Somewhere in the gulf between paleontology and sanity....
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
7000 of anything is a lot,
even if it is just phonograph needles. These were manufactured at some point before 1954 when Pfanstiehl Chemical Corporation changed their name to Pfansteihl Laboratories. Why do I look these things up? Apparently I don't have enough to do. I'm looking for a volunteer to count them all and see how many needles have been used in the past 56 years. I'm guessing about 30.
[Edited to answer a very good question, this was supposed to be part of the original post]
Q:Were these used as blanks to make needle styli for mechanical prep?
A:Yes, in fact, in the old days before drill bits or carbide were cheap enough or readily accessible enough, phonograph needles were used as a stylus to pick grains of rock from specimens. In lieu of the handy pin vises we use today, these styli would be pounded into a dowel rod, much like many inexpensive dissecting probes are constructed today.
Thanks to Dr. Wann Langston Jr. for comments on the historical background.
Matthew Brown works in a slightly obscure corner of paleontology doing work called fossil preparation. Fossil preparators spend most of their time actually doing what most people think all paleontologists do all day. He has worked for the University of Chicago, Field Museum of Natural History, the National Park Service at Petrified Forest, and currently the University of Texas at Austin. Now residing in Swinging South Austin, he recently lived off the grid in a dome in the middle of the Painted Desert, where his cat Jake was eaten by a bobcat, coyote, mountain lion, or phytosaur. Gustav, Jake's replacement, fared pretty well, and stayed behind in Arizona to guard the house.