1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Bomb

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BOMB, a term formerly used for an explosive shell (see Ammunition) fired by artillery. The word is derived from the Gr. βόμβος, a hammering, buzzing noise, cf. “bombard” (q.v.). At the present day it is most frequently used of a shattering or incendiary grenade, or of an explosive vessel actuated by clockwork or trip mechanism, employed to destroy life or property. In naval warfare, before the introduction of the shell gun, explosive projectiles were carried principally by special vessels known as bomb-vessels, bombards or, colloquially, bombs.

In geology, the name “bomb” is given to certain masses of lava which have been hurled forth from a volcanic vent by explosive action. In shape they are spheroidal, ellipsoidal or discoidal; in structure they may be solid, hollow or more or less cavernous; whilst in size they vary from that of a walnut to masses weighing several tons. It is generally held that the form is partly due to rotation of the mass during its aerial flight, and in some cases the bomb becomes twisted by a gyratory movement. According, however, to Dr H. J. Johnston-Lavis, many of the so-called bombs of Vesuvius are not projectiles, but merely globular masses formed in a stream of lava; and in like manner Professor J. D. Dana showed that what were regarded as bombs in Hawaii are in many cases merely lava-balls that have not been hurled through the air. Certain masses of pumice ejected from Vulcano have been called by Johnston-Lavis “bread-crust bombs,” since they present a coating of obsidian which has been bent and cracked in a way suggestive of the crust of a roll. It is probable that here the acid magma was expelled in a very viscous condition, and the crust which formed on cooling was burst by the steam from the occluded water. Some of the bombs thrown out during recent eruptions of Etna consist of white granular quartz, encased in a black scoriaceous crust, the quartz representing an altered sandstone. The bombs of granular olivine, found in some of the tuffs in the Eifel, are represented in most geological collections (see Volcano).