Popular Science Monthly/Volume 6/November 1874/Miscellany

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search


Artificial Butter.—The American Chemist for April contains a very full account of the manufacture of artificial butter, of which the following is a synopsis: Some years ago M. Mege Mouriez was commissioned by the French Government to make some researches with a view to obtain a product suitable to take the place of ordinary butter, to be sold at a much lower price, and capable of being kept without becoming rancid. M. Mege Mouriez placed several milch-cows on a strict diet. The animals were quickly reduced in weight, and gave a proportionately less amount of milk; but this milk always contained butter. Where could it come from? M. Mege Mouriez believed it was produced from the fat of the animal, which, being carried into the circulation, was deprived of its stearine by respiratory combustion, and furnished its oleo-margarine to the udder, and there, under the influence of the mammary pepsin, it was changed into butyric oleo-margarine, or butter. Guided by this observation, M. Mege Mouriez was not long in obtaining, by an ingenious process, from beef-suet a fat fusible at nearly the same temperature as butter, and of agreeable taste. He then transformed this same fat into butter by a process similar to that of Nature. His process is as follows: The fat of newly-slaughtered beef, of the best quality, is ground up between two cylinders, and then falls into a deep vat heated by steam, and containing for every 1,000 kilogrammes of fat, 300 kilogrammes of water, and one kilogramme of potassic carbonate, besides two sheep's or pigs' stomachs in small pieces. The temperature is then raised to 45 Cent, and the mass carefully stirred. At the end of two hours the fat all rises to the surface. It is then let off into another vat, heated on a water-bath to 30 or 40 Cent., and two per cent, of sea-salt added, to facilitate the depuration. In the course of two hours it becomes clear, and presents a fine yellow color, and the odor of freshly-churned butter. Having been carefully cooled, it is cut into cakes, packed in linen, and placed under an hydraulic press, and is then separated into two nearly equal parts, viz., stearine and liquid oleo-margarine. The stearine is used for making candles. After cooling, the oleo-margarine is passed through cylinders under a shower of water to wash it and give it consistence: it constitutes an excellent cooking-grease.

It is with oleo-margarine that M. Mege Mouriez, by operating in the following manner, makes his cheap butter: To 50 kilogrammes of melted oleo-magarine in a churn he adds about 25 litres (26 quarts) of cow's milk and 25 kilogrammes of water containing the soluble parts of 100 grains of the mammary gland of the cow. The churn is then set in motion, and in fifteen minutes the grease and water become transformed into a thick cream, which in turn is changed into butter. The churning being ended, water is poured in and the butter separates, containing buttermilk, which must be removed. The product is then placed in a sort of kneading-machine composed of two cylindrical crushers, and placed under a stream of water. There it is worked in a way to change it "into well-washed butter of fine and homogeneous appearance."

The Todas.—A traveler in Southern India, Colonel Wm. Marshall, in a work recently published, makes the world acquainted with a very singular tribe of men, the Todas, who inhabit the plateau of the Nilghiri Hills. The Todas live in very small village communities of from twenty to thirty persons. Attached to every village is a cattle-pen, and a separate building, which constitutes the dairy and the dairyman's abode. Their life is purely pastoral, and their sole dependence the buffalo. Though the land is fertile and the climate delightful, they do not practise agriculture at all; and though their hills abound in game, they neither hunt nor trap any living thing. Their only domestic animals are the buffalo and the cat. They eat no flesh, living wholly on milk and butter, with rice and other vegetable food obtained in exchange from the surrounding population. Though on all sides they are hemmed in by strong and often quarrelsome tribes, they possess no weapon of offense; they never fight among themselves or with their neighbors. They have no manufactures. Two men in every village are set apart for the dairy-work, leaving all the rest to lead an almost absolutely idle life. The Todas are quiet and dignified in their manners, amiable in disposition, and very good-looking. Their absolute dependence on the buffalo has led them to form a religion in which this animal is the central figure. The dairy is sacred, and no one except the dairyman and his assistant is permitted to enter it. During the term of office these two men have to pass absolutely retired and celibate lives, they and their implements being touched by no human being. They keep in the dairy certain relics—old cow-bells, knives, and axes—which are in the highest degree holy, and these the dairyman-priest salutes every morning with certain ceremonies. The people in general also salute the setting sun, and have some vague notions of a future state.

The Todas number at present only about seven hundred souls. Formerly they practised infanticide, but for some years this has ceased, and the tribe is now increasing in number. The primitive custom was to kill all female children of a family except one or two. The result was of course an excess of males, and hence sprung the custom of one woman having many husbands. This practice still continues. The census tables seem to show that considerably more male than female children are born. It is worthy of note that, although from time immemorial consanguineous marriage has been the rule among the Todas, still not more than one per cent, are malformed.

Tea-Adulterations.—One of the usual ways of adulterating tea is by the admixture of leaves other than those of the tea-plant. For the detection of these foreign leaves, but little aid can be given by chemistry, and it is best to study their botanical and microscopical characters. Prof. Alfred H. Allen gives, in the Chemical News, the following method for detecting adulterations of this kind: "Some of the sample to be examined," says he, "is to be put in hot water, and when the leaves have unfolded, they are spread out on a glass plate and held up to the light, when the venation, serration, etc., are readily observed. The primary venation of the tea-leaf forms a series of well-defined loops, which are not met with in most leaves used as adulterants. The serrations are not mere saw-teeth on the margin of the leaf, but actual hooks. The serration stops short, somewhat abruptly, at some distance above the base. The Assam tea-leaf is sometimes bi-serrate. At the apex of the tea-leaf there is a distinct notch, instead of a point. If we examine the under surface with the microscope after the separation of the cuticle, the peculiar and characteristic space between the two cells of the stomata is readily perceived. The long unicellular hairs of the tea-leaf are also peculiar. The employment of caustic potash is desirable in observing these characters.

"In the sloe-leaf the serratures are direct incisions, numerous, often irregular, and extending down to the base. There are no spines. The hairs are shorter and coarser than those of the tea-leaf, and are marked in a peculiar manner. The elder-leaf is more pointed than that of the tea-plant, and the lobes are unequal at the base. The serratures are direct incisions. The midriff has hairs on it, and on the leaf itself there are several kinds of hairs, notably a short, spinous, striated hair, which occurs on the upper surface. The serratures of the willowleaf much resemble those of tea, but the cell-walls of both the upper and under epidermis differ from those of the tea leaf in not being sinuous, and there are long, coarse, striated hairs. When perfect, the elongated form of the willow-leaf sufficiently distinguishes it from tea, and the venation is also entirely different. The chief foreign leaves added by the Chinese are those of Chloranthus inconspicuus and of Camellia sasanqua, the latter of which presents a close resemblance to the tea plant."

Usefulness of the Robin.—Pitying the ignorance of farmers, and country-people generally, touching the habits and usefulness of the robin, and pitying equally the poor bird itself for the abuse which this ignorance brings upon it, Caroline Bryce, in the April Naturalist, has rendered a service to both by pointing out in a very interesting way the value of the bird to the country, and the mistake that is made in attempting to drive it from our fields and groves. "The robin has two broods in a season, each brood varying in number from two to five. The young are fed exclusively on insects, and their rapid growth and consequent voracity, only equaled by the larvae stage of insect-life, makes an abundant supply of insect-food an indispensable requirement. The food of the mother-bird is also chiefly insects, and this double demand makes the robin a valuable assistant to the farmer and horticulturist in keeping under insect pests. Regarding its supposed habit of cherry-eating, the author is of opinion that it is attracted chiefly by the color of the fruit, and not by any special liking for it as food; that it picks the cherries for the same reason that it picks to pieces a red flower. Instead of being an enemy to the cherry-crop, it is in reality a most important aid in securing an abundant supply of healthy fruit. If I should venture to say that not a cherry would grow, fit to be eaten, were it net for the birds, the bare idea would be hooted as preposterous, yet such, nevertheless, is my belief. Were it possible to remove all the birds out of the way, for one season at least, what a decided difference would our future orchards present! Where now are thrifty growths, beautiful leafage, and large crops of fair fruit, would be seen stinted, moss-grown limbs, with sparse or meagre foliage, crops of dwarfed specimens, that have finished their growing, in a knotty, wormy, inferior state. The majority of all the large families of insects are bred in the earth, and go through various forms in different stages of existence, and are devoured by birds of every description, chief among which stands our friend the robin."

How Leaves are blanched by Bright Sunlight.—The leaves of certain plants grow pale in the full glare of the sun, and it becomes a question whether this change is due to a diminution of the amount of chlorophyll. Mr. H. C. Sorby has repeatedly analyzed the leaves of such plants, but the result showed that sunlight or shade makes no difference in the quantity of the chlorophyll. He therefore came to the conclusion that the change in color is due to some mechanical alteration in the structure of the leaves. This conclusion is confirmed by the independent researches of a French observer, Prillieux. According to the latter, exposure to bright light causes both granular and amorphous chlorophyll to collect together at the sides of the cells, instead of being more evenly distributed. The result is, that a much larger relative quantity of white light is reflected, and the leaves appear of a paler and whiter green.

Fossil Horses.—In the American Naturalist for May, Prof. O. C. Marsh has an article on "Fossil Horses in America," in which he says that the remains of equine mammals hitherto found in the Tertiary and Quaternary deposits of this country represent more than double the number of genera and species occurring in the strata of the Eastern Hemisphere. It is in ancient lake-basins of Wyoming and Utah that the oldest equine remains have been found. These belong to the genus Orohippus, and are of diminutive size, hardly larger than a fox. The skeleton of these animals resembled that of the horse in many respects, but, instead of a single toe on each foot, the various species of Orohippus had four toes before and three behind, all of them reaching the ground. Of Orohippus Prof. Marsh has found four distinct species. The genus Miohippus makes its first appearance in the Oregon basin. It is distinguished from the Orohippus chiefly in that it has only three toes in the fore-foot, as well as behind. In this genus all the toes reached the ground. In the same deposits the genus Anchitherium occurs, being represented by a single species. The animals of these two genera are all larger than Orohippus, some of them exceeding a sheep in size. Of the Pliocene genera more than twenty species have been described, all apparently larger than their Miocene relatives just mentioned, but all smaller than the present horse. In the Upper Pliocene, or more probably in the transition beds above, there first appears a true Equus, and in the Quaternary, remains of this genus are not uncommon. Thus there is a continuous development in the direction of the modern horse, and it seems very strange that none of the species should have survived.

Tidal Influence on Vegetable and Animal Life.—The following dispatch was sent by A. N. Duffre, United States consul at Cadiz, Spain, and communicated to the Department of Agriculture by the Secretary of State:

A Madrid paper, entitled La Epoca, has published an article signed by Don Luis Alvarez Alvistur, on the influence of the tides on vegetation, in which the writer announces a new theory, based on the results obtained during fourteen years devoted to experimental research, by an enlightened landed proprietor of Lorca, in the province of Murcia.

The theory adopted was the direct influence of the tide on the circulation of the sap, and its experimental application, after determining the meridian of the estate, and tabulating the corresponding hours of ebb and flow, has been the felling and lopping of forest-trees solely during the hours pertaining to the ebbing tide. The results are stated to have been conclusive, the decay annually observable formerly in some portion of the timber having ceased completely in the many years that have elapsed during the application of the new principle. The system was then applied to an olive-grove, the yield of which had ceased to cover the annual costs of culture, by removing every dried portion of the trees exclusively during ebb-tide. The result is stated to have been the complete transformation of the grove, a great development of foliage, and abundant crops.

Equally admirable results ensued from the similar treatment of orange, lime, and other fruit-trees, which were thenceforth unaffected by larvæ or other plagues which smote adjoining orchards; and, finally, the vineyard of the Lorca landlord, though surrounded by those of other proprietors which were devastated by the oidium, a microscopic fungus which appeared in the district at the period when the new system was first essayed, has never exhibited the faintest trace of the presence of the malady.

It is likewise asserted that experiments, made with equal sets of silk-worms, respectively fed on leaves of trees treated by the ordinary and by the new system, the leaves under the new plan being gathered exclusively at the hours corresponding to the ebb-tide, resulted most decidedly in favor of the latter.

How the Fuegians keep warm.—In "A Memoir of Richard Williams," an English missionary to Patagonia, occurs the following passage:

"When clothing is scanty, by the same providential management which coats the whale in frozen seas with oil, the Fuegian is fortified against his inclement sky by an abundant development of the adipose tissue; and, though his sea-otter or guanaco cloak is somewhat scanty, in admiring his handiwork, we must not forget that inside his skin he wears a thick underclothing of non-conducting fat. Hence these islanders sometimes exhibit feats, the recital of which is enough to make us shiver. In the coldest midwinter they may be seen diving for sea-eggs; and it was on a dark night, when the thermometer was at 25°, that some of them swam from the shore, and from its mooring alongside cut away the ship's boat of the Adelaide."

Drought and the Potato-Disease.—A writer in the Gardeners' Chronicle observes that every outbreak of the potato-disease, since 1845, has been preceded by a long term of dry, warm weather, followed by heavy rain late in July, or during August. Hence he concludes that this disease must be caused by the carbonic, sulphuric, nitric, and other acid matters, which are constantly accumulating in the atmosphere during dry weather, until they unite with showers of rain, by means of which they are deposited upon plants and soil. As the leaves of plants are their lungs, and the potato is a tender plant, the poisonous atmospheric acids of summer droughts, thrown down by heavy rains, quickly act upon the holms. The surest remedy appears to be, to dig the potatoes, and store them before the summer rain commences, provided they are nearly ripe—that is, when the stalks begin to wither, or when the skin of the tuber cannot be rubbed off with the thumb.