From the November 19, 1932, issue


The award of the 1932 Nobel Prize in Chemistry to Dr. Irving Langmuir, the General Electric Research Laboratory chemist, adds laurels to a system of investigation of nature’s secrets as it recognizes a great scientist.

Langmuir has never been a mere inventor or applier of knowledge to pressing technical problems. He is a searcher after scientific truth. His fruitful technical developments, such as the gas-filled lamp, the “tron” tribe of vacuum tubes, and atomic hydrogen welding have been byproducts of his “pure science” experiments. He aimed at understanding the stuff that matter is made of. One practical result alone, gas-filled incandescent lamps, is estimated to save American a million dollars a night on its light bill of over a billion dollars a year.


The new mathematical “brain” machine at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has solved over a thousand equations in some 30 problems and now plans are under way for the construction of more powerful such differential analyzers in the near future, Dr. Vannevar Bush, vice-president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told the National Academy of Sciences.

One of the most important services of the new machine is the solution of the Schrödinger wave equation for various atomic numbers, a necessary procedure in developing the new ideas in physics. Without its aid, the task would have consumed much time. The differential analyzer, Dr. Bush said, makes possible the obtaining of the solution for each atomic number in 2 days with a single operator at the machine.


Sleep depends largely on the tone of the muscles. When the muscles are relaxed, there is a lessening of the impulses from them to the brain, so that it becomes difficult to stay awake. This relaxation and consequent sleepiness normally take place regardless of whether or not tiring work has been done.

These conclusions were reached in the course of studies of efficiency reported by Dr. Nathaniel Kleitman of the University of Chicago to the National Academy of Sciences meeting at Ann Arbor.

Dr. Kleitman’s studies of performance showed that there is a gradual increase in muscular relaxation during the day. On going to bed, this relaxation becomes still greater, which precipitates sleep.

The body temperature shows a curve similar to that of muscular relaxation, rising up to noon or afternoon and then decreasing for the rest of the waking period. Since body temperature is an indication of change in muscle tone, Dr. Kleitman assumes that the decrease in efficiency in the afternoon, paralleling the decrease in temperature, is due to greater muscular relaxation.

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