Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Hidden Truths

As of the end of September, I've submitted about a third of a first draft of the book to my editor and have another third that is written - though in need of much work. The chapter I am currently working on takes off from a favorite quote from George Bernard Shaw: "When a thing is funny, search it carefully for a hidden truth." Of csuroe, tihs menas you frsit hvae to nitoce stimnhoeg is fnnuy – and taht may be the hredsat prat. This pirtlacuar tset shows how well our minds can overlook something odd.

Five years before Röntgen figured out that the radiation emitted from his Crookes tube could produce an image on a photographic plate, a photographer and a physicist produced the first X-ray image. Mystified by the odd disks that appeared on a plate developed in 1890, they nevertheless filed it away. When Röntgen's work was made public in 1896, the two pulled out their old plate and figured out they had taken X-rays of two coins.

We look, but how often do we really see? And seeing, do we know what to make of the information?

Do check out the link to the Crookes tube - the short clip of a Crookes flower tube, where copper blooms covered in what seems to be a white coating turns technicolor under the rays produced by the tube. It's the same principle as the glowing minerals in the YouTube video embedded above, but more aesthetically appealing. Imagine having one of these in your Victorian drawing room!

For his work, Röntgen won the first Nobel prize in physics in 1901. The Nobel prize in physics today went for work on detecting light as well - for the CCD.

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