From the May 14, 1932, issue


Sunday, May 15, is the Feast of Pentecost, or Whitsunday, when many of the churches commemorate the descent of the Holy Spirit. In the lands of tropical America, where delicate orchids can be had by anybody, many an imaginative Latin will mingle poetry with his piety as he looks upon the Dove Orchid, with the little brooding figure of the symbolic bird hovering at its heart. Throughout the warm countries where it grows, this exquisite blossom is known as the “Flower of the Holy Ghost.”

The “dove” and the two structures on either side, which might be considered uplifted hands or tongues of flame as one prefers, really have to do with the sending and receiving of pollen. The poetic figure is therefore appropriate from a botanical point of view also, for the brooding “dove” is instrumental in perpetuating the life and ensuring the distribution of the species.

The photograph of the Dove Orchid reproduced on the cover of this issue of the Science News Letter appears through the courtesy of the Missouri Botanical Garden.


A new type of atomic disintegration that liberates millions of volts of internal atomic energy is disclosed by experiments by Drs. J.D. Cockroft and E.T.S. Walton working in the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge, England.

Details of the experiments are given in a letter to Nature. These are experiments that Lord Ernest Rutherford, director of the Cavendish Laboratory, has described as important additions to his own previous researches on the constitution of the atom and radioactivity.

Drs. Cockroft and Walton found that when lithium of atomic weight seven is bombarded with protons accelerated at 600 volts, a new kind of splitting of the atom occurs with the release of 16 million volts of internal energy. The lithium atom apparently captures a proton and then breaks up into two alpha particles with energy of 8 million volts each.


When a big truck rumbles by, or a flat-wheeled streetcar pounds past with such a bump-bump-bump that you think its surely going to shake the house down, you can get a real record of just how much of a shaking the place is getting with a new pocket-sized earthquake detector that has just been completed by Frank Neumann, seismologist of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey.

Classed as an “accelerometer” by its inventor, it operates on the same principle as the larger, more elaborate, and much costlier seismographs that report the occurrence of earthquakes in distant parts of the earth, often informing scientists of a wrecking shock hours or days before the news is sent by wire.

Mr. Neumanns instrument consists, essentially, of a pendulum and a means of making that pendulums smallest vibrations seen. The pendulum is a flat, 1-ounce bob at the end of a strip of phosphor bronze, hung on bearings as nearly frictionless as possible. It is hung horizontally, not vertically as in a clock, so that it will record the sidewise shiftings rather than the up-and-down jigglings of the structures whose tremors it is intended to measure.

From the Nature Index

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