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The Dogs of War

Smithsonian Magazine

Early in July 1943, more than 160,000 troops in Patton's Seventh Army hit the beach in Sicily under a deafening naval bombardment. With them was an unarmed G.I. who could hear and smell things no ordinary soldier could detect. Although some of his companions wondered what use he could be against tanks and machine guns, they would soon be glad he was on their side. His name was Chips and he was a dog.

As Chips and his handler pushed inland and approached a hut, it erupted in machine-gun fire. The dog sprinted inside, and moments later an Italian soldier staggered out with the dog at his throat. Chips had captured his first prisoner.

Some 10,000 dogs were trained for military service during World War II. They hauled ammunition through the snow, carried messages through enemy lines and traversed suspected mine fields. After the war, and a brief retraining, the canine heroes often went quietly back to their doghouses.

Only about 200 of the several thousand canines that served in Vietnam ever made it back home. While hundreds were sent on to other military assignments, perhaps a thousand were turned over to the Vietnamese, a fact some veterans equate with abandonment or a death sentence in a country where dogs were sometimes eaten for dinner. About 300 were killed in action.

This year the War Dog Memorial Fund erected two memorials to honor the contributions of military dogs one in Riverside, California, the other at Fort Benning, Georgia. A bill that passed the House and Senate in October will allow handlers and other qualified persons to adopt the dogs when their service is over, a situation not permitted in recent decades.

X-Ray Art: A Deeper Look at Everyday Objects

Smithsonian Magazine

Hugh Turvey calls one of his earliest images Femme Fatale. Using an x-ray, he scanned his wife’s foot in a dangerously high stiletto.

“I think we all understand that your foot is going through quite a lot when it is in a stiletto, but to actually physically see it and to see the angle of the bones,” says the British artist. He completes his thought, I imagine, with a shiver. “Not only do you have this distorted foot, but you have these small nails that were in the actual construction of the shoe. It just looked like a torture device.”

That was about 20 years ago.

Since then, Turvey has walked the line between photography and radiology, creating art using x-ray equipment from the medical and security industries. He has coined the term “xogram” to describe his medium, a mash-up between an x-ray and a photogram, made by placing an object on light-sensitive paper.

For a while, the artist obsessed over flowers. It was challenging to use x-ray to bring out the internal structure of something as thin as a petal, and he invested a lot of time in perfecting his technique. One by one, he’d scan dahlias, calla lilies, gerbera daisies and thistles. Later on, he captured a series of eggs that shows a chick’s development from yolk and white to ready-to-hatch egg in 21 days. And, then there was the elephant skull. “It is a strange looking item when it doesn’t have its flesh on it,” he says.

Turvey has produced compelling xograms of a wide range of objects: wrapped presents, suitcases, motorcycles and musical instruments. “You tend to start viewing everything from a density point of view,” he says. “I view most of the world around me in terms of how I imagine it is internally and how it would look if we were to try and x-ray it.” Smithsonian commissioned Turvey to shoot the cover of its May 2012 travel issue (see it here). And, recently, he turned to portraits—x-ray portrayals of people’s most precious possessions. “By ‘exposing’ these objects in x-ray, I ‘expose’ the owner,” he says.

Of course, Turvey isn’t just taking x-rays of his subjects; he always adds his artistic touch. To achieve the level of detail he desires, enough to convey the subject to the viewer as quickly as possible, he sometimes layers photographs onto the x-ray. Turvey also enhances the images with color. “X-ray is a gray scale process, and color is an amazing tool to control where the viewer looks and in what order over an object,” he says. “It actually puts the depth back into the image in quite a lot of cases.”

Since 2009, Turvey has been an artist-in-residence at the British Institute of Radiology. In this role, he aims to help create better healthcare environments and to improve the patient experience. His artistic interpretations of x-ray are used as educational tools. “It helps patients understand the process that they are going to go through when they see everyday objects x-rayed,” Turvey explains. 

“When you are a child, and you’re seeing things for the first time, everything is exciting. As you go on, maybe that excitement gets lost and you just take things for granted,” says Turvey. Ultimately, he wants viewers of his images to see the world with fresh eyes. To help, he has started to adhere large vinyls of his images onto glass partitions in offices and hospitals. 

“Beauty isn’t skin deep. The world is so much more complicated than it appears,” says the artist. “When you are able to see just a little bit deeper, I think you become a better person.”

About 70 of Turvey’s images, spanning his career, will be on display in “X-POSÉ: Material and Surface,” an exhibition at gallery@oxo at Oxo Tower Wharf in London’s South Bank from February 12 to February 23, 2014.

A Well Preserved, 15-Foot Long Dinosaur Tail Is Being Dug Up in Mexico

Smithsonian Magazine

Paleontologists in Mexico are excitedly working to uncover a huge dinosaur tail, unearthed in Coahuila, which borders Texas. AP broke the story earlier this week, writing:

The National Institute of Anthropology and History says the tail is about 15 feet (5 meters) long and resembles that of a hadrosaur or crested duckbill dinosaur.

says it’s not yet possible to confirm the species, but it would be the first full tail of that kind in Mexico.

The 72 million-year-old tail finding is quite rare, Reuters reports. A hip and other bones have also been found nearby.

Scientists have been working to clear the 50 vertebrae of sediment for the past three weeks or so. The remains were actually found last summer, however, when locals stumbled upon them and contacted Mexico’s National Institute for Anthropology and History, writes Reuters.

If the tail does turn out to belong to a duckbilled dinosaur, then it would have comprised about half of the animal’s body length, which totaled around 30 to 35 feet, LiveScience reports.

Hadrosaurs, apparently, have a reputation for leaving around well-preserved skeletons. One hadrosaurus discovered in 1858 became the most complete skeleton ever found up until that time, according to New Jersey State, and it became the first dinosaur skeleton on display ten years later. Today, it’s New Jersey’s state dinosaur, though Mexico may be equally inclined to a slice of the hadrosaur fame after this newest fossil is unearthed.

More from

Hadrosaurus Was Real After All 
A Paleontologist’s Long-Lost Lunchbox 

Inspired by Squid, Scientists Create New Materials That Change Color and Texture

Smithsonian Magazine

Did you ever wish you could change your skin color like a squid, to blend in with your surroundings? It would be a useful talent, no doubt, for napping during boring meetings.

Squid and octopi are some of the only animals on Earth with this unique skill, which they can use to hide from predators on the ocean floor. Using their muscles, they expand or expose pigment sacks in their skin to achieve a specific color or pattern. They can also texturize their skin at will, going from smooth to wrinkled or rippled.

Now, a team of scientists at the University of Connecticut has figured out a way to replicate this color- and texture-changing process. It might not help you blend into your desk chair, but it could help create new technologies, such as anti-glare screens, embedded encryption, privacy windows and even color-change clothing.

The team, led by materials scientist Luyi Sun and his colleague Songshan Zeng, as well as their collaborator Dianyun Zhang, has created materials that can change color, texture and transparency. The materials take advantage of the property called ‘mechanochromism,’ or color change due to the application of mechanical force.

“We learned that some squid, they can change their skin muscle to disclose or reveal some of the pigments embedded in their skin layer,” says Sun. “We said ‘oh, that’s something we could probably mimic.'”

The team created a two-layer material—a rigid film of polyvinyl alcohol and clay composite on top of a more elastic bottom layer of polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) embedded with dye. The top layer develops tiny cracks and ridges when stretched; the material then reveals what’s below. This set up can be used to create materials that go from transparent to opaque, become more luminescent, or change color entirely.

They also created a material with a rigid top film of polyvinyl alcohol, without the clay composite, on a bottom layer of PDMS. When exposed to moisture, the material wrinkles, much like human fingers after a long swim. This wrinkling can be engineered to be reversible or non-reversible.   

These technologies have several potential applications, says Zeng. The mechanochromic technology could be used to create smart windows that look clear in their resting state, but can be made opaque when stretched, creating instant privacy. They could also be used to create a new generation of color-change display optics, toys or even clothing. The moisture responsive wrinkle technology could be useful for making anti-glare computer, tablet and smartphone screens as well. The irreversible wrinkling technology could also be used for encryption—a message is embedded in the material that can only be seen when moistened, and can be made to disappear instantly after it’s read, James Bond style.

The base materials are all quite low-cost, and the process of creating the color- and texture-change technology is quite simple, Sun says. He plans to partner with industries to come up with more real world applications for the material in the near future. The next steps will be to improve and expand the technology. Right now the color change needs to be activated by UV light; the team would like to develop it so it can be used in any kind of light. They’re also interested in using different stimuli besides mechanical force to make the color and texture changes happen, perhaps creating a material that could be altered by temperature change, for example.

“We are working really hard right now to further improve and make advances, and we’ve achieved some real nice progress,” Sun says.

The team presented their research at the 252nd National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society, held last week in Philadelphia. 

From Playboy to Polar Bears: A Fashion Photographer’s Journey to Document Climate Science in Northernmost Alaska

Smithsonian Magazine

Barrow, Alaska is not the pristine wilderness touted by the American imagination. It is not home to sparkling bays where whales jump against a backdrop of crystal white mountains to the delight of passing cruise ships. Rather, it is northernmost Alaska—“gravel and coast and tundra,” says photographer Florencia Mazza Ramsay. Flat land stretches for miles. The climate is harsh and wild. “It feels like you are in the middle of nowhere and that’s the end of the world and there’s nowhere else to go,” she says.

Mazza Ramsay’s photography credits include Playboy Spain and Porsche, so as she was trekking alongside scientists in Barrow last summer on high alert for polar bears, she paused to consider the contrast.

“I went from five-star hotels and celebrities to carrying a shotgun [for defense] in the Arctic,” she says with a laugh.

Originally from Argentina, Mazza Ramsay now lives in El Paso, Texas, with her husband, a research assistant for Systems Ecology Lab (SEL), whose work includes monitoring coastal erosion in Barrow during the summer months. Through him, Mazza Ramsay learned about the very real impact of climate change in the Arctic town, including an average of 60 feet of coastal erosion in the past decade.

Inspired to share the realities of this far-off place with the El Paso community, she applied for a grant from the University of Texas El Paso, which runs SEL, to document the research being done in Barrow. Project approved, she set out with her husband from June to September 2015.

When the Ramsays arrived, SEL's principal investigator had hoped they would have a chance to see frozen Barrow. “That’s what gets everyone excited and that makes really interesting photos,” Mazza Ramsay explains. “The thing is that we barely got to see the frozen Barrow."

This year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Barrow Observatory observed snowmelt on May 13, the earliest in 73 years of record-keeping. The melt followed a winter that was 11 degrees above normal for the state. According to NOAA, Barrow is one of the last places in the United States to lose snow cover. The effects of earlier ice melts include changes in vegetation as well as wildlife breeding and migration patterns.

Over the course of four months, Ramsay accompanied scientists from several organizations studying a range of these effects, from erosion to changes in snowy owl habitsA few of the scientists she accompanied had traveled to Barrow for many years and provided her with valuable, firsthand insight into the realities of Barrow’s climate. Among them was George Divoky, who has studied the population of black guillemots, a black and white waterbird, on Cooper Island for more than 40 years.

In that time, Divoky has witnessed many changes to the tiny island off the coast of Barrow. Notably, this summer was the black guillemot’s earliest breeding season yet. While he used to camp on the island, he now lives in a hut to stay away from hungry polar bears and in 2002, he had to be airlifted off the island when polar bears ripped up his tents. Divoky attributes this change to the degradation of the their natural habitat, Arctic pack ice. 

Outside of documenting scientific work, Mazza Ramsay engaged with the local community and came to understand the effects of a changing environment on their way of life. From her conversations, she learned that warmer currents and changing sea ice conditions have made conditions more difficult for whalers, who must travel on ice to reach whales and are setting out on their hunts later than usual. This is a significant change, says Mazza Ramsay, due to limited resources in the Arctic tundra: "Barrow culture is rooted deeply in subsisting off the land. People really need to hunt to survive." Elders also shared memories with her of days past when they would sled down now-eroded hills.

Mazza Ramsay hopes that her photographs highlight the importance of climate change beyond political boundaries and put a face to the ways in which scientists are working to understand its effects.

Looking forward, she aspires to return to Barrow to explore the relationship between scientific and local communities. She would like to get a sense of whether the research being done is inspiring for the younger, native generation or viewed as intrusive. Much of the native community is receptive to the scientists’ presence, she explains, but others are wary yet.

Four Explosive Advancements for Future Fireworks

Smithsonian Magazine

Sometime between 600 and 900 AD, Chinese chemists stumbled upon gunpowder and the long history of fireworks began. The celebratory rockets spread around the world, morphing from simple firecrackers to the bright blossoming showers of color that wow watchers around the world today.

Fireworks in the 21st century are still essentially the same as they ever were—a shell full of gunpowder that launches a payload of black powder and chemically treated “stars” into the sky. But technology has added a few twists in the last decade, creating new shapes, brighter colors and better choreography. In Japan, building and launching elaborate fireworks has even become a competitive sport, adding new meaning to the phrase “the beautiful game.” Here are a few things to look out for in the future of fireworks:

Silent Fireworks

For many people the best part of a fireworks display is the big-decibel booms. But not everyone is interested in the noise; in fact, Steph Yin at The New York Times writes that more and more areas are outlawing noisy aerial shows in order to reduce stress on animals and livestock, protect people’s hearing and comply with local ordinances.

That has led to the rise of “quiet fireworks” displays in Europe. Yin reports there aren’t new quiet rockets, just shows designed with existing shells that don’t make quite as much bang. The practice could make fireworks more child-friendly and protect people with PTSD, writes Kate Horowitz at Mental Floss. The town of Collecchio, Italy passed a quiet fireworks ordinance earlier this year and a wedding venue in Great Britain has gone silent-fireworks only, she reports.

Daytime Fireworks

Traditionally, fireworks need the backdrop of a dark night sky to really pop. But Ian Hardy at the BBC reports that corporate requests for daytime displays are pushing fireworks makers to create displays that can be visible during the day. That means making colors brighter and even adding other display options like Flogos, corporate logos or designs made out of foam bubbles.

Most daytime displays are still no match for nighttime boomers. But Chinese artist Cai Guo Qiang, the architect of the fireworks show at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, is on the right track. In 2011 he showed how a daytime show could go with “Black Ceremony,” a fireworks display celebrating the opening of the Arab Museum of Modern Art in Qatar. The show included over 8000 shells that made puffs of deep black and pastel colored smoke in the shape of a rainbow.

Bluer Blues

Fireworks were remained yellow or orange for several centuries until Italian pyrotechnicians began fiddling with the recipe, writes Shannon Hall for Nautilus. They added trace amounts of metals to expand the rainbow of their displays. But the one thing that has eluded fireworks makers to this day is a consistently deep blue tone.

Colors like red, green and orange are easy to produce, John Conkling, former director of the American Pyrotechnics Association tells Audie Cornish at NPR. The copper compound used to produce blues, however, is finicky, and destroys the color if temperatures get too hot.

“It’s a bit like playing The Price is Right, because as you raise the flame temperature, the colors get brighter and brighter, but if you get too hot, then you destroy the [metal] species that’s emitting the color, and you just get a washed-out white,” Conkling tells Hall. “You have to balance.”

But Conkling says that more precise temperature control means good pyrotechnicians can produce blue more consistently than ever before. And he’s confident the secret to a simpler, more stable blue is around the corner. “It’s lurking somewhere out there,” he tells Hall. “It just hasn’t been found yet.” 

3-D Choreography

Fireworks choreographed to music have been around for decades, but since the turn of the century electronically controlled shows are allowing designers to time their shells down to the millisecond. Chris Gaylord at The Christian Science Monitor reports that, in contrast, hand-lit shells take four or five seconds to launch.

Computer simulations and 3-D modeling allows pyrotechnicians to view their shows from various audience perspectives and to try out new ideas digitally, according to Alyssa Danigelis at IQ. Advanced programs like Visual Show Director compensate for wind and gravity. Designers can combine their blasts with  musical scores then load the data into a firing computer that runs the actual show.

This allows creation of new, breathtaking choreography, explains Gaylord, such as the 300-foot Transient Rainbow, which is the explosion of 1,000 synced shells in just 15 seconds.

Tunstall's Ornithologia britannica. Ed. by Alfred Newton

Smithsonian Libraries
Reprint of edition of 1771, including facsimile of original t.-p.

At head of title: The Willughby Society.

The Very First Troop Leader

Smithsonian Magazine

Stacy A. Cordery was a Brownie the first time she heard the name Juliette Gordon Low. She was instantly fascinated by the woman, who founded the Girl Scouts in 1912, and by the fact that she was hearing impaired for most of her adult life. “Her deafness made me want to learn sign language, which I attempted as a young girl,” says Cordery, now a historian and professor at Monmouth College in Illinois.

But, while in high school, and college and graduate school at the University of Texas, Cordery noticed that Low was absent from history textbooks and lectures. “The older I got, the more I thought we don’t know enough about her,” says Cordery. Low’s legacy is monumental: Now celebrating its 100-year history, the Girl Scouts is the largest educational organization for girls in the world, with 3.3 million current members. Over the years, some 50 million women have worn the uniform and earned badges for its sash.

Cordery’s new biography, Juliette Gordon Low: The Remarkable Founder of the Girl Scouts, pieces together Low’s life story, from her beginnings in Savannah, Georgia, at the outbreak of the Civil War to her establishing the first troop of Girl Scouts in the United States. From diaries, letters, institutional correspondence and photographs, Cordery describes Low’s time as a Georgia debutante, the years she spent in England married to an aristocrat named William Mackay Low, Willy’s adultery and his death during their divorce proceedings, and her discovery of Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides in England.

Why did you want to learn more about Juliette Gordon Low?

Every biographer has some autobiographical connection to his or her subject. For me, it was not just that I was a Brownie, but that my mother was a Girl Scout and my grandmother was a troop leader. My mother always kept her Girl Scout uniform. I still have it. And I thought, what was it about this organization that was so important that my mom kept her Girl Scout uniform in the same box as her wedding dress?

By having access to primary source documents you were privy to Low’s personality a bit. How would you describe it?

She was impetuous like her mother. She was thoughtful like her father. She was more organized than I think people gave her credit for. She loved literature. She was deeply spiritual and at the same time phenomenally superstitious. She had a family commitment to duty.

I think she had the biblical instruction to do good in the world, and she had been doing good in the world in her own way ever since she was putting on plays as a girl and charging admission to send off to missionaries. When she was hanging out with the aristocracy in England, she called herself a “woman of ease.” She simultaneously enjoyed that and felt horribly guilty about it. Willy, her husband, was not a supporter of women’s rights and did not believe that women should be out of the home. Consequently, Juliette Low had to do her good deeds in secret.

After Low led three groups of Girl Guides in the United Kingdom, she formed the first troop of 18 American Girl Guides, as the Girl Scouts were originally called, on March 12, 1912. How were they received?

In the United States, there was not a tremendous backlash against Girl Guides as there was in England. There were complaints, in England, about mannish girls and girls not being peaceful if they were in a uniform that looked like a military uniform. There were concerns about girls being overly athletic or indulging in sports, games or outdoor activities that were not appropriate for their gender. But, in the United States, there were already progressive era movements afoot suggesting that children needed outdoor exercise, to play, to get out of the classroom and to be able to run and be free.

On part of Low’s land in Savannah by her home, girls could play tennis and basketball. Basketball was a pretty new sport in our country. She strung up this canvas curtain to keep these girls in their skirts with their basketballs away from the eyes of passersby, for fear she would offend some of them. Of course, it made everyone want to know what the heck was going on. I don’t believe she hung up the curtain in order to heighten interest in her organization, but that’s the effect it had. Little kids had to peek through, and it just looked terrifically fun.

Image by Courtesy Juliette Gordon Low, Birthplace, Savannah, GA and Girl Scout National Historic Preservation Center, New York, NY. Robertine "Robbie" McClendon, left, of Thomasville, Ga., Juliette Gordon Low and Helen Ross, right, of Macon, Ga., after Juliette Gordon Low presented them with the Golden Eaglet, May 1925, in Macon, Ga. (original image)

Image by Courtesy Juliette Gordon Low, Birthplace, Savannah, GA and Girl Scout National Historic Preservation Center, New York, NY. Low, far left, presents the "Founder's Banner" annually to the troop that best upholds the Girl Scout ideals. (original image)

Image by National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of the Girl Scouts of the United States of America; Frame conserved with funds from the Smithsonian Women's Committee. An oil portrait of Low by Edward Hughes. (original image)

Image by Bettmann / Corbis. Mrs. Harry S. Truman, wife of the President, opens the 1951 Girl Scouts cookie sale by accepting the first box of cookies at Blair House. (original image)

Image by Bettmann / Corbis. Girl Scouts collecting peach seeds during World War I. The oil from the seeds were used for war industries. (original image)

What skills did Low want Girl Scouts to learn?

Most women were going to be wives and mothers and she knew that, so, better to train girls to be really exceptional homemakers. She wanted them to learn about cooking and preserving food. She wanted them to know how to run a sterile kitchen. She taught about nursing—taking care of invalids and sick children—and sewing. Anything that a wife and mother should do she thought she could train her girls to do better.

Low understood how it was possible that any woman might find herself in the situation of needing to take care of herself. So, she emphasized career training for girls. Some of the early badges were about flying, typing, telegraph skills and farming.

Then there was this whole path of outdoor activity, which ranged from gardening to camping. Her program taught you how to identify a poisonous mushroom from a nonpoisonous mushroom and how to pitch a tent and which kind of wood was useful to burn in a fire and which kind wasn’t. There was a fear that some of these ideas were beginning to fade.

Then, there was the part of her program that had to do with citizenship. She wanted her girls to know something about the Constitution of the United States, the history of the United States, geography, then particularly as World War I came along, military preparedness, so semaphore, Morse Code and how to prepare for civic emergencies of any kind.

What do those skills say about her idea of a woman’s role in the world?

I think that Juliette Gordon Low, by the time she was 51 years old and had founded the Girl Scouts, understood that a woman’s life was no longer predictable and that you could not count anymore on being a pampered wife and a beloved mother and grandmother. It behooved you as a teacher of young girls to train them for unexpected futures.

All kinds of girls joined scouting—middle-class girls, elite girls, poor girls, factory girls and orphans, from every religious and ethnic background. And, they all joined for different reasons. Girl Scouting was equal parts of fun and education. Juliette Low wanted girls to become better women.

Do you consider her a feminist?

That word wasn’t even really used in this country until about the time she founded the scouts. I do not have a single scrap of paper where she self-identifies as a feminist. I know she supported suffrage. Do I think that a broad general definition of feminist today applies to Juliette Low? Yes, I do. Do I think it always applied to her? No. It definitely applied to her as an adult.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, other similar girl scouting groups sprung up. What, culturally speaking, do you think was going on that inspired the need for scouts?

Historians talk about the end of the 19th century and early 20th century as a time of industrialization, immigration and urbanization. American factories were chugging away at a tremendous pace. The 1920 census for the first time told us that more people were living in urban areas than rural areas. People were coming from all over, and we weren’t certain how that was going to work out.

Juliette Low wanted immigrant girls in Girl Scouting. She thought it would help to Americanize them, which can be an ugly thing to think about from the perspective of 2012 but wasn’t seen as a bad thing in 1912. Urbanization also comes into play because these children in cities didn’t have access to fresh air and fresh water and fields to run in and hills to roll down, like Juliette had had when she was a little girl. Girl Scouting picked up on the fresh air movement and the other camping movements of the time and said, let’s get kids out of the city. Girl Scouting and other reforms of the progressive era were an attempt, in part, to mitigate the worst excesses of industrialization, to help immigrants become Americans and succeed here both personally and professionally, and to make sure that we all did this in an atmosphere of friendship and trust.

Some things are impossible to know about Low’s life. What are you most curious about?

That’s the biographer’s question. If you had your subject over to tea, what three questions would you ask her? I would ask her the professional question: How did you feel in 1920 when you voluntarily gave up the presidency of the Girl Scouts? I think that must have been one of the hardest decisions she ever had to make. Then, the personal, gossipy question: What’s the dish about Robert Baden-Powell? I’d like to know whether they were really in love or if they decided they would just make good mates. And, I think the historian’s question I would ask would be, were you aware of all the other reforms and reformers around you? As a historian, that is what really puzzles me. I kept thinking I would see, in her correspondences, letters to prominent reformers of her time, and they just are not there. There is no letter to Florence Kelley. There is no long, thoughtful missive from Jane Addams, saying let’s talk about how you’re working with youth and I’m working with youth. While she was contributing to reforms of the progressive era, she was not connected to the progressive era women we know so well. I just want to know why that connection wasn’t made.

What lessons does her life story impart?

There has got to be some kind of lesson about not letting your worst mistake get the best of you. I think her worst mistake was marrying Willy Low. In her own estimation, her life was in shambles. She had failed to have a successful marriage, and she had failed to produce children. She could have been a bitter old woman sitting on her pots of money. She could have been angry and withdrawn, but somehow she wasn’t. From that rose this dogged, determined, passionate, committed dynamo of a woman who threw herself into girl scouting. She opened doors for girls that were closed to her. I think her story says something about resilience and optimism.

Yellowstone's Biggest Geyser, Steamboat, Has Trio of Eruptions

Smithsonian Magazine

Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone National Park may draw a lot of attention, but it's far from the park's only water feature. North of Old Faithful, in the Norris Geyser Basin, lies Steamboat, the world’s largest active geyser. While Old Faithful can spew streams of boiling water over 100 feet in the air, Steamboat can top 300 feet.

The problem is Steamboat's eruptions are super erratic, and no one can predict when it’s going to be active—sometimes it takes months, sometimes it takes years. But now, three and a half years since its last major outburst, Steamboat has awakened, spouting three times in the last six weeks, reports Alex Horton at the Washington Post.

Steamboat erupted on March 15, April 19 and April 27, the first time it’s blown its lid three times in a year since 2003. As Sean Reichard at Yellowstone Insider reports, seismic data from the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory suggests the latest eruptions were pretty impressive. For one, the April 27 event shot up more than 10 times as much water as the average Old Faithful event. But still, they pale in comparison to Steamboat's previous eruptions in July 2013 and September 2014.

So, does the reawakening of Steamboat mean the Yellowstone Volcano will soon rumble to life after 70,000 years of slumber? The possibility is extremely remote.

The latest eruptions are just business as usual for Steamboat, which goes through cycles of dormancy and activity. As Reichard reports, since European explorers discovered Yellowstone’s geyser basins in 1878, Steamboat has been temperamental. In the 50 years between 1911 and 1961, it didn’t spout at all.

Then, the geyser blew its top at least seven times in 1962 and 77 times between 1963 and 1965. It had another burst of energy in 1982 and 1983, going off 35 times total. Since then, it’s had smaller outbursts, including the three-peat in 2003 and similar eruption pattern this year.

Michael Poland, the researcher who heads the Observatory, tells Horton that Steamboat is so unpredictable because of its complex plumbing. Old Faithful, which is an oddball when it comes to geysers, has fairly simple underground waterworks. Its water is evenly heated by magma rising from the Earth's mantle, leading to its regularity. Steamboat’s plumbing, however, is likely more complex. Uneven heating of its water source would create the geyser’s seemingly random bursts of hot water.

The eruptions could have several other causes, according to Reuters. It’s possible that, instead of having one large eruption to vent pressure like in 2013 and 2014, Steamboat is simply venting its steam in a series of smaller outbursts. It’s also possible the thermal basin is undergoing some subsurface shifts. The 2003 event was linked to an underground thermal disturbance in the Norris Basin that killed some trees and almost swallowed nearby trails, reports Horton.

One thing is clear—the changes at Steamboat are not signs that the Yellowstone Supervolcano is waking up. The chances of Yellowstone erupting anytime soon are miniscule.

In fact, as Reuters reports, it would be far more worrying if the geysers suddenly dried up.

Conchyliologie fossile du bassin de l'Adour (4e mémoire) : famille des Mélaniens : description des genres et des espèces de coquilles fossiles appartenant a cette famille de Trachélipodes, qu'on observe dans les couches des terrains marins supérieurs du bassin de l'Adour aux environs de Dax (Landes) : avec figures / par Mr. le docteur Grateloup

Smithsonian Libraries
Plate, numbered 5, signed: Imp. litho de Naviduab.

Also available online.

SCNHRB copy (H360152C) stamped on title page: Isaac Lea Collection. Inscribed in ink on cover title: Mr. Lea.

SCNHRB copy stamped on title page: Library, U.S. National Museum, Smithsonian Institution Jan 9 1890 [manuscript accession no.] 134880.

SCNHRB copy in original blue printed paper wrappers.

SCNHRB copy bound with: Grateloup, Jean-Pierre Silvestre de. Conchyliologie fossile du bassin de l'Adour. A Bordeaux : Chez Th. Lafargue, 1837 -- Grateloup, Jean-Pierre Silvestre de. Notice sur la famille des Bulléens. A Bordeaux : Th. Lafargue, 1837 -- Grateloup, Jean-Pierre Silvestre de. Mémoire sur les coquilles fossiles des mollusques terrestres et fluviatiles. Bordeaux : Th. Lafargue, 1838 -- Grateloup, Jean-Pierre Silvestre de. Conchyliologie fossile du bassin de l'Adour (5e mémoire). Bordeaux : Th. Lafargue, 1838 -- Grateloup, Jean-Pierre Silvestre de. Mémoire de géo-zoologie sur les coquilles fossiles de la famille des Néritacés. Bordeaux : Th. LaFargue, 1840. Bound together subsequent to publication.


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Take a Look Inside These Six Presidential Homes

Smithsonian Magazine

While 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. may be the most notable presidential address, it isn’t the only residence our past presidents have occupied. From quaint boyhood homes tucked away in the countryside to private getaways just steps from the beach, many of the homes and estates of former U.S. presidents are open to the public today, offering a glimpse into the lives of these men and their families when they stepped outside the public eye. Here are six presidential homes that you can tour now, just in time for the presidential inauguration year.

Harry S. Truman Little White House, Key West, Florida

Harry S. Truman Little White House (<ahref="flickr url"="">Roman Boed - Flickr/Creative Commons)

As soon as the first hint of a winter chill swept through the nation’s capital each year, President Harry S. Truman and key members of his staff would pack their bags and head south to what has come to be known as the “Little White House.” Located a short distance from a local beach on Key West, Florida, Truman’s winter retreat was built in 1890 as officers’ quarters for the local naval base—but in 1911, it was converted into a private residence, serving for a time as a temporary home for inventor Thomas Edison while he conducted experiments during the First World War. From 1946 until 1952, Truman spent 175 days of his presidency at this southern getaway, and after his passing in 1972, the home played host as a respite for a number of subsequent presidents, including Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. It also served as the site of the international peace talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan in 2011.

Today visitors can explore the bleached-white home, which houses nearly all of its original furnishings (including the famous “The Buck Stops Here” sign on Truman’s desk), read through the logs detailing the daily accounts of each of his visits, and stroll through the onsite botanical gardens. 

Eisenhower National Historic Site, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Eisenhower National Historic Site (fdastudillo/iStock)

A mere stone’s throw from the Gettysburg Battlefield in Pennsylvania, where one of the most significant battles of the American Civil War unfolded, you'll find former President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s 189-acre farm and retreat. Eisenhower purchased the property in 1950 as a retirement home, some 30 years after he had been appointed commander of Camp Colt, a former military installation located near the legendary battlefield. His fond memories of the area are what drew him back with his wife, Mamie. But they wouldn’t stay in retirement for long. In 1953, the five-star general became the country’s 34th president, during which time the couple would only see their homestead on weekends and holidays, as well as a brief period in 1955 while Ike recuperated from a heart attack. He was fond of inviting fellow politicians and foreign dignitaries to the “Temporary White House” to show off his herd of Angus cattle and to relax on the front porch, saying that the informal conversations he had there allowed him “to get the other man’s equation.”

A herd of cattle still grazes at the historic site, and visitors today can take self-guided walking tours along the farm lanes and trails that meander throughout the property. The onsite museum houses a collection of approximately 48,000 artifacts that includes everything from military paraphernalia to awards for Ike's livestock, in addition to many photos.   

Lincoln Home National Historic Site, Springfield, Illinois

Lincoln Home National Historic Site (<ahref="flickr url"="">Matt Turner - Flickr/Creative Commons)

Abraham Lincoln’s former home has been a popular spot for visitors since it opened its doors to the public in 1887, a full 22 years after his assassination. While it was first built in 1839, Lincoln purchased the 12-room Greek revival, located 200 miles south of Chicago, in 1844; it was later restored in 1860. For 17 years, it served as his home, which he shared with his wife, Mary Todd, until their move to Washington, D.C. where Lincoln would serve as the country's 16th president.

Fast forward and today hundreds of thousands of visitors flock to this historic property each year, experiencing park ranger-led tours that explore the couple’s separate bedrooms, children’s rooms, kitchen, formal parlor, sitting rooms and various outbuildings.

Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site, St. Louis, Missouri

White Haven, Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site (<ahref="flickr url"="">Roland Klose - Flickr/Creative Commons)

After graduating from the United States Military Academy (West Point) in 1843, the U.S. Army stationed Second Lieutenant Ulysses S. Grant to the Jefferson Barracks, located on the outskirts of St. Louis, Missouri. It was during his service there that he met Julia Dent, the sister of Frederick Dent, one of his former roommates. After a five-year engagement, the couple married in 1848. Over the course of the next four decades, White Haven, the Dent family’s homestead, would serve as the couple’s on-again-off-again home, where they resided until his death in 1885.

Now, more than 130 years after his passing, the green-clapboard main house, outbuildings, and stables remain a popular draw for visitors, while interpretative tours of the property, as well as a screening of the 22-minute film, Ulysses S. Grant: A Legacy of Freedom, are also available.

Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace, New York, New York

Interior of Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace (Courtesy NPS)

Living in New York City has been a rite of passage for many a U.S. president, but few can actually say they were born there. On Oct. 27, 1858, Theodore Roosevelt was born and raised at 28 E. 20th St. in Manhattan’s Gramercy Park neighborhood. In 1872, the family moved Uptown, and eventually the original brownstone was demolished as the neighborhood transitioned from residential to commercial. However, in 1919 the Women's Roosevelt Memorial Association purchased the lot and rebuilt a replica of the former home, which has served as a national historic site since 1962, when the National Park Service assumed management of the property. Today the home's rooms are decorated with period furnishings and family-owned possessions, and visitors will find ranger-guided tours available.  

Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park, Johnson City, Texas

Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park (<ahref="flickr url"="">Michael Coghlan - Flickr/Creative Commons)

Located an hour’s drive west of Austin in the Texas Hill Country, spanning the central and southern regions of the state, sits Lyndon B. Johnson’s famed ranch, which the 36th president occupied with his family as a young boy beginning in 1913. At the time, many residents living in this rural corner of Texas didn’t have electricity or indoor plumbing in their homes, which later compelled Johnson to introduce programs designed to help fellow U.S. citizens who were living in similar circumstances; this includes his famous "war on poverty" legislation, which he discussed during his State of the Union Address in 1964.

Visitors today can experience the 1,570-acre property in person, which includes Johnson's boyhood home, stockyards, farmhouse and the family gravesites for both LBJ and his wife and former First Lady, Lady Bird Johnson.

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