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effort. This statement, however, was made in January, and things have not been standing still since. More especially there was no indication then that either the country or the Government was aware of the necessity for enormous efforts for the adequate supply of "munitions," amongst which must be included "optical appliances." As is well known, the only firm supplying optical glass in this country is the firm referred to in the House of Commons, namely, Messrs. Chance Brothers, of Birmingham; and a paragraph appeared in the Times on April 26 to the effect that this firm will now supply optical glass only to those manufacturers of optical instruments who can produce a War Office or Admiralty certificate showing that the glass is needed for the fulfilment of a Government contract. This means that, notwithstanding the large increase in the capacity of the plant at Birmingham, the whole of the optical industry of this country, other than that engaged in Government work, cannot be supplied at the present time with any optical glass whatever. When we consider the important trades which require such glass in fairly large quantities for other than Government purposes, there is no doubt of the great seriousness of the position. But so optimistic is the Government that it has declined a patriotic offer of Lieut.-Col. J. W. Gifford to hand over to the nation free of cost practically the whole of a collection of fine optical glass, considerably over a ton in weight, which he has accumulated during twelve years of laborious research, some of the results of which have been published by the Royal Society from time to time. The definite proposal made in Dr. Walmsley's letter to the Times is that the Government should at once take over the optical glass branch of Messrs. Chance's factory. We understand that this proposal is, as yet, a suggestion of Dr. Walmsley's only, and that, for obvious reasons, he did not communicate beforehand with the firm in question. In passing, we may say that great credit is due to this firm for its very vigorous and patriotic efforts to deal with the situation, but the matter appears to us to have got beyond the point at which any private firm should be required, for the good of the whole community, to undertake such heavy capital expenditure as it has already made and to risk the great sacrifices which may be called for if this expenditure be rendered unproductive after the war. As pointed out by Dr. Walmsley, the natural solution, that competing firms should instal plant and enter the market, is not applicable in this case, because the whole amount involved is too small to make it worth while for any important firm to enter into competition. The supply of fine optical glass for the United Kingdom involves probably an outside turn-over of not more than 20,000l. a year, an amount which is not worth dividing. But the supply of this small quantity of raw material, in the form of unwrought optical glass, affects an industry in which the value of the finished products runs to millions of pounds' worth of goods per annum, and in which the greater part of the
cost of output goes in wages to highly skilled labour.
It is true that the firm named already has risen to the occasion, has octupled its plant, and, if Ministerial replies are taken at their full face value, has succeeded so far as to supply present Government requirements. But what of the rest of the industry, and, moreover, what is to happen when the war is over? The foreign supply of this vital "key" product will doubtless be resumed, surrounded by the ante bellum "wire entanglements" to which Dr. Walmsley refers, such as restrictive contracts on users, the lodging of dummy and blocking patents in our Patent Office, and all those means by which officiallynurtured foreign competition in the past has endeavoured to kill the production in this country of the far more vital and more costly finished products. Is it too late in the day to ask that these methods of competition should not be used against private firms without any greater safeguards available than those which have proved so ineffective in the past?
It seems to us that the proper course is to act generally in the direction of Dr. Walmsley's suggestion, with such modifications as may be found desirable on full investigation. This would mean, in substance, that the Government should undertake the supply of this "key" product. With a Government department empowered to deal with eventualities, full attention could be given to the other important matters dealt with in the report of the British Science Guild, namely, the adequate development of research, better provision for the testing of the physical and optical properties of samples of glass, and, most important of all, provision for adequate technical training and research in applied optics, so that this country may recapture speedily the position it held for so long in the forefront of the world's optical develop
ASPHYXIATING GASES IN WARFARE.
DR. J. S. HALDANE'S report on his investigation of the nature and effects of the asphyxiating gases, used by the Germans in their attack last week on the French and British lines near Ypres, leaves but little doubt that chlorine or bromine was the chief agent employed, whilst shells containing other irritant poisons were also used.
Prof. H. B. Baker, who accompanied Dr. Haldane, is carrying out an investigation as to the chemical side of the question, and until his report is available, surmises as to the nature of the poisonous gases and the methods adopted for their use would be premature, but the evidence seems to point clearly to the fumes floated by the wind on to the Allies' lines being chlorine, as at ordinary pressure bromine is a liquid below 59° C., and at ordinary temperatures would not give off its vapour with sufficient rapidity to cause the seven-foot bank of vapour that drifted on to the Allies' trenches, whilst the colour of the cloud would have been a rich brown and not the "green
ish" or "yellowish-green" colour so frequently described, which undoubtedly points to chlorine.
Chlorine gas is 2'45 times heavier than air, and if discharged "down wind" would only slowly rise, so that at a distance of one hundred yards from its point of disengagement the bank of fume might be expected to be six or seven feet deep, but with bromine vapour, which is more than five times the weight of air, the thickness of the layer of vapour would, under the same conditions, be much less. Liquid chlorine has, for many years, been a commercial article: the gas is liquefied by a pressure of six atmospheres at o° C., and is stored in lead-lined steel cylinders, being largely exported for use in the extraction of gold in localities where, from difficulties of transport, plant and materials for making the gas in situ would be more expensive.
It is said that such cylinders, 4 ft. 6 in. long, were sunk in the German trenches and were connected to pipes six feet long pointing towards the Allies' lines under these conditions, intense cold would be produced at the point where the cylinders discharged into the delivery pipes by gasification of the liquid and expansion; this would soon check the rapid production of gas, and the white smoke seen behind the greenish cloud of gas may well have been caused by brushwood fires lighted above the delivery pipes to warm them and prevent stoppage.
Although all the evidence and the symptoms found in the unfortunate victims overcome at this particular section of the line point to chlorine as the gas employed, there seems every probability that liquid bromine has also been used in shells or grenades, which, bursting in the air, would scatter the liquid under conditions that would rapidly gasify it, when the weight of the vapour would cause it to descend on the troops below.
Both chlorine gas and bromine vapour, when present to the extent of 5 per cent. in air, rapidly cause death by suffocation, by acting on the mucous linings of the nose, throat, and lungs, so causing acute inflammation; but bromine poisoning is generally distinguishable by the skin of the victim being stained yellow, and the intense action on the eyes, which is much greater than with chlorine.
some years ago it issued regulations under which certain chemical standards for "pure pot-still whisky" were proposed for adoption. The proposals met with some criticism. It was alleged, in fact, that many pot-stills employed in Great Britain could not produce whisky which would comply with the requirements.
In order to investigate the matter further the Government analyst for Western Australia was deputed last summer to visit this country. Here, conjointly with an analyst representing the distillers, he inspected some forty Scotch distilleries and analysed a large number of samples of the whisky produced. In addition, twelve distilleries in Ireland were visited alone by the official analyst. The papers now issued 1 give an account of the investigation. They are prefaced by the statement that the proposals, as now modified, have been approved by the Governor in Executive Council and gazetted accordingly.
Briefly, the stipulations are that, as regards Scotch whisky, it shall have been distilled at a strength not more than 35 degrees above proof and matured in wood for not less than two years; and that " standard pot-still whisky" shall contain at least 45 grams of esters, 3'5 of furfural, and 180 of higher alcohols per 100 litres of absolute alcohol, as estimated by methods prescribed. For Irish whisky no furfural standard is proposed at present, but the proportion of esters is required to be not less than 35 grams, and of higher alcohols 200 grams, per 100 litres of absolute alcohol.
Whisky other than "standard pot-still," whether Scotch or Irish, is required to be sold "blended" whisky. Of this there are three classes, containing respectively at least 75 per cent., at least 50 per cent., and less than 50 per cent. of standard pot-still whisky. For the first and second classes minimum limits are fixed for the proportions of esters, furfural, and higher alcoholsomitting the furfural, however, in the case of Irish whiskies. The third class includes all whisky which does not comply with the requirements for any of the other classes. The respective kinds. are to be labelled with the appropriate designations.
A good deal of the criticism to which the ori
The Germans have an unfailing source of brom-ginal proposals were subjected has been turned
ine in the crude carnallite, worked at Stassfurt for the production of potassium chloride, but when full particulars are available it will probably be found that, besides such obvious asphyxiants as chlorine, bromine, and sulphur dioxide, they have also employed compounds of a more complex
CHEMICAL STANDARDS FOR WHISKY.
IT may be remembered that the Royal Commission on Whisky, which in 1908-9 gave a lengthy consideration to the matter, did not find a very satisfactory answer to the query "What is whisky?" The Government of Western Australia has also been debating this question, and
aside by the change of a single word in the regulations. "Pure" has become "standard" potstill whisky. There was just cause of complaint when specifications for the "pure" pot-still product were drawn up, because in certain cases these requirements could not be satisfied by whisky distilled in an apparatus which had certainly hitherto been regarded as a "pot "-still, even if somewhat modified from the simple form. To stigmatise by inference such products as adulterated because they did not comply with the stipulations for "pure" pot-still whisky was indefensible. But, obviously, a community has the right to say what it will regard as a standard" whisky, and this
has now been done.
1 "Papers in Connection with the Establishment of Standards for Whisky in Western Australia." (Perth: The Government Printer.)
WE regret to see the announcement of the death on May 4, at seventy years of age, of Sir William R. Gowers, F.R.S., distinguished by his work on diseases of the nervous system and related subjects of medical science.
PROF. SYDNEY J. HICKSON has been elected president of the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society for the ensuing year (1915-16).
THE Council of the Institution of Civil Engineers has made the following awards for papers read and discussed during the session 1914-15:-The Telford gold medal to Mr. A. L. Bell (Rosyth); Telford premiums to Mr. C. W. Anderson (Chakradharpur, India), Sir Thomas Mason (Glasgow), Dr. H. F. Parshall (London), and Mr. H. E. Yerbury (Sheffield), and the Crampton prize to Mr. F. D. Evans (Kuala Lumpur, F.M.S.).
In reply to a question asked in the House of Commons on May 4, Mr. Tennant said:-"The latest information with regard to the incidence of enteric fever among the British troops in the Expeditionary Force is as follows:-Up to date 963 cases have occurred, and of these 780 have been analysed; 142 cases have occurred in men inoculated fully with two doses of vaccine. Among these ten deaths have occurred, giving a case mortality of 7 per cent.; 157 cases have occurred in men partially protected by inoculation-that is, who have had only one dose of vaccine. Among these there have been ten deaths, giving a case mortality of 6.36 per cent.; 481 cases have occurred in non-inoculated men. Among these there have been 100 deaths, giving a case mortality of 20.79 per cent. To appreciate the full value of these figures it must be brought to notice that 90 per cent. of the troops forming the Expeditionary Force have been inoculated voluntarily. Therefore, among 90 per cent. of the force (i.e. inoculated men) there have been 299 cases and twenty deaths. In the other 10 per cent. (uninoculated men) there have been 481 cases and 100 deaths.
ON May 1, at about 5 a.m., the instruments of the seismological observatories of this country registered an earthquake of quite unusual strength, of which, however, we have as yet received no other news. At West Bromwich, the oscillation was so great that one of the recording needles was dismounted. The approximate position of the epicentre, as deduced from the Eskdalemuir seismogram, is latitude 47° N., longitude 156° E., or on the east side of the Kurile Islands. The earthquake is evidently one of the most
interesting of the last decade. The Kurile Islands and the Japanese Empire are, as is well known, in the form of festoons, the convex, or eastern side, of which slopes steeply into the deeper waters of the Pacific Ocean. In the Kurile Islands, earthquakes are weak and infrequent as compared with Japan. The recent earthquake thus visited a district in which great shocks are almost or quite unknown. Moreover, the epicentre lies (at a depth of about 4000 fathoms) near the base of the western slope of the great depression which forms the north-easterly continuation of the Tuscarora Deeps.
In view of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's proposals for a differential tax on beer, it may be of interest to note in what manner the specific gravity of beer is related to its alcoholic strength. As explained in an article in NATURE of April 8, the basis of the beer duty is not the actual amount of alcohol in the beer, but its potential amount as measured by the "original" specific gravity of the wort. In beer as it is sold, the proportion of alcohol varies somewhat even for worts of the same original specific gravity, because they may be fermented to somewhat different degrees either in the primary fermentation or in the slow after-fermentation which generally supervenes. Broadly, however, it may be said that in light beer of original gravity 1043 (water = 1000), the tax on which is not affected by the present proposals, the proportion of alcohol is usually about 6 or 7 per cent. of proof spirit. This represents 3 to 4 per cent. of real alcohol-that is, of ethyl hydroxide, C,H,.OH, by volume. Beer of original specific gravity 1050 to 1055, on which a supertax is to be levied, contains about 9 to 11 per cent. of proof spirit when sold, corresponding with 5 to 6 per cent. of real alcohol. This represents the beer ordinarily drunk, such as dinner ale, pale ale, "porter," and the beer generally supplied on draught in public-houses. Heavier beers and stout range from about 1060° to 1090° of original gravity; these contain from 11 to 14 per cent. of proof spirit, or 6 to 8 per cent. of real alcohol. In special "strong ale" the original gravity may be more than 1100°, and the amount of proof spirit as much as 20 per cent., or approximately 11 per cent. of alcohol.
WE have sadly to record the death of Erasmus Darwin, the only son of Mr. and Mrs. Horace Darwin, of Cambridge, and a grandson of Charles Darwin, and of the first Lord Farrer. He was killed on April 24, leading his men in action in Flanders. On the outbreak of war in August last he instantly applied for a commission, and was gazetted Second Lieutenant in the 4th Battalion Alexandra Princess of Wales's Own Yorkshire Regiment in September last. He went into camp at Darlington until November, and then was stationed at Newcastle-on-Tyne, and was put in command of the scout work, which he entered into with all that quiet zest which was characteristic of him. He delighted in the work of training himself and his men in long expeditions by night and by day over the moors. Not even the pressing offer, which was made to him a few days
before he went to the front, of an important post at home in connection with munitions of war would move him from his desire to give his personal services at the front with the scouts to whom he had become so attached. He was a man of very lovable disposition and unusual ability. He was born on December 7, 1881, and was educated at Marlborough and Trinity College, Cambridge. He took the Mathematical Tripos in his second year, 1903, and afterwards passed out in the Mechanical Sciences Tripos in 1905. For some time after taking his degree he worked at Messrs. Mather and Platt's at Manchester. For a time, too, he carried out important work in the test-room of the Cambridge Scientific Instrument Company, and by his exceptional business ability and foresight he rendered highly valued service as a director of the company. About seven years ago he went to Messrs. Bolckow Vaughan's at Middlesbrough, and his sound practical judgment and administrative ability soon won for him a very important position in the firm. In this war the country has to mourn the loss of many valuable lives, and Erasmus Darwin was one of those whose fine, modest conscientiousness and unswerving strength and loyalty made us know that we lose a man whom we should have been proud to see taking his part in the guiding of public affairs in the country.
THE director of the Meteorological Office, Dr. W. N. Shaw, has sent us a copy of a new scale of velocity equivalents of the numbers of the Beaufort scale of wind force which he has received from Prince Boris Galitzin, the director of the Russian Meteorological Service. The table has been drawn up at the Observatoire Physique Central Nicolas, and expresses the wind force determined by the Wild wind-gauge in terms of the Beaufort scale. These values will be
used by Russian Meteorological stations as from May I. The table has been compiled in accordance with the decisions of the International Meteorological Committee, at the meeting held at Rome in 1913.
THE Smithsonian Institution announces that fossil bacteria have been discovered in very ancient limestones collected in Gallatin County, Montana, by Dr. C. D. Walcott, secretary of the institution. For some time Dr. Walcott has believed that these bacteria existed, and mention of the fact was made before the Botanical Society of Washington on April 6, when attention was directed to their existence in association with fossil algal deposits of the Newland limestone. The belief that bacteria were the most important factor in the deposition of these ancient limestones was also mentioned by Dr. Walcott in a preliminary publication of the Smithsonian Institution. At that time, however, no definite bacteria had been discovered, but in thin sections of limestone from the
collections made in 1914 the microscope now shows these very minute forms of life, some twenty to thirty million of years old. The bacteria were discovered in three sections cut from an algal form included under the generic name Gallatinia, named after the great American explorer Gallatin. The bacteria consist of individual cells and apparent chains of cells which correspond in their physical appearance with the cells of Micrococci.
THE Art Museum of Boston has recently acquired one of the gems of Minoan art, which is described by Prof. E. Gardner in part ii. of Ancient Egypt for 1915. It is an ivory statuette with gold ornaments and details, 6 in. in height. The resemblance of the figure to that of the famous Snake Goddess found by Sir A. Evans at Knossos is obvious. But it resembles not so much any art of ancient Greece as that of Gothic work of the thirteenth century. At the same time, the character of the materials seems to preclude the possibility of forgery. She wears a dress of Cretan type, and her head is adorned with a splendid crown, on which a gold ornament was probably fixed. The statuette exhibits for the first time a treatment of the human figure which is comparable with the fine studies of animals characteristic of Cretan or Mycenæan art. It may be placed not far from the high-water mark of Cretan pottery, and it may go back to the Middle Minoan age. This new discovery emphasises more than ever the contrast between the art of Crete and that of ancient Hellas. It is much to be regretted that this fine work of art has not found its home in our national collections.
MR. T. ERIC PEET has issued in the Publications of the Manchester Museum, No. 75, an account of the Stela of Sebek-khu, which contains the earliest record of an Egyptian campaign in Asia, one of the most important documents ever found in Egypt. It was unearthed at Abydos in 1901 by Prof. Garstang, and is now in the Manchester Museum. It measures 16 by 10 in., and the inscriptions and representations are somewhat carelessly incised. Its importance lies in the fact that this is a record of an early campaign in a period hitherto unknown preceding the age from which date the Hyksos invasion, the great wars of Thotmes III. and Rameses II., down to the campaign of Sheshonk, mentioned in the Old Testament. It represents the beginning of reprisals in the Asiatic field at the beginning of the twelfth dynasty. The people now attacked by Egypt were the Mentu of Sebet, or nearer Asia, and the Mentu were an Asiatic tribe living close to the Egyptian frontier. On this occasion the Mentu were aided by their allies, the Retenu, probably inhabiting the Peninsula of Sinai. Sekmem, the place attacked, was somewhere in Palestine. However the details of the campaign may be worked out, this Stela remains our best authority for Egyptian conquest in Asia prior to the eighteenth dynasty.
ACCORDING to the Victorian Naturalist for March, examples of parasitic Copepods belonging to the family Monstrillidæ, have been discovered for the first time in Australia by Mr. J. Searle, but as yet their specific
identity has not been determined. These small crustacea are parasitic on Serpulid worms, whence they escape, by rupturing the body wall of the host, to liberate their ova. This they do as free-swimming organisms, but lacking a functional alimentary canal, death ensues on the completion of the reproductive functions.
In the Australian Zoologist for February, Mr. Allan McCulloch gives a brief, but extremely interesting account of the hitherto unrecorded migration of the larval eel-gudgeon (Galaxias attenuatus) from the sea to fresh water. He found numbers of these larvæ, about 38 mm. long, and quite transparent, making their way through the surf into a small fresh-water stream about 6 ft. wide. Very little is known of the habits of Galaxias, but some interesting notes on the occurrence of G. truttaceus in damp soil in Tasmania have been made by Mr. T. Hall and Mr. J. Fletcher. It would seem that this species is capable of burrowing into soft earth to a depth of eight or nine inches, when the water dries up in times of drought, and there æstivating until released by the rains.
How insect pests extend their range into new and distant areas is shown by Mr. W. J. Rainbow in the Australian Zoologist for February, where he records the Occurrence of the carpet beetle (Attagenus piceus) in woollen goods imported from London by a large drapery establishment, and of a West Indian longicorn beetle (Eburia binodosa), which had worked its way out of of an imported oak chair. This insect, doubtless in a similar manner, has also made its way into England, but so far with no evil results. The discovery of the carpet beetle in Australia is, however, a more serious matter, for much damage had been done before it was detected. Hence there is a possibility that its ravages may spread.
THE peculiar methods of feeding displayed by the starfish are well known; but Mr. H. N. Milligan, in the Zoologist for April, describes for the first time the means adopted for disposing of a victim so unusual as a pipe-fish. After some experimenting the body was seized between two of the arms, and held in position by means of the suckers, while the three remaining arms were made to serve as the legs of a tripod. The upper portion of the abdomen of the still living captive was brought immediately under the mouth of the captor, when the stomach was everted in the usual manner to envelop this unwieldy morsel, which was held there until hunger was appeased. No similar case seems ever to have been recorded. Two excellent figures add not a little to the interest of this strange record.
pound, instead of 1d. per pound. Then the inspector of the Fishmongers' Company at Billingsgate came to the rescue, and allowed the society to take away from the market quantities of fish good for immediate consumption, but not fit to distribute through the retail trade. But this source of supply failed when the cold weather came. Happily, so far it has been possible to arrange for a regular supply from Grimsby. We would suggest that should this fail recourse should be had to netting some of our inland waters for coarse fish," of which there must be an abundance for a long time to come.
It is extremely gratifying to learn, from the spring number of Bird Notes and News-the organ of the Bird Protection Society-that the colonies of the great skua are still increasing on the Shetlands, though they have to be guarded jealously against the raids of the egg-collector. Strenuous efforts are being made to save from extermination the red-throated diver, the black-tailed godwit, and the harrier. It is to be hoped that these efforts will meet with their due meed of success during the coming nesting season. The largest colony of great black-backed gulls in Great Britain, we are told, is to be found on Noss. But this does not afford us unmixed satisfaction. This bird is ruthlessly destructive of the eggs of other species, and of late years has become unduly numerous; measures might, therefore, with advantage, be taken to reduce their numbers. In the same number we learn with much pleasure that the choughs and buzzards are more than holding their own in Cornwall, thanks to the efforts of the society's watchers.
THE report for 1913 of the periodic variations of glaciers (Annales de Glaciologie, vol. ix. (1914), pp. 42-65) includes the Swiss, Eastern, and Italian Alps, and gives some information about the glaciers of Norway, Russia, the Himalayas, New Zealand, and North America, especially .Alaska. The Alpine glaciers, the whole, are still retreating, though a few advances are recorded. For instance, of sixty-one Swiss glaciers, twenty-five continued to recede in 1913, and ten probably did the same, while only one certainly and ten probably advanced; the movements of the rest being doubtful. In the other two Alpine districts the observations are less numerous, but on the whole they point in the same direction. In other countries the evidence, which, however, is sometimes rather imperfect, shows that glaciers in the same neighbourhood are uncertain in their movements, but are generally receding, the small being more sensitive than the large to the annual snowfall. This, however, seems certain, that in the Alps the ice-streams have not nearly regained the ground which they began to lose rather more than half a century ago. At
a few cases it goes back some three centuries, is too imperfect to admit of any satisfactory explanation. Oscillations such as have been observed during several years, including the last one, are probably due to variations in the temperature and snowfall during one or more preceding seasons, but the great advances, with corresponding thickening of the ice
FROM the annual report of the Zoological Society present information about these variations, though in of London, it is apparent that the war has not only curtailed its income, and made rigid economy necessary, but it has further hampered the smooth running of the menagerie. More especially is this true in regard to the fish supply. Early in August the contractor was unable to continue his supply, and fish had to be bought daily at from 4d. to 7d. per