Popular Science Monthly/Volume 11/September 1877/Popular Miscellany
Death of Prof. Sanborn Tenney.—We have learned with regret of the death of Prof. Tenney, which took place on July 9th, at Buchanan, Michigan. The sad event was unexpected, as the deceased had, one week previously, seemed to enjoy perfect health. The cause of death is supposed to have been heart-disease. From an appreciative biographical sketch of the deceased which has appeared in the New York World we gather the following particulars about his scientific labors: In 1868 he was Professor of Natural History in Vassar College, and in the same year accepted a like position in Williams College. He had already published an elementary text-book of geology, which is still, after repeated revisions, largely used in high-schools and academies. He was a frequent contributor to periodical literature of scientific articles of a popular kind. The present number of the Monthly contains probably the latest essay of this description written by him. He was an enthusiastic and careful student, a pupil and admirer of Agassiz, and like his distinguished preceptor he excelled as a teacher. Besides the " Geology " mentioned above. Prof Tenney compiled several other popular text-books, among them one on zoölogy. He occupied the chair of Natural History in Williams College down to the time of his death. He was to have been in charge of an expedition of college-students to the far West this season, and on the day he died was to have joined the expedition at Chicago.
Remains that were not prehistoric.—We have received from a source unknown to us two clippings, from the Weekly Press, presumably of Santa Barbara, California, in which mention is made of the result of excavations in "the Carpenteria." These excavations led to the discovery of a large mass of human bones, domestic implements, trinkets, and other objects, which were at first supposed to be "prehistoric." The ardor of the explorers was, however, much dampened when they found among the treasure-trove such modern articles as glass beads and glass wine-bottles, and the conclusion was inevitable that the curiosity seekers had simply struck "a big graveyard of the native population, whom the missionary padres found and taught here eighty or one hundred years ago." A letter of inquiry having been addressed to Mr. Hubert H. Bancroft, author of "The Native Races of the Pacific States," that gentleman expressed in the following terms his opinion of the supposed prehistoric character of the Carpenteria "find:"
"There is no evidence whatever in California of a race older or more civilized than that found by Europeans a century or so ago. In Mexico and Central America the case is very different. There are a few material remains in Northern Mexico, Arizona, and New Mexico, but nothing, so far as I have been able to discover, north of these points."
Rare Minerals in Colorado.—Writing of rare minerals found in Colorado, Mr. T. F. Van Wagenen, in the Engineering and Mining Journal, says that thallium, indium, and cadmium, have lately been detected in ores from that State. Of the rarer metals there have been found in Colorado, besides the three mentioned above, nickel, cobalt, selenium, tellurium, uranium, bismuth, molybdenum, and platinum, and there is scarcely a doubt that columbium, thorium, titanium, and vanadium, will be recognized as soon as proper search is made. A belt of tellureted veins is believed to traverse the entire State from north to south. Two years ago, sylvanite and altaite were found in San Juan County. The principal locality for bismuth-ores is in Geneva, where two mines are being worked that carry a considerable quantity of schirmerite. Sulphide and carbonate of bismuth occur on Sugarloaf Mountain, Boulder County. Nuggets of native bismuth are common in the upper gulches of the Blue Valley; the same metal has been found also in the Arkansas Valley. Nickel-ore, ranging from two to five per cent., has been found in three localities. Among the mineralogical curiosities of the tellurium belt may be mentioned a telluride of mercury found in the Mountain Lion mine. Native mercury and amalgams of both gold and silver have also been found at several points along this belt.
The Vienna Scientific Club.—In January, 1876, the project of founding a Scientific Club in Vienna was considered at a meeting of the Geographical Society of that city. It was very favorably received by the members, and measures were taken to carry it into execution. Before many weeks the club was organized, and suitable quarters provided for it in the house occupied by the Austrian Association of Engineers and Architects. There the club finds ample accommodation for the social gatherings of its members, as also for its regular Thursday-evening meetings for scientific discussion, and its more public entertainments. In March, the number of members was nearly 700, and it was steadily increasing. The yearly dues of members of the club amount to only sixteen florins—less than eight dollars—and there is an entrance-fee of five florins. The club has a growing library and reading-rooms, with a very large number of periodicals, scientific and literary, on file. If such clubs as this, and equally inexpensive, were founded in our large American cities, they would afford a much-needed means of communication between workers in different branches of science. Further, they would give something like organization to the body scientific, and perhaps add weight to scientific opinion.
Steel-Bronze Cannon.—Uchatius's invention of "steel-bronze" cannon rests, says Nature, on the observation that all metals (lead and zinc excepted) gain an increase of elasticity, after undergoing a continuous weighting above their first limit of elasticity. Later experiments by the inventor of the steel-bronze cannon appear to show that even homogeneous bronze is capable of a great increase of its elasticity through simple stretching without condensation. It is only a stretching of the metals above their limit of elasticity, whereby the molecules, brought to a state of flow, glide over each other, and assume a wholly new position more favorable to resistance, that causes the increase of elasticity. A simple condensation produces merely an increase of the absolute solidity and diminution of the tenacity, but no real increase of elasticity. The limit of elasticity may be raised nearly to the breaking consistence, so that, in many cases, it is six and seven times the original. Mere stretching for a short time is of little use; the tension must last a considerable time. It is also well to apply a gradually-increasing weight.
Properties of White Paint.—As the result of hundreds of experiments in carbonate of lead and hydrate of lead, both separately and mixed, Messrs. Wigner and Harland, of the British Society of Public Analysts, reach the conclusion that a white paint, to be efficient, and to possess both the powers of laying on readily and easily, and by its opacity hiding the color beneath, must consist of an admixture of hydrate and carbonate of lead in a certain definite proportion. The true proportion would appear to be three equivalents of carbonate of lead and one equivalent of hydrate. The experiments further show why zinc-white, carbonate of magnesia, and other metallic oxides and carbonates, do not yield good paints. In the case of white-lead a positive chemical compound has been formed, and the seventy-five per cent, or thereabouts, of carbonate of lead present has been dissolved in the chemical compound, and so a paint has been formed which possesses a covering power in excess of any other compound known. Until some means can be devised by which oxide of zinc or some other substance can be dissolved in the same way, so as to form a paint possessing characters somewhat different from a mere emulsion, it is vain to expect that they can equal good white-lead.
Change of Tint in Flowers.—The change of tint in flowers of Ipomoa purpurea (morning-glory) under the influence of atmospheric moisture was the subject of a communication by Prof. D. S. Martin to the New York Academy of Sciences. The phenomenon was observed in dark-blue flowers of this plant, and it was found to occur under two aspects, viz., 1. A reddening of the general blue color when the air is charged with moisture; and, 2. The production, by drops of rain, of sharply-defined spots upon the blue, which are at first red, and then bleach to white. Prof. Martin was led to examine the subject experimentally, by testing the flowers with acids and with ammonia-water. The result was such as was to have been expected with vegetable blues, that is to say, the ammonia had no effect, while the solutions of acids (oxalic, tartaric, and carbolic) produced the red coloring easily. Tried upon the pink variety of flowers, the acids had no effect, and the ammonia produced a strong blue color, which ere long passed away by evaporation. It is therefore evident, the author concludes, that this effect is due to some acid substance dissolved or absorbed by atmospheric water. If the latter is diffused through the air without precipitation, a general reddening of the blue corollas appears; if it falls upon them as rain and stands for a while, every drop produces a sharp spot that passes from red to white.
Barff's Method for preserving Iron.—A method proposed by Prof. Barff for preventing the corrosion of iron consists in producing upon the surfaces of the iron articles to be protected a coating of the black or magnetic oxide of iron. This he does by raising the iron articles, in a suitable chamber, to a temperature of from 500° to 1,200° Fahr., and then passing steam into this chamber, keeping the articles for five, six, or seven hours, as the case may be, at that temperature, in an atmosphere of superheated steam. At a temperature of 1,200° Fahr., and under an exposure to superheated steam for six or seven hours, the iron surface becomes so changed that it will stand the action of water, even though it be impregnated with the acid fumes of the laboratory. When the process is carried on at a lower heat, the iron articles will resist any amount of moisture with which they may come in contact in a house or building; but they will not permanently resist the action of the weather out-of-doors. The reason of this is, that only a thin film of the iron, on its surface, is transformed into the black oxide. Iron pipes protected by this process may be used instead of lead pipes for conveying water through houses. Iron for architectural uses may be made to resist the weather; the process may also be employed to protect cast-iron statues, which would thus be rendered as enduring as those of bronze.
On the crimson cloth
Of my study-desk
Prof. Hebra on the Use of the Bath.—Prof. Hebra, of Vienna, dissents from the generally-received opinions as to the benefits of frequent resort to the bath. His views on this subject, as set forth at some length in the Boston Journal of Chemistry, are to the following effect: It is not true that frequent bathing is conducive to health, and harmless: millions of men take no baths of any kind, at most only washing the face and hands, and yet live to old age in good health. It cannot be proved that the use of the various kinds of baths wards off disease, or that washing in cold water prevents catarrh, rheumatism, etc. As long as "water manipulation" is accompanied by an agreeable general sensation and no eruption on the surface of the skin occurs, it may be pursued as a pastime; but when it produces great itching or eruption on the skin, the bathing and washing must cease. The consequences of friction, douches, hot vapor, shampooing, etc., sooner or later show themselves in the shape of permanent redness, a sensation of burning or itching, and the production of nodules and furuncles, which precede the formation of pustules and abscesses. Prof. Hebra speaks as follows of the employment of water in the treatment of skin-diseases:
"Its employment is contraindicated in all sensitive, irritable persons whose skin is liable to prolonged redness, the production of rashes, and itching; in all cutaneous affections accompanied by acute swelling and serous infiltration; and in all chronic dermatoses in which the horny layer of the epidermis—either through the effects of disease or of remedies—has been removed, exposing the layer beneath. Thus it is not proper to employ water soon after using stimulating substances externally, as arsenic, iodic mercury, etc. By avoiding water and employing starch or other inert powder, the healthy state of the surface will be much sooner restored. Water, on the contrary, is indicated in those diseases where its macerating and irritating effects are useful, namely, in chronic dermatoses, such as psoriasis, lichen, ichthyosis, old eczema, prurigo, etc. Water also exerts the most beneficial effects when different secretions—the products of inflammation, and the remains of dead tissue—have to be removed, as in abundantly-suppurating wounds, ulcers, and gangrene. It is useful also in favoring the formation of new epidermis in pemphigus, and after extensive destruction of the skin by burns or caustic substances."
The Domestication of the Wild-Turkey.—following observations on the habits and domestication of the wild-turkey we take from a paper of similar title by J. D. Caton, published in the American Naturalist. Mr. Caton commenced domesticating the wild turkey about ten years ago, his original stock having been procured from the eggs of the wild hen; it has been twice replenished in the same way. The young birds from the wild-turkey's eggs, when brought up in close intimacy with the human family, become very tame, but they are afraid of strangers, and when anything excites their suspicion they take wing and are off like a flock of quails. The young turkeys breed freely when a year old. Mr. Caton is now raising the eleventh generation of the domesticated wild-turkey, and says that the breed has not deteriorated either in size or in reproductive powers. But they have changed in form and in the length of the legs; the body is shorter and more robust, and its position is more horizontal. As regards color but little change was observed in the first or second generation; after that, the tips of the tail-feathers and tail-coverts began to lose the soft chestnut-brown of the wild-turkey, and to become lighter; the changeable purple tints of neck and breast assumed a greenish shade; the bristles on the naked portions about the head became more sparse or altogether disappeared; the blue about the head and the purple of the wattles became bright-red; the pinkish red of the legs became dull or changed to brown. These changes of color were seen in the first year of the bird's growth, but in its second these marks of degeneration would in most individuals, especially the cocks, disappear, and the plumage would show the thorough-bred wild-turkey. Each succeeding generation shows these changes to be more pronounced, but each year as the bird grows older the shades of color of the wild parent become more distinct. But Mr. Caton has hens now three or four years old with brown legs and on whose feathers the white has very considerably superseded the cinnamon shade, and he is satisfied that without a fresh infusion of wild blood in the course of fifteen or twenty years more but few individuals would show the distinctive marks of the wild-turkey to any considerable extent.
The habits of the wild-turkey are not so rapidly changed as the form and coloring, still they too change. The wild-turkey cock by the time he is five months old seeks a perch well up in the largest trees in his range, and as he grows older he is disposed to roost higher and higher, till he is frequently found at the very apex of the tallest tree. This habit is scarcely impaired by domestication in the second and third generations, but after that the birds grow less and less ambitious of high places, till at last they come down to about the level of the domestic turkey. The timidity characteristic of the wild-turkey is eradicated very slowly. When the wild-turkey in the forest voluntarily leaves her nest, she always covers it carefully with leaves. This is done with less care by the first descendants of the wild hen, and each succeeding generation becomes more careless in this respect.
Prof. Thurston on our Domestic Metals.—The statement is made by Prof. Robert H. Thurston that this country has for years been importing cast-iron, while domestic products of equal and even greater intrinsic value sell at lower price. Other similar instances of unwisdom are cited by Prof. Thurston, as, for example, the fact that we are importing boiler-plate at eleven cents a pound, when we can purchase American steel, vastly superior in all respects for the special purposes to which the former article is applied, at eight cents. Again, we import vast quantities of foreign steel tools, when at Pittsburg and elsewhere we make steel fully its equal. In New England and Pennsylvania we have ores from which is made the finest cast-iron ordnance in the world. In Ohio we make a metal for car-wheels such as is never seen in Europe, and of such tenacity and elasticity that foreign engineers listen incredulously when it is described. Our Lake Champlain ores make an iron fully equal to Swedish for conversion into steel; and around Lake Superior and in Missouri we have deposits from which comes Bessemer metal far superior to the phosphorus-charged metal we import. New Jersey supplies us with zinc which meets with no competition as a pure metal, and which can be used without purification even for chemical purposes; and our native copper is absolutely free from admixture with injurious elements. It is time that these facts should be known, and that the people should disabuse their minds of the idea that. because a commodity is "imported," it is therefore of greater intrinsic value than a domestic product.
The Deterioration of Silk Fabrics.—The complaint is frequently heard that the silk fabrics now manufactured are by no means as lasting as similar fabrics manufactured twenty or thirty years ago. That this complaint is justified, the Warehouseman and Draper admits, and then points out the causes of the deterioration. Adulteration of silk on a large scale, and systematically, began about eighteen years ago, soon after the Bilk-worm disease had made its appearance in the silk-producing countries of Europe, when raw silk rose from twenty-one and twenty-two shillings sterling per pound to as much as sixty shillings. In order to keep down the price of the manufactured goods, foreign materials were introduced, and these were often in excess of the silk. "It would be curious," says a writer on the subject of "weighting" silks "to follow one pound of China or Italian silk through its various processes in reaching a silk dress. The silk is sent to the dyers, and the first process is boiling off. All silk in its natural state has a certain amount of gum in it; this must be boiled off, and, when this is done, sixteen ounces are reduced to twelve. It is then dyed black, and the process of weighting commences. The twelve ounces is sent to the manufacturer, varying from twenty-four to fifty-two ounces. I have to-day seen silk dyed and weighted in Lyons up to fifty-two ounces. Very large dye-works exist in Lyons for the purpose of doing this business; and it is done to perfection."
Fatality of Inebriety.—In an article on the "Duration, Mortality, and Prognosis of Inebriety," by Dr. T. D. Crothers, published in the Quarterly Journal of Inebriety, we are informed that the mortality of this disease has been estimated at from 96 to 98 per cent., or less than four per cent of recoveries. Under treatment in asylums the lowest estimate has been placed at 33 per cent., and from that up to 62 per cent. This excessive mortality is due, according to Dr. Crothers, to profound degenerations, produced by alcohol, and the peculiar conditions of low vitality, impaired and perverted cell-action, commonly preceding this disorder. The inebriate is literally in a toxic condition, in which all the organs are both unduly depressed and exalted, or in a state of suspended activity, bordering on paralysis. The mortality of the inebriate is further increased by the favoring conditions which bring on inflammatory affections, as pneumonia, pleurisy, gastritis, diseases of the kidneys, etc. Severe bodily injuries, too, have generally a fatal termination in inebriates. The existing degenerations seem to intensify the lesion and its effect, and reduce the resisting power of Nature to its minimum. The fatality of inebriety is increasing, and its complications are becoming more profound and general.
Uses of the Antennæ of Insects.—In working on the problem as to the use of the antennæ of insects, Mr. L. Trouvelot, as he states in the American Naturalist, procured a large number of butterflies of Limenitis disippus, and with about a dozen of these tested the truth of a statement to the effect that a butterfly deprived of its antennæ, on being thrown up into the air, falls heavily to the ground without spreading its wings. All these butterflies took flight, but there was a certain hesitation in their movements. The author next carefully covered with thick Indian-ink the eyes of several individuals; when this coating was dry they were allowed to go free. They could fly, and, though blind, avoided hurting themselves by dashing against any hard object. Both antennæ having been cut off from a blinded butterfly, the insect when thrown up fell heavily. Another butterfly, blinded and with antennæ removed, was set at liberty on a table. Then with a small brush a drop of sweetened water was held very near the mouth, head, spiracles, etc. The insect remained perfectly still; but, when the stumps of the antennæ happened to be touched, it unrolled its proboscis and searched for the sweet liquor. The next insect was treated like the last, save that a drop of thick gum-arabic was allowed to dry on the stumps of the antennæ. The insect could not use its wings, and was insensible to the touch of sugar-water on the sealed stumps. Experiments showed that insects deprived of their antennæ do not copulate. The author next cut off the antennae of ants, and then let) them go free with their comrades; these mutilated ants did not seem to recognize their fellows, nor did they follow the same path, but kept moving in a circle. The author, in summing up the results of his experiments, says that the sense located in the antennæ is not merely that of touch, hearing, or taste, nor a combination of all these: it appears to differ essentially from any of man's senses; it is a "kind of feeling or smelling at a great distance."
Moss-Copper.—The term "moss-copper" is used to designate accumulations of filamentous copper found in cavities, in pigs of certain kinds of regulus. This moss-copper appears to be formed at a comparatively low temperature, and it has actually been produced at a temperature far below redness, by W. M. Hutchings, who gives in the Chemical News an account of his interesting experiments. He fused a button of regulus, one-quarter of a pound in weight, under borax in a clay crucible, and then poured the molten mass into an iron mould. After it had cooled in the mould for some time, so that it had been quite solidified for some minutes, it was broken in two by a blow with a hammer. It had now cooled below redness, even in the centre. At the moment of fracture the surfaces exposed were perfectly clean and lustrous, but after a minute or two they became slowly covered with a growth of minute copper filaments, which increased till in some places it resembled a coarse velvet. After three or four minutes one of the halves was again broken in two, and again the exposed surface was lustrous. The piece was now just cool enough to hold in the hand, yet the moss-copper slowly began to appear here also, though not so abundantly as before, and only in patches.
Fauna and Flora of the Florida Keys.—L. F. de Pourtalès, in The Naturalist, signalizes the Florida Keys as a curious example, though on a very small scale, of a land of comparatively modern origin, which has received its fauna and flora from two different and very distinct sources—the West Indies and the North American Continent— the flora being derived chiefly from the former, and the fauna mostly from the latter. The marine fauna of the coral region of South Florida he pronounces a West Indian colony engrafted on the more or less North American fauna of the east and west coasts of the peninsula. Of the land animals the mammals are entirely North American. The batrachia and reptiles, too, belong, with a very few exceptions, to North American species. The insects are probably of mixed origin, coming from North America, Cuba, and the Bahamas. The laud-shells of the Keys are the same as those of the mainland.
As regards the flora of Florida and its Keys, the author says of the pine that it is confined to the mainland, there being only one small group of Keys which bears a growth of pines. Pine-forests, indeed, are characteristic of the shores of Florida, and of all the Southern States, while the characteristic trees of the Keys are fig-trees, quassia, torch-wood, mahogany, and a few others, interspersed with a dense shrubbery, in which several species of Eugenia are perhaps most common.
How the American Aborigines disposed of their Dead.—The modes of disposing of the bodies of the dead in use among the aborigines of America are classed by Mr. Edwin A. Barber, in the Naturalist, under four heads, viz.: inhumation, cremation, embalmment, and aërial sepulture. Of these, the first was most usually employed, the bodies being interred either in ordinary graves, in mounds, or in caves. Several tribes, among them the Lenni-Lenape, or Delawares, were accustomed to incase their dead in stone boxes or tombs. In tumulus burial, the dead were generally laid near the original level of the surface, and the mound heaped over them. Only isolated instances of cave-burial have been signalized in the United States, as in Breckenridge County, Kentucky, and in the Canons of Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico. Cremation was of two kinds—in graves and in urns. Among the Pueblos of Arizona and Utah the body was sometimes burned, and the ashes deposited in shallow tombs. Several tribes on the Gila River, in Southern Arizona, burned the bones of the dead in urns. But few cases of embalming are known to have occurred in the limits of the United States. As examples of this mode of preparing the corpse may be mentioned the Mammoth Cave and Salt Cave mummies of Kentucky. These bodies have been preserved by a rude species of embalmment and by exsiccation. Aërial sepulture was of two kinds—the first by suspension on scaffolds or in trees, the second by sepulture in canoes. Several tribes still employ the former mode of burial. The Sioux elevate the bodies of their dead into trees, or stretch them out on raised platforms, wrapping them in blankets and leaving them to the mercies of the elements and carnivorous birds.
Accurate Geological Estimates.—A good illustration of the exactness of modern geological science is found on comparing the results actually obtained in the sinking of artesian wells in London with the conclusions reached by Prof. Prestwich as long ago as 1851. In a work published in that year, "A Geological Inquiry respecting the Water-bearing Strata of the Country around London," Prestwich made the prediction that the chalk beneath London would be found to have a thickness of 650 feet, the upper green-sand of 40 feet, and the gault of 150 feet. At the time of this announcement, as we learn from Nature, no well in London had been sunk to a greater depth than 300 feet in the chalk, but now there are four deep borings which marvelously confirm Prof. Prestwich's reasonings. We take from our London contemporary the following table, showing the results as calculated by Prestwich, and as actually ascertained by borings:
"When it is remembered," adds Nature, "that the chalk graduates downward insensibly into the upper green-sand, and that it is almost impossible to decide on their line of separation, it will be admitted on all hands that the agreement between the estimated and proved results is marvelously close."
Mental Disease in Animals.—The pathology of mind in the lower animals, and more especially in domestic animals, is a subject which, singularly enough, has hitherto attracted very little attention, though it is one that ought to possess the highest interest to man. Dr. W. Lauder Lindsay, who for a few years past has devoted himself to the study of mental phenomena as exhibited in the animal creation inferior to man, contributes to the Journal of Mental Science the results of his observations upon the mental pathology of animals, from which it appears that in them insanity is virtually the same as in man. He notes, however, certain peculiarities in the case of the lower animals, the most important of which is the facility with which artificial insanity may be produced in them, either by ill-usage or by brain or blood poisoning; hence the whole course of insanity may be very conveniently studied in animals. This unworked field of comparative psychology presents to the ambitious young physician the opportunity not only of earning distinction, but also of adding to human knowledge, and thereby to human as well as animal happiness and well-being. "Let me," writes Dr. Lauder Lindsay, "commend the experimental and scientific study of the pathology of mind in the lower animals to those capable youths who at present fritter away their time, temper, and opportunities, on subjects both trite and trivial; who expend their ingenuity in improving upon Nature by drawing hard and fast lines of demarkation where she draws none; who discover in the last fashionable drug, or mode of drugging, a panacea for all the ills of the insane; who delight in barren statistics that have already been tabulated a thousand times, with results of no practical value."
Archæology.—The Lapham Archæological Society of Wisconsin is the name of an organization formed and located at Milwaukee, Wisconsin, for the purpose of instituting researches into the antiquities of that State. It proposes to survey and register the discovery of ancient mounds; collect and preserve the relics found; and to publish from time to time such information concerning the results of its labors as will lead to a better knowledge of the origin and character of the prehistoric peoples of the region of the Great Lakes and the Mississippi Valley. It has long been known that Wisconsin is particularly rich in remains of the mound-builders. In 1855 Dr. J. A. Lapham, after whom this society is fitly named, published, as one of the Smithsonian contributions, a quarto volume describing and figuring such as had then been observed. They have been discovered in great numbers since, and there is ample room for vigorous work in exploring and describing them before they disappear under the denuding operations of the plough and the harrow. They are so widely scattered and so small in size that their preservation is quite out of the question after the soil begins to be cultivated. It is to be hoped that the society will be able to push its labors successfully, and that its action may excite a spirit of emulation in other localities.