From the February 18, 1933, issue


When a vampire is a supernatural creature, science laughs at it. But when it is a disease-bearing bat, science sets its disease-fighters to work seeking a way to conquer it.

Down in Panama, the disease-fighters of the Gorgas Memorial Institute, in addition to carrying on their regular job of fighting malaria, have lately been having a bout with the vampire bats and the vipers that make mischief for the unwary in their tropical neighborhood.

The vampire bat of Panama (the Gorgas Memorial disease-fighters call her Evangeline the Vamp) is a small, mouse-size creature that makes or takes her living from cattle, horses, and mules. This would be bad enough in itself, but the Panama vampire has now been found guilty of carrying the disease murrina from infected cattle or horses to healthy horses.

Now murrina, also known as derrengadera and trypanosomiasis, seems to be a disease of horses and mules, but it is related to fatal African trypanosomiasis, or sleeping sickness, of men. That long, seven-syllable word is not hard to pronounce; just put the accent on the second and fifth syllables and you will find it has quite a poetic swing. Both African and Panamanian diseases are caused by the same kind of organism or germ, called a trypanosome. Consequently, when the disease was discovered killing off horses in Panama, the scientists of the Gorgas Memorial Institute Laboratory down here took an interest beyond that of possibly saving valuable herds of horses.


To the perennial discussion of the possibility of life on the planets other than Earth, recent researches at Mt. Wilson Observatory are presenting new data. As yet, the astronomers are not considering the life question, but with telescopes and thermocouples, they are attempting to discover the nature of the atmospheres of the planets.

Whether a planet can hold an atmosphere or not depends very critically on its size and its temperature. For example, an atmosphere that might remain practically unchanged on a planet at 100 degrees absolute (-173C) would escape in a few months if the temperature were increased to 300 degrees absolute, which is about the surface temperature of Earth.

Temperature measurements of the planets have been made by Dr. S. Nicholson of the Mt. Wilson Observatory, so we have a good idea which planets have an atmosphere and which have none. Thus, excepting Mercury and Mars, all the planets might well have a gaseous envelope, which we call an atmosphere.


The key to the problem of the suns structure lies in explaining why the sunspots are giant magnets, Dr. Donald H. Menzel of the Harvard College Observatory, told the New England section of the American Physical Society. The sun is a star, similar to many that dot the heavens, and Dr. Menzel observed that it offers the only star surface that can be studied in detail.

During the past few weeks, the sun has been extraordinarily spotted considering that the time of minimum sunspots is approaching. Thirty spots in four groups were observed at Mt. Wilson Observatory at one time. Dr. Seth B. Nicholson, of this observatory, estimates that the minimum sunspottedness will occur near the end of this year or early in 1934. The first spots of the next cycle may be expected any day now.

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