Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 74.djvu/204

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200
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

way in which this particular project, and similar ones to it, could not only be expeditiously conducted, but so as to realize the chief objects of the work. Judging from individual expressions received from scientific men everywhere, they appear in agreement with u.s. This policy, briefly stated, is: To make, with the aid of the friendly and harmonious cooperation of all concerned, a rapidly executed magnetic survey of the greater part of the globe, so that a general survey, all-sufficient for the solution of some of the great and world-wide problems of the earth's magnetism, will be completed within a period of ten to fifteen years. At a smaller number of points, selected in consideration of the prime questions at issue, the observations are to be repeated at intervals of five years or less, in order to supplement the rather sparsely distributed magnetic observatory data. Thus the determination of the corrections for reduction of the general work to any specific date is continuously provided for.

Now, had I the time or were this the place, I should like to add a paragraph regarding the needful accuracy and the prime questions to be considered in the conduct of such a piece of work. Permit me to say that the most evident result of all magnetic work in the past is that, for the purposes of a general survey, it is far better to make some sacrifice in accuracy if thereby it is made possible to secure observations at another point. In other words, the errors due to local disturbing conditions are far greater than the purely observational ones. Hence multiplicity of stations rather than extreme accuracy and laborious methods of ohservation and reduction is the prime requisite in magnetic survey work.

 

Stimulants to Research Work

Dr. Gilman, in his charming reminiscences of the non-resident lecturers of the Johns Hopkins University, related the following of the great mathematician Sylvester:

Sylvester enjoyed stimulants—I do not mean such vulgar and material articles as alcohol and coffee. I never saw any indications that he cared for their support. But he loved such stimulants to intellectual activity as music and light, lively society, in which he was not called upon to participate. Once at a symphony concert I sat just behind him, admiring the dome of his capacious cranium, unconcealed by hair, and I noticed how absorbed he was. The next day, Sunday, he came to me impetuously to say that he had worked out some mathematical proposition at the concert of the evening before, the music having quickened his mathematical mind. He really thought this was his greatest achievement yet, and he had hastened to write it out and mail it to the Academy of Sciences in Paris. Once he told me that, having a special paper to prepare, he went to a store and bought a pound of candles, which he placed about his room, on all sorts of extemporaneous candlesticks; "for light," he said, "is a most powerful tonic."

These anecdotes will serve to recall similar ones of noted men.