Science Blazes More New Trails
Serum for Measles, Electrified Farming and Other Advances
Sun Spots Make Us Healthier
A FEW weeks ago the Harvard University Astronomical Laboratory announced the discovery of a terrific cyclone on the sun, evidenced by an unusually great crowd of sun spots.
If you are a radio fan you probably said, “There goes the chance of good long-distance reception this winter,” recalling the electrical effect of sun spots on the earth. But did you know that this solar storm may, in addition, definitely affect your health for the next year or so?
Dr. Edison Pettit of the Mount Wilson Observatory, California, tells us that the increase in sun spots results in an increase in the ultra-violet rays of sunshine which, besides causing sunburn, aid our bodies to combat germ diseases. When the eleven-year maximum of spots is reached within the next year or so, he says, the sun will give off about two and a half times as much ultra-violet light as it did in 1923.
In the same connection the British light-cure expert, Dr. Albert Eidinow, has just finished experiments supporting the theory that the health-giving effect of sunlight is due to some substance which the sunlight sets free in the blood. This substance kills disease germs, and its effectiveness varies with the amount of skin exposed to the sun. Too much exposure, however, he says, may do more harm than good.
Scientists Test Radio Echoes
HOW radio actually travels has baffled even the scientists. Now an answer to the riddle is offered by two scientists of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, Drs. G. Breit and M. A. Tuve. By a strange experiment they appear to have demonstrated that radio transmission depends on a layer of electrifled air high up in the atmosphere.
The ordinary air we breathe, of course, is not a good conductor of electricity. Light and telephone wires in contact with the air do not lose their current. How then, men have asked, can radio waves travel through air? Scientists have imagined a layer of thin air a hundred miles or so above the ground, so highly electrified that it conducts electricity almost as well as a copper wire.
To prove the existence of this layer, Dr. Breit and Dr. Tuve directed radio signals upward toward it. “Echoes” which, the scientists were convinced, were sent down again to earth by the electrified layer, were detected.
Voice Filmed for Talking Movies
SOUNDS actually registered on a film, instead of on a wax disk, are the basis of a remarkable new invention, the “pallophotophone,” now being developed in the hope that it will mark a new era in talking movies. Charles A. Hoxie, an engineer of the General Electric Company, is the inventor. “Pallo” and “photo” are Greek words meaning “shaking light.”
The device “films” the voice by means of a delicate vibrating diaphragm and a beam of light. When sound waves vibrate the diaphragm, the motion causes the light ray to fall upon a strip of film similar to a moving picture film. The picturetaking machine works in synchronism.
To reproduce the record, the sound film is wound on a reel so that it can be passed in front of an extremely sensitive electrical apparatus, creating an electric current which, amplified, operates a loudspeaker.
Trailing the First Americans
ALL during last summer a noted . American scientist made his way through Alaska wildernesses on a most remarkable journey of discovery. He sought neither gold nor new lands. Instead, he was on the trail of new knowledge about the primitive men who first set foot on the American continent.
That scientist was Dr. Ales Hrdlicka, anthropologist of the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D. C. Returning from his travels a few weeks ago, he brought back evidence which, he says, establishes beyond doubt the fact that North America’s earliest settlers were Asiatic peoples who migrated here by way of the Alaskan peninsula.
Strange Changeable Animal
AN ANIMAL which can change into A another animal and then back to its original form, is the startling discovery, announced the other day, of Dr. Martha Bunting of the zoological department of the University of Pennsylvania^
The “animal” is one-celled, resembling a minute drop of jelly, and belongs to the amoeba family. It can transform itself into a complicated flagellate, Dr. Bunting says, and then effect a retransformation back into its amoeba state.
In its amoeba phase, as described by its discoverer, the strange animal can round itself up and surround itself with a protective membrane within which it rests.
Trace Sunken Atlantic Continent
THAT mysterious submerged continent beneath the waters of the Atlantic, already known to geographers, has had its boundaries defined more exactly by recent soundings made by the German survey ship Meteor.
The main part of the “sunken continent,” these soundings show, lies between the southern tip of South America and the southern tip of Africa. Previous sounding expeditions have given geographers some idea of the location and extent of the submerged plateau, but this was the first time the new sonic depth finding devices were used for the purpose. By this method, an apparatus on the ship sends sounds down to the bottom of the ocean, and the speed of the echo returned indicates the exact depth.
Although much higher than the rest of the sea bottom, the “continent” itself lies from a mile to two miles below the waves. It was probably submerged many millions of years ago.
Silent Sounds Guide Ships
INSTEAD of baying blasts from foghorns, sounds that no human ear can hear are being employed by a lighthouse at the port of Calais, France, to guide ships into the harbor in thick weather. These inaudible sounds are like ordinary sounds except that they are so shrill they cannot be heard. They can be detected, however, by electrical instruments which make them visible. They travel long distances under the surface of the water.
At Calais, the lighthouse on shore transmits inaudible sounds in a code of dots and dashes. The signals travel under water and are picked up by amplifying devices on ships nearing the harbor. These devices are similar to those developed by the U. S. Navy and the Coast and Geodetic Survey for taking soundings at sea and for determining the distance of a survey ship from the coast.
A Goat Serum for Measles?
PROSPECTS for improved and practical methods of preventing that common bane of childhood—measles— look promising, according to Dr. Ludvig Hektoen, chairman of the medical division of the National Research Council.
A small round germ of the kind called coccus, declared Dr. Hektoen recently, has been shown by research workers to be present in our blood in the early stages of measles. The blood of goats that have been injected with these germs, he said, acquire immunizing properties that act as a preventive of the disease in humane This goat serum, when injected experimentally into susceptible persons not later than the fifth day after exposure to measles, prevented the onset of the disease in ninety percent of the experiments.
Not All Birds Shun Divorce
OUR idea that birds never get divorces but stick to their first loves throughout life received a rude jolt the other day when S. Prentiss Baldwin, of Cleveland, Ohio, announced the results of a ten-year intensive study of bird habits.
Mr. Baldwin kept a day-by-day record of the lives of a number of household wrens which nested on his estate. These wrens, according to his report, usually raised two broods of young a year. But each year, between the broods, the parents usually changed mates. The mating lasted only while the young birds were helpless; after that the parents felt quite free to make a new marital arrangement.
Her Feat Was Creating Nothing
CHANNEL swimmers and Babe Ruth are not the only ones who have been breaking world’s records. As this is written, a woman scientist of Vienna, Mme. Anna Schiermann, claims the distinction of coming nearer than anyone else in the world to producing absolutely nothing !
In a glass bulb in her laboratory Mme. Schiermann has produced a vacuum so nearly complete, it is reported, that the amount of free gas left in it can hardly be detected. It is so small that it causes a pressure of only one fifty-billionth of a pound per square inch.
Ordinarily, in obtaining high vacuums, specially prepared carbon is used to absorb remnants of the gases not removed by powerful air pumps. In place of the carbon Mme. Schiermann substitutes tungsten filaments which, she says, have proved more efficient.