Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/137

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.




The Department of Agriculture has received from General Charles P. Stone, now in the military service of the Khedive of Egypt, a lot of red-date seed, with which it is designed to make the experiment of growing the date-palm in the United States. General Stone, from what he has seen of the date-producing regions of Northeastern Africa, and from his observations in the Desert of the Colorado, between Carissa Creek and Fort Yuma, is inclined to believe that the greater portion of the latter region can be made productive and very valuable by the culture of this tree. The date-palm, he writes, not only does not require much water, but much water is prejudicial to it, and the climate of the Colorado Desert is strikingly similar to that of some of the best date producing districts of Egypt.

In a tower of the Temple of Ularo, in Kioto, Japan, is suspended the largest bell in the world. The date of its casting is unknown. It measures 24 feet in height and is 16 inches thick at the rim. It is sounded by a suspended lever of wood, used like a battering-ram, striking the bell on the outside. The Bolshoi (Giant) in Moscow, cast in the sixteenth century, and recast in 1654, was 21 feet high and 18 feet in diameter; its weight was estimated at 288,000 pounds. The metal of this bell was used in casting the present "great bell of Moscow," the Tsar Kolokol, 19 feet 3 inches high, and about 19 feet in diameter; estimated weight, 443,772 pounds.

The Central Railroad of New Jersey have, at their Communipaw shops, a small gas-works for converting into illuminating gas, oil-waste and other combustible material collected along the line of road. The fuel used in the gas-furnace is the screenings from the locomotives—a material previously used only for road-ballast. The gas costs the company only 35 cents per thousand feet, and enough is produced to supply 225 burners. Its illuminating power is said to be very high.

In the opinion of the Lancet, California will, before long, be supplying Europe with wines that will bear comparison with the finest vintages of the Rhine and the Moselle. A few years ago there was an exhibition at Kensington, of the wines of many countries, at which the wines from California took a very high rank. An analysis of these wines, recently published in the Pharmaceutical Journal, makes a very favorable exhibit for our Pacific slope vintages.

The fourth annual report of the Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences gives evidence of a highly-creditable degree of scientific activity on the part of the members of the society; but we regret to notice that the publication of the Bulletin has been for the present suspended, from the want of funds to continue it. During the year 1877 the society's collections were used by the scholars of the public schools of Buffalo as a means of instruction in natural history. The number of books in the library has been considerably increased. The zoölogical specimens added to the collections during the year were numerous. The original scientific work of members of the society has afforded material for 33 memoirs, published by the Department of the Interior, and in various scientific journals. To the society is due the credit of having inaugurated a course of cheap winter evening lectures, at an admission-fee of ten cents.

The use of "toughened" glass is not without its dangers, as we learn from the experience of a certain Prof. Ricard. He bought a child's cup of toughened glass, which was exposed to hard usage for some months, without suffering from the rough treatment. But one evening it was left, with a spoon in it, on a table, and the room was shut. Shortly afterward a noise as of a pistol-shot alarmed the whole household. On entering the room, fragments of glass were found scattered all around—the cup had exploded after the manner of a Prince Rupert drop.

A process of engraving on glass and crystal by means of electricity has been discovered by M. Gaston Planté. The process consists in covering the plate to be engraved with a concentrated solution of nitrate of potash, put in connection with one of the poles of a battery, and in tracing the design with a fine platinum point connected with the other pole. M. Planté employs a battery composed of 50 or 60 secondary elements.

In an establishment at Oakland, California, the entrails of sheep are used for making very serviceable belting for machinery. First the entrails are cleaned and soaked for a few days in brine. The prepared material is then wound on bobbins, when it is ready for working up either into ropes or flat belts. A three-quarters-inch rope of this material is capable of bearing a strain of seven tons. The material, furthermore, is very durable—more than twice as durable as hemp.

The directors of the Paris Exposition of 1878 intend to repeat, on a large scale, Foucault's famous pendulum-experiment, showing the rotation of the earth. The pendulum to be suspended in the Champ de Mars will be about 660 pounds in weight and 220 feet long, and will be so hung that the