Premature Explosion of Shells To the Editor of the Scientific American: While the cry for military inventions is going the rounds of the press, and inventors are feverishly calling for information concerning submarines, torpedoes, and other war-like weapons to aid them in their work, perhaps it would not be amiss to ask, Are our military authorities really so on the alert for new contrivances? The question is not an impertinent one if we call to mind t e many notorious instances in which our experts have let revolutionary inventions slip through their hands. T e recent case of Captain Lewis and his machine gun, which like so many other military inventions had to cross the ocean to win recognition for its merit,* calls t is ultra-conservatism of our military men again forcibly before us. Would it be too much to suspect that many other inventions, just as deserving as those which have hitherto been passed over, are lying neglected on the governmental shelf? It is not at all unlikely, and. the recent unfortunate accident aboard the Mongolia, in which two Red Cross nurses met death, brings forward a case that may be of just that kind. We learn that that accident was due to the boomerang rebound of the bras casing cap on one of the shells. That in itself is not so serious, and might be explainable as a freak. But it was further disclosed in. the inquiry that of forty-five shots fired by the liner St. Louis in practice, nine had exploded in the guns and four had prematurely exploded in flight; in other words, nearly 30 per cent of all the shells fired went off prematurely. Further, Admiral Earle stated that the ammunition was as perfect as could'.be secured. Now, if this is the best ammunition procurable, and if it has behaved'so lamentably, should not its faults be corrected? Be it said to the credit of inventors that they long ago recognized the ' defects in these shells, and have solved the problem of righting these defects. To the ordnance department must be laid the blame for not adopting the improved shells. This was brought to my mind by the recollection of an article printed in the Scientific American, which I find to be in the issue of'November 27th, 1915. Here is described a shell invented by a chief gunner in the United States Navy, a Mr. Gilmartin, who by training and experience. obviously should be acquainted with hiswSiness,, and whose improvements, the result of thaVgspenence, should therefore command attention by our-ordnance officials. The novel construction of that shell is such as would do away entirely with all premature explosions, make the base-cap unnecessary, and afford other advantages not present in our standard ammunition. Why has not our ordnance department provided such ammunition as this for the important duty of protecting merchantmen, where a single premature explosion might mean the loss of a ship? Noel Deisch. Washington, D. C. The Rights of the Enemy Patentee To the Editor of the Scientific American: I wish to call your attention to a dishonest and dangerous precedent, first set by England and poodle-dogged in the present fashion by the United States. England has confiscated, or at least abrogated, German patents, and we are about to do the same. What is to prevent Germany retaliating? And, if she be victor in the struggle, entirely disclaiming any American patent rights, after the war, and manufacturing and selling as much and where she pleases? Nothing but force of arms could stop her. I do not believe that American inventors as a class look on this business with a kindly eye. Necessity is the mother of invention--not fraud. It is a difficult thing to give this war an honest and valiant appearance. H. W. Phillips. New York City. [The above letter contains several misstatements of fact and is based upon an entire misapprehension. England has never confiscated nor has it abrogated German patents, nor are we about to do the same. In the case of patents owned by Germans where it was essential that the industry established under the patent should be continued, the Government has extended the rights of manufacture to individuals but upon a royalty basis, the royalty settlement to be arranged after the completion of peace. The rights of the owners of the patents, however, are recognized and remain in force subject to these restrictions. It has been proposed that this policy, or some similar policy, should be adopted by the United States. There is no reason why an industry should be discontinued or that the goods produced under the patent should not be procurable owing to the fact that the patent right is owned by an alien enemy. Some basis must be found to avoid such an undesirable and unjust condition. It is pretty generally understood that in the case of inventions that might be of value for war purposes, the Imperial German Government is holding up the issue of such patents indefinitely, and there is every reason to believe that these patents are either being operated or are being held in escrow during the period of the war, or at all events at the will of the Government. In the case of medical specifics which are now offered to the public at extortionate prices, some way should be provided by the Government by which manufacture under proper conditions might be established, always bearing in mind the fact that the inventor's rights to a reasonable profit should be safeguarded. --The Editor.] Beating Germany via the Air To the Editor of the Scientific American: I have read with interest various methods proposed by readers of your interesting journal for breaking the so-called German submarine blockade. My idea may not be practicable just at present, but in case an effective device is not invented to protect our and our Allies' merchant-men within the near future (which I sincerely hope will not be the case), we will have to search for another means of transporting the necessary food, equipment, etc., for our and the AUies' armies. I suggest we look into the matter of utilizing super-aircraft, similar to Zeppelins or the large aeroplanes reported soon to be in use on the Western front on which twenty to thirty passengers may ride, for transporting the necessary supplies across the Atlantic. Of course there will have to- be new inventions and improvements installed but the scheme is possible. Haven't we read of long distant Zeppelin raids over England, air-craft coming from Chicago to New York, etc.? for the necessity of descending due to breakdowns and repairs, a modified super-hydroplane or Zeppelin which might descend to the ocean's level, might be used, and we could have warships stationed every 100 or several hundred miles apart to serve as repair and mother ships for our transatlantic air-fleet. The size of the cargo would depend on the size of the air-craft, its motors and machinery, and would of course, not be as great as ordinary freighters can carry, but just as large as merchant submarines would be capable of transporting. The advantages over merchant-submarines would be many, several of 'the most important being: 1. Ability to make transatlantic trips in a small fraction of the time the submarine would require. 2. No necessity of removing skilled help from our fleet, as the submarine would require. 3. Facility of obtaining skilled airmen to pilot our air leet. 4. Practically no chance of being hit bVvjunfire from enemy submarines. ' America has the brains and ability, the- raw materials and the men successfully to master problems which would arise if the foregoing or some similar scheme were carried out. So even if the Germans do cripple our merchant sea-service, they can never beat us over the water. Jerome D. Stein. Newark, N. J