October 1919

Hail fighters and their strange devices

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By 1919, hail cannons had been discredited--but people intent on changing the weather refuse to give them up.

In the 1890s, grape growers in Europe erected thousands of so-called hail cannons near their vineyards. The mouths of the guns were fitted with sheet-iron funnels; farmers loaded them with gunpowder (but no projectiles) and fired into an approaching storm. Theory held that excess cloud moisture condensed around the smoke particles, forming rain instead of crop-damaging hail. But after devastating hailstorms in 1902 and 1903, most hail cannons were dismantled, and scientists pronounced them worthless. Some ideas, though, refuse to die. Today hail-averse folks hurl sound waves at storms with acetylene-fired cannons, hoping the noise will prevent hail. Says Roelof Bruintjes of the National Center for Atmospheric Research: "There is no scientific basis to it."

BOLD " Other stories from the October 1919 issue:"]

Cutting Down air Resistance
In 1917, Glenn Curtiss built the largest wind tunnel in the United States--7 feet in diameter--in Garden City, Long Island (above).
A 400-horsepower motor drove a propeller, which generated wind speeds of 100 mph.

Decrease Your Waistline--Increase Your Lifeline
Encased in a hybrid Exercycle-sweatbox, head alone protruding, the user burned calories while enjoying the benefits of a "Turkish, Roman and electro-therapeutic bath."

Still Another Mousetrap to Add to Your Collection
A Mississippi inventor crafted yet another better mousetrap: When an unwary rodent strayed too far along a wooden plank, the board flipped, dumping the creature into a bucket of water.