SCIENCE NEWS LETTER

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386

ELECTRONICS

Science News LETTER for December 19, 1953

“Fly” Unbuilt Planes

Analogue computer, now checking airplane designs, could have, if it had existed then, told first pilot to break sound barrier that his plane would not disintegrate.

> NOW AN electronic “brain” can “fly” unbuilt airplanes. The brain will tell engi- neers in advance whether the aeronautical design of a new plane is sound. If faulty, the design can be re-worked and checked by the brain until the best design has been obtained.

The analogue computer’s component parts, existing as separate entities in 1946, helped Boeing get the B-52 Stratofortress and the B-47 Stratojet into the sky for the Air Force.

Without the computer, some of the Air Force’s new missiles would still be in de- sign stages today, said Edward R. Baugh, manager of Boeing’s electronic devices.

The electronic device, if it had existed then, could have predicted in advance that the experimental Bell XS-1 was not going to disintegrate when Maj. Charles E. Yeager, then an Air Force captain, rammed the tiny plane through the sonic barrier on his history-making flight Oct. 17, 1947.

This prediction might have comforted Maj. Yeager somewhat. He knew an Eng- lish plane had disintegrated in an apparent attempt to crack the sonic barrier. The pilot was killed.

The electronic analogue computer was displayed at the Eastern Joint Computer Conference in Washington sponsored by the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, the Institute of Radio Engineers and the Association for Computing Machinery.

Models of an airborne digital computer

FORESTRY

have been flight tested in a C-47 aircraft. W. B. Hebenstreit, an official of Hughes Research and Development Laboratories, said the pint-sized computers have been used to control the airplane automatically through an autopilot. The flight was smooth and accurate.

The digital computer was linked to the autopilot through a coupler. The coupler took the output from the computer and supplied heading-angle corrections to the autopilot. Flight tests included automatic dead-reckoning and programmed flight over a selected course.

Although it occupies only two cubic feet of space, as compared to models that often fill a substantial part of a large room, the little computer works rapidly. Its comput- ing speed and capacity are about half that of its big brothers.

The Burroughs Corporation revealed two new devices: a high-speed smudge-free printer and a “word punch” that prepares tape for digital computers.

The printer is the “answer end” of a laboratory computer. Tiny hot pins jab out of a holder to melt a carbon coating to the answer tape. The pins form any of 16 characters, spieling them off at 30 charac- ters a second.

The word punch is a desk-size device with which an office girl can prepare a tape for digital computers. It is believed that the new device will cut errors 60%.

Science News Letter, December 19, 1953

Christmas Tree Farms

> THE BEST part of Christmas for many farmers is the profit they make growing Christmas trees on their poorest land. The estimated total retail value of the Christmas tree industry this year is $50,000,000.

The United States uses about 30,000,000 trees each Christmas, nearly a third of them imported from Canada. Of the trees cut in this country, small farms yield 44%.

Most of the trees, a little over 90%, come from natural timber cuttings. The remain- der are grown on “Christmas tree farms,” a profitable sideline farmers all over the country are discovering.

Poor land is best for this kind of tree farming, since it slows tree growth to yield a denser, more attractive tree. A tree that grows slowly has its branches close to- gether, giving it a compact appearance.

By the middle of last month, most Christmas trees had been cut, sorted and

graded and started for the markets. To keep the tree in good condition longer, cutting is timed to come after the first frost. Cutting age is usually 10 to 25 years.

The most popular trees for Christmas use are balsam fir and Douglas fir, which together account for 57% of all the trees. Other popular varieties are black spruce, eastern red cedar and white spruce. Balsam fir is grown in the Midwest and East and Douglas fir in the West.

Spruce and fir trees have short, upright needles on their branches and twigs. Each needle is attached to the twig individually, unlike pine trees which have several needles joined together.

Christmas tree plantations have been spreading over the nation for 30 years. Foresters estimate that farmers can grow, at a total cost of 25 to 28 cents, a tree that will sell for 50 cents. This profit, coupled with

the use of poor land, makes the trees an attractive sideline.

In order to give their trees the cone-shape preferred by most buyers, plantation owners shape their trees each year with pruning shears. This pruning also serves to make the trees more compact.

Foresters recommend that Christmas trees be kept in water in a cool place and sprinkled with water frequently before they are put up for decoration.

When the needles of a tree start falling, it is time to throw it away. This indicates the tree has dried out and become a serious fire hazard.

Science News Letter, December 19, 1953

VIROLOGY Diamond-Shaped Crystal In Germs Discovered

> DISCOVERY OF diamond-shaped crys- tals in the spores of a bacillus that makes certain insects sick is giving scientists a new mystery. Whether these crystals contain a virus or a phage, or whether their formation is a genetic characteristic related to formation of an insect poison are problems now await- ing solution, Dr. C. L. Hannay of Science Service Laboratory, London, Ont., Canada, points out in Nature (Nov. 28). Science News Letter, December 19, 1953

MEDICINE Inhale Vitamin Instead Of Getting “Shots”

> PERNICIOUS ANEMIA patients can now take their vitamin B-12 by inhaling it, like steam or nose drops, instead of getting “shots” of the vitamin into their muscles.

This new method for giving vitamin treatment was announced by Dr. Raymond W. Monto of the Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit, at a regional meeting of the Ameri- can College of Physicians held at the Uni- versity of Michigan.

Vitamin B-12 effectively controls perni- cious anemia, but frequently these patients have a stomach defect which prevents them from absorbing the vitamin if they take it in tablets like pills. Therefore it has be- come routine to inject the vitamin hypo- dermically into the muscles.

“Injection of vitamin B-12 requires a phy- sician, and since the therapy [treatment], in order to be effective, must be continuous, the routine is often tiresome and expensive for the patient,” Dr. Monto reported.

The need was for an “effective, econom- ical and safe mode of treatment for per- nicious anemia,” the doctor said.

The method has been developed. It is the simple inhalation of vitamin B-12 in crystal- line form through the nose, much like steam or nose drops. The sufferer of per- nicious anemia may now side-step the needle and inhale the vitamin after prescription.

Science News Letter, December 19, 1953

CYTOLOGY

Science News Letter for December 19, 1953

Way Life Is Handed On

Scientists have new key to duplication of life patterns within cells in proposed chemical structure for DNA, desoxy- ribonucleic acid. Suggestion has implications for cancer.

> ONE OF the fundamental problems of living matter is the way life is handed on, that is, how the molecules that carry on heredity are duplicated within the cells. It seems to be near solution through a new chemical structure proposed for the sub- stance that is most essential in the dividing cells involved in life of all varieties.

This sort of “chemical essence of life” is DNA, the full name of which is desoxyri- bonucleic acid. Its importance within liv- ing cells is today undisputed. The stature of this chemical has grown in the past year or two.

A suggested structure for this chemical, telling how the molecules that compose it are put together, is creating about as much interest and hopeful speculation in chem- istry and biology as anything that has hap- pened in many months.

For the mystery being solved is not alone how the stream of life of human beings, animals, plants and all other living things is carried on. It involves the multiplication of all cells and units of living matter. It is therefore basic to disease, such as cancer, which is unruly multiplication of cells. It may tell how unconquered viruses, recently photographed with the electron microscope, proliferate, which should be a step toward keeping them in hand.

DNA’s architects are two scientists work- ing in the famous Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge University, England, where so many important discoveries have been made over the decades. One of them is Dr. J. D. Watson, who has been working on a fel- lowship from the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis supported by the March of Dimes in the United States. The other is Dr. F. H. C. Crick, who has collaborated on the mathematical theory that protein molecules are wound into the shape of a helix or coiled spring.

These two scientists are a part of Britain’s Medical Council unit “for the study of the molecular structure of biological systems.

They have succeeded in working out a manner of construction of DNA that sug- gests how it can accomplish an exact dupli- cation of itself.

This is something new. It may solve a major puzzle. DNA is found in all divid- ing cells, largely if not entirely in the nucleus. It is an essential constituent of the chromosomes, the parts of the cell in which the stuff of heredity is located. Many lines of evidence indicate that DNA is the carrier of a part, if not all, of the genetic specificity of the chromosomes. Thus it is the chemical of the genes, the actual trans-

mitting agent of all characteristics of the parents to their offspring. It is one of the world’s most important substances.

Incidentally, DNA is desoxyribonucleic acid in the United States, while the British drop the “s” and write it deoxyribonucleic acid.

Far too minute ever to be seen with the most powerful microscopes, X-ray crystal studies give evidence to support the theo- retical and mathematical ideas suggested.

The DNA molecule is a long chain. Its backbone consists of a regular alternation of sugar and phosphate groups. To each sugar is attached irregularly a nitrogenous base, which can be of four different types, two of which are purines, called adenine and guanine, and the others are pyrimidines, called thymine and cytosine. The unit con- sisting of phosphate, sugar and base is called a nucleotide.

The structure has two chains both coiled around a common axis of the fiber. These two chains are held together by hydrogen bonds between the bases, and the bases are joined together in pairs. One member of the pair must be a purine and the other a pyrimidine in order to bridge the two chains.

Any sequence of pairs of the bases can fit into the structure and, in a long molecule, many different permutations are possible. The Cavendish Laboratory scientists sug- gest that the precise sequence of the bases is the code which carriers the genetical information.

One of the chains is the complement of the other. This feature suggests how the DNA molecule might duplicate itself.

In the process of duplication, it is visual- ized that the two chains unwind and sepa- rate. Each chain then acts as the model or template for the formation on itself of a new companion chain. There are two pairs of chains where there was only one pair

before. There has been exact duplication, carrying the qualities of the original structure.

Enthusiastically, the scientists speculate on just how much these supposed happen- ings can explain. The unusual changes in heredity—are they due to one of the bases occasionally occurring in a less likely form? What makes the pair of chains unwind and separate? What is the chemical origin of the stuff of the crystal?

This discussion is part of the great and inspiring push toward understanding the complexities of the materials of life. Dr. Linus Pauling and Dr. Robert B. Corey of the California Institute of Technology are

387

solving the related problems of the structure of individual kinds of protein materials. The researches and the ideas of one group aid those of another.

Almost every issue of leading scientific journals adds new facts and theories. The most important chemicals of life are being better understood and man reaches for the very mystery of life.

Science News Letter, December 19, 1953

TECHNOLOGY Ash from Volcano Makes Cement for Constructions

> WHEN A New Guinea volcano erupted violently in 1951, it produced ash that can be used in making cement useful for con- struction purposes.

Two specialists of the Australian govern- ment’s scientific and research organization, K. M. Alexander and H. E. Vivian, report in Nature (Nov. 28) results of tests that show volcanic ashes from Mt. Lamington’s recent explosion, when combined with lime, can be used in mass concrete work.

The ash is what is called pozzolanic ma- terial. Tests on the ash blended with port- land cement are also being made.

Science News Letter, December 19, 1953

MEDICINE New Miners’ Disease Hits Lungs and Joints

> DISCOVERY THAT a combination of rheumatism and a new lung condition, making up what may be a new kind of disease, hits coal miners is announced by Medical Research Council scientists in the British Medical Journal (Dec. 5).

The lung condition, which the scientists term “rheumatoid lung lesion,” shows quite a different X-ray picture in some respects from that of progressive massive fibrosis in the pneumoconiosis which doctors are accustomed to seeing in coal miners.

It can develop several years before, at the same time as, or several years after the arthritis starts.

The arthritis affects more than half the patients with the peculiar lung condition, whereas arthritis is found in only three out of every 100 miners with the more usual lung disease, progressive massive fibrosis. No cases of arthritis were found in miners without any lung disease or in those with only simple pneumoconiosis.

Best explanation for the new combination of diseases, the scientists think, is that there may be a particular type of tissue reaction to dust and tuberculosis in the lungs of miners who are predisposed to rheumatoid arthritis.

The scientists who made the study in the Rhondda Fach, a South Wales mining val- ley, are Drs. W. E. Miall, Anthony Caplan, A. L. Cochrane and G. S. Kilpatrick, and P. D. Oldham of Cardliff, Wales, and

London. Science News Letter, December 19, 1953

388

GENERAL SCIENCE

Science News Lerrer for December 19, 1953

Private Research Best

Annual report of Carnegie Institution of Washington notes progress in astronomy, formation of earth’s rocks in

the laboratory, photosynthesis

> THE GREAT need for fundamental scientific research can best be met by pri- vately endowed research institutions, Dr. Vannevar Bush, president of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, said in his an- nual report to the Institution’s trustees.

Recent trends in research projects financed by the government and founda- tions at universities have led some to the mistaken conclusion that research institu- tions are “obsolescent,’ Dr. Bush com- mented.

In the field of fundamental research, “the research institution is paramount,” he de- clared.

Dr. Bush pointed out that research insti- tutions were not necessarily isolated and could take advantage of the ideas of young scientists. Isolation and scientific fixity can be successfully avoided by the research in- stitution, he said.

During the war the federal government entered the field of scientific research by supporting research projects. This lead has been partly followed by the foundations. Project research, however, is “far better adapted to applied research than to funda- mental research,’ Dr. Bush said.

“The foundations here have to some ex- tent missed an opportunity,” he continued. “As the government entered strongly into scientific research, they moved out. If they had moved into basic research, they might have preserved a balance.”

The research institution gathers scientists of genius who can work with other scien- tists in “a broad program for progress,” Dr. Bush said. This kind of “team” research, free from the distractions of the university, is best done by private research institutions, he declared.

Dr. Bush summarized the research ac- complishments of the Institution in the past year. He called attention to studies on the magnetic field of the sun, the formation of granite rocks, the chemical aspects of grow- ing bacteria, photosynthesis and human embryology.

Earliest Human Embryos

Discovery of the earliest human twin embryos scientists have so far seen was re- ported by Dr. George W. Corner, director of the Institution’s department of embry- ology located at Baltimore.

These earliest beginnings of human twins are 17 days old, counting from the time of conception. They have been identified by Dr. Chester H. Heuser as identical twins.

They are particularly valuable, Dr. Corner points out, because they give in-

and human embryology.

disputable proof that single egg twins, or identical twins, can develop in one of the ways that scientists have believed possible on the evidence of later stages of twin development.

This is by formation inside a single blastocyst of two embryonic areas, each of which becomes a separate embryo. The blastocyst is the stage of the embryo which follows cleavage, when the cells are ar- ranged in a single layer to form a hollow sphere.

Algae-Enriched Foods

Algae rich in protein can be added to soups, breads, jelly rolls, noodles and ice cream in significant amounts and the foods still are pleasant to eat.

Chlorella, the one-celled plant, is being widely investigated as a new food source, but little of it has actually been eaten. The Institution reports taste tests of a Japan- produced Chlorella ellipsoidea to some foods at its Stanford, Calif., department of plant biology.

“Highly palatable” was the verdict of the testers who had Japanese, American and European backgrounds. Prof. and Mrs. Hiroshi Tamiya, who made the tests, found the foods were improved in taste and the enriched breads and ice cream were par- ticularly good.

Direct addition of Chlorella to food seems feasible, the investigators concluded.

Jupiter’s Atmosphere

Jupiter’s atmosphere is made up largely of hydrogen and helium, not methane and ammonia as was previously thought.

Dr. William A. Baum of the Mount Wil- son and Palomar Observatories and Dr. A. D. Code of the Washburn Observatory, Madison, Wis., have obtained the first di- rect observational evidence concerning what gases compose Jupiter’s atmosphere. These are hydrogen and helium, they found from light curves of the gases composing the outer layers of Jupiter’s atmosphere. The heavier gases, such as nitrogen and oxygen, that make up the earth’s atmosphere are therefore believed to be almost absent on Jupiter.

Drs. Baum and Code made their obser- vations when Jupiter eclipsed a bright star, Sigma Arietis, noting the rate at which light from the star was dimmed, then fi- nally extinguished by the planet. To catch the star’s disappearance with the 60-inch

telescope, they used a photomultiplier, a sensitive instrument that steps up the star’s faint light to record it electrically.

Drs. Edison Pettit and Robert S. Richard- son, also of the Mount Wilson and Palomar Observatories, took motion pictures of ‘the star’s eclipse at the time time. They found “remarkable variations” in the brightness of the star about 50 seconds before it finally disappeared. These were due, they believe, to turbulence in Jupiter’s atmosphere. Such marked fluctuations were also found with the photomultiplier.

The dimming and gradual disappearance were caused by the spreading of the star’s

SCIENCE NEWS LETTER

VOL. 64 DECEMBER 19, 1953 NO. 25

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light as it was refracted by gases in Jupiter’s outer atmosphere. A dense atmosphere would have caused the starlight to dim rather rapidly, but the actual observations showed that it faded out quite gradually.

The figure of 3.3 for the mean molecular weight of Jupiter’s atmosphere agrees sub- stantially with an estimate based on a study of Uranus and Neptune that showed that helium is about three times more abundant than hydrogen on those planets. If Jupiter had the same ratio, its mean molecular weight would be an estimated 3.5.

The findings of the two astronomers, at the present time, can be no more specific than that helium and hydrogen account for most of Jupiter’s atmosphere. They do not indicate how much of each gas is present or what other elements may exist there.

Bacterial Cell Adapts

Flexibility in the way a bacterial cell can adapt its life cycle to changing conditions is the secret of its survival. This conclusion is reported from researches carried out at the Carnegie Institution of Washington’s department of terrestrial magnetism.

Usually the bacterium E. coli builds up amino acids according to the cycle discov- ered by Dr. Hans Adolf Krebs, Nobelist in medicine of this year. But under certain circumstances the organism alters the chem- istry of this reaction. Instead of building up amino acids, the bacterium changes the Krebs cycle to a mechanism of oxidation. These changes have been followed by feed- ing the bacterial colony substances contain- ing radioactive carbon.

Ancient Maya Religion

Excavation at Mayapan, ancient city of the Maya Indians in Mexico, indicates the possibility that Maya civilization was turn- ing from public religion to a more private worship before the Spanish Conquest, Dr. H. E. D. Pollock, director of the Institu- tion’s department of archaeology, reports.

Evidence of the religious change includes fragments of human-effigy incense burners, apparently household idols, found in the shrine room of an excavated dwelling. There is also evidence that dwellings were encroaching on ceremonial areas during the last period of the city, upon which excava- tion began this year.

A study of grave sites in the area, how- ever, shows that human sacrifice was still practiced in the late period of the city. Spanish observers writing at the time of the conquest also support the theory that Maya religious practices were changing during the last period of the civilization.

Dr. Pollock said that the work at the site has not advanced enough yet to determine the growth and development of the city plan. All the buildings studied so far seem to belong to the same cultural period.

The Institution will make a thorough in- vestigation of one or more examples of

Science News LETTER for December 19, 1953

each important type of building found in the city. The scientists hope to be able to describe the domestic economy and way of life of the Maya people following the com- pletion of the archaeological work.

Saving New Babies

Findings made with X-ray motion pic- tures before and after birth are giving doc- tors new knowledge for saving babies threatened by death immediately after birth.

The findings were made by Dr. S. R. M. Reynolds of the Carnegie Institution of Washington’s department of embryology, Baltimore, and, at Dr. Reynolds’ instiga- tion, by Drs. G. M. Ardran, G. S. Dawes, M. M. L. Prichard and D. G. Wyatt of Oxford University and the Nuffield Insti- tute of Medical Research in England.

The X-ray movies showed, contrary to expectation, that before breathing begins there is virtually no circulation of blood through the lungs of the unborn infant. The movies were made of unborn lambs, but the findings apparently hold true for unborn human babies also.

For the first time, in the Carnegie and Oxford research, blood pressure was meas- ured in two major arteries, the pulmonary trunk and aorta, in the unborn infant, and at each end of the ductus arteriosus. This ductus is the channel from the lung artery to the aorta, main artery from the heart. It normally closes at birth and when it fails to do so, the “blue baby” condition results.

Before birth, blood flows through this channel under considerable pressure, the scientists discovered. When the infant be- gins to breathe, the blood is immediately diverted from the channel into the lung arteries. As the lungs expand, the volume rate of flow through them increases almost five-fold.

At this time, the pressure in the main artery to the lungs drops to a low point. During the first few minutes after this change, the general blood pressure also falls, apparently because of the transfer to the lungs of a significant portion of the total blood of the infant.

This short, temporary general fall of blood pressure at the start of breathing in the new baby has not previously been known. If overly large, it may be danger- ous. Discovery of this whole situation in the baby’s circulation has already helped doctors save newborn babies.

The changes of pressure and blood flow, it was also found, have a bearing on the closing of the ductus arteriosus and, there- fore, on prevention or development of the “blue baby” condition. Blood is diverted into the lungs because of lowered resistance to blood flow in them. This diversion of blood and the accompanying fall in blood pressure in the ductus apparently allow the channel to constrict and shorten through action of the elastic fibers and smooth muscle cells in its walls. Thus it is obliter- ated and the “blue baby” condition avoided.

389

Make Earth’s Rocks

Progress in learning how the rocks of the earth were formed has continued in the geophysical laboratory, the annual report revealed. Many minerals have been dupli- cated in high-pressure furnaces, proving the conditions under which they must have formed in the earth,

Granite, which contains five of the six most common kinds of minerals in the earth’s crust, has been proved to have cooled from a magma of melted rock-making ma- terial. Studies on many types of such mate- rial show that granite is the first product to form from such a magma. It will crystallize out of an alkaline liquid con- taining a high percentage of soda and potash.

Water can be injected into the experi- mental furnace in which these synthetic minerals are made, by an improvement which the scientists have added. With this equipment, it has been found that water in the form of a gas can, under the pres- sures found far down in the earth’s crust, dissolve up to 33% silica, the main rock- forming element.

Such studies are deciding the old question of how the rocks were formed in favor of cooling conditions from hot, volcanic- like melts, instead of a reworking of older

sediments. Science News Letter, December 19, 1953

MEDICINE Anti-Germ Mechanism In Mid-Digestive Tract

> EXISTENCE OF an antibacterial mech- anism in the middle part of man’s digestive tract, or small intestine, is reported by Miss Judith Cregan and Drs. E. S. Dunlop and Nancy J. Hayward of the University of Melbourne, Australia, and the Royal Mel- bourne Hospital in the British Medical Journal (Dec. 5).

This anti-germ, or antibacteria, mechan- ism is independent of the germicidal barrier of the stomach, they found from studies on 22 patients undergoing stomach operations.

Failure of scientists in the past to recog- nize that there are two such independent mechanisms, and that the stomach mechan- ism may be defective but the small intestine one intact, has led to much misconception, the Australian scientists point out.

For example, it has been suggested that vitamin B deficiencies arise in patients who have had their stomachs removed, and in those with sprue, pernicious anemia and pellagra, because bacteria that get by the missing or defective stomach barrier in such patients invade the small intestine and de- prive the patient of vitamins.

This theory, the Australians point out, has no sound foundation unless or until it can be shown that the small intestine germ barrier is also defective in such patients.

Science News Letter, December 19, 1953

390

GENERAL SCIENCE

Science News LETTER for December 19, 1953

Top 1953 Science Stories

> THE TOP important advances in science and technology during 1953 as picked by Watson Davis, director of SctENcE SERVICE, are:

1. Suggested formula for essential chem- ical (DNA) in living cell that allows du- plication of hereditary characteristics, a major chemical and biological mystery.

2. Development of a vaccine against all three types of polio and plans for mass use in 1954,

3. Isolation and identification of polio virus, shown by electron microscope to be a sphere-shaped particle a millionth of an inch in diameter.

4. First synthesis of a pituitary gland hor- mone, oxytocin.

5. Successful climbing of Mt. Everest.

6. Discovery of bones of most ancient true

CONSERVATION

man in South Africa and finding that Pilt- down Man jaw was a hoax.

7. Successful tape recording of television programs in color as well as black and white.

8. Model testing of a new airplane wing resembling Venetian blinds that allows transport planes to take off vertically.

9. Numerical weather prediction by means of high-speed electronic computers, with the first prediction of development of an extra-tropical cyclonic storm.

10. Evidence of the greater extent and complexity of the astronomical universe, as shown both by a doubling of astronomical radio wave sources and by the realization that the visible universe is twice as big, linearly, and twice as old as supposed.

Science News Letter, December 19, 1953

Biologist Saves Valley

> THE ACHIEVEMENT of a Venezuelan biologist who used his scientific knowledge and persuasive diplomacy to save a valley has won the acclaim of soil conservationists throughout the hemisphere.

Prof. Francisco Tamayo was asked by the Venezuelan government in 1946 to attempt the reclamation of the Valley of Tacagua, a barren waste of rock and sand at that time. The transformation of the valley has been so complete that visitors who have not seen it since 1946 can hardly believe it.

In the United States, Dr. Hugh Bennett, one of the founders of soil conservation, commented that Prof. Tamayo ‘“accom- plished the impossible” in reclaiming the valley. Recently Prof. Tamayo was awarded a $2,000 prize by the Pan American Union.

The mountains surrounding the valley were once lush with vegetation, but goats raised by farmers killed off the soil-holding growth and erosion quickly ruined the valley.

When Prof. Tamayo started his work in 1947, he was faced with a scientific and diplomatic problem. First he had to per- suade the farmers to sell or pen their goats, and then he had to start a planting program which would restore the growth.

A part of the human population of the valley was resettled, selected native crops were introduced so that the remaining farmers would have a source of income, and in five years approximately 30,000 sheep and goats left the valley.

Soil erosion as a result of the feeding habits of goats and sheep is a problem wherever there are mountains in Latin America. The poor people keep the goats for milk and believe that the more goats a person has the better off he is. The result is often a devastation of natural land re- sources.

Prof. Tamayo’s scientific re-planting has brought results that astound conservation- ists. He first made a study of native vege- tation, then planting and re-forestation was started. His experiment was so successful

that the Venezuelan government has begun -

similar work in other parts of the country. Science News Letter, December 19, 1953

® RADIO

Saturday, Dec. 26, 1953, 3:15-3:30 p.m., EST

“Adventures in Science” with Watson Davis, director of Science Service, over the CBS Radio Network. Check your local CBS station.

Watson Davis will list the outstanding science events of the year and discuss the highlights of technological and scientific progress.

TECHNOLOGY Rudderless Tugboat Puts on Good Show

> A RUDDERLESS Army tugboat, despite its apparent physical handicap, can get where it is going.

“Sinusoidal vertical-axis propellers” re- place usual screw-type propellers on the 150- foot Transportation Corps craft. No rudder is needed with this type of propeller since it can generate thrust in any direction.

The propellers consist of large horizontal rotating disks upon which plate-like paddles are fixed. The pitch of the paddles is con- trolled by steering wheels to produce thrust in the desired direction. The paddles, or blades, fit into two 11-foot diameter rotors that revolve as the blades oscillate. Blades in this type of propeller can be changed without drydocking the boat.

The tug has a beam of 32 feet and a normal draft of seven feet. It operates non- stop for 1,200 miles—going upstream for 600 miles against a five-mile-an-hour cur- rent, then returning 600 miles downstream.

Science News Letter, December 19, 1953

Fron

VERTICAL AXIS PROPELLERS—"Business ends” of the vertical axis pro- pellers on the rudderless tugboat are these blades, each four and a half feet long, that project downward from the stern.

GENERAL SCIENCE

Science News LETTER for December 19, 1953

1953 Science Review

New knowledge of living chemicals is probable as

history’s remembrance for 1953.

Polio virus isolated and

identified, and vaccine ready for mass trial.

This summary of the year’s happenings in the world of science is limited by space to just the highlights. Most of the events are described in detail in the pages of ScIENCE News LETTER for the current year. If you wish to refer to any particular report, you may find it readily through the inder. (See SNL, June 27, and also the issue which will appear next week, Dec. 26.)

See Front Cover

By SCIENCE SERVICE STAFF

> TO HISTORY the most important hap- penings in 1953 may be rather tentative suggestions as to how life is carried on.

The Russian H-bomb, the end of the Korean war, actions of a new administra- tion in Washington, and a dozen other events made headlines. But quiet work of scientists on the innermost structure of liv- ing material could very well rank with the great scientific discoveries of all time.

The structure and operation of living matter, particularly the protein and the other complex chemicals in the living cell, have been great biological and chemical mysteries.

Protein has a rope-like twisted molecular structure which Dr. Linus Pauling of the California Institute of Technology has puzzled out mathematically. X-ray diffrac- tion studies have shown such patterns. For desoxyribonucleic acid, important especially in reproducing cells, two Cambridge Uni- versity scientists, Drs. J. D. Watson and F. H. C. Crick, suggested a helical form that provides a mechanism for such molecules to reproduce themselves, essential to the workings of heredity.

From such fundamental research may come disease conquests of the future, since the largely unconquered viruses must re- produce similarly to larger organisms, de- spite their small size. Knowing what they do is a first step toward stopping them.

During 1953, the polio virus was isolated, identified and shown to be a minute sphere- shaped particle. And the work on a vaccine for polio came to sufficient fruition to allow planning of protection during 1954 of about a million school children with an immuniza- tion against polio’s three types.

Oxytocin from the pituitary gland was synthesized, first of the hormones from this gland to be synthesized. This gland’s growth hormone was linked to both arthritis and tooth growth, among the many findings about hormones.

A furor of discussion followed the pub- lication of the Kinsey report on sexual be- havior in the human female.

A Soviet explosion of thermonuclear or

fusion type indicated that Russia has or can have H-bombs of superpower comparable to our own. This quickened atomic energy defense activity. There was also political dis- cussion on atomic power and work pro- gressed on actual power plants for sub- marines and potential commercial use.

The 50th anniversary of