Web edition: September 4, 2001
SEEING EYE TO EYE WITH A WHITE WASP
The medieval Japanese, who sometimes closed up the fronts of their helmets with ferocious metal masks painted with vivid war paint, knew the right psychology for hand-to-hand encounters. It is much more disconcerting to be confronted with an immobile, wholly artificial hobgoblin face than to see that your enemy’s countenance is like your own, no matter how much distorted by rage or bloodthirstiness.
The faces of insects are masks. Because the whole arthropod phylum has evolved its skeleton outside its body, to be at once support and armor, insects are able to move parts of their faces only in rigid, hinged sections; and that, from an anthropopsychic point of view, is not much of an advantage. Some insects make themselves “harder to look at” by wearing vividly contrasting war-paint—for example, this white-faced wasp photographed by Cornelia Clarke.
“BOUTONNIERE” MICROPHONE GIVES SPEAKER FREEDOM
A microphone so small that it can be hung on a speaker’s coat lapel or even be hidden in his vest pocket has been developed for the Western Electric Company by engineers of the Bell Telephone Laboratories.
The miniature “mike” is designed to take the place of the present array of fixed microphones that line the front of the speaking platform at every notable occasion. It can be used either in radio transmission or with public address amplifying systems. One speaker has already used this microphone, hiding it in his pocket and running an invisible cord down a trousers’ leg. A long pair of flexible conductors permits freedom of the stage.
The instrument is in reality a new type of telephone transmitter that is just coming into use by switchboard operators, placed in a mounting for mechanical protection. To cut down the rumble of a speaker’s chest sounds, a circuit containing an electric filter arranged to give a pleasing balance of sound is provided.
MYSTERIOUS MAYA GLYPHS ARE DECIPHERED FOR FIRST TIME
The first translations ever made from Maya hieroglyphic writing are tentatively offered by Dr. William Gates, research associate in Mayan history and language at the Johns Hopkins University.
One translation is a piece out of the Dresden Codex, a Maya book found in Europe some years ago. The piece is a chant in honor of the four sacred “Chacs,” who held up the four corners of the world in Maya myth, and whose Lord was Itzamna. Other passages are offered, too, although a key to decipherment of Maya glyphs is not specifically announced, The meanings of the passages were developed by aid of pictures accompanying the texts of the manuscript. But Dr. Gates has also succeeded in definitely translating various isolated glyphs, the first actually deciphered since scientists took up this study.