Studying the Anarchists' Bomb Scientifically THE “bomb” laboratory described below is not a place in which bombs are made. No layman has yet penetrated into the secrets of the manufacture of bombs for military use, so that there is nothing to be said on that subject. More is known of bomb factories of another sort, which are operated by criminals; but it is not advisable to describe these establishments, lest the description fall into the hands of some person who might be tempted, either by malice or by simple curiosity, to engage in the manufacture of bombs. The bomb laboratory, the description of which is here quoted from Reclams Universum, is operated by the poliee of Paris for the purpose of investigating and destroying bombs found in the city. It has served as the prototype of similar establishments in other cities. The progress of chemistry continually makes the path of the transgressor more hard. The slightest trace, even a drop of blood no larger than a pin's head, may suffice to convict a murderer. The impression made on a cartridge by the hammer of a pistol, or a single hair found on the clothing of the suspected person, may serve as valid proof of crime. Until recently, however, science has been almost powerless against the pernicious activity of the bomb-thrower. When a bomb explodeB, it is shattered into thousands or minute fragments, and its contents are resolved into gases which cannot be caught and investigated. The effectiveness of bombs depends upon the fact that they are filled with substances which, when ignited, evolve enormous quantities of gas in a minute fraction of a second. The explosive force of this suddenly evolved mass of gas is enormously increased by the very high temperature to which it is heated by the accompanying chemical reaction. Hence, a bomb which can be carried in the pocket is able to produce terrible devastation. Nevertheless, the bomb thrower is sadly deceived if he believes that an exploded bomb leaves no trace because its whole contents are converted into gases and because the shell is made of an old gas pipe or tin can, fragments of which would convey no special information leading to the identification of the criminal. It was difficult indeed for chemists tq devise methods of discovering the secrets of shattered bombs, but even this difficulty has now been surmounted. This is proved by the recent trial of one of the criminals who attempted to blow up the Municipal Building in Friedberg, in order to rob .an adjacent bank in the resulting confusion. These same criminals had previously attempted to extort money by threatening letters from a wealthy banker in Frankfurt, and, in order to intimidate him, had placed a bomb in front cf his residence. klthough the bomb exploded according to the design of the criminals, it nevertheless was the cause of their undoing. ' The walls of the house ·were examined very thoroughly, and a few small fragments of the contents of the bomb, which had been thrown out before the flame reached them, were found. These few particles of the explosive mixture, in connection with some other evidence, sufficed to prove with certainty that the bomb had been filled with blasting gelatine. Here was one pOint gained, and a second resulted from the careful examination of the fragments. Blasting gelatine is made by a great many factories, which differ in their processes and in the composition of their products. It was proved with certainty that the blasting gelatine found in the wall had been made in a factory at Saint Ingbert, from which it had recently been stolen. Thts was sufficient to identify the criminal completely, because only one person could have been guilty of the theft. In a similar manner the composition of the bomb which exploded in 1907 before the police station in Offenbach was determined from a few fragments. In this case a lead tube had been filled with a rather common explosive mixture; but it was found possible to discover not only the character of the mixture, but also the mechanical construction of the bomb. Very much more dangerous than burst bombs are those which for any reason have failed to explode. Here it is not only necessary to examine the bombs in order to identHy the crtminal, but it is first of all requisite to make them harmless. This is a rather difficult matter. Some bombs are so constructed that they explode instantly upon the slightest shock or as soon as an attempt is made to distul'b their position. The most important of these bombs are those in which the explosion is brought about by means of a liquid contained in a glass tube. The bomb is usually so contrived that the slightest displacement causes a weight to fall upon the tube and break it, so that the liquid escapes and comes in contact with substances which, under its action, explode with great violence. These bombs are perhaps the most dangerous of all, and the methods which are commonly assumed to be proper for the destruction of bombs-immersion in water, for example-are powerless against bombs of this character, which explode in water as well , as in air. Bombs which are exploded by fuse are much less unpleasant to handle, both for the policemen and the bomb throwers, who in many cases have been killed by the premature explosion of bombs of the other type. Usually, however, the glass tube containing the exciting liquid is lowered carefully into the bomb after the latter has been- placed in position. The fuse employed for the ignition of a bomb is usually very long, so that the criminal has plenty of time to escape, and even to accomplish a railway journey of several hours before the ,bomb explodes. The fuse consists usually of a train of sulphur Dr a eord saturated with sulphur. From the time which a measured portion of this cord occupies in burning, the length of fuse required for any desired interval between ignition and explosion can be calculated with accuracy. The bomb shown in the illustration, which Automobile with a safety bomb carrier. was found in Paris on a window sill, was provided with a fuse which would have occupied three hours in burning. It would be a great mistake, however, to simply quench or tear out a burning fuse and then freely handle the bomb, for many dynamiters are ingenious- enough to attach fuses to the more dangerous bombs of the liquid type in order to mislead the finder in this very way. All bombs, therefore, whether provided with fuses Dr not should be handled and examined in the careful manner described below. In the first place, the bomb must be removed safely from the city to the labo:atory in the suburbs. For this purpose it is seized with very long tongs of peculiar construction, and slowly and carefully removed, without changing its position with respect to the horizon, from the house or other place in which it is found, to an automobile provided with a safety bomb carrier, which is simply a box supported on gimbals like a compass. Such an arrangement is caHed a Cardan suspension, from the name of the Italian 'physicist, Cardona, its alleged inventor. In reality, however, the device was invented by Leonardo da Vinci, as has recently been demonstrated by Dr. Otto Werner. The Cardan or gimbal suspension is used in all cases where it is necessary to keep a body perfectly horizontal. It consists of two concentric rings which .an turn on axes lying in the planes of the rings and at right angles to each other. The body to be kept level is attached to the inner ring. When the bomb has been safely placed in the oarrier the most diff,cult part of the work has been accomplished. The automobile then proceeds very slowly and cautiously to the bomb laboratory, and any smali shocks which it experiences are prevented from affecting the bomb by the Cardan suspension. The bomb laboratory of Paris is situated in the suburb of Vincennes. The bombs are destroyed in a shed constructed of light boards and surrounded by a wall of earth and an outer and high wall of masonry. If a bomb explodes, the surrounding country, which is a waste and uninhabited 'land, is thus protected from injury. This precaution is not unnecessary, for stones have been thrown more than a mile by the explosion of a bomb. If the Paris laboratory should be destroyed by a bomb, the light boards would be shattered into still lighter fragments, whose flight would soon be stopped by the resistance of the air. For additional precaution, the building is open at the upper part immediately under the roof, so that the pressure of the exploding gases cannot become very great. The shed is also surrounded by a board fence,. at one corner of which stands a sentry box which is always manned. Inside of the fence and outside of the .earth waH is situated a workroom containing a collection of bombs and fragments of bombs, with apparatus' for the examination of bombs. Here, also, is the pump cylinder of a hydraulic press which is connected by a subterranean tube with the press cylinder in the. bomb shed, inside the earth wall. The bomb is removed from the automobile with the greatest care and placed upon the piston of the press and below the fixed headpiece. The men then retire to the outer workroom '0' t!6 press is set into operation. As the -piston risel Lhe bomb is crushed. It has been proved by experience that the safest method of opening bombs is by crushing in this manner because all parts of the bomb are left undisturbed, and because the shell is usually cracked before the glass tube is broken. If an explosion occurs the gases can escape through the broken shell without doing much damage, as they encounter little resistance at this point or in the open shed, so that the contents of the bomb are quietly consumed, leaving suffdent traces for the determination of the composition of the mixture. It is evident from this description that the warfare between the chemist and the dynamiter is not without interest, and that it is waged with mental weapons .n July 29, 1911 SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN 101 the full sense of the word, despite the employment of the rather crude, mechanical aids which have been described. It is especiaHy gratifying to find that in this difficult fieHl the criminal has been conquered by science. A Flexible Steering Column for Automobiles WITH the low and elongated automobile bodies that have recently come into favor the steering column is necessarily placed in a very oblique position. This construction is both inconvenient and dangerous, for when the driver has insinuated himself into the narrow space between the steering column and the seat he is completely imprisoned and immobilized by these parts, by the levers at his right and by tho passenger at his left, whom he must disturb in order to leave his seat. If the car is suddenly stopped by a collision, the driver is projected violently forward and is seriously injured by the steering wheel. A French inventor named Martinot has patented a steering column which can be bent forward sufficiently to permit the driver to mount and dismount easily, even on the right side, and which bends forward automatically in case of sudden stoppage, so that the driver is thrown clear of the car, instead of being crushed by the steering wheel. The description and illustrations of the apparatus which are here given are taken from a recent issue of Cosmos. The steering column is made in two parts, MM, which are connected by a universal joint I (Fig. 1), of simple and massive construction, which does not impair the strength of the column. The movement of the upper part of the column is confined to a fore-and· aft vertical plane by two hemispheres AA', which are attached respectively to the tubes L and L, inclosing the fixed and movable parts of the column, and which together form a hinge joint, turning on the axis at B'. The fixed and movable parts of the column are securely fastened to the cross of the universal joint by pins, in addition to the screw-bolts GF, etc. The two extreme positions of the steering column are shown in Fig. 2. ''he angle of displacement is limited by a stop, which is adjust(d in accordance with the space available in each vehicle. The movable part, in consequence of its weight, naturally assumes the normal position, in line with the fixed part, and the pressure exerted on the wheel by the driver's hands, tends to hold it firmly in this position. The inventor claims that the wheel cannot 'bo thrown forward by vibrations of the car or inequalities of the road, even at the highest speed. As the two parts of the column, however, are connected by a universal joint, the apparatus works perfectly in any position. It may, therefore, be modified by the addition of a second stop so that the two parts of the column are never in line, but form with each other, even in steering, an angle determined by the convenience and preference of the driver. Why Europe Is in Advance of America in Pioneer Inventions T HE discussion which was recently started in the columns of Engineering News on the subject of Europe's superiority in the matter of pioneer inventions hus called forth, among other letters to the editor of that journal, one from Mr. George H. Gibson, which should be illuminating and highly instructive to readers of the Scientific American. Mr. Gibson says, very truthfully to our mind, that “while most American manufacturers are aware that the profits of engineering lie in pioneer work, not all of them as yet understand the proper utilization and management of research. The demand for research is not brisk over here and the schools have done little either to excite it or to turn out men properly qualified to fill the demand if such should arise. Possibly as an incident of rapid commercial expansion, ongineor, ing enterprises are generally controIled by business men, rather than by directing engineers, while the technician is a subordinate employee, who receives little encouragement or aid toward the initiation, planning or carrying out of sustainer investigations." In Europe, MI. Gibson assures us, the situation is different. “The engineer or scientist frequently occupies a more independent position. I am told, for example, that Prof. Rateau, who has developed many lines of centrifugal machinery, including steam turbines, centrifugal pumps, air compressors, blowers. etc., Iicenses various concerns in France, Germany and else- where, that is, his rights are not assigned in toto to some corporation, as would probably happen in America. "Similarly the professors in the leading German technical schools, in addition to teaching, maintain large engineering offices, in which research and experimental development work is prosecuted on an extensive scale. The remuneration received from their inventions and for their engineering work enables these scientific engineers to maintain large staffs, while their connection with the laboratories and the other facilities of educational institutions naturally leads to the full utilization of the resources of scientific knowledge and methods." Pure Food and What It Means I F so much of our lives and so much of man's ambition are bound up in the great problem “What to Eat and How to Get It,” we surely do well to consider what manner of food we are getting in return for life's struggle, whether, in a word, it is pure, clean and wholesome; whether it is calculated to give us the sustenance and strength, the health and prolongation of life that we have a right to expect, or whether it is sometimes so far a mixture of bad with the good, that almost literally we are given a stone when we ask for bread. This whole question was ably considered by Mr. L. S. Dow, before a meeting of the Section of Physics and Chemistry of the Franklin Institute. His paper on the subject is here abstracted from the journal of the Institute- "The rapid growth of the preserving business in its early stages attracted much capital without corre- sponding experience, and in such cases, for the most part, business disaster was only averted by the extensive employment, in nearly everything produced, of chemical anti-ferments, which served as a protection against all the mistakes of cooking, sealing, and sterilization, and obviated entirely the necessity of proper sanitation either in methods or surroundings. The first objection to their use, however, and, I believe the most glaring abuse that exists to-day, lies in the employment for the purpose of preserving partly spoiled and ill-cared-for vegetables and fruits. The principal substance that is used for the artificial preservation of vegetable and fruit products, as well as for meats and fish in some cases, is the drug benzoate of soda-which, in its least objectionable form, is a tasteless and odorless derivative of coal-tar. "It is not my purpose to discuss here the extent to which the substance, sodium benzoate, itself may be harmful. That is a scientific question, the discussion of which I am willing to leave to scientific men, confining myself rather to a few brief words concerning its possible significance in food products. But, before proceeding to this phase of the artificial preservative question, I would like to call attention to the fact that the weight of scientific evidence, especially on the part of the medical profession, is strongly opposed to it, and to suggest that if there is a doubt about the amount of injury that it causes, the people, and not the manufacturing interests who desire to continue its use as a means of securing a greater pecuniary profit, should have the benefit of that doubt." Mr. Dow states that every product of fruit and vegetables with which he is familiar can be success·· fully made in a commercial way without artificial pre,ervatives, which statement he considers demonstratet because the entire product of at least twenty-five, and probably more, leading American food preservers is entirely free from these substances. “Why, then,” asks Mr. Dow, “should any one wish to continue their use? Commercial cupidity yields very grudgingly to attempted reform. There is cannery waste to be worked up profitably into ketchUps and soups-skins, cores, and decayed parts of tomatoes, cooked up and thrown into barrels to be shipped about the country for use as wanted. There are always job lots of spoiled or partly-spoiled fruits and other similar materials lying about in the season that can be picked up cheaply. To say nothing of the expense attending its proper disposal, it is hard to send such material to the sewer when profit can be gained from it by sufficiently dosing it with' a chemical preservative to protect it from putrid fermentation, and then disguising its taint with spices and flavors until it- really becomes quite presentable and, in a degree, acceptable to those who do not discriminate very closely in favor of quality, and who are only slowly learning the significance of the legend on the outside of a package: 'Preserved with one-tenth of one per cent of benzoate of soda.' "While the demand of the reactionary manufacturer for the continued tolerance of some kind of an artificial preservative is based upon several reasons, the principal pressure in its favor comes from users of tomato waste, which has a commercial importance not generally understood. Tomatoes are probably more extensively canned than all other summer vegetables put together-and all the canning is done in a period of six to eight weeks, under high pressure. Tomatoes are also more extensively used in soups, condiments, sauces, etc., than any other fruit or vegetable-th'a consumption of tomato ketchup alone running into many millions of dozens annually."" Mr. Dow draws a picture of skins, cores and decayed tomatoes, which there is neither time nor inclination to care for, falling under foot and disregarded as it accumulates. Hundreds of thousands of barrels of this refuse, he assures us, are sold in a season. "It is pulped and put into the barrels under conditions that would better be left to the imagination than described, and then chemically 'preserved' against actual putridity. It is safe to say that no one would ever again desire to eat any benzoated article after once seeing this material and its treatment. "'This tomato refuse is sold at about $1.00 to $3.00 per barrel, to be made into tomato-ketchup, soup, baked-bean sauce, etc., which are eventually labelled as made of fresh, ripe tomatoes, and which carry only one protection to the consumer-namely, a statement of the presence of the preservative on every label, which is put there under one of the occasional beneficent food regulations of the Agricultural Department at Washington, but it is always printed as small and obscurely as passible. Thus the consumers' only protection is to read all food labels carefully, including the fine print." Mr. Dow states that it is really around the tomato waste industry that has rallied most of the effort for nullification of the Pure Food Provisions of the National Food and Drugs Act. A term much employed by the pro-preservative interests in their defence is “concealed inferiority,” the contention being that the addition of a chemical preservative to rotten tomatoes or fruit, for instance, changes neither the odor nor flavor of the materiaL Unfortunately for this line of argument, nobody contends, or ever has contended, that benzoate of soda “conceals inferiority.” The expression “concealed inferiority” is simply one coined as a premise upon which to build false argument. Artificial preservatives do not conceal inferiority, but they do permit and encourage disguised inferiority and the grossest fraud. In order to cheapen the product, Mr. Dow states that many manufacturers retain as much water as they may find convenient. Bottles and other cantainers need not be washed, and sterilization becomes a useless expense. "I have no hesitation in saying that the principal use of benzoate of soda and like substances in modern food manufacture to-day is either to permit the use of a lower grade of material, or carelessness in process. Its tendency is to lower quality in some direction all the time, and to invite actually unwholesome practices, and the question of whether we are to have cheapness in our foods at the expense of quality <me wholesomeness is as much alive to-day as it was before a food law was placed on the statute books."
This article was originally published with the title "Abstracts from Current Periodicals"