FROM A SANDBOX IN GOLDEN GATE PARK, 1967 By Tom Slattery We lived in a downstairs flat on Second Avenue in San Francisco

, a few blocks from Golden Gate Park. "We" were an amazing young Japanese woman named Miyo, a tawny cockapoo dog named Muto, and a wild irresponsible daydreamer, me, who cleaned airplanes for a living while waiting for the airline's free ticket benefit to kick in. It was November 1967. The "Summer of Love" was dying and the summer hippies of song and yore were all but gone. When my wife and I walked our tawny little dog in Golden Gate Park, "Hippie Hill" on the way to the Haight-Ashbury intersection, there was still a small holdout of hippie-clad young people playing bongos and flutes. I have to warn you readers that these memories of hippies and a sandbox in Golden Gate Park go back more than four decades. After finding a copy of a copy of a long forgotten notarized document in a rusty old steel box, I have dredged up all of the following from the realm of the almost forgotten. It has come back faded and distorted through a mist of time. But there seems too interesting a little story to let lay fallow and forgotten. So here it is. It is not a story about hippies or about the Summer of Love. My wife, our dog, and I had repeatedly walked past hippies on Hippie Hill and through fumes of certain substances during that summer of 1967. I cannot vouch for the dog, but my wife and I were not, in the classic sense, hippies. We worked. She worked as a waitress and I cleaned airplanes. We struggled and got by, just barely. I was frustrated on that airplane-cleaning job because I had previously worked with brilliant people in various scientific laboratories. In 1967 I cleaned airplanes with coworkers who were generally less brilliant. An exception was a young man named Tim Holt who was plodding through college to eventually get a Master's in Poetry from San Francisco State. He was not a genius. But he was a graduate student and bright. So Tim and I became great friends. In late October or early November of 1967 a rain front had moved in and a deluge of several days had saturated the ground to the point of causing landslides all over rural northern California. And it was then that my idea mechanism began to click in. Exactly four years earlier I had been prowling through the Cincinnati Public Library next to the burlesque parlor in downtown Cincinnati. I had come across the latest issue of International Science and Technology. And in it had been a fascinating article on perfectly reversible phenomena. And the most fascinating of these phenomena was something called "electrokinetics" and it perfect reverse "electro-osmosis."

I had been working in the lab of a local toy company down the street. I was merely curious about the phenomena. But convinced my boss that maybe we could find a toy application from it, even knowing that this was extremely doubtful. So with his permission I made a small model. Electrokinetics and electro-osmosis uses electricity to move water. The water needs to be in contact with a silicate material, either glass or some clay-like material. A certain voltage across it causes a certain amount of water to move, and in reverse a certain amount of water moving across glass in contact with water, or a clay-like substance in contact with water, generates a certain amount of electricity. It is perfectly reversible. My model was a quick-and-dirty test. This phenomenon was not in any chemistry or other science book in those days. It looked almost like the magazine story had been made up as an April Fools joke. But it was November. It was, in fact, early November 1963. John F. Kennedy was president. November 22 was still a couple weeks away. And it was peacetime and there were no protests. The skirmishes in SE Asia were heating up but had not yet escalated into a war. The very human nature of science and its scientists has always fascinated me. Prejudices and petty squabbles had sometimes determined the course of mainline science. Branches of scientific investigation seem sometimes to have fallen out of favor and become almost forgotten. And that seems to have been the case with electrokinetics and electro-osmosis. In the early 1900s it had attracted the attention several brilliant people, including Einstein. But by the early 1960's it had fallen so out of favor that mainstream basic science courses or textbooks mentioned nothing about it. In fact, one college chemistry department head that I had later attempted to describe my experiment to refused to believe that there was any such thing because he could not find it in any textbook. In short, the phenomena described in International Science and Technology was doubtful enough to me that I had to test it to see if it was real. My quick and dirty test was to carve out a large soap eraser into a tub of sorts. On one end I left an opening and fitted a piece of aluminum foil punched with a hundred tiny pinholes. Then I filled it with research grade magnesium silicate from the lab shelves. And I poured distilled water into it. In other words, I did not want to risk any unknown factors spoiling something that I was not quite sure would work. A year earlier the toy company had experimented with a toy that had required a small 200volt battery. And in a corner of the lab there was a box full of these. That, I knew, would provide enough of a potential difference to move the water. I had done some of my own quick research in the library by then. International Science and Technology had misspelled the discoverer's name as "Roos," possibly due to a translation

from Cyrillic. In a book in the library on the subject, it turned out to be Ferdinand Friederick Reuss (1778-1852) of the Imperial Russian Academy of Sciences. In 1808 batteries were not available at supermarkets. Reuss had used 97 silver Russian rubles with acid-soaked cardboard between them as his battery. That gave a voltage punch not greatly unlike the toy company's 200-volt battery. When one sets up an experiment where all of the predictors of success are in place, one might still be amazed when it works as predicted. And I was just totally amazed when my quick-and-dirty experiment worked. The distilled water flowed out through the pinholes. The laboratory-grade magnesium silicate humped up at the other end. At the next lab meeting I discussed the experiment with my boss and the other scientists and technicians. No one thought that a toy could be made from the idea. That was okay with me. I had proved to myself that it worked and was not some kind of a hoax. So four years later as the sky began to clear from days and days of dark somber clouds and heavy rain, I had all the makings of a possible solution to soaked sliding California hillsides. And as I mentioned in an earlier posted article, it came to me in a flash. I told Holt about what I had done a few years earlier and what possibly might be done for water soaked sliding hillsides. Reuss had used his battery of silver rubles to move water in the upstream direction along the banks of the Moscow River in 1808. In other words, it appeared that the water did not necessarily have to be absolutely pure distilled water. Holt, himself a tinkerer with technology, agreed. None of us had a research budget. We barely had money for food and rent. So we schemed and planned a very low-budget science project. It was an easygoing time. There was no airline security as we now know it. We sneaked into the airline parts department and copped a transformer and a couple rectifier diodes. Then we got free sand. Hippies were still prowling Golden Gate Park that November. Hippies had done strange things that summer of love, and everyone seemed to expect them to continue to do strange things. When two young guys and a young Japanese woman began filling buckets of sand from a Golden Gate Park sandbox while a dog that was trying to pass as a hippie looked on, no one thought it was in any way unusual. We lugged the buckets of sand back to the flat on Second Avenue and dumped the sand into the bathtub. And we hooked up the diodes, transformer, and improvised plug. When we turned in on, water seemed to flow. There was enough of a suggestion of flow that we were convinced that it worked. "We should patent it," Holt suggested. "Maybe we can pay off some of our bills."

We felt that we had better get something down on paper and dated. I thought for a minute about writing it up and mailing it back to us in a sealed envelope. But I had already steamed open and resealed envelopes in pranks, and I knew that this was a bad idea. So we decided that at least we would get a date on it by notarizing it. Maybe that might protect us. Neither of us naïve young pseudo-inventors knew that one signs documents in front of a notary not somewhere else. So in our naïve ignorance we signed the following impromptu document before we took it over to a notary. Here it is, from a faint copy of a copy now more than four decades old and not scanable. I had to copy it word for word. At the bottom of the copy are four signatures in addition to the notary's, one each by Holt and me done prior to visiting the notary's office, and one more each by Holt and me done in front of the notary. As was done in those days, it was typed on a typewriter with white-out corrections. I tried to make this impromptu document sound as "patent-ish" as possible. Frankly I didn't know what I was doing when I wrote it, and it looks awfully grandiose as well as having spelling errors. It looked and sounded okay to Holt and to me back in 1967, and we signed it, twice.

DESCRIPTION OF A NOVEL AND USEFUL METHOD FOR EXTRACTING WATER FROM SATURATED SOILS, PARTICULARLY IN THE CASE OF THREATENED LANDSLIDES AFTER HEAVY RAINFALL The physical principal (sic) involved is one described by Ferdinand Fredrick (sic) Reuss in 1808, known as electroosmosis, where a direct electrical current when passed through a water and silicate mixture will cause the water to flow toward the negative electrical pole and the silicate to flow toward the positive electrical pole. The effect is the result of hydrogen-bonding with the silicate, thus removing H-ions from the water and leaving it with a surplus of OHions and therefore, a positive charge. Electrolytic substances (salts) tend to diminish the effect by making an electrolyte which will conduct the current. The novel use for this effect is to remove water from soils which because of their water-saturation have caused an inconvenience or hazard, as in the case of a hillside which is in danger of sliding due to additional weight of water and the lubricating qualities of the water, and to the leeching of salts, which act as bonding agents, from the soil. As electro-osmosis works best when salts are not present, one of

the problems caused by excessive rainfall lends itself ideally to the solution. To remove water from the area of ground, whether hillside or level, several conducting rods are driven into the ground in tow parallel lines, each at or near opposite end s of the ground to be dehydrated. One line of rods is connected to the positive terminal of the source of directcurrent electrical power and the other line of rods is connected to the negative terminal of the power source. A drainage ditch may be dug to allow water to flow from the area near the negative poles. As this effect is not significantly diminished by distance. Lines of rods may be miles apart, depending on the particular circumstances of a situation. The rods need not be in precisely parallel lines and may be adapted to the topography or particular circumstances of the situation. This novel and useful method for extracting water from areas of water-saturated soils which threaten inconvenience or danger was designed by the undersigned on November 13, 1967. SIGNED BY Holt (twice) Me (twice) Subscribed and sworn before me on this 29 day of November 1967 (signed) Notary Public In the County of San Francisco, State of California Thelma D. Bacigalupi (as best I can make out the name) Commission Expires Oct 24, 1968 As I dimly recall now, over four decades later, we shoveled the sand out of the bathtub and into the buckets. But I believe that we were too tired to haul the buckets of sand back to Golden Gate Park. I believe we dumped them in the back yard. And as you might have guessed, the bathtub drain ran slow until we moved out and headed for Tokyo with free airline tickets about a month later. I do not recall whether we returned the rectifier diode and transformer to the airline. I think we found that there would be more risk in sneaking back in and replacing them than just letting it go. I think Holt might have found a use for the transformer. I vaguely recall hauling the diode around with me for years, but maybe it was something else. The Summer of Love faded to nothing and the hatred of war and resulting protest replaced it. The hippie dog died of old age in San Francisco in 1983. The mighty global airline folded

in 1991. I hope that Ferdinand Friedrich Reuss spent some of those 97 rubles on himself after he folded up his experiment. His discovery in 1808 led directly but slowly to the modern technology of electrophoresis and its ability to discern all manners of DNA. END

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