Popular Science Monthly/Volume 10/April 1877/Notes


Written, as the little sketch of "Audubon's Flower" was, where access to books was impossible, and upon the memory of a reading of twenty years ago, I fear that, in the closing part, I may have overstated. It is not meant that Audubon named the flower, except conceptionally, or mentally, but that he did name it so far as a truthful bit of art could do, subordinated to a scientific conscience.S. L.

Dr. Lawson Tait finds that, as a rule, the ear in women can perceive higher notes (i.e., sounds with a larger number of vibrations per second) than the ear in men. The highest limit of and ability for the human ear is somewhere between 41,000 and 42,000 vibrations per second. Very few of the persons experimented on by Dr. Tait had equal sensibility to acute sounds in both ears the right ear usually hearing a higher note than the left. The sense of direction of the sound in the human ear seems to be lost at a very much lower point than appreciation of the note. This, however, is not the case with cats.

On January 11th died Mr. Alfred Smee, aged about sixty years. He was elected Fellow of the London Royal Society at the early age of twenty-one. Among his published works were the following: "Elements of Electro-Metallurgy," "Elements of Electro-Biology," "Monogenesis of Physical Forces," "The Mind of Man," etc.

Karl Ernst von Baer, the eminent biologist, whose death occurred in November, was born in Esthonia, February 12, 1792. In 1819 he became Professor of Zoölogy in the Königsberg University. He was called to St. Petersburg in 1834, and was appointed librarian of the Academy. He led a scientific expedition to the northern shores of Russia in 1837. He wrote several works on zoölogy and botany, especially those of Northern Russia.

Wilhelm F. B. Hofmeister, Professor of Botany in the University of Tübingen, and author of several works on plant physiology and embryology, died on January 12th, at the age of fifty-two years.

The world of science has recently suffered another loss in the death of David Forbes, F.R.S., the geologist, at the early age of forty-eight years. He was a great traveler, and among his published papers may be named those on the "Relation of the Silurian and Metamorphic Rocks in the South of Norway," and on the "Geology of Bolivia and South Peru."

Blanca Peak, in Colorado, the elevation of which was determined last year by Hayden's survey, is probably the highest point within the limits of the United States. Its height is 14,464 feet above the level of the sea. There are in Colorado over fifty other peaks which rise more than 14,000 feet above sea-level.

Mr. Robert E. C. Stearns mentions, in the American Naturalist, two remarkable instances of vitality in snails. One snail, of the species Bulimus pallidior, lived for two years, two months, and sixteen days, without food, and at the end of that period appeared to be in pretty good health. Another, Helix Veatchii, lived without food from 1859 till 1865. Both of these species of snails are indigenous to nearly rainless regions.

There is a pretty constant increase in the decennial number of plural childbirths in the kingdom of Prussia. In the period between 1824 and 1834 this class of births amounted to 112 per 10,000 births, and the same proportion was repeated in the succeeding decennium. From 1844 to 1854 the proportion was 114 to 10,000; from 1854 to 1864, 123; from 1864 to 1874, 128. Of these plural births, the immense majority, nearly 99 per cent., were twins. Triplets were somewhat less than 1 per cent. In over 6,000,000 births there were only 79 cases of four at a birth, and one case of five at a birth.

The Atamasco Lily.—A new form of this favorite amaryllis, A. Atamasco, has been found in Florida by Mrs. Mary Treat. It is an earlier flower than the old form, and is larger and handsomer.

It was stated by Mr. Sidebotham, at a meeting of the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society, that aniline colors are now much used by artists both for paintings and water-color drawings. But, as nearly all of these colors fade under the action of light, no artist who wishes his work or fame to endure can afford to employ them.

Years distinguished by a maximum of sun-spots coincide very closely, according to Prof. Fritz, of Zürich, with years of extraordinary hail-fall, or unusual average height of the great rivers.

A short time ago a number of fossil footprints, supposed to be human, were discovered in the carboniferous sandstone near Metropolis, Illinois. A physician living in that locality, Dr. Gebhart, took plaster casts of these footprints and sent a description of them, together with full details as to site, to Mr. Darwin and other naturalists. The almost unanimous verdict was, that the tracks were those of a species of Labyrinthodon. According to Dr. Gebhart, the animals which made these fossil tracks were most certainly bipeds.

In countries where the coffee-tree is cultivated the leaves are used to make an infusion which by many persons is held to be superior to the infusion from the berry. Hitherto they have not been an article of commerce, and the planter has studied to obtain as large a crop as possible of the berry, neglecting the leaves. But if a demand for the latter should spring up in foreign countries, the planter would find it as profitable to cultivate the coffee-tree for its leaves as for its fruit. The berry would first be secured, with a sparing use of the pruning knife, and then the leaves would be carefully gathered and cured for exportation. The result would be in a great measure to drive out of the market the spurious compounds that now too often are sold as coffee.

It was in 1865 that the phylloxera appeared in the vineyards of the south of France; its ravages have been continued ever since. The department of Gard, which used to produce 126,000,000 gallons of wine, now yields not one-fourth as much. One commune, Castries, in the Department of Hérault, annually produced, before the appearance of the phylloxera, 3,000,000 gallons; one year later the product was 250,000 gallons; three years later the vineyards had been entirely destroyed!

A scientific journal of Paris notes the occurrence of a peculiar phase of insanity among French cooks. It is called folie des cuisiniers (cooks' insanity), and is due to the carbonic oxide given off by charcoal-stoves. The principal symptoms are hallucinations of sight and hearing, vertigo, oppression, and syncope. The patient generally believes himself to be the victim of persecution.

The efficacy of the alkaline sulpho-carbonates as a means of exterminating the phylloxera appears to have been demonstrated by experiments made by Mouillefert, at the instance of the Paris Academy of Sciences. It still remains, however, to devise suitable methods of employing this insecticide. "Science," says M. Mouillefert, "has accomplished its mission, and it is now for agriculture to perform its part."

Early in the present year a State Zoological Society was organized in San Francisco, with the object of collecting material for a public museum of Pacific coast rocks, fossils, ores, and all inorganic substances having a bearing on practical geology. Another purpose of the society is to promote geological research. The coöperation of mine-owners and mining-engineers on the Pacific slope is solicited by the president of the society, so as to make the proposed collection fully representative of the geology of that portion of the United States.

Between Nice and Monaco is a locality so unhealthy that the Paris, Lyons & Mediterranean Railway Company have been obliged to change every two or three months the watchman at the crossing there. Plantations of the eucalyptus have been formed at this place, and at present the same watchman has resided there for several months with his family without experiencing the least inconvenience.

On investigation, in Paris, of a case of lead-poisoning, no lead could be found in the cooking-utensils or in the food and drink of the patient. Lead was discovered, however, in a piece of a Roquefort cheese, which was enveloped in a metallic sheet, composed of 12 parts of tin, 85 of lead, and 3 of undefined matter. The conclusion drawn was, that the lead contained in the cheese was imparted to it by the envelope.

Trials have been made in Rome of a solution of chloride of calcium as a substitute for water in laying dust in streets. The results are said to be highly satisfactory. The dampness communicated to the road, instead of disappearing quickly, as is the case when water alone is used, remains for a whole week. The road continues to be damp without being muddy, and presents a hard surface, on which neither the wind nor the passing of pedestrians or horses has any effect.

Some fifty years ago two gangs of workers in a Belgian coal-mine were at variance, and one party made a fire so as to smoke out the other. The coal in the mine became ignited, and it continues to burn down to the present day. Efforts have been made again and again to extinguish the fire, but in vain. Mr. Richard P. Rothwell, editor of the Engineering and Mining Journal, who mentions this case in a paper on fires in mines, cites a few similar instances from the history of mining in the United States of seams of coal burning for several years—as the Summit Hill Mine, near Mauch Chunk; the Greenwood Company's mine, near Tamaqua; and others in Schuylkill, Carbon, and adjoining counties of Pennsylvania. Some of these mines have been burning upward of twenty years.