From the May 22, 1937, issue


X rays have been used for a number of things since the turn of the century when they first found employment in searching out bullets and broken bones in the frame of suffering humanity. Dentists seized upon them eagerly. Plumbers use them to hunt for lost pipes in old houses; machinists and metal workers to show up hidden flaws. Archaeologists X-ray mummies before they unwrap them. Prison wardens find saws and files with them, hidden in innocent-looking gift packages sent to prisoners. X rays aid customs officers in thwarting would-be smugglers. The catalog of applications of X rays has become almost endless.

And now they invade the field of art, as instruments for a new expression of beauty hitherto hidden in the heart of things. X-ray photographs of flowers are being made by a very few persons at present, but it is safe to venture the guess that once the possibilities of this relatively new medium are better understood there will be a whole school of X-ray artists. We may even live to see schisms and controversies—classicists and romantics, realists, modernists, super-extra-ultra-futurists, all having a grand time arguing with each other as they do in the already established fields of art.

But at present the artist’s task of finding beauty and bringing it to the eyes of the world is entrusted to the hands and heads of too few X-ray pioneers to permit time or give cause for such rivalries. They all have plenty to do, opening up the great new field of X-ray art. Plenty of work, and plenty of recognition for all, as yet.

Prominent in the ranks of X-ray artists is a young California woman, Miss Francis Mildred Davis, of Santa Monica. Miss Davis earns her living with the X ray, too, in a medical and dental consultant practice. Of course, there’s nothing uncommon in this pulling of two bows with one string; many a cartoonist paints in oils on the side; many a journalist writes novels or plays—succesfully, too. It’s all a matter of making full use of the particular skill you have learned.

In X-raying an orchid, Miss Davis found her skill subjected to a severe test. Orchids are about the most complicated of all flowers, both in external appearance and internal structure. (See front cover for illustration.)

“The orchid,” she says, “looked like a big ugly spider in a front view and I was about to give it up when the sixth trial turned out with graceful lines to make a well-balanced picture.”


When Dr. W.F.G. Swann, the well-known scientist who is director of the Bartok Research Foundation, lifts his baton in his extracurricular job as conductor of the nonpaid Swarthmore (Pa.) Symphony Orchestra, he can call into service two novel electrical musical instruments used nowhere else in the world.

Like most nonpaid musical units, the Swarthmore Orchestra finds difficulty in obtaining a full complement of instruments to render standard symphonic works.

But ingenuity, in the person of the Bartok scientist, Dr. William E. Danforth, has devised an electrical apparatus that can pinch-hit for the missing French horn and bass clarinet. A simple elongated box that one holds on the left forearm and plays by moving the fingers on two metal strips does the trick, when linked to radio-amplifying apparatus and a loud speaker.

Slight pressure of the right forefinger on one of the strips causes the loudspeaker to give a tone controlled in a fashion similar to the fingering of a violin. The loudness of the tone produced is controlled by moving a small lever with the left thumb. The other fingers of the left hand control the range of pitch of the instrument.

Dr. Danforth explained to Science Service that while none of the principles used in the instrument are new to electrical science, certain features of design, ease of playing, and “life” of the tone produced are improved over what has previously been available.


Toy balloons endanger the lives of children if they are filled with hydrogen gas. A careless cigarette or match near hydrogen-filled balloons may send the youngsters to the hospital. Each hydrogen-filled balloon is a miniature Hindenburg.

Helium, the safe, noninflammable gas, is used by many toy balloon sellers to inflate their colorful wares that children so often cry for.

In some cities there are ordinances requiring the toy balloons to be filled with helium. Elsewhere those who sell them use this safe gas because hotels and other public places insist upon it to guard against the starting of fires and the causing of panic due to explosions.

Helium is commercially available for this purpose from one concern with headquarters in Kentucky and with helium-producing plants in Colorado and Kansas. Helium costs more than hydrogen, but the added cost is small compared with the protection that it affords.

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