From the October 14, 1933, issue


Enclosed within the metal shell pictured on the front cover of Science News Letter, three Soviet scientists rose higher above the surface of the earth than man has ever been before, in an ascension from Moscow on September 30. It is the gondola of the Soviet free balloon USSR. Only twice before has man using similar means reached comparable heights, and the leader of both flights was Prof. Auguste Piccard.

The Soviet balloon, larger than those of previous ascensions and carrying three men, Ernest Birnbaum, George Prokofiev and Konstantin Gudenoff, is reported to have reached an unofficial altitude of 62,340 feet, compared with the official record of 53,153 feet set by Prof. Piccard in August of 1932. On both of Prof. Piccards ascensions only two men were taken up.

Instruments bringing data on cosmic rays, physical and chemical composition of air at high altitude, and its electrical conductivity, pressure, temperature, and humidity are said to have landed safely with the balloon. The craft was built by military engineers and has a gas bag 36 meters in diameter with a volume of 25,000 cubic meters.


Bacteriophage, popularly known as the “germ eater,” cures disease not by “eating” or dissolving the causative bacteria but by producing antitoxins in the body. The famous bacteria-dissolving power is merely a side issue, apparently of no importance in curing or preventing disease, as has long been suspected by some investigators.

This explanation of how the potent but mysterious phage acts to cure or to prevent disease was given by Dr. N.W. Larkum of the Michigan Department of Health at the Indianapolis meeting of the American Public Health Association. Dr. Larkum reported studies supporting this theory.


Heavy water, containing the recently discovered double-weight hydrogen, kills tadpoles, guppy fish, and worms.

Prof. W.W. Swingle of Princeton, using some of the rare heavy water manufactured by Princeton chemists, found that the extraordinary H2O, with 92 percent of its hydrogen atoms consisting of the isotope mass two (deuterium), is lethal to certain fresh water animals.

Green frog tadpoles survived only an hour when placed in the heavy water. Tadpoles of the same sort immersed in distilled water that contained only 30 percent heavy water, lived happily and unaffected for 24 hours. Paramecia, one-celled organisms that are favorite biology experimental material, resisted the heavy water successfully for 24 hours.

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