Popular Science Monthly/Volume 10/December 1876/Notes


A meeting of persons interested in the formation of a Metrological Society was lately held in Boston, which resulted in the organization of the "American Metric Bureau." Arrangements were made to secure a large list of honorary or life members, and to solicit subscriptions to supply teachers with metric apparatus at half-price. The assessment for 1876 was fixed at $2.50. The list of directors is as follows: Samuel W. Mason, J. P. Putnam, Prof. W. F. Bradbury, Dr. Edward Wigglesworth, Melvil Dewey, Prof. William Watson, Dr. H. P. Bowditch, S. S. Greene, Nathan Appleton, and Prof. K. S. Pennell.

In the Paris School of Mines is a laboratory, founded in 1845, for analyzing gratuitously any substances presented. Last year 767 analyses were made at this laboratory, chiefly of minerals and manures. A laboratory for the gratuitous analysis of medicines and articles of food would be a very useful institution in our American cities.

Cremation of the dead is now fairly established in Saxe-Gotha. In a recent sitting of the town council, it was decided to erect the necessary apparatus in the new cemetery. Cremation is to take place only in accordance with the clearly expressed wish of the deceased, and under permit from the proper medical officer. The ashes are to be gathered in urns, to be preserved by the family of the deceased, or set up in a hall in the cemetery.

In one of the monthly reports of the Department of Agriculture, it is stated that in Livingston County, Illinois, the planting of trees in groves and shelter-belts, and for ornamental purposes, is now very general. The black-walnut is the favorite tree for profit and ease of cultivation; but elm, soft maple, willow, Cottonwood, European larch, and ash, are common, while evergreens are popular for ornamental purposes, and occasionally are planted in groves and shelter-belts.

At the Agricultural Congress in Philadelphia, resolutions were offered by Prof. C. V. Riley, and unanimously adopted, in favor of government action for the suppression of the Rocky Mountains locust-plague. In the opinion of the Congress, the national Legislature owes it to the people of the West to take this matter into consideration, and the United States are called upon to follow the example of other nations under like circumstances, and appoint a special commission for the thorough investigation of the subject.

In a work on the "Voices of Animals," by Landois, additional evidence is collected of the universality of vocal sounds among the lower animals, including the Mollusca. The author considers it to be indisputable that ants possess a vocal speech, by which they are enabled to exercise those higher mental faculties to which they owe their high social organization.

The University of Michigan had last year 101 female students, distributed as follows: Medicine, 37; law, 2; homeœopathy, 2; literature, 60. "The experience of the past year," writes the president of the university in his annual report, "confirms the opinion we have been led to form by the experience of former years, that women who come here in good health are able to complete our collegiate or professional course of study without detriment to their health."

Prof. Maurice Schiff, of Florence, has demonstrated that the non-edible mushrooms, "toadstools," contain a common poison, muscarine, and that its effects are counteracted by either atropine or daturine. Italian apothecaries now keep these drugs in the rural districts, where the consumption of the non-edible fungi is apt to occur. The hint is worthy of attention every-where.

It has been affirmed that not less than four per cent, of all the coal-laden vessels that have left English ports during the last five years, for destinations south of the equator, have suffered either total or partial loss by the spontaneous ignition of their cargoes.

At the recent meeting of the British Association, Mr. Garner stated that he had found from measurements of brain capacity, and from casts of the interiors of skulls, that the size of the brain in the dog does not correspond very closely with the size of the animal. No dog has so large a brain as the wolf, nor one so small as the jackal. The brain of a Newfoundland dog is very little larger than that of a terrier. Prof. Macalister, of Dublin, gave an account of the brain of the celebrated greyhound "Master Macgrath." He had weighed the brain of many other dogs, but Master Macgrath's was the heaviest of all, and the convolutions were much more complex.

In a balloon-voyage from Cherbourg, in August, two French aëronauts, Moret and Durnof, observed with surprise, at a height of 1,700 metres, that the bottom of the sea was visible in detail, though that part of the British Channel must have a depth of 60 to 80 metres. The rocks and submarine currents appeared with great distinctness. It is suggested that this fact might be utilized, a means being afforded of giving accurate representations of the bottom for the benefit of navigators.

In the Scientific Farmer we find recorded the death of Prof. Dimond, of the New Hampshire Agricultural College. He, no doubt, died of overwork. In the Agricultural College lie was Professor of Agriculture, Botany, and Chemistry, farm-superintendent and steward, and at the same time was Professor of Botany and Chemistry in Dartmouth College. It is stated that three men will be appointed to perform the duties recently performed by Prof. Dimond.

During the past year the French Association for the Advancement of Science expended the sum of 7,000 francs in aid of scientific research. Of this sum, 5,000 francs was granted to the astronomer Janssen, to help defray his expenses as a member of the expedition to observe the transit of Venus; and 2,000 francs to M. Chapelas-Coulvier-Gravier, to enable him to continue his observations of shooting-stars.

At one point on the margin of Lake Tanganyika (Central Africa), Captain Cameron saw large masses of coal. In the district adjoining Manyuema iron is plentiful: the people manufacture large quantities of iron, and many of the articles they make are beautifully finished.

Prof. H. N. Martin will lecture on animal physiology, in the John Hopkins University, Baltimore, on Tuesdays and Fridays during the winter. The lectures will be accompanied by instruction in the laboratory. After the spring vacation, Prof Martin will deliver a course of lectures on general biology, intended for elementary students. There will also be organized, during the latter part of the session 1876–'77, a short course of more advanced lectures on embryology.

The formation of nickel-ore near Lancaster, Pennsylvania, is pronounced by the American Manufacturer to be the heaviest so far discovered in any part of the globe. The ore is exceedingly rich, of a grayish tint, very heavy, and so hard and closely united to the surrounding substances that it has to be got out by blasting. As soon as the ore is mined, it is crushed into small pieces, and then transferred to kilns of a capacity of from eighty to ninety tons each. It is then subjected to heat obtained at first by burning wood, and which is continued by the conversion of the evaporating fumes. The manipulation is concluded by the fused metal being placed in a smelting furnace, and undergoing a process similar to that adopted in the treatment of iron ore.

A Berlin machinist has invented a steam-velocipede. The boiler is heated by means of a petroleum-lamp, and rests on the axle of the hind-wheels.

The Paris correspondent of the London Times states that, in digging the new basin at St.-Nazaire, animal remains, tools, weapons, and utensils, have been found in a sandy stratum 20 feet below the surface. Last year a dolichocephalous skull was found near the same spot.

The Registrar-General of Great Britain and Ireland, in his quarterly return, states that the births of 296,350 children, and the deaths of 171,082 persons of both sexes, were registered in the United Kingdom in the three months ending June 30, 1876. The recorded natural increase of population was thus 125,268. The registered number of persons married in the quarter ending March 31, 1876, was 117,760. The resident population of the United Kingdom in the middle of 1876 is estimated at 33,093,439; that of England and Wales at 24,244,010, of Scotland at 3,527,811, and of Ireland at 5,321,618.

Dr. Magnus condemns the use of blue glasses as a protection for the eyes, and prefers the gray and smoky glasses used in. England. He considers blue glass specially irritating to the eye, and says that many birds, reptiles, and amphibians, have yellow or reddish oil-drops in the eye to neutralize this blue color and protect the eyes.