Popular Science Monthly/Volume 32/March 1888/Notes

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search


The second ten days of January were extraordinarily cold all through the North-west, and temperatures were registered at some places much below what had ever before been observed in the United States. At Iowa City, according to Professor Hinrichs, the mercury was at or below zero every night from the 11th to the 20th. During the twenty-eight years that weather observations have been taken, there have been only five decades having a mean temperature of zero or below; only one of these was during the first eighteen years, while the other four were during the last ten years. This shows that extreme cold has been seven times more frequent during the latter than during the former years, and is another indication of what the author has often held, that the later winters in Iowa have been colder than the former ones.

A "cable anchor" has been successfully tried in the Seine for stopping boats. The apparatus is a cable, having on it a series of canvas cones, which open out by the action of the water, and close again when drawn the usual way. A steamer running thirteen knots was stopped each time by the apparatus in thirteen seconds, and in a space of from twenty to thirty feet.

Professor Mushketoff describes the effects of the operations of the marmots in modifying the surface of the Siberian steppes as important. Their heaps of earth cover hundreds of square miles, and each one of them represents at least two cubic metres of earth removed, or about 30,000 cubic metres brought to the surface on each square kilometre.

The survey and last census of India show that the area of the peninsula of Hindostan is 1,382,624 square miles, and the population 253,891,821. Although immense tracts of country are annually cultivated, ten million acres of land suitable for cultivation have not as yet been plowed; and one hundred and twenty million acres are returned as waste lands.

M. Jovis,Director of the Aëronautic Union of France, has found a satisfactory varnish for textile materials. It is described as being of great flexibility, as containing no oleaginous base, and, while adding little to the weight, as conferring great impermeability. It is well adapted for balloons, marine cordage, sails, tents, and similar structures; is suitable for paintings and wainscotings; is exempt from moldiness; can be exposed to very varied temperatures without alteration; and furnishes sub-products which can be utilized for coating walls, railway-sleepers, etc.

Professor W. Mattieu Williams offers as a better explanation than the old one of the zigzag course of lightning, that owing to variations of moisture the conducting power of different portions of air is variable, and the electric discharge follows the course of least resistance.

Experience at the Winter Palace of the Czar at St. Petersburg indicates that the electric light injures the exotic plants used for the decoration of the rooms by causing the leaves to turn yellow, dry up, and fall off. The experiments of Dr. Siemens led him to a different conclusion, but his greenhouse was heated by the waste steam from the engine driving his dynamo, and this perhaps was of beneficial effect sufficient to counteract the mischief done by the light.

An effective composition for a "hand-grenade" tire-extinguisher is, common salt, 19·46; sal ammoniac, 8·88; water, 71·66; or 20 pounds of salt, 10 pounds of sal ammoniac, and 7 gallons of water. The flask should be of thin glass, so that when thrown with force against any object, it will fall to pieces. The grenades, costing but little, can be distributed freely all over the premises to be protected; and, should a fire occur, break a bottle or several bottles over it, and the disaster will probably be averted.

M. Bonnal has observed, by experiment, that hot baths induce a loss of weight caused by the sweating, which lasts for about twenty-four hours. It is compensated for by increased drinking and diminished urinary secretion. Baths of dry hot air provoke a sweat that ceases on coming out of the bath, while the perspiration provoked by warm-water baths and warm moist-air baths lasts frequently for an hour after the bath is over. The nervous incidents of the bath, such as the acceleration of the pulse and of respiration, make their appearance before the central temperature exhibits any elevation.

J. Chalmers Robertson, M. B., relates in "The Lancet" the case of a family whom he had attended, who were poisoned from eating bread in which mold had developed itself. Every member who had partaken of the loaf inordinary quantity had been made ill; one member who had merely eaten a small piece, felt uncomfortable; those who did not eat any remained well. The symptoms were diarrhœa and pain in the epigastrium. The author suggests from this experience, that it is possible that we may have in undetected diseased bread an important factor in the causation of diarrhœa which we would not readily suspect.

Persons whose plants mysteriously sick. en and die out, may learn from the experience of Dr. J. W. L. Thudicum, as related by him to the London Society of Arts. He watered a frame of flourishing young wallflowers, the ordinary tap being dry, with water of at least suspicious purity from another tap. The plants were soon infected with a fungus, and in a short time the frame did not contain a healthy, hardly a living plant. For two summers the mignonettes in a conservatory were destroyed by a root-fungus which distorted the plants and made them sickly and short-lived. The only way in which this parasite could be got rid of was by destroying the earth and all wooden boxes by fire, and growing no mignonette in the conservatory for two years.

Mr. Maignen made last year a successful and satisfactory exhibition of his process for softening water by means of the material called "anti-calcaire." Steam-boilers which had already become slightly incrusted with lime, were worked for two years with water softened by anti-calcaire without attention. When opened, they were wholly free from incrustation, showing that the material had not only prevented the effect taking place, but had also destroyed what incrustations had already accrued.

A collection of Specimens of poisonous fishes is shown in connection with the exhibition recently opened in Havre, France. Some are poisonous when eaten; others are merely venomous. Among the first arc many spheroids, a tetrodon, and many Clupea, which are abundant near the Cape of Good Hope. In the Japan Sea is found a very peculiar tetrodon, which is sometimes used as a means of suicide. It brings on sensations like those produced by morphia, and then death.

The nervous irritation produced by tinnitus, or noises in the car, from which many persons suffer much, has been mentioned as a possible cause of mental disorder. The coarser diseases of the ear are subject to surgical treatment from without; but nervous affections provoked by obscure disorders are not so amenable, because their causes are more subtle, although none the less real. Sometimes an obstruction of the eustachian tube may be the chief cause of tinnitus.



Dr. Asa Gray, the eminent botanist, died at his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts, January 30th, in the seventy-eighth year of his age, after an illness of about a month. He was born in Paris, Oneida County, New York, in 1810; studied medicine, and received the degree of M. D. in 1831, but never engaged in practice; became an assistant in the chemical laboratory of Dr. John Torrey in 1833; and a little later was appointed curator in the Lyceum of Natural History. His first botanical writings were descriptions of sedges and of certain plants of northern and western New York. In the "Elements of Botany," published in 1836, he showed that he had already views of his own, which he was not afraid to utter, even though they might be different from those of the then recognized authorities in science. From that time till the end of his life he worked with unceasing activity and growing fame, and for many years he has been recognized as one of the leading botanists of the world. His numerous works are well known to all readers and students, and can not be catalogued in a note. It is enough to say of them that whichever class of them we regard, they have never been excelled.

Professor T. S. Humpidge, chemist of the University College of Wales at Aberystwith, died November 30th, aged thirty-four years. He prosecuted his earlier scientific studies while serving as a clerk in a corn merchant's office, at the evening classes of the Science and Art Department, and afterward studied under Professors Frankland and Bunsen. His first publication was on "The Coal-Gas of the Metropolis." He investigated the atomic weight of beryllium, made redeterminations of the specific heats of various metals, and translated and edited Kobbe's "Inorganic Chemistry."

Professor Bonamy Price, Professor of Political Economy in the University of Oxford, died in London, January 8th. He was born in Guernsey in 1807; was one of the masters in Dr. Arnold's school at Rugby from 1830 to 1850; and was one of the recognized authorities in his special branch of research. His lectures, in their published form, have had an important economic Influence. They include "The Principles of Currency" (1809), and '"Chapters on Political Economy" (1878). In 1876 Professor Price published another work, "On Currency and Banking."

Dr. Carl Passavant, the African traveler, died recently at Honolulu, in the thirty-fourth year of his age.

Dr. Ferdinand Vandeveer Hayden, a geologist whose name is inseparably associated with the Government explorations of the Rocky Mountain region, died in Philadelphia, December 22d, after an illness of many months. He was born in Westfield, Massachusetts, in 1829, and was graduated from Oberlin College in 1850, and from the Albany Medical College in 1850. He wa? connected for more than twenty years, a great part of the time as chief, with the explorations of the Western Territories, including Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, New Mexico, Dakota, Montana, Idaho, and Utah. Besides the official reports of his exploring work, he was the author of the books, "The Great West; its Attractions and Resources" (1880), and "North America" (1883). He was a member of most of the American scientific societies, and an honorary and corresponding member of many foreign societies.

M. F. J. Raynaud, an eminent French electrician and director of the Higher School of Telegraphy, died early in January, from the results of a murderous attack. He was associated with the laying of several telegraphic cables, one of which, crossing the Seine, having been broken, he repaired in 1870, in the face of the enemy's fire. He was the first person to call the attention of French men of science to the labors of Englishmen in electric unities; and he translated Gordon's "Treatise on Physics" into French.

The recent death is announced of Professor Arthur Christiani, of the Physiological Institute of Berlin, who was a great authority on the physiological action of electricity, and on the physiology of the nervous system and of the sense of hearing.

Dr. Max Schuster, an eminent petrologist, of the University of Vienna, died last November.