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Salient: An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria University of Wellington. Vol. 24, No. 5. 1961

Science Column

Science Column

The experimental factory of the Moscow Research Institute of Combustible Minerals has produced a gas, a description of which follows. This gas you can take in your hands. It is light yellow in colour and can be cut with an ordinary knife like cheese. It is made in a centrifuge, a mixture of butane and liquid plastic being beaten into a foam. When the foam sets and hardens, drops of butane are incapsulated by the innumerable plastic cells. Then the mass is briquetted and is ready for transporting without any special packing. If a piece is cut off from the brick fuel and a match put to it, it ignites Instantaneously. Neither snow nor strong wind can put out the flame, and antarctic explorers have made use of this hard gas at a temperature of 84 degrees Centigrade below zero.

World astronomers were recently concerned about an American Air Force project, "Needles." The Americans have reckoned that by putting billions of small metallic "needles" into orbit around the earth to form a belt 20 miles deep and 5 miles wide, they could bounce radio signals off them and thus do away with the communication shambles created by atmospheric blackouts. The astronomers are natuially worried about seeing through these needles—the earth's atmosphere hampers them enough as it is—but they have been answered that the needs of astronomy will not be neglected.

Another American research unit, in an endeavour to overcome the earth's distorting veil, have plans to launch a series of Orbiting Astronomical Observatories. The first of these will contain 8in. reflecting telescopes, information from which will help construct a map of the stars in the ultraviolet band, little of which penetrates the earth's atmosphere. A study of individual stars and galaxies will also be made. From the brightness of the stars in U.V. light, information on density, constituents and temperature can be made. Later another O.A.O. will study the clouds of gases that fill space, from which stars are formed. The gases do not emit energy themselves but analysing the light passing through from stars behind the cloud, the elements it contains and their densities and proportions can .be determined, along with other factors.

After collecting masses of this data, the scientists concerned will no doubt be able to add another confusing, revolutionary chapter to the age-old question, "How was the Universe created?"