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Things of Science #329 — Computer

I really was excited about this Things of Science unit since I have made a career of programming computers. So a Things of Science unit on computers from 1968 should have fascinated me.

Historically, perhaps it is still interesting. But of all the units I have scanned and documented up this point, this is the only unit I cannot recommend anyone try to recreate. The other units, for example the one on hydroponics, would be just as useful and interesting in a high school biology class today as it might have been in 1968.

You can see then how the computer unit might not have aged as well….

Nonetheless, there is a lot here. The booklet clocks in at 32 pages — a monster of sorts for these units. Again, I got the unit off eBay without its “things”. And that is too bad — while the punchcards that appear to have been a part of the unit might have been a kind of novelty, there appears to have been programs (in FORTRAN, I believe) that are referred to in the booklet.

With the punch cards and FORTRAN in this unit, it is rather fascinating to me to realize that my high school’s computer class, when I was a sophomore (1979), taught something along more or less the same lines. I remember being told on the first or second day of Computer Science class that we would need to purchase a brick of punch cards. We would be punching the programs onto the cards and the school would send them off to the district computer somewhere to execute our programs and would return them, a week later or so, along with the printed results. And, yes, we would be learning FORTRAN.

On week two of class, we walked into the classroom Monday morning to see eight Apple ][ computers arranged on as many desks. “Now,” the teacher said, “in fact you will need to purchase instead two of these.” And he held up a pair of 5 1/4″ floppy disks. We would learn BASIC instead.

And, as I understand it, our teacher was taking BASIC at the local junior college just ahead of coming in and teaching us the same. In fact, one of the students in the class was enrolled in the same evening JuCO course.

For your historical consideration, the (large) booklet from this unit:

Things of Science #329 — Computer

Things of Science #328 — Soilless Gardening

I also received this Things of Science unit without the “things”. Page 4 in the booklet (see below) lists the few things you would need to purchase to recreate this unit— a few packets of seeds, a pH indicator and a few chemicals that shouldn’t be difficult to source.

They mention the term hydroponics, and that is the term I had always heard for growing plants soilless. In the 70’s, with people turning their minds both to distant space travel and over population — with the likes of films like (Logan’s Run, Soylent Green and SilentRunning) I often associated the term hydroponics to some sort of future farming, or perhaps growing food on the moon….

I see no reason why hydroponics is any less relevant today as it was in 1968 when this unit was first created.

Scan of the booklet (this is a big booklet, by the way — lots of content):

Things of Science #328 — Soilless Gardening

(Mention of the kit in an old newspaper.)

Things of Science #322 — Buoyancy

Another Things of Science unit that requires very few “things” for the person wanting to re-create it. I received only the booklet on eBay so I have none of the things. But, as with other Things of Science units, the contents are listed (usually) on the first or second page.

Again I am amazed at how “buoyancy” can fill a 24-page booklet and 19 experiments. But as usual Things of Science goes beyond the norms — in this unit covering buoyancy as it relates to ships stability among other topics.

Here is the booklet:

Things of Science #322 — Buoyancy

Things of Science #331 — Linkages

Things of Science #331 - Linkages.xtraThis Things of Science unit covers some of the same ground as the Straight Line unit but goes into even more in depth. In addition to Watt’s Linkage, the Peaucellier Cell and the Cissoid Curve, this unit adds pantographs and angle trisection linkages.

This kit may be more or less complete (as purchased from eBay). From the photo above you can see the extensive linkages that were included. Lengths for the linkage bars are given in the booklet, so you can easily (and inexpensively) duplicate this kit.

The booklet:

Things of Science #331 — Linkages

Things of Science #323 — Chromatography

Things of Science #323 - Chromatography_thingsAnother very extensive Things of Science unit — this time on chromatography. The one I got from eBay did not include all the “things”, but there was some sort of egg-shaped plastic container that appears to have once contained some sort of dye.

I remember learning about chromatography when I was in school and being fairly fascinated by it. It surprised me as a boy to find that what appeared to be a black marker was actually a mixture of violet and green ink. The booklet in this unit goes way beyond (and in much greater depth)the little experiment I remember.

Something else I found browsing the booklet was a little “product placement”. Things of Science was a non-profit. I don’t know what their subscription roster looked like in the 1960’s but no doubt they needed large quantities of the “things” in order to box up and mail out a new unit. Likely, by mentioning a company that provided the material for a unit they got the stuff either for free or at a steep discount. One product named in this booklet is the PAAS company that provided the dye for this unit. Yes, the Easter Egg dying company….

Enjoy this unit:

Things of Science #323 — Chromatography

Things of Science #321 — Magnetism

Things of Science #321 - Magnetism.materialsThis Things of Science unit is heavy on the text (if a little light on the things). The booklet first gives a brief history of magnetism and then launches into 35 mini-experiments that are structured to take you on an understanding of magnetism.

The included reed switch might be the only thing a little difficult finding — the rest of the ingredients in the kit should be easily found in a middle-school science classroom.

Enjoy this unit:

Things of Science #321 — Magnetism

 

Things Of Science #306 B — Topology

Things of Science Logo

An unusual Things of Science, both for the size of its booklet (a full U.S. letter size; 8.5″ x 11″) and also for how text-heavy this unit is.

The subject of this unit, topology, is a fairly complex concept in mathematics and Things of Science, as usual, gives it a very thorough treatment. Perhaps this unit was intended for a fairly sophisticated and advanced learner. While they approach the subject in easy to grasp terms, it is hard to see twelve-year-old me being very engaged.

Here is the diagram-heavy booklet (not too many “things” in this unit though):

Things of Science #306 B — Topology

Things of Science #234 — Sextant

Things of Science 234.9One of the older Things of Science I have is this one that covers how a sextant works.

You can build a functioning sextant with small amount of items included in the unit. There were  small mirrors, a bit of cellophane, a brass fastener and a few other small items. Most important was probably the large stiff paper pattern of a sextant you were to cut out.

When I first recalled these kits and how fascinated with them I was when I was young, I was a little saddened to think that they no longer exist. But as I began to examine some of the kits like this one, I have begun to see how very easy it would be for a motivated parent or teacher to put together a “clone” of any one of these Things of Science kits. I’m often surprised at how inexpensive and  easily obtainable many of the items are.

Perhaps this was a popular unit because it was repeated (re-issued) a few times in later years by Things of Science.

Here is the booklet from this unit:

Things of Science #234 — Sextant

And here is the pattern for the sextant printed on it:

Things of Science #234 — Sextant Pattern

Things of Science — Probability

Things of Science 38This Things of Science must be newer than the previous ones I posted. It isn’t numbered, The booklet too has gone from the larger 5″ x 6″ format to a narrower 3″ x 5″ (and nicely stapled now).

The “experiments” in this unit read more like math problems (not surprising, I suppose). But, again, like the best of Things of Science, the math is approached very practically — that is, by rolling dice, picking colored disks at random out of a box, etc. So it brings a very down-to-earth understanding of a complex topic.

Here is the booklet:

Things of Science — Probability

Things of Science #235 — Straight Line

Things of Science 235.1Wow, this Things of Science unit really exemplifies what was best about these kits. At first blush, “Straight Line” sounds sort of dull. The “things” that came with this unit were simple pieces of a stiff paper, die-cut to length with pre-punched holes at various intervals. Additionally there were brass brads that allowed you to connect the die-cut strips into linkages. All in all, a pretty low-budget kit. But that is part of the charm….

After some history of geometric constructions and a discussion of curves, we get straight to the linkages. Several historical linkages are presented for the kit-owner to construct. These are clever geometric constructions that, while freely allowed to pivot, they nonetheless succeed in restricting some part of the linkage to linear motion. Knowing that pivoting linkages can only sweep out arcs (curves), it is a wonder that these early inventors were able to conceive of arrangements that produced lines.

I suspect if this kit had landed in the lap of young-me I would have been off on a tear trying to device my own linkages.

Here is the booklet (it lists linkage lengths if you want to create your own “things”):

Things of Science #235 — Straight Line

 

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