Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 11.djvu/300

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the frozen soil did not allow the gas to escape straight upward, but drove it into the house. I have told you already why I take the frozen soil to be not more air-tight than when not frozen. In such cases the penetration of gas into the houses is facilitated by the current in the ground-air caused by the house. The house, being warmer inside than the external air, acts like a heated chimney on its surroundings, and chiefly on the ground upon which it stands, and the air therein, which we will call the ground-air. The warm air in the chimney is pressed into and up the chimney by the cold air surrounding the same. The chimney cannot act without heat, and the heat is only the means of disturbing the equilibrium of the columns of air inside and outside the chimney. The warm air inside is lighter than the cold air outside; and this being so, the former must float upward through the chimney, just like oil in water. It continues to do so as long as fresh cold air comes into its neighborhood from outside. As soon as we interrupt this arrival, the draught into the chimney is at an end. Any other way of looking at the action of chimneys leads to erroneous views, which have many times stopped the progress of the art of heating and ventilating.

Thus our heated houses ventilate themselves not only through the walls but also through the ground on which the house stands. If there is any gas or other smelling substance in the surrounding ground-air, they will enter the current of this ventilation. I have witnessed a case in Munich, where not the least smell of gas could be detected in the street, but a great quantity of gas found its way into the ground-floor room of a house where no gas was laid on. In another case the gas always penetrated into the best heated room and produced an illness of its inmates, which was taken for typhoid fever.

The movement of gas through the ground into the house may give us warning that the ground-air is in continual intercourse with our houses, and may become the introducer of many kinds of lodgers. These lodgers may either be found out, or cause injury at once, like gas; or they may, without betraying their presence in any way, become enemies, or associate themselves with other injurious elements, and increase their activity. The evil resulting therefrom continues till the store of these creatures of the ground-air is consumed. Our senses may remain unaware of noxious things, which we take in, in one shape or another, through air, water, or food.

We took rather a short-sighted view all the while, when we believed that the nuisances of our neighbors could only poison the water in our pumps; they can also poison the ground-air for us, and I see more danger in this, as air is more universally present, and more movable, than water. I should feel quite satisfied if, by my lectures, you were convinced of this important fact, if of none other.

England has given proof how the public health can be improved,