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SCIENCE SIFTINGS.

FLOATING ISI__ND ON JUPITER, i • For many years astronomers have had under observation a spot on the planet Jupiter—the " Great Red Spot!" In proportion to the size of the planet, it is as large as Australia relatively to our globe. The eminent' French astronomer, M. Camille Flanimarion, says:—" The discussion of a large number of observations leads us to see in it a sort of continent in the making, a scoria recently ejected from the mobile and still liquid and heated surface of the giant Jupiter." Tne patch, however, oscillates perceptibly, and appears to' be a floating island. AEBIAiL TORPEDO. A patent has been aplied for at the German Patent Office for an "aerial torpedo," being built at KJrupp works. The torpedo consists of a hollow body, containing a thin cylindrical reservoir, one end- of which is .attached to the point of the projectile ,and the other end to a thin plate screwed into the hollow body. This reservoir is filled with liquid oxygen, and also contains an explosive charge fitted into a cylindrical tube. In the point of the torpedo a hole is bored, widening towards its front end, and a pill of platinum sponge is inserted in the hole. The platinum is ignited by the escape of hydrogen, when the point of the torpedo has pierced the covering or envelope of a balloon or airship, and in its turn sets fire to the explosive charge. All projectiles for use against balloons manufactured up to the present have simply pierced the balloon covering without exploding its gas contents. Experiments with the new torpedo are being regularly conducted. HALLEY'S COMET. Enthusiastic preparations are being made at many observatories for the systematic search of this famous comet, which is due at perihelion in the spring of 1910, says an English exchange. According to the latest ephenierides, it is now well in the solar system, being about as distant as Jupiter. At the Yerkes observatory the programme provides for photgraphic exposures at close intervals throughout the latter part of 1908 and the spring of 1909, but it is not expected that the comet will be visible to the naked eye until late in 1909, passing in January of that year from Aries into risces, travelling westwards through the latter constellation until the early days of May; after this it will turn eastwards, passing through the constellations Cetus, Orion, Monoceros, Hydra, and Sextans. 'This comet,was. first noted by Halley in 1652, who identified it with previously recorded epmets££an*d; predicted its" reappearance in about 7ft years. It-did reappear in 1758, and again in 1835, thus verifying Halley's conclusions. MAGNETIC AIR TIDE. A regular variation of atmospheric pressure, taking place twice a day, has recently been discovered. This was noted by Hahn, the celebrated Austrian meterologi-t, who detected it by a mathematical analysis of a long series of barometric observations in all parts of the world. The variation is most marked in the tropics, and diminishes toward the poles in both hemispheres, but takes place at the same time along every meridian. It has been found that this semidiurnal variation has long been known to mariners, although it is very small, being indicated in a mercurial barometer by a change of only about one thous andth of an inch in the height of the mercury column. If this change in pressure is due to changes in the height of the atmosphere, the air, instead of forming a spherical shell around the earth, must he an ellipsoid, pointing alwa3-s 30deg. west of the sun. This indicates that the phenomenon depends in some way upon solar influence, possibly upon some relation to the sun's magnetic attraction. J. S. Dines, another student of the subject, traces the influence of this pressure change, taking place twice daily, upon the winds of the_world, and connects it with a similar, variation in the south-east trade wind, the most' persistent atmospheric current in the world, which has been called "the pulse of the atmospheric circulation." The variation j was conspicijpus in a series of hourly observations of wind pressure made at ■St. Helena in 1891. . I THE CONQUEST OF THE AIR. A correspondent asked Mr. Wilbur j Wright at the beginning of the year what I he thought were likely- to be the most interesting developments in aeroplane I navigation during 1909. I think it will I be some time yet, he said, before the aeroplanp becomes a practical invention. I Long voyages will no doubt be made dur- | ing the year, but only hy experts and sportsmen. I think that I shall be able, by means of the new motors which M. Leon Bollee is making for mc, to make trips lasting four hours, during which I shall cover from 125 to 155 miles. Evidently a voyage above a flat country would present no serious difficulties. But to conclude that it would be possible be- | fore long to adventure over towns and undulating country would be somewhat rash. I shall continue to come down on | sledges, because, in my opinion, it is the only good method. But I hope before long to dispense with the derrick and the [starting rails. EGYPTIAN RELICS COUNTERI FEITED. I The art of the counterfeiter (says the Brussels correspondent of the "Standard") has now been extended to Egyptian scarabei, to judge from the experience of the Royal Museum of Brussels. Some time ago the museum authorities acquired from the widow of an Egyptologist for £400 two granite scarabei, which were said to have come from Bubastis. The inscription bore reference to the voyage round Africa by the sailors of King Necho, and their astonishment at seeing the sun rise on their right, as related by Herodotus. The scarabei was examined by several savants, whose doubt as to their authenticity was strengthened by the remembrance of the so-called "tiara of Saitaphernes." The museum authorities then communicated with similar bodies at Paris and Berlin, and finally the matter was relegated to a committee of experts, ' who found that the relics were not genuine antiques. As the result, the museum authorities sued the widow for I the return of the £400 paid for the "scarabei," and the civil tribunal has found in their favour. FATAL. ILLNESSES OF METALS. Tin crumbles to a grey powder ii exposed for a long time to the cold. The change is known as "tin plague"; the smooth surface of the metal afteT an exposure to 16deg.-45deg. C. for two years becomes brittle and crystalline. "Tin plague" is even "infectious," for on inoculating, other masses of smooth

polished tin with small portions of the crystalline metal the "disease" spreads, the area affected increasing in diameter .from three;.to" fiveVmillirnetres daily. Tinfoil succumbs to the" infection in the same way and becomes crystalline'""and brittle right' through." Why, again, does the railway line snap except that it" is attacked by the same "crystalline disease. It would even appear, as the "Lancet" has pointed out, that certain metals have their "illnesses,"'as though their activities were interfered with by a toxic (poison) process which may be pushed in many cases to such an extent that the metal "dies."

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SCIENCE SIFTINGS. Auckland Star, Volume XL, Issue 68, 20 March 1909

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