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John F. Ptak
I have operated a bricks-and-mortar bookstore dedicated to the history of science from 1985-2003, located primarily in Georgetown, Washington, D.C. The store's website has been in operation since 1998, and it is now the principle venue for business. From 2003-2008 I owned and operated an antique map and print store near the town square in Asheville, North Carolina.
Interests: art, math, history of science and technology; connections between/among physics, literature; the naive surreal; outsider art and logic; discrete ephemera.
Recent Activity
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post I just finished a short post about the wide-ranging W. Stanley Jevons review of John Venn's classic book, Symbolic Logic, when I had another look at the contents of the slim issue of Nature... Continue reading
Posted 2 days ago at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post This does for a moment look like a piece of Found Scientific Art--and I guess it is--reminding me of a multiply-layered steely jaw of some creature, which you can see if you look hard... Continue reading
Posted 2 days ago at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post This aircraft not only moved, but flew: Source: the 1907 Philips flying machine, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horatio_Frederick_Phillips Offhand it seems to be the winner of an award for the design of the most unflyable-looking aircraft award where... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post There haven't been that many entries in the scientific journal found-art category on this site, and it seems that mainly the artworks found/noticed have occurred in the Annalen der Physik, Scientific American, and Nature.... Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Post 2740 The odd thing about this odd speculation for an odd look advancing a single odd year into the future is that it is so, well, odd. Here on page 1009 of the January-June volume... Continue reading
Posted Jan 7, 2018 at JF Ptak Science Books
JF Ptak Science Books Post 2739 George Parker Bidder (1806-1878) gave a lecture (without notes) explaining to the audience at the Institution of Civil Engineers in 18561 his interior practices and habits in performing absolutely prodigious and complex arithmetical feats... Continue reading
Posted Jan 3, 2018 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post spaghetti (or is it linguine?) and subways is not a common topic on this blog, but that was all I could think about (and eating some eggplant parm) when looking at some of the... Continue reading
Posted Jan 2, 2018 at JF Ptak Science Books
JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post I found an interesting bit a the end of an article that I happened to see--a wonderful last line, and the second good line I've seen in this young day. (The other one comes... Continue reading
Posted Jan 2, 2018 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post The collaborative work of anatomist Wilhelm Braune (1831-1892) and artist C. Schmiedel (fl. mid-1800s) produced a singular work, Topographisch-anatomischer atlas nach durchschnitten an gefrorenen cadavern...(published in Leipzig in 1872), which was an oustanding example... Continue reading
Posted Jan 1, 2018 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Post 2738 I used to wonder why the Wright brothers’ experimental gliding flights at Kill Devil Hills in 1901 received so little attention in the popular scientific press at that time--particularly the coverage in Scientific American.... Continue reading
Posted Jan 1, 2018 at JF Ptak Science Books
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Here's a very fine example of a beautiful piece of engineering and a lovely rendition of it. The artwork is an engraving found in Abraham Rees' monumental Encyclopedic Dictionary...,and was published in London in 1811. It shows in exquisite detail... Continue reading
Posted Jan 1, 2018 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Post 2737 I'm reposting the following from my books-for-sale section, as I think it may be useful for someone out there who happens to read this blog to know that this fairly rare resource is out... Continue reading
Posted Jan 1, 2018 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post There are many more complex, complicated, and data-rich displays like this one presented on this blog (just access the "Display of Quantitative Info" section), but there is a certain attraction with this simple-ish one.... Continue reading
Posted Jan 1, 2018 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post Committee for International Workers Aid (formerly "Friends of Soviet Russia") was a Communist organization created in Berlin in 1921 (as the International Arbeiter-Hilfe) to help raise money for famine and drought victims in Russia.... Continue reading
Posted Dec 31, 2017 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post There aren't many illustrations of steamboats in the great physics/chemistry journal, Annalen der Physik. Rarer still is seeing a plan for such a vessel that includes something that is seldom included--can you find it?... Continue reading
Posted Dec 30, 2017 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post If you were sitting in a cafe on a cold winter morning in Guthrie, Oklahoma, on January 13, 1920, and opened to page two of the town paper, The Leader, and worked your way... Continue reading
Posted Dec 29, 2017 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post Leafing through an unusual piece of 1930's Soviet news I came upon a rusty paper clip secured at the bottom of a single page. I'm a fan of found book art, so I read... Continue reading
Posted Dec 27, 2017 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Post 2736 According to Abraham Pais, an "excited" Albert Einstein contributed a very short note ("Zuschriften an die Herausgeber, Prufung der allgemeinen relativitatstheorie"/"A Test of the General Theory of Relativity") to the editors of the journal... Continue reading
Posted Dec 26, 2017 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post This issue of Illustrirte Zeitung (Leipzig) was published 27 April 1916 (volume 146, number 3800) and features an early-ish image of an airship bombing a city. The first time this occurred in WWI was... Continue reading
Posted Dec 26, 2017 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post [Cross section for what would be His Majesty's airship R100 (I think), from Popular Mechanics, January 1929.] At first this image looked like the cover of one of Hugo Gernsbach's science fiction magazines given... Continue reading
Posted Dec 26, 2017 at JF Ptak Science Books
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Welcome! This blog started in January 2008 as a history of science blog that related to my bookstore, but within the first two months the content spilled over into all sorts of unexpected areas, and I've happily not tried to... Continue reading
Posted Dec 24, 2017 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Post 2735 Here's an interesting list of prices, outfitting U.S. Army personnel stem to stern so to speak. The major thing here that I do not know is who it was paying these prices--was this the... Continue reading
Posted Dec 24, 2017 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Post 2734 I have posted numerous times on German propaganda pamphlets illustrated with maps showing Germany besieged (1925-1935): hordes of planes, hundreds of thousands of troops, legions of tanks, mountains of artillery pieces, and so on,... Continue reading
Posted Dec 23, 2017 at JF Ptak Science Books
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I came upon this curious pamphlet1 by Maurice Knight, curious in itself, being a manufacturer's catalog for gravestones/markers/monuments, which was something I knew must have existed in dozens of different incantations through the years, though I had never actually seen... Continue reading
Posted Dec 22, 2017 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books (Expanding an earlier post) I've noticed a few interesting articles on the circular ship from mid-late 19th century; I don't really have much to say about them except that I appreciate their structure and, well, beauty,... Continue reading
Posted Dec 22, 2017 at JF Ptak Science Books