Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/672

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

the neck of the bulb. Here is an air-pump, and here is the end of the T-piece surrounded by a tube of India-rubber, and here is a pinchcock to close that tube of India-rubber. If you open the pinchcock and work the air-pump with which this end is connected, it is completely exhausted. You may allow it to be filled with air; you may then open the pinchcock: the air will enter through the cotton-wool, and will fill the bulb. In this way you get the bulb filled, not with common air, but with filtered air. This process is carried on three or four times, so as to make sure that the common air has been displaced by the filtered air. We will suppose that I detach the tube from the air pump, and other precautions taken. At present, you see the bulb is empty. Taking an infusion of hay, I put the end of the T-piece into the infusion to be introduced into the bulb. The bulb is dipped into hot water; the air expands, and it is driven out. Simply introducing our bulb into cold water, the air shrinks, and by atmospheric pressure the liquid is driven into the bulb. Again we drive the air out, and, by a few operations of this kind, we find that we can charge our bulb with a very great degree of accuracy. You can see the liquid in the bulb at the present time. In this way we charge a bulb which has had its common air and floating matter removed with our infusion. When it is charged, it is very carefully removed, and great precautions are taken so as to prevent any indraught of air. For instance, it is always removed from the cold water, so that, when it is lifted up into the air of the laboratory, a slight expansion shall take place, so that the motion of the air shall be from within outward, instead of from without inward. In that way we can, by careful manipulation, obtain bulbs devoid of this floating matter. These are the bulbs you now see before you showing this beautifully pellucid infusion.

Were this a biological investigation, and not a physical one, I should feel myself out of my element in dealing with it. I leave the determination of the species of bacteria to others far more competent than I am. I can see these organisms and wonder at them when I see them through the microscope; but I have no ability or knowledge to classify them and divide them into species, genera, etc. But these are purely physical experiments, and it is only by such severe experiments that this question can be freed from the haze and confusion in which it has been hitherto involved. Even the celebrated Prof. Cohn—I say it with the greatest regard and respect for him—appears to have no adequate notion of the care necessary to be taken in experiments of this kind. To lift a tube out of the boiling liquid and allow it to remain quietly in the air, the entry of the air taking place from without inward, and then, after one or two minutes' exposure, to plug it with cotton-wool, and say that no contamination can reach it, is in my opinion a great mistake. He could not, but by the merest accident, get an infusion free from contamination by operating in this way. I have here tubes prepared according to this method. Here