Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 60.djvu/435

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SCIENCE IN 1901.

Board was made master of the situation, for Parliament, while passing the Bill for the Behr Monorail high-speed line between Liverpool and Manchester, practically delegated the power to authorize the construction of the line to that body, which must approve of the engineering details before work can be begun, and may require the promoters to carry out any preliminary experiments it thinks necessary. From the point of view of public safety there are doubtless advantages in this policy of entrusting everything to the Board of Trade, but its practical effect will probably be that British engineers will be debarred from taking the lead in any new electrical development which conceivably involves risk to human life. In connection with high-speed lines, mention must be made of the experiments carried out in Germany on the Berlin-Zossen military line, where, by the aid of electricity at a high voltage, a speed of about 100 miles an hour was obtained, not, it would appear, without some damage to the permanent way.

That wide field of inquiry which lies in the borderland between physics and chemistry is attracting an ever-increasing number of workers. Though no discovery of outstanding importance was made, the Cambridge school can point to a year of solid work on the phenomena of ionization and the existence of bodies many times smaller than molecules, and, in spite of the protests of some chemists, the ionic dissociation hypothesis continues to find increasing favor among the great body of physicists. In France progress was made in the investigation of the radio-active bodies by M. and Mme. Curie, Becquerel, and others; the first-named inquirers made the observation that the rays emitted by radium exercise a burning and eroding effect on the skin. In Germany, Bredig and Ikeda continued their remarkable experiments with 'inorganic ferments,' in particular following out the analogy between the catalytic action of colloidal platinum and that of organic ferments in regard to the action of poisons. They find that the rate of decomposition of hydrogen peroxide in presence of colloidal platinum is inliuenced to an extraordinary degree by substances like prussic acid, hydrogen sulphide, and mercuric chloride, even in minute quantities. Thus the catalytic effect of a platinum solution is halved by prussic acid, even when the concentration of the latter is only 0.0014 milligram per liter; the effect of this substance is, however, only temporary, and the solution gradually recovers in course of time. A large number of substances exert this poisoning action to a greater or less extent, but there are some which intensify the catalytic action of the colloidal platinum, among them being formic acid and dilute nitric acid. Experiments have also been tried with a colloidal solution of gold obtained in a manner similar to that employed in the case of platinum, by passing an electric current between gold wires in a dilute solution of sodium hydroxide. This gold solution, which is bluish-violet in color