From the December 30, 1933, issue


More water for Los Angeles is the purpose of the big steel serpent that the front cover of this weeks Science News Letter strikingly pictures climbing a mountain. This project, an achievement of electric welding, is conquering canyon and straddling mountain to join Boquet Canyon Reservoir and Owens Valley Aqueduct with a 4-and-one-half-mile-long, arc-welded pipe line.

The diameter of the pipe varies from 6 feet, 8 inches to 7 feet, 10 inches, the smaller diameters being used where pressures are highest. The 6-foot, 8-inch pipe is more than an inch thick.

An idea of the size of the job is gained when one learns that 450 pounds of metal must be melted into each joint in order to seal it.


X-ray pictures of the throat of Madame Lucrezia Bori, famous soprano of the Metropolitan Opera Company, have given scientists new knowledge of the cause of differences in voice quality, it appears from a study conducted by G. Oscar Russell of Ohio State University and reported by the Carnegie Institution of Washington.

The X-ray photographs were made with synchronized sound record accompaniment while Mme. Bori sang an aria covering a wide range of pitches, voice qualities, and vowels. She was even prevailed upon to produce one bad, strident, tight tone, so that the scientists would have a record of the way the vocal organs act in bad singing as well as in good.

The pictures were made with X-ray apparatus especially devised so as to avoid any impediment to the artists ease and freedom in singing, thus insuring the production of her natural tones. The exposure time of the X-ray plate was reduced to 1/120 of a second, so as to make it unnecessary for the artist to sing stultified, long notes merely to get sufficient exposure.

The study showed, among other things, that in the case of this one famous voice, at least, the soft palate opening into the nasal passages remains closed under practically all circumstances. Nasal resonance is not made use of except for the relatively small amount of sound energy that could be transmitted through the walls themselves.

The X-rays of Mme. Bori also showed that the larynx does not necessarily always rise on all high pitches and fall on low pitches. Furthermore, the larynx does not remain constantly anchored to the spinal column by the powerful constrictor muscles but shifts its position quite constantly. The purpose of such shifts has not yet been discovered.

The study showed that the pharynx is usually distended on the vowel “i,” regardless of pitch, and that the epiglottis or areas in the neighborhood of its tip regularly constrict, or, in other words, the back of the tongue regularly “gets into the throat” in order to produce a clear vowel “a” (ah).

When Mme. Bori produced the one bad tight tone, the pharyngeal cavity was more distended than usual but the interior larynx was obviously very constricted.


Ever try to screw off a bottle top that refused to be unscrewed?

If so, you will sympathize heartily with a piece of research at the Pittsburgh Testing Laboratories. Calling on housewives with varying degrees of muscle to aid in the test, the laboratory has gone very thoroughly into the question of just how much strength manufacturers can expect the customers to exert on a bottle top.

“The twisting effort that a woman can exert in unscrewing a cap is strictly limited,” reports the laboratory director, M.L. Carr, in the trade journal Food Industries.

The weakest-armed woman exerted a twisting force of only 11.6 inch-pounds, while the strong arm of the strongest woman twisted with a force of 29.6. The average housewife naturally came well between these extremes with a power of 18.5 inch-pounds.

One jar of sandwich spread that proved immovable–even when the housewife gave up twisting it and took to hitting, prying, and heating the bottle–was given a laboratory test. Screwing it off required 102 inch-pounds of twisting effort.

The actual test consisted of taking 10 different unopened bottles and jars of grocery goods into the housewifes own kitchen and asking her to open each by unscrewing the lid. If she failed, she was to go ahead and open it any way she liked, and the laboratory found this meant anything from banging the bottle on the floor to calling in a husband. Incidentally, some jars baffled even the husband. The experiment was repeated in 50 kitchens, with 500 bottles and jars altogether put to the kitchen test.

Out of the test emerges the information that the way in which a cap is applied to a bottle in the factory may be one important factor in the opening process. Some caps are “rolled on.” That is, the threads are rolled into the cap over the threads of the container. Other caps are “preformed.” These caps have their screw threads formed separately from the container, but designed to fit the container threads.

Of the 96 bottles and jars that proved unscrewable in the hands of the housewives, 56 were removed by some rough-and-ready device, and the remaining 40 defied all efforts. Of these 40, only 2 were rolled-on screw caps, says Mr. Carrs report, whereas the other 38 were preformed caps.

The plight of the weakest women who have to tackle the bottle-cap problem is pronounced indeed sad. About half of the bottle caps are beyond their strength. But when even the powerful Katrinkas give up the struggle with a bottle, manufacturers may well pause to take thought on the bottle-top question.

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