Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 41.djvu/148

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138
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

would yield a light. Thus we shall be able to fill our rooms with the potentiality of light, and then, by the simple introduction of vacuum-tubes, to obtain any quantity of it. Those who want a daylight without heat will be able to run a vacuum-tube round the whole length of the cornice, and so obtain a diffused illumination of almost any brilliancy. The fact is noticed, in connection with the experiments, that the lecturer stood in an "electrostatic field" capable of illuminating a lamp without wires, and felt nothing. More, he held a vacuum-tube in one hand and touched a "terminal" with the other, a process which made him "the channel for a current of something like fifty thousand volts," and yet did not receive any injury.

 

Venerable Trees.—A very interesting work is in course of publication by M. Gadeau de Kerville, on the ancient trees of Normandy. The most remarkable trees so far described are the two yews of La Haye de Koutot, in the department of the Eure. They are respectively 91/2 and 81/4 metres in circumference at the base of the trunk, and 171/2 and 141/2 metres high. Their ages are estimated by the author to be not less than fifteen hundred years. A chapel has been constructed in the hollow trunk of one of these yews, three metres high and two metres deep. Before it was transformed into a chapel the hollow would hold forty persons, and eight musicians have played in it in concert. The beech of Montigny, estimated by the author to be between six hundred and nine hundred years old, is 18 metres high and 8·20 metres in circumference at the base. There are oaks from two hundred to nine hundred years old, one of which is nearly forty metres high.

 

Curious Effects of an Earthquake.—Some striking features are described by Prof. John Milne as marking the recent destructive earthquake in Japan, by which nearly 8,000 persons were killed and at least 41,000 houses were leveled. The movements of the wave were horizontal, and a defect of the seismograph was noticed in its failure to record anything of them except the "dip." In many places so-called "foreign" buildings of brick and stone fell in heaps of ruin between Japanese buildings yet standing. "Cotton-mills have fallen in, while their tall brick chimneys have been whipped off at about half their height. Huge cast-iron columns, which, unlike chimneys, are uniform in section, acting as piers for railway bridges, have been cut in two near their base. In some instances these have been snapped into pieces much as we might snap a carrot, and the fragments thrown down upon the shingle beaches of the rivers. The greatest efforts appear to have been exerted where masonry piers carrying two-hundred-foot girders over lengths of eighteen hundred feet have been cut in two, and then danced and twisted over their solid foundations to a considerable distance from their true positions. These piers have a sectional area of twenty-six by ten feet, and are from thirty to fifty feet in height. Embankments have been spread outward or shot away, brick arches have fallen between their abutments, while the railway line itself has been bent into a series of snakelike folds and hummocked into waves. . . . Here and there a temple has escaped destruction, partly perhaps on account of the quality of materials employed in its construction, but also in consequence of the multiplicity of joints which come between the roof and the supporting columns. At these joints there has been a basket-like yielding, and the interstice of the roof has not, therefore, acted with its whole force in tending to rupture its supports."

 

Meteorology Five Centuries ago.—What is probably the oldest journal of the weather in existence has recently been recovered, printed in photographic transcript, and translated. It was kept by the Rev. William Merle, rector of Driby, Lincolnshire, England, from 1337 to 1344, or during seven years of the earlier part of the reign of Edward III. The author was evidently a keen observer, and recorded his facts succinctly and intelligently, so as to give a graphic, even picturesque description of the weather by the week or month; and a reference in one of his notes to a feature of the season of 1331 shows that he had been watching the changes of the seasons for a longer time than was covered by his journal. Some of the entries are suggestive of the conditions and ways of thinking of the times. The frequent men-