Government History SOI Blog

Lincoln’s head on Calhoun’s Body

Calhoun and Lincoln
Library of Congress images

Seems photo retouching is nothing new and goes back to the earliest days of photography.

After Lincoln’s assassination, there was a dearth of “heroic-style” pictures of the president. So one portrait painter got creative. On a print of the late president, Thomas Hicks superimposed Lincoln’s head onto the body of John C. Calhoun—the virulent racist and slavery proponent who did not exactly see eye-to-eye with the 16th president.

“The Great Lengths Taken to Make Abraham Lincoln Look Good in Portraits,” by Michael Waters

Great article on this subject:

Where I first heard this info:

Architecture Everyday Things Government History SOI Blog

Air for Sale

I visited New York City for the first time this year. And yes, there are a lot of tall buildings, but if real estate is so precious, why are there not tall buildings on every block? Well, it seems you have to buy the air to put them in too. Planet Money explains:

Everyday Things Government SOI Blog

Find a lost wallet? Drop it in a mailbox.

I’ve seen the “Honesty Test” in the past, but Mark Rober runs a pretty good one in his video below. Chock one up for “I didn’t know that,” Mark says if you find a wallet with an address in it, just drop it in any USPS mailbox and it will be delivered back to the owner for free. I could not find a definitive statement toward this on the USPS website, but found a few other discussions of it on the web. One, on the Art of Manliness blog, says that a better response would be to call the person right away if possible. That would save them the trouble of canceling all those credit cards and other IDs. At least you could give them a call and then drop it in a mailbox.

Books Government History Podcasts SOI Blog

The Nazi Saboteurs in America

Several years ago I came across this amazing story on the This American Life program about a bungled Nazi plot of sabotage only six months after Pearl Harbor. When this program first aired, it drew comparisons to present day efforts to try Islamic terrorists in military tribunals. The legal precedent they were siting was the case of these Nazi saboteurs. It’s a great story and well worth a listen. It shows how legal justice is a very complicated thing and is often manipulated to fulfill agendas.
Recently another podcast, Retropod, brought this story up again. A mysterious stone memorial was found in 2006 in Washington, D.C. on government property, a memorial to these Nazi spies.

This American Life story

Retropod story

Michael Dobbs’s excellent book, Saboteurs: The Nazi Raid on America

CSPAN Book TV interview with Michael Dobbs

Everyday Things Government Media SOI Blog

Highway Sign Font

As I was working on a video project showing highway signs, I discovered the font used on highway and interstate signage is called “Highway Gothic.” You can download it for your own use here.

I also discovered the use of an new font called “Clearview.” It was thought to be a replacement for the tried an true Highway Gothic. After some promising research results on better readability it looked like it would be the new default. Interestingly, after reviewing the research, it appears that the better results on readability seemed to be caused by the fact that the signs using the Clearview font were newer compared to the older faded signs using Highway Gothic. In other words, they were not comparing apples to apples. So according to the Wikipedia article, Highway Gothic will remain the standard for the time being.

Government History Science SOI Blog Technology

Did cloud seeding make a hurricane hit the US in 1947?

One little tidbit of info in the latest 99% Invisible podcast episode was about the military’s attempt to weaken a hurricane.

Project Cirrus

Project Cirrus was the first attempt to modify a hurricane. It was a collaboration of the General Electric Corporation, the US Army Signal Corps, the Office of Naval Research, and the US Air Force. After several preparations, and initial skepticism by government scientists,[6] the first attempt to modify a hurricane began on October 13, 1947 on a hurricane that was heading west to east and out to sea.

An airplane flew along the rainbands of the hurricane, and dropped nearly 180 pounds (82 kilograms) of crushed dry ice into the clouds. The crew reported “Pronounced modification of the cloud deck seeded”. It is not known if that was due to the seeding. Next, the hurricane changed direction and made landfall near Savannah, Georgia. The public blamed the seeding, and Irving Langmuir claimed that the reversal had been caused by human intervention.[6] Cirrus was canceled, and lawsuits were threatened. Only the fact that a system in 1906 had taken a similar path, as well as evidence showing that the storm had already begun to turn when seeding began, ended the litigation. This disaster set back the cause of seeding hurricanes for eleven years.

At first the seeding was officially denied and it took years before the government admitted it. According to the Sept. 12, 1965 edition of the Fort Lauderdale News and Sun-Sentinel, in 1947 a hurricane “went whacky” and “Twelve years later it was admitted the storm had in fact been seeded.”

Read more here,
Wikipedia page on Project Stormfury

From 99pi
“In 1947, Irving Langmuir’s research team at GE tried to break up a hurricane by dumping a lot of dry ice into it to see if it would collapse. But instead the hurricane changed trajectory, became stronger, and hit the Georgia coast. ”

99% Invisible “Making It Rain”

Entertainment Government Humanities Media SOI Blog

Copyright Law Weirdness

I’m a big proponent of limited copyright law. I think copyright should have a limited time limit, after which time the work or IP falls into the public domain to be used freely. Currently copyright seems to go on forever. As ranted about by CGP Grey here.

But recently, I discovered that terrestrial or over the air broadcasters only paid the song writers and publishers for playing recorded music. The ones performing the song don’t get anything when their record is played. A loophole the broadcasters have consistently lobbied for.

For instance:
“When you hear Counting Crows’ recording of ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ on the radio in the US, Joni Mitchell – the composer of ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ – is compensated through BMI. But Counting Crows receive nothing for this performance.”

More can be found in this article:
Public Performance Right for Sound Recordings

Government Technology

US Military’s Ray Gun -UPDATE-

Here’s a great segment from 60 minutes on the ray gun I reported earlier.

If embeded player does not display try this: CBS NEWS VIDEO

Government Technology

US Military’s Ray Gun

Raytheon has created a “ray gun” type weapon called Silent Guardian for the US military. It emits an invisible beam of high-energy radio frequency. The non-lethal beam heats up the moisture on the skin inflicting pain.

I was unable to find any video of the weapon being demonstrated on anyone, but here’s a radio story of the demo for reporters and a video from Raytheon’s web site of the equipment.


link iconAll Things Considered, October 29, 2007

link iconRaytheon promotional video

Books Government History

Sitting US President Under Enemy Fire

In a little known battle just outside Washington DC during the American Civil War, President Lincoln came out to see the battle and became the only sitting US President to come under enemy fire during a war. In fact a surgeon standing next to him was wounded by a confederate sharp shooter.

The story is chronicled in Marc Leepson’s book Desperate Engagment.

link iconMarc Leepson’s Web site

link iconMarc Leepson appears on CSPANs BookTV and tours the battlefields describing events. (WARNING may only be enjoyable by die hard History and Civil War Fans)