Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/882

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862
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

enforcement of easy precautions. The cost is reducible to a very small amount by means of the modern appliances. "In the improved furnaces of to-day the body does not come in contact with the fire at all, only with an intense heat of 2000° or more. At this temperature the body simply withers away into a pure white ash. The gases generated are burned in a separated chamber adapted to the purpose, and no smoke, odor, or other unpleasant phenomena occur, to offend the sensibilities of any one, be they ever so acute. To attain these nearly perfect results, of course, costs money. The furnace can not be erected in this country for less than from three to five thousand dollars—a mere bagatelle compared with the cost of some of our cemeteries. The fuel necessary to attain this high temperature, with the necessary attendance, makes the expenses of the incineration of a single body about fifteen dollars. The apparatus used by the Danish society at Copenhagen effects the cremation in about an hour, and costs only from five to seven shillings. After all, the costliness of cremation does not seem to be such a very great objection. Of course, if we are forced to send the body to Washington, Pennsylvania, to Milan, to Padua, or any other of the existing crematories, the privilege is placed beyond the means of any but the rich. But when the crematories are more numerous and accessible, as they no doubt soon will be, the necessity for an expensive lot in an expensive cemetery, an expensive casket, and all the pride, pomp, and circumstance of a funeral à la mode, may be dispensed with."

 

Instruction in Physics.—The quality and best methods of education in physics may be stated as the subject of the address of Vice-President Mendenhall before Section B of the American Association at its recent Montreal meeting.[1] Presupposing that the diffusion of information, or instruction, is an important means of advancing science worthy of a place by the side of original research, and that teaching should be accompanied—not taking the place of it or surrendering itself to it—by experimental work, he suggests that quantitative work, and that the best possible under the circumstances, should occupy the attention of the student, while illustrative experiments and the qualitative work necessary to a good understanding of the subject should be relegated to the lecture-table of the instructor. That which the pupil gets which is of most worth in his course in a physical laboratory is not a familiarity with the principles of the science, but a training in the methods of investigation in use among physicists, including a knowledge of the use and abuse of experiment and the necessary limits of our knowledge derived therefrom. The study which he ought to make of errors, instrumental and accidental, will be of great value in various fields. It is better for the laboratory to contain a few instruments of precision than a large number of inferior performance and accuracy. It is not a matter of great importance upon what particular department of physics a student shall spend his time and strength. The underlying principles of the method are common to all, and skill in one begets facility in the others. To sum up, the course of study in physics for the undergraduate collegian should include a sufficient training in mathematics to enable him to apply his knowledge with ease and facility to the more common physical problems; a thorough and exacting course of textbook and lecture-work, in which the application of his mathematical knowledge would be made, and during which all illustrative experiments necessary to a complete understanding of the text should be exhibited by the instructor from the lecture-table; and, finally, this to be supplemented by a course in the laboratory in which more attention is paid to the quality than to the quantity of work done; during which every problem is discussed, as far as possible, both mathematically and experimentally, and especial attention is given to the discussion of the results of experiment and of the more elementary portions of the theory of errors. "Considering the work as thus divided into three parts," says Professor Mendenhall, "I am unable to see which is the least essential."

 

Work for Amateur Astronomers.—Professor Edward C. Pickering, of the Harvard College Observatory, invites amateurs who have small telescopes to the observation of the variable stars, and assures them that by


  1. Printed at the Salem Press, Salem, Massachusetts.