[time-nuts] 1968 Scientific American Magazine: Cesium ClockStandards

Brian Lloyd brian at lloyd.aero
Wed Dec 10 10:34:26 EST 2014

On Wed, Dec 10, 2014 at 8:31 AM, Alan Melia <alan.melia at btinternet.com>

> Hi Dave, as a long time reader (since 1955) and subscriber I remember the
> Amateur scientist pages ending in the 1980s. I think the contributer
> retired. At around that time I think the many adherents formed the Society
> of Amateur Scientists. Though I have not visited fot several years the web
> site was www.sas.org  and I believe had pdfs of old SciAm Amateur
> Scientist articles.
> I particularly remember one scary article about an X-ray generator that
> consisted of a 6J5G tube ( I think a triode valve in the UK  :-))  ) with a
> piece of aluminium foil secured round the smaller diameter part of the top
> with a twist of copper wire, and conected between the cathode pin and the
> foil, a 2kV psu !! The end of the tube cathode (and heater wire) was
> clearly visible through the top and formed a spot source of electrons. I
> believe an X-ray plate of a hand was included in the article !!

Yes, good times! Some of the projects had great potential to do harm if not
treated with substantial respect. Just the thing to attract the elementary
school student I was at the time. I mean, it showed me how to make rockets,
x-rays, a linear accelerator, a vacuum, a precise clock, and measure the
electrostatic potential of the atmosphere! (At some point in time in my
life I think I have built a version of nearly everything in there but it
provided the spark.)

> There were many inovative ways of building quite sophisticated
> experiments. Another I rememer was a Proton precession magnetometer using a
> radar magnetron magnet.

Actually, it was a nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer. I built it. It
worked -- after a fashion. I won at the California State Science Fair with
it in 1968 at the ripe old age of 13. It was a fantastic learning tool
because I screwed it up 13 ways to Sunday due to my misunderstanding of the
basic way that a pentode vacuum tube works and the physics behind NMR. I
had to climb up a long learning curve for a kid with no formal electronics
or physics training. And I pestered the hell out of a bunch of people who
could each give me a piece of the understanding I could put together to
eventually understand the whole thing.

I was sad to see SciAm change and move away from, "reader as active
participant in scientific endeavor," to, "reader as passive spectator to
scientific endeavor." Hmmm, that probably says something about humanity in

Brian Lloyd
Lloyd Aviation
706 Flightline Drive
Spring Branch, TX 78070
brian at lloyd.aero
+1.210.802-8FLY (1.210.802-8359)

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