Friday, August 07, 2020

Puzzled By Coronavirus?

      If the way this virus behaves puzzles you, take a seat right over there next to the immunologists.

     They've got more of a clue than, say, a random journalist or some person on social media -- it's still a puzzle, but they're filling in the edges and trying to sort out the pieces.  It's complicated.

     Lots of people think science works like storybook wizardry: you look up the magic formula or incantation, you consult a seer or a computer, perhaps inspiration strikes, and voila!  It's all laid out, neatly and in full detail.

     The reality is quite a bit more raggedy, a piece here and a chunk there, filled up like a junk-picker's shopping cart and maybe, eventually, assembled into a more-or-less coherent whole.  --And then reassembled, over and over, old bits taken off and now ones added, because that's how discovery works.  Science rarely gets to see the whole elephant all at once; they've got to stick the parts together.

     They're trying.  They're highly motivated; they have parents and families, too.  They miss movies and crowded restaurants and swapmeets and working side-by-side with people whose faces they can see and  all the rest of it just as much as you do.



Charles Jaye said...

You recently responded to my post on the FB posting involving the spark gap station and the man at the key. I have read your blog and can sympathize with us both having experienced parallel lives. Coming up when we did weren't bad times, but things have gotten progressively worse over the years. I spent a year in Charlestown, IN - my first job with Uncle - learning safety at the old powder plant.

My permanent home was in Washington, D.C. I eventually returned there and spent 20 years at the GPO - an arm of the Congress. After retiring, I moved out west and decided that I had seen too much of the damage incurred by politicians and have elected not to be registered. Don't need the lies, promises, and stress associated with the process.

I was fascinated with the Moog store and site. I have a nice collection of LP's featuring electronic music of all venues.

I, too, have difficulty in parting with things. Everything evokes memories for me - - much like music does. Born during WWII, I have a particular interest with all of the events and backstories involving the period. I have a particular preference for the big band music and have extensively collected many of the more popular pieces. Even managed to land a 1938 Buick - which really transports me back to that period - with the period music playing on the cassette deck.

Problem now is that time is starting to catch up with me. My birthday is on Friday. I have totally completed 3/4 of a century now. Even ham radio is not such a challenging hobby anymore. Used to like to chat on 40m when I was in D.C. Managed to snag an old timer in NJ one time in the '70s. I had just finished reading Major Armstrong's book, "A Man of High Fidelity" by his daughter. I asked the old timer if he ever met Major Armstrong. He responded in the affirmative. The Major made trips past this fellow's house back when he was much younger on his way to NYC and his stations that he worked on. One day,, he needed to contact someone and saw the ham's antenna and stopped his car at the house. He asked if he could use the radio, and was given the OK. When he started sending code of the spark gap transmitter, he realized he was producing rather robust sparks. He cautioned the owner of the dangers of having such high voltage at the key. He said he would bring along a relay the next time he came by The Major followed through on his promise. So that blends in to my comment which caught your eye. What eventually happened to Major Armstrong was a darned shame after all of the technology that he developed - from the superhet circuit to FM.

Don't know if you will bother to respond, but I thought I would at least make contact after our brief encounter.


Roberta X said...

What a nice comment, Charles! Lots to think about there, too.

Many of the old spark stations keyed wall-socket voltage directly, running from there to the primary of the spark coil. With a big coil, that's a lot of current at the key, and a lot of inductive "kick," too. (Thus the "dime key," a twenty-cent solution to handling the current: hard-solder silver dimes to the key contacts! Costly back then but still cheaper than a purpose-built high-current key.)

Armstrong certainly got a bum deal; RCA was pretty rapacious, and treated Philo Farnsworth at least as poorly.

Please have a look at my old-technology blog, "Retrotechnologist," linked in the sidebar.