• Bloodletting, Bone Brushes, and Tooth Keys: White-Knuckle Adventures in Early Dentistry With all those gleaming, stainless-steel tools readied for painful prodding, few people look forward to visiting the dentist. But modern dentistry is a walk in the park compared with archaic methods of treating oral maladies: Be glad you’re not seeking treatment for mysterious “tooth worms” or using dentures filled with the syphilitic teeth of dead soldiers. "“Dentistry, as we understand it tod…
  • The Government-Surplus Machines That Power a Cutting-Edge Science Museum Machines fill the floor of the Exploratorium, San Francisco’s beloved interactive science museum. Over there is a contraption called Bicycle Legs, in which visitors manipulate air pumps to replicate muscles we use when pedaling (it’s trickier than it sounds). A few hundred feet away is a perennial favorite, the Wave Machine, which demonstrates transverse waves with the turn of a crank (even I can …
  • Barbed Wire, From Cowboy Scourge to Prized Relic of the Old West Why would anyone pay $500 for a rusty piece of barbed wire? Well, if the 18-inch long specimen, or cut, is the only known example of the Thomas J. Barnes patent of 1907 (shown above), some folks might pay even more than that. In fact, for collectors of barbed wire, or barbwire as it's also called, the past few years have been a veritable rust rush, as choice examples of rare wire that have been sq…