Popular Science Monthly/Volume 37/October 1890/Notes

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Prof. Huxley was the recipient of the Linnæan medal at the anniversary meeting of the Linnæan Society on Saturday, May 24th. This medal was instituted three years since, with a view of conferring honor on distinguished biologists. In replying to the president, Prof. Huxley said the aim of his life had been in the words of the motto of the society: "Naturæ discere mores"(to learn the ways of nature). He had endeavored to show the fundamental unity of plant life and of animal life; to make use of hypotheses as ladders or scaffoldings to be discarded, perhaps somewhat ungratefully, when no longer of use; and to pursue truth regardless of incidental consequences.

In order to investigate their botanical and medical knowledge, and the theories on which their practice is based, Mr. James Mooney spent several weeks in intimate association with the Cherokee doctors. He concluded that the aggregate botanical knowledge of the whole profession is represented by about eight hundred species; but no one doctor knew the names of three hundred species. Many of the most common plants and brightest flowers have no Cherokee names, for the Indians do not use them for food or medicine. Yet their country—the mountain region of western North Carolina—can probably furnish two thousand species of plants. The Indian has no appreciation of the beauty or fragrance of a flower.

An extract from a lecture by J. Lewis Smith, M. D., of Bellevue Medical College, on Growing Pains, contains some very valuable cautions. He says the pains in the limbs experienced by many children, and attributed to rapid growth, are very commonly slight attacks of inflammatory rheumatism, a dangerous and painful disease when occurring in an adult.

The practice of cremation in place of ordinary burial is making steady progress in Paris, in spite of the opposition to it which exists in certain quarters. At the new crematorium of the cemetery "Père-la-chaise" a furnace is in operation which will reduce a body to ashes in less than an hour, at a cost of about thirty cents for fuel. Since the establishment of this system in the French capital twelve hundred unclaimed bodies of persons who have died in hospitals have been thus disposed of, besides the bodies of three hundred of the well-to-do classes, whose wishes have been thus complied with.

A description is published by T. H. Lewis of the sculptured figures on a rock of the Potsdam sandstone on the bank of the Trempeleau River, near Trempeleau, Wisconsin. The figures consist chiefly of representations of the hand and foot many times repeated, crescent-shaped figures called canoes, and what appears to be a fort. They are cut very smoothly into the rock to the depth of from a quarter of an inch to an inch, and are in perfect preservation.

A mixture of sixty parts of chloride of sodium and forty parts of cryolite or double fluoride of aluminum and sodium having been melted at a temperature of from 850° to 1,100° C, was submitted to electrolysis by M. Minet. Metallic aluminum flowed out of the cathode, which was in charcoal, into a crucible, whence it was extracted at the close of the operation. The author produced in this way, in twenty-four hours, 5,250 grains of metallic aluminum.

Prof. Arthur Dodel, of the University of Zurich, says that he has observed, of his students in botanic microscopy, that the average of those from America drew better than those from Europe of the same age who competed with them. To this he would add the circumstance that in America, during the last two years, the technique of reproduction has made more progress than in any other part of the world. For the cause of this excellence, Prof. Dodel refers to the method of the instruction in drawing in the primary and intermediate schools. "It will not be surprising," he adds, "if this vigilant nation finally surpasses us, and also puts us in the shade in the field of artistic painting and sculpture. This I call an enjoyable danger, and greet it in advance in the interest of the general welfare of humanity."

The commission appointed to consider the question of coal-waste in the State of Pennsylvania has sent out a circular of inquiries on topics relating to the investigation it has undertaken. The questions come under three categories, of Geological and Statistical Waste, Waste of Producing and Marketing, and Utilization of Coal Waste. Under the first head are questions relating to the amount, annual production, and natural wastes of the coal-beds. The second heading includes the waste incurred in preparing the coal for market, the amount of culm, etc. The third head embraces the Briquette system of preparing the waste for use; the appliances by which it is utilized without mechanical preparation; and the gasifying processes and use in the destruction of garbage or cremating work, and in agricultural experimentation.

Mr. David P. Todd, of the Smithsonian Institution, has made a report of progress in an investigation in which he is engaged of the variations of the elements of terrestrial magnetism. Since the demonstration that the direct influence of the sun and the moon upon the earth, each being considered as magnets, is inappreciable, all attempts to construct a theory of terrestrial magnetism have been confined to causes within the earth's atmosphere. These efforts—the aim of which has been to constitute currents by friction in the earth's crust, or in the atmosphere by changes of density and humidity—have failed to account for the periodic nature of the phenomena. Consequently, the vast masses of magnetic observations already accumulated are unconnected by any proposed combination of natural laws. It appears, however, that one cause of vital importance has been omitted from the elements of the problem, namely, the motion of the earth, as referred to the ether in its neighborhood; and the author proposes to base an explanation of terrestrial magnetism upon the dynamic effects produced by the inductive action of the earth in its motions of rotation and translation through fields of force—or, by regarding the earth as a cosmical dynamo.

Some new and remarkable results are described by M. Friedel as following the action of alkalies and alkaline silicates on mica under the double influence of water and a high temperature. With potash and the brown mica called muscovite, numerous crystals of nephiline were prepared—a mineral which had never before appeared from manipulation with water. Better success was had when soda was substituted for potash; and in every case a product of simple and fixed composition was obtained. Adding a suitable proportion of chloride of sodium, sodalite was formed, and proved to be of definite composition, and not, as some mineralogists believed, a mixture of nephiline and an alkaline chloride. With mica and silicate of potash crystalline orthose feldspar was obtained, and, with a smaller proportion of silicate, amphigene. The intervention of chloride of calcium determined the crystallization of anorthite.

In view of the greatly augmented demand for camphor for the new uses that have been found for it in the arts, with consequent enhancement of price, it is proposed to use naphthalin as a substitute for it in anti-moth applications. It is quite as effective as camphor, and being also equally volatile, leaves no more permanent smell.

Mr. E. T. Chaplin tells, in the London Spectator, how, by hypnotizing her, he induced a laying hen, which had manifested no disposition in that direction, to sit on a sitting of eggs till seven of their number were hatched into "healthy, happy little chickens."

Bisulphide of carbon is recommended by Mr. A. J. Cook, of the Michigan State Agricultural Experiment Station, as one of the very best insecticides. It has been used with success to destroy the phylloxera on the grape-vines of France; is applied to the destruction of prairie-dogs in the West; and has been used by Mr. Cook with success to destroy ants. A single dose in the habitation of the animal, or in an apartment, is usually sufficient. It is exceedingly volatile, and its vapor reaches everywhere. But it must be used with great care, for the vapor is very inflammable and poisonous; so that a room in which it is used must be well aired before one enters or carries a light into it.

A considerable portion of the Second Annual Report of the Maryland Agricultural Experiment Station is devoted to the tomato. The record of the experiments with this fruit is preceded by a valuable paper on the history of the tomato, by Dr. E. Lewis Sturtevant.

A quick and easy method for determining whether or not a fabric is "all wool" is given in the Lancet. This is to separate the warp from the woof, and to hold each to a flame. Wool burns into a shapeless mass, and no threads can be traced in its ash. If removed from the fire before it is all burned, it ceases to blaze; cotton, on the contrary, continues to burn steadily, and its ash retains the shape of the thread.

A redwood-tree ninety feet in circumference and thirty-three feet in diameter, is being cut for the Chicago exhibition. The section to be sent to Chicago will be nine feet in height and sixty feet in circumference, and will weigh sixty-five thousand pounds. The tree is taken from the forests of Tulare County, California.