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War Tubas
bizarrevictoria
So, I got a suggestion yesterday that I start staggering my posts in order to break up content and length. I know I said I was going to do a whole series on 19th-century lady adventurers, and I still am, but lest you all get fatigued from reading so much sheer awesomeness (and lest I get fatigued from writings posts that are clearly going to be lengthy), I'm going to alternate between those and some much shorter posts about unrelated things.

Yesterday I watched an episode of QI (Series H, episode 16, "History") that talked about war tubas:

230px-Wartuba
UNLEASH THE TUBAS OF WAR.

Okay, they weren't really tubas. Rather, they were a type of topophone, which is an audio device which helps you locate specific sounds--specifically to alert you to approaching planes or ships before the advent of radar. They were big in WWI. The above picture is of Japanese war tubas in the 1930s, but the technology itself was a much earlier invention by Hoboken physics professor A.M. Mayer in 1880 (this is what I have gathered from my brief research--let me know if his info is wrong, or if someone before him actually invented these). I mean, he basically just expanded the idea of the ear horn for hard-of-hearing people, but it worked.

While the Japanese version had a certain grandeur and might be slightly intimidating if you saw them on the march, Mayer's war tuba looked like this:
Sound_Mirrors_1b
Half stethoscope, half yoke, total abomination to your sense of dignity. Obviously, this far back in time, his topophone was used more for naval purposes, like when sailing through fog. The French eventually got in on their own style, which was slightly less nutty:
images
"J'ai l'air ridicule."

There isn't too much biographical information on Mayer, but if you're interested in seeing excerpts from his original article published in The Scientific American discussing his invention, it can be found here.

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