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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/594

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

M. Hilt, director of the coal-mines of La Wurm, near Aix-la-Chapelle, has devised a way for keeping the galleries clear from fire-damp by establishing a system of piping, through which the gas is sucked away into a reservoir. It can then be prepared and applied to any use for which carbureted hydrogen is suitable.

The amount expended by the British people on alcohol appears to be diminishing with considerable regularity. The total for 1886 was £122,905,785, against £123,258,906 in 1885, and £146,288,759, the highest expenditure, in 1876. The diminished amount drunk is, however, still enormous, and it is worthy of remark that it is drunk by a diminishing number of persons, for the number who abstain totally, or drink exceedingly little, is steadily increasing.

The efficiency of oil, when dropped on the water, to calm boisterous waves may now be regarded as established. It is astonishing how small a quantity of oil will answer the purpose. Admiral Cloné gives the amount as from two to three quarts an hour dropped from perforated bags hanging over the sides of the ship in positions varying with the wind. The oil, then, by its own outspreading, extending over the waves, forms a film of less than a two and a half millionth part of an inch in thickness; and this is enough to reduce breaking waves and dangerous "rollers" to unbroken undulations that are practically harmless. The oils that have been found most effective are seal, porpoise, and fish oils. Mineral oils, such as are used for illumination, are too light; but the lubricating oils are denser, and may be found sufficient.

Mr. J. Norman Lockyer, in his "Chemistry of the Sun," states his theory of dissociation by saying that "chemists regard matter as composed of atoms and molecules. The view now brought forward simply expands this series into a larger number of terms, and suggests that the molecular grouping of a chemical substance may be simplified almost without limit if the temperature be increased."

 

 

OBITUARY NOTES.

Sir Julius von Haast, whose name is closely associated with the record of geographical and geological investigation in New Zealand, died August 16th, in the sixty-eighth year of his age. He was a native of Bonn, Germany, and a student at its university. He was commissioned by an English company to go to New Zealand for the purpose of showing its suitability for German elements; and having arrived there in 1858, devoted the larger part of the rest of his life to scientific exploration. The results of this work are given in his "Geology of the Provinces of Canterbury and Westland," and in many papers in English scientific societies on the geology and physical geography of the islands. He discovered the Grey and Buller coal-fields, and several gold-bearing districts; instituted the Canterbury Museum, the first museum in the southern hemisphere, which has more than one hundred and fifty thousand labeled specimens, and founded the Philosophical Institute of Canterbury.

Gustav Theodor Fechner, Professor of Experimental Physics at the University of Leipsic, has recently died, in the eighty-seventh year of his age. He was best known by his work on psycho-physics, or the law of relation between the intensity of the stimulus and that of the resulting sensation, which he begun when he was nearly sixty years old, and which has become the center of a considerable literature. He was also active for many years in other branches of science, and was the author of a book of poems and a book of riddles.

Professor Balfour Stewart, Professor of Physics and Director of the Physical Laboratory in Owen's College, Manchester, England, died a few days before Christmas, in the fifty-eighth year of his age. He made his first start in commercial life, but soon turned his attention to science. His first scientific papers were published in the "Transactions" of the Royal Society of Victoria. He studied, experimentally, the radiation and absorption of heat, and for his labors received the Rumford medal in 1868. As director, for about ten years, of the Kew Observatory, he established the instruments for the self-registration of the direction and intensity of magnetic force. He was much interested in psychical research. Besides his "Elementary Practical Physics," and other properly scientific publications, he was the author of the curious books, "The Unseen Universe," and "Paradoxical Philosophy."

Herr August Kappler, from whose sketches of Dutch Guiana we have extracted an account of the monkeys of the country, recently died at Stuttgart, aged seventy-one years.

Professor Charles L. Bloxam, Professor of Chemistry in King's College, London, died November 28th, in the fifty-sixth year of his age. He was distinguished in technical and analytical chemistry, and as the author of several hand-books of chemistry and metallurgy, and of an excellent textbook of chemistry.

Dr. E. Baltzer, Professor of Mathematics in the University of Giessen, died November 7th, in the seventieth year of his age.