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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 There is a special beauty that comes with the imperfection and homemade qualities of an antiquarian bound-at-home book or pamphlet. I think that much of the time--in my experience--these bindings were made of whatever... Continue reading
Posted yesterday at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books (Expanding Post 2686) Before the Brooklyn Bridge (begun in 1870 and opened 1883) became its incredible self, there was a lot of King-Hell work to be done before the recognizably visible bridgey part could be started.... Continue reading
Posted yesterday at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post This double-page map from Illustrated London News caught my eye--it shows "the theatre of war on the Western Front" at the end of the second week of the European war, 16 September, 1939, just... Continue reading
Posted 2 days ago at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Post 2747 This is one of those times where science precedes art--that's the least significant aspect of this image, as the folks seeing it in 1884 couldn't see into the future didn't know that they were... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Post 2746 There have been many D-Days in the history military terminology, but for almost everyone it refers to the Allied invasion of Normandy on 6 June 1944. In 1803 when Napoleon was in high form... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post It took a few years for the Wright Brother's iconic and monumental flights of 1903 to be thoroughly and popularly deemed not-crackpot, but once that was the case, the Wrights, and their flying machine,... Continue reading
Posted Feb 8, 2018 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Post 2745 On this blog I have entertained stories about Manhattan being completely detached/uprooted, attacked by bloomers and aliens and spaceships and spaceship aliens, floated above itself, nuked (numerous times), miniaturized, crushed under sudden ice, joined... Continue reading
Posted Feb 8, 2018 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post I made an unexpected find today, poking around in a February 18961 volume of the probing, somewhat classically-radical and Easternist journal, The Open Court, a Weekly Journal Devoted to the Religion of Science. The... Continue reading
Posted Feb 7, 2018 at JF Ptak Science Books
JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post The Illustrated London News published this very sobering image showing the general reader in London in 1933 the absolute strength and weight of the dead--and probably in a way that they had never seen... Continue reading
Posted Feb 5, 2018 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Post 2744 A friend of mine forwarded an article to me that in one clear paragraph would seem to demolish the widely hypothesized belief in Martians (of some sort) building the relatively-recently discovered “canals” of Mars.... Continue reading
Posted Jan 30, 2018 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post This is just a lovely little mechanical drawing that I found in the pages of the 5 May 1880 issue of the Comptes Rendus de l'Academie des Sciences and I decided to share it.... Continue reading
Posted Jan 29, 2018 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post I've posted probably 100+ images from a stash of WWI News Photo Service photographs that I have here (you can find some of them by clicking on the WWI Photos link at the top... Continue reading
Posted Jan 28, 2018 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post Part of the series on "Naming Things" It was very surprising, finding this, the first time that something so familiar as "relativity theory" appeared in its most familiar form. It appears very soon after... Continue reading
Posted Jan 22, 2018 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post Deep into a stellar, pioneering, and very productive 350-paper career (Pierre Jules Cesar Jules Janssen, 1824-1907) wrote this interesting paper that appeared in Appleton's Popular Science Monthly (volume 50) in 1897 (translated from his... Continue reading
Posted Jan 19, 2018 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post From the series on Questionable Quidity William Dee, of Willimantic, Connecticut, set out in 11 pages his 57 complaints of Things That Weaken America. Some of them are actually more or less relatively maybe... Continue reading
Posted Jan 19, 2018 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Post 2743 I came upon this article last night in the pages of Nature--it doesn't look like much, but it turns out to contain a first-person account of an historic moment in the history of aviation.... Continue reading
Posted Jan 18, 2018 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post I do believe that the engineering journals--particularly those from the 19th century--hold great promise for "Found-Art": these are images out-of-context whose whole or components are attractive from an artistic sense that was generally not... Continue reading
Posted Jan 17, 2018 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Post 2742 What does one do about Wernher von Braun? For a long time it was difficult to find his name at the National Air and Space Museum, though I don't know what that status is,... Continue reading
Posted Jan 16, 2018 at JF Ptak Science Books
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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 Jan 13, 2018 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 Jan 13, 2018 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 Jan 9, 2018 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 Jan 8, 2018 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