged.

Cosmic ray research reached a high spot in spectacularity during the Century of Progress Exposition in Chicago in 1933-34. Airplane and balloon flights were sponsored by the Chicago Daily News, the National Broadcasting Company and the Exposition. One of them was made by Professor Auguste Piccard, the famous French pioneer of the stratosphere* who attained a height of 15 1/2 miles.

In 1934 a mammoth instrument, called “a new sentinel for cosmic rays,” was designed by Dr, Compton, and seven of them, labeled “scientific outposts,” were set up at far corners of the earth. One, operated by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was carted to the top of Mt. Evans, more than 14,000 feet high. The instrument weighed a ton and a half, and the idea was to conduct cosmic ray tests not only at high altitudes but also under violent weather changes. Studies were made where the temperature often dropped from a balmy fit) above zero to below freezing in five minutes, and where also, with equal brevity, summer sunshine would shift to a blinding blizzard. The meters were designed to operate for a long period, under the most severe conditions, each having an automatic photographic recording device and equipment to compensate for temperature and atmospheric pressure changes. As we said of them at the time:

“They will record the tides in the ceaseless rain of invisible rays which penetrate their thick lead shields and produce a flash of light in the argon-filled chamber. They will show the direction of the rays over a long period of time and any rise or fall in their numbers. They will record changes, if any, of the rays with the time movements of the stars, with fluctuations of the earth’s magnetic field and the frequency of sunspots.”

Other ray meters were distributed from Peru to Greenland.

Thus the hunters followed the trail with relentless zeal. Danger meant nothing to them. An entire Russian group of scientists and helpers plunged to their death in a balloon crash, while a similar American outfit had to take to their parachutes. A noted scientist, Dr. Allen Carpe, and his assistant, who scaled Mt. McKinley and made observations, were killed while making explorations of a huge Alaskan glacier. Cosmic ray observations were made in airplanes soaring 30,000 feet over huge volcanoes in the southern Andes. A specially built electromagnet weighing more than eight tons was brought into use to observe the deflection of rays passing through a magnetic field. Observations were taken regularly at 40 widely separated stations — one of them a copper mine near Mohawk, Michigan, where rays were found to have penetrated 1600 feet of rock.

One of the most ambitious experiments in cosmic ray research was staged shortly before World War II, when a 21-passenger airliner was used in Chicago to take soundings. The plane reached a height of 26.000 feet, flying 450 miles in three hours with the temperature below zero. At that height, Dr, Marcel Schein and Dr. Volney C. Wilson, of the University of Chicago, kept constant watch over the ray meter, which was composed of copper tubes and excluded all but cosmic rays. They observed that the more penetrating cosmic rays beat down 10 times faster at that elevation than at the earth’s surface. It also was found that a recently discovered particle— the mesotron — was created by the action of neutral rays in the lead filter placed above the counters.

Altittude and Density Chart

Altitude and Density Chart

For three years before the war, cosmic ray observations were conducted on a ship running regularly between Vancouver, B, G., and New Zealand. The effort was to discover whether the rays originate in our universe or outside. A year later an other cosmic ray research plane reached an elevation of 29,000 feet with photographic equipment that effectively used the “cloud chamber,” an apparatus which includes a glass-walled chamber in which is produced an artificial cloud. As the cosmic ray shoots through the air, it breaks the molecules into ions. In the artificial cloud, the ions form drops of moisture and these mark the track of the rays. The track is photographed by the aid of bright lights.

Cosmic rays from the direction of a “star cloud,” estimated to be 5000 light-years away, were employed to turn on a cluster of fluorescent lights at the Hayden Planetarium, New York, on June 17, 1941, which in turn, illuminated a ‘Letter to the future” to be opened 5000 years hence.

Much research has been done through the years by means of “free” balloons which are sent aloft with delicate registering apparatus in cosmic ray research. Many of the balloon experiments were conducted by Dr, Compton and Dr. W. P. Jesse of the University of Chicago, Two years ago cosmic ray equipment supported by 29 balloons was sent up from Chicago and came down 40 miles from Columbus, Ohio. The device consisted of a 30 -foot pole with two sets of three cosmic ray counters and batteries designed to register cosmic ray showers. Dr. Schein reported that cosmic ray showers were discovered at heights of more than 50,000 feet.

Six months later, another “free” balloon ascension was made, the equipment coming down in Virginia after a 500-mile record-breaking Right. A little more than a year ago University of Chicago physicists launched 36 balloons bearing a 60-pound cosmic ray photographic apparatus. The “free” balloons have carried automatic cosmic ray apparatus more than 17 miles in the air on different occasions, or upwards of 90,D00 feet! The balloons, inflated with hydrogen, are made of extraordinarily elastic material, so that while they measure only five feet in diameter at the start of the ascent, they inflate to 20 feet in diameter when 16 miles or more in the air. Sometimes when a cluster of the balloons descends people take them for paratroopers. A note offering a reward for return of the equipment to the sender is attached to each unit, and nine times out of 10 the records and material are returned. Free balloon flights have registered up to 100 miles an hour in cross-country flight. They ascend at the rate of 700 to 1000 feet a minute. One of the strangest happenings was when a cluster was sent up from the University of Chicago, traveled several hundred recorded miles, and returned like a boomerang to a point within five miles of the campus!

Another device is a short-wave radio system that sends the impulses to scientists on the ground, dispensing with the need for a him record. Still another unique experiment was conducted late last fall when 49 balloons were released from Stagg Field at the University of Chicago. This experiment was in charge of Dr. Schein of the university, Along with 70 pounds of cosmic ray apparatus were sent 200 flour beetles to determine the effect of cosmic rays on insect life. This experiment was thwarted by the accidental death of the beetles through escaping gases, but the effort will be repeated as the objective is considered of paramount importance.

Other studies show that gamma rays found in cosmic radiation are the shortest known. X-rays are too short to be visible, and gamma rays in radioactive materials are from 10 to 100 times as short as X-rays. However, the shortest known gamma rays of cosmic radiation are 100 million times shorter than the gamma rays of radioactive bodies. Research shows there are various kinds of cosmic rays, particularly the “soft” (electrons and gamma rays) and the “hard” (mesotrons), The former are easy to absorb, but the hard rays of high energy are the ones that penetrate anything. They are millions of times stronger than any other known radiation and shoot like irresistible bullets through every known thing.

Another dramatic discovery is the fact that there are frequent cosmic ray “showers,” the particles falling like heavy rain over an area equal to two or three acres. As many as a million rays are contained in a single shower and 50 or 60 showers fall in a single hour. They are called “Auger showers” in honor of the famous French scientist, Pierre Auger, whose research in the Alps mountains brought the new discovery to light. You can listen in, through an ingenious loudspeaker device, on a cosmic ray shower, and it sounds something like a summer storm. It is a roaring sound, like rain driven by wind, then sudden quiet for a moment, followed by another squall.

Comparative Wavelengths

Comparative Wavelengths

While we are struck constantly by both the continuous downpour of cosmic rays and the occasional heavy blast of a shower, they do not register any known effects on us. People living at high altitudes get a double dose, while men working deep in mines receive only a fraction of the rays, but neither seem in the least affected.

The latest scientific effort is mostly in the field of relating the cosmic rays to atomic radiations. Nearly 15 years ago one scientist predicted that cosmic ray study would throw light on the problem of how the core of the atom is built, and thus open the way for the release of atomic energy for human uses. As far as it can be gathered from guarded statements by scientists, it is likely that the cosmic lay is the key to the release of atomic energy and to the analysis of the atomic ray. In fact, it is reported that the cosmic ray is held to be the means of unlocking the secret of X-ray and radium as well. Further than that, a professor, John Archibald Wheeler of Princeton University, holds that by studying cosmic rays man eventually may discover means of transforming any kind of matter, not uranium alone, into atomic energy.

A new giant, called the betatron, invented by 34-year-old Donald W. Kerst, a University of Illinois professor, is soon to come into the field of cosmic ray research. The instrument uses electric magnetic energy to speed the flight of electrons up to 185,000 miles a second, virtually the same as that of light. It is expected to reproduce cosmic rays for close study, possibly eliminating the need for scientists to fly into the stratosphere or burrow into mines.

How long must the relentless search move on before the cosmic ray finally is brought into captivity and lamed? No one knows. Most scientists say that, if human cussedness in the form of war will lie dormant long enough to let science carry on its hunt uninterruptedly, 10 to 20 years ought to be enough to make us master of the supreme source of unlimited power.

The How And Why Wonder Book Of Atomic Energy (With Cool Illustrations)


This 1970 publication for young people is actually pretty good. It’s good for anyone, of any age, who would like to understand the workings of atomic power/energy.

Click on the book above to open a small reader. Clicking on that one will get the full screen view. Just hit escape on your keyboard or tap the arrows at the lower right of the screen to return to the page.

Iron Crystal Magnified – The Atomium

Construction of the Atomium

Construction of the Atomium, the Belgian pavilion for the World Expo 58 in Brussels, Belgium, 1957. Photo by Dolf Kruger.

Designed by the engineer André Waterkeyn and architects André and Jean Polak, it stands 102 m (335 ft) tall. Its nine 18 m (59 ft) diameter stainless steel clad spheres are connected so that the whole forms the shape of a unit cell of an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times.  – geheugenvannederland.nl

(via Dequalized)

LSD: A Trip Down Memory Lane

LSD25 Manufactured by Sandoz Laboratories - Basel, Switzerland

LSD25 Manufactured by Sandoz Laboratories – Basel, Switzerland

Taking LSD was a profound experience, one of the most important things in my life.  ~~Steve Jobs

In 1956 this unnamed American housewife took LSD at the Veteran’s Administration Hospital in Los Angeles. This woman’s husband was an employee at the hospital and referred her to this study, which was reportedly done for a television program on mental health issues.

When Swiss chemist Albert Hoffman first synthesized LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) at the Sandoz laboratories in Basel, Switzerland on November 16, 1938, he felt that the compound wasn’t useful for the project at hand. He set it aside in the slush-pile. Five years later, April 16, 1943, Hoffman felt compelled to take another look at his abandoned discovery. John Beresford writes:

Hofmann is not sure – the chemist in the old Sandoz lab had what he called a “Vorgefühl.” The usual English word for this is “presentiment,” but the German word suggests something stronger than the laid-back “presentiment.” Something was telling Hofmann to retrace his steps and perform a new synthesis of the discarded molecule, LSD-25. It had to be that molecule and not one of the others consigned to the “useless” pile…

Hofmann does not remember what he was doing when the “presentiment” came over him. He won’t say if it came in a dream, or if he was in a state of unusual lucidity. One is free to speculate that the “instruction” to re-synthesize LSD came from a spiritual power which intervenes in the affairs of man to restore order when the danger of disorder has become too great. The reckless act of science in Chicago in December, 1942 (the first successful nuclear chain reaction – ed.) was remedied in Basel four months later, with Albert Hofmann chosen as the instrument to perform the cure.

 Before LSD, After LSD -  Albert Hofmann, the Swiss chemist (1906-2008)

Before LSD, After LSD – Albert Hofmann, the Swiss chemist (1906-2008)

Whatever the case, while re-synthesizing the LSD, Hofmann accidentally absorbed a small amount of the drug through his fingertips and discovered its powerful effects.

…affected by a remarkable restlessness, combined with a slight dizziness. At home I lay down and sank into a not unpleasant intoxicated-like condition, characterized by an extremely stimulated imagination. In a dreamlike state, with eyes closed (I found the daylight to be unpleasantly glaring), I perceived an uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colors. After about two hours this condition faded away.

Three days later (April 19) Hofmann decided to intentionally take an experimental dose in order to delve deeper into the true effects of LSD. He (wrongly) determined that ingesting 0.25 milligrams (250 micrograms) would be a threshold dose – in actuality a threshold dose is 20 micrograms. Needless to say, Hoffman went a pretty massive trip. Within an hour he began to experience sudden and intense changes to his perception. He asked his lab assistant to accompany him home and, as it was wartime and cars were not an option, the two set out for their destination on bicycles.

At first Hofmann experienced extreme hallucinations and feelings of anxiety and paranoia. But then:

…little by little I could begin to enjoy the unprecedented colors and plays of shapes that persisted behind my closed eyes. Kaleidoscopic, fantastic images surged in on me, alternating, variegated, opening and then closing themselves in circles and spirals, exploding in colored fountains, rearranging and hybridizing themselves in constant flux …

April 19 wold become what is known as Bicycle Day in psychedelic communities and celebrated as the day of discovery for LSD.

LSD blotter paper depicting Albert Hoffman on Bicycle Day

LSD blotter paper depicting Albert Hoffman on Bicycle Day

After sharing this information with colleagues, as well as the experience, LSD-25 became the focus for all kinds of mind-centered experiments. Was it useful as a tool in psychiatry? Could the CIA use it as a pharmaceutical in Mind Control (MK-ULTRA)? Could LSD be used to treat alcoholism and/or autism?

In 1955 a former OSS operative and then Federal Bureau of Narcotics agent named George Hunter White teamed up with the CIA to run what was known as Operation Midnight Climax – a brothel was set up on Chestnut street in the San Francisco Bay area and unsuspecting Johns behavior was observed after they were secretly dosed. Several significant operational techniques were developed in this theater, including extensive research into sexual blackmail, surveillance technology, and the possible use of mind-altering drugs in field operations. This operation was carried out for a decade, 1955-1965. Many suspect that this is how LSD became introduced to civilians on the street and became a catalyst for the psychedelic anti-war culture of the 1960s.

Psychedelic Eye

A whole lot more could be written about the 1960s LSD experience such as the colorful characters, the gurus, the communities, etc., but that’s beyond the scope of this post. Covered here was a short trip down memory lane to the beginnings of a drug that appeared at the dawn of the nuclear age – a time when splitting an atom could blow the world away, and sipping down a molecule could blow the mind away. LSD became illegal in California on October 6, 1966. Other U.S. states and the rest of the world followed with the ban. Like the atom bomb, LSD has faded from social consciousness, but also like the atom bomb, LSD still lurks in the background. Time will tell if another moment will come when they explode back to the front of public awareness.

‘The Story Of America’s Man-In-Space Programs’ – General Dynamics’ 1964 Super Space Cards Deck

General Dynamics Astronautics Space Cards - Joker: Sun, Moon, Planetary Symbols, and Superman!

General Dynamics Astronautics Space Cards – Joker: Sun, Moon, Planetary Symbols, and Superman!

These space cards tell a story – the story of America’s man-in-space programs. The hearts deal with the human element, the clubs portray the sciences, the spades show products and the diamonds depict modern aerospace management without which the other three elements could not be successful.

General Dynamics Astronautics Space Cards
Manufacturer: National Periodical Publications, Inc.
Date: 1964

Click on images to enlarge.

Ace of Hearts - Vitruvian Man

Ace of Hearts – Vitruvian Man

Two of Hearts - Buck Rogers (As a salute to human imagination and sci-fi)

Two of Hearts – Buck Rogers

Two cards from the suit of Hearts representing the human element: Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man and Buck Rogers – human physical being and human imagination. With the Two of Hearts, General Dynamics recognizes the important influence of the science fiction genre as inspiration for developments in modern space exploration.

The Ace of Clubs - The Sciences

Ace of Clubs – The Sciences

Two of Clubs - Leonardo da Vinci and a few samples of his flying machines

Two of Clubs – Leonardo da Vinci

Two cards from the suit of Clubs representing the sciences: The Ace of Clubs features an illustration reminiscent of those referred to in the 19th century pseudoscience of phrenology – rather than assigning various functions to different parts of the brain, this card highlights various fields of science relevant to space travel. The Two of Clubs features an image of Leonardo da Vinci with a few of his familiar flying machine designs.

The Ace Of Spades - Rocket Launch

Ace Of Spades – Rocket Launch

The Two Of Spades - Hot Air Balloon

Two Of Spades – Hot Air Balloon

Two Cards from the suit of Spades representing products – The Ace of Spades features a rocket launch reminiscent of NASA’s Project Mercury and the lift off of Friendship 7 carrying John Glenn, the first United States astronaut to orbit the Earth. General Dynamics’ Convair division designed and produced the Atlas boosters used in the launch. The Two of Spades features a hot air balloon – the grandaddy of flight and aerial transportation. In 1783 brothers Joseph and Étienne Montgolfier succeeded in launching the first manned ascent from Earth – Étienne was lifted off in the Montgolfièr hot air balloon, globe aérostatique.

The Ace Of Diamonds - Flow Chart

Ace Of Diamonds – Management Flow Chart

The Two Of Diamonds - Communications

Two Of Diamonds – Communications

The suit of Diamonds is meant to depict modern aerospace management – and they are the most curious and enigmatic. They are wonderful representations of the Cold-War/Space-Race era. The illustrations utilize symbols to relate this part of the story making the message more subliminal. They also reflect the kind of protective secrecy that was so much a part of that era. The Ace Of Diamonds shows a flow chart suggesting the various areas of aerospace management. The third vertical row has a number of squares contained in the top square – a committee leadership governing this area, or a bureaucracy heading a bureaucracy? At the top of the flow chart flies the U.S. flag – that symbol could mean different things to different folks, depending on a persons cynicism and/or sentimentalism. The two of Diamonds shows an antique telephone and an inkwell – rather primitive devices chosen to portray ‘modern aerospace’ communications.

Below are a few favorites from the deck without descriptions. See what they bring to your mind.

The Nine Of Hearts

The Ten Of Hearts

The Six Of Clubs

The Eight Of Clubs

The Jack Of Spades

The Queen Of Spades

The Nine Of Diamonds

The King Of Diamonds

(Card deck images via Unkee E.)

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


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 ‘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.