From the July 8, 1933, issue


Serene, cool, immaculate, the water lily floats beneath the summer sun, where the big flat drops of water shine like silver coins on the round, flat leaves. The water lily has been the delight of poets of all ages and peoples. Of moralists, too, who like to reflect that all that superb beauty has been extracted from the black mud of the bottom, where the rootstocks of the plant have their hold.

There are only a few kinds of water lilies in America. The white one is the most familiar, as well as the most beautiful. And it has the advantage over the European white water lily in that it is very fragrant. Then we have a smaller yellow species, vulgarly called “cow lily” or “spatterdock” in the eastern states: but in the Rocky Mountains, where the white one does not grow, a second yellow species reaches a much larger size.

The tropics are the real home of the water lilies; here they develop all sizes and colors, including delicate pinks, glowing reds, and gorgeous blues. The great Brazilian species, Victoria regia, has inconspicuous flowers, but leaves so large that they will bear a grown man’s weight.

Botanical names sometimes sound harsh to the layman, but there can be no quarrel with the Latin names of the water lily. There is some disagreement among botanists as to its proper name. One group calls it Castalia, which is the name of a fountain where the Muses of Greek mythology used to come. Other botanists, following the lead of the great Linnaeus, name it Nymphaea, which needs no explanation.


Further light has been thrown on the “electric roof of the world”–the electrically charged layers of the upper atmosphere which reflect wireless waves and render possible long-distance radio transmission–by the researches of J.P. Schafer and W.M. Goodall of the Bell Telephone Laboratories, Deal, New Jersey.

Two reflecting layers are known, one at a height of 100 to 120 kilometers, and another somewhere between 190 to 300 kilometers. In the course of recent experiments, the New Jersey physicists have found an intermediate layer at an average height of 150 kilometers, from which wireless waves are reflected. (A kilometer is about six-tenths of a mile.)

They state, in a communication to Nature, that the reason why this intermediate electric “roof” had not been detected before is because it is shielded by the lower layer and only occasionally does its electrical or ionic density become greater than that of the lower layer, so as to enable its detection. Even then, it is necessary that the frequency of the radio waves be just great enough to permit penetration of the lower region and yet small enough to give reflection from the new layer.

Another important fact discovered by Messrs. Schafer and Goodall is that the upper reflecting layer really consists of several layers, though its exact structure varies at different times.

It is understood that Marconi is contemplating the discovery of a still higher reflecting “roof.” He is led to believe that such a layer must exist, by his experiments with very short radio waves of 40 to 60 centimeters wavelength. With these ultra-short wavelengths, contrary to what might have been expected, Marconi has already been able to communicate over distances up to 170 kilometers. These ultra-short waves pass through all the electric layers in the upper atmosphere, so far known, and their long-distance range may be due to reflection from a higher and more ionized layer.


American millionaires who were wont to import picturesquely mouldering English castles and abbeys and plant them on their country estates will not need to pursue that strange traffic any more–that is, supposing any representatives of that curious genus survived the Great Ice Age of 1929. Thanks to the researches of four English scientists, they will be able to build their castles out of new stone, inoculate them with the right kind of germs, and in a short time have them in as venerable a state of decay as though they had been standing in an English drizzle since the Wars of the Roses.

The current Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London contain a study of the relationship of micro-organisms to the decay of stone by Sydney G. Paine, Frank V. Lingood, Freda Schimmer, and Thomas C. Thrupp. It might, in fact, be termed a study of the bacterial diseases of building stones. This team of scientists have isolated not less than 58 strains of bacteria from decaying stone, have planted cultures of some of them on new stone fresh from the quarry, and have made at least a good beginning of an understanding of the means by which bacteria help to ruin building materials.

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