From the July 2, 1932, issue


With the coming of warm summer weather, and the arrival in number of insects to eat, bats are becoming more noticeable as they make their noiseless nightly patrols. Because of their nocturnal, and therefore mysterious, habits and because of their preference for homes in caves and dark holes, our ancestors came to regard them as evil and sinister creatures and equipped their demons with bats wings and told wild tales about bat-vampires that sucked human blood.

As a matter of fact, bats are harmless and humorous creatures, and their food habits make them great friends of man. Their dodging, erratic flight through the dusk is occasioned by the dodging, erratic flight of their prey, which consists mainly of insects. Though bats are not blind but have sharp little eyes that probably see fairly well in the half-light, it is probable that they are guided more by hearing than by sight, for their ears are relatively enormous. It is probable also that some, if not all, bats have a sixth sense related to hearing, whereby they can perceive air vibrations of low frequency, for many of these animals have special organs with large supplies of nerves.

The bat photo on the front cover of this issue of the Science News Letter is by Cornelia Clarke.


Speed and air are words that have a bond of association like red and blood. Mans speediest travel, if we ignore his hurtling through space as a part of Earth, solar system, galaxy, and universe, is in a racing airplane at 606.9 miles per hour. How much faster can he go?

Physicists of the National Advisory Council for Aeronautics asked this question of the worlds highest-speed wind tunnel at Langley Field, Va., in which air can be made to rush at 800 miles per hour, which is faster than the speed of sound.

When a racing airplane wing section of conventional form was tested in this air stream, it was discovered that at around 600 miles per hour, the drag or the resistance of the wing to the air increased enormously. It will be almost impossible to supply enough power to the airplane above that speed to drive it through the air. Unless some new and unusual type of wing is invented, 600 miles an hour is as fast as airplanes can hope to travel. Racing pilots still have 200 miles per hour or so more of speed to conquer.


Eating simple salts of calcium and phosphorus to build strong and healthy bones may also lengthen the prime of life and delay the onset of old age, Prof. Victor K. LaMer of Columbia University, New York, has determined from a review of the work of other scientists.

If the proper amounts of calcium phosphate, a chemical now added to common salt to prevent it from caking in moist atmosphere, were eaten, life might be prolonged some 10 percent. Those who would normally die at 70 might continue to live until 77, Prof. LaMer believes. The specter of old age, the appearance of senescence, would be pushed further into the future.

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