Popular Science Monthly/Volume 13/June 1878/Notes

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The third session of the Bowdoin College Summer School of Science will open on July 15th, in the Cleveland Lecture-Room, and will continue for six weeks. Three courses will be given, viz., Chemistry, by F. C. Robinson, Instructor in Chemistry in the college; Mineralogy, by H. Carmichael, Professor of Chemistry; and Zoology, by L. A. Lee, Instructor in Natural History. This school is designed to give to teachers, gradates of colleges, and others, of both sexes, a practical acquaintance with science.

Dr. George M. Beard is collecting materials for a work on "writers' cramp," and other diseases of an analogous nature, as the cramp of artists, pianists, violinists, telegraphers, etc. He invites those who possess any information regarding these subjects to communicate the same to him. He will supply blanks on application. His address is "41 West Twenty-ninth Street, New York."

Captain Lunginers, of the Danish vessel Lutterfeld, reports that while off the coast of Terra del Fuego, latitude 65° 15' 10" south, longitude 15° 12' 10" west, at 3.30 a. m. of December 10, 1876, the man on the lookout espied at no great distance a considerable mass of land rising above the surface of the water in the shape of a hill about thirty metres high. As the charts had no mention of an island in that place, the captain resolved to lay-to till morning so as to investigate the discovery more fully. The next day at 5.30 a. m. the island appeared to be much smaller, but he went to visit it with a boat's crew. The island was found to be spherical in shape, its sides pretty steep. One of the sailors sprang ashore, but he had to return to the boat quickly, for the ground was intolerably hot. The island continued to sink, and at 8 a. m. it was no more to be seen; and one hour later the vessel passed over the place where it had stood.

From a series of observations made by Dr. Jarvis Wight, of Brooklyn, it appears that in at least seventy-five cases out of every hundred the lower limbs of human subjects are of unequal length; nor does this difference exist in the total length of the leg alone, but also in the length of the several long bones which constitute its skeleton. The inequality varies from one-eighth of an inch to one inch, the average being one-fourth.

Prof. Cope, it is stated in the American Naturalist, has received from Oregon a collection of fossils from a Pliocene lake-bed, including, with others, Elephas primigenius, Equus occidentalis, and many other extinct species. But a circumstance of uncommon importance is that, in the same deposit in which these fossils were found, occur numerous flakes of obsidian, with arrow and spear heads of the same. All were lying mingled together on the surface of a bed of clay, which was covered by a deposit of volcanic sand and ashes, of from fifteen to twenty feet in depth.

According to Prof. F. J. Burrill, of the Illinois Industrial University, the catalpa possesses great advantages as a timber-tree, being the cheapest and easiest grown of all our forest-trees, native or introduced, and also the most rapid in its growth. On the same ground it has outgrown the white or American elm, white-ash, European larch, Osage-orange, black-walnut, etc. It is not attacked by insects, and is free from disease. A board sawed from a catalpa-log, which had lain on the ground for one hundred years, was found to be perfectly sound and strong, and susceptible of a fair polish.

Julius Robert Mayer, who shared with Joule the honor of working out to a demonstration the mechanical theory of heat, died on March 20th. He was born in 1814; studied medicine at Tübingen and in Paris; in 1840 he visited the Dutch East Indies, and while there was led to study the relation between heat and work. His first publication on this subject appeared in 1842. In 1871 he was awarded the Copley medal by the London Royal Society.

The Colorado potato-beetle is reported to have made its appearance in New Zealand, where it now exists in formidable numbers in some localities. It appears to have been introduced with some American potatoes.

At Borsigwerk, in Silesia, the experiment has been successfully made of growing mushrooms in a coal-pit, at a depth of 126 metres below the surface of the earth. The fungi grow rapidly and plentifully in an average temperature of 8° Réaumur. The mushrooms so grown are said to be of finer flavor than those developed in the open air, and command higher prices.

The line of an interoceanic canal across the Isthmus of Darien, proposed by Ferdinand de Lesseps, starts from the Pacific coast, and ascends in the first place the Tuyra River as far as the island of Piriaque; thence a straight cutting, 16,200 metres long connects the Tuyra with the Chucanaque; the line then ascends the Chucanaque for 11,400 metres; then, turning to the northeast, it continues up the valley of the Tiati, to a point where a tunnel appears to be more economical than a very deep cutting. The tunnel passes to the south of the Peak of Gandi. On emerging, the canal continues through an open cutting for about ten kilometres to the deep waters of Port Gandi. The probable length of the tunnel is between thirteen and fourteen kilometres, and the cost of making the whole canal is estimated at 600,000,000 francs. This ship canal, if ever completed, will doubtless be the most stupendous engineering work in the world.

It will be a surprise to most readers to learn that Theodor Schwann, founder of the "cell-theory" in biology, is still not only living, but actually "in the traces." He is Professor of Physiology in the University of Liége, Belgium, and will soon complete the fortieth year of his professorial life. It is proposed to celebrate this noteworthy anniversary of the venerable professor by the presentation to him of an address, signed by prominent anatomists and biologists of all countries.

A company has been established in Paris for operating the system of pneumatic clocks successfully adopted in Vienna, an account of which was recently published in these pages.

Prof. Luvini, of Turin, has experimented upon the action of different gases, such as pure atmospheric air, oxygen, hydrogen, carbonic acid, chlorine, and sulphurous acid, on the eggs, or "grains" as they are called, of silkworms. Lots of eggs numbering one hundred each were kept in each of these gases for over two months, and then hatched. It was found that the silkworms produced from eggs that had been kept in carbonic acid showed more vivacity and vitality than any of the others. Those from eggs kept in hydrogen were the most backward in development. Those in oxygen became large and fat, but slow and lazy in their movements; after the fourth month especially, they would remain in one position for hours at a time. The eggs kept in pure air produced good sized silkworms, which, however, did not reach a large growth.

To ventilate a room without draft, make a hole through the wall to the outer air, in a corner of the room just above the skirting. Through the hole put one arm of a tube three inches in diameter, and bent at right angles. The arm of the tube reaching to the outer air should be in length equal to the thickness of the wall, and the other arm should be two feet long, standing vertically in the corner of the room; if desired, it can be covered with paper of the same pattern as that on the wall. A tube of the diameter given above is sufficient to ventilate a room of moderate size.

Near Nienburg, Hanover, waste pyrites from the manufacture of sulphuric acid having been employed for making roads and paths, it was soon found that grass and corn ceased to grow. Also, a farmer, on mixing well-water with warm milk, observed that the latter curdled. The explanation is, that the waste pyrites contained not only sulphide of iron and earthy constituents but also sulphide of zinc, and that by the influence of the oxygen of the atmosphere, and the presence of water, these sulphides were gradually converted into the corresponding sulphates, and the latter, continually extracted by the rain-water, soaked into the soil and contaminated the wells.

With a view to obtain, if possible, reliable data for the localization and diagnosis of cerebral disease, Dr. Lombard made a number of experiments designed to show, first, the normal relative temperature of different parts of the surface of the head; and, second, to show the effect of different mental states upon the different portions of the head previously examined. Mental activity, he finds, raises the temperature; the same effect is produced by simply awakening attention. The temperature is very rarely the same in all portions of the head when the brain is in the quiescent state.