But many of Lead Belly's original recordings no longer exist. The tapes that held his last sessions were beyond saving after the oxide on the top of the record fell off rendering it unplayable. Because conservators couldn't get to them earlier, those songs are lost forever. Let's repeat that — some of these songs, among the most significant in music history, are less than 100 years old but still lost to us for all time.
All sound recordings are equally at risk of disintegrating. Before digital technology, record companies created reels for albums by recording different sections of songs, then splicing those sections together using tape. Some of those original tapes are stored in several collections at the Smithsonian Museum.
"You can only imagine what has happened to these pieces of tapes," Jeff Place, an archivist for the Smithsonian Center for Folklike and Cultural Heritage told me. "Over time, every one of those tape breaks is going to break, and it's going to take an hour to transfer three minutes of a recording into a digital format where we can store it. So there are albums that take a whole day to save."
Place's job is to save sounds by whatever means necessary, so that recordings from 50 years ago sound as clear as they did when they were made — and sometimes even better. This means preserving the original recordings in the best possible condition, and for many albums, it means transferring the sound of the original recording to a digital format that will be easily accessible in the future.
Without sound archivists, we would not only lose access to early recordings of Elvis and R&B, as albums decayed and technology changed, but we'd also lose radio broadcasts from 50 years ago and oral histories of lost neighborhoods of New York City. Without archivists, we would be losing sound rapidly; instead, we're gaining it.
Because so many unknowns could be solved only in theory prior to the operation of a complete atomic power system, it was decided early that a full-scale land-based model should be built at the National Reactor Testing station in Idaho. This prototype was named STR Mark I. The propulsion plant which followed in the Nautilus would be STR Mark II.
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In the early stages of design, the problems of obtaining some small amount of power from uranium fission seemed so overwhelming that it was planned to build Mark I as a “breadboard” arrangement, with machinery and piping systems spread out over a large floor area to allow easy access for installation, test, modification, or replacement. Rickover opposed this plan. He felt that years would be lost by breadboarding, since it required an additional stage in the development—the redesign of an operating breadboard model into a submarine hull. After several bitterly argued discussions within the project, Rickover made the decision to build Mark I as a land-based submarine to all the Naval specifications later to be required of Mark II. Here was the second example of courageous leadership, which contributed directly to the Nautilus success.
And so Mark I, although located almost as far from sea water as possible in the North American continent, was a true seagoing power plant—no shore-based engineering short cuts were allowed in its construction. As the Naval Reactors Branch engineers put it, “Mark I equals Mark II.” This meant that while they were designing the world’s first nuclear power plant, they also would have to meet the special problems of seagoing submarines. Some of these were:
1. At operating depths, a submarine experiences hundreds of pounds of sea pressure on each square inch of its surface—hundreds of thousands of tons on the entire vessel. This pressure must be resisted by the hull which is in contact with sea water. Mark I and all its components could withstand very high sea pressures.
2. A submarine and its machinery must be able to continue operation after enemy depth charges have exploded just outside the hull. Mark I was built to the high mechanical shock standards which resulted from the Navy’s World War II experiences. Some of its important units were shock tested to destruction in an actual submarine submerged in Chesapeake Bay, and then redesigned to strengthen the failures.
3. The Nautilus would need to take air into hr hull while submerged to refresh the atmosphere after long cruises under water and to provide oxygen to her stand-by diesel engines if her reactor failed in enemy waters. Pressure variations due to this “snorkeling” might disturb sensitive instrumentation systems. Mark I could snorkel.
4. When a submarine is submerged, the sea surrounding it tends to reflect dangerous atomic radiation back into spaces occupied by the crew. Mark I was placed in a large tank of water to test the atomic radiation problems of a submerged sub.
In short, Mark I was built to reproduce the conditions of an actual submarine power plant in every respect save one: it could not be tested in the motion of the open sea. The ability to withstand such motion was designed into the Mark I systems and components, however, and these items were individually tested for thousands of hours ashore under the conditions of ship motion experienced at sea.
Nuclear reactors used in ships and submarines are very different from land based power generating reactors. They have to be small and fairly light. They used highly enriched uranium as a fuel and, because of this, are under military control.
When groups like the National Academy of Sciences are asked to list existential threats to humanity medium to large scale nuclear war usually leads the list. Somehow we survived the Cold War, but the threat is still very large and disarmament has mostly been a slow process - with one remarkable exception. Thomas Neff...
Beyond the bicycle, but not quite up to what people would consider a real car. Small vehicles powered by the driver or a very small engine - an interesting piece on examples from the Mochets. They filled an untapped market - one that has been long since replaced by reliable enough used cars.
Modern examples of velomobiles exist in small numbers in the Netherlands and Germany. They tend to be hand made and expensive.
From allowing young people to socialize without the chaperoning of clergymen and other merchants of morality to finally liberating women from the constraints of corsets and giant skirts (the “rational dress” pioneered by bike-riding women cut the weight of their undergarments to a “mere” 7 pounds), the velocipede made possible previously unthinkable actions and interactions that we now for granted to the point of forgetting the turbulence they once incited.
I Dream of Wires is a documentary on the history of modular synthesizers and their impact on music. The site has a nice section of interviews (Dave - if you haven't seen this, you're going to spend some time here)