Popular Science Monthly/Volume 10/November 1876/Notes


In a recent Miscellany article on the cruise of the Challenger, it was stated that 4,975 fathoms, or five and a half miles, is the deepest trustworthy sounding yet made, excepting two by the Tuscarora, which showed a depth 600 feet greater. A correspondent has called our attention to a statement in No. IV. of the "Science Primer Series," to the effect that between the Azores and Bermudas a sounding had been obtained of seven and a half miles. This sounding was made twenty years ago, by Lieutenant Berryman. It was in latitude 32° 55' north, and longitude 47° 58' west, but it is not now regarded as trustworthy. A fruitful source of error, in this and other early soundings, was the curving of the line by currents, etc.

S. W. Burnham, Esq., of Chicago, has been appointed director of the Dearborn Observatory in that city. Mr. Burnham's contributions to observational astronomy, mostly published in the "Transactions" of the Royal Astronomical Society of London, have earned for him prominent rank among astronomers, both at home and abroad.

In a recent Italian work, measurements are given of the skulls of Dante, Petrarch, Ugo Foscolo, and Volta. Volta's skull is of extraordinary capacity. In the skull of Petrarch the Etruscan type is evident, viz., a voluminous brain, strongly developed in all its parts, and of superior psychological power; but the posterior predominates over the anterior portion, leading to the conclusion that the sentiments and instincts prevailed over the intellect.

It is asserted, by Prof. Isidor Walz, that vanadium is a general constituent of American magnetites. This conclusion is based upon examination of twenty-seven specimens of magnetites from different localities, in the United States and Canada.

In Austria, according to the Moniteur Industriel Beige, dynamite has been employed with success in vine-culture. In order to loosen the soil and permit access of air and moisture to the vines, cartridges of dynamite were placed in holes three metres deep, at such distances from the plants as to obviate the danger of injury to them from an explosion. The result of the explosion was that the soil was perfectly broken up to the depth of two and a half metres. Furthermore, the phylloxera completely disappeared. Certainly a novel use for explosive agents.

Died June 27th, at the age of eighty-two, Christian Gottlieb Ehrenberg, the eminent microscopist. In 1820 he was attached to a scientific expedition into Egypt, and for six years devoted himself to the microscopic investigation of the lower animal forms of that and the neighboring countries. On his return home he was appointed a professor in the medical faculty of the Berlin University. In 1829 he accompanied Humboldt to Central Asia. He was the author of numerous works upon microscopic organisms.

A company has been formed in California for the manufacture of sugar from the juice of watermelons. The process is far simpler and cheaper than that of making sugar from beets. An excellent sirup is also made from watermelon-juice. The seeds yield a sweet-oil which serves as a good substitute for olive-oil, and the residue of the sugar-manufacture is used as food for cattle.

The death is announced of Dr. Lonsdale, the pupil and biographer of Dr. Knox, the celebrated Edinburgh lecturer on anatomy. Dr. Lonsdale was also the author of some pleasant volumes on "Cumberland Worthies."

A new geological map of Scotland, by Prof. Geikie, is announced in Nature. The scale is ten miles to the inch. In addition to the older rocks, this map shows the position of the more important raised beaches, river alluvia, tracts of blown sand, and glacier moraines.

On June 6th and 7th a cremation congress met at Dresden. The attendance was not large. Nearly all the German governments are opposed to cremation of the dead, chiefly, as it would appear, because many of the leading advocates of this substitute for interment are pronounced radicals. The Saxon Government has refused to accept, for the benefit of the Dresden charitable institutions, the legacy of Prof. Eberhard Richter, simply because the testator had coupled with the bequest the condition that his body should be burned in a furnace at Dresden.

It is stated by Prof, de Luca, of Naples, that fruits or leaves kept in an atmosphere of carbonic acid, or of pure hydrogen, after a while begin to ferment. In the carbonic-acid atmosphere, alcohol and acetic acid are produced, and in the hydrogen mannite. In neither case do any organic ferments appear. If this observation should prove to be correct, it will lead to important consequences.

Liquid mercury has been discovered in the ground near Montpellier, and at many points in the department of Hérault, France. It is especially found in decomposing schists, but its appearance seems to be intermittent. Its presence is marked by injurious effects on the vegetation: the trees languish and die, the pasturage is spoiled, and the sheep grazing on such ground present the symptoms of mercurial poisoning.

Wire ropes of phosphor bronze are much employed in the hoisting-apparatus of mines in Europe. Such wire ropes are much stronger and more durable than those of iron or steel.

Silkworms hatched by electricity are now being reared in Italy. The superintendent of the experimental silkworm-farm at Padua has found that the hatching of silkworms may be accelerated ten or twelve days, and a yield of forty per cent, of caterpillars secured, by exposing the eggs to a current of negative electricity from a Holtz machine for eight or ten minutes. It is suggested to apply the same method to hens'-eggs and to hastening the germination of seeds.

Prof. Tait calls attention to a paper by F. Mohr, published in Liebig's Annalen, as early as 1837, which contains views on the nature of heat similar to those published later by Dr. Mayer. Mohr's essay is said to contain about all that is correct in Mayer, while avoiding some of his errors.

There are in Algeria 613 artesian wells, representing a total depth of over 26 kilometres (16.12 miles). The cost of these wells, including one of exceptional depth (596 metres, or about 2,000 feet), was 2,500,000 francs, or 95 francs per metre.

A living gorilla has been brought to Europe from Africa, by the remnant of the Güssfeldt expedition. The animal is in good condition, and is to be placed in the Zoölogical Gardens at Berlin. He is two years old.

The Society of Medicine and Surgery, of Bordeaux, offers a prize of 1,000 francs for the best essay upon the following subject, viz.: microscopical examination of human blood, both in the flesh and in the dry state, of the fœtus and of the adult, as compared with the blood of other mammals, from the medico-legal point of view. The essays offered must be written in either Latin or French, and submitted to the secretary of the society not later than August 31, 1879.

The "Cochin China diarrhœa" annually carries off about 1,000 men of the French army and navy. According to Dr. Normand, naval surgeon, this disease is produced by the presence in the intestines of an enormous number of entozoöns, of the new species Anguillula stercoralis. This entozoön is one-fourth of a millimetre in length.

George Smith, of the British Museum, famous for his Assyrian researches, died at Aleppo, August 19th, at the early age of thirty-seven years.

The Cologne Gazette says that Frau Theresa Fiedler von Hülsenstein, who lately died at Prague, had attained the age of one hundred and nineteen years. She was born at Hamburg in 1757, and was in her youth a maid-of-honor to the Empress Maria Theresa.