From the June 20, 1931, issue


A huge electromagnet weighing 14 tons, about two-thirds as much as a street car, just erected at Leiden, Holland, by the Siemens Halske Company of Berlin, will enable scientists to wrench atoms apart as never before. This marks the realization of a dream of the late Dr. H. Kammerlingh Onnes, the first man to liquefy helium, who designed the magnet.

The joint action of intense magnetic force with intense cold is likely to yield new secrets about atoms, is the belief of Prof. Onnes successor, Prof. W.J. Haas, who completed the work. Dr. Peter Kapitza, of the University of Cambridge, England, has recently constructed a similar magnet for use at extremely low temperatures, with the same hope in mind.

Possible disruption of the windings, endangering the lives of investigators using the super-magnet, has been carefully guarded against by protective automatic switches. This danger arises when the 80-kilowatt current is suddenly decreased. A rapid lowering of the current produces a sudden removal of the magnetic field and this in turn creates very high induced voltages in the coils of the magnet. Visible and audible signals indicate the operation of the automatic switches.

The huge magnet can be rotated horizontally or tilted vertically with great ease, and the great magnetic force made by it can be concentrated in a space of a few inches.


That recent earthquakes in southeastern California follow the passing of the moon overhead was announced to the meeting of the Seismological Society of America by Dr. Maxwell W. Allen of Sanger, Calif.

These earthquake shocks are not caused by the moon, said Dr. Allen, and they would have occurred anyway without its assistance. But in far more cases than chance would allow, the earthquake occurs when the moon is in a certain part of the sky. The critical time seems to be about 5 hours after the moon has reached its highest point in the sky and again some 12 hours later. Earthquakes do occur at other times but less frequently.

Some weak part of the San Jacinto fault is believed to be the origin of these minor quakes. Probably, at some relatively shallow depth, there is a point little able to resist the forces created by the moon and the quake is set off at this point.

Strong shocks, on the other hand, continued Dr. Allen, take place a few days after the moon is either new or full. Evidently, the sensitive spot of the crust in this case is deeper and more plastic. Forces can thus deform this layer without causing a disturbance.


The universe may be immortal. The universal truth of one of the greatest laws of all physics, the second law of thermodynamics, which requires a dying universe, was seriously questioned by Prof. Richard Tolman of the California Institute of Technology before the American Association for the Advancement of Science at Pasadena.

This law, invulnerable since it was formulated by the great physicists of the last century, Clausius and Kelvin, leaves no escape from the conclusion that the universe must eventually cool down and all its motions slow up until a meaningless inactivity pervades everything. Prof. Tolman, by a detailed analysis, has shown a way out from this unattractive conclusion, which heretofore has been criticized only on the vaguest grounds.

Prof. Tolman has reached this result by incorporating the principles of the relativity theory in classical thermodynamics. It is made all the more acceptable by the fact that his reasoning gives an explanation for one of the greatest of modern astronomical mysteries: the fact that the universe is apparently bursting apart at a tremendous rate.