MARCH 1957

CHILDREN AND PHYSICS—“Does a child's first conception of velocity include comprehension of it as a function of distance and time, or is his notion more primitive and intuitive? Albert Einstein himself posed this question to me in 1928 when I was demonstrating some experiments on causality to him one day. I have since performed a very simple experiment which shows that a child does not think of velocity in terms of the distance-time relation. We place before the child two tunnels, one of which is obviously much longer than the other, and then we push a doll through each tunnel with a metal rod in such a way that the dolls arrive at the other end of both tunnels simultaneously. We ask the child:

'Is one tunnel longer than the other?'

'Yes, that one.'

'Did both dolls go through the tunnels at the same speed, or did one go faster than the other?'

'The same speed.'

'Why?'

'Because they arrived at the same time.'

—Jean Piaget”

MARCH 1907

ANCIENT BABYLON—“Before the hand of destiny consigned it to decay, Nippur must have been a highly desirable place of residence. The 'library' found there consists of about twenty-five thousand books and documents in the form of the clay tablets of the time. Prof. Albert T. Clay, of the University of Pennsylvania, has succeeded in translating many of the important tablets. It would seem that the saying regarding the futility of escape from death or the tax collector must first have been wailed forth from the overburdened soul of a resident of Nippur, 1400 B.C., for many of the documents found are records of receipts for rent or taxes. The taxes were paid, not in coin, but in natural products, such as corn, sesame, oil, dates, flour, and live stock.”

MUSIC BY TELEPHONE—“Dr. Cahill's wonderful invention, the 'telharmonium,' consists in generating electrical oscillations corresponding with the acoustic vibrations of the various elemental tones desired, in synthesizing the different notes and chords required, in transmitting these oscillations by means of wires to any desired point, and in rendering the synthesized electrical vibrations audible by a translating device such as an ordinary telephone receiver or a speaking arc (which in our illustration is disguised as a hanging plant).”

PANSPERMY—“It has been demonstrated that intense cold is not injurious to all germs. The rapidity of the photochemical changes induced by light and the rapidity of desiccation would be similarly diminished by cold. Hence we may perhaps conclude that the preservative effect of the low temperature of interstellar space assures the possibility of the conveyance of living germs from one solar system to another. Therefore spontaneous generation is unnecessary, as life can be transmitted from one heavenly body to another by minute germs propelled by the pressure of light. This idea involves another, which appeals to me very strongly, namely, that all organisms in the universe are related and the process of evolution is everywhere the same.

—Prof. Svante Arrhenius”

MARCH 1857

COTTON FIRES—“The recent great fire in Mobile, in which several thousands of bales of cotton were destroyed, has caused an extensive discussion in the Southern papers on the expediency of baling cotton with wire. The principal advantage is, that wire will not burn like rope, and, bursting, scatter the cotton to the flames and the wind, causing the destruction of every other bale within its reach. Cotton bound with wire could scarcely be made to blaze, and if combustion be carried on at all it must be in a smouldering condition.”

CABLE-LAYING ATTEMPT—“The Secretary of the Navy has ordered the U.S. steamers Niagara and Mississippi to England this summer, to assist in laying down the submarine telegraph cable between Newfoundland and Ireland. The Niagara is the largest steam vessel of war in the world, and the Mississippi is the most powerful paddle-wheel steamer in our Navy. It is not yet known what ships the English government will furnish to perform its part. The Niagara will receive on board at London or Liverpool one half of the cable, and the other half will be put on board the English ship. As justly remarked by the daily papers, 'It is a sign of advancing civilization when the ships of war of these two great nations thus meet in mid-ocean, not for a naval battle, but in a peaceful effort to join the two hemispheres.'”