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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 Quick Post Also see: Found Poetry in the Words in Last Lines from Vincent van Gogh, 1889-1890 https://longstreet.typepad.com/thesciencebookstore/2014/03/the-words-in-last-lines-from-vincent-van-gogh-1889-1890.html#more [Source: Google Maps. This image captured on a virtual walking Google tour of Auvers. This is the view... Continue reading
Posted yesterday at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Post 2768 Here's one of those languid, curling, endless river bends research stories that takes you totally away from where you wanted/needed to go. After a chat with my friend Eric that involved conspiratorial otherworlders I... Continue reading
Posted 2 days ago at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post "He is too picked, to spruce, too affected, to od as it were."--Shakespeare Love's Labour's Lost (1598) v. i. 13 I just threw this together, pulling in some of the red-based pamphlet cover designs... Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post [And yes! Four hyphens in the title!] Here's a found bit from the Journal of the Franklin Institute, 1833, on a rumbling beast that would have been seen as the great technological achievement it... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post This pamphlet1 by Karl Janovsky seems to be a very thorough and heavy piece of German-interest propaganda regarding the Seudetenland, and seems to have been printed prior to the "annexation". The tragic front cover... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at JF Ptak Science Books
JF Ptak Science Books Post 2767 In just a few minutes of browsing in a pile by the desk last night I came across three terrific titles of papers, two of which used terminology I had never encountered before. The... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Post 2766 It is difficult sometimes to be appreciative of the smaller things when we are so used to the bigger ones--like in the writing life life, complaining of occasional slow bits in connectivity that will... Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Post 2765 So this is a loose-and-pulled-thread post--I bumped into something that led me somewhere coming face-to-face with an interesting reference to an unusual "first" in the history of cartography. I found the map and (correct)... Continue reading
Posted Nov 10, 2018 at JF Ptak Science Books
JF Ptak Science Books Post 2764 Some of the most striking things in my collection/store/accumulation are the hundreds of images that portray data for display purposes--even more so, those that use a vernacular setting to put some anthropomorphic breath into... Continue reading
Posted Nov 9, 2018 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post I found this scarce, offset publication1 written in 1932 by Dr. Otto Kiep (who was the German Consul General in New York) which addressed the worldwide Depression and the German interpretation of it. At... Continue reading
Posted Nov 9, 2018 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post The Electrical Experimenter is my new favorite magazine, and here's why: In addition to being thick and full of real electrical necessities and scientific bric-a-brac, it also held a fair amount of speculative thinking... Continue reading
Posted Nov 7, 2018 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post "I am speaking to you once again since the time of the bloody persecutions to which you have been subjected from the inhuman German regime since the shooting of Heydrich" This morning I'm sharing... Continue reading
Posted Nov 6, 2018 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post I used to think that the belly gunner (in a ball turret) in a B-17 (or B-25, or PB4Y-1) was about the most dangerous/wrenching position to be in an aircraft. Here's another, slightly earlier... Continue reading
Posted Nov 5, 2018 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post While looking through a London stationer's website for Blackwing pencils I found on their site a catalog for a floor tile maker that strongly reminded me of a gorgeous turn-of -the-century art book. I've... Continue reading
Posted Nov 5, 2018 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Post 2763 While looking for an article on the imaginary gatekeepers of Martian canals in The Electrical Experimenter (1915) I found this illustration for a piece of speculative military tech (first image, below). The annoyingly-capitalized caption... Continue reading
Posted Nov 4, 2018 at JF Ptak Science Books
JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post Keeping track of the first time something appears in a reproduced form is an interesting and perhaps useful exercise...well, it is at least diverting and occasionally helpful in connecting a few other disparate bits.... Continue reading
Posted Nov 3, 2018 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post This is a simple post adding to the collection of cross-section and cutaway images on this blog (see https://longstreet.typepad.com/thesciencebookstore/crosssections/ ). All of the images below are found in the February 15, 1903 edition of... Continue reading
Posted Nov 1, 2018 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post [Part of a series on the History of Blank, Empty and Missing Things.] There's something captivating about found bits of ephemera that ask you to fill something out--it can be a questionnaire, or an... Continue reading
Posted Nov 1, 2018 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Post 2762 I am not sure of when it was that the first view of the Earth from another planet appeared in print. They are certainly rare prior to 1900, so that when I saw (the... Continue reading
Posted Oct 30, 2018 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Post 2761 Okay, these two images1 at the head and foot of this post have almost nothing to do with Mars and Francis Galton, except that they were advertisements in the issue of Nature (November 12,... Continue reading
Posted Oct 28, 2018 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Reworking post 842 (from 2008) In England, women were welcomed to the (paid) workforce during the years of the First World War (1914-1918)—their employment in traditionally male positions enabled those they replaced to go out to... Continue reading
Posted Oct 26, 2018 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Post 2760 I wanted to amend a post from last week, “The Found-Poetry in Erasing Straight Lines from Maps of Mars (1909)”, which described the work of Eugene Michele Antoniadi and his superb observational and theoretical... Continue reading
Posted Oct 24, 2018 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post Part of a long series on Blank, Empty, and Missing Things I found this fantastic photograph of the attendees of the meeting of the Astronomische Gesellschaft at Hamburg, August 1913 in the December issue... Continue reading
Posted Oct 23, 2018 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post Here we have another example of Found-Art in a scientific paper--this one looking Duchampian (again, especially if it were spiraling), or perhaps Dadaist, or Futurist. In actuality it is something both "harder and simpler... Continue reading
Posted Oct 22, 2018 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post I've written a couple of times on this blog on "tubes", including tubular cars and ships, and of course pulp sci-fi adventures in tubular rocket ships, person intra-space tube propulsion systems, x-ray tubes, vacuum... Continue reading
Posted Oct 22, 2018 at JF Ptak Science Books