From the March 16, 1935, issue


The cover illustration of the Science News Letter this week shows a test discharge of the great copper gaps in the high-voltage laboratory of the Electrotechnical Institute, Leningrad, U.S.S.R., which recently celebrated its 50th anniversary.

In the test, 1.2 million volt sparks are jumping.

Research at this institution is primarily directed toward the practical aspects of electricity. Latest of the research projects has been an investigation of means for the protection of the high-powered transmission lines from the hydroelectric generating stations in the Ural Mountains.


Next summer, when some gaffer pulls that old one about “not the heat but the humidity,” there will be scientific means of accurately checking him up, thanks to a new instrument invented by Athelstan F. Spilhaus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (Bulletin Am. Meteorological Society, Feb. 23).

Mr. Spilhaus calls his device an “air mass indicator,” but for everyday purposes it might well be christened a “comfortometer.” It combines a thermometer to measure the temperature with a hygrometer to measure the humidity of the air, in such a way that a single pointer can tell you whether you have a right to be uncomfortable or not.

The new instrument was designed to face the universally known fact that humidity does have a lot to do with how hot or how cold it feels. As everybody has experienced many times, a hot, dry day is more tolerable than a hot, muggy one, because if there is little moisture in the air, perspiration evaporates readily, producing a cooling effect. A straight thermometer reading therefore means little, but combined properly with a humidity reading it has significance.


Although perhaps vainly, because they live in the wrong part of the universe, scientists are hunting for another fundamental particle—the negative proton—out of which atoms, and hence all matter, may be constructed. To explain and simplify present concepts of how the cores of atoms are composed which need protons, electrons, and neutrons to fill the picture, scientists hope to find the negatively charged counterpart of the positively charged protons.

This, in substance, is the conclusion of Prof. George Gamow, world-famous Russian scientist, now visiting professor of theoretical physics at George Washington University, Washington, D.C.

Dr. Gamow, who first predicted the levels of energy now found within the atom nucleus, also predicted such negative protons still to be found.

Asked at the meeting of the Chemical Society of Washington why the negative proton is still unfound in spite of sensitive experiments to find it, Dr. Gamow said:

“The search for the negative proton is difficult because man and the planet on which he lives may be in the wrong part of the universe. We live in a world where protons and electrons exist. Yet if the universe as a whole is electrically neutral, there must be other regions and worlds where the opposite is true; regions where negative protons and the newly discovered positrons make up atoms.”

“One can think,” he continued, “of the splitting of some giant star into two parts. One component might be like our sun and its planet Earth. The other half might have charges of the opposite sign. The first part would be a region like that found on Earth, where protons and electrons predominate. The latter might be the negative-proton world.”

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