On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff
DOES YOUR HOUSE EXHIBIT obsolescence? Mine does, sorta, as described in a book I just bought.
Penner is a professor of architectural humanities at the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London; Forty is professor emeritus at Bartlett; Turner is a historian of architecture and design and senior curator of designs at the Victoria and Albert Museum; and Critchley is completing her Ph.D. at Bartlett. The four arranged and edited this book’s 85 essays on obsolescence. Here, in Parts 1 and 2 today and tomorrow, are my favorite tidbits (not yet extinct, but admittedly ephemeral).
Arsenic Wallpaper. In 1778, Swedish-German chemist Carl Wilhelm Scheele invented a vivid green pigment that became all the rage in 19th-century wallpaper.
“By the early nineteenth century,” Lucinda Hawksley writes, “British interior designers were excited by two important changes: the creation of a machine that could produce long strips of wallpaper (instead of the previous small squares) and the repealing of the paper tax. Suddenly, wallpaper was affordable.”
And, with vivid green’s copper arsenic the wallpaper became deadly as well.
Hawksley says, “No legislation was ever passed in the British Isles to prevent the use of arsenic in the manufacture of wallpaper, and the extinction of arsenic wallpaper in Britain was achieved entirely by campaigning doctors and journalists and because of a change in public opinion.”
Arsenic and Sleuthing. Indeed, I recall the appearance of arsenic wallpaper in the Brit TV Doc Martin, Series 5 Episode 3: Aunt Ruth’s crazy neighbor Shirley is being slowly poisoned by her cottage’s vintage wallpaper.
For more on arsenic poisoning, check out “A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie,” by Kathryn Harkup.
Chaparral 2J: the “Sucker Car.” We’re familiar today with race-car downforce generated by a complex interaction of airflow and bodywork. However, in 1970, Jim Hall and Hap Sharp devised another means of sucking the car onto the race circuit. Eirik A.G. Bøhn describes its “auxiliary two-stroke 45-horsepower snowmobile motor that powered two large-diameter fans, adopted from a mobile howitzer cannon.”
Bøhn explains, “Reversing the principle of the hovercraft, the fans mechanically sucked the car to the ground, shifting 273 cu. m (9650 cu. ft.) of air per minute from underneath the car and producing 998 kg (2200 lb) of downward thrust.”
He writes, “Part conventional racing car and part suction chamber, the Chaparral 2J was visually distinct from, far louder than, and took corners 50 per cent faster than the competition.”
A year after its debut (as mechanical gremlins were being resolved), the idea of suction-assisted downforce was banned. And, by then, talented aerodynamicists were tricking the airflow to generate its own downforce sans these mechanical gremlins.
Tomorrow in Part 2, we’ll examine three other products largely of bygone eras, slide rules, flying boats, and (cough cough) ashtrays. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2022