brainwagon "There is much pleasure in useless knowledge." — Bertrand Russell

15Mar/060

Gutenberg Gem: Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare

Today is the Ides of March, and as such, it seems appropriate to place a link to Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare, and to remind everyone that all of Shakespeare's works are in the public domain and available from Project Gutenberg.

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Addendum: Okay, here's a slightly more personal story to pad out this brief niglet. Despite being a dyed in the wool science geek, I did my got my B.S. from the University of Oregon. Fine educational institution that they are, they required undergraduates to pursue a somewhat diverse curriculum, including the completion of a number of classes in "arts", which included literature, theater, and language skills. To pad out this part of my schooling, I decided to take a class in Shakespeare, and since I did reasonably well, I decided to take two more, all from Professor William Rockett. My recollections of him was that he always came into class with a smile, and would open discussion the with the same two questions:

  1. "Did you read the play?"
  2. "What did you think of it?"

But for reasons which aren't all that clear to me, twenty-some odd years later, it is our discussion of The Tragedy of Julius Caesar which are embedded in my mind. We were discussing the funeral oration of Mark Antony, you know the one:

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears!
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them,
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar. The noble Brutus
Hath told you Caesar was ambitious;
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath Caesar answer'd it.
Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest-
For Brutus is an honorable man;
So are they all, all honorable men-
Come I to speak in Caesar's funeral.
He was my friend, faithful and just to me;
But Brutus says he was ambitious,
And Brutus is an honorable man.
He hath brought many captives home to Rome,
Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill.
Did this in Caesar seem ambitious?
When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept;
Ambition should be made of sterner stuff:
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious,
And Brutus is an honorable man.
You all did see that on the Lupercal
I thrice presented him a kingly crown,
Which he did thrice refuse. Was this ambition?
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious,
And sure he is an honorable man.
I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke,
But here I am to speak what I do know.
You all did love him once, not without cause;
What cause withholds you then to mourn for him?
O judgement, thou art fled to brutish beasts,
And men have lost their reason. Bear with me;
My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar,
And I must pause till it come back to me.

Antony goes on to incite the crowd against Brutus and the traitors who conspired to murder him through his eloquence. Anyway, Professor Rockett said (from memory, but the general idea and flow is correct) "What did you think of this speech? Did it get you fired up? I was out in my garden, trying to transplant a rhododendren, and I was going over it in my mind again and again. You know rhododendrons have the most enormous rootballs? It took me well over an hour to dig it out, and as I was working, I kept thinking about the speech that so moved the Romans, until finally I managed to get the plant out. I then, ran in to the house and yelled to my wife, 'My God, the traitors have slain Julius Caesar!' She thought I was crazy. What about you?"

I took three semesters of Shakespeare from Professor Rockett, read every play, every sonnet. He had great enthusiasm and humor, and I enjoyed his classes immensely. Great stuff.

Addendum2: If you don't have as great a passion for Shakespeare as I do, but nonetheless find yourself taking a class, try getting a recorded version of the play, and follow along by reading it. We used the Oxford Edition Shakespeare which had lots of footnotes, and I had no trouble following the language when I could both hear it and flit down to the various footnotes to figure out some of the idiomatic speech. Two hours, you can get through any play, and have a much easier time than trying to just read it.

1Mar/060

Gutenberg Gem: Animal Children by Edith Brown Kirkwood

Cute Squirrel

Want some cute animal pictures?  Try checking out this minor gem: Animal Children by Edith Brown Kirkwood from Project Gutenberg.   It's got lots of really strange pictures that look like conventional animal pictures cut up and then clothing drawn around them.  Strange stuff, but oddly kind of fun too, might be fun for a kid's craft project, and heck: they are in the public domain.

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17Feb/060

Gutenberg Gem: The Evolution of Man Scientifically Disproved by William A. Williams

Well, "gem" is perhaps not the right term. Perhaps I should start a new category: Gutenberg Coal.

I've been interested in (and have from time to time posted here about) the seemingly never ending conflict between science and creationism. I found this book to be an interesting glimpse 80 years into the past, to see how people argued against evolution even before the famous Scopes trial.

The Evolution of Man Scientifically Disproved by William A. Williams - Project Gutenberg

It contains gems like this exchange:

The population of the world, based upon the Berlin census reports of 1922, was found to be 1,804,187,000. The human race must double itself 30.75 times to make this number. This result may be approximately ascertained by the following computations:

At the beginning of the first period of doubling there would just be two human beings; the second, 4; the third, 8; the fourth, 16; the tenth, 1024; the twentieth 1,048,576, the thirtieth, 1,073,741,824; and the thirty-first, 2,147,483,648. In other words, if we raise two to the thirtieth power, we have 1,073,741,824; or to the thirty-first power, 2,147,483,648 Therefore, it is evident even to the school boy, that, to have the present population of the globe, the net population must be doubled more than thirty times and less than thirty-one times. By logarithms, we find it to be 30.75 times. After all allowances are made for natural deaths, wars, catastrophes, and losses of all kinds, if the human race would double its numbers 30.75 times, we would have the present population of the globe.

Now, according to the chronology of Hales, based on the Septuagint text, 5077 years have elapsed since the flood, and 5177 years since the ancestors of mankind numbered only two, Noah and his wife. By dividing 5177 by 30.75, we find it requires an average of 168.3 years for the human race to double its numbers, in order to make the present population. This is a reasonable average length of time.

Can you spot the problem? Let's imagine that he's right. 5077 years ago, there was only Noah and his wife. It takes them 168.3 years to produce two children, and double there numbers. If we allow for 3000 years to pass, bringing us roughly up to 2000 years ago, around the time of Christ, the world population would have almost 18 doublings, bringing the total world population to about 260,000. Worldwide.

Inappropriate extrapolation is one of the silly errors that creationists use to argue using mathematics. But as they say, creationists use mathematics like a drunk uses a lamp post: for support, rather than illumination.

Read the entire thing, it's really quite astounding.

17Jan/060

Gutenberg Gem: The Botanical Magazine, by William Curtis.

It's been a while since I posted a link to a Gutenberg Gem, so here's to help make up for lost time. This neat little book includes thirty-something nice watercolors of flowers that can be turned into useful clipart. I mucked around a little bit with the picture of the Siberian Iris, and came up with the decoration to the right. I'm sure you can think of something artsy to do with 'em. In any case, check 'em out.

The Project Gutenberg eBook of The Botanical Magazine, by William Curtis.

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24Dec/050

A Visit From Saint Nicholas, by Clement C. Moore

A Visit From Saint Nick

A seasonal Gutenberg Gem: A Visit From Saint Nicholas, by Clement C. Moore. Enjoy the classic with illustrations.

25Nov/050

Gutenberg Gem: Little Wars by H. G. Wells

Earlier in life, I was quite a wargame fan: I had dozens of games by Avalon Hill, and even experimented a bit with miniature wargaming. I still have a few interesting old rulebooks for games, like Fletcher Pratt's Naval Wargame. I recall reading back then that H.G. Wells had published a set of rules called Little Wars which I just discovered is available via (you guessed it) Project Gutenberg. Neat!

22Nov/051

Gutenberg Gems: Watch and Clock Escapements, by Anonymous

A Watch EscapementIf you aspire to be an horologist, you don't have to done fishnet stockings and hot pants, you merely need to study up on the design and manufacture of escapements. Luckily, there is a nifty illustrated book on the Project Gutenberg website that details some of what you'll need to know: Watch and Clock Escapements, by Anonymous. If you haven't thought of it before (and why would you, in this soul-less age of digital watches), how do you think that mechanical watches actually worked? Well, they use a gadget called an escapement, the design of which is the core function of traditional clockmaking. From the book:

The problem to be solved by means of the escapement has always been to govern, within limits precise and perfectly regular, if it be possible, the flow of the motive force; that means the procession of the wheel-work and, as a consequence, of the hands thereto attached. At first blush it seems as if a continually-moving governor, such as is in use on steam engines, for example, ought to fulfil the conditions, and attempts have accordingly been made upon this line with results which have proven entirely unsatisfactory.

Having thoroughly sifted the many varieties at hand, it has been finally determined that the only means known to provide the most regular flow of power consists in intermittently interrupting the procession of the wheel-work, and thereby gaining a periodically uniform movement. Whatever may be the system or kind of escapement employed, the functioning of the mechanism is characterized by the suspension, at regular intervals, of the rotation of the last wheel of the train and in transmitting to a regulator, be it a balance or a pendulum, the power sent into that wheel.

Interesting stuff.

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15Nov/051

Gutenberg Gem: The Boy Mechanic: Volume 1 by Popular Mechanics

Wow. Very cool to take this step back in time and see what young hackers in 1913 were doing. A lot of lame stuff, but some gems, like a line harmonograph, a "key card" for writing secret codes on post cards, handcutting gears and racks for models, a miniature "Pepper's Ghost", and a homemade water wheel. And that's just in the first hundred pages, there are almost six hundred! Be sure to check out the PDF file.

2Nov/050

The Haunted House, by Walter Hubbell

The Haunted House, by Walter Hubbell begins amusingly with this introduction:

The manifestations described in this story commenced one year ago. No person has yet been able to ascertain their cause. Scientific men from all parts of Canada and the United States have investigated them in vain. Some people think that electricity is the principal agent; others, mesmerism; whilst others again, are sure they are produced by the devil. Of the three supposed causes, the latter is certainly the most plausible theory, for some of the manifestations are remarkably devilish in their appearance and effect.

Hehe.

30Sep/050

Gutenberg Gem: Half-hours with the Telescope by Richard A. Proctor

Telescope

Today's Gutenberg Gem is a neat little astronomy book, published in 1873 by Richard A. Proctor. It lists a number of half hour tours of the sky, each highlighting either a set of constellations or planets. It's pretty brief, and certainly better modern guides exist, but it's still a neat little thing to peruse through, for perspective if nothing else.

Half-hours with the Telescope by Richard A. Proctor - Project Gutenberg

20Sep/050

Gutenberg Gem: Amusements in Mathematics, be H.E. Dudeney

A Classic Ring Puzzle

A classic of puzzles (most of which I would call only marginally mathematical) Amusements In Mathematics, by Henry Ernest Dudeney. has been made available via Project Gutenberg. Lots of puzzles having to do with geometric dissection, board games, and a host of other topics. Very nice.

13Jul/050

Gutenberg Gem: The Manual of Heraldry

Need to brush up on your heraldry before donning your armor and traipsing off to the Rennaissance Fair? Try checking out Project Gutenberg's illustrated version of The Manual of Heraldry; Fifth Edition, by Anonymous.

15Jun/050

Gutenberg Gem: Occult Chemistry, by Annie Besant and Charles W. Leadbeater

Okay, okay, it's not really a gem, except in the sense that it's interesting to read an early example of utter and complete mumbo jumbo. Occult Chemistry, by Annie Besant and Charles W. Leadbeater is an extensive, detailed, and complete description of chemistry as revealed to the authors through clairvoyance. Published in 1919, the exact nature of elements was still fairly new: Rutherford had proposed his planetary model of the atom in 1911. Still, this had to have been considered craziness of the highest order, even in 1919.

A quote, just to give the flavor:

I remember the occasion vividly. Mr. Leadbeater was then staying at my house, and his clairvoyant faculties were frequently exercised for the benefit of myself, my wife and the theosophical friends around us. I had discovered that these faculties, exercised in the appropriate direction, were ultra-microscopic in their power. It occurred to me once to ask Mr. Leadbeater if he thought he could actually see a molecule of physical matter. He was quite willing to try, and I suggested a molecule of gold as one which he might try to observe. He made the appropriate effort, and emerged from it saying the molecule in question was far too elaborate a structure to be described. It evidently consisted of an enormous number of some smaller atoms, quite too many to count; quite too complicated in their arrangement to be comprehended. It struck me at once that this might be due to the fact that gold was a heavy metal of high atomic weight, and that observation might be more successful if directed to a body of low atomic weight, so I suggested an atom of hydrogen as possibly more manageable. Mr. Leadbeater accepted the suggestion and tried again. This time he found the atom of hydrogen to be far simpler than the other, so that the minor atoms constituting the hydrogen atom were countable. They were arranged on a definite plan, which will be rendered intelligible by diagrams later on, and were eighteen in number.

12Jun/050

The Food of the Gods, by Brandon Head

Today's Gutenberg Gem is a detailed account of one of my favorite things in life:

The Food of the Gods, by Brandon Head

When one thinks of the marvellously nourishing and stimulating virtue of cocoa, and of the exquisite and irresistible dainties prepared from it, one cannot wonder that the great Linnæus should have named it theo broma, "the food of the gods." No other natural product, with the exception of milk, can be said to serve equally well as food or drink, or to possess nourishing and stimulating properties in such well-adjusted proportions.

Amen!

25Apr/05Off

Gutenberg Gem: How TO Make a Star Finder

A Star FinderA hacker's project of old, perhaps as would have populated Make magazine had it existed in July of 1887:

The Project Gutenberg eBook of Scientific American Supplement, July 9, 1887

HOW TO MAKE A STAR FINDER.

Being all of wood, it is easily made by any one who can use a few tools, the only bit of lathe work necessary being the turned shoulder, K, of polar axis. A is the baseboard, 9 in. by 5 in., near each corner of which is inserted an ordinary wood screw, S S, for the purpose of leveling the base, to which two side pieces are nailed, having the angle, x, equal to the co-latitude of the place. On to these side pieces is fastened another board, on which is marked the hour circle, F. Through this board passes the lower end of the polar axis, having a shoulder turned up on it at K, and is secured by a wooden collar and pin underneath. On to the upper part of the polar axis is fastened the declination circle, C, 5½ in. diameter, made of ¼ in. baywood, having the outer rim of a thin compass card divided into degrees pasted on to it. The hour circle, F, is half of a similar card, with the hours painted underneath, and divided to 20 minutes. G is the hour index. D is a straight wooden pointer, 12 in. long, having a piece of brass tube, E, attached, and a small opening at J, into which is fixed the point of a common pin by which to set the pointer in declination. H is a nut to clamp pointer in position. By this simple toy affair I have often picked up the planet Venus at midday when visible to the naked eye.--T.R. Clapham in English Mechanic.