Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Four-Score Wednesday: Science Wonder Stories, February 1930

Here's something I've been meaning to do since May, but as usual, didn't get around to. May 3, 2009 was the 80th anniversary of the publication of the first issue of Science Wonder Stories, the progenitor of Thrilling Wonder Stories. So why not take a look into these issues of four-score years ago, via scanned images and text from my own collection?

Yes, that's right, I have them all! All of them! Me! Not you, me! Me! Do you understand, ME! Moo-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha... ha... uh... What the hell was I saying?

Right, images and text. Click on the thumbnail to the left to get 150 dpi image of the cover of the February 1930 issue of Science Wonder Stories, which arrived on newsstands eighty years ago this last Sunday. The painting by Frank R. Paul represents the story "The Land of the Bipos," by Francis Flagg.

Next week, we'll have a look at the February 1930 issue of Air Wonder Stories, and on the 20th, we'll start catching up by bringing you the grandpappy of them all, the June 1929 issue of Science Wonder Stories.

And now the text. Here's Hugo Gernsback's editorial:

by Hugo Gernsback

Elsewhere in this magazine is printed a symposium of the opinions of some of the world's greatest scientists on the possibility of space-flying, in conjunction with the problem of whether it will ever be possible for humanity to free itself from gravitation.

The arguments and evidence presented lead almost overwhelmingly to the conclusion that, as far as our knowledge of science extends at present, there seems to be little likelihood of man's freeing himself from the gravitational attraction of our planet.

But it should be noted, if one reads between the lines of the statements of the various authorities, that they are extremely conservative in their remarks and that few, if any of them, reject the idea as being entirely impossible at some future date.

It should be noted as important that there is a great difference between the problem of space-flying and that of the complete freeing of humanity from gravitation. The two have nothing to do with each other.

Nullification of gravity is considered, by many of the authorities, to be merely another word for perpetual motion. We are not certain that we care to accept this as final. While perpetual motion, no doubt, will remain an impossibility on earth, it is not such an impossibility away from the earth. If you take the sun and the planets revolving about it, you have almost an ideal perpetual-motion machine. Once set in motion, the planets have kept on revolving for millions and billions of years; and, though this may not be literally "perpetual," yet we may consider it such for all practical purposes.

But, although the nullification of gravity may not come about, this year or next--nor for the next hundred, or even for the next thousand years--sooner or later, some principle will be found to accomplish the feat. When the discovery is finally made, it will most likely be found that one does not get anything for nothing as opponents of gravity-nullification claim. In other words, it will require power to bring about the nullification of gravity. This, however, is not an insurmountable difficulty, any more than it is impossible for an airplane to defy gravity by means of its engine. This latter action, of course, is not nullification of gravity; and no sane physicist would believe that elimination of gravitation can be accomplished without the expenditure of energy. What the necessary expenditure of energy will be, no one can yet tell. You can take an ordinary bar magnet, weighing one pound, and permanently suspend two or three pounds from it. Perhaps gravity-nullification will have a similar solution.

The solution of the other problem, that is, space-flying, is not so far off; for, as Professor Goddard, the inventor of the rocket engine, points out in this issue, the problem has long ago passed its theoretical stage. Until a few years ago, scientific authorities were unanimous in the belief that it would never be possible for man-made engines to go beyond the immediate vicinity of the earth.

This is no longer the general belief; for it is realized that we may have the feat accomplished within ten years, and possibly much sooner. In this case, to lift a space flyer against the earth's gravitational influence, a tremendous amount of energy must be used; but, given this energy, the problem no longer presents insurmountable difficulties. Again it should be noted that, although present efforts take the form of rocket-flying, there is no reason for believing that no newer principles will not [sic] be found. New and more efficient methods will be devised in time. Just as the horse-drawn carriage was supplanted by the automobile, so in time the rocket engine will be supplanted by something more efficient in overcoming the earth's gravitational pull. We are just on the threshold of important discoveries. Only last year, Professor Einstein has shown that gravitation and electromagnetism are co-related. It seems, therefore, not a rash prediction that sooner or later, we will be enabled to leave the earth in machines that will utilize purely electrical means of propulsion. In other words, gravitation itself may yet be overcome by the judicious use of electrical forces, applied in a manner that we can, as yet, conceive but dimly.

And here are a couple interesting items from the "Science News of the Month":


Television apparatus is rapidly approaching a point where it will be eminently practical for home use. The latest development does away with the usual whirling disks and neon tubes. The disc, utilized heretofore to scan images has been eliminated from the circuit by Dr. Vladimir Zworykin, engineer for the Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company, who has introduced the cathode-ray tube to produce the beams of light that paint the images on the screen.

The images formed by the cathode-ray device measure 4 by 5 inches. A new type of tube, the "kinescope," has been developed. A pencil of electrons from the cathode tube bombards a screen of fluorescent material--a substance which becomes brilliant where the electrons strike. The pencil of electrons follows the movement of the scanning light beam in the transmitter, while its intensity is regulated by the strength of the impulses received. The movements of the scanning beam, and consequently of the cathode-ray pencil, are so rapid that the eye receives a perfect impression of a continuous miniature motion picture. A reflecting mirror mounted on the receiver permits the picture to be observed by a number of spectators.

This was indeed the beginning of the electronic television we all know and love, and the beginning of the end for mechanical television. Check out this website to see more about the largely forgotten early television of "whirling disks and neon tubes."


Professor Kirtley F. Mather, head of the Department of Geology in Harvard University, has declared that the battle between science and religion is rapidly approaching a truce. "The scientists and the theologians are laying down their arms because they realize that warfare is neither scientific nor Christian. Instead, they are joining in the search for truth, each realizing the validity of the field of the other."

According to the professor, the origin of man can be explained without recourse to religion, but the existence of the highest type of man cannot be explained without it. "I don't see anything necessarily supernatural in the origin of man. It is perfectly logical to me that out of the inorganic things of the world emerged conscious living beings and that out of the conscious living beings, only yesterday in the geologic sense, emerged self-conscious man. But I do believe that there are spiritual values as well, operating in this physical world; and if these spiritual forces are law-abiding and consistent, the scientist has much to offer the man of religion."

Boy, I'm glad we don't have conflict between science and religion anymore, huh? Just think how odd that could be.

1 comment:

lartronics said...

For more information on Hugo Gernsback check out a new biography available on Amazon.

The document was found by me when we closed down Gernsback Publications in 2003. It was an old ms that I edited and produced as a book.

Follow the link and you can go to the book and thanks to Amazon’s “look inside” feature, you can even get an idea of what it covers.

Hope you find it interesting.

The book is also available as an E-book for the Kindle or your PC or Mac at Amazon.

For more information feel free to contact me, Larry Steckler, at