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The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine
The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine

Stunning Drawings of the 1901 World's Fair

The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine
The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine

The Pan-American Exposition—a.k.a. the 1901 World's Fair in Buffalo, New York—is best remembered as the place where President William McKinley was assassinated on September 14. But writing for The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine before that happened (but in the September issue), David Gray instead marveled that "since the world began, this is the first time that human eyes have beheld such floods of artificial light as the untiring cataract of Niagara generates for the Exposition. There is little to be said about it, because it is too marvelous to be described, and its effects are too successful and obvious to need explanation."

Unfortunately, it's difficult to render the effects of the so-called "City of Light" in a still image. Nor is it possible to appreciate the striking color scheme—which flouted architectural tradition in favor of a rainbow—with the wispy, black-and-white drawings favored by The Century Illustrated. And yet, the illustrations are stunning in their own right and in striving to capture something that Gray admits "must be seen to be comprehended."

Gray compares the architectural balance to Versailles and "other royal pleasure-grounds of the Old World."

As for how it stacked up to Chicago's World's Fair just seven years before, Gray has this to say: "It was out of the question to surpass the Chicago Exposition in size or to rival such an effect of classic buildings as was presented in the Court of Honor. In the judgement of trained men, there were, however, two defects in the Chicago Exposition—a lack of symmetry of scheme and a lack of what is called 'scale.'"

The Expo was intended to charm visitors, not loom over them. "The effect of the whole is pleasant, but it is gay rather than impressive, and this is the result which the architects endeavored to attain."

Drawings by André Castaigne and Harry Fenn for The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine.

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Scientists Think They Know What Causes Trypophobia
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Picture a boat hull covered with barnacles, a dried lotus seed pod, milk bubbles on a latte, or a honeycomb. Images of these objects are harmless—unless you're one of the millions of people suffering from trypophobia. Then they're likely to induce intense disgust, nausea, and fear, and make your skin crawl.

Coined fairly recently, the term trypophobia describes the fear of clusters of holes. The phobia isn’t recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, but its visibility on the internet suggests that for many, it’s very real. Now, scientists in the UK think they've pinpointed the evolutionary mechanism behind the reaction.

Tom Kupfer of the University of Kent and An T. D. Le of the University of Essex shared their findings in the journal Cognition and Emotion. According to their research, trypophobia evolved as a way to avoid infectious disease. Thousands of years ago, if you saw a person covered in boils or a body covered in flies, a natural aversion to the sight would have helped you avoid catching whatever they had.

But being disgusted by skin riddled with pathogens or parasites alone doesn't mean you're trypophobic; after all, keeping your distance from potential infection is smart. But trypophobia seems to misplace that reaction, as the authors write: "Trypophobia may be an exaggerated and overgeneralized version of this normally adaptive response."

Lotus pod.
Lotus seed pods are a common trigger of trypophobia.

This explanation is not entirely new, but until now little research has been done into whether it's accurate. To test their hypothesis, the scientists recruited 376 self-described trypophobes from online forums, and another 304 college students who didn't claim to have the affliction. Both groups were shown two sets of images: The first depicted clusters of circle-shaped marks on animals and human body parts (the "disease-relevant cluster images"); the second showed clusters of holes on inanimate objects like bricks and flower pods ("disease-irrelevant cluster images"). While both groups reported feeling repulsed by the first collection of photographs, only the trypophobes felt the same about the pictures that had nothing to do with infection.

Another takeaway from the study is that trypophobia is more related to sensations of disgust than fear. This sets it apart from more common phobias like arachnophobia (fear of spiders) or acrophobia (fear of heights). And you don't have to be trypophobic to be disgusted by a video of Suriname toadlets being born through holes in their mother's back. We can all be grossed out by that.

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What's Going On in This Pilot's Spectacular Storm Photo?

This thunderstorm bubbling over the Pacific Ocean was captured in an image by a pilot. Image credit: Santiago Borja via Twitter

The weather gives us some pretty spectacular sights from the ground, but it’s breathtaking when you get to experience the best scenes nature can produce when you’re flying among the clouds. An airline pilot recently caught a beautiful photograph of a thunderstorm illuminating the nighttime sky over the Pacific Ocean. Not only is it visually stunning, but it gives us a textbook view of an intense thunderstorm.

As he described to the Washington Post's deputy weather editor Angela Fritz, Santiago Borja was first officer on a flight to South America when he snapped the photograph from the cockpit of his LATAM Ecuador Airlines Boeing 767-300 as it swerved to avoid flying through the storm pulsing over the ocean off the coast of Panama. He tweeted the image on June 16 with the phrase, "CB anyone?"

Borja knows his clouds. "CB" stands for cumulonimbus clouds, which in the photo tower high above the deck of clouds that blankets the sky closer to the ocean surface. Thunderstorms are common over the ocean at night, especially within a few dozen miles of shore when the land breeze (where the wind blows out toward the ocean—the opposite of a sea breeze) starts to take hold. Borja's photo gives us an excellent profile view of an intense thunderstorm, showing us features that are sometimes hard to see from the ground. 

A thunderstorm’s updraft starts when a pocket of air becomes warmer and less buoyant than the surrounding air, so it begins to rise. The updraft will blow faster the more unstable the air becomes, often reaching highway speeds in the most intense storms. The air in an updraft continues to rise until it reaches the level of the atmosphere where the rising air is finally cooler and more stable than the air around it. This point, known as the equilibrium level, is where a thunderstorm’s anvil forms. An anvil is the thin layer of clouds that spreads out from the thunderstorm as the updraft reaches the equilibrium level, which acts like a ceiling. The anvil, which gets its name by resembling a blacksmith’s steel forging tool, is clearly visible in Borja’s photograph, stretching the entire width of the image at roughly flight level.

As is the case with Borja’s thunderstorm, the updraft doesn’t always stop at the equilibrium level. The violent nature of severe thunderstorms can allow the updraft to literally blow past this point of neutral buoyancy, allowing the top of the thunderstorm to bubble up and over the anvil. This is known as an overshooting top, and it's a common feature of storms strong enough to cause destructive wind and hail.

You wouldn’t want to be in a boat beneath that thunderstorm. Given what we can see in the photo—the anvil, the overshooting top, the beefy cumulonimbus clouds, and the sharp bursts of lightning within—we can surmise that the seas were pretty rough in the torrent. Not only would they have encountered frequent lightning and blinding rainfall, but severe wind gusts may have occurred as well. Hail wasn’t likely in this case due to lack of necessary cold air at the latitude at which the thunderstorm formed. As you can imagine, it’s a good thing that Borja’s flight avoided the storm—flying through thunderstorms that intense can compromise even the largest aircraft. 

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