Popular Science Monthly/Volume 9/May 1876/Miscellany

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Popular Science Monthly Volume 9 May 1876  (1876) 
Miscellany
 

MISCELLANY.

Unhealthiness of New Houses.—The unhealthiness of new houses is due to the presence of moisture in their walls. This moisture may be held either mechanically, as by capillary attraction in the bricks, mortar, and plaster; or chemically, in the hydrate of lime. Moisture held mechanically is removable by air and warmth; chemically-held moisture is removed gradually by the action of carbonic acid contained in the air. A writer in the English Mechanic suggests the use of a dew-point thermometer as a means of determining whether a house is sufficiently free from moisture to be inhabitable. If we take a reading of this in the open air, in the shade, and protected from wind, we have the actual atmospheric conditions. If we now transfer the instrument to a room in the house which has been closed for a few hours and without artificial heating, we find the internal conditions. If the dry thermometer is lowered, we may conclude that the walls are cold, and so absorb heat. If the difference between the wet and dry bulbs is lessened, we know the evaporation conditions are lessened; that is, that the internal atmosphere is overcharged with moisture. The two together will prove that the walls are damp, and that the house is disadvantageous to health.

 

New Tanning Process.—An exhibition was recently given at Havre, France, of Montoison's process of tanning. A variety of skins were experimented on, from the fresh skin of a calf, to the old skins of sheep and goats burnt and hardened by a tropical sun; more time of course was required to unhair the latter than the former. The skins were first soaked in hot water, then they received two coats of a pasty liquid on the inside, and were piled up, inside to inside, to undergo the action of the composition. After the skins had been soaked for a short time, the wool and hair came from them absolutely intact. The manner in which the wool came away from the skin by a touch of the hand created considerable astonishment in the minds of those who witnessed the experiments. In a few seconds the skins were dipped in two special baths to neutralize the unhairing composition, and the afternoon was devoted to tanning experiments, which proved the invention to be a complete success. Experienced tanners, who were present, declared the leather produced to be, to all appearance, fully equal to that produced by the tedious methods in common use.

 

The Economy of Vegetarianism.—A writer in the Quarterly Journal of Science makes a trenchant criticism of the arguments usually employed by vegetarians in support of their system of diet. The author considers the question from the economic, the moral, and the hygienic points of view, but we have not space to give more than an epitome of his remarks on the first of these topics. One hundred acres of good land, say the vegetarians, will support a greater amount of human life if planted with wheat, potatoes, or other crops directly consumed by man, than if laid out in pasture or set with vegetables intended for the food of cattle. This is true, but all land is not good; in every country there is abundance of land that is unfit for tillage, and which, nevertheless, yields excellent pasture. Under a vegetarian régime such lands would cease to supply the food-market. So too the produce of the forest and moor—game—would cease. More serious still, the waters would no longer contribute their share. It might be said that poor lands could still be used for pasture, and the produce of flocks and herds (wool, butter, cheese, milk) utilized. But if the grazer cannot sell the meat, it would be unprofitable to keep animals, unless he could get, for the products above named, prices a hundredfold higher than he gets now. Besides, the use of milk, butter, and cheese, is inconsistent with vegetarian principles. In a strictly vegetarian country, tallow, hides, and hair, could scarcely be procured. Again, the refuse of the fisheries is rising into importance as a manure fully equal to Peruvian guano. But, if fish might no longer be captured, the supply of this fertilizer would be cut off, unless indeed the destruction of animal life for purposes other than food received an exceptional sanction. Even then the cost of the raw material would be greatly enhanced.

 

Ancient American Civilization.—In the "Congress of Americanists," held last July at Nancy, France, a very learned paper was read by Prof. Foucaux, of the Collége de France, in favor of the theory that the ancient civilization of America is the work of Buddhist missionaries. The theory was hotly attacked by several of the distinguished men present, among them by Friedrich von Hellwald. The latter compared the story of Huei-shen to that of the sea-serpent. Dr. Hellwald is of the opinion that this theory received its death-blow at the Congress. Two other theories were also very badly damaged, namely, those of a lost continent of Atlantis and of Phœnician settlements in America. M. Léon de Rosny delivered a masterly address on the Maya hieroglyphics. The Maya was the sacred language of the ancient inhabitants of Yucatan, and the monuments of that country bear a number of inscriptions in a hieroglyph which has been only very partially deciphered as yet. M. de Rosny first critically analyzed the attempts at decipherment made by his predecessors, the Abbé Brasseur de Bourbourg and H. de Charencey. The Bishop Diego de Landa first discovered a clew to the meaning of these hieroglyphs; he made out the meaning of seventy-one signs, and the number has been increased to one hundred and thirty-two by De Rosny. The latter has also determined the order in which these signs should be read. As a rule, they run from left to right, but in exceptional cases from right to left. M. Oscar Coraettant, of Paris, a musician and composer, attended the Congress expressly for the purpose of reading a deeply interesting paper on "Music in America before its Discovery by Columbus." The author described the Peruvian flute, and, to give the audience an idea of ancient" Indian music, had a few simple native Peruvian melodies performed by members of the garrison band. The effect was very pleasing. A comparison of this music with that of China shows that the two are in no respect alike. Here was a new and unexpected argument against the truth of the Huei-shen story. The next meeting of the "Congress of Americanists" will be held in 1877, in the city of Luxembourg.

 

Climatology of New Zealand.—The two large islands of the New Zealand group, North and South Island, are both very mountainous. In the North Island the mountains occupy about one-tenth of the surface, and in the South nearly four-fifths. The rivers are very numerous, and of large size in proportion to the area of the country; but few of them, however, are navigable. The greatest height of the main range in North Island is 6,000 feet; but in the South Island there are peaks from 10,000 to 14,000 feet in height. The changes of weather and temperature in New Zealand are very sudden; calms and gales, rain and sunshine, heat and cold, alternate so frequently and suddenly as to defy previous calculation, so that there is no uniformly dry or wet season in the year. But, though these changes are sudden and frequent, they are confined within very narrow limits, the extremes of daily temperature varying throughout the year by an average of 20° only, while in Europe, at Rome, and other places of corresponding latitude with New Zealand, the same variation is 30° or more. In respect to temperature, New Zealand may be compared either with England or Italy; but London is 7° colder than the North, and 4° colder than the South Island, and is less moist. Strong winds are prevalent, and particularly in the straits. Rain falls frequently, but seldom in such excessive quantity, or for such long periods, as in Australia. The rainfall, in 1871, was 54½ inches; that of New York City in 1873 was 42½.

 

Science-Teaching for the Young.—The master of a school for young boys gives an account in Nature of his method of teaching his young pupils science. For the purposes of scientific instruction, the pupils are divided into three classes, the lowest of which contains about twenty boys, whose average age is nine years. Class II. is composed of ten boys, of an average age of twelve years, while the first class contains twelve boys, of an average age of twelve and a half years. The time weekly devoted to science-instruction is, for Class III., two lessons in botany of three-quarters of an hour each, and one hour's lesson in physical geography. The pupils are taught to distinguish the parts of a flower, and, by the aid of a chart, to discover the order to which any plant belongs. The second class gives two and a half hours per week to botany. The standard of knowledge aimed at is such as is contained in Prof. Oliver's books, and the boys are expected to be able to find out any given plant in Bentham's "British Flora." The boys in the first class study chemistry, and spend one afternoon of an hour and a half at practical work in the laboratory. Another afternoon is employed in listening to a lecture founded upon a chapter in a text-book of chemistry. The boys, after the lecture, study up its subject-matter in the text-book, so as to be able to answer questions on it at the beginning of the next lesson. The standard aimed at is the power to discover a simple acid and base, and an acquaintance with the text-book. "These sciences," continues the author, "were chosen less as subjects of study than as instruments of training in order to cultivate the powers of observation, and to encourage a habit of inductive reasoning. If the teaching of science in its early stages is thus regarded more as a means than as an end, there is no child, who has begun to learn anything at all, who may not be taught some branch of it with advantage." The attempt was at first made to teach the children science without making them learn anything by heart. The result was, that they did not know what to do with the facts they had collected, and lost them as fast as they picked them up. "But, since the botany boys have been set to learn the chart by heart, and since the chemistry boys have been using a text-book, the progress made has been far more satisfactory. A young child's reasoning powers are so feeble that he needs to be constantly guided in the use of them, and, before being set to observe, he requires to be furnished with a cadre in which to arrange his battalions of facts."

 

Fishing for Glass-Sponges.—The mode of fishing for the Euplectella, or "Venus's Flower-basket," on the coast of Zebu, one of the Philippines, is described as follows in the journal of a member of the Challenger Expedition: "The natives use an ingeniously-contrived instrument in taking the sponges. Two long strips of bamboo meet at an angle of 45°, and are fixed in that position by an elaborate system of stays of bamboo, which are attached to a piece of wood running back from the angle, between the two arms or wings of the machine. The piece of wood is weighted with stones, and a line is attached to it, so that the machine is pulled along on the bottom, with the angle in advance, and the two wings sloping backward. The outer edge of each of the bamboo rods is armed with between thirty and forty large fish-hooks, with their barbs set forward. The regederas, as the Spaniards call the euplectellas, are found at a depth of about a hundred fathoms. The Indian lets down the machine with a strong fine line of Manila hemp, and pulls it slowly over the ground. Every now and then he feels a slight tug, and at the end of an hour or so he pulls it in, with usually from five to ten regederas on the hooks. Euplectella has a very different appearance, under these circumstances, from the cones of glassy network so well known under that name. Its silver beard is clogged with the dark-gray mud in which it lives buried to about one-third of its height, and the network of the remainder of the tube is covered with a pall of yellowish sarcode.

 

Congress of German Anthropologists.—The Congress of Anthropologists held its sessions for 1875 in Munich, in the early part of August. The president, Prof. Virchow, reviewed the history of the German Anthropological Society since its origin, sixteen years ago. Prof. Zittel called the attention of the delegates to the collection of prehistoric relics on exhibition in one of the halls of the Odeon. The collection represented the ancient Kelto-Germanic period of Bavarian history, and was the result of the joint efforts of various historical societies, aided by the Government and by private collectors. "Of Tertiary man," said Prof. Zittel, "no trace is found in Bavaria, any more than in the rest of Germany, nor have we any human memorials from the period of the preglacial Diluvium. Even the Cavern and the Stone age yield but few human remains. Burying-places furnish both dolichocephalous and brachycephalous crania—the latter belonging to Southern Bavaria, the former to the Allemans and Franks. We must not deny to the Bavarian of to-day a Germanic origin on account of his brachycephaly, for even the Frisians are brachycephalic also. In manners and customs Bavaria is as German as any other portion of Germany, and it is not to be dropped out of the German organism. Its post is that of guardian of the southern marches."

 

The Weddas of Ceylon.—A paper by Mr. B. F. Hartshorne, read at the British Association, gives some interesting particulars of the social condition and habits of the Weddas of Ceylon. The Weddas depend for their subsistence on bows and arrows, and pass their lives in the vast forests of the country without any habitation, and without even the rudest attempt at cultivating the soil. No flint or stone implements are to be found among them, and they produce a flame by rubbing two sticks together. Their intellectual capacity is so small, that they are unable to count or to discriminate colors. They are almost destitute of the religious sentiment, as well as of an appreciation of personal cleanliness, for they habitually eschew ablutions. They abhor theft and lying. But, perhaps the most remarkable trait in the character of the Weddas is the apparent absence of a faculty which is held to be peculiar to the human race that of laughter. It is stated that they regard the expression of mirth by others with surprise and disgust, and that no Wedda has ever been known to laugh.

 

Lettuce as Food for Silkworms.—A writer in Das Ausland states that, in the summer of 1873, a few silkworms, belonging to his children, were fed with lettuce for some time after being hatched, mulberry-leaves not being obtainable. The caterpillars ate the lettuce ravenously, but, when they were about half-grown, a supply of mulberry-leaves was procured, and this constituted their food for the rest of the season. The moths in due time spun their cocoons as usual, and the next spring the author himself determined to feed the silkworms only on lettuce. The young brood devoured the lettuce in great quantities, care being taken to leave no moisture on the surface of the leaves. The insects grew and went through their metamorphoses in the usual manner; a few only died, and they from carelessness in not wiping the leaves dry. The cocoons were of good quality, and the author intended to exhibit some of them at the Royal Agricultural Hall in Stuttgart. Time alone can determine whether silkworms will degenerate on being fed on lettuce. However this may be, the subject is one that is worthy of investigation.

 

Dredging for Amber.—According to an official report from Memel, Germany, an establishment has been organized for obtaining amber by dredging in the Kurische Haff, near the village of Schwarzorts, situated about twelve miles south of Memel. It has been known for many years that amber existed in the soil of this place, from the fact that the dredger employed by the Government for clearing away the shallow spots near Schwarzorts, which impeded navigation, brought up pieces of amber, which were duly appropriated by the workmen, and at the time no particular attention was paid to the matter. Some time afterward, however, some speculators associated, and made an offer to the Government not only to do the dredging wherever required at their own expense, but to pay a daily rent, provided the amber which they might find should become their property. This proposal was accepted, and the rent fixed at 15 thalers, and later at 25 thalers, for each working day. The dredging was begun with four machines worked by men, and one worked by horses. Judging from the extended business transactions in this matter, its results must have been extremely profitable. At present, the work is carried on with eighteen steam-dredges and two tug-boats, the whole managed by about 1,000 laborers.

 

Temperature of Germination.—It is generally supposed that the seeds of plants do not germinate at a temperature lower than 4° or 5° Cent. (40° Fahr.), but certain experiments made by Uloth, and published in the German botanical magazine, Flora, would seem to show that this opinion is erroneous. In Dr. Uloth's experiments the seeds of Acer platanoides and of Triticum germinated at a temperature not exceeding zero C. (32° Fahr.). In the winters of 1871-'72 and 1872-'73, he made the following experiments: He took two boxes and in each had a certain depth of water frozen into a block of ice. In these blocks he made furrows four millimetres deep, in which he sowed seeds of various plants, which were the same for the two boxes. He now covered the boxes with a plate of ice, and stored them away in two separate ice-houses. He then partly filled two boxes with soil, in which he sowed the same kinds of seeds. These boxes he also covered with plates of ice, and stored them in the same ice-houses with the others. Care was taken to have a good thickness of ice (over four feet) surrounding the boxes on every side, so as to provide against any elevation of the temperature. The boxes were placed in the ice-houses in January, 1872, at a temperature of —8° C., and they were taken out on May 15th. In 1873, they were placed in the ice-houses in February, the temperature being —5° C., examined on March 25th, and removed on May 15th. The kinds of seed sown were twenty-five in number. On March 25th, four had germinated, viz., Lepidium ruderale, L. sativum, Sinapis alba and Brassica napus, all Cruciferæ. On May 15th, besides the foregoing, the following seeds had germinated: Arabis alpina, Æthionema saxatile, Brassica nigra, Petroselinum sativum, Cannabis sativa, Ervum lens, Pisum sativum, Avena sativa, Secale cereale, Hordeum vulgare, Triticum vulgare.

Hence it appears that the seed of Cruciferæ and of Gramineæ freely germinate at the temperature of zero C. Of the seeds named above, about an equal number germinated in ice and in earth. The radicles had penetrated the blocks of ice. Those seeds which had not germinated lay rotten on the surface of the ice or of the soil.

 

Transformation of Species.—An instance of transformation of species is recorded as follows in the Zeitschrift für Wissenschaftliche Zoologie. There are some salt-marshes near Odessa, which in 1871 contained numbers of Artemia salina, a minute crustacean, also known as the brine-worm. At that time, owing to the rupture of a dike, the quantity of salt in the pond was very small, the water marking 8° in the Baumé areometer. The dikes were repaired, and concentration then proceeded rapidly until, in September, 1875, the water marked 25°. As the salt was increased the Artemia salina was modified from generation to generation, so that, by the end of 1874, several individuals had no caudal lobes (see figure of A. salina in No. 20 of the Monthly, December, 1873), and they presented all the specific characters of Artemia Mulhauseni. The changes observed from-year to year are minutely described. They appeared especially in the caudal part, and were accompanied by diminution of size. These observations were confirmed by experiments made on Artemia kept in water of various degrees of softness. In the inverse experiment from a greater to a less softness, A. Mulhauseni returned to the form of A. salina. As the saltness increased or decreased, there was an increase of diminution of the surfaces of the bronchiæ. The writer of the article further gives reasons for thinking that the genus Artemia is only a degraded form of Bronchipus, degraded through the influence of the medium.

 

Clothing the Young.—"Hygiene of Dress" is the subject of a series of articles in the Sanitary Record. The author's remarks concerning the proper clothing of infants and children are judicious. "Warmth," he says, "is the first requisite for infants, who are very susceptible to cold. The clothing of the infant should be both light and warm. Its purpose is to protect the infant from chills, or rather to prevent too great a loss of heat. It should be ample enough to prevent any pressure on the blood-vessels, which would impede the circulation and hinder the free development of the members. It should be especially easy over the chest, in order to insure the free play of the lungs and heart, and should be equally ample around the stomach and the intestines, in order not to interfere with digestion. The sleeves should be wide, in order that the garment may be easily put on, and to favor the circulation of the blood in the arteries and veins of the arms and legs. The robe should be long enough to preserve the infant from cold, but not so long as to be a burden. The head should not be covered. A cap often tends to favor congestions; sometimes, too, it compresses the head, and certain cerebral affections have been, apparently with good reason, referred to this cause alone.

 

An Automatic Light-Registering Machine.—Mr. Crookes has made an ingenious application of his radiometer to meteorological purposes. In our present meteorological records we note variations in heat, rainfall, atmospheric pressure, etc., but light, the most important influence, has been neglected hitherto, for the want of a machine for automatically registering its variations. Mr. Crookes has arranged the arms of his radiometer so that they carry round a small magnet suspended beneath them. The amount of light falling on the pith-balls at the extremities of the radiometer arms determines the rate of rotation. Near the magnet, attached to the rotating arms, is suspended another magnet, which oscillates as the attached magnet presents alternately its north and south poles. This oscillation makes and breaks an electric circuit, which, by a wire of any required length, is connected with a recording Morse machine moved by clockwork. Each revolution of the rotating pith-balls is thus recorded by a punch of the Morse on a strip of paper, and so a register is kept of the amount of light falling at any place.

 

A Mountain of Granite.—The "Stone Mountain" of De Kalb County, Georgia, is described in the American Journal of Science by Mr. E. Hillyer. It is a solid, bald mass of granite, from 1,500 to 2,000 feet in height. The northeast side is perpendicular, unbroken, and smooth; the northwest side is inclined so as to be of easy ascent; while the west and southwest are so steep as to be barely accessible. On the inclined surface the rock breaks off in layers, a few inches to several feet thick, which structure may be due to shrinking in cooling, and to atmospheric influences, together with solar heat. The rock is perfectly homogeneous, with no trace of stratification—a pure whitish granite. There is no doubt that below the surface lamination a piece could be quarried out a quarter of a mile in length, if man could command the means. This granite exists over a wide region of country, and is much used for building-purposes.

 

Rattlesnakes and their Bites.—In the course of some notes on the rattlesnake, published in Forest and Stream, Dr. J. W. Bailey, of Albany, asserts that this serpent is the most sluggish of the snake family. It never strikes unless in self-defense, excepting just before and after its winter sleep. Of course, the rattlesnake's idea of self defense is rather broad. Thus, if a person step upon it by the purest accident the snake will make no allowance, but strikes the intruder on the spot. To strike, however, it must be in close coil, with its head erect. It is capable of springing only a little more than half its length, unless it be lying on an inclined plane; then, by supporting itself entirely on its tail, it can spring much farther. Hogs attack the rattlesnake with impunity, the effect of the poison being probably neutralized by a thick layer of adipose tissue. Dr. Bailey is able to contradict, from his own experience, the statement that serpents do not move about at night; he has often, when riding by moonlight seen them gliding through the grass. The author says that, when the venom of a serpent has entered the circulation, all remedies are unavailing. He has seen a freshly-killed chicken split open and applied to the wound, with good results. In such cases the flesh of the chicken turns green and putrid where it comes in contact with the virus. The most certain remedy, however, is whiskey or brandy used in large quantities—say a quart—immediately. Intoxication is not exhibited until the poison has been counteracted. Sweet-oil, taken in doses of several ounces, is also effectual. Sportsmen camping in Texas are accustomed, after pitching their tent, to stretch around it a hair lariat. The short hairs irritate the snake's belly as he attempts to cross the lariat, and he retreats.

 

Cause of Monstrosities.—In the course of a discussion of the subject of "monstrosities," in the Detroit Academy of Medicine, Prof. Armor, of the Long Island Medical College, who was present, presented some ingenious views, which may be briefly stated as follows: Monstrosity is commonly referred to "arrest of development" or to "abnormal development." But what is the true cause? Prof. Armor answers: 1. Something deficient or abnormal in the generative matter from which the fœtus is developed. This generative matter he looked upon as representative; there is not a tissue, structure, or form, that is not represented in it, so that deviation from the normal type may be impressed at the very instant of conception. The next point was the faithful transmission of acquired structural peculiarities, when once fully established. Finally, it was suggested that the discussion of this subject bears directly upon the great question of evolution: the strongest and fittest survive; weak parts of the organism atrophy and die—they cease to be seminally represented. 2. The next cause of monstrosities mentioned was such as operated directly on the fœtus in utero. The generative matter may be perfect and fully representative, but certain morbid influences may act directly on the fœtus. Dr. Armor instanced the experiments made in producing malformations by submitting hens' eggs to various mechanical influences during incubation. In conclusion, he held that all causes of malformation would come under one of two heads: They are either generative or mechanical—sometimes one operating, sometimes the other, sometimes both.

 

Habitat of the Crocodile.—Till recently the two American species of crocodile, described by Cuvier, have been supposed to be confined to South America and the West Indies. In 1870 Prof. Wyman identified a skull from Florida as belonging to Cuvier's species, Crocodilus acutus. Mr. William T. Hornaday now describes in the American Naturalist two specimens—male and female—of the Crocodilus acutus which he captured last year in the vicinity of Biscayne Bay, on the southeast coast of Florida. The male was fourteen feet in length, and his girth at a point midway between fore and hind legs was five feet two inches. His teeth were large and blunt; his head rugose and knotty, with armor-plates very large and rough. On dissection it was found that during life he had sustained serious bodily injuries, probably in battle. Three of his teeth were shattered; the tibia and fibula of the right hind-leg had been broken in the middle and again united, also one of the metatarsal bones of the same limb; the tail had been docked, and two of the vertebrae had grown together solidly.

The female measured ten feet eight inches. Her head was regular in outline, comparatively smooth, with white, regular, and sharp plates, even in surface and contour, and colors very marked. The entire under-surface of both specimens was pale-yellow, shading gradually darker up the sides with fine irregular streaks and spots of black. The general appearance of the female was decidedly yellowish, while the back and tail of the male showed an almost entire absence of yellow, the prevailing color being a leaden, lustreless black. While in Florida the author saw the skulls or other remains of three other crocodiles. He observes that all the specimens were taken in water that is brackish about half the time.

 

Effects of Strain on the Magnetism of Soft Iron.—The following account of experiments made by Sir William Thomson, with a view to ascertain the effects of stress upon the magnetism of soft iron, we take from the Telegraphic Journal. Wires of steel and of soft iron, about twenty feet long, were suspended from the roof of the physical laboratory of Glasgow University. An electro-magnetic helix was placed around a few inches of each of the wires, so that the latter could be magnetized when an electric current was passed through the former, the induced current thus produced in a second helix outside the first being indicated by a second galvanometer. With steel wire, the magnetism diminished when weights were attached to the wire, and increased when they were taken off; but with "special" soft-iron wire (wire almost as soft as lead), the magnetism was increased when weights were put on, and diminished when they were taken off. Afterward he discarded the electrical apparatus; and, by suspending a piece of soft wire near the magnetometer, consisting of a needle a small fraction of a grain in weight, with a reflecting mirror attached, the wire was magnetized inductively, simply by the magnetism of the earth, and changes in its magnetism were made by applying weights and strains, the changes being then indicated by the magnetometer.

 

The Origin of Astronomy.—Like that of many other sciences and arts, the origin of astronomy has been ascribed to various nations of antiquity, and it is very doubtful if any one of these can lay exclusive claim to the credit of having been its founder. The succession of day and night and of the seasons, the phases of the moon, and the motions of the heavenly bodies, must have enlisted the attention of man from the earliest times and in every clime. The result would naturally be a more or less perfect system of astronomy. Some nations, no doubt, from one cause or another, cultivated this science with more success than others, and among these the Assyrians, Babylonians, or Chaldeans, are preëminent. The records of their observations were adopted by the Greeks, and through the latter were transmitted to the Romans. Thus our modern astronomy is really traceable back to the plains of Babylonia. The question arises, Of what race were the founders of Chaldean astronomy? This subject is considered by A. H. Sayce, who, in a communication to Nature, says that they were not Semites, but a people who are now generally termed Accadians, and who spoke an agglutinative language. "They had come from the mountains of Elam or Susiana, on the east, bringing with them the rudiments of writing and civilization. They found a cognate race already settled in Chaldea, and in conjunction with the latter they built the great cities of Babylonia, whose ruins still attest their power and antiquity. Somewhere between 3000 and 4000 b. c., the Semites entered the country from the east, and gradually contrived to conquer the whole of it. It is probable the conquest was completed about 2000 b. c. At all events Accadian became a dead language some two or three centuries later, but, as the Semitic invaders owed almost all the civilization they possessed to their more polished predecessors, it remained the language of literature, like Latin in the middle ages, down to the last days of the Assyrian Empire."

 

Sounds produced by blowing into a Flame.—Some noteworthy observations have been made by Decharme on the production of sounds by blowing into a flame through a tube. He is of opinion that the air acts rather chemically than mechanically. The sounds, according to him, result from small explosions by the combination of the oxygen of the air with the hydrogen or carbon of the flame, in imperfect combustion. For the sound to occur, the presence of air, or of an inert gas mixed with oxygen, seems necessary. In one of M. Decharme's experiments the white flame from a Bunsen burner, with the lateral apertures closed, gave a very strong sound when blown into with a tube; whereas the blue flame, produced when the apertures are open, gave a very weak one, or none at all. Carbonic acid alone, or nitrogen, or oxygen, or chlorine, blown into a flame of illuminating gas, gave little or no sound; protoxide of nitrogen gave a sound that was weak, but more acute than that obtained from air.

 

Exploration of Victoria Cave.—Dr. Tiddeman read a report on the exploration of the Victoria Cave, Settle, during the year 1874–'75. The report assigns to the preglacial or the glacial age the lower deposits of this cave, which contain early Pleistocene animal remains associated with a human fibula. The animal bones were nearly all mere fragments, though one was perfect; they represent bears, oxen, deer, goats or sheep, elephants, swans, etc. Attention was called in the report to the great distance of time which separated that age from our own. In the cave Roman times were separated from our own day by deposits sometimes less than a foot thick, but nowhere by more than two feet of talus, the chips which time detached from the cliffs above. The Neolithic age, which antiquaries know was a considerable time before the Roman occupation, is represented in some places at a depth of four or five feet beneath the Roman layer, but at others it runs into it. Then come nine feet of talus without a record of any living thing. Judging by the shallowness of the Roman layer, this must represent an enormous interval of time. Next come the bowlders, the inscribed records of the Glacial period. They must represent a long series of climatic changes during which the ice was waxing and waning, advancing and moving back over the mouth of the cave. Then there is a break in the continuity of the deposits, the bowlders lying on the edges of the older beds, which shows that time was given for changes to take place to allow the district to cool down from a warmth suitable to the hippopotamus and become a fitting pasture for the reindeer. It was in that warm period that the man lived and died whose fibula occurs among the bones in the cave.

 

Methods of preserving Fresh Meat.—So numerous are the processes devised in modern times for the preservation of food, that a simple catalogue of them would occupy several pages of this magazine. In so far as the preservation of vegetables and of certain fruits is concerned a very fair measure of success has undoubtedly been achieved; but with flesh-meat the case is different. We propose to describe here a few of the chief methods adopted for preserving meats, following for the most part a writer upon this subject in the Journal of the Society of Arts. These methods may all be reduced under the four heads of Desiccation, Refrigeration, Use of Chemical Antiseptics, and Application of Heat. Desiccation or drying has been practised from the earliest times. Charqui, or jerked beef, is an example of fairly successful preservation, but it is immensely inferior to fresh meat. Some years ago the food committee of the London Society of Arts reported favorably upon some specimens of "powdered beef" from Queensland; but the article has been unable to win its way to public favor. The reason of this no doubt is, that animal matter preserved by desiccation loses its flavor and becomes tough and indigestible, the fat becomes rancid, and in damp weather the whole turns mouldy and sour. These difficulties are to some extent obviated by mixing absorbent substances with fatty food, as in "pemmican," where sugar and spice are mixed with dry powdered meat. Meat-biscuit is made on a similar principle. Tellier, of Paris, adopts the following method: He first exhausts the air from a close vessel containing the meat, then fills it with carbonic-acid gas, again exhausts and again fills with the same gas. In this way the air is almost entirely removed. He then absorbs the carbonic acid by the use of a concentrated solution of potash, by which a very near approach to a vacuum is produced. The meat is removed from the vessel after three days, and may be kept sound without further trouble, but it will have lost 20 per cent, of its weight.

The keeping of meat by refrigeration is practised on a small scale in every household. The same thing was done on a large scale at Melbourne in 1872, when a large quantity of meat was kept for six weeks perfectly fresh in an ice-chamber. In the following year an attempt was made to ship from Australia to England meat kept fresh by the same method, but the experiment failed. Better success has attended later shipments of meat from Canada to London, and from Texas to New Orleans. The progress made in ice-making machines is such as to inspire great hopes of success in preserving meat by cold.

Among chemical antiseptics common salt of course holds a place. Many patents have been taken out for the employment of sulphur-fumes (sulphurous acid). Bisulphite of lime is very efficacious for the temporary preservation of meat, and has been practically tested with favorable results. Our readers need not be reminded of what is claimed for salicylic acid. Among other chemical agents employed for this purpose we may mention acetate of potash and chloralum.

The expulsion of atmospheric air from vessels containing meat, by means of heat, is certainly the most successful method of preservation yet adopted. Many difficult processes are in use, but the main principle—expulsion of air by heat—is the same in all. They all, too, agree in this, that they render the meat comparatively insipid.