From the May 27, 1933, issue

CRYSTAL WONDERLAND

You can see all these things through a microscope, as scientists and laymen have been seeing them for many years. But the way into this Lilliputia of the waters is being made even easier for you through the amazing artistry in glass of a worker at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. This man, Herman O. Mueller, has been hailed as “the most skillful glassblower in the world.” He was once glassblower for Tiffanys, as was his father before him, but the wisdom of the American Museums administrative officers brought about his capture from the services of a few wealthy patrons and dedicated his unique talents to the more democratic service of the museum-visiting public.

Some recollection of his apprenticeship in this jewelry profession lingers in Mr. Muellers models of individual specimens of the deep-sea protozoa known as radiolarians.

These radiolarians are sometimes known as “wheel animalcules” because most of them build many-pointed spiky skeletons out of silica. They are not really wheels, however, but spheres. But the foreshortened view one gets of them from one side makes them look like many-spoked little wheels, and as they go rolling over and over in the gentle currents of water, the wheel-resemblance becomes even more striking. Glass is a most appropriate medium in which to portray radiolarians, for the transparent silica of which their skeletons are built is one of the chemical constituents of glass; moreover, the living protoplasm that clothes it is itself almost glass-transparent.

Not all the radiolarians are little globular wheels; at least one species that has been modeled by Mr. Mueller has bilateral rather than spherical symmetry, and it is a beauty, too, as its picture on the front cover attests. But most of the tiny animals fit the name.

FIRST CHEMICAL EVIDENCE OF ARTIFICIAL TRANSMUTATION

Chemical evidence of the production of helium gas from paraffin and similar carbon-hydrogen compounds by bombardment with the mixed radiation from thorium is adduced by Prof. Fritz Paneth and his associate, P.L. Günther, of the University of Königsberg, Germany, and reported to Nature. The rays given off by thorium B and thorium C themselves contain some helium in the form of alpha particles, but after passing through paraffin, there is a surplus of helium amounting sometimes to 100 percent.

A practical method for the manufacture of helium would be of great commercial value, but the method described by Prof. Paneth and his associate cannot as yet be used for this purpose. The amounts they obtained were very small and were detected only by improved methods of analysis.

Nevertheless, their experiments are extremely important because this is the first indication that the transmutation of elements may be effected in amounts large enough to be chemically detectable. Until now, proofs of artificial transmutation depended upon the physical detection of single atomic destructions, observed as scintillations, or by electrical methods. Only when the new atoms formed were expelled with a large amount of energy could the transmutation be detected by these physical methods.

POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE ELECTRONS APPARENTLY PRODUCED

IN PAIRS

Pairs of electrons, one positive and one negative, are sometimes produced when gamma rays from the element thorium pass through matter. This was reported by Dr. Carl D. Anderson of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, as a support of Dr. R.A. Millikans contention that cosmic rays are originally mostly photons, or “bits of light,” like gamma rays. Dr. Anderson has observed that among the energetic cosmic ray electrons, there are about as many positive as negative electrons, as if they were produced in pairs.

Dr. Niels Bohr, the great Danish physicist now in Pasadena, said that after listening to the evidence, it was scarcely possible to doubt the reality of the positron. He is the particular authority for modern theoretical physicists, yet he gave them something of a shock when he said that although theory had predicted the positron, few theoretical physicists would have dared emphasize that before experiment had brought it out.

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