Popular Science Monthly/Volume 42/November 1892/Popular Miscellany

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Popular Science Monthly Volume 42 November 1892  (1892) 
Popular Miscellany


Leather-splitting and Shoe-pegging Machines.—We have received from Mr. Charles H. Parker, of Billerica, Mass., an interesting statement of the claims of Mr. Samuel Parker, of that place, born in 1772, died in 1841, to be regarded as the inventor of the leather-splitting machine. Mr. Parker was the son of a tanner, and displayed considerable genius, which he applied in secret and in the face of many obstacles to the construction of his machine. To test its usefulness he experimented upon it with some leather from his father's tan-yard, and found to his great delight that it did the work it was invented for. A patent was granted to him for the invention, July 9, 1808. The original machine was burned with the tan-yard buildings about forty years ago. Mr. Rich, author of the article in the Monthly on leather-making, says that the historical statements concerning Mr. Parker's invention are correct, and that he probably did as much as any of the early workers in realizing the invention, and is to be credited as a pioneer. The case appears to be one of that numerous class in which many inventors contribute to the perfection of a machine, each furnishing his quota of suggestions for its better working, while the one who produces a machine recognized as practical and puts it on the market gets the credit and profit of the whole.—Mr. J. J. Greenough, of Fort McPherson, Atlanta, Ga., writes us to dispute the claim of A. C. Gallahue to be the inventor of the pegging machine. It appears from Mr. Greenough's letter that he was first to file an application for a patent on such a machine, in 1852, and Mr. Gallahue afterward filed an application which interfered with it. This application was amended in order to avoid the interference, and patents were granted on both; but that Greenough's is the parent of the modern machine, while Gallahue's "did not contain a single feature" of it, except the pegging-awl and driver; while "there is not an essential feature in the present shoe-pegging machine which is not found" in the Greenough claims. The details of the dispute, as Mr. Greenough gives them, are intricate, and we can do no more than fairly state the substance of his claim.


The American Association, 1893.—The next meeting of the American Association (1893) will be held in Madison, Wis. The following are the officers-elect: President, William Harkness, Washington; vice-presidents, A, Mathematics and Astronomy, C. L. Doolittle, South Bethlehem, Pa.; B, Physics, E. L. Nichols, Ithaca, N. Y.; C, Chemistry, Edward Hart, Easton, Pa.; D, Mechanical Science and Engineering, S. W. Robinson, Columbus, O.; E, Geology and Geography, Charles D. Walcott, Washington; F, Zoölogy, Henry F. Osborn, New York; G, Botany, Charles E. Bessey, Lincoln, Neb.; H, Anthropology, J. Owen Dorsey, Tacoma, Md.; I, Economic Science and Statistics, William H. Brewer, New Haven, Conn.; permanent secretary, F. W. Putnam, Cambridge (office, Salem), Mass.; general secretary, T. H. Norton, Cincinnati, O.; secretary of the council, H. L. Fairchild, Rochester, N. Y. Secretaries of the sections: A, Mathematics and Astronomy, Andrew W. Phillips, New Haven, Conn,; B, Physics, W. Le Conte Stephens, Troy, N. Y.; C, Chemistry, J. U. Nef, Chicago, Ill.; D, Mechanical Science and Engineering, D. S. Jacobus, Hoboken, N. Y.; E, Geology and Geography, Robert T. Hill, Austin, Tex.; F, Zoölogy, L. O. Howard, Washington; G, Botany, F. V. Coville, Washington; H, Anthropology, Warren K. Moorehead, Xenia, O.; I, Economic Science and Statistics, Nellie T. Kedzie, Manhattan, Kan.; treasurer, William Lilly, Mauch Chunk, Pa.


Prehistoric Copper Implements.—In a paper at the American Association, on Singular Copper Implements from the Hopewell Group, Ross County, Ohio, Prof. F. A. Putnam emphatically denied the statements that these copper implements were fashioned by white men and given to the Indians in trade. "It must be," said he, "that these implements were made by the native Americans. In all cases where implements and ornaments are found in these mounds, there are found also on the altars nuggets of copper. So it is with the silver implements and those made of meteoric iron. Now, is it likely that the trader would furnish the Indian with nuggets of the natural material? There is conclusive proof that the original settlers of the Ohio Valley worked the metal into these implements and ornaments. Again, these mounds, many of them, have trees growing on them that are between four hundred and five hundred years old. This carries back beyond the time of trading." Prof. Putnam explained that round holes could be cut in the sheet copper which had been hammered out by the Indian, by simply placing the sheet of copper on the trunk of a tree and pounding into it one end of an oak limb squared. He was unable to describe the probable mode adopted by the Indians in cutting edges shaped like the teeth of a saw, but thought it was done by the use of an instrument made of meteoric iron.


Sir Archibald Geikie on the Age of the Globe.—The address of Sir Archibald Geikie, as President of the British Association in Edinburgh, included a historical review of the Huttonian and Wernerian theories of the origin and processes of geological changes, and closed with an examination of the present state of opinion and evidences concerning the age of the globe. While the speaker regarded the demands of the earlier geologists for unlimited time for the formation of the earth's strata as extravagant, he was equally of the opinion that the limitations which the physicists seek to impose on the duration of the processes need to be revised. The rate of degradation of the land under atmospheric influences is capable of measurement, and from this it is concluded that the geological deposits, if they were all made at the most rapid rate witnessed, would require seventy-three millions of years; if at the slowest rate, six hundred and eighty millions of years, for their accumulation. But it may be argued that all kiuds of terrestrial energy are growing feeble, that the most active denudation now in progress is less vigorous than that of bygone ages, and hence that the stratified part of the earth's crust may have been put together in a much briefer space of time than modern events might lead us to suppose. But no confirmation of this argument can be gathered from the rocks. We can see no proof nor any evidence that suggests that on the whole the rate of waste and sedimentation was more rapid during Mesozoic and Palæozoic times than it is to-day. A yet further and impressive body of evidence is furnished by the successive races of plants and animals which have lived upon the earth and have left their remains sealed up within its rocky crust. We have no data as to the rate of this evolution, but only the negative evidence that it has made no visible progress since man began to observe and record. And when we look beyond the narrower range of human history at the remains preserved in even the most recent geological strata, we encounter the most impressive proofs of the persistence of specific forms. After careful reflection on the subject, the speaker affirmed that the geological record furnishes a mass of evidence which no arguments drawn from other departments of Nature can explain away, and which can not be satifactorily interpreted save with an allowance of time much beyond the narrow limits which recent physical speculation would concede.


Chaga (Mount Kilimanjaro) and its Inhabitants.—Chaga, or the temperate region of Mount Kilimanjaro, according to Dr. W. L. Abbott, extends a distance of about sixty miles, and is inhabited by a population of sixty thousand. At no point does the cultivation extend lower than three thousand feet, and nowhere above five thousand four hundred feet. This narrow zone is from two to four or five miles wide. It is divided into some thirty states, each governed by a more or less independent sultan, and separated from its neighbors by a strip of wilderness or a deep gorge. The largest state, Mechame, contains probably ten thousand people, while some of the lesser states have only a hundred or two subjects. The state of Useri is governed by Malimia, an energetic sultan who is rather shy of strangers, having a fear of being bewitched. The Sultan of Marang, Miliari, is a great friend of the Europeans. Fumba, the chief of Kilimma, is remarkable for his hugging habits, which make him an extremely unpleasant host. In Moshi, the Sultan Mandara has had more intercourse with strangers than any other chief, and has accumulated European curiosities of every imaginable description—toy steam-engines, clocks, guns of many patterns, stereoscopes, sewing machines, cavalry helmets, books, uniforms. Cena, the Sultan of Kibosho, is the most powerful chief on the mountain, and seems to hold his own, with all the other states allied against him. He is very friendly toward Europeans, and is liberal in his presents of cattle, etc., to those favored visitors. He has constructed a large series of underground passages or galleries beneath his boma or stockades. The huts are arranged in a circle, and a sloping shaft leads down from the floor of each hut. From this main gallery another runs off to open out upon a hill-side several hundred yards distant. By means of this arrangement his wives and cattle would be able to escape in case of a surprise or sudden attack. Two hundred warriors keep nightly guard around his house. Many women of Mandara's harem would be beauties in any country, in spite of their dark skins.


Prof. Le Conte on the Origin of Niagara Falls.—Explaining his views of the origin of Niagara Falls at the excursion of the American Association to that place, Prof. Joseph Le Conte said that, as the ice-sheet was pushed slowly backward after the conclusion of the Glacial period, the first of the lakes to be uncovered was Lake Erie. "After that the ice was pushed back from the other lakes. When Lake Ontario was uncovered, the ice was still upon the St. Lawrence River, and the lake had no outlet in that direction as it has at present. It was for this reason that the waters of the lake rose to such a height, and formed the Iroquois beach which extends along the lake to Rochester in what is known as the Ridge Road. It is my opinion that at this period Lake Ontario was drained off through the Mohawk Valley by the Mohawk River, and thence by the Hudson River to the sea. About that time the Niagara River began to cut its way year after year, century after century, millennium after millennium. As the waters of Lake Ontario began to subside, the height of the Falls increased. The upper stratum of rock is Niagara limestone, a hard rock, but beneath it is a stratum of Niagara shale. It is the slow undermining of this shale that causes the Niagara limestone rock to break off from year to year and the Falls to recede. How long it has taken the Falls to go back from Lewiston I do not know. They are going now at the rate of three or four feet a year. At that rate some ten or twelve thousand years would have done the work. The lowest estimates are from seven to eight thousand years. I for my part am inclined to favor the higher estimate. Well, they are still going backward. What will be the final result? They may go back to the lake; but the Niagara limestone is growing thicker and thicker, and may finally extend to the bottom of the fall. In that case the rock would not break off, but would wear away and form a rapids. In any case, if the Falls should recede to Lake Erie, at the present rate it would take at least twenty thousand years, and, of course, we can not be very strongly personally interested."


Cause of Seasickness and Remedies for it.—The inducing cause of seasickness, according to the studies of Dr. Herbert Damvers, is a mechanical irritation of the walls of the stomach due to contact of parts not usually in apposition with one another. The effect of this is to produce reflex stimulation of the vomiting center in the medulla and directly a subacute gastritis; diminished blood-supply to the head and neck (as seen in the extraordinary pallor of the face); and a disturbance of cerebral circulation, resulting in a general nerve starvation, which is evidenced by headache of neuralgic intensity. The author would for clinical purposes group all cases into three divisions, according as head symptoms or gastric symptoms largely predominate, or head and gastric symptoms are combined in nearly equal degrees (mixed cases). The author treats cases of the first group with enemas, followed by nerve sedatives, and then with measures to raise depressed spirits. In cases of the second group he administers warm water as an emetic, followed by prescriptions for allaying gastric irritability. For the mixed cases soda and compound tincture of cardamoms or nitromuriatic acid during the day, with a pill of calomel, colocynth, and hyoscyamus at bedtime, have been found efficient. These methods of treatment apply solely to large ocean steamers, on which the passengers remain a week or more. In the case of short trips on small vessels, in which the motions are different, the author is sure that we have no drug or combination of drugs that will act as a panacea.


Biological Teaching in American Colleges.—Reviewing the present condition of biological teaching in the colleges of the United States, Prof. John A. Campbell remarks that we have now advanced to a stage where we can no longer expect much biological research to be done by private persons, and must look largely to the colleges for work of a purely scientific character. Many problems are peculiar to the country, arising out of the character of its flora and fauna; while, on the other hand, certain kinds of work find in this country more favorable conditions than prevail elsewhere. Much is still to be done in purely descriptive work. There are many regions to be explored before we will know the entire flora and fauna of the United States, and our knowledge of the life histories, especially of the lower vegetable forms, is in a peculiarly unsatisfactory condition. Co-operation among investigators is especially necessary if the best results to the individual are to be reached; while specialization of research is equally imperative for the best interests of science. At present, in this country, these two points are not equally guarded, for we do not find sufficient efforts made to resist the narrowing tendency of specialization. Prof. C. O. Whitman has pointed out the necessity for organization among investigators, and as a result of his efforts there is a much more wide-spread appreciation of this necessity than ever before. There have been advanced lecture courses and courses and co-operative studies in current literature at Johns Hopkins University ever since its foundation. In but few other institutions do the catalogues contain any accounts of such work. But the present indications are hopeful. The necessity for the work is coming to be generally felt, and the means to do it will assuredly follow. The colleges seem to be doing too little to advance the sum of knowledge in the direction of biology. Few of them are equipped for research; and in a large proportion of them the professors of biology are handicapped by having other work to do not connected with their department.


The Moss Sponge of an Alaskan Forest.— In the interior plateau of the Cordilleran and St. Elias regions of Alaska, according to Mr. C. W. Hayes, surface degradation is greatly retarded by the luxuriant growth of moss, which covers practically the entire surface of the country. The annual precipitation is largely confined to the winter months, and the water from the melting snow is held by the sponge-like moss, which remains saturated throughout the short but hot and dry summer. Thus, with a rainfall which in lower latitudes would condition an arid region, a large part of the surface is swampy, quite irrespective of slope—that is, wherever the material composing it is sufficiently compact to become impervious to water on freezing. On account of this slow and imperfect surface drainage, the slopes are not cut into the ravines and arroyas so characteristic of arid regions.


Orography of the Mount St. Elias Region.—From the vicinity of Frazer River, in southern British Columbia, says Mr. C. W. Hayes, in his Expedition through the Yukon District, the western mainland range of the Cordilleran mountain system follows the coast toward the northwest as far as the head of Lynn Canal. Here it becomes an interior range, while to the westward its place next the coast is taken by the St. Elias range. The southern Alaskan coast mountains form a broad elevated belt with many scattered peaks, of which none perhaps have an altitude of more than eight thousand or nine thousand feet, while there is no dominant chain. The southwestern front of the range rises abruptly from the waters of the inland passage, forming a rugged barrier to the interior. A few rivers have cut their channels through the range, and it is penetrated varying distance-by numerous deep fiords. From the head of Lynn Canal northwestward the range decreases in altitude and probably spreads out and merges in the broken plateau which occupies the eastern part of White River basin. The elevation of the interior plateau, where it is crossed in passing from the Taku to Lake Ahklen, is about five thousand feet above sea-level. From this point it descends gradually toward the northwest. Southwest of Selkirk the same plateau extends with gradually increasing altitude to the base of the St. Elias Mountains. It is only in a general way, however, that these areas are to be regarded as plateaus. When considered in detail, the surface is extremely rough and broken. The river valleys lie from two thousand to twenty-five hundred feet below the general plateau level, while broad and rounded dome-like summits and a few sharp peaks rise from seven hundred to twelve hundred feet above it; but there appear to be no well-defined ridges or chains of peaks. For about one hundred and fifty miles southwest of Selkirk the contours are generally smooth and flowing, and the surface, except in the glaciated portion of the region, shows the effect of long-continued exposure to the action of subaërial agencies.


The Geological Collection of the National Museum.—In the arrangement of the geological collections of the United States National Museum, as described in Curator George P. Merrill's Hand-book, the wants of the specialist of facilities for study, and those of the public, in whom it is desired to arouse an interest in natural phenomena, have both been consulted. An exhibition is set up of series arranged and labeled for the general public, and accessible at the same time to the student and specialist, and a study series is stored away in drawers. The exhibition series is treated essentially according to the plan given by Prof. Geikie in the latest edition of his text-book on geology; conforming to Mr. Goode's suggestion that a museum should consist of a collection of labels illustrated by specimens, the curator has striven "to build up the exhibition series on the plan of a profusely illustrated text-book, in which the specimens themselves form the illustrations, and the text is furnished by the labels." No object has been intentionally exhibited merely on account of its beauty, rarity, or curiosity Each, intended to illustrate some special point, forms a part of a more or less extended series tending toward the elucidation of the earth's structure and history. In the section of Systematic Geography, for instance, the several departments are devoted to the consideration of the materials of the earth's surface; to dynamical and physiographical geology, including the action of various agencies—heat, compression, tension, fracture, air, water, ice, life, etc.; to structural geology, or the architecture of the earth's crust—including stratification and its accompaniments, joints, inclination, strike, dip, igneous effects, and veins; and to stratigraphical or historical geology. The section of Economic Geology is arranged in a similar manner for illustration by specimens of building and ornamental stones, ores, and other useful mineral substances.


Relative Value of Rain and Irrigation.—Chief Fernow remarks, in his report of the Division of Forestry, that the manner in which the water of the atmosphere becomes available—rain—is not the most satisfactory. This because of its irregularity, and on account of its detrimental action in packing the ground and impeding percolation. A large amount of what would be carried off by underground drainage is thus changed into surface-drainage waters. At the same time, by this compacting the soil, capillary action is increased, and evaporation thereby accelerated. Water management, or forest management as a part of it, may be profitably studied in connection with this subject. The forest floor reduces or prevents the injurious mechanical action of the rain, and acts as a regulator of water-flow. Hitherto water management in rainy districts has mainly concerned itself with getting rid of the water as fast as possible, instead of making it do service during its temporary availability by means of proper soil management, horizontal ditches, and reservoirs—drainage and irrigation systems combined. It seems to have been entirely overlooked that irrigation, which has been considered only for arid and subarid regions, can be applied for plant production in well-watered regions with equal benefit and profit, if combined with proper drainage systems and forest management. To pave the way for a better utilization of water-supplies in the Eastern States seems as much a proper function of the Department of Agriculture as the development of irrigation systems in the Western States; and a comprehensive collection of water statistics and forestry statistics with reference to their mutual relation seems to be a desirable task.


The Public School and the University.—The policy adopted several years ago by the University of Michigan, of admitting graduates of the public schools of the State without examination, is represented by the University Record as working well. The faculty feel that, whatever maybe the defects of the diploma system, there are gains that more than counterbalance them. The principal gain has been in strengthening the bond between the university and the high schools. Experience goes to show that voluntary initiative of the university and the schools can make good to a great degree the lack of an authoritative State surveillance of public instruction. In many ways the university has been able to exert a salutary influence upon the schools, while its own position before the people of the State has been very greatly strengthened by the system; and this has been done without lowering the standard of scholarship.


Graphite and Lead-pencils.—The ancients were not acquainted with any real drawing lead. The first drawings resembling those made with a pencil appeared in the later middle ages. Silver-pencil drawings by Van Eyck and Memlink are spoken of; the portrait of Petrarch's Laura was made by a contemporary in a similar style; and Michael Angelo sometimes drew with pencils that seem to have been made of a compound of lead and tin. These were exceptions to the general rule. Pens, crayons, and red chalk held the place among artists and in general use now occupied by the pencil. The famous graphite beds of Borrowdale, in Cumberland, were discovered during the reign of Queen Elizabeth in England, and with them the material which was destined to stimulate the rapid development of the pencil industry. Our lead-pencil is really a graphite pencil. The pencils made in England then were quite different from the products of the present manufacture. The graphite was sawed into small sticks and these were inclosed in wood. The Cumberland pencil was regarded till about the beginning of our century as unsurpassed, distinguished by an extraordinary softness and delicacy in the drawing, and was extremely costly. Only the best and purest material being used, this was exhausted in a relatively short time, without any new source being discovered. At last, manufacturers began to pulverize the waste and to mix it with other materials, to press the mass into hard cakes and saw it up in the old way, without getting a pencil in any way comparable with the old Cumberland brand. New beds of graphite were, however, discovered in Bohemia, the product of which was still far inferior to that of Borrowdale. After some time the art was learned of purifying the Bohemian graphite by a careful chemical process; and toward the end of the last century the happy thought occurred at once to a French and a German manufacturer of mixing purified graphite, finely ground, with moistened clay. The invention was useful in three ways: by reducing the cost of the pencils without impairing their quality; by making it possible, through variations in the proportions of the ingredients, to give the pencils different degrees of hardness; and by simplifying the manufacture, so that pencils became cheap and within the reach of all.


Native Types in Abyssinia.—Traveling in Abyssinia, M. Jules Borelli was most struck with the multiplicity of the native types, and, in fact, with the entire absence of a pure type. Thus, it seemed impossible to find a regular Abyssinian type at Shoa. This is possibly accounted for by the fact that four fifths of the people at least are the sons of slaves of various origins. The sons of the daughters of nobles, who pretend to be of the pure race, are most frequently grandsons of slaves. In many places cloths and articles of silver were found, bearing designs that pointed to an Oriental origin, which seemed to indicate that, long before the rise of Islam, southern Arabia was occupied by Persians. These were the first Asiatic races which, passing the Red Sea, drove back before them the black races, while they mingled with them, forming those innumerable varieties which now make a classification of native types impossible. The multiplicity of languages spoken in these regions is another consequence of these invasions and crossings.


Glacial Moraines in Illinois and Indiana.—In a paper on the Glacial Phenomena of Northeastern Illinois and Northern Indiana, Mr. Frank Leverett describes the moraines as terminal to the ice, but not to the drift-covered areas of those States. Four proofs of advance in the production of later moraines are cited: Buried soils in situ between till sheets; changes in the direction of flow as shown by striæ; change in the form of the ice lobe, as indicated by the distribution of the morainic belts and the shiftings of the re-entrant and lobate portions; and evidence of push or advance found in the moraine itself. The number of distinct moraines varies because of partial coalescence or local obliteration of portions of certain moraines by later advances. For this reason correlation is difficult. Aside from this, there is an increase in complexity in passing from older to newer moraines.


The Stone Hand-hammer.—A special study has been published by Mr. J. D. Mc Guire, of Ellicott City, Md., of the stone hand-hammer, which he believes was probably the tool upon which races living in the stone age relied more than upon any other object to fashion other stone implements. There is no implement, he says, more common among the relics of the stone age, none the uses of which have been less discussed by archæologists, and none more deserving of thorough discussion. The objects seem to be comprised in three types: First, a flattened or oblong ellipsoid, having a pit on one or both sides, the pits being probably intended as finger-holds to relieve the index-finger from the constant jar occasioned by quickly repeated blows on a hard surface. The periphery of these will often be found quite smooth, at other times rough, according as it has been last used as a hammer or as a rubber; for, besides using the hammer to peck his axe or celt into shape, he afterward polished his implement with it. Often one or both of the flattened sides show the effect of rubbing. A second type is the spherical implement, slightly flattened at the poles, showing a battered and commonly a smooth surface. These two types may be considered common all over the world. The third type is the grooved hammer, of the use and distribution of which little is known. It was evidently intended for hafting, and that would interfere with its use as a rubber. All three types vary greatly in dimensions, but, as a rule, the first two are of a size suitable for hand-use for hammering and for rubbing. With these hammers the author believes that other implements were dressed by pecking, and superficial effects were produced which have not been otherwise accounted for, or even remarked. He further goes on to maintain that they had a much more extensive use than has been contemplated, and that many of the Egyptian and the ancient Greek works of art were prepared and dressed with them.


Curious Feature of the Coal-borings at Manchester, England.—The Manchester coalfield, England, according to an article in Chambers's Journal, is a seat of great activity and advancement. Difficulties have been encountered and overcome there, and depths have been reached, which are not thought of elsewhere in the kingdom. The Ashton Moss mine lies at a depth of about a thousand yards below the surface. It presents the curious phenomenon of the boring passing down from one seam of coal to another one four hundred yards geologically higher. This is occasioned by the occurrence of a reversed fault, by which the seams are thrown into this curious position relative to one another. The natural temperature at the bottom of the mine, 84° Fahr., is much lower than the theoretical temperature calculated upon by the Royal Coal Commission. The barometer stands three inches higher than at the surface.


The "Typical American" Diet.— Noticing and criticising the paper of N. E. Yorke Davies, in the July number of the Monthly, on The Proper Diet for Hot Weather, the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal says that "the 'typical American' takes an early breakfast, when he indulges freely in fruit, and never omits a first course of oatmeal and milk, cracked wheat, or hominy; this is followed by dry toast or buttered toast, an egg and a little cold meat or fresh fish, and a cup of coffee sweetened with sugar, not saccharine, which is reserved for the diabetic. He would be glad of cream if it can be obtained. His dinner is the principal meal, and is always taken near the middle of the day. This is composed of soup, three or four ounces of broiled fish, roast meat, or fowl, from four to six ounces of green vegetables (green peas, green beans, stewed turnips, onions, squash), four ounces of potatoes with meat gravy, with pickles and jelly ad lib. The last course, the apple, custard, or berry pie of our forefathers, doubtless does not deserve all the abuse which has been heaped upon it by our English cousins, especially when it is light, without too much shortening, and with a well-cooked bottom crust. The last meal, the supper, is taken rather early (as soon as six o'clock), and is designed to be a plain, light, substantial meal of bread and butter or tea-rolls, a little stewed fruit for relish, and one or two cups of tea. The 'average American' seldom eats lunches."