From the April 3, 1937, issue


Frank Long of the Carnegie Museum, Pittsburgh, makes in glass accurate pictures of the lesser creatures of land and sea, the beauty that floats in the water, the wonder that can be seen only when a trained eye looks through a microscope. His glass models of the unnoticed marvels of life in the common world around us are becoming objects of scientific pilgrimage.

The marvel of Mr. Long’s work does not lie in anything he uses, either tools or materials. The material is nothing but common soft glass, such as is used in bottles and in old-fashioned windowpanes. It is not even as high toned as the plate glass in your motorcar windows. Most of his specimens are made entirely of pieces of this glass, molded soft and welded together with a fine blow-pipe flame. The only other material he uses is Canada balsam, the sticky stuff that oozes out of fir trees; some of the more complex jobs he fastens together with this.

The tools he works with are equally simple—a few sticks of carbon, a pair of tweezers for pinching up points and sharp edges in the soft glass, a gas burner, and a small blowpipe for picking out and directing a delicate tongue of flame where he needs it.

The colors of the animals and plants he images forth are right in the glass itself. That makes for permanency such as no painting could boast. Coloring glass is an art that began in Egypt, and has continued to be perfected through Greco-Roman and medieval times, down to the present day. So, Mr. Long has as flexible a choice of colors at command as any artist can mix on his palette.


Prof. John Von Neumann, Institute for Advanced Study mathematician, even applies his science to the gambling table.

He has warned Princeton students in a lecture that it is impossible to win at dice over long periods whether the “ivories” are loaded or not.

The magic “seven-eleven” combination is by far the most frequent throw, he said, but if it doesn’t turn up on the first cast, the chances are reversed, and the stakes are as good as lost.

“That leaves a .490 winning average, so the game is not fair,” he declared.

“Stone-paper-scissors,” a form of gambling that originated among bored convicts and is as old as chess, is Prof. Von Neumann’s specialty. This well-known game is won by “making each play the same number of times, but at random, and your opponent will lose in the long run.”

He termed the intellectual pursuit of chess to be merely a game of chance, and said that “white,” which has the first move, can always win, although “if ‘black’ is wise to the theory, he can play defensively and tie ‘white’.”

Prof. Von Neumann divided “games of chance” into two categories: those like dice, where explicit hazards are introduced by rules, and those like chess, poker, and “stone-paper-scissors,” where chance is introduced by what the opponent does.

“In the latter type intellectual reasoning is sometimes needed, while in the former no decision is required except whether to bet,” he pointed out.

In the case of dice, he showed that since seven can be thrown in six ways and 11 in two, while two, three, and twelve result from only one or two combinations, the conditions are favorable to win on the first throw. But if “seven-eleven” is missed, repetition of the first throw is unlikely, and the seven is now working against the player. The net effect is against the player.

In poker, which he had to simplify considerably to be able to analyze, Prof. Von Neumann stated that chances are 1 out of 300 million to obtain any certain combination of five cards, although several different combinations satisfy the straight, flush, full-house, or four of a kind.

The study of probability in games is mere recreation with Prof. Von Neumann, who has devised “continuous geometry,” specialized in mathematical physics, and written an “elementary theory of quantum mechanics.” He came to Princeton to teach in 1930 after education at Zurich, Switzerland, and Göttingen, Germany. In 1933, he joined Princeton’s newly organized Institute for Advanced Study.

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