February 19, 2010

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Tobacco Lunar Science

from the Chuck Wood collection - wonder where they are now, 6 years later?)

Public outreach is NASA's term for helping the general public become familiar with space science and NASA's contributions to it. Today, the Internet is the premier tool for broadly disseminating information about space. But these cards demonstrate an earlier effective method to bring the knowledge to the matches, err, the masses. Stiffeners - or tobacco cards - were first used in the 1870s to add strength to paper cigarette packages and over the next 70 years a vast variety of objects were pictured on the cards, often with a short explanatory text on the backside. The format was a forerunner of the Internet - a colorful image accompanied by a text short enough to keep a reader's interest - sort of like LPOD! This set is a short course on lunar science, circa 1928 when the cards were issued. Two cards are still useful - they show an atmospheric ring around the Moon and a closeup of a crater (Eratosthenes?). The first card, showing an eclipse of the Sun as seen from the Moon, is wrong in that the Earth would be much bigger than the Sun, blocking the chromosphere and much of the corona. The second and third cards illustrate theories that were prevalent in 1928. It was widely thought then that lunar craters formed by volcanic eruptions and that the Moon spun off a rapidly rotating Earth. The cigarette smoker of 75 years ago rapidly got some significant info about the Moon - is there some equivalent opportunity today that we are failing to exploit?

Chuck Wood
Almost finished with the proposal I'm writing. This is one of my favorite classic LPODs (June 30, 2004) because the drawings are attractive and nothing could seem further from the Moon than cigarettes! Are there similar cards that exist today?

Related Links
Tobbaco cards

Yesterday's LPOD: Divergent Tracks

Tomorrow's LPOD: Night Lights


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