Popular Science Monthly/Volume 50/April 1897/Minor Paragraphs

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Alfred Nobel, the inventor of the application of dynamite as an explosive, left a bequest for the institution of five equal prizes, to be awarded yearly to the persons who shall have made the most important discoveries or inventions in the domains respectively of physics, chemistry, and physiology or medicine; who shall have produced the most important work, in the ideal sense, in the domain of letters; and to the person who shall have exerted the greatest or the best action for the fraternity of peoples, for the suppression or diminution of permanent armies, and for the formation or spreading of peace congresses. The literary prize is to be awarded by the Swedish Academy, and the prize for the promotion of peace by a committee of the Norwegian Storthing. It is the testator's expressed wish that no consideration of nationality may enter into any of the awards. The prizes are supposed to be worth sixty thousand dollars each.

A new flying machine, similar in principle to that of Lilienthal, has been devised by Herr Arthur Stenzel, of Altona, Germany. It has parabolic wings in imitation of birds' wings, is driven by the power of compressed carbonic acid, and has been made to "go" when attached for safety to a guiding cable. With a force of one horse power it has advanced three metres at each beating of the wings, of which there are one and three tenths per second. With a horse power and a half the machine may be made to fly free from the cable. The wings are remarkably elastic, and the inventor thinks that this is one of the factors of his success. They are made of unsoldered steel tubes and bamboo, and are covered with a specially prepared India-rubber cloth. The apparatus is directed by a rudder which is not unlike a bird's tail. As yet no passengers have been carried on the machine.

A sum of ten thousand francs was bequeathed a few years ago by M. Edouard Mailly, of the Royal Academy of Belgium, as the foundation of a prize to be awarded to a Belgian who has contributed most to the progress of astronomy or to the spread of the taste for it and knowledge of it. The prize "Mailly" has been fixed at one thousand francs, to be awarded every four years. The Belgian Academy in December, 1896, made the first award of the prize, and bestowed it, most worthily, on the editorial committee of our contemporary, Ciel et Tierre.

The oldest known measurement of the height of clouds is asserted by M. Schreiber, of the Belgian Astronomical Society, to be the work of the two Jesuits Riccioli and Grimaldi, near Bologna, in 1644. They used the trigonometrical method, with two stations, which is still preferred, and which Kamtz, in his treatise on meteorology, calls Riccioli's method. They found 3,222 metres as the altitude of a bright white cloud; Riccioli relates that another Jesuit, of Metz, who measured a large number of clouds, told him that none of them was more than 7,400 metres above the earth. He speaks of another method, proposed by Simon Stevin, of measuring by means of the shadow. For thunder clouds the time between the lightning and the report was calculated. Riccioli also mentions the luminous clouds seen late at night, which have again begun to attract attention within a few years past.

The two expeditions, one French and one American, which are at work unearthing antiquities in Babylonia have, it is stated in the London Daily News, recently made some valuable "finds." The first and most notable result of the excavations is that the history of the Babylonian people as recorded in cuneiform writings on tablets is carried back at least twenty-two hundred and fifty years further than it had yet been known. In other words, there is now abundant written evidence that the Babylonian people existed and were civilized enough to be able to write at least seven thousand years b. c.

The British consul at Funchal is authority for the following regarding banana cultivation in Madeira. There are two varieties generally grown, the dwarf banana (Musa Cavendishii, of the order Scitaminœ) and the silver banana. The latter is much the more delicate in flavor and only about half the size of the dwarf variety, but is seldom exported, as the total quantity grown in the island is scarcely sufficient to supply the home consumption; but if this variety of the fruit were generally known it would be in greater demand, as it has so much better an appearance and is more delicate in flavor than the dwarf variety that those who have once eaten it seldom use the latter except for cooking purposes. The greater part of the bananas are grown on the south side of the island. The season lasts practically the whole year, but the fruit is in its greatest perfection from July to December.

The archæological map of Ohio of the Archæological and Historical Society of that State, although only about one third complete, has already upon it twenty-one hundred marks, representing between fifty-five hundred and fifty-six hundred remains. Some interesting facts, Dr. Brinton says in Science, have been brought to light in the surveys: that the mounds, earthworks, village sites, etc., generally followed the streams; that in the Scioto Valley there are very few stone monuments, but that in the Muskingum Valley, along the Ohio River, and in Brush Creek Valley, Adams County, stone monuments predominate over those of earth. Seven counties in the State have yielded nine hundred and eighteen monuments. The counties in northeastern Ohio average five or six mounds or village sites each. It is estimated that the number of recorded monuments may reach eight thousand.

A comparative review of the composition of a number of American kaolins makes it evident that the wide difference in the proportions of clay and silica in them renders it imperatively necessary that the variations be taken into account in the selection of materials for the manufacture of ware; and that the United States is not wanting in an abundance of material for making porcelain equal to the best foreign production. The kaolin used in the Royal Berlin Factory at Charlottenburg is taken as the standard of comparison. One of the purest kaolins is found in Indiana, and clays of similar quality exist at Hockessen, Delaware; Northampton County, Pennsylvania; and Middlesex County, New Jersey.

The wood of the jarrah, or Eucalyptus marginata, of southern Australia, is said to be very valuable for use where wood is to be brought into contact with soil and water. A tree fifty years old may furnish logs two feet in diameter at the base. The wood is red, takes a good polish, and is easily worked. Another eucalyptus, the karri, or Eucalyptus diversicolor, producing marketable timber in from thirty to forty years, has a red wood, hard and heavy, tough and not easily dressed, and is adapted to bridge flooring, planking, and beams. It is largely used in London for street pavements, as its surface is not easily rendered slippery.

An interesting investigation has been undertaken by the British Marine Biological Association of the exact nature of the sea bottoms at Plymouth, with the groupings of the fish and their food animals upon them. It has been recognized for some time that the localities frequented by many marine species are very definite and extremely limited in extent, and that the nature of the sea bottom and the creatures that live there exhibit as much variety as we are accustomed to find on land. Detailed charts will be made to show the variations that take place from point to point. Such investigations of the kind as have been made heretofore have had regard chiefly to the fishes, while comparatively little attention has been paid to the other features.