Currently viewing the category: "You Are There"

JF Ptak Science Books Post 1243

MachbookI cannot think of another illustration by a scientist or philosopher who attempts to explain their own–literal, interior,physical–view of the world and then offer what this looks like to the reader from inside his own head, looking out through his own eye. That's exactly what Ernst Mach is doing right here on page 15 of his influential book Die Analyse der Empfindungen, the fourth German edition ("The Analysis of Sensations and the Relation of the Physical to the Psychical") (Jena, 1903)

There is nothing in this world for Mach that is not admissible to the human brain that is not empirically verifiable–that is, the world is nothing but awash in sensation and that sensation itself forms part of the experience of, well, experience. I've actually never been interested in the philosophy of science, and this is one of the reasons why. Nevertheless I boldly break through my own prejudices to enjoy this phenomenally original image, drawn from the inside of Mach's working mind, looking out through his eye socket, over his mustache, under his eyebrow, around his nose, out across his body and then leaping into the rest of the world. I think he does make his point about the essentialSteinberg_352 nature of the observer. And much like the classic Steinberg New Yorker cartoon of the world view of the New Yorker (of course this includes only Manhattan), I know some number of people who have transposed their bodies much like Herr Mach into the Steinberg map–except that their worldview ends basically at the Hudson River (Mach's feet) with the rest of the world being the sliver out there beyond the river (Mach's window) until you go 359 degrees around the world to get back to the East River (and back inside Mach's noggin). It is an unusual world view to have, but someone has to have it so that we can at least identify it so.

I just like the picture.

Read Full Article →

JF Ptak Science Books Post 1055

(Including a short tale of when Winston Churchill's nephew, John Spencer Churchill, wound up passed out on the back seat of my 1979 Chrysler New Yorker.)

Dunkerque124

This map pretty well tells the story of the perilous situation of Europe and England at the beginning of June, 1940. It appeared in the Illustrated London News on the heals of Churchill's "Blood, Soil, Sweat and Tears" speech, and was a very frank presentation of the wearing of the war. By this point in the war Nazi Germany had successfully invaded Belgium, France, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, sweeping across Europe in a broad westward movement, backing up British and French troops all the way to the sea at Dunkerque, where a monumental rescue operation ("Operation Dynamo") saved them. (There was an enormous amount of materiel left there on the beach, a devastating loss for the British Expeditionary Force, nearly crippling it.) This was a bad time for the Allies, this part of the war coined by
Winston Churchill in 18 June 1940 in the House of Commons by: "The
Battle of France is over. I expect the Battle of Britain is about to
begin". There was very little good that came of these few months for the U.K and the Allies, though four things do stand out: (1) as I just mentioned, the saving of 300,000+ troops at Dunkerque; (2) the resignation of Neville Chamberlain, (3) the coming of Winston Churchill as Prime Minister of the U.K., and (4) the first deciphering of the Enigma at Bletchley. Other than that, the situation was dim, and these invasion routes (published at t he very time that Germany was studying such a feat in its "Operation Sea Lion", or " Unternehmen Seelöwe").

The endgame at Dunkerque took place almost four years to the day of the invasion of Europe, when the intent (though not placement) all of these arrows were turned around for the Allied operation at the Normandy beaches on 6 June 1944..

It came to pass in 1985 that some friends and I had drinks with John Spencer Churchill, a man who was at Dunkerque and who reported on it to his uncle Winston. (A slightly longer story on this meeting with Mr. Churchill appears below.) After much else I finally asked Mr. Churchill if there was any particular sound that he remembered from being at Dunkerque. I do not recall his phrasing, but what he said was that the beach at Dunkerque was rocky, pebbly, and that the sound made by tens of thousands of boots on that shore was "disgusting". He also said that the mixture of petrol, wind and grit burned the eyes and tasted bad. It was of course fascinating to hear a first hand description, especially a memory of something so uncommon and visceral. It was unexpected to me, though now when i read about Dunkirque I can imagine its smell thanks to this encounter.


First Address by Winston Churchill as Prime Minister.

Read Full Article →

JF Ptak Science Books LLC Post 330

00-blog-Oct 21--aircarft attack892

In my experience popular images prior to WWII
that put the reader inside of the picture– giving them the same view as the observing,
principle member of the picture–are very uncommon. Honestly, they just don’t happen very often,
and I wish that I had paid more attention to them over the years before I
realized they were as rare as they were. Such is the case with this
extraordinary and action-packed picture in which the reader is hosted just
behind and slightly above the head of the pilot of the aircraft dive-bombing
the battleship. It appears in The
Illustrated London News
for 7 November 1935, and it must have been captivating
for the readers, being given the sense of closing in at great speed on the
ship. There are actually eight other
smaller perspective images embedded in the image as well. The largest of these
(at top) places the viewer directly inside the subject, giving them the feeling
of how it looks like to the bombing officer of the aircraft as it approached
the fleet. The other five images shows what the battleship looks like from
different height from the inside of the aircraft. Perhaps this doesn’t look like much to us
today, but at the time, I can assure you, these images were exceptionally
uncommon offerings of a personal perspective that few readers had ever
experienced.