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Cartoons Teach Physics with a Smile
June 1948 Popular Science

June 1948 Popular Science

June 1948 Popular Science Cover - RF Cafe[Table of Contents]

Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics. See articles from Popular Science, published 1872-2021. All copyrights hereby acknowledged.

Evidently I am in good company with my appreciation for good humor related to science and technology. This "Cartoons Teach Physics with a Smile" article appearing in the June 1948 issue of Popular Science magazine cites the College of the City of New York's Professor Robert S. Shaw's use of such hilarity in his physics classes. Whereas the artists who created these comics probably did not intend to illustrate a particular physics principle, many people familiar with the principles are quick to recognize what is going on. As can be seen in the hundreds of electronics and technically themed comics on the pages linked at the bottom of the page, those which showed up in publications like Radio and Television News, Short Wave Craft, Radio-Electronics, QST, and Popular Electronics were specifically created for the type audience that reads them. BTW, I learned a new word here: isostasy. An unrelated story that occupied the other half of one of the pages reports on a problem telephone cable stringers had with gophers chewing through the insulation - definitely not funny at the time to the engineers, but kind of funny in retrospect. I added the color.

Cartoons Teach Physics with a Smile

Propagation of a wave - RF Cafe

Propagation of a wave is illustrated by Prof. Shaw, for students of mechanics and hydrodynamics, with this humorous analogy from his cartoon collection. Artist Colin Allen's original caption had the prankster saying, "I've always wanted to try this" - a commendable predilection, if indulged under more appropriate circumstances, for the experimental method. Copyright Collier's

Friction converts mechanical energy - RF Cafe

"I always keep the emergency brake on just in case of emergency." Copyright The American Magazine
Friction converts mechanical energy into heat - as lady motorist, whose concern for safe driving exceeds her comprehension of machinery, unwittingly demonstrates in Stan Hunt cartoon.

Radar's klystron tube - RF Cafe

"It's the 35-mile speed limit and that traffic light in Tucson." Copyright Collier's
Radar's klystron tube uses principle vividly illustrated by this cartoon. Cars traveling in clusters correspond to speeding electrons, similarly grouped or "bunched" in vacuum tube.

A collection of more than 1,100 cartoons, clipped from newspapers and magazines over a period of years, enables Prof. Robert S. Shaw of the College of the City of New York to enliven his physics classes with apt and amusing illustrations. Often, his students find, a humorous analogy offers welcome aid to grasping a point in mechanics, optics, acoustics, or electronics.

Lantern slides made from his favorite cartoons conclude class periods. For reference, others are grouped by the points they illustrate in scrapbooks, covering with remarkable completeness such subjects as "Statics," "Heat and Sound," and "Molecular and Atomic Physics." Five examples are reproduced here, through the courtesy and by special permission of the copyright owners.

Theory of isostasy - RF Cafe

The theory of isostasy, dealing with the tendency of equally massive blocks of the earth's crust to seek a common level, gets an assist with this clipping from the newspaper "funnies."

Cartoonist Ernie Bushmiller might be astonished to find his popular comic strip "Nancy" serving at the College of the City of New York to point up an abstruse principle in geology. Copyright United Features Syndicate

Forces between the remote atoms of matter - RF Cafe

But for the forces between the remote atoms of matter, one solid object could readily pass through another, and the fantasy of Charles Addams' captionless drawing could be fact. Copyright 1940 The New Yorker Magazine, Inc. (The F-R. Pub Corp.)

Cable-eating gophers foiled at last - RF Cafe

Cable-Eating Gophers Foiled at Last

To the gopher perched on this cutaway section, an A. T. & T. coaxial cable is an appetizing meal-even though it is buried six feet deep and has an exterior sheath of lead, phenolic and jute wrapping, and steel and copper tape covering the conductors.

Almost as soon as brand-new cables for transcontinental phone calls were laid west of the Mississippi, where gopher land begins, the burrowing rodents began disrupting service with short circuits and crossed lines. They gnawed right through all the layers.

Experimenters then offered captive gophers a diet of cable sections packed in earth-filled cans. Inner wrappings of .005-inch and .007-inch copper tape failed to stop them. Finally, .010-inch copper tape proved too much for all but one extra-sharp-toothed gopher. The scientists settled for that, and today this tape stops all but the most determined gophers from cutting in on your call.

These Technically-Themed Comics Appeared in Vintage Electronics Magazines. I personally scanned and posted every one from copies I own (and even colorized some). 235 pages as of 6/28/2024


Posted February 16, 2024

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