Popular Science Monthly/Volume 7/June 1875/Miscellany
Disastrous Balloon Ascent.—On the 18th of April the balloon Zenith made an ascension from Paris, carrying three aëronauts, Messrs. Gaston Tissandier, Sivel, and Crocé-Spinelli. All three were aëronauts of long experience, and qualified in every way for making accurate scientific observations on the meteorological phenomena of the upper strata of the atmosphere. They carried with them a full set of such philosophical instruments as would be of service in ascertaining elevations, constitution of the atmosphere, temperatures, and the like. They carried also a supply of pure oxygen, for use when the air should be found too rare to support respiration. Having risen to the height of 7,000 metres (22,960 feet), Tissandier observed that his companions looked pale; he himself felt weak, but refreshed himself by inhaling a little of the oxygen. Sivel soon after threw out ballast, and the balloon commenced to ascend rapidly. All at once Tissandier was so feeble that he could not even turn his head; he tried to seize the oxygen tube, but was unable; his mind still lucid. Looking at the barometer he saw that it indicated an elevation of 8,000 metres (26,240 feet), but he had not the strength to call the attention of the others to the fact. He soon after fell into a sort of swoon, but twenty minutes later revived for a moment, finding the balloon descending rapidly. Sivel and Crocé were now lying at the bottom of the car insensible. Again he sank fainting, and a few minutes later found himself shaken by the arms, and, looking up, recognized Crocé, who told him to throw out ballast, for the balloon was descending at a very rapid rate.
Croce now unfastened the aspirator and threw it out, as also some ballast, extra wraps, and the like. This caused the balloon again to ascend, and Tissandier relapsed once more into insensibility. On recovering consciousness, he found the car rushing downward with frightful velocity. He tried to arouse Sivel and Crocé, but they were immovable; Slvel's face was black, his eyes dull, mouth wide open and full of blood. Crocé's eyes were closed, and his mouth blood-stained also. Having come down to the earth, Tissandier dropped the grapnel, but it failed to hold firmly, and the car was dragged across the fields by a violent wind. He succeeded, however, in grasping the cord of the valve, and the balloon was soon emptied. Crocé-Spinelli and Sivel were dead. Tissandier was in a high fever, but he was kindly cared for by the inhabitants of the village of Ceron, in the vicinity of which he landed, after having been in the air over three hours.
The disaster attending this memorable ascent has delayed the publication of the scientific results of the voyage. These, however, are understood to be of high importance, and we will present them to our readers at an early day. The greatest altitude observed by M. Tissandier was not very remarkable, when compared with Glaisher and Coxwell's highest in 1862. These aëronauts reached the enormous altitude of 37,000 feet, which is more than 10,000 feet in excess of Tissandier's 8,000 metres. But, while Tissandier lay insensible, the Zenith may have attained still greater elevations; this question will be decided by the records of the self-registering barometers, which were sent to the French Academy under seal.
Cave Explorations.—A number of caves containing the remains of animals were recently discovered in Worcestershire, England, on the banks of the river Wye. At a meeting of the county Scientific Society the president described a visit made by him to these caves, in company with Dr. Carpenter. Three of the caves only were visited. In one were found three human skulls, with coins and ornaments belonging to the Roman period. The soil in which these objects were buried having been removed, the explorers found a layer of solid stone, so thick and hard that it had to be blasted with gunpowder. Under this layer were found bones belonging to a single animal Ursus spelæus. Another layer of stone was then Likewise removed by blasting, and the explorers found fossil bones of sundry extinct species, viz., the remains of a mammoth, in a state of wonderful preservation; all the bones of a rhinoceros; the débris of cave-lions, cave-bears, and also of several hyenas. The Worcestershire Scientific Society intends to acquire possession of one of the caves.
Origin and Distribution of Ammonia in the Air.—In a communication to the French Academy of Sciences, Schlösing states as follows the results of his researches on the origin of the ammonia diffused on the surface of the soil, its circulation, its variations in the atmosphere, and its distribution between the sea, the continents, and the air. It is a well-known fact that, in the course of the transformations of organic matter, a certain amount of nitrogen is set free; also that this gaseous nitrogen is not assimilable by organisms. Hence the necessity of some agency which shall take this free nitrogen and cause it to reenter into combination. The author, after criticising the various opinions put forth on this subject, assents to the theory of Boussingault, who holds that, under the influence of atmospheric electricity, nitric acid is produced in the air. Further, he says that the surface of the continents is essentially an oxidizing medium; that nitrification is there abundantly developed; and that a portion of the nitrates thus formed enters again into the cycle of life, while the rest is carried into the sea. Experience also shows that if the decomposition of organisms produces nitre on the continents, it produces ammonia in a medium so little oxidized as is the sea. Hence the author recognizes on the surface of the globe a regular circulation of nitric acid and of ammonia, taking place in this way, viz., nitrous production in the air, nitrous gains from the air to the continents, transfer of nitrates to the sea, formation of ammonia in the saline medium; finally, disengagement and passage of the alkali into the air, to be given back again to the continents.
Mortuary Statistics of Virginian Cities.—The following mortuary statistics, taken from the official reports of three Virginian cities, would seem to show that the African race is declining in the Southern States: The total white population of Richmond is given as 33,452, and the deaths for January 25 males and 16 females. The colored population of the same city is given at 27,213, and the deaths as 40 males and 36 females. Norfolk had, for the same month, in a white population of 12,000, 3 male deaths and 5 female, while its colored population of 8,000 gave 6 male and 7 female deaths. The white population of Lynchburg is 6,500, and the colored population the same. Among the whites there were 4 males died and 1 female, while among the colored people 8 males died and 10 females. In Richmond, the number of still-born infants in the white population was 5, in the colored 11; in Lynchburg the number was 3 and 7 respectively. In Norfolk the number was even.
Temperature of the Body in Disease.—The normal surface temperature of the human body, in temperate climates, is about 98.°5, any persistent variation from this, whether by depression or by elevation, indicating disease. In the tropics, the normal temperature is one degree higher. Hitherto it has been supposed that, when in fevers the temperature rises over 108°, recovery is impossible, unless a reduction is effected by the cold bath. The Lancet gives an instance of recovery where the thermometer indicated a temperature of over 122° in the armpit of a patient suffering from injury to the spine. The history of this extraordinary case is as follows: On September 5, 1874, a young lady met with an accident in the hunting-field, whereby two ribs were fractured; at the same time she complained of-pain in the back. A surgeon, Mr. J. W. Teale, was soon in attendance. A few days after the accident the temperature was 101°, but, in the space of a fortnight, it became normal. The fractured ribs united, but pain and tenderness still existed over the sixth dorsal spine. On October 3d the temperature rose to 100°, and then to 101°; and it still continued to rise in spite of the application of ice-bags to the spine, till, on November 6th, it was 106°. After many fluctuations, the temperature, on the 13th of November, reached the astonishing height of 122°, the index of the thermometer becoming buried in the bulb at the top of the instrument, which registered only up to 122. During that day there was a fall of 8°, but, in the evening, 122° was again reached.
As a general rule, an increase of 1° above the normal temperature is attended with an increase of ten beats of the pulse per minute. In the present case, the pulse appears to have been the same (120) at 122° as at 108°. The normal temperature was not reached till January 10th, and, during the space of seven weeks, it never fell below 108°. We must add here that every precaution was taken against error in the indications of the thermometer. No fewer than seven different instruments, made by Harvey & Reynolds, were used, of which four had received certificates of correctness at Kew. Further, they were inspected by two or three trustworthy witnesses before and after each application, and the results were always immediately recorded in writing. Sometimes, when the thermometrical readings were highest, the hands, feet, and forehead, were icy cold, and the patient felt as if "her blood was on fire."
"Cotton Gunpowder."—This is the name given to a preparation of gun-cotton which, by the use of certain chemicals, is rendered perfectly safe for storage or carriage, though possessing enormous explosive power. The following account of some experiments made with cotton gunpowder we take from the Journal of the Society of Arts: "Cartridges were held in the hand, lit with fuses, and burned with a steady blaze, while, when ignited by detonators, they exploded with a loud report. Ten pounds of the substance was placed on an anvil, and an iron pile-driver weighing one-half ton was allowed to fall 15 feet upon it, without causing an explosion. Two barrels, each containing 40 pounds, were placed in a pile of fagots. Upon these being fired, the powder burned with a steady but intense flame, and without any tendency to explosion. A solid block of steel, about one-half ton in weight, was bored to the depth of 6 inches, and a 6-ounce cartridge was inserted in the hole. It was split into two pieces. But the greatest exhibition of force was made in two experiments with steel ingots. In the first experiment, 4 ingots of 8 inches square and 3 feet long were used. In the centre of these four masses of steel as laid together, two pound cartridges of the powder were placed, and kept in their place with a few handfuls of clay. In the second experiment the four ingots were each 11 inches square, and the charge used 21⁄2 pounds. The 8 ingots were all broken in halves; some of these massive pieces of steel were sent flying high in the air, falling 30, 35, and, in one case, 45 yards away. At the close of the experiment, a torpedo of 50 pounds of this powder, sunk 10 feet in the river Swale, but not resting on the bottom, was fired. An immense body of water was projected high in the air, and any vessel which might at the time have been passing over it would have suffered severely."
A Thorough State Survey.—Prof. N. S. Shaler publishes in the Atlantic Monthly an article on a survey of Massachusetts, advocating a more minute reconnaissance of the topography, geology, zoölogy, botany, agricultural resources, climate, etc., of that Commonwealth, than has hitherto been attempted with respect to any portion of the territory of the United States. In this great enterprise, the first thing to be done is, to secure the best map. Massachusetts has the good fortune to have her shore-belt map completely made by the Coast Survey. Cape Ann and Cape Cod, and the bordering islands, constituting about a tenth of the total area of the State, have all been done on a scale of 1⁄100000, or about six inches to the mile of distance. The entire State, on the same scale, would be represented in a record-map about 90 by 54 feet. "On this plan," says Prof. Shaler, "the surveying and improvement of private grounds could always be accomplished, tax-levies made, and, in short, our civilization could be organized upon it." In this way the topographical portion of the survey would probably cost not over $750,000, a sum which Massachusetts could easily afford.
In the geological survey, every stratigraphical question, every question in chemical geology, should be followed to its utmost point. Some of the problems which would arise are economical, have money in them; the others are economical too, in that higher sense which finds all truth profitable. The problems Of direct economical interest are: distribution of water, its storage and quality; building-stones; deposits of coal; distribution of metals; reclamation of marshes; retimbering of the exposed parts of the coast, etc. As for purely scientific problems, probably no other known fossils have so much value for the science of to-day as those wonderful footprints of the Connecticut Valley.
A large part of the necessary work for the complete description of Massachusetts animals and plants is already done, and only needs to be brought together and classified. The State already has nearly $1,000,000 invested in the Museum of Comparative Zoölogy, and, in the work of cataloguing the animals, this noble institution can make a substantial return through the students it has trained and the collections it has made. With good maps and good catalogues of the natural productions of a country, the teaching of natural science becomes possible to a degree that cannot be hoped for under other circumstances.
The Microscope as a Detective.—The microscope, as an agent in the detection of crime, has been alternately commended and condemned. It was recently employed in a Connecticut court of justice to discover, in the clothing of a man charged with murder, minute filaments from the shawl of his alleged victim. Dr. J. G. Richardson lately read before the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences a paper on the "Value of High Powers in the Diagnosis of BloodStains," in which he shows that the red blood-globules of various domestic animals, as the ox, cat, pig, horse, sheep, goat, are all so much smaller than the human red disk, that we can positively distinguish stains produced by human blood from those caused by the blood of any of these animals. To furnish positive demonstration of the facts of the case, Dr. Richardson obtained six specimens of blood-clot, from the veins of a man, an ox, and a sheep, selected without his knowledge, and so marked as to furnish no clew as to which animal they were derived from. By the microscopical characters alone he was able to determine with perfect correctness the origin of every one of the samples. The corpuscles of the human blood averaged 1⁄3430 inch diameter, those of the oxblood 1⁄4874, and the sheep's blood 1⁄5952.
The Cincinnati Zoological Garden.—We are indebted to Mr. G. H. Knight, of Cincinnati, for an account of the Zoölogical and Botanical Garden about to be established in the northern suburbs of that city. The projected garden is to be, as far as possible, a complete representation of the fauna and flora of this continent. Efforts will be made to render the ground a complete arboretum, in which each tree and shrub will be plainly labeled according to the scientific classification, with the common name appended. Fresh and salt-water aquariums, on a large scale, will add to the popular attractions as well as to the scientific value of the establishment. Nor will the collection be restricted to a representation of the animal and vegetable worlds; there is also to be a novel geological feature added, viz., an artificial section of the earth's crust, made up of the actual component rocks in their natural positions, accompanied, possibly, by some of their paleontological characteristics; that is to say, their extinct fauna and flora restored. The tract of land secured for this garden is, for the most part, an elevated plateau of about sixty-seven acres, very central and accessible in location. The Cincinnati Zoölogical Society, to whom all the credit of this great enterprise is due, have already in hand over $100,000 for the beautification of the grounds and the construction of the necessary buildings, laying out of paths, etc. A naturalist, who brings a large practical experience in the care of wild animals, and a landscape-gardener, who has been engaged in similar works elsewhere, have been engaged, and are already busily at work examining the ground and making necessary preparations.
The Dietetic Value of Gelatine.—The theory that gelatine passes through the system undigested, and thus contributes nothing toward the nourishment of its tissues, has recently been subjected to a reexamination by Etzinger, with results that appear to contradict the current view. By submitting fine gelatine, and also the various gelatine-yielding tissues, such as bones, cartilages, tendons, connective tissue, etc., to the action of artificial gastric juice, he shows, in accordance with Boerhaave and others, that gelatine is digestible, breaking up and becoming dissolved more or less rapidly, according to the form in which it is presented to the solvent. Being satisfied on this point, the next question was, "Is the gelatine, after solution or digestion, of any service in nutrition?" To determine this, a careful dieting of animals was instituted, with coincident analysis of their urine and fæces. The results showed that, in the cases of bone, cartilage, and tendons alike, these substances not only undergo digestion, but are absorbed into the blood, and play an important part in nutrition. Instead, therefore, of being entirely cast aside as useless articles, they may be consumed in moderate quantities with decided advantage.
The Origin and Structure of Fulgnrites.—Mr. Frank Buckland publishes, in Land and Water, an account written by his father, the late Prof. Buckland, of certain vitreous tubes discovered in sand-hills, near Drigg, in Cumberland. Three of these tubes were found on a single hillock about thirty feet above the level of the sea, the diameter of each being about an inch and a half. An excavation having been made about one of them, it was found to descend perpendicularly through the sand about thirty feet. At about twenty-nine feet, the sand was succeeded by a bed of pebbles. Here the tube came in contact with a piece of hornstone porphyry, from which it glanced off at an angle and then resumed its vertical position. Below this point the tube, becoming extremely delicate, was frequently broken, and at the distance of a foot the sand fell in, preventing further investigation. The tube appears to have tapered in its descent, its diameter at the bottom of the excavation being only half an inch. Small lateral branches proceeded from different parts of the stem, not over two or three inches in length, nor one-quarter inch in diameter at the points of insertion. They were conical, the points being turned downward. The outside of the tube is coated with an agglutinated sand, which, viewed with a lens, is seen to consist of black and opaque white grains mixed together and rounded as if by instant fusion. The wall of the tube is about one-twentieth of an inch thick, and very solid and rigid. In the opinion of Prof. Buckland, lightning is the only agent that could at once supply the heat and force necessary to make these tubes.
A similar tube, coming from North Carolina, has been described by Prof. Leeds, of the Stevens Institute. In this case the lightning had penetrated a bed of pure white sand, melting the silex, and forming a hollow shaft two or three inches in diameter and four feet long, filled within and surrounded without by the pure white sand of the locality. The shaft, however, was discolored by finely-divided metallic iron (which does not exist in Nature at the earth's surface), and the explanation seems to be that at the immensely high temperature at which silica melts, iron dissociates from oxygen, and that here, dissociation having occurred, the metallic iron, transported by the electric flux from some subterranean depth, became incased in molten sand, and was preserved unoxidized in the vitreous tube.
The Weakness of a Great Man.—The vanity of the great botanist Linnæus was extraordinary, as witness the following document written by his own hand, and entitled "The Good Fortune, Services, and Fame of Linnæus:" "God gave him to wife the woman he most loved, and who cared for the household while he studied. God granted him the largest herbarium in the world, and this is his delight. God honored him with a title (chief physician), orders (knighthood), coat-of-arms (nobility), and a name among the learned. God saved him from a conflagration. No man before him ever pursued his special study with greater zeal, or had more listeners. No man before him was ever more famous throughout the whole world." The same trait of character is seen in "Flora's Body Guard," as Linnæus, curiously enough, called the most eminent botanists of his day: "General, Karl von Linnæus; major-general, Bernard Jussieu; colonels, Albrecht von Hall and J. F. Gronovius; lieutenant-colonels, Burmann, Gleditsch, Ludwig, etc.; major, J. G. Gmelin;" and so on. A lady having once visited Linnæus's cabinet, the great man made a profound impression on her by giving her some interesting information about each specimen. At last she exclaimed, "I can now understand why Linnæus is so famous in the whole province of Upsala," But Linnæus, who had expected to hear "all over the world," instead of "in the province of Upsala," was hurt by the meagreness of the lady's adulation, and dismissed her curtly enough. In order to sound the depths of the great botanist's vanity, an acquaintance once saluted him as the Sun of Botanists, the Jupiter of Scholars, Nature's Secretary, an Ocean of Knowledge, a Traveling Mountain of Erudition, and the like. Far from being displeased at such fulsome flattery, Linnæus interrupted the panegyrist at the close of each phrase, embraced him, and again and again called him his best and dearest friend.
Perception of Color by Bees.—To test the faculty possessed by bees of distinguishing between colors, Sir John Lubbock brought a bee to some honey, which he placed on blue paper, and about three feet off he placed a similar quantity of honey on orange paper. After the bee had returned twice he transposed the papers, but the bee returned to the honey on the blue paper. After she had made three more visits, always to the blue paper, he transposed them again, and she again followed the color, though the honey was left in the same place. The papers having been again transposed, the bee returned to the former site of the blue; but, when just about to alight, she noticed the change of color, and without a moment's hesitation dashed off to the blue. No one, says he, who saw her at that moment, could have entertained the slightest doubt of her perceiving the difference between the two colors.
Poisoning with Extract of Hemlock.—The following is a condensed history of the remarkable case of Frederick W. Walker, who died in Brooklyn, on the 3d of April, from an overdose of extract of hemlock, taken with the hope of controlling the symptoms of an annoying and obstinate complaint. The rare force of will and cool-headedness displayed by the patient in noting and detailing the effects of the drug up to almost the last moment of his life, recall the celebrated case of Amédée Berthollet, who, while dying of suffocation by charcoal-gas, kept a record of his sensations as long as he was able to hold the pen.
Some time before his death, Mr. Walker had been struck in the temple by a truck-pole, the result of which injury was blepharo-facial paralysis, or spasms of the facial muscles and the eyelids. These symptoms were extremely troublesome in themselves, the spasms often continuing for hours at a time; but scarcely less annoying was the fact that the contortions came on without premonition, and thus the patient often had the misfortune to excite the derision of others by the hideous grimaces which he could not control. The best medical advice had been resorted to without avail. Brown-Séquard performed many severe operations on the patient, such as actual cautery and severing of the facial nerves; the surgeon even cut out considerable portions of nerve-fibre in the attempt to control the spasms. Brown-Séquard having returned to Europe, Mr. Walker came to Prof. C. R. Agnew for treatment. Dr. Agnew tried to relieve the spasm of the right eyelid by dividing the muscle which surrounds the corner of the eye; but the operation failed. On Saturday, April 3d, Mr. Walker visited, by appointment. Dr. Agnew's office, for the purpose of being treated with the extract of Conium maculatum, or hemlock. The drug was administered by Dr. Webster, Prof. Agnew's associate; the first dose, forty drops, being taken at 10.25 a. m. At 10.50 the dose was repeated, as also at 11.15, and half an hour later sixty drops more were given. No effect was observable. The patient was then directed to obtain from Dr. Squibb, of Brooklyn, an ounce of his fluid-extract of conium, and to follow minutely that physician's directions as to its administration. Both by Dr. Webster and by Dr. Squibb Mr. Walker was again and again charged to stop taking the conium the moment he "felt any effect of the drug, such as muscular relaxation, or vertigo." The dose recommended by Dr. Squibb was fifty drops, to be repeated in half an hour, in case the symptoms did not present themselves. From the record taken down from the patient's own lips, it is clear that the admonitions of the doctors were disregarded. We give the record, to show the stoical calmness of the man, while the shadow of death was gathering upon him:
"4.10 p. m., took fifty minims Squibb's fluid-extract of conium (hemlock); 4.40 p. m., effect very decided in dizziness, relaxation of muscles and limbs; fifty minims more then taken; difficulty of walking immediately and want of power to control movements; forced to lie down, but no mitigation of spasms, limbs and legs weak, unable to hold up head, speech thickening some, pain and heaviness in top and back part of head; pulse fifty-six.
"5.15 p. m., took fifty drops; some nausea, some tremor at base of clavicle and in muscles across the chest, just above the sternum; no diminution of spasms about eyes nor of photophobia.
"5.25 p. m., drowsiness; inclined to sleep.
"5.40 p. m., eyes difficult to open, speech difficult, fullness in throat, prostration nearly complete, diplopia (double sight) vastly increased.
"6.10 p. m., nausea, twitchings on right side, unable to articulate, eyes closed, fullness almost to suffocation in throat, pulse about sixty. At eight in part—"He never spoke again.
A New Respirator.—A respirator, intended for the use of miners, firemen, and others, whose duties so often expose them to danger by the inhalation of deleterious gases, was recently tested at the Barclay & Perkins Brewery, London. The apparatus is the invention of a Frenchman, Denayrouze. It consists of a tube about an inch in diameter internally, made of flexible spiral wire and India-rubber, and so strong and well protected as to bear the weight of a heavy man without collapsing. The tube is attached to a belt which is firmly buckled to the waist of the operator. The mouthpiece is very ingeniously contrived for holding in the mouth with extreme tenacity and the minimum of inconvenience. There is a glazed eye-protector, which also closes the nostrils. Inspirations are taken through the tube, and the respired air is discharged through a valve half-way between the belt and the mouth-piece. By drawing a long breath through the tube and removing the mouth-piece a simple sentence can be loudly spoken, care being taken not to inhale without first restoring the mouth-piece. The tube is of sufficient length to communicate by one end with the outer air. A newly-emptied vat, of 1,000 barrels capacity, was selected for the scene of the experiment. Lighted candles, dipped one-eighth of an inch into the vat, were instantly extinguished without a flicker, thus showing that the air within was utterly irrespirable. The London agent of the patent, Mr. Applegarth, having put on the belt, and adjusted the mouth-piece and the eye-preservers, descended into the vat by a ladder, and, having reached the bottom, carried on a conversation with those outside, the tube serving as a speaking-trumpet.
Robert Hardwicke.—We have to record the death of Mr. Robert Hardwicke, the respected publisher, of London, which occurred on the 8th of March last, resulting from a stroke of paralysis with which he was seized a few weeks previously.
Mr. Hardwicke was well known by the number of useful hand-books on general science and natural history published by him at his house in Piccadilly; most of these works were beautifully illustrated, and sold at very moderate prices. But Mr. Hardwicke will be best remembered by his desire to popularize science. In this field he was an earnest and indefatigable worker, not from a wish to raise an army of pseudo-philosophers, but with the truest intention of elevating the standard of mental culture among all classes, and preparing the masses to follow and appreciate the work of those great minds who devote their lives to science.
In 1862 he started the Popular Science Review, a quarterly journal, and in 1865 issued Science Gossip, a charming little monthly, well illustrated, and sold for so small a sum as 4d. In 1869, under the heading of the Monthly Microscopical Journal, he undertook to publish the "Transactions of the Royal Microscopical Society," in conjunction with matter bearing on the same subject.
These ventures were highly creditable to the spirit and enterprise of Mr. Hardwicke, but were not so profitable as they deserved to be; they were, however, a success, and were continued up to the time of his death.
What Charles Knight was to general literature, Robert Hardwicke was to science. It was the aim of both to circulate in the homes of the people pure and readable matter, light and interesting, but worthy the perusal of reasoning beings. With Hardwicke, his work was a labor of love, for he thought that "the high prerogative of every advocate of scientific truth was not to plume himself upon his own successes, but to employ them for the good of others."
Carnivorous Plants.—The list of known carnivorous plants has been very considerably enlarged during the past year or two, many interesting additions having been made by sundry observers. To Mrs. Mary Treat is due the credit of having materially increased the fund of scientific knowledge with regard to this description of plants. We have already mentioned her observations on sundew, and now we have to recount her very full researches on the bladder-wort (Utricularia clandestina), a plant common in shallow ponds and swamps. This plant owes its vulgar name to the fact that its stem has attached to it numerous little bladders, the use of which has been supposed to be to float the plant. But they serve a different purpose. In December, 1874 the author placed some of these bladders under the microscope, and noticed a number of animalcules within. This discovery led to further researches during the following October. It was then found that the bladder consists of irregular cells, with clusters of star-like points (the office of which is still unknown), arranged very regularly over the inner surface. The animal most commonly seen entrapped in the bladder was a snake-like larva; but for a while the author was baffled in her efforts at finding out how the prey is taken. Soon, however, this difficulty was overcome, and the patience of the author was amply rewarded by a view of sundry animals entering into the maw of the utricularia.
One end of each bladder resembles a tunnel-net, open at the larger end and closed at the smaller. The animalcules would sometimes dally about the entrance for a while, but eventually would venture in and push open the closed end of the net; this then closed, and the animalcule was a prisoner. In this way various minute animals—water-bear, daphnia, cyclops, cypris—were seen to enter the chamber of death. No sooner was the victim within, than it manifested alarm, drew in its feet and antennae, and closed its shell. After death the shell unclosed again, displaying the feet and antennae. Not one was ever seen to escape. But, now, how was the observer to know that these animals became the food of the plant? This question occupied the author for several days. If it could be proved that the contents of the bladders were carried directly into the circulation of the plant, the problem was solved. The cells were, in many instances, of a red color, and in all such cases it was observed that the stem at the point where the bladder grew was of the same color. It thus looks "as if a red fluid was carried from the bladders into the main stem, which is not specifically the fact, so far as the observations yet made determine, though the main point, that the contents of the bladders are carried into the circulation, does not seem open to question."
Darwinism by Descent.—Mr. Darwin, many people know, has an hereditary claim to the apostolate of the doctrine of evolution; but Dr. Erasmus Darwin's poems have long ceased to be read by the multitude, and it is not so well known how closely his philosophical creed tallies with that of his accomplished grandson. As an example, however, we take the following passage from "The Economy of Vegetation:"
Was born and nursed in Ocean's pearly caves.
First forms minute, unseen by spheric glass,
Move on the mud or pierce the watery mass;
These, as successive generations bloom,
New powers acquire, and larger limbs assume,
Whence countless groups of vegetation spring.
And breathing realms of fin, and feet, and wing."
In a note combating the "prejudices" against the doctrine of spontaneous vital production, Dr. Darwin holds that "there is more dignity in our idea of the Supreme Author of all things, when we conceive him to be the cause of causes, than the cause simply of the events which we see;" and further on intimates the unlikelihood of the larger and more complicated animals being thus produced, as they "have acquired their present perfection by successive generations during an uncounted series of ages."—Iron.
Antiseptics and Infusorial Life.—M. Parmille points out that, according to the investigations of Calvert and others, charcoal, lime, and permanganate of potash, contrary to the received opinion, facilitate rather than hinder putrefactive changes, and actually favor the formation of animalcules. Charcoal, when employed for the purification of water, undoubtedly absorbs offensive gases, and removes dissolved flavoring and coloring matters. But upon living animalcules and their germs it has no destructive effect—if any thing, rather promoting their development. Water containing a known amount of "albuminoid ammonia," when experimentally filtered over animal charcoal, has been found, on analysis, worse than before. M. Danaim found that treatment with charcoal increased the poisonous qualities of putrid blood; the explanation offered being that absorption of the gases dissolved in the liquid removed an obstacle to the development of the infusoria. Permanganate of potash is likewise without effect on living organisms, although it rapidly destroys the dead organic matter. The author considers carbolic, or, better still, cresylic acid, as the only agent which extirpates these animalcules.
Tenacity of Life in the Wheel Animalcule.—It has been asserted that the wheel animalcule (Rotifer vulgaris) may be restored to life by the application of applied, and soon the microscope showed some of the rotifers to have revived, while others remained motionless. The same slides were again submitted to drying, the cover-glass of one having been removed. Several hours after moistening them, the next day, only two rotifers were seen to be alive on each slide. Again some twenty active rotifers were exposed to the hot sun during the afternoon. These could not be revived the following morning. From all this it would appear that rotifers become inactive in comparatively dry positions, and may be revived by supplying moisture; but, when their own substance is actually dried up, it is impossible to revive them., after having been dried up, and to all appearance dead. This subject has been investigated by Prof. Leidy, and his results show that there is a very definite limit to the tenacity of life in these minute animals. Two glass slides, containing, beneath cover-glasses, some dirt, exhibited each about twelve living rotifers. After exposure to the sun's rays, the temperature being 80°, for half an hour, the moisture on the slide was dried up. The next morning water was
Influence of Ammonia on the Color of Flowers.—Exposure to the smoke of a cigar changes violet-colored flowers to green. This change is due to the ammonia present in tobacco-smoke. The general question of the influence of ammonia on the colors of flowers has been lately investigated by Gabba, an Italian, his method being to put a little ammoniacal solution in a basin, and place a receiver over it containing the flower. In this way blue, violet, and purple flowers were changed to green, carmine-red flowers to black, white to yellow, etc. The most singular changes were presented by flowers in which several tints are combined; the red lines changed to green, the white to yellow, and so on. After the flowers have undergone these changes, if they are placed in pure water, they retain their new coloration several hours, and then gradually resume their original hues. Gabba has further observed that the flowers of aster, which are naturally inodorous, acquire an agreeable aromatic odor under the influence of ammonia. When moistened with dilute nitric acid they change from violet to red. If inclosed in a wooden case, and exposed to hydrochloric-acid vapor, they in six hours assume a beautiful carmine red.
Metal Roofs as Lightning-Conductors.—In a communication to the French Academy of Sciences, E. Nouel gives the results of his observations, made at Vendôme during a very violent storm. The lightning on that occasion struck some telegraph-posts and three houses. In the case of the houses, Nouel found that the lightning followed the sheet-zinc roofing (without damage) to the spouts, and thence to the earth. The author remarks that static electricity flows always to the surface of bodies, so that a gutter and its pipe, notwithstanding the thinness of the metal, constitute an excellent electric conductor, having less resistance than the best lightning-rods; that the thunder-bolt, as a rule, falls only during heavy showers, by taking advantage of the semi-communication with the earth offered by the vertical series of rain-drops. The summary of his conclusions is as follows: 1. It is possible, almost without expense, to protect ordinary houses from lightning casualties by establishing good metallic communication between the chimney-flues and roof, through the gutters, and by trusting to the rain to complete the communication to the ground. 2. That, even for complete lightning-conductors, we should utilize as a conductor the gutters and their pipings. 3. That there is need in every case to wholly replace the conductors of lightning-rods with hollow pipes of the same mass and of greater diameter. He decidedly rejects metallic cords, because electricity, always following the conductor's surface, only selects or uses from this cord a small number of its wires, which may be easily fused.
A Botanic Garden for Chicago.—The Commissioners of the South Park, Chicago, have in contemplation the establishment of a Botanic Garden on the following liberal plan: First, there will be a botanic garden proper, in which all indigenous plants of the United States, and hardy species from other countries, will be arranged, as far as possible, according to their natural affinities, while hot-houses and green-houses will be provided for the reception and display of tropical plants. There will also be an arboretum, or collection of hardy trees, from all parts of the world, planted in such order as to serve the purposes of science and ornament; a garden devoted to floriculture; a botanical museum, for the exhibition of vegetable economic products; an herbarium, or collection of specimens of dried plants, scientifically arranged; finally, a library of botanical works. The South Park comprises about 1,200 acres, and the commissioners will reserve for the Botanic Garden all the space which may be required for present and prospective use. Prof. H. H. Babcock has been chosen as Botanical Director.