Popular Science Monthly/Volume 41/September 1892/Notes

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The portrait of William Bartram, referred to in the Popular Miscellany department last month, is inserted as the frontispiece of this number of the Monthly. A sketch of John and William Bartram appeared in our number for April, 1892.

A curious series of experiments on the hereditary transmission of mutilations has been made by Dr. C. G. Lockwood. By the in-and-in breeding of white mice for ninety-six generations he obtained a larger and finer animal than the original pair. In order to breed their tails off, he selected a pair and putting them in a cage by themselves and clipping their tails he got a breed of tailless mice in the seventh generation. Then, by taking one with a tail and one without a tail, and alternating the sexes in each generation, he finally again got a breed of all-tail mice.

It results from the researches of Mr. C. M. Pleyte, of the Ethnological Museum at Amsterdam, that the use of the sumpitan, or blow-pipe, and of the bow, is separated by a line corresponding with that which distinguishes between the western and the eastern branches of the Malayo-Polynesian languages. The sumpitan is found nowhere to the east and the bow only sporadically to the west of the boundary. It is ingeniously argued that the blow-pipe was the primitive instrument, from the fact that it survives as a toy where it has ceased to be a weapon.

The debate on the fitness of aluminum to be used in food-vessels is continued, with the report of the experiments of M. Balland. He discredits the representation that it is too readily corroded by many food-substances, and finds that air, water, wine, beer, cider, coffee, milk, oil, butter, fat, etc., saliva, and other substances have less action upon it than on such metals as copper, lead, zinc, and tin. Vinegar and sea-salt attack it, but not violently enough to make its use hazardous.

The works of Prof. Wilhelm Weber, the physicist, are to be published by the Royal Society of Science at Göttingen.

The optically inactive form of tartaric acid, known as racemic acid, has been obtained by M. Gensesse as an eventual product of the action on glyoxalic acid—an acid found in gooseberries, grapes, and other fruits—with nascent hydrogen liberated from a mixture of zinc-dust and acetic acid.

A fund, called the De Laincel fund, has been dedicated to the promotion of the study of the graphic system of the ancient Mayas, by collecting vocabularies and obtaining reproductions of the mural inscriptions of Central America and of their manuscripts. The work will be carried on under the direction of a committee of recognized qualifications; and the explorations will be directed by Dr. Hilborne T. Cresson, of Philadelphia, an experienced ethnologist and a Maya student.

A novel view of the puma, or panther, as it is commonly called, is taken by Mr. W. H. Hudson, in his Naturalist in La Plata, who insists that it never attacks man except in self-defense. In the Pampas, where it is common, the gaucho confidently sleeps on the ground, although he knows that pumas are close by; and it is said that a child may sleep on the plain unprotected in equal security. This is not on account of fear or dislike of man, but of an apparent cat-like fondness for being near him. The gauchos call the animal "the friend of man."

Interest in stilt-walking—concerning which we published an illustrated article several months ago has been revived by a stilt-walking match which was contested on the 27th of May last, under the auspices of the journal La Gironde, of Bordeaux, France. The course, from Bordeaux to Biarritz, 257 kilometres, was passed over by the victorious contestant in 55·30 hours, or at an average speed of 4·650 kilometres per hour. This is not much if any better than could be done by an ordinary walking-match pedestrian.

Remains of a mammoth and other prehistoric animals have been found in Endsleigh Street, London, at a depth of twenty-two feet below the surface. They include two tusks nine or ten feet long, one of which is two feet in circumference at its thickest part, and a lower jaw and other bones of a younger mammoth. The seeds of about twenty species of contemporary marsh-growing plants have been found in the soil in which the remains were imbedded.

The American Metrological Society has prepared a petition asking Congress to order the metric system to be used exclusively in the customs service in the United States. The Geographical International Congress at Berne, Switzerland, last year, entreated English men of science in future to use only the units of the metric system in scientific and technical publications. The new Decimal Association in London has petitioned the proper authorities to prepare alternative questions, based on the metric system, to be used at the option of the candidate in the May examinations of the Science and Art Department.

A novel and interesting feature of the first United States Food Exhibition to be held in Madison Square Garden, New York, in October, will be a national exhibit of dairy products. It will be in charge of Prof. James Cheeseman, a recognized dairy expert and authority in all matters pertaining to dairy interests, who represented the United States in that department at the late Paris Exposition. He is also known to our older readers by his suggestive article on Selection in Grain-growing, in The Popular Science Monthly for July, 1883.

We are informed by the Rev. Stephen D. Peet of the existence of three considerable collections of cave-dwellers' relics in the West—one in Denver, one in Chicago, and one in the far West. The relics in the collection of the Rev. Mr. Green in Chicago were carried two hundred miles on horseback, from Grand Gulch in Utah, a distant and retired branch of the San Juan Valley.

Dr. Cyrus Thomas announces in Science that he has at last discovered the key to the reading of the Maya Codices, and probably of the Central American inscriptions. The progress of decipherment will be slow, but, the clew having been obtained, it will ultimately be accomplished. The author has already determined the signification of some dozens of characters, and has in several instances ascertained the general sense of a group forming a sentence.

A remarkable ice-cave or well, at Creux Percé, near the village of Pasques, department of Côte d'Or, France, is described in La Nature by M. E. L. Martel. It opens horizontally in the field, is fifty-five metres deep, with a mouth forty metres by twenty, and about two thirds of the way down narrows abruptly like a funnel to ten metres by five. The ice in the bottom is plainly visible from the top. On descending, which M. Martel did very easily with a ladder, the cave is found fringed with stalactites and stalagmites of ice from ten to fifteen metres long, and six or eight by two or three metres thick. The light at the bottom is sufficient to permit the ice to be photographed.

Carnaba wax is a substance which has been used lately for hardening paraffin and making it less fusible, for improving the quality of the inferior kinds of beeswax, and in making candles, varnishes, encaustics, etc. It is derived from the palm tree known as Copernica cerifera, of Brazil, and is therefore sometimes called Brazil wax. It is very hard, breaks up into sharp-angled pieces under the hammer, and is yellow, gray, red, or maroon in color.