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100 and 50 years ago


Earthquakes. By Clarence Edward Dutton. Major Dutton's work belongs to another category, and rather than telling us what earthquakes do, his main object has been to tell us what they are... Everything is discussed with a minimum of mathematics from a strictly scientific standpoint, whilst that which is sensational has properly been most carefully put under taboo. A justification for the exclusion of what is of practical importance, which gives not only to the man in the street but to Governments some inkling as to the use of earthquakes, is not so apparent. It is extremely likely that a Prime Minister may not care a twopenny-bit whether the inside of the world on which he lives is red hot stone or cold, while he might be extremely interested to know that seismograms may afford a satisfactory explanation for the interruption of his cablegrams. The importance of earthquake writings to communities who have been alarmed by accounts of disasters in foreign countries is self-evident, while it would at least be consoling to those who were suddenly cut off from the outer world by the failure of their cables to learn whether such failures were the result of an operation of war or of nature.

From Nature 15 December 1904.


The structure of fibrous proteins has long been a subject of controversy. X-ray and electron microscope evidence has accumulated which suggests that single chains may not run the whole length of the fibril, but that the latter is made up of an aggregation of smaller parts of quite definite size. In collagen the sub-unit has been considered to be a protofibril of size about 640 × 12 A., although recently Schmitt has proposed a unit of about 2000 × 50 A., which he has named ‘tropocollagen’. Striations of axial lengths about 210 A. (particularly in developing material) and 70 A. are also observed in electron micrographs of collagen. It is of interest to note that evidence for structure of size approximately 200 A. is found in α-keratin and 230 A. in fibrin, although the recurrence of this figure may be no more than coincidental. We have obtained X-ray diffraction evidence from dry collagen fibres which also suggests that the predominant 640 A. period is divided into sub-units of length about 210 A.

A. C. T. North, P. M. Cowan, J. T. Randall

From Nature 18 December 1954.

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100 and 50 years ago. Nature 432, 812 (2004).

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