Sir William Ramsay's British Association Address THE presidential address delivered by Sir William Ramsay before the meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science at Portsmouth was a novelty in its distinguished position, for it was discursive. In the opinion of the London Lancet, “Sir William Ramsay delivered an address which was generally retrospective, seeking to picture the present position of civilized nations politically, scientifcally, socially, educationally, industrially, imperially, in contrast with periods of the past." The Lancet regards as the most remarkable passages in his address those in which he referred to the position of the elements of radium and the wonderful manifestations of its energy. “From its physical and chemical properties radium is an undoubted element, but, as Sir William Ramsay observed, it is a very curious one, for it is unstable, and hitherto stability has been believed to be the essential characteristic of an element. Radium, however, disintegrates-changes, that is to say, into other bodies, and at a constant rate. If one gramme is kept for 1,760 years only half a gramme will be left at the end of that time; half of it will have given of other products. It yields a condensable gas-radium emanation-and besides evolves helium. Helium seems to be a veritable element, and radium emanation has been shown to be incapable of chemical union, but it has been liquefed and solidifed in the laboratory of University College, London, and its spectrum has been measured and its density determined. The emanation has been called niton to recall its connection with its congeners, argon, neon, krypton, xenon, hellum, and its phosphorescent properties. The atomic weight of niton is 222.4 and that of helium 4. The sum 226.4 is the atomic weight at the parent. radium. But the descent does not stop there. Niton in its turn gives radium A and helium, radium A rapidly gives another solid substance, radium B, helium again accompanying the change. Soon a half of B gives place to radium C, but in this case no helium is evolved, only atoms of electricity to which the name “electrons” has been given by Dr. Johnstone Stoney. Radium C has a short life, for it changes into radium C', parting with helium atoms. Tn two and a half minutes, however, radium C' Is half gone, parting once again with electrons and forming radium n which is longer lived, its disappearance eventuating in radium E with apparently no discharge of electrons or helium. Radium E changes spontaneously into radium F, which is the substance to which Madame Curie gave the name 'polonium.' In 140 days, however, polonium in its turn is half changed into an unknown metal, supposed to h possibly lead. Then apparently a check to the rapid descent takes place, for lead within present human limitations, at any rate, is stable. "But there is no reason why even the stable elements should not decompose when subjected to enormous strains. The virtue of the energy of radium consists, as Sir William Ramsay pointed out, in the small weight in which it is contained; energy here is in an enormously concentrated form. It is disappointing to be told, therefore, that the supply is a very limited one, and that it can safely be afrmed that the production will never surpass half an ounce in any year. The small quantities, however, which have been so far produced have aforded sufcient energy to induce the degradation of elements hitherto regarded as stable. The action of niton or radium emanation on salts of copper appears to show that the metal copper can be converted partially into lithium; and similar experiments indicate that thorium, zirconium, titanium, and silicon are degraded into carbon, for solutions of compounds of these, mixed with niton, invariably generate carbon dioxide, while cerium, silver, mercury, and some other metals give none. This is all a very wonderful story: and we may well ponder over the possibilities for the human race to which these discoveries are leading. Sir WilHam Ramsay suggests that if elements are capable of disintegration, the world w!II have at its disposal a hitherto unsuspected source of energy. If radium were to evolve its stored·up energy at the same rate that gun-cotton does, we should have an undreamt-of explosive; could we control the rat, we should have a useful and potent source of energy, provided always that a supply of radium were forthcoming. 'If, however, the elements which we have been used to cansider as permanent are capable of changing with eva· lution of energy; i some form of catalyzer could he discovered which would usefully increase their almost inconceivably slow rate of change. then it is not too much to say that the whole future of our race would be altered;' that is how Sir William Ramsay pithily sums up the position. A fuller account of his address will be found in this week's Supplement. Use of Cement Gun by the Government THE “cement gun,” a device for putting concrete in place by compressed air, i being used by the Quartermaster's Department, United States Army, in the Hawaiian Islands, and is proving of value in the construction of the ordnance shop at Fort Ruger. The apparatus was originally provided with a nozzle that became worn and clogged easily. These difculties were overcome when Capt. Edwards, quartermaster, invented a rubber·lined nozzle that gave complete satisfaction. , The following description of the device as used in Hawaii is furnished by Capt. A. B. Putnam, Corps of Engineers: The cement gun is manufactured by a New York company, and consists of an air compressor, a 4·cylin-dex marine gasoline engine of 20 horse-power, a l·lnch wire·wound rubber hose with walls three·eighths inch thick for delivering dry sand and cement mixed, an ordinary garden hose for delivering water to the nozzle of the gun, and the gun or nozzle itself. The nozzles originally furnished with the machine were not rubber lined and soon became abraded, so as to render them worthless. The nozzle used by Capt. Edwards, quartermaster, is lined witb rubber (about three-sixteenths inch), so that no mortar sticks within. Furthermore, the rubber lining does not appear to become worn under use except very slowly. A mixture (1 to 2%) of cement and fne sand is delivered to the nozzle at 30 pounds pressure, and just before being discharged is met by a circular spray of water at 30 pounds pressure within the nozzle, so that the wet mortar is projected on the surface to be covered. The water supply is regulated at the nozzle to obtain the correct consistency. Triangular mesh is secured by staples to the studding of the structure, and is backed up by either heavy paper or wood placed so that the mesh will he in the center of a mass of stucco 11 inches in thickness when the spraying is completed. In dwelling houses the stucco is placed on the studding inside as well as outside, but is made only about three-fourths inch thick inside. Smoothing is done by shooting a fne light spray of wet mortar. No fnishing is done with the trowel. The fnished surface inside is to be painted. The resulting stucco is very hard and makes a fair appearance, though it is necessarily rougb. So far, provided the mesh is placed so that edges overlap, I have observed .no cracking. It should be noted that this stucco is merely a thin wall of plaster, and bears no strain except that due to its own weight. When' stucco is placed inside and outside, the paper backing (10 pounds per 100 square feet) is left in the wall. When only an outside is place, the wood Ir paper backing is removed when the stucco has hardened. At this date of writing one gun is placing 90 square yards, 11 inches thick, per working day. The cost at present, including cost of studding and backing in place, is $1.13 per square yard. The hose now in use is stronger and heavier than the one supplied with the outft, and the nozzle is different, being about 12 inches long, as against about 4 inches as supplied, and being rubber lined throughout, so that the mixture never touches metal. There has been but little work done here as yet, so that cost data are not complete, and it has only been since Capt EdwardS applied a new nozzle that the gun worked well. Tests are to be made by the Isthmian Canal Commission to determite the value of cement mortar, applied to iron plates by the “cement gun,” as a preservative of iron at Panama. Twelve plates, 63.8 by 14 inches, have been coated with a 1 to 3 mortar of cement and sand, after they were cleaned to gray metal by the sand·blast process. Six of these ha'e been covered with a %·inch coating, and the remaining six with a i-inch coat on one side, and a l%-inch coat on the other. Three plates of each kind have been sent to Balboa. and three to Cristobal, where they will be kept immersed in- salt water to test the mortar method of preventing corrosion. Two plates of each kind will be taken from the salt·water bath at the end of three montbs. and one·half of the coating will be removed to determine the condition of the metal. The duration of the test for the balance of the plates will be determined later. Aviation in Japan IN the Deutsche Zeitschrift fUr Luftschifa'rt Dr. Demcker reviews the history of aviation in Japan. Although the art of making kites has been cultivated in that country from time immemorial, and the man· lifting kite-the precursor of the modern aeroplane-was, according to tradition, utilized by a banished daimio to send a message to his vassals in the year 1156, Japan has been slow in taking a share in the great recent development of aviation, as well as of other branches of aeronautics. T'wo years ago, however. the Japanese government sent two army ofcers to Europe to study aviation, viz., Capt. Hino to Germany, and Capt. Tokugawa to France. These ofcers, besides making themselves profcient in the art of fying, purchased on behalf of their government a number of aeroplanes of various makes-Bliriot, Wright, Grade, Farman-and have now returned to Japan, where they are giving instruction to a number of other ofcers. For the purpose of these lessons the government has established a large aviation feld about two hours' journey by rallway from Tokyo. The government has also organized an ofcial society for the study of aviation, its members all being government employees, including military and naval ofcers and professors in the imperial univerSity. . grant of $375,000 has recently been voted to this organization. The Japanese are not entirely dependent upon foreigners for their fying-machines. Capt. Hino, Dr. Narahara, Capt. Isobe of the navy, Messrs. Morita and Tsutsuki, and Baron Iga have devised various forms of aeroplane. Each of the important newspapers of Tokyo now has a department devoted to aeronautics. The RoeM Shimbun, the leading paper of the city, has engaged the services of Messrs. Takata and Inouye as “aviation editors,” and the Asahi Shimbun has a similar functionary in the person of Mr. Usu!. The semi·ofcial journal Ko1umin has ofered a prize of $5,000 for a fight over the Bay of Tokyo. ” Stalloy “-An Iron Alloy of Peculiar Electrical and Magnetic Properties PARTICULAR attention has been given to “StaIloy” by many investigators on account of the claims made by its inventor (Hatfeld) with regard to its magnetic properties. A paper on this subject, embodying the results of a research carried on by H, R Hamley and A. L. Rossiter, appears in a recent issue of the Proceedings of the Royal Society of Victoria. The principal facts and conclusions given by the authors are very briefy summarized below: "The special feature of 'Stalloy' is its high specifc electric resistance and high permeability. The specifc resistance being about four times that of the best transformer iron, the eddy-current loss for a given thickness of sheet would be greatly reduced, so that lamination need not be carried out to anything like the extent necessary with ordinary, iron, and the question of insulation of laminr becomes less troublesome. It is more expensive than ordinary iron, but the increased expense is compensated by a reduction in size of the transformers, etc., constructed of it, an increase in output, and greatly improved efciency. "The special chemical feature of 'Stalloy' is that it contains about 3.4 per cent silicon. The value of this alloy is emphasized in a paper by Epstein, where several tests of its properties are given. "Several investigations have been made by other experimenters by direct current methods, which agree fairly well together. "The object of the research was to investigate the magnetic properties of 'Stalloy,' not only with direct current, but also with alternating currents of varying frequencies. "Summing up generally, it may be said that the chief results to b' noticed are that- "(1) 'Stailoy* cannot be used to advantage in the unannealed condition. "(2) In the annealed state the results obtained fully bear out the claims made by the makers, the permeability being very high and the losses small, particularly the eddy·current loss. "(3) The results slightly difer from those of other experimenters, the permeability being generally a little lower in our results than in theirs. "( 4) 'Stalloy' behaves very much like ordinary iron under varying frequencies. .. (5) The constancy of the value of the hysteresis loss for diferent frequencies Is remarkable."
This article was originally published with the title "Abstracts from Current Periodicals" in Scientific American 105, 13, 280 (September 1911)