Popular Science Monthly/Volume 21/May 1882/Notes
The tertiary lake-basin at Florissant, between South and Hayden Parks, Colorado, furnishes one of the richest deposits of fossil insects that have been found anywhere. According to Mr. S. H. Scudder, who examined it in connection with the Hayden Survey, it has yielded in a single summer more than double the number of specimens which the famous localities at Œningen, in Bavaria, furnished Heer in thirty years. The Œningen specimens are, however, as a rule, better preserved, but a larger number of satisfactory specimens are found at Florissant than at Œningen. Sixteen species of insects have been published, and, besides these, a planorbis-shell, eight species of fishes, several birds' feathers, and a single tolerably perfect sparrow. Also several thousand specimens of thirty-seven species of plants, have been found.
Professor Nordenskiöld has had occasion during his Arctic voyages to ask the question, which must have often occurred to many, What becomes of the "self dead" animals, or those that die a natural death? During his nine expeditions in regions where animal life is abundant, he has found only a very few remains of recent vertebrate animals which could be proved to have died a natural death. We have at present no idea of what becomes of the bodies of such animals, "and yet we have here a problem of immense importance for the answering of a large number of questions concerning the formation of fossiliferous strata. It is strange, in any case, that on Spitzbergen it is easier to find the vertebræ of a gigantic lizard of the Trias than bones of a self-dead seal, walrus, or bird, and the same also holds good of more southerly inhabited lands."
Mr. A. S. Packard, Jr., has given, in a contribution to the Boston Society of Natural History, the descriptions of twenty-two new species of ichneumon, microgaster, tricogramma, and other genera of parasites infesting North American butterflies, typical specimens of most of which may be seen in the collection of Mr. S. H. Scudder, and of a few in the Harris collection of the museum of the society.
Professor Otis T. Mason is not satisfied I with the existing classifications of the and the Topological sciences, and has adopted a J classification of his own, as follows: 1. Anthropogeny; 2. Prehistoric Anthropology; 3. Biological Anthropology; 4. Psychological Anthropology; 5. Ethnology; 6. Linguistic Anthropology; 7. Industrial Anthropology; 8. Sociology proper; 9. The Science! of Religion; to which he adds a tenth class of works on the instrumentalities of research. In his bibliographical contributions to the Smithsonian Report and the "American Naturalist," Professor Mason states that a larger number of papers have been published on prehistoric anthropology than on any other branch of the science. He enumerates one hundred and forty-six memoirs in this branch as published in 1879, and twenty-eight as published in America alone in 1880.
The deaths in the Peabody Buildings, London, during sixteen years, have been at the rate of sixteen and seven tenths per thousand per annum, while the general death-rate of the metropolis during the same period has been twenty-three and four tenths. The death-rate in the crowded districts surrounding the Peabody Buildings has been stated to be thirty or forty to the thousand.
A committee of the British Association is investigating the question of the existence of earth-tides, or of oscillations in the crust of the earth similar to those which are produced in the ocean by the attraction of the moon. A pendulum is so suspended that its slightest motion turns a mirror, and causes a perceptible movement in the spot of light reflected by it upon a distant screen. The pendulum is proved to be continually changing its position, for the reflected light is in incessant motion, and so irregularly that it is hardly possible to localize its mean position on the screen within five or six inches. Mr. W. Mattieu Williams has suggested that the constant movements of the microscopic bubbles imprisoned within the cavities of gems and minerals are due to the same cause.
The death is announced of the Rev. Dr. Thomas R. Robinson, Director of the Observatory at Armagh, Ireland. He was elected to the Royal Society in 1856, and was one of. the oldest Fellows on the list, being nearly ninety when he died. His latest contribution to science, "On the Constants of the Cup Anemometer," was published in the "Philosophical Transactions" in 1880.
M. P. Puiseux, remarking upon the apparent relations between the activity of vegetation and actinometric conditions, cites in illustration the promptitude with which plants mature during the summer of lands which the snow hardly leaves. Phanerogamous plants may be found at the height of twelve thousand feet, ranunculuses on the Schreckhorn, saxifrages on the Gravola, going through all the phases of their development in the space of three months under a mean temperature, according to ordinary estimates, considerably inferior to that of the polar regions. Doubtless these plants find a compensation for the unfavorable thermic conditions in the intensity of the solar radiation at great altitudes, which is increased by the reflections from the snow.
M. Gautier insists, in a number of communications to the French Academy of Sciences, that the venom of serpents contains a toxic substance analogous to the alkaloids and the ptomaines. The venom of the Vaja tripudians, of which a quarter of a milligramme will kill a sparrow, may be boiled, filtered, and treated with alcohol, without losing its activity. These properties indicate a relation with the alkaloids. Not only the saliva of serpents, the salivas of other animals—of the dog, the hare, even of man—are capable of exhibiting deleterious properties. An extract from human saliva furnishes an extremely poisonous liquid, capable of killing a bird almost as quickly as the venom of a serpent. Thus the saliva of man, the dog, and the serpent, all contain toxic alkaloids, and do not differ essentially except in the higher or lower degree of concentration of the poison; and it appears that animal as well as vegetable tissues are capable of elaborating alkaloids.
M. G. Delaunay has been studying the influence exercised by the greater or less intensity of the nutritive phenomena in cases of poisoning by strychnine. Equal doses of strychnine were given to two frogs, one of which had been kept active for a half-hour previously. The poison took effect more quickly and more actively upon this one than upon the one that had been quiet. In another experiment, the poison operated more slowly and more lightly upon a frog that had been bled than upon the other one, which had not been hurt. When one of the frogs was bled after taking the poison, it exhibited a tendency to return to the normal condition in measure as it lost blood.
M. Albert Gaudry has been elected to fill the chair in the French Academy which was made vacant by the death of M. Sainte-Claire Deville, receiving forty votes to eighteen cast for his competitor, M. Laury, geologist. "La Nature" remarks that with M. Gaudry a new science, paleontology, obtains representation in the institute.
Dr. K. von Fritsch, of Halle, maintains that the causes of earthquakes are much slighter than has been generally believed, that they may be sought at a depth of not more than ten or fourteen miles, and often of less, and that rather feeble forces may produce earthquakes which will be felt at great distances. The hammer in Krupp's factory, which weighs a thousand centners, and falls from a height of ten feet, produces sensible concussions over a surface five miles in diameter; and a recent explosion in a dynamite factory was felt at between twenty-five and thirty miles away. Dr. Fritsch points out how earthquakes might and must be produced by the increase and decrease in volume of rocks under the influence of physical and chemical forces, by concussions, by the opening of crevices in rocks, and by the subsidence of masses of rocks due to these agencies.
Dr. S. Gibbon, medical officer for the Holborn district, London, says in his latest report that, whatever may be the cause, there is no doubt that a Jew's life in London is, on an average, worth twice as many years as a Christian's. The Hebrews of the metropolis are notoriously exempt from tubercular and scrofulous taint. Pulmonary consumption is very rare among them. The medical officer of one of the Jewish schools has remarked that their children do not die in anything like the same ratio as Christian children. In High Street, Whitechapel, the average death-rate on the north side, which is occupied by Jews, is twenty per thousand, while on the south side, which is occupied by English and Irish Gentiles, it is forty-three per thousand.
Mr. C. R. Plowright, F. L. S., made thirteen experiments last summer in inoculating wheat-plants with the fungus of the barberry-bush, and derived results adverse to the theory that wheat-mildew is developed from the fungus. One hundred and seventy-six plants of wheat were employed, seventy-eight of which were inoculated with the barberry-fungus, and ninety-eight un-inoculated ones were kept for check plants. Seventy-six per cent of the inoculated plants developed the rust in about fifteen days, and seventy per cent of the uninoculated plants developed it also. Only one experiment of the thirteen seemed to support the theory of metamorphosis.
Mr. Muybridge has been exhibiting some remarkable rapid-process photographs in Paris, one of which is said to have been taken in one hundredth of a second. He has obtained a series of six photographs during the leap of a clown, which when projected on a screen by a zöetrope exhibit the clown as in motion, with all his changes of position.