From the February 20, 1937, issue


Cloudy weather during January has hampered astronomical observations, including those of the sun, but during the month it seems to have had an unusually large number of spots. A picture, taken on Jan. 31 by I.M. Levitt, with the 40-foot focus solar camera of the Cook Observatory, shows more spots than have been seen in more than 7 years. This picture appears on the front cover of this week’s Science News Letter. The large group near the center is about 90,000 miles in length and big enough to be visible to the unaided eye, when properly protected with smoked glass. It is so vast that 121 worlds like the Earth could be dropped into it side by side and have a bit of room left over.

The spots are huge tornadoes in the sun’s atmosphere. Actually they are brighter and hotter than an electric arc, but appear dark by contrast with the hotter and brighter surrounding regions. (The vertical line is a plumb line photographed on the plate to help orient it.)


Chemists will turn millions of tons of waste farm products into useful materials for industry that will put additional cash money into farmers’ pocketbooks, Dr. Henry G. Knight, chief of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Chemistry and Soils, predicted to the Southern Chemurgic Conference, provided they are given the opportunity to conduct the necessary research.

Dr. Knight pointed to millions of dollars added to the agricultural income through science-taught utilization of lemon and orange culls, cotton seed, sweet potatoes, and naval stores, such as rosin.

“The total production of cellulose on all the farms of the country amounts to something like 100 million tons a year,” Dr. Knight explained. “Its utilization in the form of paper, building board, insulating material, and absorbent material, as well as its conversion into foods, drugs, paints, varnishes, lacquers, dyes, and cosmetics, is an inviting field of research that many chemists would like to explore if they had the money and time.”

Every pound of grain means from 1 to 2½ pounds of stalks and husks as by-products, while cotton, rice, peanuts, and syrup also mean stalks, husks, and hulls upon which farmers have expended soil fertility, labor, and capital, he said. The old method of using stalks, hulls, and culls for livestock feed and building up soil fertility does not provide a cash income for the farmer, and for that reason processing of farm wastes into products of cash value is very desirable.

The 100 million tons of cellulose are only part of the chemical constituents of farm by-products. Southern stalks and hulls are about 40 per cent cellulose, 30 per cent lignin, and 30 percent semicellulose.

More Stories from Science News on Humans