From the October 8, 1932, issue


Autumn is the time of the Truce of God. Even as a beggar may assume a certain dignity when he is about to die, so the commonest weeds often take on beauty when all things pause to make last salute to the retreating sun, before the hora novissima of the first heavy snowfall. For the cover picture of this issue of the Science News Letter, Cornelia Clarke has made a camera study of four seed heads of the common velvet-leaf, Abutilon theophrasti, that has most sympathetically captured something of its air of a Villon repentant.


A new explanation of the origin of the cosmic rays is given by Dr. R.M. Langer of the California Institute of Technology at Pasadena in a short report in the current issue of Science.

Dr. Langer enunciates a new theory of the fundamental particles of nature, building on the observations of Dr. Carl D. Anderson that indicate the probable existence of a positive electron (SNL, Sept. 24, 1932, p. 197: From the September 24, 1932, issue) and using the theory of Dr. P.A.M. Dirac, British physicist, who postulates positive and negative magnetic poles as fundamental entities.

Starting with the electron and the Dirac magnetic pole as the fundamental particles, Dr. Langer reasons how the proton, neutron, photon, and radioactive phenomena can arise.

He pictures the neutron, the particle discovered earlier this year, as built of a positive and a negative magnetic pole. Using the equations of Dr. Dirac, he finds that the two poles combined have an energy corresponding to a mass approximately that of the proton, which is also believed to be that of the neutron. In the transformation, there is an energy difference of a thousand million volts, and since this is of the order of the cosmic rays, Dr. Langer suggests that it is the “simplest system so far considered which could explain the emission of cosmic radiation.”

To obtain a proton, Dr. Langer combines the neutron with the positive electron, of mass equal to the familiar negative electron, which was suggested by Dr. Anderson. The negative electron of the neutron is cancelled out by the positive electron, which leaves the proton.

Dr. Langer further suggests that the photon, or the subatomic unit of light, may be formed through the combination of the two kinds of electrons, with a vanishing mass and a velocity of light. Another possibility suggested is that the photon may be constructed of a positive and a negative electron very close together.

Dr. Langer is on the staff of the Norman Bridge Laboratory of Physics, of which Dr. R.A. Millikan is director. Dr. Anderson is in the same laboratory. Dr. Langer was one of those who suggested the existence of the neutron, which was experimentally discovered this year in Europe.


You may be drinking milk these days that has been pasteurized not by heat from fire, but by an electric current passing through it. Apparatus that guarantees the safety of milk in this electrical manner has been installed in 17 plants in six states and two foreign countries, and has a daily output of approximately 30,000 gallons, Prof. C.G. King of the University of Pittsburgh reported recently to the Electrochemical Society.

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