Popular Science Monthly/Volume 10/January 1877/Popular Miscellany

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Deep-Sea Bottom Deposits.—The deep-sea bottom deposits found by the Challenger expedition are classified as follows by Mr. Murray, naturalist on the scientific staff:

1. Shore-deposits, and these are mud of a variety of colors, as blue, gray, green, red, also coral-mud and sands; 2. Globigerina ooze; 3. Radiolarian ooze; 4. Diatomaceous ooze; 5. Red and gray clays. To these may be added peroxide of manganese in nodules and grains widely diffused.

The character of the sea-bottom contiguous to the shores is determined largely by that of the adjacent lands. Thus coral-mud occurs in the vicinity of coral-islands, and volcanic products near volcanic districts.

This general feature of the coast extends in some cases 150 miles seaward; an exception was found, however, among the coral-islands of the Pacific, where the coral-mud occurs as a narrow band around the islands.

Globigerina ooze is the most abundant deep-sea deposit next to the clays. It does not occur in the inclosed seas in the Pacific north of latitude 10° north, nor south of latitude 50° south.

Radiolarians occur in most seas, but only in limited areas are they sufficiently abundant to give a distinctive character to the ooze. In the Antarctic Ocean a diatom ooze is found, and radiolarian ooze was brought up from the great depth of 4,475 fathoms—nearly four and three-quarter miles. The skeletons of these minute organisms are siliceous.

The red clay is the most abundant deposit, and below depths of 2,000 fathoms is very widely diffused. The skeletons of siliceous organisms are abundant in it, but calcareous shells are few, and in some specimens wholly wanting. The author seems to refer the origin of the red and gray clays to lavas, scoria?, pumice, volcanic ashes, and possibly meteoric or cosmic dust; and adds, "If there be an ash after the carbonate of lime is removed by acid or other agent, this will be another source." But Prof. Wyville Thomson distinctly states that the red clay is essentially the insoluble ash or residue of calcareous organisms which form the globigerina ooze, after the calcareous matter has been removed; and this conclusion is confirmed by the very careful experiments made by Mr. Buchanan, who treated the ooze with dilute acids.

The author states that efforts to detect free protoplasm in the dredgings was attended by no definite result. Some specimens, however, assumed a jelly-like aspect, with flocculent matter when in spirits. This flocculent matter was found by Mr. Buchanan to be "sulphate of lime precipitated from sea-water, and the author infers that the so-called 'Bathybius' and the amorphous sulphate of lime are identical." In this connection he quotes a report on the subject by Mr. Buchanan which states that "the substance when analyzed consisted of sulphuric acid and lime, and, when dissolved in water and the solution allowed to evaporate, it crystallized in the well-known form of gypsum; the crystals being all alike, there being no amorphous matter among them." Mr. Murray's conclusion is that in "placing Bathybius among living things the describers of it committed an error."


Eccentricity in Wood-Growth.—Mr. T. S. Gold writes as follows, in the Gardener's Monthly, concerning the unequal deposition of wood in growing trees but partially exposed to the action of the wind: "A chokecherry sprang from seed in front of my piazza, close to it, and could only be moved by the winds laterally. The section of the trunk was elliptical, the longer diameter being nearly double the shorter. Since the tree has grown above the roof of the piazza the trunk is becoming less elliptical. A young plum-tree standing close by the side of an out-building was killed by mice, and the sprouts were allowed to grow. These were all elliptical like the cherry, and made most wood on the two sides. It appeared to me that the trees made wood where it was most needed, on the sides where the strain of the wind came. Sometimes the eccentricity is produced by large branches or large roots on one side of the stem, and in other cases these seem to have little influence." This accords with the view of Mr. Herbert Spencer, who, in the appendix to his second volume of "Biology," gives the history of an interesting course of experiments "On Circulation and the Formation of Wood in Plants."


Notes on the British Arctic Expedition.—Of the two ships constituting the British Polar Expedition, the Discovery, Captain Stephenson, wintered at Cape Baird, latitude 81° 40'; and the Alert, Captain Nares, at Cape Union, latitude 82° 30'. The site of the supposed "Open Polar Sea" was found to be occupied by a rigid sea of ice, called the Paleocrystic Sea, or Sea of Ancient Ice. The thickness of this ice is enormous, varying from 80 to 120 feet. This Paleocrystic Sea is no doubt the accumulation of many years, or even of centuries. The lowest temperature experienced by the expedition was 104° Fahr. below freezing, which is 20° below the minimum observed by the Polaris Expedition. The sun was absent 142 days. A sled-party from the Alert planted the British flag in latitude 83° 20' 26"; but, as they had to hew a track through the exceedingly rough surface of this frozen sea, seventy-two days were spent in accomplishing the journey. Another party explored the coast-line westward for a distance of 220 miles. The most northerly point of the coast of Grant Land was found by this party to be Cape Columbia—latitude 83° 7', west longitude 70° 30'. The Greenland coast was explored by a party from the Discovery, and its most northerly point found to be in latitude 82° 50', west longitude 43° 30'; thence the coast trends in a southeastern direction. A good seam of coal was discovered near the winter-quarters of the Discovery. A brass tablet with the following appropriate inscription was fixed on the grave of the gallant American explorer, Captain Charles Francis Hall: "Sacred to the memory of Captain C. F. Hall, of the U. S. ship Polaris, who sacrificed his life in the advancement of science on November 8, 1871. This tablet has been erected by the British Polar Expedition of 1875, who, following in his footsteps, have profited by his experience."


Sexual Selection among the Monkeys.—Mr. Darwin, in his "Descent of Man," holds that the brilliant coloring of the face in the male mandrill, and of the posterior callosities in that and sundry other species of monkeys, is the result of sexual selection. He now, in a communication to Nature, brings forward some new observations on this subject made by Joh. von Fischer, of Gotha. Von Fischer finds that not only the mandrill, but the drill and three other kinds of baboons, which he names, also Cynopithecus niger, Macacus rhesus, and M. nemestrinus turn the hind-parts of their bodies, which in all these species is more or less highly colored, toward him when they are pleased, and toward other persons as a kind of greeting. Many other facts of a like nature are mentioned by Mr. Darwin, and then he expresses the opinion that "the bright colors, whether on the face or hinder end, or, as in the mandrill, on both, serve as a sexual ornament and attraction. Anyhow," he continues, "as we now know that monkeys have the habit of turning their hinder ends toward other monkeys, it ceases to be at all surprising that it should have been this part of their bodies that has been more or less decorated. The fact that it is only the monkeys thus characterized which, as far as at present known, act in this manner as a greeting toward other monkeys, renders it doubtful whether the habit was first acquired from some independent cause, and that afterward the parts in question were colored as a sexual ornament; or whether the coloring and habit of turning round were first acquired through variation and sexual selection, and that afterward the habit was retained as a sign of pleasure or as a greeting, through the principle of inherited association."


The Transmission of Habit.—A correspondent of Nature, resident in New Zealand, communicates to that journal several instances of the transmission of habits to offspring in animals. One instance is that of a mare which would wander away from the "mob" of horses to which she belonged—always seeking one particular creek. When released from work she would make off to her favorite feeding-ground by herself. One of her progeny some years after showed a similar liking for solitude. Again, a valuable mare was an incorrigible kicker; she transmitted her special vice to her offspring. Peculiarity in the form of the hoof has been transmitted to generation after generation. The same writer states that a particular strain of Dorking fowls which he has had in his possession for thirty years always show a restless desire for rambling, and this, too, under the difficulty of meeting with much persecution when straying beyond their range.


Efforts to stop the Locust-Plague.—In October a convention of the Governors of several Western States and Territories was held at Omaha, to devise means of withstanding the plague of locusts. Besides the Governors, there were present at the meeting a number of prominent farmers and scientific men. A memorial to Congress was adopted, setting forth the serious injury done to agriculture by the locust, and asking for the appointment of a commission to investigate the "history and haunts of this insect; also all possible means of its extermination, and remedial agencies which may be used against it." Prof. Riley, of St. Louis, delivered an address, in which he briefly narrated the habits and history of the Rocky Mountain locust. He considered that there were two main questions before the conference: 1. How best to deal with the young insects that threaten to hatch out over a vast extent of the country next spring; and, 2. The investigation of the insect in its native home, with a view of preventing its migrations into the country to the southeast. Prof. C. D. Wilber, of Nebraska, gave an account of the various means adopted in different parts of the West to counteract this plague. Governor Pillsbury, of Minnesota, gave a history of locust-ravages in various countries. Governor Pennington, of Dakota, offered a series of resolutions "respectfully but earnestly urging that all our people in the States and Territories afflicted by the locust-plague, of all denominations and sects, offer up special prayers in their respective churches for deliverance from this great enemy."


Insect Fertilization of Plants.—For a year Mr. Thomas Meehan has been making observations and experiments to determine whether insects are of material aid to plants in fertilization. His results, which are published in the Penn Monthly, appear to favor a decision of the question in the negative. That insects sometimes fertilize and cross-fertilize flowers, he admits, but he holds that these cases are less frequent than they are supposed to be, and that, when they do occur, they have no bearing on the general welfare of the race. The chief arguments for the necessity of insect fertilization, says Mr. Meehan, are drawn from structure and not from facts of observation. Thus it is stated that Iris, Campanula, dandelion, oxeye daisy, garden pea, Lobelia, clover, and many other plants, are so arranged that they cannot fertilize themselves without insect aid. But the author has inclosed flowers of all of these in fine gauze bags, and found that they produced seeds as well as other flowers that were exposed. And yet Iris Virginica and Campanula are common illustrations of the supposed necessity of insect fertilization. In one plant experimented with in this way (Baptisia), seeds were not formed. This plant, in the author's opinion, may possibly require insect agency for its fertilization. He does not deny that flowers are sometimes fertilized by the aid of insects; but he does not admit that this mode of fertilization is very common. His conclusions may be stated as follows: 1. That cross-fertilization by insect agency does not exist nearly to the extent claimed for it; 2. That, where it does exist, there is no evidence that it is of any material benefit to the race, but contrariwise; 3. That difficulties in self-fertilization result from physiological disturbances that have no relation to the general welfare of plants as species.


Proposed International Geological Congress.—A committee appointed by the American Association has issued a circular addressed to geologists, announcing the proposed convocation of an International Geological Congress, to be held at Paris some time during the Exposition of 1878. It is proposed to make the Congress an occasion for considering many disputed points in geology, and to this end it is desirable that the Geological Department of the Exhibition should embrace—1. Collections of crystalline rocks, both crystalline schists and massive or eruptive rocks, including the so-called contact-formations and the results of the local alteration of uncrystalline sediments by eruptive masses. In this connection are to be desired all examples of organic remains found in crystalline rocks, including Eozoon and related forms. These collections should, moreover, comprehend all rare and unusual rocks of special lithological, mineralogical, and chemical interest, examples of ore-deposits and of vein-stones of all kinds, with their incasing rocks. As far as possible these collections should be limited to specimens of a size convenient for examination, and be accompanied with sections prepared for microscopic study.

2. Collections illustrating the fauna and the flora of the Palæozoic and more recent periods, particularly of such horizons as present a more critical interest to paleontologists from the first appearance or the disappearance of important groups of organic forms. It has appeared to the committee that the organic remains of the Cambrian, Taconic, or so-called Primordial strata merit especial attention in this connection.

These various collections should be explained as fully as possible by labels, catalogues, monographs, and maps.

3. Collections of geological maps, and also of sections and models, especially such as serve to illustrate the laws of mountain-structure. In the geological maps, regard should be had to various questions which deserve the special consideration of the Congress, such as the scales best adapted for different purposes, the colors and symbols to be used, and the proper mode of representing superficial deposits conjointly with the underlying formations. The secretary of the committee is Dr. T. Sterry Hunt, of Boston.


Comparative Dietetic Value of Meat and Eggs.—A writer in the Scientific Farmer estimates the food-value of one pound of eggs as a producer of force, i. e., the amount of work the pound oxidized in the body is theoretically capable of producing, at 1,584 foot-tons, and the value of one pound of lean beef, from the same point of view, at 990 foot-tons. As a flesh-producer, one pound of eggs is about equal to one pound of beef, as is shown by the following analysis quoted by the author:



Water 12 oz., 36 grs.
Albumen 2 oz.
Extractive 130 grs.
Oil or fat 1 oz., 214 grs.
Ash 28 grs.

Will produce at the maximum 2 oz. of dry muscle or flesh.


Water 8 oz.
Fibrine and albumen 1 oz., 122 grs.
Gelatine 1 oz., 62 grs.
Fat 4 oz., 340 grs.
Mineral 350 grs.

The author hereupon remarks as follows:

"A hen may be calculated to consume 1 bushel of corn yearly, and to lay 12 dozen or 18 pounds of eggs. This is equivalent to saying that 3.1 pounds of corn will produce, when fed to this hen, 1 pound of eggs. A pound of pork, on the contrary, requires about 512 pounds of corn for its production. When eggs are 24 cents a dozen, and pork is 10 cents a pound, we have the bushel of corn fed producing $2.88 worth of eggs, and but $1.05 worth of pork.

"Judging from these facts, eggs must be economical in their production and in their eating, and especially fitted for the laboring-man in replacing meat."


Qualifications of Medical Students.—At the opening of the medical session of Glasgow University, last week, Prof. McCall Anderson said few could doubt that a preliminary examination of candidates for admission to the classes was called for, but if proof were required it might be found in the answers given to the following questions submitted to candidates by one of the examining boards: "What is meant by the antiquity of man?" Answer: "The wickedness of man." "The Letters of Junius?" "Letters written in the month of June." "The Crusades?" "A war against the Roman Catholics during the last century." "The first meridian?" "The first hour of the day." "To speak ironically?" "To speak about iron." "A Gordian knot?" "The arms of the Gordon family." "The Star-chamber?" "Place for viewing the stars." "To sit on the woolsack?" "To be seated on a sack of wool." "A solecism?" "A book on the sun." "The year of jubilee?" "Leap-year." They could, the professor added, have appreciated this last answer all the more heartily had it emanated from one of the female medical students. It is, however, only just on women to admit that they are, as a rule, serious in their studies, and are not in the habit of joking examiners. There is, indeed, an earnestness of purpose in their efforts to compete with man which entitles them to respect, and even imitation.—Pall Mall Gazette.


The Struggle for Existence.—Prof. Alfred Newton, in his address to the Biological Section of the British Association, described as follows the effects consequent upon the introduction by man of foreign species of animals into newly-discovered regions: "Set face to face with unlooked-for invaders, and forced into a contest with them from which there is no retreat, it is not in the least surprising that the natives should succumb. They have hitherto only had to struggle for existence with creatures of a like organization; and the issue of the conflict which has been going on for ages is that, adapted to the conditions under which they find themselves, they maintain their footing on grounds of equality among one another, and so for centuries they may have 'kept the noiseless tenor of their way.' Suddenly man interferes, and lets loose upon them an entirely new race of animals, which act and react in a thousand different fashions on their circumstances. It is not necessary that the new-comers should be predacious; they may be so far void of offense as to abstain from assaulting the aboriginal population; but they occupy the same haunts and consume the same food. The fruits, the herbage, and the other supplies that sufficed to support the ancient fauna, now have to furnish forage for the invaders as well. The new-comers are creatures whose organization has been prepared by and for combat throughout generations innumerable. Their ancestors have been elevated in the scale of being by the discipline of strife. Their descendants inherit the developed qualities that enabled those ancestors to win a hard-fought existence when the animals around them were no higher in grade than those among which the descendants are now thrown. The struggle is like one between an army of veterans and a population unused to warfare."


Economy in the Use of Steam.—A series of experiments has been made, as we learn from Iron, upon the 80-horse-power engine at Portsmouth dock-yard, for the purpose of testing the value of a process, the invention of Mr. Marchant, of London, whereby steam, after having done its work in the cylinder, is pumped back into the boiler, to be reutilized for steam-power. The advantage which the inventor claims for his invention is a considerable saving of fuel, because, inasmuch as it is economical to keep the boilers supplied with hot water from the condensers instead of cold water, it follows that to keep them supplied with steam direct from the cylinders must prove still more economical of fuel. The experiments appear to have been successful. The engine one day was worked as an ordinary condensing engine, when it was found that the consumption was 1,116 pounds of coal in six hours, producing an indicated horse-power of 84.747. The next day the engine was driven with Marchant's steam-pumps connected with the low-pressure cylinder; the consumption of coal was now 1,158 pounds, while the indicated horse-power was 104.123. The ascertained work on the steam-pumps was six indicated horse-power.


Gathering Rock-Crystals.—Searching for rock-crystals is one of the recognized industries of the Swiss Alps, and the men who follow this vocation are known as Strahlers. The following notes upon the search for these crystals we take from the Moniteur Industriel Beige: The outfit of a Strahler consists of a bar of iron four feet long and bent at one end, a shovel, a pick-axe, a hammer, a stout cord, and a leathern sack. Thus equipped, he goes out to his work in the morning. He nearly always goes alone, so as to have all he may find for himself. For hours and hours he creeps along the sides of the rock, on projections of a few inches, over yawning chasms. When he descries a vein of quartz, he strives to reach it, but oftentimes this is a matter of extreme peril, and involving much labor; he must be very careful where he steps, and not seldom he must hew out a resting-place for his foot in the rock. Having reached the vein, he follows it and strikes it with his hammer. His practised ear tells him whether he has to deal with a "cavern," a "druse," a "pocket," or a "kiln," as the various kinds of cavities are called in which are found the crystals—whether attached to the walls or loose and mixed with sand. The most famous discovery ever made of monster crystals is of very recent date. Some hundred feet above the snow-line an apothecary of Bern saw a vein of quartz 60 feet long and from 4 to 1.2 feet wide. On working the vein, four hundred-weight of crystals were taken out; the larger masses were purchased for museums, while the smaller pieces were sold to opticians.