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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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Manual of the Psychological Tests and Procedures in Use at the Neuro-Psychiatric Institute of the Hartford Retreat. Published by the Neuro-Psychiatric Institute of the Hartford Institute, the Institute of Living, Founded 1822. Printed by the Hartford Retreat, 1941. Offset printed,... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post The gem in the title to this short post bubbled into view while looking through an issue of the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society (March 1950) for a biography of Wernher von Braun.... Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post I want to spend only a few minutes on this subject as I have just now come upon a nicely-written and logical response to the "flying saucer" issue in the pages of the Journal... Continue reading
Posted Nov 7, 2019 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post At first glance this display of data looks a bit like a plate of straightened/geometrizied spaghetti, though it is actually a very good representation of the oil production process, from pump to purchase: Delivery,... Continue reading
Posted Oct 25, 2019 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post Here's a good, no-longer-missing missing part of entries for the virtually bottomless History of Holes section of this blog—blasting holes drilled into rock faces for tunneling, appearing in an article in the Scientific American... Continue reading
Posted Oct 25, 2019 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post Only a few days ago I made a post featuring the tides of war taking place inside a RCA electronic tube/valve, and just this morning I shared an unusual image of a proto-robot with... Continue reading
Posted Oct 21, 2019 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post Anthropomorphic images make their sudden appearances now and again in technical illustration, though they do less so when they surprise the viewer with a simultaneous endo/exo view of the "head" of such pre-vizualization robots.... Continue reading
Posted Oct 21, 2019 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post I've made a number of entries on this blog of beautiful/odd shadow practices in antique mechanical and technical drawings, though not so for a while. Today's entry comes from a stout volume of Engineering... Continue reading
Posted Oct 21, 2019 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post Here's a terrific little ad that appeared for RCA electronics in the November 1951 issue of Radio & Television News ("the Radio-Electronic Engineering edition"). The main article of interest--and what brought me to this... Continue reading
Posted Oct 18, 2019 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post There are a number of unexpected and interesting notes and articles in the September 5, 1878 of Nature as is usually the case with is excellent journal. The first to catch my eye was... Continue reading
Posted Oct 15, 2019 at JF Ptak Science Books
JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post This title for this post is fairly accurate given that the phonograph had been invented by Edison only months earlier and that this is one of the earliest publications on manipulating the sound that... Continue reading
Posted Oct 15, 2019 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post Here's an absolutely lovely book: The Fairyland Of Science, written by Arabella Burton Buckley (1840-1929), published in 1878. To start with I was more interested to see how many other books have “fairyland” and... Continue reading
Posted Oct 15, 2019 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post Only months into the invention of the phonograph by Thomas Edison (at Menlo Park in December of 1877 and patented in January 1878) Alexander J. Ellis reviewed a version of it constructed in London... Continue reading
Posted Oct 14, 2019 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post Sir Francis Galton's "Composite Portraits" article in May 23, 1878 volume of Nature (pp 97-100) came early on in the prehistory of cognitive and computational aspects of "facial recognition", though more like an analog... Continue reading
Posted Oct 14, 2019 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post Here's a scamperingly light post: an ad for Pears' soap making a very curious and probably intentional incorrect claim. Of course it is just an ad, and it is just soap, but it is... Continue reading
Posted Oct 11, 2019 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Post 2706 Raymond Pearl brought to the readers of Science in 1938 what seems to be the first scientific study1 on the effects of smoking tobacco on longevity, announcing that “smoking of tobacco was statistically associated... Continue reading
Posted Oct 9, 2019 at JF Ptak Science Books
JF Ptak Science Books Post 2705 Why did Dr. Frankenstein create a male and not a female being? I guess it would be easy to slip into a rolling piece of guesswork as to why the good doctor took on... Continue reading
Posted Oct 5, 2019 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post I noticed a couple of peculiar flourishes in this work-a-day illustration from the 26 January 1878 issue of the venerable Scientific American. It is a simple image of an "Australian Model School" in North... Continue reading
Posted Sep 30, 2019 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post I set out to see when the first mention of "Einstein" occurs in the Physical Review to vaguely see how he was presented in what was even then in its first few decades of... Continue reading
Posted Sep 26, 2019 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post Here's a wonderful book that I found while looking for another "Hazen" (the 1930's servo-mechanism guy), one of a series of books that have appeared over the centuries that I've seen here and there,... Continue reading
Posted Sep 22, 2019 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post This is certainly a successful design in describing fear and possibility for the near future and the security (or lack of it) for France. Nothing quite conveys temporal disruption than a consolidated mass of... Continue reading
Posted Sep 21, 2019 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post A while ago--well, more than just a "while"--I bought a large non-collection of pamphlets from the Library of Congress. In this mass of material, all housed in 2000 blue document boxes that somehow managed... Continue reading
Posted Sep 20, 2019 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post There is a longish thread on this blog about Blank, Empty, and Missing Things: faces, ethics, beginnings, ends, causes, effects, insight, wisdom, clouds, blood, smoke, rain, depth, height, and so on. There are also... Continue reading
Posted Sep 20, 2019 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post There is a longish thread through this blog collecting images of The Earth Doomed--that, and the Exploding Earth, or Cracking Earth, or the Earth spinning into infinity; they are joined by other Odd Earth... Continue reading
Posted Sep 19, 2019 at JF Ptak Science Books
JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post Here's a simple list I made using a search tool on the American Physical Society site showing the frequency of the appearances of the words "relativity" and "quantum" in the titles and abstracts of... Continue reading
Posted Sep 17, 2019 at JF Ptak Science Books