Popular Science Monthly/Volume 7/June 1875/Notes

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A. McDougall recently exhibited to the Manchester Philosophical Society a specimen of carbon which had formed upon the roof of a gas-retort, by the decomposition of the hydrocarbon gas by heat. This carbon resembles graphite, and its mode of formation might possibly explain that of graphite. The latter mineral always occurs in association with rocks which have been subjected to igneous action, and may have been formed by hydrocarbon gases traversing fissures, the sides of which were in a highly-heated state.

The adulteration of tobacco is extensively practised in England. A cigar-maker was recently found guilty of manufacturing cigars which contained 74 per cent, of lime-leaves, 1 per cent, of colored paper, and only 19 per cent, of tobacco.

Some one in Texas is examining the annual rings on trees with reference to the effect of very dry seasons upon tree-growth. He has a theory that a series of such seasons may return in regular periodicity, the discovery of which would be of great value to the farmer, since it would enable him to anticipate short crops, and, by previous surplus ones, prepare for them. He has selected for his purpose the burr-oak, on some of which he finds a record of the growth of three hundred years. So far as he has traced back human records, he finds each very dry season marked by rings of extraordinary thinness. He is still tracing back the records of man and Nature in the hope of discovering the law above referred to.—Department of Agriculture.

Antimony, equal to the best English, is produced in San Francisco from native ore, and might be sold there at a far lower price than the imported article. In practice, however, the California metal has to be shipped to New York, and then returned to San Francisco as imported antimony, consumers persisting in the belief that, unless it comes from England, it is of little value!

A Western farmer communicates to the American Chemist a method of preserving wooden posts, so that they will last longer than iron in the ground, while the cost does not exceed two cents per post. This is the recipe: Take boiled linseed-oil and stir into it pulverized charcoal to the consistency of paint, and put a coat of this over the timber.

The case of the ecstatica, Louise Lateau, who says that for years she has partaken of no food, has been considered in the Brussels Academy of Medicine. The opinion of the Academy is: "That Louise works and requires food. When she breathes, she exhales water-vapor and carbonic acid; her weight has not decreased since she has been observed; she therefore consumes carbon which is not furnished by her system. Whoever alleges that Louise Lateau is not subject to physiological laws, must prove it; until this is done physiology will pronounce the miracle a deception."

A new mammalian genus, Mixoœbus, is described by Peters in the Monatsherichte of the Berlin Academy of Science. It is most nearly allied to Lepidolemur, and is covered with a brown fur, except the head and neck, which are of lighter color. The tail is longer than the body. The feet are, in shape, not unlike human hands, and the thumbs of all four feet are opposable. Habitat, Madagascar,

Sir Charles Lyell bequeathed to the British Geological Society 2,000 as a fund for the promotion of geological research. The award is to be accompanied by a "Lyell Medal," and to be open to geologists without distinction of nationality or of sex.

An International Congress of "Americanists" is to assemble at Nancy, France, on the 22d of July. The object is to bring together those who are interested in the history of America prior to its discovery by Columbus, and in the interpretation of the monuments and the ethnology of the aboriginal races.

At the Philadelphia Academy of Sciences, Mr. Willard gave two instances of the brittleness of iron under the low temperature of the past winter. In breaking up an old locomotive, the cutting off of the rivet-heads, which usually requires heavy sledging, was effected by a single blow. Again, in the forging of a long steamboat shaft of the best hammered iron, which hung balanced in a crane, the hammering of the heated end caused vibration in the other end, which caused the beam to break sharp near the point of support.

There are now manufactured in England candles containing in their substance some of those gum-resins and balsams, especially benzoin and storax, which have been found useful in chronic pulmonary and allied maladies. These "pulmonic candles" yield, on combustion, a pleasing fragrance, and at the same time give a good light.

All the steamers afloat on the Caspian Sea use petroleum exclusively for fuel, burning it with the aid of a blast of steam.

Canada rice-grass is said to afford an excellent material for the manufacture of paper. It is comparatively free from silicates, and the paper is quite as strong and flexible as that made from rags. It is easily bleached, pure in color, and presents a surface of perfect evenness. It also takes a very clear impression from the printer's types. The plant grows wild, and in great abundance, in the United States and Canada,

Experiments made by Dr. Chassaignol, of Brest, show that the flesh of drunkards is not more inflammable after death than the flesh of those who have been abstemious; even when soaked for several days in alcohol, it burns with difficulty.

To determine the true nature of the acid principle of gastric juice, the French physiologist Rabuteau took juice from the stomach of a dog which had been allowed to fast for twenty-four hours, and then fed on bits of tendon. To the filtered liquid he added as much quinia as it would dissolve. Then it was dried in vacuo, and the residue treated first with amylic alcohol, then with chloroform or benzine. On evaporation, a pure hydrochlorate of quinia was obtained. No trace of lactic acid was found.

Died, March 2d, Robert Willis, F. R. S., Professor of Natural and Experimental Philosophy in the University of Cambridge, England, for nearly forty years. Deceased had been President of the British Association, and at the time of his death was one of the Visitors of the Greenwich Observatory.

A pleasing illustration of the deep popular interest now almost universally taken in scientific research comes to us from Sweden. Dr. Berggren, a Swedish botanist, who had explored Spitzbergen in 1868, and Greenland in 1870, found himself last year in New Zealand without the means necessary for pursuing his investigations into the flora of that country. The situation was made public by a Swedish newspaper, and immediately the proprietors of another Swedish newspaper, Göteborg's Post, forwarded a large sum toward the prosecution of the work, and private contributions came in so rapidly that Dr. Berggren is now in possession of all the pecuniary aid he needs.

During the extreme cold of the past winter, the Messrs. Becquerel made observations on the effect of the presence or absence of turf on the temperature of the soil beneath the surface. Both of the soils under observation were covered with snow. It was found that, the temperature of the air being from 0° to 12° Cent., that of the turf-covered soil, at the depth of twenty inches, was never so low as zero, whereas in the case of denuded soil the temperature was nearly 5° below zero (Cent.).

Döring, a German physician, asserts that an average dose of four grammes of chloral hydrate suffices not only to procure rest and sleep in case of sea-sickness, but even to entirely cure the disorder.

Dr. J. D. Hooker, President of the British Royal Society, questions the expediency of recognizing scientific services and discoveries by such trivial rewards as medals. He favors some other form of award which might convey to the public a more prominent and a more permanent record of the services done by the recipients.

Prof. de Bary, of Strasburg, is inclined to believe that the Peronospora infestans, or parasitic fungus of the potato, passes a portion of its life upon some other plant. Probably both clover and straw are capable of entertaining the Peronospora. If this is the case, it gives confirmation to the prevailing opinion that barn-yard manure promotes potato-disease, especially when applied in spring. The theory can be easily tested.

A letter to the Department of Agriculture from San Joaquin County, California, states that hundreds of tons of the finest grapes were left on the vines in that county at the close of the past season, there being no demand for them. Wine-makers were paying only $15 per ton, and very few were buying even at that price.

It has been asserted that oxides of nitrogen may be produced by oxidation of atmospheric nitrogen through-the agency of ozone, but, from experiments made by Prof. Carius, it appears that free nitrogen remains unacted on in the presence of this active oxygen. He believes that the most important reaction in Nature by which nitrates and nitrites are generated is the oxidation of ammonia by means of ozone.

During the visit of Prof. W. D. Whitney to England, this spring, the British Philological Society will hold a special meeting for the purpose of hearing a paper from him. Prof. Whitney has just finished a volume for the "International Scientific Series" on the "Life and Growth of Language."

An English sanitarian, Dr. Yeld, of Sunderland, contends for the superiority of seawater over fresh water in street sprinkling, and alleges that when treated by the former the streets remain much longer moist even during very hot weather, and that by its means the cohesive power of the materials of a road is increased.

Dynamite is employed in France for the purpose of breaking up old cannon. The proportion of dynamite required for this purpose is only about one-thousandth part of the weight of the iron.