Popular Science Monthly/Volume 18/April 1881/Notes

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A two months' course of instruction in plumbing and sanitary engineering was opened on the 16th of February, in connection with the Technical Schools of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in this city. The lectures on the chemical side of the course are delivered by Professor C. F. Chandler, those on plumbing by Mr. C. F. Wingate. The enrollment at the earlier meetings of the class was unexpectedly large, and indicated the existence of a lively and wholesome interest in the subject.

Several papers of much interest were read at the second annual meeting of the Natural History Society of Illinois, held February 8th. Professor S. A. Forbes discussed the "Illustrations and Applications of Evolution," with especial reference to the re-stocking of our waters with their native species of fish. He showed that the idea that fishes could be artificially multiplied in such numbers that it would make no difference how, or where, or in what numbers they were caught, involved a contradiction of the doctrine of natural selection. The food-supply of fishes was diminished by the drainage of swamps, the restriction of over-flows by levees, and by other operations attendant upon the settlement of a country; and it was not to be expected that the fishes in a body of water could be permanently kept up to as high a number as flourished before the natural conditions were changed.

Steps have been taken in this city to provide the necessary organizations to furnish facilities for cremation. A draft of a charter has been approved by the persons concerned in the movement, for the formation of "the United States Cremation Company (limited)," with a capital of fifty thousand dollars, whose peculiar object shall be "to cremate the human dead in the quickest, best, and most economical manner." A plan has also been adopted for the formation of the "New York Cremation Society," as an association distinct from the purely business enterprise, having for its object "to disseminate sound and enlightened views respecting incineration as preferable to burial, and to advance the public good by offering facilities for cremation."

Professor Dr. Emanuel Boricky, a Bohemian mineralogist, who died January 27th, aged forty years, was best known by his microscopical researches in petrography. He had been connected with the Bohemian Museum and the University and colleges of Prague since 1865, and since 1871 had lectured in the Bohemian language on petrography at the University of Prague. He has left a monograph on the porphyries ready for the press.

Mr. William P. Blake describes, in the March number of the "American Journal of Science," the beds of realgar and orpiment in the sedimentary formations underlying the lava in Iron County, Utah. These arsenical sulphides are found in lenticular and nodular masses, in a layer about two inches thick, in a compact, sandy clay. Above and below the layer and close to it are thin parallel seams of fibrous gypsum, while the strata above, for thirty feet or more, are arenaceous clays charged with soluble salts which exude and effloresce, forming hard crusts. The whole appearance and association of the minerals indicate that they have been formed by aqueous infiltration since the deposition of the beds. Beds of stibnite, or antimony sulphide, in the same formation, had probably a similar origin.

Charles F. Kuhlmann, a distinguished Alsatian chemist and economist, whose death has recently been announced, had been for the last forty years a prominent figure in the industrial and scientific circles of France, and was known as the founder at Lille of one of the most important chemical manufactories of the world. His name is also associated with investigations which have had valuable results on the baryta compounds, the crystallization of insoluble bodies, on the manufacture of sugar, on the chemistry of mortars and manures, bleaching, dyeing, and printing, and on many subjects of a more purely scientific character. His collected researches were published in 1879 in a single large volume.

Mercadier has described a new and economical method of producing intermittent luminous signals by burning petroleum with oxygen. He has a lamp with a round wick, within which is a tube rising not quite up to the level of the top of the wick. This tube reaches a reservoir of oxygen: when the lamp is lighted and a properly adjusted jet of oxygen is permitted to reach it, it gives out a white flame, the intensity of which approaches that of the oxyhydrogen light. When the lamp is burned without oxygen, it gives a smoky flame of little brilliancy, which will, however, rapidly increase in intensity, and soon reach a maximum when the oxygen is turned on.

M. Pasteur has reported concerning experiments on the endurance of vitality in the germs of disease. Seven sheep were led daily, for a few hours, to a piece of ground where some animals that had died of anthracoid disease, or charbon, had been buried twelve years previously. Two of the sheep caught the disease and died. As there was no grass on the spot for the animals to eat, M. Pasteur believes that they must have received the germs of the malady from smelling about the ground, as sheep are in the habit of doing.

Mr. William White, author of several works on subjects of chemistry and mining, died in London, January 29th, at the age of seventy-one. He had held at different periods lectureships on metallurgy and chemistry at various educational establishments, and had been a constant contributor to scientific literature for more than half a century.

The council of the Society of Arts has offered for its third Congress on Domestic Economy, which is to be held during the present year, prizes for papers not exceeding one thousand words each, written by teachers, and giving accounts of the best methods practiced by them, of their experience, and of the results of their teaching on the subjects of clothing and washing; the dwelling—warming, cleaning, and ventilation; rules for health, including the management of the sick-room, cottage income, expenditure, and savings; food, its composition and nutritive value, its functions, its preparation and culinary treatment. The papers are to be sent in to the secretary of the Society, London, by the first of May next.

A course of twenty-five lectures, for practical instruction in invertebrate paleontology, was opened in Philadelphia, March 8th, by Professor Angelo Heilprin, under the auspices of the Academy of Natural Sciences of that city. The plan of instruction embraces the examination of the life histories of the various geological formations, the discussion of the biological relations of past organic forms, and the practical determination of those forms for the purposes of paleontological inquiry. A course of ten lectures for practical instruction in determinative mineralogy was begun by Professor H. Carvill Lewis, March 15th.

Whales were formerly counted as important aids to the fisheries of the North Sea coasts, by driving immense numbers of small fishes toward the land. Now, according to M. Bogdanoff, of the recent Russian North Sea expedition, since the whales have been pursued with steamers and bullets instead of sailing-vessels and the old harpoon, their destruction has greatly increased, and the number of small fish coming to the coast has correspondingly diminished. The codfishing has been nearly extinguished in parts of the Varanger Fiord region in consequence of the presence of sharks, which, attracted by the fat thrown into the sea at Varanger, destroy the fish. Both of these instances illustrate the interdependence which exists among the different kinds of animals inhabiting the same region.

Professor Du Bois-Reymond, in conjunction with Professor G. Fritsch. is about to publish, under the auspices of the Royal Academy of Sciences at Berlin, the observations and experiments made by the late Dr. Karl Sachs on the electrical eel (Gymnotus eletricus), in South America, during 1876 and 1877.

M. Gréhaut has been endeavoring to determine by experiment what proportion of carbonic oxide in the atmosphere is necessary as a minimum to produce the death of animals. With a dog the proportion varied from 1300 to 1250 a hare was not asphyxiated till it had been exposed to an atmosphere containing 160 of carbonic oxide; a sparrow was killed by confinement in an atmosphere charged with only 1500 of the gas. A very wide range of difference is thus shown to exist in the susceptibility of different species to this poison.

Professor Adolphe Brongniart was engaged at the time of his death in the study of the silicified seeds of the carboniferous beds of St. Etienne and Autun, France. His investigations have been published by some of his family. Among the results was the discovery in fossil seeds of a pollen-bearing chamber hitherto unknown in any living plant, in which the pollen was held in reserve till the time of fecundation. M. Brongniart, remarking that the palæozoic plants exhibiting this disposition were related to the cycades, believed that the modern cycas might also possess it, and found his belief confirmed by an examination of plants of that genus. This is said to be the first time that paleontological studies have led to an anatomical discovery in living beings.

Dr. John Jeremiah Bigsby, F. R. S., a well-known writer on palæozoic fossils, died in London, February 10th, at the advanced age of eighty-eight years. The greater part of his life was spent in Canada and the United States. He contributed a paper on a subject of American geology to "Silliman's Journal," as far back as 1820. His best-known works are two "Thesauri," relating to the flora and fauna of the Silurian and the Devonian and Carboniferous formations, which were published in 1868 and 1878. He was the founder of the Bigsby medal, which is awarded at the annual meetings of the Geological Society of London.