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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/297

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FRAGMENTS OF SCIENCE.

cies." The experiments should therefore be continued.

 

"The Venerable Bede's" Chair.—In an article in a recent issue of Architecture and Building, on Ancient and Modern Furniture, by F. T. Hodgson, the following interesting account of the chair of "the Venerable Bede" occurs: "Perhaps the best-known relic, so far as furniture is concerned of this early period, is the chair of 'the Venerable Bede,' which is still preserved in the vestry of Jassova Church, Northumberland, England. This chair is distinctively an ecclesiastical one—a throne, in fact, of some dignity. It is made of oak and is four feet ten inches high. There are many engravings of it, but I reproduce from one of the best. The chair is now well on to twelve hundred years old, and if cared for as it ought to be is good for several hundred years more. There is a popular tradition concerning this chair that is worthy of notice It is said that to this ancient relic all the brides repair as soon as the marriage service is over, in order that they may seat themselves in it. This, according to the popular belief, will make them joyful mothers of children; and to omit this custom the expectant mothers would not consider the marriage ceremony complete, and in default thereof of being enthroned in 'the Venerable Bede's chair' barrenness and misery would surely follow. Like all other relics of the sort, it is subject to attacks of the sacrilegious penknives, together with the wanton depredations of relic hunters, and has been so shorn of its fair proportions that very soon there will be little of it left but its attenuated form if stricter watch is not kept over it."

 

The Physics of Smell.—The principal subject of Prof. W. E. Ayrton's vice-presidential address on physics at the British Association was the physics of smell, which was presented as a subject that had been but little studied. In testing the generally accepted idea that metals have smell, based on the fact that a smell is perceived with most of the commercial metals when handled, the author had observed that when these metals were cleaned or made outwardly pure the smell disappeared. Yet it is shown that these metals acquire smells when they are handled or abraded by friction, which are characteristic and serve to distinguish them. This may be ascribed to chemical action, but not all chemical action in which metals may take part produces smell; for when they are rubbed with soda or with sugar no smell but that of soda or of sugar is perceived; nor is the metallic smell observed when dilute nitric acid is rubbed on certain metals, though the chemical action is very marked with some. But mere breathing on certain metals, even when they have been rendered practically odorless by cleaning, produces a very distinct smell, as also does touching them with the tongue. These smells have hitherto been attributed to the metals themselves, but Professor Ayrton looks for their source in the evolution of hydrogen, which carries with it impurities, hydrocarbons, especially paraffin, and "it is probable that no metallic particles, even in the form of vapor, reach the nose or even leave the metal. While smells usually appear to be diffused with great velocity, experiments prove that when the space through which they have to pass is free from draughts their progress is very slow, and it would therefore appear that the passage of a smell is far more due to the actual motion of the air containing it than to the diffusion of the odoriferous substance through the air." The power of a smell to cling to a substance does not appear to depend on its intensity or on the ease with which it travels through a closed space. Experiments to determine whether smells could pass through glass by transpiration either revealed flaws in the glass or ended in the breaking of the very thin bulbs and gave no answer.

 

The Cordillera Region of Canada.—A length of nearly thirteen hundred miles of the great mountainous or Cordillera region of the Pacific coast is included in the western part of Canada. Most of this, Mr. George M. Dawson says, in a paper on the Physical Geography and Geology of Canada, is embraced in the province of British Columbia, where it is about four hundred miles wide between the Great Plains and the Pacific Ocean. To the north it is included in the Yukon district of the Northwest Territory till it reaches, in a less elevated and more