From the June 23, 1934, issue


Double defiance to a hard and hostile world is offered by the splendid pair of young desert hawks pictured on the cover of this issue of the Science News Letter. In addition to their own armament of beak and claw, formidable even in their immature state, the hawklets have around their nest in the top of a tree yucca a forbidding cheval-de-frise of down-pointing, spine-tipped tough leaves that defies any climbing enemy. Bristling birds in a bristling home, they are the very epitome of the rugged and truculent self-sufficiency that is the price of survival in the wilderness.

The picture, taken in the recently established Carlsbad Caverns National Park, constitutes striking evidence that there are worthwhile things to see under the vast open desert sky in this region, as well as in the caverns’ tremendous depths. The birds of Zeus, no less than the bats of Dis, are worthy of our attention when we ride into the West in search of wonders.


The heaviest element known to science—No. 93—is a substance whose properties make it a chemical relative of the hard, brittle metal manganese. A description of the nature of the new element, together with proof of its existence, has appeared in the British science journal Nature, over the signature of its discoverer, Prof. Enrico Fermi of the Royal University, Rome.

Since the first announcement of the discovery by the veteran scientist Senator Mario Corbino before the Lincei Academy in Rome, scientists of the world have waited eagerly for the published report of brilliant, young Prof. Fermi.

In describing his research, which added another element to the 92 already known to science, Prof. Fermi declared that the crucial test was to add salts of the metal manganese to a solution of uranium after the latter had been bombarded with neutrons. Uranium is the dense “mother” element that breaks down by radioactive disintegration to produce a variety of lighter elements, including radium.

Following the addition of manganese salts to the uranium fluid, a cloudy precipitate formed in the vessel and fell to the bottom. Most of the radioactivity floated down with this precipitate, indicating that a disintegrating substance other than uranium was present. The precipitate was a chemical salt of the new element No. 93.


By squeezing atoms of phosphorus with pressures of 7 tons to the square inch, Prof. P.W. Bridgman, research physicist of Harvard University, has just been able, for the first time in the history of science, to make this chemical element change its color from white to black by pressure alone.

Prof. Bridgman’s latest achievement in the field of high pressures, in which he is a world-famous authority, is reported in a letter to the editor of the Physical Review.

In the squeezing process, where the pressures become comparable with those found only inside the Earth, the phosphorus changes from the dangerously inflammable waxy-white form, which has to be kept under water to prevent its spontaneous burning, into a darkish, nonflammable relative.

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