class="homepage-header"1961 Old Farmer's Almanac
The Old Farmer's Almanac (OFA) has been on my annual need-to-buy list for as long
as I can remember. It is chock full of useful data for sunrise and sunset times*, high
and low tide times, crop planting days, first and last frost days, and significant astronomical
events. There are stories of interest on topics ranging from canning your garden's harvest
to how to view a solar eclipse. - often from noted authors, but also from lay people.
I also enjoy the monthly "on this day" type tidbits and the homey short story relating
to the time of year. After 225 years of continuous publication, it still features the
hole in the upper left corner to facilitate handily hanging it on the wall of your shed
-- or outhouse.
I gave a 1961 edition of the Old Farmer's Almanac found on eBay to Melanie as a birthday
present this year. The format has not changed much over time. In fact, as you might suspect
based on the 26,000-year precession cycle of the earth on its axis, the times of sunset
and sunrise have not changed by even a minute since 1961. A few years ago the OFA stopped
including a variety of mathematical and logical challenge puzzles, which I consider a
dumbing down of the tome to spare the feelings of a new breed of readers. What
is the subject of articles addressing contemporary issues (of the day). "Sonic Booms,
Fallout, Satellites, and the Moon," reproduced below, is an example.
The early 1960's were the height of the
Cold War, when everyone
was concerned with the potential for a devastating nuclear exchange. The only hostile
entity with an
atom bomb was the U.S.S.R. (Union of Soviet Socialist
Republics); China didn't have one until 1964. Experts believe that Nazi (National Socialists)
Germany would have had an A-bomb if not for its defeat in World War II. A lot of
above-ground testing was producing airborne fallout (radioisotopes) that created measurable
accumulation globally. As mentioned in the article, measuring stations were set up to
determine the distribution.
Supersonic aircraft, uniquely the realm of the military, were regularly creating annoying
sonic booms that in mild cases just scared the
of unsuspecting bystanders in their paths, and in severe cases broke plate glass windows
and rattled dishes off of shelves. I vividly remember the days preceding graduation from
the U.S. Naval Academy
in Annapolis, Maryland, in the 1960's when the
(F-4J Phantoms at the time) would fly practice almost right overhead at my boyhood home
Mayo and then we would wait anxiously for the boom.
Satellites were of course a big item in the news as the
Space Race ran
coincident with the Cold War. Russia launched
Sputnik four years earlier in 1957, with
the U.S. Explorer 1 put into orbit in 1958.
A whole new era of communications and, potentially, warfare, was in the making, and
people were keenly interested in progress.
With the dawning of manned space flight, it was 1961 when President John F.
Kennedy stood before Congress and declared that the U.S. "should commit itself to
achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and
returning him safely to the Earth." We did, on July 20, 1969, with only five months
to spare, when
astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed their "Eagle" craft on the lunar surface
(with Michael Collins orbiting in the Command Module), and then
flew safely home.
Oh, and Melanie was born on April 19 - the day that 22 years later (on May 22)
would change my life for the better. Sunrise in Boston occurred at 4:57 am that day,
and sunset was at 6:31 pm, just as in 2018. The moon was five days old, that being a waxing crescent.
* See the
Length of Day Versus Day of Year graph I designed using data
from the Old Farmer's Almanac. Melanie then created a counted cross-stitch picture of
it, circa 1984.
Sonic Booms, Fallout, Satellites, and the Moon
By Professor A. Amazing Anthropoid
Listen to me, my dear lost children, and you shall
become as confused as "Wrong-Way Corrigan" - the little man who thought he was flying
to San Francisco and landed, across the Atlantic, in Ireland. My subjects are the four
major props of our now whirling Space Age. The literature already accumulated on these
would make a paper blanket three feet deep over the entire continent of North America.
Any omissions are entirely intentional, and the honest purpose of this summary is to
encourage such rare spirits as Ogden Nash, Harpo Marx, Bob Hope, and Frank Sullivan.
Only such well-qualified men as these may emerge from studies of these subjects with
a semblance of sanity.
1. Sonic Booms come from objects in space which travel faster than the speed of sound.
Jet planes, for example, when they cross the sound barrier, boom like a thunder clap,
and nowadays just about every householder is familiar with them.
The extent of a boom may be measured in decibels - a unit of sound measure. Loud thunder
measures 120 decibels - the equivalent of one-half pound per square foot of pressure.
The measurement of a really strong sonic boom is about 140 decibels, or five pounds per
square foot of pressure. 160 decibels, or 32 pounds pressure, will injure the human ear.
Structural damage occurs only when 150-300 pounds per square foot of pressure is applied.
However, 5 pounds per square foot (well within the possibilities of low-flying jets)
will crack large window panes, loosen bric-a-brac, and aggravate plaster cracks. There
are now seven different kinds of American planes capable of setting off such booms -
two more (one the B58 which can really sound off big) will soon be operational, as will,
on a not-too-distant day, the supersonic airliners. The sonic boom is with us to stay,
a necessary part of American defense. To grumble about preparedness is to be ignorant
as well as ornery.
Another measure of the sonic boom is its frequency
in cycles per second. Feeling the boom's vibrations of 5 or less cycles per second, any
ordinary house with the vibrating capacity of 5-40 cycles (which most have) will want
to vibrate much faster of its own accord than the sonic boom intends it shall. Thus we
groundlings are led to believe, see, and feel our houses jumping around from these booms
when, actually, they are not doing so any more than they would from the slamming of a
screen door. They just want to, that is all, and that is what, in some unknown way, triggers
our own imaginations into thinking they are Mr. Marx, the sonic boom is now all yours!
II. Fallout is a general term applied to radioactive isotopes. These isotopes are
of short, medium, and long lives - and are variously described in such terms as carbon
14, strontium 90, zirconium 95, niobium 95, cesium 137 and 144, ruthenium 103, and cerium
141. From overexposure to these, such threats to human being as bone cancer and genetic
defects are not only possible but probable. The gamma radiation caused by relatively
short-lived isotopes has a more immediate and direct effect on gonad tissue than does
carbon 14, an isotope which lives some 8000 years. Both produce changes in the human
hereditary material which we pass on to future generations. Civil defense experts offer
no hope for those within the nearest few miles of a nuclear explosion.
It is for this reason that the Atomic Energy Commission, in cooperation with the United
States Weather Bureau, has established numerous test platforms all over this country
to measure the fallout from our own and the Russian nuclear explosion tests. Although
the latest results of these tests are, when released to the public, over a year old,
it seems apparent that North America is accumulating, to a greater degree, and faster
than any other region of the world, these deposits - especially strontium 90. As of October
1958, the westerly around-the-world winds since the first nuclear explosion in 1944 have
left, between latitudes of 40-50 north, 46.9 millicuries per square mile of strontium
90 in the soil. The average found between 30-40 north was 32.G. United States average
is 10-15 mc/mi2 higher than world average. Monthly total levels in the spring
of 1959 of all gamma emitters reached between 4000 and 5000 mc/mi2.
There is no method of measuring what quantity of gamma-emitting material is now held
in the atmosphere, or just when and where a tornado or other weather phenomenon might
force it down. It is enough, perhaps, to realize that each and every day, from the soil
and our plants, and through the feeding of cows and other animals on this vegetation,
our children and grandchildren are absorbing increasing quantities of these tissue-destroying
gamma emitters into their bodies.
The time is not yet, as some believe, for removal to land areas other than those between
30 and 60 latitude, north or south; but among those who are so doing, fallout dangers
are more frequently being given as a reason. Given time, suitable defenses no doubt will
be found. Filtering through ground, dried cow bones, for example, has been found to remove
75% of the strontium 90 from milk.
This fallout and all its implications is no laughing matter. Still and all, The Mouse
That Roared was not without its amusing side. Ogden Nash gives his answer to this on
III. The Satellites, until October 4, 1957, were all God- or Nature-made. The earth
had one (the moon), and all except Neptune of the seven large planets had several. When
the Russians Launched Sputnik I, a satellite of their own making, the earth could boast
of having two - the moon and Sputnik I. Since that date quite a few earth satellites
(including the first launched by the United States on January 31, 1958) have been placed
in orbit. Earth satellites, not to be confused with rockets or missiles, are usually
spherical. They spin about the earth beyond its atmosphere in an elliptical course dictated
by the earth's gravity. Of a life limited to a few years, their size varies anywhere
from a few pounds to several tons. Their scientific value lies chiefly in the instruments
A Russian earth satellite, for example, was recently launched to travel around the
moon first, send back photographs of the moon's dark side, never seen before by man,
and thence to return to its course around the earth. Some of the early satellites bore
instruments which reported a belt of radiation in the outer atmosphere, the dangers from
which might render flight in outer space by mankind impossible. Others, like America's
so-called weather satellites, are reporting back photographs of cloud formations over
the surface of the earth. Still others are instrumental, or will be, for discoveries
relating to photography, solar batteries, television, telescopes, satellite recovery,
radio relays, manned flights, air density, current rings, solar rays, cosmic rays, micrometeorites,
and the density of hydrogen and ion.
It is not likely that until some years of study as well as application have elapsed
that mankind will enjoy any real practical satellitical benefits. Photographs taken of
the earth from the distance satellites must, to remain in orbit, be away have not revealed
much of anything smaller than oceans and continents. At some point or other, of course,
their cost (ten million or more for each) may be viewed in relationship to value received;
that is, for a billion dollars, Mr. Taypayer, do you want 100 satellites? But for now,
at least, expect more and better satellites - and never you mind the cost. Mr. Hope,
you are a rich man - you tell us about these things?
IV. The Moon was visited by a rocket from the earth on September 13, 1959, Eastern
Daylight Saving Time. It weighed 860 pounds, traveled 236,160 miles to get there, and
marked mankind's first successful landing of an object from this earth on a celestial
body. Such an accomplishment, bracketed as it is with satellitical developments, gives
pause to the fascinating study of almost everything in space travel. In this, the most
frightening department is that of the Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (or ICBM). Carrying
an atomic bomb in its nose, this space rocket supposedly can demolish an enemy target
five thousand miles away. Radar screens around this country's borders may perhaps give
fifteen minutes warning of an enemy ICBM on its way, and the attack stopped short of
destination. But push-button warfare of this kind is not exactly pleasant to contemplate.
The utter fantasy, however, of much of the rest of space travel study is a pleasant,
even if equally unprofitable, exercise of the imagination. Astronauts, or men actually
being groomed for travel in outer space, are being trained for this new experience by
our own and other governments. Tickets are being sold for the first trip to the moon,
and a fortune left by the will of a wealthy Frenchwoman awaits the first person to arrive
there. There is even talk about interstellar migration as the solution to the over-population
of our earth. Thus far, of course, nobody has discovered that human life can exist at
all for very long outside the earth's atmosphere - much less on any other planet; or
how even Uncle Sam can afford many trips to the moon at a cost of two billion dollars
per trip. But here, as with the satellites, cost and its relation to value received just
is not brought up in polite space-science circles.
One finds a strange anomaly in explorations of outer space in that man, once a few
hundred miles on his way, soon has to be confined in clothes and capsules far more restrictive
than the great wide open spaces of one of New York's new "cigar box" taxicabs. The disease
known as cabin fever, so commonly found in yachting and camping circles on this planet,
is just one of the difficulties of space flight, for which some real cure must be found.
The plastic uniforms or suits which all passengers will have to wear for months on end
during space trips apparently will rule out much business from those darlings of the
travel trade, - the honeymooners. The sexual relationships, if we may quote one human
factors research engineer in this field, will have to be subject to "chemotherapeutic
control." We find this concept difficult if space flight is to be considered pleasurable.
But these things had better be left to Francis John Sullivan, who knows about such things
as when oysters spawn - and Why.
Posted May 15, 2018