From the August 29, 1936, issue


Abnormally high temperatures and dry periods which have lasted months instead of weeks are responsible for the roaring and crackling forest fires sweeping the Northwest. In no sense has there been any letdown in the vitally important efforts of the U.S. Forest Service to decrease the annual $50 million loss from forest fires.

On the contrary, new methods of training forest rangers, new techniques in fire fighting in the woods, and improved detecting methods are more in use than ever. In a year with normal precipitation and temperatures the fire toll in the forests during 1936 might well be less than ever before. What has happened is that the forest fire “season” of September and October has been moved forward a whole month by the severe drought conditions. Sections normally damp and moist at this time of the year are now timder-dry and have been for weeks. Despite all precautions, fires now rage through wide areas, and the total loss may well exceed the $60 million damage in the northwestern 1918 holocaust.


New scientific evidence that the universe is expanding, and a stilling of the fears of those people who worry because the sun and the stars are “quickly” destroying themselves by turning their mass into the radiation they emit, is presented in the Astrophysical Journal (September).

M. Henri Mineur, astronomer at the Observatory of Paris, reports calculations showing that the stars of the Milky Way, despite their age of tens of thousands of millions of years, have only radiated away about one hundredth of their mass.

Thus if one takes M. Mineur’s estimate that Milky Way stars are from 10 to 20 billion years old, the apparent age of the universe, before all the mass is radiated away, would be about a trillion years. Compared to the life of a man who lives to be 75 years old, the star galaxy that contains the Earth and the Milky Way is only a baby, about 9 months old, and cutting its first teeth.

Significant to astronomers are M. Mineur’s calculations showing that the stars in the Milky Way must have been formed in the beginning with almost the same mass as they have today. Present-held theories of star evolution, therefore, must go by the board if the French astronomer’s calculations and the observations on which they are based are correct.


Cosmic rays, already one of the most baffling mysteries of the world of science, are even more complex in their behavior than hitherto imagined. New ways, heretofore unreported, in which the penetrating rays can destroy atom nuclei by impact have been discovered by Drs. Carl D. Anderson and Seth H. Neddermeyer of the California Institute of Technology. Dr. Anderson is well known for his discovery of the famous “positron,” one of the fundamental particles from which all matter appears to be composed.

In a report to the American Physical Society (Physical Review, Aug. 15) the California scientists make the first full disclosure of their recent high-altitude experiments atop Pike’s Peak, Colorado.

The California scientists discovered:

  1. That the bundles of cosmic-ray energy known as photons can disintegrate heavy atoms such as lead.
  2. That light and tiny electrons can smash into the nuclear heart of atoms and occasionally break them up and make them eject massive particles.
  3. That some of the disintegrations seem to be produced by the noncharged and piercing particles known as neutrons occurring as secondary radiation in the cosmic rays.

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