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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 Yes, this was undoubtedly a posed shot to some degree, but these U.S. soldiers were still very serious about getting their mail. This is a new photo service image made by a pool of... Continue reading
Posted yesterday at JF Ptak Science Books
JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post [Part of the series on Naming Things.] While looking for something else in the Oxford English Dictionary I looked up the instances of the works of "George Orwell" being used as illustrative/descriptive examples for... Continue reading
Posted 2 days ago at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post (Quantitative Display of Information Series) Here's another in a long series of Quick Posts on the artistic display of data: this one shows comparative naval strengths just after the turn of the century around... Continue reading
Posted 2 days ago at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books [An earlier post from 2008, expanded] Looking at these two images of the shirtless miner laying down and working on his side in the semi-dark way underground in what looks to be a tunnel about twice... Continue reading
Posted 2 days ago at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books A Map of Man’s Ability to Replace Himself, 1610-1723 This woodcut of applications and applicators to injured humans, lacking the human, waiting for the human, the missing human, was made by Hieronymous Fabrizzi (or Jerome Fabricius,... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at JF Ptak Science Books
JF Ptak Science Books There was a brief point in Charles Darwin’s publishing life when the old (then young) man got stiffed. Darwin’s magisterial contribution to Narrative of the Surveying Voyages of her Majesty's Ships Adventure and Beagle between the... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post This I believe is the eighth installment of a series of posts on articles using infographics comparing objects to buildings and skylines. Ships are often seen this way--comparing the newest/largest to some well-known building... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Post 2781 I'm sharing some of the collection here of the published work of George.H. Davis (1881-1963), the prolific and vastly accomplished artist for The Illustrated London News. His work with that magazine for the forty... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Post 2780 I'm posting these following sheet music covers because of their lovely airplane covers. They are located at the wonderful (and highly available and useful) Lester Levy Sheet Music Collection at Johns Hopkins University. "I... Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Post 2779 I found another unexpected source for the initiation of nuclear energy—this one coming in Anton Lubke's 1927 book, Technik und Mensch im Jahre 2000. The book is thick (372pp) and well-illustrated, and has what... Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Post 2778 What is the world's most traveled book? This question came to mind after I received an order for a book that had been sent to me from Florida after it arrived there from London,... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post Here's a clearer picture, which is from the front cover of the magazine, and which identifies the fliers--as you can see the middle flyer that looks like a Wright plane was Octave Chanute, and... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post In the vast caches of loot taken during the course of war I suspect books have ranked somewhere in the middle of stolen stuff--no doubt some fine libraries have disappeared, though I can't offhand... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Post 2777 This is a very short post on a much more involved issue, but for right now I just want to scribble out this note in the sand. While looking for the Wright Brothers not-appearing... Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Post 2776 Well, not quite a fantasia, but more like a "fanciful/fantastical/imaginary" collection of "flying objects" ("objets volants de fantaisie"), a whimsical look at the very near future (or so) of airship flight in 1890. This... Continue reading
Posted Dec 4, 2018 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post A little went a long way, sometimes, in collecting the ends and bits of a campaign or a retiring column or from the attics and basements of village houses, or in scrapyards or dustbins... Continue reading
Posted Dec 4, 2018 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post Claude Auguste Joseph Givaudan's handiwork was presented in the June 5, 1909 issue of Scientific American as part of a longer article on the history of human heavier-than-air motorized flight. The image is, well,... Continue reading
Posted Dec 3, 2018 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post This is a simple integrative and comparative display of information that has a decided and unexpected twist to it. The graphic is on salt and salt production, and appears in the Scientific American in... Continue reading
Posted Dec 3, 2018 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post This is a small 1.5" ad that appeared in a premier issue of Scientific American, June 11, 1909. It is tiny and attractive, a sunburst design for a Sun typewriter, the text claiming that... Continue reading
Posted Dec 2, 2018 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Post 2775 This news photo service image--stamped "Hearst-Pathe News Agency" on the back--is from the winter of 1917/1918 and shows a patriotic snow parade somewhere in the United States. The snow looks prodigious, judging from the... Continue reading
Posted Dec 2, 2018 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post This is a slight deviation from the Ships in the Skyline series: the first difference is that the "ship" is an airship; the second is that in the next example there is no "ship"... Continue reading
Posted Dec 2, 2018 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Post 2774 Here's a busy title page of an interesting fairly early aviation work published in 1909 by John Grand-Carterett and Leo Delteil, La conquête de l'air vue par l'image (1495-1909) : ascensions célèbres, … The... Continue reading
Posted Dec 1, 2018 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post What is this man smiling about? [Source: from the store's WWI news service photo collection, 500 strong!] He's satisfied or at least amused with his place there in the steamroller, rather than his soldier... Continue reading
Posted Dec 1, 2018 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Post 2773 Here's a story1 from 1930 that seems to have it all in a series of interesting and reaching ideas: the destruction of all matter, an all-powerful equation on atomic energy, a mention of Einstein,... Continue reading
Posted Nov 30, 2018 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Post 2772 In the times that I've had to research the Wright Brothers (they do deserve that capital “B” if they are not named separately) I've never seen a reference for their 1910 flight school in... Continue reading
Posted Nov 29, 2018 at JF Ptak Science Books