Popular Science Monthly/Volume 8/February 1876/Literary Notices
A book has long been wanted, making clear to the popular mind the most interesting and important principles of the beautiful science of optics. The subject is usually treated in a meagre way as a subdivision in our text-books of physics, and, even in the largest of these, the discussion of light is usually very incomplete. But no subject is more worthy of separate treatment, and Dr. Lommel has made a volume well worthy of its position in the "International Scientific Series." An interesting portion of one of his chapters, that dealing with the curious and wonderful phenomena of fluorescence, is given in our present number, furnishing a fair illustration of the clearness of the author's writing and the freshness of his presentation.
In an elaborate notice of the work, which appeared in Nature it is remarked: "In the present treatise. Prof. Lommel has given an admirable outline of the nature of light and the laws of optics. Unlike most other writers on this subject, the author has, we think wisely, postponed all reference to theories of the nature of light, until the laws of reflection, refraction, and absorption, have been clearly set before the reader. Then, in the fifteenth chapter Prof. Lommel discusses Fresnel's famous interference experiment, and leads the reader to see that the undulatory theory is the only conclusion that can be satisfactorily arrived at. A clear exposition is now given of Huyghens's theory, after which follow several chapters on the diffraction and polarization of light-bearing waves. The reader is thus led onward much in the same way as the science itself has unfolded, and this, we think, is the surest and best way of teaching natural knowledge."
We have here the promise of a periodical new in its plan, broad and important in its scope, and very ably sustained. It represents the new departure in psychological study, from the point of view taken by Bain and the modern school; in fact, the project of its establishment is largely due to Prof. Bain himself, who will have an active share in its management, although the responsible editor is Prof. George Croom Robertson, of University College, London. The range and quality of this work will be best gathered from the following passages taken from the prospectus:
The first number well justifies the promises here made, and there is every reason to believe that the succeeding issues will do so in a still greater degree.
One of the most valuable features of the yearly volumes of the British Association is the publication of extended "Reports on Researches in Science," which are annually made on special subjects by small committees of eminent men who are themselves working in those subjects. Thus, in the volume before us, there are no less than thirty such reports, occupying about 360 octavo pages. The Association often aids in an investigation by the appropriation of a small sum of money, and in return it receives a report on the progress of the work, besides the gratification of having assisted some research that otherwise might have been long delayed.
For instance, since 1848 reports have been given upon the observations of Luminous Meteors, which contain nearly all the known facts relating to meteorites, arranged in an orderly form, and in some degree sifted. This report for 1873-'74 contains 90 pages.
Reports on Earthquake Phenomena, on Tides, on the Waves of the Atmosphere, on Magnetic and Meteorological Observations, and many other similar subjects, are to be found in the pages of the past volumes, and often the facts of such reports are collected nowhere else. From the present volume we extract almost at random the titles of a few of these reports, which may serve to show the nature of the subjects which are yearly brought to the attention of the meetings: "Report on the Recent Progress and Present State of Systematic Botany" (27 pages); "On the Rainfall of the British Isles for 1873-'74" (43 pages); "On the Treatment and Utilization of Sewage" (14 pages); "On Cyclone and Rainfall Periodicities in Connection with Sun-spots" (23 pages); "On the Erratic Blocks of England and Wales" (8 pages); "On Instruments for measuring the Speed of Ships" (9 pages), etc. The committees making these reports counted among their members the most eminent men of England—Lyell, Lubbock, Boyd-Dawkins, Bentham, W. K. Clifford, Balfour Stewart, Clerk-Maxwell, Huxley, Galton, Sir William Thomson, Huggins, Lockyer, De la Rue, and many others scarcely less known. With such subjects reported on by so eminent specialists, it is easy to see how these reports have come to have so high a value.
The Belfast meeting was attended by nearly 2,000 members, and over £2,000 was received from fees, etc.; £1,080 was appropriated for scientific purposes; £400 for various works of the section of mathematics and physics (printing mathematical tables, rainfall and meteor reports, thermo-electricity, etc.); £155 for researches in chemistry; 280 for various geological explorations; £170 for biology; £100 for the Palestine Exploration Fund; £25 for statistics (economic effect of combinations of laborers or capitalists); and £50 for instruments for measuring the speed of ships. This abstract will give some idea of the practical benefit to science which the Association gives, and it is also instructive as showing for what purposes its money is spent.
The last 232 pages of the volume are devoted to an abstract of (he proceedings of the sections. We find that the section of mathematics and physics occupies 44 pages, the chemical section has 22 pages, geological 29 pages, biological 64 pages, geographical 24 pages, statistical 27 pages, and finally that the mechanical section occupies 20 pages. In a rough way this shows the amount of attention paid to the various branches at the 1874 meeting, and it is accurate enough to indicate the great amount of work now doing in biology in England, which is a noteworthy feature of this and preceding reports.
In the first of these two little volumes the practical builder will find a discussion of the most important and common cases of horizontal beams under vertical loads. The problems are worked out without having recourse to the higher mathematics. The second volume contains, in abridged form, a series of lectures delivered by Prof. Corfield before the School of Military Engineering at Chatham, England. The question of sewerage and sewage utilization is one of the urgent problems of modern life, and it yet awaits satisfactory solution. Meanwhile, Mr. Van Nostrand does the public a service by placing within the reach of all the views of so eminent an engineer as Prof. Corfield upon these subjects.
Prof. Hartt here, in the first place, briefly considers the question of the origin of the ceramic art. When, where, how did it originate? No positive answer can be given to these questions. Like other human arts, it is the result of a long evolution, and its simple beginnings we may never be able to find out. So much, however, is certain, namely, that the finest porcelain wares are the true lineal descendants from the pottery of the savage. The author next considers the materials employed and the methods followed in the building of a vessel. Before the advent of Europeans, pottery in America was made by hand, the potter's wheel being unknown. He finds the method of fashioning vessels out of coils of clay widely practised in South America. The manufacture is everywhere exclusively in the hands of the women.
This is a reprint of a communication in Nature by Mr. John Ericsson, in which he points out defects in Father Secchi's method of measuring the intensity of the sun's radiant heat. Secchi's method is that of projecting the sun's image on a screen, and then measuring the temperature at different points by means of thermopiles. Ericsson adopts the method of direct observation, and employs a special apparatus devised by himself. Mr. Ericsson estimates the absorption by the solar atmosphere at not over 0.144 of the radiant heat emanating from the photosphere. The intensity of radiation from the border of the sun he estimates at 0.638 of the intensity of radiation from an equal area of the central region.
Of the twelve hundred North American species of Noctuæ, less than thirty, we are informed by Mr. Grote, are considered identical with European forms. The facts seem to point to a common origin of many of the forms, and it is the author's opinion that the European and North American Noctuæ are in part descended from species living over a common territory, and that the Glacial epoch separated the stocks. The list of species here given includes a complete synonymy of the Noctuidæ of America north of Mexico, so far as known. It is invaluable to the student of entomology.
Dr. Allen considers the subject of insanity in the six New England States. He finds that in Massachusetts, from 1850 to 1870, the increase of insanity was 12 per cent, greater than the increase of population, and the same is to be said of the other New England States. He favors consigning the chronic insane to homes, instead of keeping them in hospitals. What they need is, not medical treatment, but suitable exercise, sunlight, air, proper nourishment, etc. He also advocates the adoption by the State of measures for the prevention of insanity. The dissemination of more correct views of the true way of living and a more rigid observance of the laws of health and Nature would, no doubt, greatly diminish the frequency of mental disease.
This book is made up of a series of articles which appeared originally in Van Nostrand's Engineering Magazine. The author's object is to win more general attention to a new method for a graphical solution of statical problems, which, during the last ten years, has been gradually developed and perfected, and which offers to the architect, civil engineer, and constructor, a simple, swift, and accurate means for the solution of a great number of practical questions.
In 1874 Mr. Elliott was directed by the Treasury Department to visit Alaska, for the purpose of studying and reporting upon the present condition of the seal-fisheries; the haunts and habits of the seal; the preservation and extension of the fisheries; the statistics of the fur-trade; and the condition of the natives. The results are contained in the volume before us. The work is full of valuable information. It is divided into nine chapters, treating of the "Character of the Country;" "Condition of the Natives;" "Duty of the United States Government;" "Trade and Traders;" "The Sea-Otter;" "The Seal-Islands;" "Habits of the Fur-Seal;" "The Sea-Lion;" "Fish and Fisheries;" and the "Ornithology of the Prybilov Islands."
Dr. Hargreaves quotes statistics to show that, in 1873, the income of the people of the United States exceeded $7,000,000,000. He thinks that, to the use of intoxicating drinks, nearly all of the crime and pauperism of the country is to be attributed. He compares the cost of intoxicating liquors with the total receipts of sundry industries; sums up the losses of the country from the trade in liquors; tries to show that the use of liquors and the liquor-trade destroy the influence of education. Finally, he lays down the proposition that "the use of and the traffic in strong drinks impede the progress of the Christian Church, and the spread of the gospel."
There appears to exist in the public mind a genuine interest in the exploration of Africa, and the number of books of African travel published within the last ten years is enormous. The writings of C. J. Andersson have in no small measure contributed to the awakening of this curiosity, and doubtless the present work, made up from the memoranda of that distinguished traveler, will be read with the same eagerness as his earlier publications.
This is the fifth volume of the "Dissertations and Discussions," and it completes the series. It contains five papers on "Land Tenure;" also essays on "Endowments;" on "Labor;" on "Treaty Obligations;" on Maine's "Village Communities;" Taine's "Intelligence;" Crete's "Aristotle;" Baer's "L'Avere e l'Imposta;" and Leslie's "Land Question."
The author points out the manifold uses of soluble glass, for instance, as a means of preserving timber and making it noninflammable; as an ingredient in the composition of artificial stone; for mixing with paints to be applied to the surface of metals, glass, and porcelain; in soap-making; in calico-printing, etc.
Contains, in addition to the observations and suggestions of the commissioner, a great mass of statistics relating to the state of education throughout the country in the year 1874.
Dr. Draper's "Conflict."—There have been published of Dr. Draper's book, "The Conflict," eight editions in America, and five in London. It has been translated into French, and is in its third edition in Paris. The German translation made by Dr. Rosenthal has had a similar success. A Polish translation has been made in the University of Warsaw; a Servian one by Prof. Meta Rakitch, in Belgrade. The Spanish translation is by Señor Arcemis, the astronomer of Cadiz. The Russian is under examination by the censorship.
Exploration of the Colorado River of the West. By Major J. W. Powell. Washington: Government Printing-Office. Pp. 291, with Maps.
Science By-ways. By R. A. Proctor. Philadelphia: Lippincott. Pp. 422. Price, $4.00.
Selection and Use of the Microscope. By J. Phin. New York: Industrial Publication Co. Pp. 131. Price, To cents.
Report on the Wisconsin Institution for the Blind, 1875. Madison, Wis.: E. B. Bolens. Pp. 20.
Bulletin of the United States National Museum, No. 2. Washington: Government Printing-office. Pp. 50.
American Journal of Microscopy. Monthly. New York: Industrial Publication Co. 50 cents per year.
Forms of Life found in the Oral Cavity. By C. N. Peirce, D.D.S. Lancaster, Pa.
Pennsylvania Journal of Dental Science. Pp. 23.
Bridge and Tunnel Centres. By J. B. McMaster. New York: Van Nostrand, Pp. 106. Price, 50 cents.
Scientific Monthly. E. H. Fitch, Editor and Publisher. Toledo, 0.: Pp. 96. Price, $3.00 per annum.
Geological Notes. By W. B. Rogers. Pp. 13.
Circulars of the Bureau of Education. Washington: Government Printing-Office. Pp. 130.
Vick's Floral Guide for 1876. Rochester. New York: Vick & Co. Quarterly, 25 cents per year.
Geological Survey of Minnesota, 1874. By N. H. Winchell. St. Paul: Pioneer Press print. Pp. 36, with Maps.
Transactions of the American Society of Civil Engineers, 1875. Pp. 49.
Safety-Valves. By R. H. Buell. New York: Van Nostrand. Pp. 100. Price, 50 cents.
Mammoth Cave of Ken tuck j. By W. S. Forwood, M.D. Philadelphia: Lippincott. Pp. 241, with Illustrations.
Three Months in Old Hospitals of Paris. By R. Ludlam, M.D. Philadelphia: Sherman & Co. Pp. 16.
Report of the United States Treasurer, 1875. Washington: Government Printing-Office. Pp. 67.
Post-Nasal Catarrh. By B. Robinson, M.D. New York: Trow & Son. Pp. 29.
Does Matter do it all? By Epes Sargent. Boston: Colby & Rich. Pp. 16.
Zappus Hudsonius, and Lagopus Leucurus. By E. Cones. Washington: Government Printing-Office. Pp. 10.
Necessity of a Mechanical Laboratory. By R. H. Thurston. Philadelphia: W. P. Kildare, Printer. Pp. 10.