Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/738

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

The French Minister of Public Instruction is organizing at the Trocadéro a museum of ethnography, to contain the collections of the exploring parties by which France is represented, in nearly every quarter of the world, which will be under the charge of M. Armand Landrin and M. Hamy. The American department is nearly ready to be opened. It is arranged in geographical order, beginning with Alaska, Labrador, and Canada, and ending with Brazil. The departments of the states farther south must for the present remain empty for the want of specimens. California is represented by a tomb made of sand, shells, and kitchen-midden stuff, containing the bones of the deceased, by collections of cut flints, dolls, toys, and idols; Mexico by mummies—some of which are very well preserved, while others are but skin and bones—mirrors of polished pyrites, and all kinds of divinities.

Herr Holtz has concluded, from the comparison of the statistics of thunderstorms and the damage occasioned by them in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, from 1854 to 1870, that, while the increase in thunderstorms has been small, the risk from lightning has been very largely augmented. He believes the change to be partly due to the destruction of forests, the extension of railways, and the use of iron in house-building.

Professor George Rolleston, Linacre Professor of Anatomy and Physiology in the University of Oxford, died in June, at his home in Oxford, in his fifty-second year. His life was one of scientific activity. He began his career, after being admitted to practice as a physician, as assistant surgeon in the British Civil Hospital at Smyrna during the Crimean War, He became Lee's Reader in Anatomy at Christ Church College, Oxford, in 1857, and was appointed to his professorship, as the first to occupy the newly founded chair, in 1860. He is' best known by his work on "The Forms of Animal Life," an outline of zoölogical classification based upon anatomical investigations, by his important contributions to Canon Greenwell's "British Barrows," and by numerous contributions to the "Transactions" of the Royal Linnæan and Archæological Societies, and to many scientific journals.

Professor Ira Remsen has recently reported to the National Board of Health, the result of investigations he has made to ascertain whether carbonic oxide escapes from cast-iron stoves and furnaces in sufficient quantities to be dangerous. French chemists have asserted that it does; experiments made in Germany have failed to sustain their conclusion. Professor Remsen used Vogel's test for carbonic oxide, as improved by Hempel, and was able to detect as small a quantity as 0·04 parts of the oxide to 1,000 of air, while Vogel by his original test could not detect a smaller proportion than 2·5 parts per 1,000. In a careful examination of several furnaces in Baltimore, including some bad ones, carbonic oxide was not detected in a single case. A stove of peculiar construction was experimented upon under various conditions, to ascertain whether carbonic oxide actually passes through cast-iron heated to redness, with the result that none of the gas was found escaping. The conclusion is therefore drawn that if carbonic oxide is present in rooms it is in a smaller proportion than 0·04 parts per 1,000; and it remains to be shown whether so small a quantity is dangerous to health.

Among the recent entomological contributions to the "American Naturalist" is one by George Marx, of Washington, D. C, on a tube-constructing spider which he has discovered in the grounds of grass lands. The nests of these insects are outwardly about three quarters of an inch high, composed of grass, sticks of wood, etc., and much resembling a bird's nest. Within they are cylindrical, and communicate with a shaft some eight or nine inches deep, at the bottom of which was found (in October) a torpid spider. The nest and tube were strengthened by a lining resembling a very fine tissue-paper, which showed under the microscope no web-structure, but a hardened tissue, like varnish. Several of the nests were found, all constructed on the same plan. Nests of a similar character, but not identical, are described by Mr. Nicholas Pike, Mr. S. H. Scudder, and Mrs. M. Treat, as having been found in the sand near the seashore. Mr. Marx believes his specimens to be of a different species from the others, chiefly because the nests of the latter appeared to be used in summer and to contain eggs, while his nests were fresh in the fall, dilapidated and empty in the summer, indicating that they were used only as winter residences.

Professor J. W. Mallet has published an account of his determinations of the atomic weight of aluminum by series of experiments in three methods. The first method was by the ignition of ammonia alum, the second by the precipitation of the bromine in aluminum bromide by silver, and the third by the evolution of hydrogen through the action of metallic aluminum upon sodium hydrate. In the last method the hydrogen was determined, first, by the direct measurement of its volume, and, second, by weighing the water produced by its oxidation. The mean result of thirty experiments, ten in the first method, eleven in the second, and nine in the third, rejecting one of the results as too wide of the mark, was 27·02.