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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A rose by any other name

by Mark Ollig 

Remember those paper scratch-and-sniff stickers?

The 1981 movie “Polyester” featured numbered scratch-and-sniff cards which allowed the viewer (when prompted by a card number) to smell what was being shown on the movie screen.

It was promoted as Odorama.

Placing a fragrance coating on a piece of paper or cardboard is one thing; however, I had no idea of the long history of inventive devices used in dispersing smells while watching a movie.

Hans Laube and Michael Todd were involved in the creation of a device called The Smell-O-Vision.

Laube went on to build a machine that discharged a variety of odors, scents, and smells which would coincide with the events happening during a theater movie or stage play.

Hans Laube was issued US Patent number 2,813,452 titled MOTION PICTURES WITH SYNCHRONIZED ODOR EMISSION Nov. 19, 1957.

Laube’s device would disperse various mixtures and dilutions of liquid scented perfumes, and included one scent neutralizer.

Todd is credited with calling this device Smell-O-Vision.

“Scent of Mystery” was a 1960 movie using an updated version of Laube’s device that circulated up to 30 different smells into theater seats when prompted via specific signal markers on the movie’s film.

Disappointingly, this did not work very well, and as such, no future movies were shown using the Smell-O-Vision device.

The one scent I fondly recall as a youngster while seated inside my hometown’s local theater, was the addicting aroma that drifted in from the popcorn machine in the front lobby.

One of the earliest attempts at combining a motion picture film and smells goes back to 1906, when Samuel Lionel Rothafel, working at The Family Theater in the mining town of Forest City, PA., came up with an idea.

While a motion picture newsreel film of what is believed to have been the 1906 Rose Bowl parade was being shown inside the theater, Rothafel took a wad of cotton wool soaked with rose oil, and placed it in front of an electric fan. This caused the smell of roses to be wafted throughout the theater and amongst the seated patrons.

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

It is interesting to note Samuel Lionel Rothafel was born right here in Minnesota, in the city of Stillwater in 1882.

An in-theater “smell system” was installed in Paramount’s Rialto Theater on Broadway in 1933. Blowers released various smells during the movie, but proved unpopular as it took hours (sometimes days) for the scent to finally clear out of the theater building.

There is quite a variety of aromas in this world – and countless opinions on the number of unique scents the human nose can distinguish.

Trygg Engen, a Brown University psychologist, wrote in 1982 that an untrained person can identify 2,000 odors, and an expert, 10,000.

“The human nose can detect and differentiate 350,000 smells; it’s just that we shouldn’t smell them at the same time because you get anosmia – nose fatigue,” according to Sue Phillips, a fragrance expert.

In the book, “The Future of the Body,” Michael Murphy cites his source as saying a real expert (smelling expert, I would assume) “must distinguish at least thirty thousand nuances of scent.”

Ernest Crocker, a chemical engineer and MIT graduate, used a mathematical rating system and came up with 10,000 as being the number of recognizable odors a human can detect.

Mixing smells with your favorite movies, gaming, and television programs is becoming a reality through a French company called Olf-Action.

No doubt the company name is a play on the word “olfactory” which relates to the recognition of smell.

Olf-Action uses Odoravision.

Odoravision is a copyrighted term used to describe the concept for the delivery of odors, or particular scents, in combination with motion picture films viewed in movie theaters.

This method of odor-delivery has also been called: smell-synchronization.

Olf-Action’s Odoravision System can administer 128 scents with three simultaneous odors over the course of one motion picture film.

One aroma diffuser I saw connected a video source to Olf-Action’s Olfahome model 4045 scent dispenser device.

The model 4045 is a 44-pound rectangular, box-like device which was attached to the ceiling approximately 10 feet in front of, and above, the movie viewers.

The diagram for the Olfacine/Olfahome model 4045 showed 40 individual, open-air nozzles.

The scents are stored inside cartridges.

Some of the scents listed included: cakes, gasoline, flowers, roses, wood, sea water, smoke, candies, fabrics, trees, polluted city smells, and one I like; the smell of freshly cut grass.

Olf-Action listed several movie film titles available in Odoravision, including one many would like to see and smell: “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”

My concern is when we watch an Odoravision movie and tell people it stinks, they won’t know whether we meant the movie’s plot or the smells in it.

I can’t wait until Apple’s App Store starts selling the “iSmell” application.

Then we will be able to watch people sniffing their iPhones while they watch videos on them.

Do I hear laughter from some of my readers?

Folks, you just can’t make this stuff up.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

'What's My Line?' lives online

by Mark Ollig

While watching classic TV game show videos on the Internet, I discovered a “What’s My Line?” channel on YouTube.

CBS broadcast the original “What’s My Line?” (WML) Sunday nights from Feb. 2, 1950 until Sept. 3, 1967.

I recall as a youngster watching a few of those 1960s WML shows; being the opening theme to WML was cartoonish, it immediately caught my attention.

The four regular WML panel members varied over the years; however, Dorothy Kilgallen, Steve Allen, Arlene Francis, and Bennett Cerf were my favorites.

I enjoyed radio and early television comedian Fred Allen as a panelist, too.

The premise of the show was to have the panelists ask questions of a contestant in order to reveal their occupation, or “line.”

The contestant could only give a yes or no answer.

Only the folks in the audience, the panel moderator, and those watching on TV knew what the contestant’s occupation was.

The contestant sat next to the panel moderator.

The original WML panel moderator was John Charles Daly.

Famed comedian Groucho Marx has appeared on WML as a panelist, and a celebrity mystery guest.

In one of my favorite WML episodes, he brought the house down in complete and utter laughter as a panel member Sept. 20, 1959.

This episode had two contestants; a Nikita Khrushchev look-alike whose occupation was a jail warden, and a professional wrestler named Judy Grable.

The mystery guest was actress Claudette Colbert.

This episode can be seen at:

Groucho Marx also appeared as the celebrity mystery guest Oct. 13, 1953.

The panel members were always blindfolded whenever a mystery celebrity guest was on.

Questioning of this mystery guest began with Cerf.

“Do you ever make after dinner speeches in the course of your operations?” asked Cerf.

“Yeah, only before dinner!” Groucho wisecracked back to a smiling Cerf, as Daly, the audience, and the other panelists roared with laughter.

You were not going to limit Groucho Marx to just a yes or no answer.

It was vintage Groucho Marx; he had everyone on stage and in the audience laughing in stitches with his witty answers to the panelist’s questions.

Arlene Francis finally revealed Groucho Marx as the mystery guest.

Actually, I had a feeling the whole panel knew, the minute he spoke his first sentence in a half-heartedly disguised German accent, that it was Groucho, but they kept the game going in order to keep Groucho on.

Groucho was also puffing away on his traditional cigar, and so one would think the panelists would have smelled that, too.

“It’s exhilarating to have Groucho show up on a program that you’re supposed to be running, because you stop running it the minute he gets in. I don’t know what’s happened,” moderator Daly quipped, while the audience laughed.

Groucho held a cigar in his right hand; he was smiling, with his head slightly tilted while looking toward Daly.

WML had become so popular in the 1950s that celebrities would jump at the chance to be on the show, especially when they wanted to plug a Broadway play, movie, or television show they were in.

It was truly the golden age of television, and the number of Hollywood stars, authors, industrialists, political and sport figures, military persons, and folks with unusual occupations who appeared on WML made for an impressive list.

A few weeks ago, yours truly joined a “What’s My Line (CBS)” Facebook group.

This group focuses on topics about the people who were involved in the original airing of the classic “What’s My Line?” TV show from 1950 to 1967.

As of this writing, our WML Facebook group has 254 members.

A syndicated daily version of “What’s My Line?” was started in 1968, and ran until 1975.

Daly did not moderate this syndicated game show; however, Arlene Francis returned in her regular role as panelist.

During one syndicated broadcast, Cerf made a surprise appearance as the mystery guest, and spoke of how he missed the show and Daly.

After this appearance, Cerf would re-appear occasionally as a panelist, until his death in 1971.

In addition to learning more about the particular episodes from the Facebook WML group, I find many sub-topic branches or threads will begin when someone posts a newspaper article, photograph, TV Guide story, advertisement, or some other interesting tidbit about Daly, one of the WML panelists, celebrities or guest’s.

What makes the original WML so interesting for me is the comical, playful bantering between the panelists and their interactions with the guests, audience, and Daly.

I also enjoy watching Daly, with his prodigious vocabulary, humorously expounding explanations to questions, and his father-like conduct with the panelists.

The original version of WML, from 1950 to 1967, produced 876 shows.

Over 500 episodes of “What’s My Line?” can be seen at

Friday, August 15, 2014

Sapphire display screens coming

by Mark Ollig

While Apple Inc. was designing their first iPhone, the choice of using a plastic display screen was being talked about.

Well, once Apple’s boss found out about it, he was, shall we say, “not very happy.”

I read Steve Jobs expressed his displeasure of using a plastic display covering, partly due to its vulnerability to surface scratches.

Plus, in my humble opinion, I think Mr. Jobs may have also thought using a plastic display screen cover was kind of cheesy.

After all, this was going to be Apple’s revolutionary new product offering, and so, a top-quality material for a display screen was required.

Apple needed to use a strong glass display screen which wouldn’t crack.

In Walter Isaacson’s biography on Steve Jobs, it was revealed, while talking with Wendell Weeks, the CEO of Corning Incorporated, Jobs had learned about a special formulated process Corning had developed for making a strength-hardened, scratch-resistant glass.

Weeks explained to Jobs about Corning’s Project Muscle glass initiative, where they experimented in developing a damage-resistant, hardened glass in 1960.

Corning used this initiative to develop Chemcor glass in 1961.

Jobs convinced the Corning CEO to re-tool one of their manufacturing plants, in order to begin production of a hardened glass that could be used on Apple’s upcoming new iPhone.

So, in 2006, Corning re-tooled one of their plants in Kentucky, and rushed to manufacture this stronger glass – which rumor says was based on Project Muscle, and later became known as Gorilla Glass.

In June of 2007, Corning’s glass display screen covers were on the first generation of revolutionary new Apple iPhones.

So here we are in 2014, and once again we are eagerly awaiting Apple’s next revolutionary iPhone; which rumor says will become available this fall.

Rumor also has it this next Apple smartphone will be called the iPhone 6, and will feature a brand-new, much stronger, glass display screen.

This next iPhone may be using a sapphire glass display screen; however, Apple has not confirmed this.

I hope the next iPhone uses sapphire glass, as it is a reported two and one-half times stronger than Corning’s current Gorilla Glass, is highly shatter-proof, and is extremely resistant to breakage and scratches.

Having a sapphire glass screen on a smartphone will provide much more protection against accidental damage, than current glass screens being used.

GT Advanced Technologies’ Crystal Systems division is currently producing sapphire glass exclusively for Apple in its new 1.3 million-square-foot facility in Mesa, AZ.

A video I watched explaining the production of sapphire glass, states no other material – except for diamond – is harder.

I learned the process for producing sapphire glass starts with what is called a “sapphire seed.” Its shape looks very much like a white hockey puck.

This sapphire seed is placed on the bottom of a rounded, molybdenum refractory-metal barrel called a crucible.

A mixture of condensed corundum (a crystalline form of aluminum oxide), and left over crystallized sapphire material from previous productions called “crackle,” is added into the crucible.

The crucible barrel is then placed inside a furnace. There, it sits on a small platform cooled by liquid helium, which keeps the sapphire seed from melting too early in the production process.

The furnace is sealed, and the air inside is removed.

Inside the heated furnace, the temperature reaches almost 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit, which is significantly hot, especially when you consider the Space Shuttle, upon re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere, would experience temperatures of around 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

Under this extreme heat, the materials inside the crucible melt together.

Throughout the next 16 to 17 days, the materials are put through various cooling cycles.

During this time, the sapphire will slowly crystallize from the bottom to the top.

The final product is a cylinder-shaped piece of industrial sapphire called a boule, weighing around 250 pounds.

To me, it looked like a large, cylindrical, piece of ice.

This newly-manufactured sapphire glass boule is then inspected, and repeatedly polished for added strength.

The clean glass core sections are drilled out from the newly-manufactured sapphire, and are cut into patterns for use in applications such as an aircraft’s windows and electronic display screens, store bar-code sensors, and possibly, very soon – iPhone display screen covers.

For a smartphone display and large computing tablet glass covers, a rectangular piece of sapphire material would be cut to the specifically-sized proportions needed, re-polished, and then sliced into the correct thickness.

Holes would be punched out for a smart device’s speakers and button locations.

The rectangular piece of sapphire would then be rounded to the correct size needed for use as the protective glass cover for the specific smart device it is to be used for.

Apple is currently using sapphire glass on their iPhone 5S rear camera lens, fingerprint sensor, and home button.

It is rumored Apple’s much purported new “iWatch” will also be using a sapphire glass cover.

So, it seems the 23rd century formula for “transparent aluminum” Scotty mentions in “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home” has been somewhat re-created here in the 21st century using specially manufactured sapphire glass.

A news video about Apple’s manufacturing plant in Mesa, AZ, where GT Advanced Technologies is producing the sapphire glass, can be seen at:
From sapphire boule to display screen   

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Taking a pill to learn Shakespeare

by Mark Ollig

Imagine years from now, being able to acquire information on any subject, simply by taking a pill with a glass of water.

Envisioning this might seem improbable, but one day, it could happen.

After watching a thought-provoking TED Talks video by Nicholas Negroponte, I came away thinking future generations may have the option of using “knowledge pills” for specific subject learning.

Given the advances in computer science, biology, engineering, and nanotechnology, one can foresee a day, many years from now, when chemically-programmable, cell-sized neural nanomites will be taken in pill form for knowledge attainment.

After this “smart pill” dissolves in our stomach, its chemically-coded information would be released into the bloodstream. The pills’ pre-programmed data would seek out, and then attach its information to certain neuron receptors in the brain.

The brain taps into this information whenever our mind requests it.

That’s my simple understanding of how this smart pill could work.

In any event, look at what a time saver taking a smart pill would be.

Imagine not having to spend hours learning algebra and computer coding, or worrying about flawlessly reciting the lines from Shakespeare, or your high school musical.

Having participated in three-act musical plays while in high school, yours truly knows about the time and dedication it takes to get one’s lines down.

So, if you needed to learn about a subject, or memorize lines for a play, would you consider using a special pre-programmed smart pill to accomplish this?

In 1975, if I could have instantly learned all the lines of Mr. Hurley, the character I played in my high school musical “The Yankee Doodle,” by taking a pill, what difference would there have been?

This smart pill would also have needed to provide specific muscle-memory instructions, in order to perform my dance number, direct the band, and know where I was supposed to be on stage.

In addition, I would have needed to take a “song-learning” pill before I sang my much acclaimed and still-remembered-to-this-day rendition of George M. Cohan’s “Mary’s A Grand Old Name.”

Yes indeed, folks, modesty escapes me, but yours truly once sang this song reasonably well; I can only thank Sister Jean Marie, our director, for her instruction – and abundant patience.

Getting down to the difference I would have noticed most. I suppose it would have been the feeling of regret.

I would have regretted missing out on all the fun and camaraderie with the director and fellow student actors during those many evening rehearsals we shared.

While I am nostalgically remembering this musical, if any local community theater company out there ever considers presenting “The Yankee Doodle” and needs someone to play the part of Mr. Hurley, send me an email.

Besides ahead-of-its-time knowledge and song-learning pills, other futuristic technological visions have been discussed.

In 2007, I wrote about one such futuristic idea called the “space elevator.”

The idea was, instead of using rockets to get into space, why not build a working, physical elevator, using a type of unbreakable cable extending from the ground to some counter balanced object fixed in a geostationary-orbit many miles above the Earth.

It would be a reusable space elevator, with one end of its ribbon-like cable anchored into the earth, and the other end traveling many miles into space, where it would maintain its stability and equilibrium by being attached to a counterweight traveling parallel with Earth’s orbit.

This miles-long ribbon cable, made from nano-tube, strength materials, would be the physical medium used to transport, or elevate from Earth into space, an attached cargo capsule.

In one of his last interviews, Arthur C. Clarke was asked about the space elevator, which he wrote about in his 1979 book, “The Fountains of Paradise.”

In the interview, Clarke mentioned he was often asked when the space elevator would be built. “My answer is, about 10 years after everyone stops laughing,” he said.

So, will future generations be acquiring knowledge by ingesting smart pills?

Could students, 100-years from now, be taking an assortment of science, technology, engineering, and math learning pills, instead of studying these subjects using traditional, old-school methods?

Or, will folks still be laughing at the idea of a smart pill.

I imagine myself as a third- grader, getting ready for school 100 years from now, and hearing my mother say, “Mark, did you take your multiplication intelligence pill this morning? Remember, you need to know your multiplication tables for your test in school today!”

In fact, I was in third-grade when I learned those multiplication tables – the old-fashioned way.

Mom would quiz me using multiplication pocket flash cards.

The time and perseverance she spent working with me to learn them paid off.

I remembered every combination of multiplication facts on all those flash cards, and aced that third-grade multiplication test, too.

It’s been many years since third grade and high school musicals, and yet I still have those multiplication answers (and a few lines from “The Yankee Doodle”) stored in my brain’s neural hippocampus – all without the use of any smart pills.