Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/580

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

tion of railways has been improved by the introduction of steel rails, the extension of the block and interlocking systems, the application of continuous brakes, and the better adaptation of rolling-stock to turning curves; and the use of steel for crossties is anticipated. Arrangements are in use by which the signal-man can cause the whistle of the engine to sound at the same time he gives the danger-signal; and a device to enable him also to turn off the steam, apply the brakes, and stop the train is desirable and not impracticable; but this should be accompanied with a registering apparatus to reveal the negligence of the engineer that may have made it necessary to apply it. So much has been gained in our knowledge of the theory of resistance and the best dimensions and shapes of ships, that we are now able to build vessels approaching the size of the Great Eastern, and run them with a profit at a greater speed than was ever attained before. Gas engines are made, the workings of which are nearly as steady as those of the steam-engine, and with Mr, Dowson's process for making fuel-gas, power can now be obtained from gas-fuel for less cost than in the ordinary steam-engine. A curious application of shifting ballast, which was once thought to be one of the most dangerous agents to equilibrium, has been made in the British war-vessel Inflexible to check the rolling of the vessel. Water, in a tank extending across the vessel, by being on the lower side at the moment the vessel turns to roll upon the other side, and remaining there till the position of equilibrium is reached, restrains the violence of the oscillation, diminishes its extent, and tends to bring the vessel sooner to rest.


Scientific Societies in Japan.—Besides having several bodies in the nature of learned societies which have enjoyed a time honored existence, the Japanese have been prompted, under the impulse given by the introduction of European culture, to found several new scientific associations. The most important of these bodies is the Geographical Society of Tokio, with two hundred members, among whom are included several of the chief personages of the empire. Its "Transactions" are neatly printed in pamphlets of about one hundred pages each, and contain much matter, especially the papers relating to Corea, that is valuable to European geographers. A biological society was established while Professor Morse, of Salem, Massachusetts, was connected with the University of-Tokio, and is now conducted by Professor Yatahe, a scholar educated in the United States. The Kojunsha, or Society for the Circulation of Knowledge, has branches in nearly every town of importance in the empire. A member desiring information on any subject applies to the secretary, who finds on his books the names of any persons who are likely to satisfy the applicant, and transmits his questions to him. The answers are forwarded to the inquirer, and, if important enough, are printed in the weekly "Journal" of the society. This association has nearly three thousand members, some of them in Europe and America. The Seismological Society has been instituted for the study of earthquakes, for which Japan offers rare facilities. It is given the use of the telegraphs by the Government for the instantaneous transmission of news of phenomena happening in any part of the country. The Numismatic Society, one of the old native societies, is very active, and publishes a periodical describing the new and strange coins that are exhibited at its meetings. The Antiquarian Society and the Society of Go-players are also ancient native organizations that still flourish.


A New Race in Course of Development.—M. Gustave Le Bon has called attention to a peculiar race living in the Tatras Mountains, the process of whose formation out of the neighboring peoples, from whom it is now isolated, he believes can be traced quite clearly. It is the people called the Podolians. They are surrounded on different sides by Ruthenians, Slovacks, Magyars, Germans, and other races, yet are distinct from them in many of the most essential characteristics. Their land is walled by a circle of mountains difficult to traverse, which interpose an effectual physical separation between them and the races dwelling on the other side; the climate is rigorous, the soil poor, and adapted to the production of so limited a