Science and Industry
on the World Today
THE efforts of the dairy industry to get cows to produce more milk a year have been only too successful from the marketing viewpoint. As a result, dairy scientists must cope with two more problems. One is to find new flavors and kinds of milk to increase consumption. The other is to find ways to cut.. production costs so that the farmer can survive low prices.
One simple approach is to make milk taste bet ter. Research has found that most off-flavors result from such things as feeding the cow silage just before milking, or the use of late lactation milk, or milk from stripper cows. But as experts pointed out at a recent American Dairy Science Association meeting, too many farmers pay no attention to the research — with the result that as much as 70 per cent of Vermont milk, for example, is reported off flavor.
The answer proposed is more reminiscent of the gourmet than the scientist: taster teams have been set up at Vermont dairies to sample each farmer’s milk as it comes in. Off-flavors tire reported to the producer — and the dairyman either becomes interested in correcting them or starts looking for another market.
Meanwhile research at Cornell may eventually result in milk that doesn’t even taste like milk. Dr. R. F. Holland is experimenting with a Dutch process said to make it possible to mix milk and fresh frail juice without curdling the milk — thus enabling children lo drink their morning milk and fruit juice simultaneously. The secret is adding pectin, to keep the fruit acid from acting on the milk. The Dutch say the fruit-milk can be pasteurized, homogenized, and kept just like the ordinary kind.
Flavor is only one way to boost milk consumption. More significant is low-fat-content milk, aimed at simultaneously reducing the staggering stocks of surplus butter and appealing to a weightconscious public. For generations, animal geneticists have concentrated on breeding milk gleaming with butterfat; now some are trying to reverse their goals. But it is no simple matter of going hack to the old-fashioned cow. Her milk was watery because it was also low in the non-fat solids — mostly protein, but also essential vitamins and trace elements—that make milk an outstanding food. So dairy scientists are looking for cows high in SNF — solids, non-fat — but relatively low in fat.
Much of this work is being done at Oklahoma A. & M. and at the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station at Rutgers. There the experts have been trying for years to raise the butterfat content in the milk of their Holstein herd to a golden 4 per cent. Records show, however, that while in most cows fat content and SNF increase together, there are a few cows in whose milk SNF is high but fats are low. These are being studied as the possible founders of a new bovine race.
Due interesting research project now under was proposes to use milk not merely to build health but to fight infectious disease. For the past decade, Dr. William E. Petersen of the Institute of Agriculture of the University of Minnesota and Dr. Berry Campbell of Minnesota have been study ing the possibility of using milk as a carrier of antibodies against infectious human diseases. They knew that newborn calves acquire disease immunity from antibodies in the cow’s milk which go from the calf’s digestive tract into his bloodstream. By injecting disease vaccines into the cow’s udder, the Minnesota scientists have produced antibodies of many diseases that would not appear naluralh in milk. These antibodies appear in the blood of persons who drink this “vaccinated" milk, giving them passive immunity to the diseases.
If desired, multiple vaccination can produce antibodies for several diseases simultaneously, giving multiple immunity. The immunity conferred survives only as long as the individual continues drinking the milk. The researchers have used vaccines of the streptococcal infections, measles, smallpox, diphtheria, tuberculosis, and other diseases of bacterial or viral origin. Appearance and flavor of the milk are not affected and it contains no disease-causing bacteria or viruses. Pasteurization does not affect the antibodies.
Dr. Petersen and Dr. Campbell have also isolated the antibodies in a powdered form which maintains its potency as long as it is refrigerated. Much research remains to be done, however, before we are offered disease protection with our daily milk.
COWN and automation
Technology is also working on helping farmers to cut costs. On the most modern farms labor expense is kept at a minimum by having the cows fed and watered automatically, machine-milked and cleaned, and the barn itself cleaned by machine. No longer does the up-to-date farmer pile milk cans on the traditional roadside platform. Milk flows directly from the milking machine to bulk tanks where it is cooled and stored until a tank truck from the dairy drives into the barnyard, hooks up a hose, and pumps it out.
Cow fodder is being modernized too. The pulp left after squeezing orange juice is already widely sold as an animal feed. Now Rutgers dairy scientists have found that cows can eat the residue of instant coffee manufacture, currently a waste byproduct. The coffee meal, which can be as much as 10 per cent of the cow’s diet, has no stimulating effect on the cow and does not change the milk flavor.
Finally, not only the orange skins and the coffee grounds go into the cows, but the Sunday paper as well. Dr. Jonas Kamlet of New York City has received a United States patent for a fodder made of chopped-up newspapers. Newsprint, like hay, is chiefly cellulose, and the ink and sizing apparently have no eflect on the cow. Even wrapping paper can be mixed with the newsprint if desired.
The cows seem particularly to enjoy the newspapers shredded and mixed with molasses. Dr. kamlet has found that cows or sheep can digest about 70 per cent of the cellulose in newsprint, as compared with only about 50 percent in alfalfa. Old newspapers cost $8 to $15 a ton, while the average price of hay is about $20 a ton, so the cost per nutritive unit is considerably less. The process is reported under study by a large corporation.
Use of wood products to feed cattle is not new. During World War II the Swedes — cut off from foreign sources — used paper-making pulp plants to produce cattle fodder from pulp wood, but pulp at $120 a ton is far too expensive for regular feed.
The cow gets all this respectful attention because her stomach separates protein and other food substances from plant matter inedible by man. Unfortunately, however, a cow needs at least two acres in which to graze and is too inefficient a protein factory to be used in overcrowded countries. These are the very countries where lack of milk’s protein, vitamins, and minerals produces such dietary diseases as kwashiorkor — prevalent among small children in Indonesia and Africa — marked by poor growth and apathy. To these peoples, current attempts to duplicate mechanically the cow’s protein extraction process are of great importance.
At the great British agricultural experiment station at Rothamsted, Dr. N. W. Pirie has built a machine which extracts essential food elements from all kinds of leaves and grass. This “mechanical cow” beats the raw material into shreds, squeezes out the juice, coagulates the protein under heat, filters the coagulated juice, and finally produces a fine, tasteless, pale green powder that contains 60 to 80 per cent protein.
This represents roughly 50 per cent of the protein in the fresh leaf. (In contrast, milk contains only 15 per cent of the vegetable calories the cow eats; beef, only 4 per cent.) Each 1000 pounds of vegetable matter produces 10 pounds of usable protein. Since the average person’s estimated daily requirement of animal protein is 30 grams, it would take about eight pounds of grass or leaves to supply this ration.
Mold and cheese have gone together since man learned to milk, but today these fungi are being baffled by a special kind of cheese wrapping. The paper is coated with Sorbic acid — a chemical produced by Carbide and Carbon Chemicals — which inhibits the growth of the tiny airborne spores that spread mold.
The Sorbic acid itself is reported to be similar to natural fatty acids, and to be metabolized in the human system in much the same way as butter. Commercial bakers are now putting it in their batter to inhibit mold in cakes. About one tenth of one per cent is all that is needed — undetectable by taste or smell.
Tires within tires
If a flat tire catches you on a throughway where there’s no turnout area, you’re in real trouble. The choice is between risking your life by changing on the spot or hobbling slowly and almost as hazardously to the nearest turnout. The problem is so great that Los Angeles is considering using helicopters to lift disabled cars from the parkway to safety.
White puncture-proof tires or tubes minimize the risk of a flat and allow you to steer safely, they do not prevent a blowout of the sidewall and they do not provide enough cushion to permit the car to be driven any appreciable distance.
A new tire recently announced by Goodyear, however, can be driven after a blowout for 250 miles or more at 60 or 70 mph. In fact Goodyear claims its new tire is so good that the driver may not even be aware that he has a flat. Called the CaptiveAir, the new tire is in effect a tire within a tire. A complete inner casing of two-ply nylon divides the air space into two compartments.
This is not in itself new; but the Captive-Air has no valve or direct connection between the two. As a result a blowout releases only the air in the outer chamber; the inner one provides sufficient cushion for smooth riding. One test driver is reported to have driven a car at 70 mph “no hands” after a front tire had been deliberately blown out.
When the tire is first put on, the two sections are inflated separately, the inner one through a conventional tire valve, the outer one through a valve and needle arrangement like a basket ball. Thereafter only the inner compartment is inflated, but two pounds of air are put in for each pound the pressure is down. The excess filters through the inner wall until the outer section pressure equals that of the inner one. The new tire may eventually mean the end of the spare tire.
The mock-up technique — often used for automobiles and aircraft — has been borrowed for an office building. The Connecticut General Life Insurance Company reproduced a section of its proposed $10 million headquarters building full scale — the same proportions, window arrangement, and exterior walls. In this temporary structure, company officials tried out a wide variety of office layouts and building equipment, and weeded out many that only looked good on paper.
Proposed separate ceiling installations of acoustical baffles and electrical insulation, for example, were found to cost about ten cents a square foot more installed than a combined type; the saving is estimated at $35,000. Study of full-size office shapes and sizes enabled the planners to cut the average office in the new building from 180 to 144 square feet without loss of working efficiency. Officials estimate that the mock-up may well have saved its cost — about one per cent of the finished structure — in enabling them to avoid unsuitable materials and arrangements.
Driver less tractor
In a Kansas warehouse, a driverless tractor is hauling little trains of loaded trailers. It threads its way from aisle to aisle, stopping occasionally — apparently of its own volition — to pick up or discharge a load from its train of trailers, then starting again.
Actually all directions come by radio pulse from a guide antenna set in t he floor. (The antenna can be strung along the ceiling if desired.) The signals can be preset in sequence and carried out automatically over and over again, or transmitted directly from some control point overlooking the route. The tractor can also be controlled manually. A bumper device cuts off the battery-powered motor, stopping the tractor when it runs into an obstacle.
Although it usually travels at walking speed, the tractor—called the Guide-O-Matic—can haul 6000 pounds of freight at 6 mph. BarrettCravens Company makes the tractor, as well as ihe control system, which can be used on a variety of vehicles.
Sticky tape made of salt is being used to prevent ice formation on aircraft wings. Lithium chloride — close relative of the familiar rock salt that does the same job on the highway— is dispersed in water-soluble, flexible polyvinyl alcohol. Then the composition is cast into long tapes and stored in rolls. The tape sticks to the aluminum surface of the leading edge of a wing as easily as ordinary pressure tape.
Lithium chloride is one of two anti-icers developed for aircraft use by scientists at the Armour Research Foundntion. the other is similar to a familiar ice-fighter — auto antifreeze. It is a polymerized ethylene glycol that differs from what you pour into your radiator only in being solid at room temperature. Melted and sprayed on the aircraft, it immediately solidifies again into a smooth tough film.
Both types work by lowering the freezing point and both are applied on the ground just prior to take-off when icing conditions are predicted. A big advantage is weight-saving: these anti-icers eliminate the need for building into the wing heat ducts or inflatable rubber edge strips to crack off the ice.
Miniature sewage plants
A gleaming bathroom may be a world-wide symbol of American civilization, but the 1950 census showed that one dwelling out of every four in the United States had either outside toilets or none at all. Seventeen million of the remainder—including a considerable number in New York — are not on a sewer line but must depend on septic tanks for waste disposal. Where house lots are too small or soil drainage poor, septic tanks don’t work, with the result that wells and ground water become polluted. In extreme cases, whole unfortunate subdivisions float on sewage-sat urated ground.
Now comes an ingenious new device — called Sanitoi — that in effect puts a city sewage-treatment station in the cellar of any home that needs one. A city plant uses aerobic bacteria, those that work in the presence of oxygen, to transform waste matter into harmless liquid or gas. These bacteria are more efficient than the anaerobic type that work in the absence of oxygen, as in a septic tank.
The Sanitoi system applies the aerobic activated-sludge principle to a one-home waste-disposal plant. All waste matter is ground up by a mechanism set into each toilet, and pumped to a treatment tank. In the tank, which can be in the cellar or buried outside, air is forced through the sewage by an air compressor. Aerobic bacteria rapidly turn everything into harmless and odorless water or gases that escape through a vent. The water is recirculated to the toilets, being pumped over and over again through the system. No new water need be added once the system has been put in operation.
If bath water and kitchen drains feed into the tank, an overflow pipe with a small drainage area must be provided outside, but since the flow is much less, this area can be much smaller than the area required for a septic tank. Pumps, grinders, and air compressor all operate electrically. A typical household system sells for about $600.
The Sanitoi system has been tested under laboratory conditions at Purdue University as well as in many different types of actual installation. Its advantages are many. It permits building in locations where septic tanks won’t work. It saves a considerable amount on piping, since the grinders make large soil pipes unnecessary. And it saves water.
Right now this small-scale sewage treatment plant is of interest primarily to harried builders or to rural homeowners in water-shy areas. Ultimately its importance could be much wider. We spend millions of dollars to transport and purify water, then use a large proportion of it as a vehicle to carry away waste. If household sewage-disposal systems could be approved for urban use, we might reduce by as much as 50 per cent the 100-odd gallons of water an average city dweller uses each day. With city after city running short of water, this saving could remove a factor limiting the growth of many metropolitan areas.