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THE PROGRESS OF SCIENCE

who himself did so much to bring these natural treasures to the hands and homes of his countrymen, type of the thinkers who to-day are piercing further secrets and unlocking fresh stores. And there, in a clear sky, rises the sun.

 

RADIUM EMANATION AND THE TRANSMUTATION OF THE ELEMENTS

Sir William Ramsay has printed in Nature, for July 18, a letter, entitled "Radium Emanation," which is the basis of the alleged interviews which have been published in the newspapers. The author states that a full account of his researches will shortly be communicated to the Chemical Society. In his brief statement he calls attention to the fact that with Mr. Soddy he had shown in 1903 that the spontaneous change of the emanation from radium results in the formation of helium; this observation has been confirmed by others. Helium was once detected in the gases evolved continuously from a solution of thorium nitrate. When the emanation is in contact with and dissolved in water, the inert gas which is produced by its change consists mainly of neon; only a trace of helium could be detected.

Sir William now states that when a saturated solution of copper sulphate is substituted for water, no helium is produced; the main product is argon, possibly containing a trace of neon, for some of the stronger of its lines appeared to be present. The residue, after removal of the copper from this solution, showed the spectra of sodium and of calcium; the red lithium line was also observed, but was very faint. This last observation has been made four times, in two cases with copper sulphate, and in two with copper nitrate; all possible precautions were taken; and similar residues from lead nitrate and from water gave no indication of the presence of lithium; nor was lithium detected in a solution of copper nitrate, similarly treated in every respect except in its not having been in contact with emanation.

According to the author these results appear to indicate the following line of thought: From its inactivity it is probable that radium emanation belongs to the helium series of elements. During its spontaneous change, it parts with a relatively enormous amount of energy. The direction in which that energy is expended may be modified by circumstances. If the I emanation is alone, or in contact with hydrogen and oxygen gases, a portion is "decomposed" or "disintegrated" by the energy given off by the rest. The gaseous substance produced is in this case helium. If, however, the distribution of the energy is modified by the presence of water, that portion of the emanation which is "decomposed" yields neon; if in presence of copper sulphate, argon. Similarly the copper, acted upon by the emanation, is "degraded" to the first member of its group, namely, lithium; it is impossible to prove that sodium or potassium are formed, seeing that they are constituents of the glass vessel in which the solution is contained; but from analogy with the "decomposition-products" of the emanation, they may also be products of the "degradation" of copper.

 

SCIENTIFIC ITEMS.

We record with regret the deaths of Professor Angelo Heilprin, the eminent naturalist and explorer, professor of paleontology and geology in the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences and lecturer in physical geography at Yale University; of Dr. William L. Ralph, curator of the Section of Bird's Eggs, in the U. S. National Museum; of Sir William Henry Broadbent, F.R.S., a leading London physician; of Dr. August Dupré, F.R.S., chemical adviser to the explosive department of the Home Office of the British govern-