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Science: Devices

5 minute read

The past months have been brilliant with scientific achievement; vistas have opened up which dazzle the mind’s eye, concepts which confuse the weary brain. Interspersed among these rich rare offerings is the common salt of ingenious inventions, pleasant practical devices which immediately add to the flavor of everyday life. They are concerned with: Clothes. Textiles are nothing but interwoven fibres of wool, cotton, linen, silk. The fibres are cheap enough but the weaving process is costly, making the cloth expensive. In Ireland Inventor B. M. Glover of Bruntcliffe, near Leeds, has devised a machine which turns out 2,800 yards of material a week instead of the 150-yard output of the common loom. The fibres are passed through a carding machine, emerging as a broad loose band; then sewn crosswise by rows of tiny stitches; the crosswise direction giving great strength to the finished cloth. An inch of blanket cloth will be traversed by 16 to 20 rows of stitching, each stitch about one-fourteenth of an inch long. Weaving (“under and over”) has been dispensed with, which means less capital, fewer workers, big savings. All-wool unfinished broadcloth and blankets have been made and according to optimistic reports cannot be differentiated from their loom-woven relatives. The finer fabrics, requiring more rows of shorter stitches to the inch, are still a problem. Toot-Light. Changing the signals automatically at regular time intervals at the intersection of a main highway and a less heavily traveled road would congest the highway for the sake of a possibly empty side-road. Charles Adler, Baltimore signal engineer, has invented a device which interrupts the heavy traffic only when necessary. A three-colored signal light (red, amber, green) stands at the corner showing green to the highway, red to the road. Close by, on the less important road, is a telephone transmitter fixed to a post, and connected with the light. The motorist seeing red slows down; blows his horn as he passes the transmitter. This picks up the sound waves, transmits them to the signal light thereby shifting the electrical circuit and changing the red light through amber to green, the green light through amber to red. The change lasts for ten seconds, or any time determined by the adjustment, then shifts back to normal. Each arriving motorist toots his horn and gets his ten seconds right-of-way. Such a signal is operating successfully in an outlying district of Baltimore.

Subway Tickets. Waiting for change at a subway ticket wicket has been done away with in parts of London. An efficient slot machine takes the money, makes the change, prints, dates, issues the ticket; all in exactly one second. Unscrupulous voyagers who feed it counterfeit coins are certain of detection. Electricity tests the. piece for conductivity as it drops in. If it is found wanting, it is angrily spat forth.

Wrist Watch. Winding the wrist watch is one of those unpleasant little bedtime duties frequently forgotten. From the Isle of Man comes the device of John Harwood making it no longer necessary. The watch is constructed on the principle of the pedometer, being wound by the movements of the forearm.

Birch into Mahogany. Many American hardwood trees have no particular commercial value. Herr Fritz von Behr, pioneer tree surgeon of Germany, is working with dye pot and surgical instruments on beeches, birches, maples in Maine to make them eligible for future furniture. He selects sound young trees, makes a pattern of holes in the trunks and roots, injects 75 to 100 gallons of a secret soluble aniline dye. For four days the tree sucks up the dye. On the third day afterward the leaves begin to turn pink, violet, blue, red; the wood becomes tinted. After two weeks the leaves fall off, to grow out desirably colored the next year, according to Herr Behr. The wood however can be immediately cut, polished, prepared for futuristic furniture and novelties. The dye brings out the grain, shows off the polish, lasts as long as the wood. For more conservative households beeches can turn to rosewood; yellow birches masquerade as mahogany.

Road Bed Warmer. The enterprising Chamber of Commerce at Reno, Nev., has long discussed methods by which the arrival of tourists along the frequently snow-bound Sierra highway may be facilitated. They approached a solution of their difficulties when someone suggested that the snowy road be underlaid with pipes and that the pipes then, be filled with steam, thus warming the road and melting the barrier upon its surface. Sixteen miles of the cold-beleaguered turnpike could be so coddled; boilers at four mile intervals would keep the water warm, wood from the near forests would warm the boilers. Two men could attend to feeding the fires. Prompted by this ingenious and civilized enticement to their town, Reno’s boosters carried their inventive thoughts into the future. They framed a slogan for the toasted trail: “Steam-heated highways for warm winter tourists.”

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