- This book is a biography of Muybridge, but it’s also something more. Describe the something more.
- This book is about the conversion of power that is natural, to a power that exceeds natural power, and how that expansion of speed condensed time and space. It is about modernity as it moved west with the trains The trains condensed time and space and technology exploded in ways never imagined with one thought leading to the next forever leaving behind the image of man being limited by the speed of what he could control without science. Muybridge started out to find an answer to a simple question, that would seem to have little consequence other than to the man who was curious about what his eye could not distinguish alone. Once the question was answered it planted seeds of curiosity in first Muybridge and eventually many others. The inquisitive thoughts about motion expanded beyond Muybridge and touched many other worlds, science, art, even labor with Frederick Jackson Taylor’s studies on labor efficiency. The point of the book was using Muybridge and where he went with this new technology, but the same could be said for many other innovations at the same time. In the background others are experimenting with technologies , some to move things forward , others like the native Americans attempting to hang onto a way of life that is suddenly being taken from them. While Muybridge is preserving an image of man to be played back after he dies, the Modoc are trying to bring back all that have died in the past to help fight the overwhelming technologies of the whites through the Ghost Dance. This new world that found a way to annihilate time and distance, that found ways to flatten the landscape and allow man to ignore natural limits. The author uses Stanford’s curiosity that had little importance to others as a starting point that would lead to other questions and other technologies and whole industries.
- What does this book tell us about the history of the American west and the history of California in particular? It tells us that when the railroads connected the east to the west that San Francisco became a center for modernization and that new ideas had found a place to continue the industrialization and innovation of the east. But in the west it seemed like there were few constraints and everything was wide open and open to make a name for yourself. As Solnit explains “Something entirely new had been invented, something that would change the world, a kind of headstrong rootless sense of heroic possibilities and glamour still summed up by the word California”. (P 123) Although California was the furthest west of the west it was the center of the west. It was were the west drew like a magnate the innovators, the railroad tycoons , The new beginnings and fresh starts. It was almost a mythological place with its divergent natural resources and possibilities. It became a culture open to new ideas backed by great wealth. That wealth allowed for experimentation and ideas to grow into implementation. Experimentation like a very wealthy man wondering whether a horses hooves are simultaneously off the ground at the same time, and then what may seem frivolous or even decadent to prove it grew into a succession of improvements on technology that created a whole industry, and along the way pushed science and labor and art to new un-imagined understandings. The west was untamed when we got there, as was nature, the migrants that moved there tamed it to a certain degree, sometimes for the good and sometimes , often by unintended consequences for the bad.
- Why should we care whether all four legs of a horse ever get off the ground at the same time when its trotting? We shouldn’t really care, but it is a testament to mans curiosity that what comes out of a question that has no real use grows. The question needed an answer for just Stanford and his study of horses, but once Muybridge found a way to reach an answer, that led to many more questions, first in Muybridges wonder and study of motion to what led to the motion picture industry and all the things in between. It was with that first examination of the horses hooves that Muybridge realized that the eye alone does not catch everything.That is why he decided to do so many strips of people naked, it was to reveal what was hidden by the shadows within a motion. He realized that clothes themselves hid the motion of the body.He wanted to expose everything once he realized how much was hidden from the naked eye.
- What did you learn from Freeburg that you didn’t learn from Stross ?
I think that what I learned mostly from Freeburg was how much competition there was not just when Edison decided to design the light bulb, but before he got involved. It was also mentioned in both books that Edison used technology that had already been worked on to advance his bulb. this was mentioned in Stross but laid out more explicitly in Freeburg’s book. Stross mentioned that the first breakthrough in electric light was in 1810 by Sir Humphrey Davy, who would display both an arc light and an incandescent light. Freeburg went further with the story, explaining what Davy had done. This would be a starting point that would have inventors all over the world working for the next seven decades to make electric light a feasible way to negate the darkness of night. Edison would jump in rather late, but would use what had already been learned to make it a usable tool. The background from Freeburg made the story make sense and explained to a certain degree that Edison had a head start and took what others had been working on to the next evolutionary level.
2.What exactly made setting up an electrical delivery system so much more difficult than perfecting the light bulb?
Without an infra-structure to get electricity into the homes or businesses the light bulb alone was not really much, just an expeditionary devise. Edison saw that it had to be what got that electricity on a large-scale to the address that made it practical. By showing that he could light up a square mile of city blocks he showed it was or could be economical. The light bulb he understood very early on from other inventors what was needed, a vacuum glass with a filament to light up. That part came to him early on, but he had to make it marketable, and that was where his genius came to play, but coming up with a socket and the wiring into the house or factory and then the power unit that would send power to the light bulb was the difficult and time-consuming part of his exercise. At the same time it was what others were not doing efficiently.
3.When exactly do you think electrical lighting becomes so commonplace that Americans started to take it for granted? Explain the reasoning for your answer.
This question begs two separate answers, one for urban Americans, and the other for rural Americans. For urban America you have to note that in 1910 only 15 percent of American households had electric light, although the light bulb had been around for almost thirty years at that time. There was a reluctance for people to put electricity into their homes, mostly because of the sensational accidents that had been caused by early installations, mostly caused by haphazard insulation of wiring and low lines stretched between homes. It was natural for citizens to want to see it at exhibitions and even on light posts outside their doors. But to bring it into their house was another thing, it was a little bit scary . There was another problem for middle class and working class people; converting from gas to electric was an expensive and messy proposition with little guarantee that it would save money in the long run. Although Edison had touted it as being cheaper than gas, so far it had not been.
After World War I there was a housing boom and more than seventy percent of all new houses being built were designed with wiring for electricity. This started to make it more acceptable in the family home. While most Americans had grown accustomed to the electricity in the streets and the workplace, they would not take it for granted until they had grown used to it in their own homes. With the building boom it would be about 1925 before it would be taken for granted in the home, or at least the newness of electricity in the home would be worn off enough by urban dwellers to accept it as matter of fact.
It would take much longer for rural America to grow used to it, mostly because it would not have reached out into the country in a great scale until midway through the depression. In 1910 a government study had found that only two percent of all people living in the country had electricity in their homes versus fifteen percent for urban areas. A large part of this was logistics, it would be very expensive to run lines out into the small rural communities. This problem would be the cause of only one in nine rural families having electricity in their homes as late as the mid 30’s. But as the depression seemed to be stuck in the mire of the 30′ it became a governmental priority to get electricity to all households throughout the country. President Franklin Roosevelt saw the need to not only set up government programs to put the nation back to work through proposals like the Tennessee Valley Authority, (TVA) which got electricity into the rural areas of the lower midwest and the south, but also set up the Rural Electrification Act in 1936. These programs were designed to establish electricity in all rural areas. I think as far as farmers and rural residents taking for granted electricity it would take till the end of the second world war.