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"A Good Dog Knows What to Do"

Smithsonian Magazine

"Like most people these days who have seen Babe or caught a sheepdog trial segment on TV," writes Timothy Foote in his paean to Border collies and the wonders of sheepherding, "I have a slight grip on a few words in sheepdog-speak." There's "Away to me," which tells the dog to swing counterclockwise to head off the sheep, and "Come bye," which sends the dog into a clockwise curve instead. But it would take some time before Foote became familiar with even half the dozens of calls and whistles that handlers use to direct their Border collies in sheepherding trials.

At the Seclusival trials, on a 200-year-old farm in Shipman, Virginia, Foote spent a weekend with dog handlers and dogs, judges and observers, trying to get a feel for the sport and an understanding of its complexities. "Decisions — flank left, flank right, slow, stop, come on — are commanded and countermanded in fractions of a second. They are made by the handler, but ratified and then executed by the dog in an exquisite complexity, with the handler playing god but the dog still capable of free will."

And Border collies — famous for their intelligence and workaholic tendencies — apparently know what they're doing at least as well as their handlers. It would be nice if they could simply converse with the sheep, as Pig did in the movie Babe. But even without the benefit of language, these dogs seem preternaturally able to "read" a sheep's movements and intentions — far better than your average human, or even your better-than-average handler. As one disheartened handler confessed to Foote after a bad run: "I blew it. He read them right, but I gave him the wrong commands."

"A La Grande Fete Aerienne"

National Air and Space Museum
A LA GRANDE FÊTE AÉRIENNE. Framed multicolor illustrated print promoting the Société de Propagande Aèrienne and an air festival. Illustration on a white background of an orange stunt plane, its wings arranged diagonally across the poster with a solid blue background and two solid white clouds. A more distant plane flys in the upper right. Below the S.P.Aé logo of wings and a roundel with an Indian chief's profile, full text in orange and red sans-serif lettering: "LA SOCIÉTÉ DE PROPAGANDE AÈRIENNE Présente Ses pilotes Ses avions A LA GRANDE FÊTE AÉRIENNE." Artist signature in upper right: Lucien Cavé. Text along the lower left border: "Editions LUCIEN CAVÉ."

Fly Now: The National Air and Space Museum Poster Collection

Throughout their history, posters have been a significant means of mass communication, often with striking visual effect. Wendy Wick Reaves, the Smithsonian Portrait Gallery Curator of Prints and Drawings, comments that "sometimes a pictorial poster is a decorative masterpiece-something I can't walk by without a jolt of aesthetic pleasure. Another might strike me as extremely clever advertising … But collectively, these 'pictures of persuasion,' as we might call them, offer a wealth of art, history, design, and popular culture for us to understand. The poster is a familiar part of our world, and we intuitively understand its role as propaganda, promotion, announcement, or advertisement."

Reaves' observations are especially relevant for the impressive array of aviation posters in the National Air and Space Museum's 1300+ artifact collection. Quite possibly the largest publicly-held collection of its kind in the United States, the National Air and Space Museum's posters focus primarily on advertising for aviation-related products and activities. Among other areas, the collection includes 19th-century ballooning exhibition posters, early 20th-century airplane exhibition and meet posters, and twentieth-century airline advertisements.

The posters in the collection represent printing technologies that include original lithography, silkscreen, photolithography, and computer-generated imagery. The collection is significant both for its aesthetic value and because it is a unique representation of the cultural, commercial and military history of aviation. The collection represents an intense interest in flight, both public and private, during a significant period of its technological and social development.

Copyright Disclosure for Orphaned Works

Whenever possible, the museum provides factual information about copyright owners and related matters in its records and other texts related to the collections. For many of the images in this collection, some of which were created for or by corporate entities that no longer exist, the museum does not own any copyrights. Therefore, it generally does not grant or deny permission to copy, distribute or otherwise use material in this collection. If identified, permission and possible fees may be required from the copyright owner independently of the museum. It is the user's obligation to determine and satisfy copyright or other use restrictions when copying, distributing or otherwise using materials found in the museum's collections. Transmission or reproduction of protected materials beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Users must make their own assessments of rights in light of their intended use.

If you have any more information about an item you've seen in the Fly Now: The National Air and Space Museum Poster Collection, or if you are a copyright owner and believe we have not properly attributed your work to you or have used it without permission, we want to hear from you. Please contact pisanod@si.edu with your contact information and a link to the relevant content.

View more information about the Smithsonian's general copyright policies at http://www.si.edu/termsofuse

"American Method in Astronomical Observation"

National Museum of American History
From its infancy, timekeeping has depended on astronomy. The motion of celestial bodies relative to the rotating Earth provided the most precise measure of time until the mid-twentieth century, when quartz and atomic clocks proved more constant. Until that time, mechanical observatory clocks were set and continuously corrected to agree with astronomical observations.

The application of electricity to observatory timepieces in the late 1840s revolutionized the way American astronomers noted the exact movement of celestial events. U.S. Coast Survey teams devised a method to telegraph clock beats, both within an observatory and over long distances, and to record both the beats and the moment of observation simultaneously. British astronomers dubbed it the "American method of astronomical observation" and promptly adopted it themselves.

Transmitting clock beats by telegraph not only provided astronomers with a means of recording the exact moment of astronomical observations but also gave surveyors a means of determining longitude. Because the Earth rotates on its axis every twenty-four hours, longitude and time are equivalent (fifteen degrees of longitude equals one hour).

In 1849 William Cranch Bond, then director of the Harvard College Observatory, devised an important improvement for clocks employed in the "American method." He constructed several versions of break-circuit devices—electrical contracts and insulators attached to the mechanical clock movement—for telegraphing clock beats once a second. The Bond regulator shown here incorporates such a device. Bond's son Richard designed the accompanying drum chronograph, an instrument that touched a pen to a paper-wrapped cylinder to record both the beats of the clock and the instant of a celestial event, signaled when an observer pressed a telegraph key.

"City of New York"/"Great Western" Balloon Valve

National Air and Space Museum
Wooden valve assembly from the balloon originally known as the "City of New York," later renamed the "Great Western"; constructed by T.S.C. Lowe in 1859.

Wooden valve assembly from the balloon originally known as the "City of New York," later renamed the "Great Western." Constructed by T.S.C. Lowe in 1859, the balloon stood 200 feet tall from the keel of the lifeboat dangling beneath the basket to this valve at the very top of the envelope. The envelope was 130' in diameter, with a total capacity of 725.000 cubic feet of lifting gas. Work on the balloon began in July 1859, and was complete within 90 days. Inflation began at the New York City Crystal Palace, 42nd St. and 6th Avenue, on September 30, 1859. By November 16, Lowe was forced to apologize for the fact that inflation was still far from complete. The New York City gas system was apparently not equal to the task. Lowe renamed the balloon "Great Western" that fall, in response to the gigantic transatlantic steamer "Great Eastern," and placed it in storage. He accepted an offer from citizens of Philadelphia to host the inflation and flight of the balloon the following spring. The "Great Western" took to the air for the first time from Philadelphia in late June 1860. The controversial balloon burst during inflation on September 8, 1860. Attempts to fund the repair of the balloon, or the creation of a new envelope, failed. Portions of the fabric of the Great Western were used to construct the balloon "Enterprise," with which Lowe conducted his demonstrations of observation ballooning on the National Mall in 1861, and with which he made his first operational flights for the Union Army.

"Expand the Pie Before You Divvy It Up"

Smithsonian Magazine

"One of the things I've learned is, this is like jazz. It's improvised. There's no written score." William Ury is surprisingly relaxed as he tosses off these observations about the process of negotiation to Smithsonian writer Doug Stewart. Ury is in a hotel lobby at The Hague, awaiting the arrival of a delegation from Chechnya, so that he and his team can mediate peace talks between them and a Russian delegation. And already, there are a few wrinkles word has just reached Ury that the Chechens didn't want to use their Russian passports, causing problems on entry into the Netherlands; and now they're protesting their hotel accommodations.

But, as Ury says, it's all part of the improvisation, and he has had a lot of practice. Ury has been running negotiation seminars, studying how various cultures handle conflict and helping to mediate international disputes since 1981, when he and Roger Fisher wrote Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In. Dubbed "the bible of negotiation," the book skyrocketed to best seller lists around the world two million copies in 21 languages, and counting. The brand of negotiation they preach, which they call "principled negotiation," emphasizes the process of seeking common interests with the adversary rather than staking out positions and then painstakingly narrowing the gap.

It sounds good on paper, but how does it work in practice? To find out, writer Doug Stewart traveled to The Hague to witness Ury and his negotiating team in action at the International Peace Palace. From his vantage point inside the negotiating room, Stewart describes down to the smallest nuance the unfolding roller coaster ride of emotional outbursts, deafening silences and eventually fleeting moments of real communication.

"Faceless" Fish Found off the Coast of Australia

Smithsonian Magazine

For the last two weeks, a crew of scientists aboard a trawler have surveyed Australia’s marine reserves, cataloging the region's unusual deep sea creatures. So far, they’ve brought up a lot of interesting critters, but the most surprising is a faceless fish, reports Emilie Gramenz at the Australia Broadcasting Corporation.

According to a blog post at Australia’s Marine Biodiversity Hub, the researchers collected the creature, Typhlonus nasus, from a depth of about 13,000 feet. At these depths, the pressure is enormous and temperatures average a chilly 34 degrees Fahrenheit. At first, the researchers thought they had a new species on their hands. But with a search through scientific journals, they realized their faceless monster had been seen before. 

The HMS Challenger—the first global oceanographic expedition—collected the first T. nasus, in the Coral Sea just outside Australian waters on August 25, 1874. Since then, the species has been occasionally found in deep water around the globe, including in the Arabian Sea and off the coasts of Borneo, Japan and Hawaii. 

“This little fish looks amazing because the mouth is actually situated at the bottom of the animal so, when you look side-on, you can’t see any eyes, you can’t see any nose or gills or mouth,” Tim O’Hara, expedition leader and senior curator of marine invertebrates at Museums Victoria, tells Elle Hunt at The Guardian. “It looks like two rear-ends on a fish, really.” Because of this distinctive—and disturbing—feature, researchers are calling the fish the “Faceless Cusk.”

As Hunt reports, the month-long expedition (sponsored by Museums Victoria and the Australian government’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization) is exploring the marine reserves by dragging a device that looks like a metal sled on a five-mile long cable, collecting sediment from the seafloor. The team is also using a camera to observe the creatures of the deep, hauling samples to the surface in small nets.

Aside from the eyeless fish, the team has also spotted a strange tripod fish, a chimaera, bioluminescent sea stars and rock crabs. “The experts tell me that about a third of all specimens coming on board are totally new to science,” O’Hara tells Hunt. “They aren’t all as spectacular as the faceless fish but there’s a lot of sea fleas and worms and crabs and other things that are totally new and no one has seen them ever before.”

But it's not all crazy creatures: the team is also dredging up lots of trash, including cans of paint and PVC pipe. 

This expedition is the first time the “eastern abyssal plain” off the coast of Australia has been systematically surveyed, Gramenz reports, and the results will serve as a baseline that researchers can use to monitor future potential impacts of climate change.

The expedition is expected to last until June 16—so stay tuned for more crazy critter finds.

"Greenland Expedition of 1937," handwritten report by Robert A. Bartlett

Smithsonian Field Book Project
The handwritten report "Greenland Expedition of 1937" documents Robert A. Bartlett's work for the Smithsonian Institution. The report was written to Waldo Schmitt as the Curator of Marine Invertebrates. Includes information about crew, what types of specimens they were collecting and for which institutions, and equipment (loaned by Smithsonian Institution). He details the trip from New York via Nantucket to the expedition sites, discusses changes in terrain from previous years' explorations, locations where they collected, weather and sea conditions on way to chosen locations, and types of marine life observed. Locations include the vicinity of Détroit de Northumberland, Hakluyt, and Smith Sound.

"Honor Et Fidelitas:" The awarding of a Congressional Gold Medal to the "Borinqueneers"

National Museum of American History

As the rain clouds began to blow out to sea over the fortress of Castillo San Felipe del Morro, I looked out over the crowd of veterans and their families, knowing that not even rain could ruin this day for them. On April 27, 2016, a team of Smithsonian staff traveled to Puerto Rico with the most recently issued Congressional Gold Medal, which was presented to the U.S. Army 65th Infantry Regiment, nicknamed "The Borinqueneers." According to the Senate's website, the medal was given in recognition of the regiment's "pioneering military service, devotion to duty, and many acts of valor in the face of adversity." The Congressional Gold Medal is the "highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions by individuals or institutions," according to the site.

Crowd of people, some holding up phones to take photos, observe activity on a covered stage with a cloudy sky in the background. On stage, people in uniform are presented with medals.

The first Congressional Medals were issued by the Continental Congress and struck in Paris during the American Revolution to "serve as an expression of national appreciation," according to the Congressional Research Service. Long before the power of the Internet, medals were small, portable objects on which images and messages could be struck and disseminated around the country and around the world. The medals were used to commemorate "distinguished contributions, dramatize the virtues of patriotism, and perpetuate the remembrance of great events." It should come as no surprise that the first recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal was General George Washington, the commander of the Continental Army. Washington received the medal for "wise and spirited conduct" in the Siege of Boston in June 1775.

Photo on the stage. Group of men pose, some smiling and holding medals. In background, a flag and cloudy sky.

The 65th Infantry Regiment is the recipient of the most recent medal in honor of its valor, determination, and bravery during the Korean War. The 65th is the first segregated Hispanic military unit in the history of the United States. The 65th Infantry Regiment garnered the nickname "The Borinqueneers" originating from the Taíno name of the island of Puerto Rico (Borinquen). Puerto Rico became a U.S. territory in 1898 and in 1917, Puerto Ricans were granted statutory citizenship. The 65th Infantry Regiment participated in World War I, World War II, and the Korean War. Interestingly, the first shots fired from the United States, signaling its involvement in World War I, were shot from the fort of "El Morro" San Juan, Puerto Rico at a German ship that sailed into in San Juan Bay on March 21, 1915. Since that time, over 100,000 Borinqueneers have served as American war veterans and "The Borinqueneers" hold another distinction as the first military unit with service during the Korean War to receive this award.

Gold medal with portrait of a man's face. He wears a helmet and stares past the viewer. Behind him, other soldiers in uniforms and helmets hold guns in a tactical position.

Gold medal with part of a seaside fort, leaves, and medal.

Since the American Revolution, Congressional Gold Medals have been awarded for more than just military service and valor. Recipients of these medals include humanitarians, explorers, actors, and even foreign recipients such as the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso. Prestigious recipients of this medal include actor John Wayne, Walt Disney, boxer Joe Louis, Native American Code Talkers, and civil rights activist Rosa Parks. One of my favorites is the Japanese American Nisei Congressional Gold Medal, which is part of the museum's collection.

To date, over 300 Congressional Gold Medals have been awarded. My congratulations to the Borinqueneers, whose patriotism inspires so many of us.

Hillery York is a collections manager for the National Numismatic Collection.

Posted Date: 
Thursday, July 7, 2016 - 08:00
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"Interruptions and Embarrassments": The Smithsonian Institution during the Civil War

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
This paper consists of the revised version of a talk delivered on September 25, 1996, as part of the Smithsonian Institution History Lecture Series during the Smithsonian's sesquicentennial celebration and on December 10, 1997, to the Smithsonian Associates. The author was an editor of The Papers of Joseph Henry.

This detailed and highly readable paper discusses the impact of the Civil War on the Smithsonian Institution, which was founded in 1846 and led by its first Secretary, Joseph Henry, until his death in 1878. The author begins by placing the Smithsonian geographically, to show how physically vulnerable the building was during the war, and briefly discusses the Institution's origins and activities. She then goes on to describe some specific institutional casualties of the war, beginning with the Smithsonian's meteorology program. Many volunteer observers left their posts and in some cases, their equipment was destroyed. War-related business made telegraph lines unavailable for weather dispatches. The Smithsonian's finances also felt the impact of the war due to Congress's inability to make payments on time and the war's devaluation of currency. The Institution's publications program suffered from the high cost of paper and printing.

Despite his reservations about the war, Joseph Henry contributed to the Union effort. When approached by a balloonist for support, Henry recommended the balloonist provide reconnaissance for the Union Army, and a balloon corps was established. He also served on the three-member Permanent Commission of the Navy, which reviewed and reported on hundreds of proposals submitted to the Navy for warships, torpedoes, and other ordnance.

Henry also participated in Union Army signal tests from the Smithsonian Building's high tower, and was accused of treason for allegedly attempting to communicate with the Confederate Army. The author relates the details of this story and other reasons Henry was believed by some to be a southern sympathizer. A controversy ensued, for example, when Henry attempted to bar an abolitionist lecture series from taking place at the Smithsonian due to its political and religious content. In addition, the Institution lost several members of the Board of Regents because they were loyal to the Confederacy. Henry was also known to have been friends with Jefferson Davis, a former regent. Finally, he refused to fly a U.S. flag over the Smithsonian during the war, in part because he felt it would make the Institution a target.

Joseph Henry was also struck by personal tragedy during the Civil War years. His son became ill and died in 1862. His close friend and fellow leader of the American scientific community, Alexander Bache, suffered a breakdown from which he never recovered.

A major fire broke out at the Smithsonian in January 1865. Although much of the building and its contents were burned, Henry weathered this crisis with "surprising equanimity," says the author. The fire helped Henry make the case for eliminating the Smithsonian's lecture series (the lecture room had been destroyed) and for transferring the Smithsonian's library to the Library of Congress.

"Junkers"

National Air and Space Museum
Offset Lithograph: Highly stylized Junkers trimotor (no registration number, just "Junkers" spelled out on side of fuselage) flies through a sky lit with the setting sun, over silhouette of the three towers of Lisbon's Jeronimos Monastery of Lisbon (Mosteiro dos Jerónimos); advertises joy rides and passenger service; yellow, red and black ink on paper.

Fly Now: The National Air and Space Museum Poster Collection

Throughout their history, posters have been a significant means of mass communication, often with striking visual effect. Wendy Wick Reaves, the Smithsonian Portrait Gallery Curator of Prints and Drawings, comments that "sometimes a pictorial poster is a decorative masterpiece-something I can't walk by without a jolt of aesthetic pleasure. Another might strike me as extremely clever advertising … But collectively, these 'pictures of persuasion,' as we might call them, offer a wealth of art, history, design, and popular culture for us to understand. The poster is a familiar part of our world, and we intuitively understand its role as propaganda, promotion, announcement, or advertisement."

Reaves' observations are especially relevant for the impressive array of aviation posters in the National Air and Space Museum's 1300+ artifact collection. Quite possibly the largest publicly-held collection of its kind in the United States, the National Air and Space Museum's posters focus primarily on advertising for aviation-related products and activities. Among other areas, the collection includes 19th-century ballooning exhibition posters, early 20th-century airplane exhibition and meet posters, and twentieth-century airline advertisements.

The posters in the collection represent printing technologies that include original lithography, silkscreen, photolithography, and computer-generated imagery. The collection is significant both for its aesthetic value and because it is a unique representation of the cultural, commercial and military history of aviation. The collection represents an intense interest in flight, both public and private, during a significant period of its technological and social development.

Copyright Disclosure for Orphaned Works

Whenever possible, the museum provides factual information about copyright owners and related matters in its records and other texts related to the collections. For many of the images in this collection, some of which were created for or by corporate entities that no longer exist, the museum does not own any copyrights. Therefore, it generally does not grant or deny permission to copy, distribute or otherwise use material in this collection. If identified, permission and possible fees may be required from the copyright owner independently of the museum. It is the user's obligation to determine and satisfy copyright or other use restrictions when copying, distributing or otherwise using materials found in the museum's collections. Transmission or reproduction of protected materials beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Users must make their own assessments of rights in light of their intended use.

If you have any more information about an item you've seen in the Fly Now: The National Air and Space Museum Poster Collection, or if you are a copyright owner and believe we have not properly attributed your work to you or have used it without permission, we want to hear from you. Please contact pisanod@si.edu with your contact information and a link to the relevant content.

View more information about the Smithsonian's general copyright policies at http://www.si.edu/termsofuse

"KLM" Royal Dutch Air Lines: Amsterdam-Batavia

National Air and Space Museum
Airplane (Fokker F.XII, registration number "PH-AFV") flies over route map showing routes from Amsterdam through Athens, Bagdad, and Medan to Batavia; offset lithograph/photo relief halftone in orange, yellow, and blue ink on paper.

Fly Now: The National Air and Space Museum Poster Collection

Throughout their history, posters have been a significant means of mass communication, often with striking visual effect. Wendy Wick Reaves, the Smithsonian Portrait Gallery Curator of Prints and Drawings, comments that "sometimes a pictorial poster is a decorative masterpiece-something I can't walk by without a jolt of aesthetic pleasure. Another might strike me as extremely clever advertising … But collectively, these 'pictures of persuasion,' as we might call them, offer a wealth of art, history, design, and popular culture for us to understand. The poster is a familiar part of our world, and we intuitively understand its role as propaganda, promotion, announcement, or advertisement."

Reaves' observations are especially relevant for the impressive array of aviation posters in the National Air and Space Museum's 1300+ artifact collection. Quite possibly the largest publicly-held collection of its kind in the United States, the National Air and Space Museum's posters focus primarily on advertising for aviation-related products and activities. Among other areas, the collection includes 19th-century ballooning exhibition posters, early 20th-century airplane exhibition and meet posters, and twentieth-century airline advertisements.

The posters in the collection represent printing technologies that include original lithography, silkscreen, photolithography, and computer-generated imagery. The collection is significant both for its aesthetic value and because it is a unique representation of the cultural, commercial and military history of aviation. The collection represents an intense interest in flight, both public and private, during a significant period of its technological and social development.

"KLM" Royal Dutch Air Lines: Amsterdam-Batavia

National Air and Space Museum
Airplane (Fokker F.XII, registration number "PH-AFV") flies over route map showing routes from Amsterdam through Athens, Bagdad, and Medan to Batavia; offset lithograph/photo relief halftone in orange, yellow, and blue ink on paper.

Fly Now: The National Air and Space Museum Poster Collection

Throughout their history, posters have been a significant means of mass communication, often with striking visual effect. Wendy Wick Reaves, the Smithsonian Portrait Gallery Curator of Prints and Drawings, comments that "sometimes a pictorial poster is a decorative masterpiece-something I can't walk by without a jolt of aesthetic pleasure. Another might strike me as extremely clever advertising … But collectively, these 'pictures of persuasion,' as we might call them, offer a wealth of art, history, design, and popular culture for us to understand. The poster is a familiar part of our world, and we intuitively understand its role as propaganda, promotion, announcement, or advertisement."

Reaves' observations are especially relevant for the impressive array of aviation posters in the National Air and Space Museum's 1300+ artifact collection. Quite possibly the largest publicly-held collection of its kind in the United States, the National Air and Space Museum's posters focus primarily on advertising for aviation-related products and activities. Among other areas, the collection includes 19th-century ballooning exhibition posters, early 20th-century airplane exhibition and meet posters, and twentieth-century airline advertisements.

The posters in the collection represent printing technologies that include original lithography, silkscreen, photolithography, and computer-generated imagery. The collection is significant both for its aesthetic value and because it is a unique representation of the cultural, commercial and military history of aviation. The collection represents an intense interest in flight, both public and private, during a significant period of its technological and social development.

"Marine & Camouflage" design printed dress silk, Mallinson's La Victoire series I

National Museum of American History
"Marines & Camouflage" is the title of this design, from the first La Victoire series designed by HR Mallinson & Co. just before the Armistice that ended the fighting in World War I was signed, in November 1918. The firm’s marketing brochure stated,"That there is much real art in camouflaging is proven in this design in which you see the Marines and then you don't." Camouflage became a military necessity during World War I. Long range artillery and aerial observation and bombardment wreaked havoc within the static trenches, as did submarine warfare at sea. The armed forces required new ways to hide from enemy observation and attack, and recruited artists and scientists to assist with camouflage efforts. The importance of their efforts is recognized by this design, printed on “Pussy Willow” silk, one of Mallinson's most enduring fabrications.

"Missing Link" Cave Fish Walks Like a Salamander

Smithsonian Magazine

The earliest vertebrate animals to walk on land were ancient four-limbed tetrapods that waggled their way across the ground like salamanders. Yet researchers still haven’t found many intermediate species showing just how swimming fish evolved to walk on land. Now, an endangered species only found in a handful of caverns in Thailand might finally help straighten things out.

The species in question is a type of blind cave fish called Cryptotora thamicola, or the waterfall-climbing cave fish. Documented in a study recently published in the journal Scientific Reports, the creature uses its four fins to crawl over rocks and up slick walls. The fish even has a full pelvis fused to its spine—a skeletal feature absent from any of the other 30,000 fish species in the world. This particular feature, however, is found in terrestrial vertebrates and fossils of the earliest tetrapods, making the waterfall cave fish a unique window into evolution.

“It’s really weird,” John R. Hutchinson, a biologist at the Royal Veterinary College at the University of London tells Carl Zimmer at The New York Times. “It’s a good example of how much fish diversity there’s left to be discovered.”

The species was first found in Northern Thailand in 1985 in eight caves near the Myanmar border. The Thai government is now extremely protective of those caves, allowing only a handful of researchers to examine them and their strange fish.

Last year, Apinun Suvarnaraksha, an ichthyologist from Maejo University in Thailand and Daphne Soares, a biologist at the New Jersey Institute of Technology observed the fish on an expedition to those caves and took a video . When Soares shared the images with her NJIT colleague Brooke Flammang, a biomechanics researcher, she was stunned. “I was like, ‘Fish can’t do that,’” Flammang tells Diane Kelly at Wired. “That’s ridiculous.”

Flammang hoped to get specimens of the rare fish to study, but that was not possible. So she began working with Suvarnaraksha, who returned to the caves and began briefly capturing the fish and putting them in an aquarium for filming before releasing them. He was also able to perform a CT scan of a preserved museum specimen of Cryptotora thamicola at a local dental school.

Armed with that data, Flammang began to unravel the secrets of the cave fish. It didn’t take long. “When they sent me the files, I thought someone was playing a trick on me,” she tells Kelly. “There was this gigantic pelvis [on the CT scan] that looks nothing like any fish pelvis.”

While it’s highly unlikely that the waterfall cave fish is an ancestor of ancient tetrapods, its evolution sheds some light on how other fish could have evolved to move on land. It also calls into question some of the 400-million-year-old tetrapod “footprints” scientists have found  in recent years.

Researchers may now need to evaluate those prints—the next likely candidate is the giant waddling fish. “The physics are the same,” Flammang tells Zimmer. 

"Presidents’ Day" Doesn't Actually Exist

Smithsonian Magazine

Today, the third Monday in February—you may have been told—is the day we celebrate all United States presidents. Or it's a mash-up memorialization of the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. But neither of those is correct. 

This misunderstanding has been slowly brewing for nearly fifty years, but here’s the truth: on the federal level, officially, there is no such thing as Presidents’ Day.

Instead, governmental employees and school children enjoying some leisure time today have off in honor of just one man’s birthday: the founding father himself, George Washington.

Washington’s February 22 birthday has actually been a federally recognized holiday since 1879. But the Presidents’ Day confusion got its start in 1968, when Congress passed the Uniform Holidays Bill. The legislation declared that three national holidays—Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, and Veterans’ Day—would be celebrated on Mondays, rather than their fixed calendar dates. (Veterans’ Day would later be moved back to its original November 11 date.) The move was intended to avoid mid-week holiday interruptions and establish a set number of three-day weekends for federal employees.

Richard Nixon signed the bill into law on February 11, 1971. This is when the misunderstanding started. According to Snopes, a “newspaper spoof” claimed that, on that day, Nixon declared that the third Monday in February would be a "holiday set aside to honor all presidents, even myself." He never did say such a thing, but the idea proved hard to eradicate.

Another source of the myth could be the fact that there were parties lobbying for a “President’s Day” as far back as the 1950s. The National Association of Travel Organizations, for example, wanted Washington’s birthday combined with Lincoln’s in order to create one long holiday. (Lincoln’s birthday, though celebrated by some on the state-level, was never a federal holiday.) The scheme wasn’t adopted universally, but some states did create such a day.

And that’s the other point of confusion—even when the federal government moved Washington’s birthday to a Monday, not all states followed suit. As Snopes points out: “Individual state governments do not have to observe federal holidays — most of them generally do (and most private employers and school districts follow suit), but federal and state holiday observances can differ.” And so, some states kept up their bilateral presidential birthday celebrations, while others consolidated them and others simply never formally marked Lincoln’s birthday.

As the years went on, so did the confusion. A while back, some federal legislators tried to clear up the misconception with the “Washington-Lincoln Recognition Act of 2001” which demanded that February’s third Monday only be referred to as Washington’s Birthday. The bill didn’t gain much traction, though, and perished in a subcommittee.

And here’s a last little bit of holiday trivia for you: According to Voice of America, Washington was the very first individual American whose life was officially celebrated with a holiday. The second? Martin Luther King Jr., whose birthday became a federal holiday in 1983.

"Sausage" in Transit

National Museum of American History
Watercolor and charcoal sketch on paper. Sketch shows a large French observation balloon passing over a French village during the St. Mihiel Offensive in World War I. Onlookers and French soldiers stand in the streets among the maze of houses in the small village."Sausage" was the nickname given by British soldiers to observation balloons of this shape.

The roundel of red, white, and blue on the side of the balloon indicates that it is a French aircraft. This type of aircraft identification was used during the war to avoid firing on allies.

"Sleeping" Birch Trees Rest Their Branches at Night

Smithsonian Magazine

In recent years, researchers have discovered that trees can comminicate and share nutrients via an underground fungal net. Now, scientists in Europe have found that trees also “sleep,” or at least relax a little at night, Andy Coghlan reports for New Scientist

Using a terrestrial laser scanner on windless nights close to the equinox, researchers scanned two birch trees over the course of the night, one in Finland and one in Austria. Researchers scanned the birch in Finland hourly and the one in Austrain about every 10 minutes. The results, published in the journal Frontiers in Plant Science, show that the trees drooped up to nearly four inches during the night.

According to a press release, the leaves and branches slowly relaxed over time, reaching their lowest position about two hours before sunrise. Over the course of the morning, the trees returned to their original positions.

In some ways the study was a test of the laser scanning technology. Using traditional photography, which needs lots of light to produce an image, would have interfered with the trees’ nighttime patterns. But the infrared laser illuminated points on the tree for a fraction of a second. That allowed the entire tree to be mapped in minutes with minimal disturbance.

The right laser scan is the tree's regular branch positioning, while the left laser scan shows its nighttime drooping limbs. (Vienna University of Technology)

This technique could allow scientists to delve further into the study of "plant sleep patterns," moving from individual trees to much larger areas, study co-author Norbert Pfeifer explains in the press release.

It’s likely that the droop is caused by a decrease in turgor pressure, a type of internal water pressure that keeps plants upright. “It means branches and leaf stems are less rigid, and more prone to drooping under their own weight,” study co-author András Zlinszky, a biologist at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, tells CoghlanWhen photosynthesis stops at night, turgor pressure is reduced, likely causing the branches to “relax.”

It’s possible the droop is also related to circadian rhythms, which are encoded in almost every creature on earth, Brian Resnick at Vox points out. The researchers tell Coglan that they hope to repeat the experiment on other tree species, and are particularly interested in chestnuts and poplars, two trees in which genes associated with circadian rhythms have been found.

“Perhaps the most important open question is whether the observed branch movements take place under the influence of light from sunset and sunrise, or if they are independent from light and governed by the internal circadian clock of the plant,” according to the study. Some branches started to return to their daytime position before sunrise, hinting that perhaps the plants do follow an internal clock. But only more study of the tree's daily patterns will help determine if this is the case.

“There have been some studies on circadian rhythms in trees, mostly studying gene expression, but this latest research is a beautiful way to watch it happen in individual trees,” biologist C. Robertson McClung of Dartmouth College, who is not involved in the study, tells Coghlan. “It shows things are happening in the real world.”

The study might have practical applications as well. Study author Eetu Puttonen says knowing the daily cycle of how water moves through trees could help both the timber and rubber industries, both of which rely on water content of the trees.

"Smithsonian" Balloon Ascends

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
Bust portrait of the noted American aeronaut, John Wise, by Mora photographer, date unknown. From the Krainik Ballooning Collection, National Air and Space Museum Archives, image number NASM-7A47252.

Rothenberg, Marc, et al, eds. The Papers of Joseph Henry, Volume 10, January 1858-December 1865: The Smithsonian Years. Washington, D.C.: Science History Publications, 2004, p. 16.

Pioneer American balloonist John Wise launches a balloon named the "Smithsonian" carrying equipment provided by first Smithsonian Secretary Joseph Henry. During prior balloon ascents, Wise had made meteorological observations that he conveyed to Henry, who in turn informed other meteorologists of Wise's findings. Although Henry is skeptical of Wise's theory that "a sufficient quantity of [atmospheric] electricity for practical purposes could be obtained" and delivered to earth via a wire suspended from a balloon, he outfits the balloon with "gas, conductors, ropes and meteorological instruments." During the ascension, Wise observes the development of a thundercloud. Subsequent experiments never occur because of Wise's preparations for a transatlantic balloon voyage, Henry's preoccupation with Smithsonian business, and the coming of the Civil War.

"Solar Protuberances"

National Museum of American History
Solar power starts with the sun. This color lithograph is one of a set produced by Étienne L. Trouvelot (1827-1895) and published by Charles Scribner's Sons in 1881. “Solar Protuberances” is based on observations of the sun Trouvelot made on 5 May 1873. This particular lithograph was one of several used by traveling science lecturer Charles Came and later by his son-in-law Samuel Corby during public presentations given in the latter nineteenth century.

"Statement of Professor Henry in Reference to Lorin Blodget" (mid-February 1855)

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
8 pages scanned from the edited transcript of the original version and notes in the Joseph Henry Papers Volume 9, pages 197-204 (Document 112).

Statement of Joseph Henry, first Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, in reference to Lorin Blodget, Assistant in charge of Meteorology, mid-February 1855. In the statement, Henry discusses Bloget's time spent working for the Smithsonian's meteorology department. He details the rise in his salary as his work improved, and the beginning of undesirable circumstances surrounding his employment at the Smithsonian. Henry discusses the collection of materials by Blodget, and his taking credit for work done under the Smithsonian name. He then details the reason for the dismissal of Blodget from his position, due in part to his refusal to follow directions, but as a sum of a number of things.

Acting under legal counsel, Joseph Henry discharged Lorin Blodget on October 11, 1854, by locking him out of his office. Blodget had been hired in December 1851 to reduce the meteorological data collected by the Smithsonian and to conduct the institution's correspondence with its volunteer weather observers. At the 1853 meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Blodget had presented three papers that, in Henry's opinion, failed to give the Smithsonian due credit for providing the data Blodget had analyzed. When informed of his dismissal, Blodget refused to turn over a list of the Smithsonian's meteorological observers and his record of correspondence with them. Blodget would go on to publish a meteorological report for the Surgeon General's Office of the Army containing data for which, Henry insisted, the Smithsonian and its observers should have be credited.

"Swissair' Services Aeriens

National Air and Space Museum
"SWISSAIR" SERVICES AERIENS Multicolor commercial aviation print. Plane flies over a mountainous landscape; cities served: Basel, Geneva, Zurich. Partial text: ""Swissair' Services Aeriens"; Lithograph.

Fly Now: The National Air and Space Museum Poster Collection

Throughout their history, posters have been a significant means of mass communication, often with striking visual effect. Wendy Wick Reaves, the Smithsonian Portrait Gallery Curator of Prints and Drawings, comments that "sometimes a pictorial poster is a decorative masterpiece-something I can't walk by without a jolt of aesthetic pleasure. Another might strike me as extremely clever advertising … But collectively, these 'pictures of persuasion,' as we might call them, offer a wealth of art, history, design, and popular culture for us to understand. The poster is a familiar part of our world, and we intuitively understand its role as propaganda, promotion, announcement, or advertisement."

Reaves' observations are especially relevant for the impressive array of aviation posters in the National Air and Space Museum's 1300+ artifact collection. Quite possibly the largest publicly-held collection of its kind in the United States, the National Air and Space Museum's posters focus primarily on advertising for aviation-related products and activities. Among other areas, the collection includes 19th-century ballooning exhibition posters, early 20th-century airplane exhibition and meet posters, and twentieth-century airline advertisements.

The posters in the collection represent printing technologies that include original lithography, silkscreen, photolithography, and computer-generated imagery. The collection is significant both for its aesthetic value and because it is a unique representation of the cultural, commercial and military history of aviation. The collection represents an intense interest in flight, both public and private, during a significant period of its technological and social development.

"Tails up!" (Sopwith Dolphin & Albatross)

National Air and Space Museum
Colored offset lithograph of a Sopwith Dolphin and Albatross in battle. The planes are aloft over fields with one firing on the other.

Print of original watercolor by J. McGilchrist. John McGilchrist, 1893-1977, was a Scottish artist who served as a balloon pilot-observer for the Royal Flying Corps high over the battlefields of France. Shot down in flames four different times, he applied his artistic talent to documenting the images of aerial combat as he had known it.

'Published September 1st, 1920, by Messrs. Fores, 41 Piccadilly, London, W. 1'

"The Genuine Rail"

National Museum of American History
Piece of fence rail with affidavit from John Hanks, Abraham Lincoln’s cousin. The affidavit reads: “This is to certify that this is one of the genuine rails split by A Lincoln and myself in 1829 and 30.”

In May 1860 Illinois Republicans met to select their presidential nominee. Lincoln’s supporters staged a demonstration in the meeting hall, which they capped off with John Hanks, Lincoln’s cousin, carrying in two fence rails split by Lincoln and Hanks. Suspended from the rails was a banner that read, “Abraham Lincoln the Rail Candidate for President in 1860.”

The delegates wildly cheered the theatrics, and Lincoln handily won the nomination. One observer noted, “That banner was to be the ‘Battle flag’ in the coming contest between ‘labor free’ and ‘labor slave,’ between democracy and aristocracy.” In that moment, Lincoln became a symbol of the self-made frontiersman and representative of honest, enterprising labor.

John Hanks returned to the fences and gathered additional rails. During the campaign he sold pieces of the fence to Lincoln supporters that were used to decorate campaign headquarters and carried in parades. This piece, cut from a larger rail, was later sold to raise money for Union soldiers.

Gift of Sen. Leverett Saltonstall, 1984

"The Scandinavian Air Express" Dutch Swedish Route to Holland, North Germany, Scandinavia, Finland

National Air and Space Museum
Plan view silhouettes of two airplanes flying over a circle on yellow background; black ink on yellow paper. Relief or Letterpress.

Fly Now: The National Air and Space Museum Poster Collection

Throughout their history, posters have been a significant means of mass communication, often with striking visual effect. Wendy Wick Reaves, the Smithsonian Portrait Gallery Curator of Prints and Drawings, comments that "sometimes a pictorial poster is a decorative masterpiece-something I can't walk by without a jolt of aesthetic pleasure. Another might strike me as extremely clever advertising … But collectively, these 'pictures of persuasion,' as we might call them, offer a wealth of art, history, design, and popular culture for us to understand. The poster is a familiar part of our world, and we intuitively understand its role as propaganda, promotion, announcement, or advertisement."

Reaves' observations are especially relevant for the impressive array of aviation posters in the National Air and Space Museum's 1300+ artifact collection. Quite possibly the largest publicly-held collection of its kind in the United States, the National Air and Space Museum's posters focus primarily on advertising for aviation-related products and activities. Among other areas, the collection includes 19th-century ballooning exhibition posters, early 20th-century airplane exhibition and meet posters, and twentieth-century airline advertisements.

The posters in the collection represent printing technologies that include original lithography, silkscreen, photolithography, and computer-generated imagery. The collection is significant both for its aesthetic value and because it is a unique representation of the cultural, commercial and military history of aviation. The collection represents an intense interest in flight, both public and private, during a significant period of its technological and social development.

Copyright Disclosure for Orphaned Works

Whenever possible, the museum provides factual information about copyright owners and related matters in its records and other texts related to the collections. For many of the images in this collection, some of which were created for or by corporate entities that no longer exist, the museum does not own any copyrights. Therefore, it generally does not grant or deny permission to copy, distribute or otherwise use material in this collection. If identified, permission and possible fees may be required from the copyright owner independently of the museum. It is the user's obligation to determine and satisfy copyright or other use restrictions when copying, distributing or otherwise using materials found in the museum's collections. Transmission or reproduction of protected materials beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Users must make their own assessments of rights in light of their intended use.

If you have any more information about an item you've seen in the Fly Now: The National Air and Space Museum Poster Collection, or if you are a copyright owner and believe we have not properly attributed your work to you or have used it without permission, we want to hear from you. Please contact pisanod@si.edu with your contact information and a link to the relevant content.

View more information about the Smithsonian's general copyright policies at http://www.si.edu/termsofuse
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