Popular Science Monthly/Volume 12/February 1878/Notes


There will be two solar eclipses this year, one on the 1st of February, the other on the 29th of July. The former will be central and annular as observed from high southern latitudes; the latter will be total in the western part of North America. It will be best observed at Denver, Colorado.

The "Copley Medal" for 1877 has been awarded by the London Royal Society to Prof. James Dwight Dana, of Yale College, for his biological, geological, and mineralogical investigations carried on through half a century, and for the valuable works in which his conclusions and discoveries have been published.

A prize of $20,000 is offered by the Council General of Guadeloupe for the best new process for extracting the juice from sugar-cane, the cost not to exceed 40 per cent, of the market value of the product. The prize is open to competition till June 1, 1880.

Numerous facts are cited by the Australian explorer, Landsborough, which go to prove that dense forests are on the increase in Australia, that the climate is growing moister, and that even the great central desert may, in course of time, become inhabitable. The frequency of fires, prior to the introduction of sheep-farming, when there was nothing to keep down the grass, was terribly destructive to trees and to all vegetation. Now these ravages are becoming limited in extent.

Karl Ludwig von Littrow, Professor of Astronomy, and Director of the Imperial Observatory at Vienna, died at Venice, November 10th, in the sixty-seventh year of his age.

The mean distance of the sun, as deduced by the British Astronomer Royal, Sir George Airy, from a comparison of the results obtained by the English telescopic observations of the transit of Venus in 1874, is equal to 93,300,000 miles. But, as the photographs of the transit are yet to be worked up, this estimate must be regarded as provisional only.

Dr. H. C. Yarrow, of the Army Medical Museum, Washington, is collecting materials for a memoir on the burial-customs of the North American Indians, both ancient and modern, and earnestly solicits information so as to enable him to treat the subject with all possible fullness. Correspondents are requested to state as exactly as may be the name of the tribe concerning which they give information, its locality, its manner of burial, ancient and modern, its funereal and other mortuary ceremonies, etc. Dr. Yarrow's address is 1,747 F Street, N. W., Washington.

Douglas A. Spalding, author of many suggestive papers on certain obscure questions in psychology which have appeared in the Monthly, died on the 31st of October, in the thirty-seventh year of his age. From a notice in Nature we learn that Mr. Spalding was in his early manhood a slater at Aberdeen; in 1862, through the kindness of Prof. Bain, he was allowed to attend free of charge the classes in literature and philosophy in the university. Later he went to London, and tried to earn a livelihood by teaching, at the same time studying law. His paper on the instinctive movements of young birds, read at the British-American meeting of 1872, first brought him to the notice of the world of science.

At a conversazione lately held in Guy's Hospital, London, a filter invented by a Major Crease was exhibited. It reduced strong tea and logwood infusion to clear, tasteless water. The nature of the filtering medium is at present a secret.

A prize of $25,000 is offered by the government of India for the best machine or process for preparing rhea or ramie-fibre; also a prize of $5,000 for the second best. The conditions of winning the prize are that the machine or process shall be capable of producing by animal, water, or steam power, one ton of dressed fibre at a total cost not exceeding $75 at any port in India, or $150 in England. The machines must be in readiness at Saharanpar by August 15, 1879.

A solution of bicarbonate of sodium applied to burns promptly and permanently relieves all pain. A laboratory assistant in Philadelphia having severely burned the inside of the last phalanx of the thumb while bending glass tubing, applied the solution of bicarbonate of soda, and not only was the pain allayed but the thumb could be at once freely used without inconvenience.

Munke quotes from the "Talmud" a passage in which mention is made of iron as a means of "protection from lightning and thunder;" and Wiedemann adds that the ancient Egyptians appear to have used gilded masts "for warding off the bad weather coming from heaven."

On board the British iron-clad ship Téméraire, besides the great engines for propulsion, there are no less than thirty-four small engines for the following purposes: two turning, two starting, four feed, two circulating, two fan, two bilge, one capstan, one steering, four pumping, four ash-lifters, two hydraulic gear-workers, one torpedo reservoir-charger, one to work the electric machine' which lights the bridge, and four others.

Nearly all the salt used for domestic purposes passes out with the sewage, and is inseparable from it; the proportion of salt (chloride of sodium) found in water is therefore a pretty accurate measure of the degree of contamination by sewage. Hence, says Prof. Lattimore, of Rochester, "whenever the proportion of salt in well-water rises above a very few grains per gallon, contamination by sewage or house-drainage may be confidently asserted."

A singularly interesting discovery has been made by Reichenbach, with regard to the embryo of the crawfish. He finds that the "food-yelk" of the egg is not merely absorbed by the embryonic cells by a passive process of diffusion, but that these latter actually devour the yelk-globules in precisely the same manner as an amoeba devours diatoms or desmids. The cells throw out pseudopod-like processes, and with these envelop the yelk-globules and drag them into their interior, where they undergo digestion.

The sermon of Henry Ward Beecher on the subject of future rewards and punishments, concerning which there has been such gross misrepresentation, is published in full in the Christian Union (New York) of December 26th. It is entitled "The Background of Mystery."