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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 53.djvu/887

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863
FRAGMENTS OF SCIENCE.

Cut-offs increase the gradient and speed of the flow, destroying the balance, and the stream rapidly excavates a new bend, restoring the former condition. Artificial outlets have as little effect on the height of the stream above as storage reservoirs on that below. The author intimates that the most effective remedy lies in levees properly constructed. The old levees, the unsoundness of which has cast a prejudice against the system, were hastily and improperly made. Stumps were left in the ground, and logs, rails, etc., were thrown into the bank, which, rotting, left holes, weak spots, that the water was sure to find. Now, all decaying material is carefully kept out, and sound earth is used—"which is a good-enough material, . . . but the bank must be carefully built of sufficient dimensions, and, especially in the case of a light or treacherous underground, must have its base extended by a banquette. As to cost, it may be briefly said that levees are the least expensive means of reclaiming overflowed lands that have ever been proposed."

The agency of bacteria in promoting the fermentation or ripening of cheese has been recognized for some time, and has been taken practical advantage of by manufacturers. Messrs. S. M. Babcock and H. L. Russell, of the Wisconsin Agricultural Experiment Station, have, however, become satisfied that profound changes of a physical and chemical nature also occur in milk from which bacterial fermentatives have been excluded. In these experiments the casein of the milk underwent practically the same series of decomposition changes—the conversion of the insoluble casein into soluble proteids—as are to be found in a ripening cheese. From continued experiments the authors concluded that these changes were of a non-vital character, and were produced by enzymes; and by the usual physiological methods, proteid-converting (proteolytic) enzymes were separated, which, applied to milk, exercised a curdling as well as a digestive function.

A Cambodian people called the Pnongs are described by M. Adhémard Leclère, French resident at Kratie, as of the type of the North American Indians, well formed, and of good appearance, but with badly shaped mouths. The women are not so handsome, strong, or intelligent as the men. The Pnongs readily learn to read and write. Their costume consists of a long shawl, which folds elegantly round the body. The children are never left alone for an instant, but are constantly attended by their father or mother. They recognize a god, whom they call Brah, but their faith seems to resolve itself into a doctrine of ghosts. They eat everything, including grasshoppers, snakes, frogs, and the placenta of cows and buffaloes. For a choice drink they make a kind of spirit of rice. They smoke in wooden pipes a mild tobacco, which they dry and cut very fine, and chew various substances. They have a highly developed sense of smell, and profess to be able to distinguish different individuals and animals, metals, and other substances, with their eyes shut. They have no dances or music, but on certain solemn occasions beat gongs; and they have no funeral ceremonies. They have an art of carving small statues. They keep their promises, and have no patience with a man who breaks his word.


NOTES.

The United States Life-Saving Service at the close of the fiscal year covered by its latest report, June 30, 1897, embraced 259 stations—189 on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, 55 on the coasts of the Great Lakes, 14 on the Pacific coast, and one at the Falls of the Ohio. Three hundred and ninety-four disasters were reported as having occurred during the year to documented vessels, in which 3,737 persons were exposed, 42 lives were lost, and $1,998,930 of property out of $7,107,825 was lost. There were also 305 casualties to undocumented craft—sail boats, rowboats, etc.—carrying 706 persons, 11 of whom perished, and in which $39,405 of property was lost. Five hundred and eighty-seven shipwrecked persons received 1,082 days' relief at the stations. The number of disasters is the largest reported in the history of the service, yet the number of vessels totally lost is the smallest since 1879, when the scope of the service was much less extended.

The feat was accomplished on the first day of June, and has now become a part of the daily routine of the shops, of shipping molten iron by the ton on the railway from the blast furnaces at Duquesne to the Homestead Steel Works, near Pittsburg. The molten iron, as it is tapped from the furnaces, runs into an immense mixing ladle having a capacity of two hundred and fifty tons, and from this is poured into the twenty ton ladle cars; and the cars are then hauled