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Popular Science, Digitized

137 years of human curiosity, or what lawnmowers have to do with nuclear detectives in China.

Thousands of magazines have stuffed our mailboxes and collected dust on our coffee tables over the years, but very few have captivated the attention of geeks and dreamers as long as Popular Science.

A hundred and thirty-seven years ago, Edward L. Youmans founded the publication to help bring scientific knowledge to the educated layman. Topics ranged the scientific gamut from the birth of electricity to the mystery of the brain. In addition to staff writers, our modern world of science has been covered by the likes of Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, T.H. Huxley, and Louis Pasteur.

Luckily for historians and the ever-curious, Popular Science has teamed up with Google to archive all 137 years of the magazine. (You may remember Google’s groundbreaking similar partnership with LIFE Magazine in late 2008.) Not only is this spectacular treasure of information free, but it’s available in original format — which means that besides enjoying antique articles about human-powered flying machines, you can also enjoy the advertisements of eras past. (Cigarettes, whiskey and riding lawnmowers seem to populate the 60’s.)

The archives aren’t indexed by volume. Instead, a fairly accurate search function brings up all the relevant articles from the past century for you to wade through. This time machine of science is beautiful to navigate, and even looks fantastic on the iPhone.

For those of you who are new to the archives, we’ve taken the liberty of finding a few nuggets of nostalgia to get you started:

The Moon — So Far (May, 1958): “Look hard, next full moon (April 3, May 3). Our oldest-established permanent satellite looms over the trees, familiar and close, yet mysterious and distant…We are ready to stretch across 240,000 miles to touch it…”

A nuclear detective looks at China’s atom bomb (Feb, 1965): “To an atomic scientist, what are the implications of China’s atomic bomb? We asked Dr. Ralph E. Lapp, a physicist who participated in the World War II Manhattan Project…”

Traveling telephones — new technology expands mobile service (Feb, 1978): “There’s a button labeled SND on Motorola’s futuristic –looking Pulsar II radiotelephone. I pushed it, and a number stored in its microcomputer memory began stepping, digit by digit, across the red LED handset display.

Go ahead, dive in.

Len Kendall is the cofounder of the3six5 project. (Featured on Brain Pickings here.) He enjoys being clever, quippy, and constructively grumpy.


Published March 8, 2010

https://www.brainpickings.org/2010/03/08/popular-science-archive/

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