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* SNOW CRYSTAL SET, S OF MATHEMATICAL INSTRUMENTS 3- REYNOLDS & BRANSON LTP LEEDS.

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A WEEKLY ILLUSTRATED JOURNAL OF SCIENCE

To the solid ground
Of Nature trusts the mind which builds for aye.”_WORDS WORTH.

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THURSDAY, MAY 3, 1906.

cleavage due to surface tension; and, finally, there is a disintegration. The author speaks of them as intermediate between crystals and bacteria, and as

possessing n, 1 of the n properties of living bacilli. RADIOBES AND BIOGEN.

The author is somewhat vacillating in his descripThe Origin of Life: Its Physical Basis and Definition. tion of his " radiobes,” but he does not regard them By John Butler Burke. Pp. xiv + 350; with illus

as living things in the ordinary sense. They trations. (London : Chapman and Hall, Ltd., 1906.)

obviously lie altogether outside the beaten track of Price 16s. net.

living things ” (p. 109), but they may bridge over R.

the apparently insuperable gap between the organic "radiobes,” minute bodies which appeared in and inorganic world (p. 110). sterilised bouillon when small quantities of radium

“ Forms we have obtained are analogous to living chloride or bromide were brought into contact there

types and may be called artificial forms of life, but with.

they are not the same as life as we know it to-day:

they may help, however, to fill in some of the gaps "Aminute quantity of the salt contained in a sniall

between living and dead matter" (p. 187). glass tube, one end of which was drawn out to a fine point, was introduced into an ordinary test-tube con- “ These bodies are neither crystalline nor colloid in faining bouillon. The test-tube was plugged with disguise, though colloids, as aggregates, but somecotton-wool in the usual way with such experiments, thing more : and crystals in their constituent parts. and then sterilised at a temperature of 130° C. for The point which distinguishes them from both of about thirty minutes at a time. On cooling, as soon these is perhaps the fundamental principle which as the liquid had coagulated, the fine end of the inner marks them out at once as possessing the elements tube containing the radium was broken by means of of vitality in a primitive and most undeveloped state" a wire hook in a side tube. The salt was thus allowed (p. 112). to drop on the surface of the gelatin. After twenty

The author started with proteid material, which four hours signs of growth were already visible.”

we know to be an essential constituent of organisms, The radiobes had appeared! They were at first like which has not as yet been artificially synthesised, and diplococci, and varied considerably in size from mere he brought into contact with this a stimulus provospacks as seen with a 12-inch lens. There is a lack cative of molecular change, namely, a radium salt; of precise measurements.

he thus obtained radiobes, and the interesting point " The growth is from the minutest visible specks,

is whether these do in any way approximate in their which develop into two dots, then into a dumb-bell behaviour to simple organisms. As we have not shaped appearance, later a biscuit-shape, and later studied radiobes we can only judge from the evidence still more like frog's spawn, through various stages, the author adduces, and it seems to us entirely inconas in the figures, until a shape is reached different clusive. We find no convincing evidence of assimilafrum its previous forms, when it divides and loses its

tion, cyclic development, or reproduction in the individuality, and ultimately becomes resolved into minute crystals."

ordinary sense of these terms; and we do not think

the author succeeds in showing that radiobes are Some of them show a nucleated structure, which may essentially different from the minute aggregates or exhibit subdivision “as in karyokinesis "; they are mimic cells produced by many other experimenters. stainable; they are credited with “ assimilation "; We cannot bring ourselves to believe that little bodies there is a "stoppage of growth at a certain stage of which are soluble in water will throw light on the devtipment"; there is a peculiar segmentation, like nature or origin of living organisms. The evidence that in yeast-cells, said to be quite different from any of anything approaching the behaviour of an organism

same.

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seems to us so flimsy that we cannot but wonder at certain amount of energy stored up which would such a paragraph as this :

entitle it to be regarded as possessing a certain “ The structure and composition of such artificial

amount of potential life ” (p. 186). cells is sufficient to enable them to perform the func- He postulates original units of life, bio-elements. tions of organic life, as distinct from such simpler biogens, or ultimate nuclei, possibly consisting of forms of vitality which we at first supposed inorganic cyanogen (as suggested by PAüger's well-known matter to possess. Thus they can assimilate, grow, hypothesis), more probably of something with a larger pass into higher types, subdivide, multiply, and

,

, finally, having gone through the whole cyclic process,

store of energy—"an element possessing many of disintegrate and lose their structure in the course of

the chemical properties of carbon and the radio-active time, being sensitive all the while to external stimu- properties of the more unstable elements." lation, both electrical and chemical, in various degrees ” (p. 133).

“Life-activity is a phenomenon of matter as much

as radio-activity, although really of a more complex The explanation of the author's apparent oscillation kind, and the manner in which the energy is stored between scientific caution and imaginative hope is to up in the ultimate nucleus is probably pretty much the be found in the fact that he has re-defined the ordinary chemical elements themselves, throughout the universe

Such nuclei may have existed, like the biological terms. Life, for instance, is

for an almost indefinite time. To account for their “the specialised mode of motion of a complex system formation would be the same as to account for the of molecules in a dynamically unstable state, so that

formation of the elements" (p. 166). there is a continuous or continual change, or flux of

They may have existed in the nebula which formed its substance, between the individual aggregates of the earth or they may have been borne to the earth molecules and their surroundings" (p. 49).

by meteors, as has been previously suggested. An organism has a structure, a nucleus, and an “ The formation of cellular life as we see it to-day external boundary or cell-wall, and its vitality may be described as being a continuous process of adjust; radio- or bio-element with organic compounds,” and

was the result of the subsequent interaction of this ment between its internal and its external relations" (p. 102).

of course there was an elimination of failures when

nature was trying her prentice hand at organisiThere is metabolism in the phenomena of flames,

making. One of these failures Mr. Burke mav fluorescence, and phosphorescence—“ a physical pro- have been on the track of when he made his radiobes. cess which is not merely analogous to, but essentially

In ordinary cell-life the bio-element persists as the of the same kind as, even if incomparably simpler vital spark, the nucleus within the nucleus, the nth than, organic metabolism ” (p. 179). It is this re

or ultimate nucleus, the real source of vital energy. editing of the biological dictionary that enables the

It is also the hereditary substance, and it “ author to write regarding his radiobes :

all of us that survives when we have shuffled off this We can say perhaps that we are witnesses at last mortal coil." to the first beginnings of life in its higher sense; but

The author tells us much more about biogens than though apparently a case of abiogenesis, to our mind it seems to be a case of biogenesis, from the view of

about radiobes, soaring in a region where verification matter which we take, of biogenesis indeed carried and contradiction are alike impossible. He supports to its logical extreme.

his theory by arguments from analogy, mainly drawn

from his studies on the “physical metabolism" seen We sympathise with the author's vigorous protest against the libel implied in the phrase " dead matter,'

in the phenomena of fluorescence and phosphoresbut we do not think the apartness of vital sequences

cence, and he shows that the theory is the natural is diminished by giving a more elastic definition to

outcome of his discovery of radiobes, to which the “ life” and “metabolism." As to the bearing of

bouillon supplies the soil or constituents, but the radiobes on the problem of the origin of living

radium the seed or vital spark. It is difficult for a creatures upon the earth, we do not think that it biologist to follow the details of this physicist's theory amounts to much, not only because Mr. Burke started

of vitality, e.g. when we read of two kinds of biogens with proteid material (the natural synthesis of which it

--the “ characterless nebulous biogen ” which correis at least difficult to imagine), but also because it seems

sponds to an ovum, and the concentrated biogen which to us too short and easy a disposal of problems simply corresponds to a spermatozoon. But Mr. Burke's to suppose that the coordination and regulation of general view may be indicated by quoting a few more

sentences. organic metabolism, the power of effective response, and other insignia of living creatures are secondary “ Life is as much a phenomenon of matter as acquisitions gradually wrought out in the course of electricity is. More clearly, life and matter are merely selection. Our business is to try to make the hypo- different phenomena of electricity, matter being thesis of primitive abiogenesis more plausible, and merely the fossilised state of biogen, and life of the

phenomena which take place in biogen in that stage we can only do this by condescending to discuss the

through which electronic aggregations have to pass detailed difficulties in a concrete fashion.

before they are converted into the crystalline forms of Mr. Burke's method is different; he elaborates a electrons which call the chemical

of new theory of vitality which seems to us quite in the matter (p. 192). air.

If this is what the author calls " more clearly," his * For anything we know there is no such thing as standard of lucidity must be very divergent from really dead matter, and there may be in all matter a that of the mean of the biological race. Biogen is

may be

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atoms

* nothing more or less than matter in the process of stronger on the theoretical than on the practical side. hecoming."

The first nine chapters, comprising about half the " Biogen may be regarded as the intermediate state

book, give a clear and logical account of the physical belleen free electricity and condensed electricity which and chemical properties of the materials used in the yr call matter—the hiatus between electricity as we preparation of pottery paste and glazes of all deknow it and matter as we know it; the missing link scriptions,

scriptions, together with laboratory methods of that bears

chemical analysis and such methods as have been • The heavy and the dreary weight Of all this unintelligible world.'

devised for testing the degree of fineness, plasticity,

and tensile strength of the various natural clays and We cannot follow the author further with his new

clay mixtures, as well as a theoretical discussion of Naturphilosophie," but it is interesting to point out

the behaviour of complex mixtures of silicates (clays that, although he says life-activity is a phenomenon

and glazes) when fired at varying temperatures up to of matter, he is far from being a materialist. For

their fusion point. All this is put forward with that matter, he tells us, is really mind-stuff, and “ atoms

clearness of expression and logical precision of are nothing more than ideas." We have always

arrangement that seem to come so naturally to the suspected that this would turn out to be the case.

French teacher. is an interesting book on a perennially interesting theme “ The Origin of Life" will probably soon pass

The feeling cannot be resisted that the author, with into a second edition, and we therefore note a few

the very best intentions, has covered too much ground. crata, Wiesmann" (p. 56),

It would seem as if he had attempted to describe every

" Debois" (p. 175), " Ludue” (p. 208), “ nucleosus” (p. 136), “ mytosis

known process, apart from its merits or demerits,

with the result that the student is overwhelmed with IG 137), are obvious misprints. We suppose that the

methods, and at the same time left without a clue "chlorophyll ” referred to thrice on p. 135 is a misprint for chromatin, but the author seems confused

as to the suitability of particular methods in special

circumstances. In the section on silicate analysis, for in his picture of a typical cell. Mitosis is not "the

example, the ordinary methods of treatment are given multiplication of the chromosome"; the centrosome

for silicates soluble in strong acids, and the methods is not “the inner portions of the nucleus, or nuetrolus "; and we cannot speak of “the karyo- of lead, boracic acid, and hydrofluoric acid for the

of attack with carbonate of soda, lime, baryta, oxide kinesis of the centrosome." There are several such

insoluble silicates, yet not one of the processes is i trors indicative of haste, and there is a disconcertmy sack of correspondence between some of the figures described in such detail as would enable the student

to conduct an analysis, and the refinements and correcand the references to them in the text.

tions introduced into the ordinary methods of silicate The author is so enthusiastic over his radiobes and

analysis •by Hillebrand, without which it is impossible with nuclei that we almost wish we could believe more

to guarantee one's results, are never mentioned. In in the importance of either of them. The former

the same way, in the sections dealing with the various sem to us very far from possessing n-1 of the n

methods used by potters for determining the temperaproperties of the simplest living creature we know ;

ture of their kilns, a long account is given of Wedgthe latter seem to us ingenious fictions too remote from everyday physiology to have even suggestive forms of electrical pyrometers, including the Féry

wood's pyrometer, Seger cones, and all the later vstue. But these are merely our opinions, and it may b that Mr. Burke will, by more precise observations cussion of the relative value of these different methods

radiation pyrometer, but there is no adequate discd more restrained theorising, justify the views of those who have hailed him as a pioneer and a prophet.

in the actual working of a pottery, the observations

on the employment of pyrometers (pp. 257-261) being J. A. T.

simply a one-sided account of the merits and demerits of Seger cones.

The second half of the book contains a reasonably I'RINCIPLES AND PRACTICE OF POTTERY.

detailed account of the processes of manufacture, La Ceramique industrielle. Chimie-Technologie. firing, glazing, and decoration of bricks, tiles, terraBy A. Granger. Pp. X+644. (Paris : Gauthier

cotta, refractory pottery, stoneware, earthenware, and Villars, 1905.) Price 7 francs.

porcelain. Again the method is excellent, but, of THIS is an excellent example of the technological course, too much has been attempted, and it seems

handbooks which the young Frenchman and obvious that the student would have been better Grounan find ready to their hands when they pro- trained or assisted by a more complete treatment and from school or college to take up industrial work, of one or two sections only. From the English and hich, in so many businesses, the young English- point of view, the greatest failure of the book is Plun just as conspicuously lacks. At the present the ignorance shown of actual English methods moment there is no English book on pottery manu- in those branches of pottery manufacture where lacture, other than indifferent translations of a French | this country is supreme. Thus the account given and a German book, to which a student of the prin- , of the manufacture of English earthenware is ciples of pottery manufacture can turn, and these deal not merely incomplete, but is full of misappremost accurately with processes unknown or unused in hensions-even of mistakes. The mixtures said to England.

be used for English bodies and glazes are such as no The volume in question is, as is perhaps inevitable, first-rate potter would dream of using; the description

THIS

Water

of our ovens and kilns is singularly incomplete, and of its completeness may be gathered from a summary the statement is made that, owing to the nature of of these divisions. The book comprises two main the English earthenware bodies, the firing of on- branches, viz. “Agrologie ” and “The Preparation

, glaze decorations in the continuous kiln has been a of the Soil,” the former being defined as the study of failure, when, as a matter of fact, many of these land in relation to agriculture and of the relationship kilns are in successful operation. The treatment which subsists between the nature of a soil and its accorded to our English bone-china is just as in- produce. The first branch treats of the soil, the subcomplete.

soil, their physical and chemical properties; water in The accounts of French and German processes are relation to fertility, its distribution, rainfall, permenaturally much better, not only because the author ability, impermeability, water levels, wells, is better acquainted with them, but no doubt because courses, &c.; the analysis of soils by processes so much more has already been published about them. physical, mechanical, geological, chemical, &c.; the

The author had the excellent idea of adding to his relations of the soil with the plant, comprising the volume a vocabulary of technical terms in German, subjects of nitrification, denitrification, humus, ferEnglish, and French, and tables showing the relative tility, and the nature of the soil suited to different importance of the industry in various countries. Un- plants. The second branch of the book, “ The Prefortunately, the idea has been very imperfectly paration of the Soil,” treats of cultivation, the clearing executed. In the vocabulary many of the English of land, peaty and brackish soils, and the improveterms are such as no potter would use, while some

ment of soils by warping, tree planting, levelling, few of them are nonsense; and the figures given as removal of rocks, stones; tillage operations, including to the extent of the industry in various countries are

digging, drainage, and the various systems of so incomplete and incomparable as to be positively ploughing; semi-tillage, so called, consisting of misleading. On the whole, however, the book must

scarifying, cultivating in its technical sense), extirpa. be described as excellent for its purpose; and the tion of weeds, &c.; harrowing, rolling; and, lastly, English potter might well wish that he had such a

of manures and artificial fertilisers. book to put into the hands of the young men who

We do not remember ever before to have read any are likely to occupy responsible positions on his works. precise definition of what agriculture is. The author

WILLIAM BURTON.

defines it as the art of obtaining from the soil the maximum of substances useful to man at the mini

mum cost. We do not quarrel with such a definition, THE SOIL AND ITS TILLAGE.

though it represents the ideal rather than the actual. Agriculture Générale. Le Sol et les Labours. By

Full justice is done to the part played by the soil in Paul Diffloth. Pp. xii + 490.

(Paris : J. B.

the sustenance of plants, and in particular to the Baillière et Fils, 1906.) Price 5 francs.

nitrogen problem, which has been the subject of so THIS 'HIS is the first book of a new French agri- much scientific investigation and discussion during

cultural encyclopædia, which is being published the past twenty years. The author indicates briefly in forty volumes, under the direction of M. G. Wéry, the discoveries made by de Saussure, Dumas, Bou-assistant director of the Institut National Agrono- singault, and others as to the action of carbonic acid mique. It is written by Prof. Paul Diffloth. The aim of the air and of nitrogen in the soil in the nourishof the encyclopædia is expressed in an introduction ment of plants; the work of mineral salts as demonby Dr. Paul Regnard, successor to the late M. strated by Berthier, Sprengel, and Liebig; the Eugène Risler as director of the institute. It is to experiments of Schlæsing and Müntz showing the extract from the present teaching of agricultural action of ferments in transforming organic nitrogen science all that is available for immediate application into nitric acid and of micro-organisms in nitritiby the practical farmer, making him acquainted at cation; and, lastly, the experiments of Hellriegel and the same time with the scientific facts upon which Wilfarth revealing the existence of bacteria in the actual practice is based.

nodules found on the roots of leguminous plants and Dr. Regnard pays a compliment to English agri- the absorption by their agency of nitrogen from the culturists by stating that they have never accepted the free and unlimited supplies present in the air. notion which he attributes to his own countrymen M. Diffloth refers to the great developments in that agricultural science is antagonistic to practical France and other Continental countries of the prinexperience. We fear the compliment is not altogether ciple of agricultural cooperation. Its successful deserved, and that French and English farmers have application to Ireland is well known, and in Great much in common in this respect; yet the remarkable Britain, too, it is now making some headway. The progress in the direction of higher agricultural educa future of agriculture, writes the author, may be tion during the past ten years in this country may summed up in two words as living symbols of its be regarded as both cause and effect of the gradual progress and prosperity, “ Science et Association.' disappearance of the idea that the practice of agri. We agree that if “ Practice with Science” have been culture can derive no advantage from the labours the agricultural watchwords of the nineteenth century and teachings of science.

signs are not wanting that “ Science with CooperaWith the love of logical analysis which characterises tion" may be those of the twentieth. French scientific literature, V. Diftloth's work is The practical operations of French husbandry are divided and subdivided almost ad infinitum. In idea I carefully described, with their scientific significance ;

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