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John F. Ptak
From 1985-2003 I operated a bricks-and-mortar bookstore dedicated to the history of science. The stores were located primarily in Georgetown, Washington, D.C., with a short excursion to Old Town Alexandria, Va., and a warehouse in Silver Spring Maryland. The store's website has been in operation in one form or another since 1998, and it is now the principle venue for business. The blog associated with the online store is pretty mature at this point, with about 1.5 million words and thousands of posts, for good or ill.
Interests: art, math, history of science and technology; connections between/among physics, literature; the found-surreal; outsider art and logic; discrete ephemera.
Recent Activity
JF Ptak Science Books Post 2759 There was good strong debate on the issues of Martian “canals” and whether or not they were there by chance or by Percival Lowell's (and others) intelligent design. The debate dates range from about... Continue reading
Posted yesterday at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post This image of among the first electric/electrocution chairs is based on the designs of Dr. Alfred P. Southwick (1826-1898, MDS, DDS, SUNY Buffalo), who came up with the idea and started experimenting with it... Continue reading
Posted yesterday at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post Edmund Ledger (1841-1914, 38-year Member Royal Astronomical Society, professor of astronomy at Gresham College, 1875-1914) asks an excellent question in his short article, “The Canals of Mars”, in the Scientific American Supplement of 1903... Continue reading
Posted 2 days ago at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Post 2758 [For Jeff Donlan, Extreme Answer Lad of Answers!] This article was just a small 4" or so notice in the Scientific American on 2 August 1879, written for a new sort of apparatus to... Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Post 2757 (expanding an earlier post) The bottom line of the 63-day-long Second Warsaw Uprising (August/September 1944) is that the Soviet Union allowed the Polish Home Army to fail, watching from its position across the Vistula... Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post Just yesterday I posted on Found-Abstract art (http://longstreet.typepad.com/thesciencebookstore/2018/10/found-art-in-electrical-hardware-1885.html) in a cross section of a conduit of telephone wires from 1885. Just now in research a bit on Tesla I found the following diagram for... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post Over the years I've seen many architectural prints, and I've come to determine that I most enjoy the comparative views. It is uncommon to see a single-sheet engraving dedicated to different forms of columns,... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post In January 1892, the 34-year-old Nikola Tesla gave an interesting and significant lecture on ("alternate currents of high potential and frequency") in London, first to the Royal Institution and second to the Institution of... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post I like this cross section as a piece of Found-Art--pre-nonrepresentational art, but it appears about 25 years too soon. It could be classified as "art" after Mr. Kandinsky makes an appearance...but we might have... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post Here's a rather Jules Verne-y concept for a military balloon, presented to by General Russell Thayer, and published in the Scientific American Supplement in 1885. In this iteration the aircraft is labeled a "war-balloon"... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post Vast throngs of people have resisted technological innovation/improvement/invention one way or anther, from the rejection of the printed word because it would badly influence the spoken word tradition; to the telegraph, which would impact... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Post 2756 [Dedicated to Bluey, Cowboy, Watson, Finbar, Dudley, and Perry. Also dedicated to Ralph Kenat, a great and understanding friend to dogs; and Alexandra Horowitz, author of the keenly penetrating and insightful Inside of a... Continue reading
Posted Oct 12, 2018 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Post 2755 I don't mean to appropriate the past from my seat here in the future, raising my eyebrows over what definitely seems to be an Ig Nobel engineering effort, but, well, there are times when... Continue reading
Posted Oct 10, 2018 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post There's a certain gravitational attraction for the user/machine interface of 19th century tech that is highly--pardon me--attractive. All I want to do here in this simple post is share a few of these that... Continue reading
Posted Oct 9, 2018 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books I'm stepping right into the middle of this one--there's a ton of material before and after this ad appeared in 1885 on the invention of the idea of curative factors of applying electricity in medical pursuits.... Continue reading
Posted Oct 8, 2018 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post Consolidated Gas Company storage facility being constructed in Manhattan, on Ave C between 15th+16th, as it appeared in Scientific American, 27 October 1888. It is a striking structure. Consolidated Gas (formed from six companies... Continue reading
Posted Oct 8, 2018 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books The idea of the human machine, the machine human, the technological man, the robot, the anthropomorphization of artificial life, goes back a long way. One of my favorites comes from the 1830s and features a steam-driven... Continue reading
Posted Oct 8, 2018 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Imaginary Post, Part of the Series on the Museum of Imaginary and Possibly-Impossible Things This is a review of a Newer Statesman review by S. van Zandt's of "On the Differences between Robots and Humans",... Continue reading
Posted Oct 6, 2018 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post Not too much to say on this pair, except to say that you don't often find "Earth" and "Target" together like this. Surprisingly, "Earth is my target", the cover story for the pictured Mystery... Continue reading
Posted Oct 5, 2018 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post I'll get right to it: there was no program called the "Does-All". This was an ironic suggestion for the name of a program to illustrate this slightly lengthy and relaxed introduction1 to computers (hardware... Continue reading
Posted Oct 5, 2018 at JF Ptak Science Books
JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post Antoine Francois Jean Claudet, (1797-1867), began experimenting with Daguerreotype in 1840, and soon became photographer in ordinary to the Queen, being among the very first to practice Daguerrian portraiture in London. . He was... Continue reading
Posted Oct 5, 2018 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post I am pretty certain that this is the only semi-antiquarian alphabet of city planning that I have seen1. And of course I am compelled by the "Garbage" entry, as one should be. "May [this... Continue reading
Posted Oct 4, 2018 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Post 2754 "Just as psychoanalysis reconstructs the original traumatic situation in order to release the repressed material, so we are now being plunged back into the archaeopsychic past, uncovering the ancient taboos and drives that have... Continue reading
Posted Oct 4, 2018 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Post 2753 This is an extremely early engineering drawing of a modern propeller, executed only a dozen years or so after the creation of the modern screw propeller by John Ericsson. Shearman's creation is devoid of... Continue reading
Posted Oct 3, 2018 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Post 2753 One of my favorite escapes on this blog is writing about cross section and cutaway images, scenes that show multiple levels, inside and out, peeling away a bit of facade to show the working... Continue reading
Posted Oct 3, 2018 at JF Ptak Science Books