Popular Science Monthly/Volume 19/October 1881/Popular Miscellany

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Popular Science Monthly Volume 19 October 1881  (1881) 
Popular Miscellany
 

POPULAR MISCELLANY.

The American Association at Cincinnati.—The thirtieth meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science began at Cincinnati August 17th, and was one of the largest and every way most successful that the body has held. There was an unusually strong influx of new members, and the regular working force of the Association was well represented. The papers were many and varied, and some of them results of able investigation, and showing a well sustained activity of original research. As regards provision for the social entertainment of the members, Cincinnati demonstrated that it understands this matter quite as well as Boston, and is not to be out-done. Every arrangement for the comfort and the pleasure of the scientists was perfect, and those who experienced them will long remember the enjoyments of the occasion. We can not, of course, report the work, and can only refer to some of the more important papers.

The meeting began with a welcoming address by Judge J, D. Cox, of Cincinnati, and a response by President Brush. The anthropological and archæological departments were fully represented, a large proportion of the most instructive and most novel papers bearing upon that subject. The proceedings of this sub-section were opened with an important and highly interesting address by the chairman, Colonel Garrick Mallery, on "The Gesture-Speech of Man." Professor Mason read a paper on "The Uncivilized Mind in the Presence of Higher Phases of Civilization," the more immediate bearing of which was on the subject of Indian education; Horatio Hale, in "A Lawgiver of the Stone Age," sought, among other things, to inquire whether mental capacity increases with the progress of civilization, introducing in illustration the condition of the Iroquois when first visited by Europeans; Major William I. Beebe, of Brooklyn, read a paper of suggestive import on "The Decipherment of Inscriptions from the Mounds," to which we have referred more fully in another place; Mr. W. J. Hoffmann discussed "The Interpretation of Pictographs by the Application of Gesture-Signs"; Mr. Watson C. Holbrook, "Prehistoric Hieroglyphics"; while Mrs. E. A. Smith communicated the results of her researches on the "Animal Myths of the Iroquois." Dr. Stephen D. Peet contributed observations on "The Emblematic Mounds of the Four Lakes of Wisconsin," and on the "Buffalo Drives on the Rock River, in Wisconsin," a paper which provoked considerable discussion. Judge John G. Henderson discussed "Agriculture and Agricultural Implements of the Ancient Inhabitants of the Mississippi Valley"; and Mr. De Saas, of the Bureau of Ethnology, Washington, summarized the whole subject in his paper on the "Progress of Archæological Discovery." After this a resolution was passed, and referred to the Standing Committee, asking Congress to continue the appropriations for investigations relating to the mound-builders and to prehistoric mounds. The Association resolved to exercise its influence to preserve the great mound at Cahokia, Illinois, which is about to be sold; and excursions were made to Fort Ancient, one of the best-known earthworks in the Ohio Valley, and to Madisonville, where some very interesting discoveries have recently been made. In the microscopical department. Dr. G. M. Sternberg, of Baltimore, offered contributions to the study of bacterial organizations commonly found on mucous surfaces and in the alimentary canal of healthy individuals, in which he combated the opinion that each disease is produced by a microbe peculiar to itself. He bad never found living organisms in blood, healthy or diseased, but the alimentary canal was never without parasites. Dr. Lester Curtis, of Chicago, gave the results of the study of the blood of Griscom, who fasted forty-five days at Chicago, the genuineness of whose fast he attested; the blood appeared healthy in every particular throughout the fast and at its end. Among the papers on subjects of physics were one "On the Cause of the Arid Climate of the Far West," by Captain C. E. Dutton; one on "The Effect of Prolonged Stress on the Strain in Timber," by Professor R. H. Thurston; and one on "Standard Time," by Professor E. B. Elliott, of Washington. A committee which had been appointed to consider the latter subject presented majority and minority reports. The former, by Professor Stone, favored a single standard for the whole country; the latter, by Professor Waldo, favored a number of standards, beginning with New York for the East, another at St. Louis, an hour later, for the Central West, and others at points farther West, each exactly an hour later than the preceding one, and suggesting that the New York standard be fixed at five hours after Greenwich time. The two reports were ordered published, to be considered at Montreal next year. H. C. Hovey presented a paper on "Coal-Dust as an Element of Danger in Mining," as shown by the late explosion in the Albion mines in Nova Scotia. Mrs. A. B. Blackwell read a paper on "The Constitution of the Atom of Science"; and Dr. H. B. Parsons, in a paper on the "Composition and Quality of American Wines," drew the conclusion that wines of American manufacture are in many cases as good as or better than more expensive foreign wines of the same general character. W. H. Ballou, of Evanston, Illinois, reviewed the "Natural and Industrial History of the White Pine of Michigan," and predicted that, at the present rate of usage, the supply of timber will disappear in seven years. Mr. Charles Sedgwick Minot, by an inquiry whether man is anatomically the highest animal, excited considerable discussion, in which, the newspaper report tells us, "some feeling was unfortunately created." David D. Thompson, of Cincinnati, considered the "Influence of Forests on Water-Courses," and W. J. Beal communicated his observations of "The Motion of Roots in germinating Indian Corn." The chairman of the entomological sub-section, reviewing the growth of entomology in the United States, said that while forty years ago there were but ten working entomologists south of New York, the "Naturalists' Directory" for 1880 contains the names of four hundred and thirty-six entomologists. Professor Riley announced some novel views on the sudden appearances of the grasshopper pest, which seemed to indicate that he saw in them illustrations of the doctrine of evolution. A resolution was adopted disapproving the conferring of the degree of Ph. D. except after examination; and a committee was appointed to coöperate with the committee of the American Philological Association in addressing a memorial to the Boards of Trustees of all the colleges, asking them to discontinue the practice. The next meeting of the Association was appointed to be held at Montreal, August 23, 1882. The following-officers were elected for the ensuing year: President, Dr. J. W. Dawson, of Montreal, Canada; Permanent Secretary, Professor Putnam, of Cambridge, to continue; General Secretary, William Saunders, of London, Ontario; Assistant General Secretary, Professor J. Eastman, of Washington, D. C.; Vice-President and Chairman of Section A, Professor William Harkness, of Washington; Section B, Professor T. C. Mendenhall, of Columbus, Ohio. Treasurer, William S. Vaux, of Philadelphia. A new committee on Geological Survey was appointed, consisting of Professors Swallow, Proctor, James, Hull, Winchell, Kerr, and Orton, and Major Powell. Steps were taken during the meeting toward the organization of a distinct Association of American Geologists.

 

Physiological Effects of Compressed Air.—Professor C. M. Woodward, of Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri, has written a book on the St. Louis Bridge, and in it has devoted a chapter to the review of the affections which the men employed in sinking the piers of the bridge suffered from compressed air, and the theories that were proposed to account for the trouble. From advance sheets of this chapter kindly furnished by the author, we learn that no serious drawback was perceived to working four or even six hours consecutively in the air-chamber till the cutting-edge of the caisson of the east pier was nearly sixty feet below the surface of the river. From that time on the working-time was gradually shortened and the rests were made longer, till the 5th of February, at sixty-five feet, when the work-time was made three watches of two hours each, with two-hour rests. The first effect noticed upon the men was a muscular paralysis of the lower limbs, without pain, which would pass off in a day or two, but which became more difficult to subdue, more extended and painful, as the caisson was sunk deeper. It was joked about among the men at first, but became more serious by the middle of February, after which, the depth being seventy-six feet, severe cases became more frequent. The superintendent noticed the fact that the sick men were often thinly clad and poorly fed. At the end of March, several persons having died within a few days shortly after coming out of the excavations, Dr. A. Jaminet was appointed to take medical charge of the men and establish such regulations as in his judgment their well-being demanded. He had been a frequent visitor to the air-chamber, had noticed the men as they came out, and had observed that their appearance was pallid and cold; that in some the pulse was quick but somewhat weak, while with others it was as low as sixty, and that without exception the workmen complained of fatigue; also that the pulse always quickened on entering the air-chamber, though it soon fell to the normal rate, and even lower; that the number of respirations increased and a feeling of exhilaration came on in the air-chamber, and that the workmen sweated profusely during their stay in it, although the temperature was often below 60º Fahr. The air-lock was, as a rule, excessively warm when the pressure was increasing, and excessively cold when the pressure was diminishing. On the day the caisson touched the rock, when the pressure was forty-five pounds above the normal, Dr. Jaminet was conscious of a great loss of heat and a violent pain in his head while in the air-lock on his way out; he had much difficulty in getting to his carriage, and became partly paralyzed after he reached home, so that he considered his life in danger. All the precautions suggested by experience and careful observation were adopted for the protection of the men, and the cases of affection were watched as they occurred. In all, with six hundred men employed, one hundred and nineteen cases important enough to need medical treatment were reported at both piers, fourteen of which cases died and two were crippled. Post-mortem examinations were held in the cases of eight. Various theories have been proposed to account for the affection. Dr. Clark, of the City Hospital at St. Louis, believed that the congestion observed was caused by the forcing of the blood in upon the interior organs of the body in consequence of the increased atmospheric pressure. Another physician thought the men were poisoned by carbonic acid which had been abnormally retained within the system while in the air-chamber, but which was set free as soon as the pressure was removed. Dr. Jaminet thought the cases were due to physical exhaustion caused by breathing an atmosphere of quadruple strength, and supported his view by reference to the facts, all of which seemed to agree with it. Professor Woodward does not contradict his theory, but suggests in addition that the vital energies of the men taken sick were to a great extent paralyzed by loss of heat, which was due—1. To the expansion of the air in the lock while coming out; 2. To the expansion of the free gases and vapors within the body when relieved of the abnormal pressure; 3. To the liberation of the gases held in solution by the liquids of the body; 4. To the severe physical effort of climbing the stairs. The loss of heat taking place under diminution of pressure from four atmospheres to one would, if no heat were received from surrounding objects, be enough to reduce the temperature from 70º above to 106º below zero. Taking into consideration the condition of men who have been working hard, especially if they have not been well clothed and fed, it is not strange that they did, but rather that more of them did not, succumb under the combined effects of these four agencies. Dr. Jaminet gives an implied confirmation of these views by remarking in his pamphlet that "the paresis is but the result of reflex action caused by the spontaneous refrigeration of the whole system, but principally of all the abdominal organs." It is also worthy of remark that none of the men were ever attacked on entering the caisson, and none were ever sick while in the air-chamber, no matter how long the watch, but the attack always came on within half an hour after leaving the air-lock, or at the time. On the basis of this theory Professor Woodward establishes a system of rules for the management of men at work in compressed air, embodying the principles that only sound men should be employed, that they should be guarded against exhaustion, that they should not be exposed with unnecessary suddenness to the change from a compressed to the normal atmosphere; and that such a supply of heat should be given every man that he could lose a large amount and still have plenty left.

 

The Study of Anthropology.—M. P. Topinard classifies the anthropological sciences in three divisions. The first division, anthropology proper, is general, considering the questions of man's place in nature, and his origin, whether by special creation, or by derivation from preëxisting forms; and special, considering types, the classification and origin, the laws of the formation, development, death, and renewal of races. To the second division he gives the name of ethnography. It concerns the agglomerations of peoples, hordes, and tribes as we meet them. Its interest is derived from questions that are peculiar to it, and from the fact that races do not exist in nature, but are only abstractions, characterized by types which we imagine to have existed among ancestors. Nowhere can the real existence of a race be discovered, but we find two or three types, even among the most savage and most isolated tribes. Special ethnography relates to the description of each people; general ethnography to common questions of manners, customs, aptitudes, industries, beliefs, institutions; to the past of the race, the environment, circumstances in the evolution of humanity; to sociology. The third division includes the complementary sciences, among which archaeology, especially prehistoric archaeology, holds the first rank. It furnishes us what we can learn of the primitive man, and is gradually bringing us nearer to the epoch when the races started pure. History adds legends and definite movements, records the acts and voyages of antiquity, and discloses the relations of ancient to modern races. The descriptions of the Scythians by Herodotus, of the Germans by Tacitus, of the Goths by Jornandes, of the Anglo-Saxons by Amédée Thierry, are examples of its direct relation. In return, history receives a certain degree of light from anthropology, and the hereditary influence of the physiological characters of races plays an important part in the present order. Linguistics, which should not be confounded with philology, helps to fill the gaps left by history and archæology, by indicating the passage of a people through a particular region. Deductions should be made from it with careful consideration, for they are worth no more than those which may be drawn from a custom, a mythological form, or a funeral rite. A language may advance or retire without involving the question of anthropology. We pass for Aryans, because our ancestors spoke an Aryan language; but that language may have been brought to them from the East by a small, more highly civilized group. The group disappeared, the language remained with the aborigines. Demography is an anthropological science, related to ethnography. A fourth division might be added, consisting of sciences to be consulted. Among them might be included geography, as showing the distribution of peoples, and the topographical conditions of their surroundings; comparative law, as illustrating their social and legislative organizations; architecture and music, which show that all people and races have not had the same sentiments; sculpture, etc. The studies of anthropology, whose final object is to solve the problems of the evolution of the human race and man's place in nature, begin with analysis, or the examination of particular characteristics. Human characteristics may be arranged, according to their bearing on anthropology and ethnography, in five orders: External physical traits; internal physical traits; physiological traits; pathological traits; and ethnic traits. The last include all that can distinguish one people from another, whether relating to race, surroundings, tradition, or other points. Among them may be indicated polygamy, polyandry, monogamy, burial customs, the Indian custom of scalping, Polynesian taboo, the use of bows and arrows and of the boomerang, artificial deformations of the skull, etc. Thus the principal anthropological studies may be said to turn round four centers: the characteristic, the type, the race, and the human species.

 

The Great Primitive European Sea.—The theory of the former existence of a great sea embracing the basins of the Black, Caspian, and Aral Seas, has been confirmed by the recent ichthyological investigations of the Russian academician Kessler. This sea in the Miocene period, resting on a bottom of Eocene chalk and Jurassic rock, extended over a bed which, beginning in the East with the Sea of Aral, included the lowlands of the Caucasus and the plains of the Pontus, reached Volhynia, Podolia, and Galicia, the flats of the lower Danube, Hungary, and Servia, and ended in the West beyond the Vienna basin. This great sea was, at least in the latter part of its existence, brackish, and was connected (though some dispute this), as northern species among the fosils indicate, either through a strait or by overflow, with the Arctic Ocean. The area of the sea was still more extensive in the Eocene period, and in the Jurassic time it seems to have included all of central Russia and reached to Courland. The separation of the Aral and Caspian Seas from the Black Sea took place very early, probably during the Pliocene age, certainly before the beginning of the last geological period. The connection of the Black Sea with the Mediterranean through the present straits was made considerably later. The separation was accompanied with a decrease in the saltness of the Eastern seas—the Black Sea now containing 1·6 per cent,, the southern part of the Caspian Sea 1·3 per cent., the Sea of Aral 1·1 per cent, of salt—and a slight modification of their fauna. The fauna of the Black Sea can not be regarded as an impoverished fraction of that of the Mediterranean, but is of independent origin, consisting of what remains from the primitive sea, to which a few Mediterranean forms have since been added. The fauna of the Caspian is analogous to that of the Black Sea, but without the Mediterranean species. Since this sea is composed of brackish water, and is fresh in the northern part, it can contain only those species which live in brackish water or are indifferent or migratory, with no real sea-fishes. The ichthyology of the Sea of Aral has only recently been determined. It is entirely of a fresh-water character.