From the December 18 & 25, 1937, issues


Snow has such untellable beauty, as it sifts down from gray clouds, or lies glistening under the morning sun after the storm, that we almost forgive the roughness of winter, since he comes with such a gift. Remote still are the February days when we shall think it burdensome; at first snowfall the white flakes are words of silent poetry, marvelous in their likeness to one another, yet infinite in their variety.

From the viewpoint of sober science no less than through one’s esthetic eye, the tiny crystals of ice that we call snow are exactly that—marvellously alike, yet infinitely different. Many thousands have examined snow crystals with magnifying glasses, and some few patient souls have slid them under microscopes and obtained permanent photographic records of their forms. But nobody yet has ever seen or photographed a snow crystal that was an exact twin of another snow crystal.

It is entirely legitimate to suppose that in all the snows that have fallen through all the thousands of winters this old world has known, there have never been two snow crystals that were exactly alike.


Earliest human being that ever walked the Earth.

This title is restored to the Ape-Man of Java Pithecanthropus erectus, after years of doubt, by the discovery of a new skull, reported by Dr. John C. Merriam, president of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, D.C., to the institution trustees. The discovery was made by Dr. G.H.R. von Koenigswald of Bandoeng, Java, a research associate of the institution.

The new skull, hailed as one of the most sensational finds in the history of human evolution, was in more than 40 pieces when it was picked out of its agelong resting place in the ancient gravel beds and has not been fully patched together. However, von Koenigswald has determined that it is definitely human, a point hitherto considerably in doubt. Only last spring, the discoverer of the first skull, Dr. Eugene Dubois, declared his conversion to the opinion that the Ape-Man was an ape and not a man.

The newfound fossils consist of a lower jawbone and a much broken skull cap. The jawbone still contains several teeth and the sockets from which others have fallen out. Of particular importance is the third lower molar, or wisdom tooth. This is very large, showing no trace of the reduction common in most human jaws, and is characterized by Dr. von Koenigswald as an apelike feature. On the other hand, the socket of the eyetooth is small, therefore not apelike. The wrinkling of the crowns of the molars is more complicated than in modern man and is more similar to that of Neandertal man.


Gettysburg battlefield, where the Blue and Gray hosts surged to battle, was tramped over by primitive dinosaurs 180 million years ago. Their tracks, indicating that they were two-legged bears about the size of human beings, were discovered near the famous Civil War site in the course of quarrying stone for a bridge.

Slabs of the shale rock containing the tracks have been taken to the Smithsonian Institution and are being studied by staff paleontologists.

The shale formation in which the ancient prints were found is of the Triassic age, the earliest of the three great geologic periods when reptiles ruled the Earth. Early dinosaurs were not nearly so large as those appearing later; the largest footprints found at the Gettysburg site are only about 6 inches long, with a stride of about 30 inches. Other, smaller tracks indicate that some of the dinosaurs were no bigger than chickens.


Santa Claus is traditionally supposed to live in a vast cavern-workshop at the North Pole, yet something that looks very much like him can be seen in a cavern of our own Southland. In the limestone formations known as Aladdin Cave, in Madison County, Ala., stalactites dripping from the ceiling and stalagmites slowly mounding from the floor have met and merged, in such shape and markings that even the least imaginative of mortals can easily see (at any rate just before Christmas) a rough but recognizable image of the children’s favorite saint.

If you have trouble recognizing the saint, just turn the picture upside down and see a more gnomelike Santa bent over by a heavy load and with a doll dangling from his arm.

For the photograph on the cover, the Science News Letter is indebted to Dr. Walter B. Jones, state geologist of Alabama.


“Empty” space, out between the stars, is anything but empty. Research by astronomers of the Carnegie Institution of Washington shows that all sorts of things are rattling around in it. Although it is much closer to a perfect vacuum than anything human means can produce in a laboratory, an average cubic yard of it is stocked with:

20 million free electrons.

20 million hydrogen atoms.

5 sodium atoms.

1 potassium atom.

400 thousand photons, or “light-darts.”

In addition, there is one calcium atom for every 10 cubic yards of interstellar space, and one titanium atom for several hundreds or thousands of cubic yards.

Larger units of matter, averaging perhaps the size of a smoke particle, also float about, as cosmic dust. One such grain might be filtered out of each 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 cubic yards of interstellar space.


On a wide frontier that extends from the interior of the atom to the farthest reaches of astronomical space, science forged forward during 1937. Some of the discoveries in the world’s thousands of laboratories will bear fruit only in years to come. Others will be more speedily transformed into new industries, new cures for human ills, new gadgets for easier, better, and more intelligent living.

Within the once indivisible atom was found still another fundamental particle. Pigmy telescopes found exploding stars, extraordinary in brilliance and distance. “Living dead” in mental hospitals walked forth to active life thanks to the shocking qualities of diabetes-conquering insulin. More and more is being learned about life itself, the way it is passed on from generation to generation and how the brain acts.

Scientists viewed with apprehension the growing war madness of nations. They wondered how their great gifts to humanity can be preserved for constructive, peaceful purposes instead of used for destruction. Psychologists urged that relations between peoples and nations be guided by scientific methods into paths of sanity.

Bigger bridges, larger dams, more tunnels, and faster and more efficient airplanes quickened the world’s material tempo and compressed its geography.

Research presses onward, into 1938, motivated by the inquisitiveness of mankind and the urge for a better future.

More Stories from Science News on Humans