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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 (Overall post 5101) I think that there are several dozen aircraft cutaway and cross section aviation schematics on this website, and tonight's main entry is for the British (Hawker) Hurricane (predominantly by Hawker Aircraft... Continue reading
Posted Oct 14, 2020 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Post 2905 Breezing through a volume of Popular Mechanic for 1942 I came across an article on refitting the French ocean liner, the Normandie. The only thing I knew about her was that the ship was... Continue reading
Posted Oct 14, 2020 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books (Older post #2248 from July 2014 expanded) [Image source: Joshua Robinson, "A Machine Before its Time", Wall Street Journal, June 21, 2010. See below.] Somewhat Zelig-like, Charles Howard Hinton (1853-1907) is a sort of shadowy Oxford-educated... Continue reading
Posted Oct 11, 2020 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Here's another in this developing and fun series in the What-is-It? category. At first it reminded me of Renaissance woodcuts of various stages of creation anointed by a coy hand of the creator. This one though... Continue reading
Posted Oct 11, 2020 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post This is just a small and short post about an unusual bit/bob from the White House. William Howard Taft to me was Mr. In-Between: he was the president between Roosevelt and Wilson, and he... Continue reading
Posted Oct 10, 2020 at JF Ptak Science Books
JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post Here's another happy and unexpected find, this coming from one of my very-early-on scientific heroes, Hermann von Helmholtz. The two papers1 in question (French translations that appeared in 1850 and 1851 about a year... Continue reading
Posted Oct 10, 2020 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post This little pamphlet packed a lot of bitter bilious hope into its small-framed four pages. The Committee of 1,000,000 was the work of the past-and-present pastor Gerald L.K.Smith, a rabid far-rightist who seemed to... Continue reading
Posted Oct 9, 2020 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post I found the following while strolling through a volume of teh Edinburgh Review for 1811. The ER was an excellent "magazine, with much in common with the New York Review of Books and The... Continue reading
Posted Oct 2, 2020 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post I found this fantastic cross-section of the Harper & Brothers publishing house in Jacob Abbott's The Harper Establishment, or, How the Story Books are Made, published of course and thankfully by Harper in 1855,... Continue reading
Posted Oct 2, 2020 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post This is just a very quick post based on a book that I'm trying to sell over on the bookstore end of this blog--the images are arresting and interesting, and I at least wanted... Continue reading
Posted Oct 2, 2020 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post Here we go: I unearthed a beautiful if not a very good solution to the traffic congestion problems in 1939 Los Angeles. It is a rare, self-published work of what seems to have received... Continue reading
Posted Oct 2, 2020 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post Another great example of the artistic display of information using alternative comparison, and this just hours after finding/writing about another example in this area. This morning's find uses several different types of comparisons, the... Continue reading
Posted Oct 2, 2020 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post Well. The Scientific American (1913) delivered quite a blow against the current "craze" of spiritualisms and seances, which they characterize as a mixture of "self-deception and knavery". They had no room for it whatsoever,... Continue reading
Posted Oct 1, 2020 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post I've made a dozen (or two?) posts on this website on measuring things with other thigs. And by that I mean instead referring to something in terms of measurement units like miles or tons... Continue reading
Posted Oct 1, 2020 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Post 2904 J.B. S. Haldane (1892-1964, scientist/philosopher/veteran/Communist) contributed a provocative little one-hour read warfare and morality, making a case for the use of chemical weapons during war. I thought that this might be a Modest Proposal... Continue reading
Posted Oct 1, 2020 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Post 2903 As is often the case in looking through the early-ish issue of Scientific American, I usually find much more than what I was originally looking for, finding a lot that I had no idea... Continue reading
Posted Sep 29, 2020 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post I knew I needed to do something with this tremendous image (found as you can see in Scientific American for 16 August 1913) and thought it might be nice to make something of it... Continue reading
Posted Sep 29, 2020 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post Welcome to the push button electro-deluxe-lux world of 1913 of the marvel of electro-mechanics, the (proposed) Hotel Electro-Ferla. I read in the issue of Scientific American for 1 November 1913 (p 345) that the... Continue reading
Posted Sep 26, 2020 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post What is it? You'll be surprised at what this device does, given the gear, and the weight, and the utter simple beauty of the thing. Answer below! This glorious beast is a pencil sharpener... Continue reading
Posted Sep 26, 2020 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post "A true poet does not bother to be poetical. Nor does a nursery gardener scent his roses." Jean Cocteau Maybe so and maybe no, and if not, maybe they should...especially for the poets. But... Continue reading
Posted Sep 25, 2020 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post This evocative crowd scene appears in a piece of Nazi propaganda in 1936 and supposedly (and likely) depicts a Communist demonstration in New York City. The Nazis of course hated the Communists and much... Continue reading
Posted Sep 25, 2020 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post There are sometimes positive results from fires, though I think not so in this case of the devastating fire that burned much of the U.S. Patent Office building on 24 September 1877 that is... Continue reading
Posted Sep 25, 2020 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post This short notice by Cassini1 published in 1730 has a lot going for it--I just like the design, and the way it sits on the page, unrushed by another article beginning right underneath it,... Continue reading
Posted Sep 24, 2020 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post This Quick Post entry is a simple one, repeating an entry that I've made to the bookstore section of this blog--I'm doing so just to make the info available, as the booklet is interesting... Continue reading
Posted Sep 24, 2020 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post This is just a short, funny little bit here--I can't remember noticing an antiquarian map being used as part of the design or decoration based on extraterrestrial objects. I guess that's why this image... Continue reading
Posted Sep 24, 2020 at JF Ptak Science Books