Popular Science Monthly/Volume 12/January 1878/Notes


In the gas-works at Rahway, New Jersey, a simple and ingenious method of upward filtration through coke and "breeze" is in use for removing from the waste residuum the injurious products which otherwise would pollute the streams into which the waste might flow. This method is fully described, with accompanying sketch, by Mr. J. R. Shotwell in a letter to Prof. Spencer F. Baird, Fish Commissioner. Mr. Shotwell's communication is published in full in the Gas-Light Journal.

General F. C. Cotton remarked, at the "Domestic Economy Congress," upon the mental inactivity of the army and navy, officers and men, in foreign parts. It was remarkable, he said, how little additional knowledge was brought home by these bodies from their visits to foreign countries. The speaker pictured "men sitting with their bands before them, or, what was worse, drinking brandy-and-water, who, if they had a slight knowledge of science given them at school, would have taken up some branch, and brought back valuable knowledge, instead of dyspepsia and discomfort."

Died, on Lake Titicaca, Peru, toward the end of September, James Orton, late Professor of Natural History in Vassar College. The deceased was born in 1830, graduated from Williams College in 1855, and a few years later became a Congregational minister. He was an instructor in natural sciences in Rochester University in 1866, and in 1869 went to Vassar College. He thrice visited South America for the purpose of studying its natural history. First, in 1867, he led an expedition from Williams College across the continent by Quito, the Napo, and the Amazon. Again, in 1873, he made a journey across South America from Para up the Amazon to Lima and Lake Titicaca. He once more returned to the same fields of exploration last year. He was the author of several works, the best known being "The Andes and the Amazon" (1870), and "Comparative Zoology" (1875).

Mr. Thomas Barrett, mate of the American whaling-bark A. Houghton, has arrived in New York, bearing with him a silver spoon with the arms of Sir John Franklin, which he obtained from an Esquimau at Whale Point, Hudson's Bay. From a party of Esquimaux, who camped during the winter of 1876-'77 near the winter quarters of the A. Houghton, Mr. Barrett received a great deal of valuable information concerning the fate of Franklin and his men. It is proposed to send an expedition next spring to Hudson's Bay, and thence by sleds to the place where the men of the Erebus and Terror are buried—about 500 miles distant inland. The Esquimaux state that the white men left behind a lot of books with writing in them, which were buried in the cairns.

A correspondent of the American Manufacturer records as an "innovation in technical education" a recent visit paid to the Phoenixville Iron-Works by the classes in civil and dynamic engineering of the Pennsylvania University, under the charge of their professors. It is the intention of the professors to make frequent visits with their classes to all establishments of interest within convenient distance of the university. Each student will be required to take notes and make an elaborate report of his observations.

Died, September 17th, at his seat of Lacock Abbey, Wiltshire, England, William H. Fox Talbot, one of the discoverers of the art of photography. He was born in 1800, and received his education at Harrow School and the University of Cambridge. The course of experiments, which resulted in the production of a photographic image, were begun by him in 1833. His results were first published in February, 1839. Daguerre's researches had, however, been published a short time before. Of late years Mr. Fox Talbot took a deep interest in cuneiform inscriptions.

Having made exact measurements of 172 crania of known sex, Morselli reaches the following conclusions: 1. The cranium in man is to the cranium in woman as 100: 85.7. 2. The lower jaw in man, compared with the same in woman, is in the proportion 100: 78.5. 3. This last difference is noticed also in anthropomorphous apes. 4. Individual variations are more extensive in women than in men. 5. Taking into consideration the relation between the weight and the capacity of the cranium, it may be inferred that woman has a less development of osseous tissue. 6. In the ratio of the weights of the cranium and the lower maxillary, we have a new zoölogical difference between man and ape, the latter always presenting a heavier jaw relatively to the cranium than the former.

At Cassel, in Prussia, there is a Live-Stock Insurance Company which insures live-stock against disease. The books of this company furnish conclusive evidence of the very great frequency of trichinosis in swine. In the district of Cassel the proportion of cases of trichinosis to the total number of swine insured was one in 300; in East and West Prussia, one in 450; in Silesia and Posen, one in 230. Since July, 1876, the proportion of affected animals in the provinces near the Russian frontier has been even more unfavorable, and many of the insured have found 10 or even 15 per cent, of their pigs thus diseased.

Mention is made in Addison's Spectator of an odd character in Italy who had a chair-balance made for himself, so that he might be able to keep his bodily weight constantly the same. A like idea has recently occurred to a French investigator, who has constructed a "registering balance," showing in curves the gains or losses of any matter placed in one or other of its scales. In one experiment made by the inventor, an adult man seated in the balance, was first quiet for twenty minutes, then read in a loud voice for twenty minutes, then was perfectly quiet for twenty minutes more. The curve of variations in the weight of the body during this hour shows a considerably greater loss in the second twenty minutes than in the first, a loss partly compensated by a diminution in emission of water and carbonic acid during the third twenty minutes.

Two processes for preserving fish from decay were detailed in a recent communication to the Paris Academy of Sciences by E. M. d'Amélio. The first process was as follows: The fish, whether raw or cooked, is immersed in a strong solution of citric acid in water. After two or three hours, the fish is taken from the bath and dried in the open air, or by artificial heat, the latter course being preferable. Fish so prepared will keep fresh anywhere for years. To restore its original flexibility it must be steeped in fresh water four or five days. The other method consists in the employment of a bath of silicate of potash and glycerine, in equal quantities. The fish, the intestines having first been removed, is steeped in this bath for a day or two, washed in fresh water, and dried slowly. By the use of this process the author has succeeded in preserving intact the color of the fishes and the eyes.

It is proposed to erect at Stockholm a monument to Linnæus, consisting of a statue of the great naturalist, surrounded by allegorical figures of the four sciences to which he devoted himself, namely, botany, zoölogy, mineralogy, and medicine.

The Marquis of Bute has on one of his estates near Cardiff, Wales, a flourishing vineyard of some 6,000 vines. A French vineyard-proprietor, who has inspected these vines, expresses his conviction that this experiment of a vineyard in that climate was destined to be entirely successful.