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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
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JF Ptak Science Books Post 2884 There's nothing quite like a series of lies that is a vast series of lines, lies all the way up and mostly all the way down, lies that are built into Borgesian extravagancies with... Continue reading
Posted yesterday at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Post 2883 What is the first stop for looking at—hold on to your seat!--socio-descriptive stationary public humor? I do not know, though I have found an example of the history of such a thing in a... Continue reading
Posted yesterday at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Post 2882 Here's a short tale of surprise and of some disappointment. First, the pamphlet pictured here is a standard work (Der Signalgast, Handbuch fuer Signalkunde, fifth edition, 1935) on naval communications using Morse code and... Continue reading
Posted 2 days ago at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books (Expanded earlier post) Fact: toys have souls. Or, if we can establish that in this case a "fact" can be so identified, then a "fact" this must be. I've stumbled onto a remarkable short story in... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Post 2881 I recently unboxed (after a long and deep in-box slumber) the classic two-volume work Quantum Mechanics by Albert Messiah. It was published in French in 1959 and soon found its way into English in... Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books (Earlier post, expanded) This book review on the use of narcotics to induce sleep in treating the insane appeared in the New York Journal of Medicine for 1846. The book, An Essay on the Use of... Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post These images are about as basic as it gets for the common, everyday, overlooked objects from the disappeared past. They come from the Course-Linds manufacturer’s catalog for traffic lights and other control systems called,... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post This is another interest image from my WWI News Photo collection--a front line Italian medical/triage post on the Italian-Austrian front, June 1918. It is bare-knuckle bare, very rudimentary, though the soldier is receiving the... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Post 2880 This pamphlet, 70,000 American Refugees, Made in U.S.A., by Truman B. Douglass1, was a sympathetic appeal to the deeply grave situation legislated to 140,000 Americans. They were Americans of Japanese descent, many of them... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post I decided to share the entire Ploish Labour Fights for Freedom, Equality, Independence because it is pretty scarce and its content is very powerful and deserves to be read. It is only 12 pages... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post This is another in a series of quick posts on images from my WWI photo collection. Photographs were made by pools of photographers working for several different photographic news agencies, with the content of... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post "Extra-Earths" is a very modest category on this blog with only five posts--they do not take up much space in the bulk of the 2,780 full posts and 2,400 "quick posts". The subject rarely... Continue reading
Posted Aug 4, 2020 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post This is a New Photo Service image by Underwood & Underwood of a laboring narrow gauge train making its way along to the front with two cars full of munition and men, on its... Continue reading
Posted Aug 2, 2020 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Post 2838 This device isn't so much a six-person internet as it is...well, it isn't that at all. It was however one of the first times where a group of people could share a recorded piece... Continue reading
Posted Aug 2, 2020 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post This thrilling nail-biter from the near future appeared in Popular Mechanics for December 1939. What we are seeing floated here (sorry/terrible) was a system of relatively primitive helium-filled air mines to guard against enemy... Continue reading
Posted Jul 30, 2020 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post Appearing as a splashy double-page spread in LIFE magazine for May 31, 1954 is the great “Project Y” USAF flying saucer. It was the continuation of the work carried out by John C.M. Frost... Continue reading
Posted Jul 29, 2020 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post I'm not often able to make a post in the "Alphabets" category of this blog, though I can today after finding this untempered, bolded, all- and random-capped, exclaimed attack on Franklin Roosevelt and the... Continue reading
Posted Jul 29, 2020 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post There's nothing quite so satisfying as seeing a representation of quantitative data where the graphical displays are flying. "One Dreadnought Buys 52 Dirigibles and 235 Aeroplanes" is a full-page diagram appearing in the 3... Continue reading
Posted Jul 27, 2020 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Post 2878 This image (from the Illustrated London News for April 26 1871) shows a plan of the top floor of a revolving battery designed by M. Baltard in 1831. This idea is probably ancient, though... Continue reading
Posted Jul 26, 2020 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Post 2837 There was something that caught my eye as I paged through an online copy of Francis Godwin's The Man in the Moone or A Discourse of a Voyage Thither by Domingo Gonsales (1638), something... Continue reading
Posted Jul 26, 2020 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post Just a few days ago I made a post here about camouflage ("Art & Artists as Wartime Magi--Making Things Disappear, 1918", and now comes another, a WWI news service photo, "Camouflage Shop at the... Continue reading
Posted Jul 25, 2020 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post Even though WWII in the Pacific was ended on 15 August 1945 (or at least the surrender was initiated then) and the surrender papers signed aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay on 2... Continue reading
Posted Jul 25, 2020 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post Its a little difficult to think of Ellsworth Kelly, Jacques Villon, Grant Wood, Laslo Moholy-Nagy and Thomas Hart Benton as painters-for-war. But its true, and true for many of hundreds of other artists in... Continue reading
Posted Jul 22, 2020 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post Here are another couple of enjoyable, interesting, and somewhat endlessly mine-able images from an archive of WWI news photo service agencies, all of which are from 1918. Photographs were made by pools of photographers... Continue reading
Posted Jul 22, 2020 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books I'm doing a quick-share of this five-page document written by Lt. Col. Theodore Deglin (“PRO AFWESPAC”, Public Relations Officer, Armed Fores Western Pacific, Philippines), called "Account of a Trip to Japan and to Baguio to Witness... Continue reading
Posted Jul 21, 2020 at JF Ptak Science Books