Building Evolution ■ Typewriter Perfection ■ Military Stagnation
THE CURTAIN WALL—"The term 'curtain wall' is used nowadays to describe the sheath, or 'skin,' of a modern building. It looks quite different from its predecessor, the old load-bearing wall, and in fact it represents a big advance in architectural evolution. The structural specialization involved in separation of the skin and the skeleton in a building corresponds to the specialization of tissue in biological evolution. Yet no building skin today approaches the performance of the biological world. The curtain wall is passive, lacking the power to adjust to the fluctuating external environment. It should be able to intervene actively in the building's struggle to maintain its internal stability. —James Marston Fitch"
WEST NILE—"During an epidemiological survey of infantile paralysis in a village north of Cairo in 1950, three blood specimens from children turned out on laboratory analysis to contain active West Nile virus. The find was electrifying, for no one had seen a human case of this infection since the original one in 1937. Other Egyptian studies soon showed that Egypt was a hotbed of West Nile infection; close to 100 per cent of the adults tested were found to have antibodies. West Nile virus has been isolated not only from Egyptian children but also from mosquitoes (of the Culex genus) and from hooded crows and pigeons. This is a remarkable range of hosts."
WRITING MACHINE— "It is a far cry from the monkish calligrapher, working in his cell in silence, to the brisk 'click, click' of the modern writing machine, which in a quarter of a century has revolutionized and reformed business. Its introduction marks an era of progress not inferior to that brought about by the telegraph and telephone."
TOMBS AT MUKDEN — "These graves in Manchuria are in a plain, so that the entire grounds can be readily overlooked from a near-by hill. Formerly the Mant-choo-Tartar emperors even went so far as to offer sacrifices at the graves of their predecessors, but this practice has been mms-
discontinued long ago. The Holy Road is the most interesting feature of the burial grounds. It is lined on both sides with colossal monolithic statues, standing about 200 yards apart. There are in all thirty-six statues, of which twenty-four represent animals [see illustration] and twelve high dignitaries."
MUDDLED—" Capt. Norton made a number of very useful inventions in shot and shells, and recommended them to the head men in the British army more than ten years ago, but they were passed over unheeded, and now when danger threatens them in the Crimea, they rub their eyes and inquire about their utility. In 1826 one of his rifle percussion shells for cannons was shown to Lord Fitzroy Somerset (now Lord Raglan). That personage replied, 'All inventions in the improvement of arms tend to place the weak on a level with the strong; we are the strong, and therefore do not encourage improvements.' No better evidence could be afforded of the incapacity of Lord Raglan, to conduct the war in the Crimea, than the above piece of mud-headed enterprise."
FLOATING ROCKS — "On
Manhattan Island, we behold innumerable loose rocks, of every size, from the small cobble to the large block of many tuns weight. These rocks grew not where they are found, and no human hands carried them thither. Whence came they? The only plausible theory is, that those places where they are now found, were once the bed of the sea, over which icebergs floated from an arctic ocean, with these stones attached to them, and were dissolved by warm currents of water, and thus relieved of their stony cargoes. To conceive of a period when tall icebergs floated over the place where the city of New York now stands, seems to be a draft upon the imagination as heavy as to believe in Aladdin's 'Wonderful Lamp.'"
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