Popular Science Monthly/Volume 29/October 1886/Popular Miscellany

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Niagara Falls at the American Association.—Professor Pohlman presented his theory of the origin of the Niagara gorge to the American Association at its recent meeting. This theory differs essentially from the views usually accepted by geologists, that Niagara Falls were originally at Lewiston, and the river has since excavated the chasm through which it flows, thence to the present position of the falls. Professor Pohlman's view is based on a careful survey of the district appertaining to the Niagara basin, which he distinctly defines, with its ancient river-beds, and of the ancient beach-marks on the lake-shores that testify to the gradual subsidence of the water. It supposes that the ancient Tonawanda River flowed into the valley of the present Niagara at about the same place as where it enters now; that the original point of overflow of its waters across the thin-bedded Niagara limestone was perhaps somewhere near or a little southerly from the upper rapids at the present falls; that from here the waters met no obstacle, and in their flow predetermined the river-gorge between the falls and the Whirlpool, and continued in a straight course north through the valley of St. Davis. They descended over the escarpment at the latter place, and along this line in the course of time the three falls over the Medina sandstone and the Clinton and Niagara limestones were formed. During the glacial period the natural drainage-lines were closed up, and a great lake was formed. After the disappearance of the ice-sheet, when the water had subsided to about 605 feet above the ocean, or stood on a level with Lewiston Heights, Lake Erie and Lake Ontario formed two large bodies of water, separated by a mud-flat which extended from Buffalo to Lewiston. Then, as Professor Pohlman attempts to show from the terraces, the two lakes drained simultaneously, and were connected by a river with a more or less swift current, but without any fall, simply deepening its bed in the drift and shaping its course along the buried pre-glacial valleys. But, when the waters reached the Niagara lime-stone at the edge of the Lewiston escarpment, the current of the river was broken by rapids; for the thin layer of limestone which here overhangs the Niagara shale would barely be strong enough to sustain the tremendous volume of water and form a fall over its edge. The rate at which the gorge was excavated between Lewiston and the Whirlpool must have been rapid. The route was predetermined by a shallow valley, which had reduced the upper layer of limestone to a considerable extent. Thus there was never a fall at Lewiston, only a series of rapids drawing back to the Whirlpool, where the falls were started and whence only, and not from Lewiston, they have receded.

Professor R. S. Woodward, of the United States Geological Survey of the Falls, presented a report on the rate of recession, which he computed to be about 2·4 feet a year, or a mile in 2,300 years. Mr. G. L. Gilbert, also of the United States Geological Survey, gave an account of his observations of the lake - shore terraces, and the conclusions he had drawn from them respecting the subsidence of the lakes. Taking up Professor Woodward's estimate of the rate of recession of the falls, he remarked that it would make the work of excavation extend over 7,000 years. This was subject to various qualifications by channels of earlier origin, by different rocks of different thickness encountered from time to time in the wearing away process, and by the difference in the volume, breadth, and plunge of the river at various periods of its history. On the whole, he was inclined to the opinion that the estimate of 7,000 years should be regarded as a maximum. After one or two other speakers had taken part in the discussion, Professor Pohlman said that he was glad to find the "mountains of science" agreeing with "a mole-hill like himself" regarding the existence of a pre-glacial valley. Professor E. W. Claypole, in a paper on the "What might have been" of Buffalo and Chicago, showed that if the ice-barrier at Buffalo had been twenty -five feet higher than it was, or had the Mackinaw channel been freed from its barrier before the outlet from Lake Erie and Lake Ontario was unlocked, the drainage of the four lakes would have been reversed; the Mississippi would have taken the place of the St. Lawrence, Chicago of Buffalo, and Buffalo of Chicago.


An Æsthetic View of Polygamy.—Mr. George Ticknor Curtis, in his argument in the Supreme Court of the United States in the case of Lorenzo Snow, plaintiff in error, takes a view of Mormon polygamy that we do not remember to have before observed to be insisted upon in the States. By this view the relation to all but a single wife is purely spiritual, and one simply of care-taking, with recollections only of past more intimate ties. The idea of it is given in the testimony of Harriet Snow, who was married to Snow in Nauvoo in 1846, and had never been divorced. She said: "He was not my husband in 1884, according to the general term of husband. He did not live with me as a wife. He had arranged for my support, and I drew it as common. In 1884 I looked upon him as my companion, the husband of my youth. In 1884 the marriage relation did not continue as it was in my young days. I was an old lady in 1884. I call myself a married lady. I was sealed to the defendant for time and for eternity. When a lady gets so that she can not bear children, then she is released from some of her duties as a wife. I mean that he is my companion, but not husband." According to Mr. Curtis's argument, Snow had duties to discharge toward Harriet and the other women similarly situated toward him, which duties, the attorney continues, "are natural, are of moral obligation, of perpetual obligation, and are duties which, when we consider how and when they were assumed, and how they have become woven into the texture of his life, it would be barbaric to punish." The question is, in fact, surrounded with more and greater embarrassments than the urgers of summary legislation to put down polygamy have apparently been ready to consider. The women, who profess to have acted conscientiously, are entitled to protection and provision whatever laws may be enacted. They have a right to be placed where they can be supported and can live respectably. The problem is one of the same kind as that which troubles Christian missionaries when they make converts in polygamous countries, and which so dignified and able a body as the Convocation of Canterbury has this year substantially confessed itself unable to solve. It is really more complicated than this; for the condition among the Mormons is one that has grown up under our own neglect and tolerance, while we might have met it in the beginning and prevented its development if we had had the nerve to do so.


Inherited Memories.—Dr. H. D. Yalin has communicated to "Mind in Nature" (Chicago) some instances in which specific memories appear to have been transmitted by inheritance. He believes that they are the first cases that have been published, for even Ribot confesses to have had but little success in establishing instances of the kind.

The most striking case is that of a little girl fifteen months old, the child of a French Canadian father, whose principal traits of character and appearance she seems to have received, and of an American mother of German descent. She has had only the English and German languages spoken to her; yet the first word she ever spoke—when five months old was—mouman, the French Canadian form of maman, mother. Her first words of assent and dissent were oui and non—French—when eight months of age, "and she does not yet know yes or ya, though she seems to have forgotten oui. When a year old she was presented with a poodle-dog named Venus, which she called Nanan—candy, "one of the very first words that a French child talks." At about the same age she used freely the words bon, good, and pus, French Canadian for plus, no more. These six French words are the very ones that her father is likely to have exclusively used when a babe. The u of the last word was sounded as in French, as also were the nasal sounds of non and Nanan, things which her mother could not have done. Inheritance of memory has been observed in the case of birds, which soon learn to avoid the telegraph-wires, while their young seem equally ready in keeping away from them. Chauncey Wright is quoted as saying of those dreams of strange places and events that often recur to one in his sleep, with the intimation of being familiar though never seen in a wakeful state, that they are inherited memories. Dr. Valin also relates of his own personal experience: "My mother was brought up and educated in a most romantic country village, which she revisited a few months before I was born. The first time I visited it I remembered vividly having been there before. In fact, I could tell at that time what next would follow in the scenery, and I argued with my relatives who were denying my former knowledge of that place; my mother having died when I was about nine months old, and I had not had any description of it from any one, or conversed with any one in regard to the village scenery." A little girl in Burlington, Vermont, with whose family Dr. Valin at one time resided, "had inherited so good a memory of an uncle, whose funeral had been attended by her mother not long before this little girl's birth, that she could give a full description of him, and knew his picture at once the first time that she ever saw it." Some of these cases may have been maternal impressions, but the first one was undoubtedly one of inherited memory.


Alum as a Water-Clarifier.—According to a paper by Professor P. P. Austin, of the New Jersey State Scientific School, extensive use has been made in late years of alum in the processes of purifying water, sewage, etc. It is not improbable, the author says, that, aside from its effect in precipitating matter mechanically by envelopment within the precipitating basic aluminic sulphate, the alum exerts a coagulative action on the albuminous substances in the water, rendering them insoluble, and thus causing their precipitation perhaps the . same or similar effect that alum produces in the tanning of leather. Alum has the great advantage that it is cheap, can be obtained everywhere, and is not highly poisonous. The larger the amount of alum added to the water the more quickly will the separation take place; the smaller the amount added, the longer will the water have to stand before a clarification will be effected. Again, large bodies of water will be precipitated by smaller amounts of alum than one would infer from experiments on a small scale, as the mechanical action of the precipitant here, in enveloping and carrying down suspended matter, is greater in a large body of water than in a small one. It will be better, however, to err on the side of too large an amount, for even then the amount of alum added will be insufficient to impart any detrimental properties to the water. The water, after precipitation has taken place, is perfectly clear and sparkling, and has acquired neither taste nor smell. For use in the dye-house no possible objection can be made to it.

The Story of India-Ink.—India-ink is of comparatively late introduction in Europe. It was a rarity in the middle of the seventeenth century, and a record exists of a stick of it being preserved along with some "giants' teeth"—mammoth bones—as a curiosity, in the Museo Moscarda, in 1672. The Chinese, however, assign a great antiquity to its use in their country, and name, as the inventor of it, Tien-tchen, who nourished between 2697 and 2597 b. c., About two hundred and fifty years b. c., balls were made of lampblack from fir-wood, lacquer, and size. A poet of that day, singing of this precious material of his art, mentions with especial praise the ink that was made of the firs from the hill-side of Lou-Chan, in the province of Kiang si. This province was celebrated for the fine quality of its ink, which was at one time made under the supervision of an hereditary government officer as overseer. A number of sticks of the ink were sent every year to the emperor as a tribute. There were illustrious names among the Chinese ink-makers. The most famous of them was Li-ting-Kouei, who not only made his sticks of a quality which has become proverbial, like that of the Stradivarius violins, but molded them into a variety of quaint and artistic forms, and received a special honor from the emperor. During the long history of the Chinese-ink, a great variety of processes have been employed in its manufacture, and nearly every kind of combustible has been used for the production of the lampblack. That resulting from the combustion of petroleum is said to make a more brilliant and blacker ink than that made from fir-wood. The size by which the particles of the lampblack are held together is frequently of animal origin, being made from the bones of the stag, rhinoceros, and ox, and from various kinds of fishes. The Chinese instruments of writing have been assigned supernatural guardians, whose places of precedence are settled by strict rules of etiquette. The "Prefect of the Black Perfume" is the official style of the ink-deity, and he is of higher rank than the divinities of the pencil and the paper. It is said that, a very long time ago, this divinity appeared to the Emperor Hiuan-Tsong while he was writing, and announced to him that henceforth, when a man of true learning or genius should write, the twelve deities of ink should make their appearance to testify to the reality of his powers. It is said that the twelve deities of ink have never appeared since.


Periodicity of Cyclones.—Mr. Charles Meldrum, in continuation of his observations relative to his theory of the periodicity of cyclones, which he believes to occur in cycles corresponding with the eleven-year cycle of sun-spots, has published the results of the meteorological observations which he has systematically compiled from the logbooks of vessels traversing the Indian Ocean for the nine years 1876-'84. The observations averaged forty-six for every twenty-four hours included in the review. By the aid of these records nine cyclone-charts have been prepared, one for each of the years, and these, together with the twenty that had previously been prepared for the years 1856-'75, show, as far as has yet been ascertained, the tracks of the cyclones of the Indian Ocean south of the equator in each of the years 1856-'84. The tracks for the years 1848-'55 are nearly ready. With respect to the period 1876-'84, the areas of cyclones and the distances traversed have not yet been determined, but, upon the whole, the number and duration of the cyclones decreased to a minimum in 1880, and then increased till, in 1884, they were more than double what they were in 1880. From the accompanying track-charts for the eleven years, 1856, 1857, 1860, 1861, 1867, 1868, 1871, 1872, 1879, 1880, and 1884, it appears that the number and duration of the cyclones of 1856 and 1857 were much less than those of the cyclones of 1860 and 1861; that those of 1867 and 1868 were much less than those of 1860 and 1861, on the one hand, and of 1871 and 1872 on the other; and that the number and duration of the cyclones of 1879 and 1880 were much less than those of the cyclones of 1871, 1872, and 1884; but it appears that in 1884 there was less cyclone activity than in 1861 and 1872.


Antiseptics and Disinfectants.—The Committee on Disinfectants of the American Public Health Association calls attention in its report to a distinction which is not always accurately enough observed between disinfectants—substances which destroy germs—and simple antiseptics—which prevent their development. Many of the preparations put on the market as disinfectants are in reality only antiseptics. While practically the words disinfectant, in its strict sense, and germicide, are considered to mean the same thing, so long as it is not proved that all infections are developed from germs, we must regard "disinfectant" as a word of more general significance than germicide. But, as a matter of fact, those agents which by laboratory experiments have been proved to be the most potent germicides have also been shown to be the most reliable disinfectants. While antiseptic agents may fail to fulfill the stronger purpose of disinfectants, they are known to exercise a restraining influence on the development of disease-germs, and their use during epidemics is recommended, when masses of organic material in the vicinity of human habitations can not be completely destroyed or removed, or disinfected. A substance of this kind is sulphate of iron, or copperas, which, while it does not destroy the vitality cf disease-germs or the infecting power of material containing them, is a very valuable antiseptic, the low price of which makes it one of the most available agents for the arrest of putrefactive decomposition. While an antiseptic agent is not necessarily a disinfectant, all disinfectants are antiseptics; for putrefactive decomposition is due to the development of germs of the same class as that to which disease-germs belong, and the agents which destroy the latter also destroy the bacteria of putrefaction when brought in contact with them in sufficient quantity, or restrain their development when present in smaller amounts. Antiseptics are a poor substitute for cleanliness.


Wind-Carving in Maine.—Mr. George H. Stone discusses, in the "American Journal of Science," some instances of wind action on till and bowlders which he has observed in Maine. One of the features of the surface geology of this State is the large areas of sand which were deposited by most of the rivers along the lower part of their courses during the Champlain epoch. The valley of the Androscoggin is particularly distinguished by its sand-dunes. Not rarely spots bare of vegetation can be found on hill-sides exposed to high winds, where, during dry days, the wind removes the finer parts of the till and drives the gravel back and forth just as happens in Colorado during the dry winter weather. The effects of this process are, however, usually obliterated or obscured by the frequent rains and abundant snows; but the wearing marks of the action are plainly observable in many cases, as on the top of a hill near Wayne village. At Bethel are found bowlders which exhibit on one or more of their surfaces grooves, scratches, striæ, and polishings, the origin of which was for a long time problematical; and similarly marked stones have been noticed at Gilead and in Gorham, New Hampshire, all near the Androscoggin River. Mr. Stone believes that he solved the mystery of these marks during his investigation of the glacial gravels of the region in the summer of 1885. In numerous places, at Bethel and elsewhere, he found "bowlders and even small stones which are now being sand-carved by the wind as plainly and incontestably as in Colorado. The drifting dunes of fine sand do not produce this effect to any great extent, probably because the stones are covered and uncovered too rapidly. But there are bare spots not protected by grass where coarse sand and gravel are driven back and forth by the wind, and here the carved bowlders can be seen in considerable numbers and in all stages of the process. In some cases it appeared probable that these bare places were where drifting sand had swept over the surface and the till had been partially denuded by the wind. . . . Every feature of the Bethel bowlders under consideration is fully accounted for by the hypothesis of sand-sculpturing under the action of the wind." An accessible locality for observing this action is found about a mile from West Bethel, on the east side of the road leading to Mason.


Should Children go barefooted?—The "Lancet" gives a decided affirmative answer to the question, "May children go barefoot without injury?" It holds that, on physiological grounds, it is manifestly a sound practice to accustom children to develop the circulatory and muscular systems of the lower extremities, as those of the hand are developed, by free use and exposure. No one thinks a child ought to be protected from the weather, so far as its hands are concerned, but it is recognized that the upper extremities should be kept warm by exercise and habitual exposure. The bones and vessels need freedom for development; and if the blood-vessels of the foot and leg are fully developed, as they can be only when the foot is habitually exposed, the quantity of blood which the lower extremities can be made to receive, and if need be attract for a time, is very considerable. Children who are allowed to go barefooted enjoy almost perfect immunity from the danger of "cold" by accidental chilling of the feet, and they are altogether healthier and happier than those who go about with their feet done up. For the poorer classes of children, "it is incomparably better that they should go barefooted than wear boots that let in the wet and stockings that are nearly always damp and foul."


Development of Fleas.—Mr. George Harkus has succeeded in observing the whole process of the development of the flea from the laying of the egg up. He undertook to begin his experiment with two egg-laden females in a box, but the only result was a fierce battle that compelled separation of the two at once. Each individual laid a batch of from three to twenty-four eggs—the average was about a dozen—white and oval. Each end of the ova appeared through the glass surrounded by a spiral whorl of oval punctures, eighty at one end and forty at the other. The eggs were so nearly transparent that the whole process of development could be easily watched, and the exhibition, to judge from the warm terms in which it is described, must have been extremely interesting. The larvæ resembled elongated little worms, were destitute of feet, and kept up the usual wriggling motion of their kind. They absolutely refused to be fed, and usually died in a few days, so that very few chrysalides were obtained. Perhaps, if they had been given their natural way of feeding, whatever that may be, the success might have been better. Any exposure to cold or damp was immediately fatal. The larvæ, as the pupa stage is approached, assume a red hue, and, about eight days from hatching, spin a cocoon like a fluffy speck of white cotton. The threads are closely woven and of extreme tenuity, and, when attached to a textile material of similar color, must be very difficult of detection. A cocoon was opened after the inmate had divested itself of the pupa-case, but still remained enveloped in a filmy transparent integument. This pellicle covered the insect completely, following each leg and antenna continuously. "About four weeks is required to metamorphose the speck of vitalized matter contained in the minute ovum of Pulex irritans into a suctorial tormentor."


Science in Japan.—A wise step was taken when the University of Tokio and the Engineering College were merged into one organization. This institution, now called the Imperial University of Japan, comprises five colleges, representing the departments of law, medicine, engineering, literature, and science. Each of these colleges has its special director. The College of Science is showing great activity in biological work. Mr. Ishikawa, who recently graduated, is now in Freiburg, studying under Weissmann. Mr. Matsumura, the assistant professor of botany, is in Wurzburg, under Sachs. A marine laboratory is to be built at Misaki, Sagami. Mr. Tsuboi, a student who graduates this year, is to study anthropology as a specialty. A new journal is to be established by the College of Science, from which we infer that the memoirs of the University of Tokio will be discontinued. The first number of the new journal will contain a memoir by Professor Sasaki on the development of the maggot parasite in the silk-worm. The government awarded Professor Sasaki a gift last year in recognition of bis admirable discoveries concerning the diseases of silk-worms. The Tokio Anthropological Society, although recently organized, is doing excellent work. It has already issued five numbers of its journal, each one illustrated by lithographic plates. We wish, for the benefit of foreign readers, it would give a brief synopsis in English of the contents of each number. Mr. Iijima, who studied with Leuckart in Leipsic, and took the gold medal over all the German students for the best thesis, is again in his native land and working in the laboratory of the college.  E. S. M.


The Lengthening of Human Life.—The "Lancet," apparently accepting the general opinion that the maximum age attainable by man has risen somewhat during the present century, observes that the line of seventy years is now very frequently passed, that many reach fourscore "without excessive labor and sorrow," and that "we have among us nonagenarians who carry on with still respectable proficiency the activities of their prime. Such effective longevity is a bright spot in the history of our advancing civilization. Its comparative frequency and its association with different physical types suggest a certain generality in its origin, and encourage the hope that it may be, in some measure at least, dependent on personal conduct." After middle age, however, not personal conduct, but inherited vital force, is a potential factor, although it is not an exclusive one. Disposition may have great influence upon vitality; "and there can be no doubt," says the "Lancet," "in our opinion, that there is much room for exercise of private judgment and energy in seeking the prolongation of one's own life." It is not to be believed "that man is unable so to adjust his circumstances to his needs as to continue to live after a certain mean period. The weaker will sometimes prove himself the more tenacious of life by observing rational methods of living of which the more robust is careless. Moderation has probably more to do with success in this respect than anything else. To eat sufficiently, and drink stimulants sparingly, to alternate work with adequate rest, and to meet worries heartily, will afford every one the best chance of arriving at a ripe old age."


Premonitions of Inebriety.—Dr. T. D. Crothers, of Walnut Lodge, Hartford, Connecticut, having studied "the incipient stages in inebriety," endeavors to show that the oncoming of the disease, as he regards it, may be foreseen, and that preventives and curative measures applied at that time give more promise of certain results than at any other period. Sometimes premonitions of inebriety reveal themselves in the dispositions of the subject before any spirits have been used by him; when they may be marked by dietetic delusions and other symptoms of nerve and brain irritability, which seem to depend on heredity or some obscure injury to the nerve and brain centers. He believes that the recognition and study of this stage opens up a field of prevention and cure that will attract great attention at an early day.


Signal Stations at Sea.—Mr. F. A. Cloudman, of Rondout, New York, has projected a plan for the establishment of ocean-signals, light-ships, and life-saving stations at sea. His system embraces a strongly constructed cylindrical vessel, with a convex upper deck, moored at such a depth of submergence as will give it the greatest attainable stability, by means of cables and anchors fixed in the bottom of the ocean. From the top of this structure arises a skeleton framework, to sustain a brilliant electric arc-light, with Fresnel lenses, a powerful steam-siren, and ventilating, smoke, and steam pipes. The interior of the vessel is to be divided into several decks or holds, to be used as cabins, offices, operating and apparatus rooms, etc. An ocean-cable is to be run from shore to shore, looping in at each of the stations. For deep-sea service, the stations should be placed at maximum distances of five hundred miles from one another. For coast service, they should be placed at or near dangerous shoals, reefs, etc., and connected by telegraph cable with the mainland.