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Popular Science Monthly/Volume 12/November 1877/Popular Miscellany

POPULAR MISCELLANY.

"A New Type of Steam-Engine."—Prof. R. II. Thurston read a paper at the Nashville meeting of the American Association on "A New Type of Steam-Engine," a report of which we find in the American Manufacturer. The author first gave a history of the steam-engine from Hero's time; then he discussed the modern type of steam-engine, pointing out its shortcomings; finally he proposed a new type, designed to prevent loss of heat-energy. There are, he observed, only two possible methods of utilizing the full heat-energy: the first is by enormous expansion, cooling the steam till it is all condensed into water and till all the heat is even taken out of that water, but this he shows to be impracticable; the other method is to use part of the power of the engine to pump back the discharged steam, containing as it does some water condensed from the steam, into the boiler. This latter method is theoretically practical, and the purely mechanical difficulties in the way of its realization are by no means insuperable.

As the steam in the cylinder of an engine expands, doing work, part of it condenses. The difference between the heat-energy of the steam at the beginning of the stroke, and that of the steam and water at the end of the stroke, is equal to the heat-equivalent of the mechanical work done by the steam. The change of mechanical condition which the steam undergoes during the stroke—namely, its conversion into water—renders it possible that the mingled steam and water remaining in the cylinder at the end of the stroke may be forced back into the boiler with a less expenditure of mechanical energy than the steam gave out during the stroke.

 

The Telephone anticipated.—As is the case with all great inventions, the telephone is now said to be nothing new; its principle was known long ago, and even exemplified in practice. Many are the claimants of priority in solving the problem of the transmission of articulate sound to great distances, but we know of none whose case is stronger than that of "Monsieur Ch. B——," who appears to have solved the problem as early as 1857. In the Count du Moncel’s "Exposé des Applications de l'Électricité," published twenty years ago, occurs the following passage (translated in Nature):

"After the marvelous telegraphs which are able to reproduce at a distance writing of this or that individual, and designs more or less complicated, it seemed impossible, said M. B——, to advance further in the regions of the marvelous. Nevertheless, essaying to do something more, I asked, for example, if speech itself would not be capable of transmission by electricity; in a word, if one would not be able to speak at Vienna and be heard at Paris. The thing is practicable. This is how: Sounds, it is known, are formed by vibrations and carried to the car by these same vibrations, which are reproduced by the intermediate media. But the intensity of these vibrations diminishes very rapidly with the distance, from which it follows, even in the employment of speaking-trumpets, tubes, and of acoustical horns, the limits which cannot be surpassed are very restricted. Imagine that one speaks near a mobile plate, flexible enough not to lose any of the vibrations produced by the voice; that this plate establishes and interrupts successively the communication with a battery. You would be able to have at a distance another plate which would execute at the same time the same vibrations. It is true that the intensity of the sounds produced would be variable at the point of departure, where the plate is vibrated by the voice, and constant at the point of arrival, where it is vibrated by electricity. But it is demonstrable that this would not alter the sounds. . . . In any case, it is impossible to demonstrate that the electric transmission of sounds is impossible. . . . An electric battery, two vibrating plates, and a metallic wire, will suffice."
 

The Slaves of Ants.—The subjugation of other insects by various species of ants is a familiar fact of natural history; it is less usual to see two or more species thus subjugated. Prof. Leidy, in some remarks made at a meeting of the Academy of Natural Science of Philadelphia, recounts his observations on a colony of yellow ants (Formica flava), which had three different insects in their service, namely, a species of Aphis, a Coccus, and the larva of an insect, probably coleopterous. The aphides, he tells us, were kept in two separate herds, and these were separated from a herd of cocci. The larva was in the midst of one of the former herds. In another and larger colony of yellow ants there was a herd of aphides which occupied the under-part of one margin of the stone under which the ants had their nest; the surface occupied by these aphides was about ten inches long: and three-fourths of an inch broad. The same colony also possessed a separate herd of cocci, closely crowded, and occupying almost a square inch of space. Both aphides and cocci, with few exceptions, adhered to the under-surface of the stone, and were not attached to the roots. They appeared to be carefully attended by the ants, which surrounded them. The larva, too, was carefully attended by the ants, which were frequently observed to stroke it with their antennae. The aphides and cocci were all in good condition, but without visible means of subsistence, excepting the neighboring grass-roots partially extending into the earth beneath the stones, to which they probably were at times transferred by their masters.

Obituary.—We have to record the death of the astronomer Leverrier, which took place at Paris on September 23d. Leverrier was born in 1811. Early in life he evinced great aptitude for chemical research, but his natural bent lay rather in the direction of the mathematical sciences. On being appointed to a position in the Polytechnic School, he devoted himself with great ardor to the study of the great problems of speculative astronomy, and soon earned high distinction by sundry memoirs. He was elected member of the Paris Academy of Sciences in 1846, and during the same year he made the great astronomical discovery of his life—that of the planet Neptune. In 1849 he entered political life as a deputy in the Legislative Assembly; under the Empire he was a senator, and for some time Inspector-General of Public Instruction. In 1853 he was appointed Director of the Paris Observatory, and so continued till 1870, when he resigned. He was reappointed in 1872, and held the position till his death. That sad event was no doubt hastened by the effects of mental overwork in his search for an intra-Mercurial planet.

 

The death is announced of J. P. Gassiot, F. R. S., in the eightieth year of his age. Mr. Gassiot was a merchant of London, but devoted his leisure to scientific research. In 1838 he was an active member of an electrical society, and for the remainder of his life devoted himself specially to the study of electrical phenomena. He was the author of several papers contributed to the "Philosophical Transactions" of the Royal Society of London. He was a munificent patron of science, and a helper of scientific men.

 

British Association Papers.—In his presidential address in Section D of the British Association, Dr. J. Gwyn Jeffreys vehemently attacked the doctrine of evolution, which he declared to be simply a "product of imagination. . . . I cannot," he said, "identify a single species of the Cretaceous Mollusca as now living or recent. All of them are evidently tropical forms. This question of identity depends, however, on the capability of hereditary persistence which some species possess; and although a certain degree of modification may be caused by an alteration of conditions in the course of incalculable ages, our knowledge is not sufficient to enable us to do more than vaguely speculate, and surely not to take for granted the transmutation of species. We have no proof of anything of the kind. Devolution or succession appears to be the law of Nature; evolution (in its modern interpretation) may be regarded as the product of human imagination. I am not a believer in the fixity of species, nor in their periodical extinction and replacement by other species. The notorious imperfection of the geological record ought to warn us against such hasty theorization. We cannot conceive the extent of this imperfection. Not merely are our means of geological information restricted to those outer layers of the earth which are within our sight, but nearly three-fourths of its surface is inaccessible to us, so long as it is covered by the sea. Were this not the case we might have some chance of discovering a few of the missing links which would connect the former with the existing fauna and flora. It is impossible even to guess what strata underlie the bottom of the ocean, or where the latter attained its present position relatively to that of the land. The materials of the sea-bed have been used over and over again in the formation of the earth's crust, and the future history of our globe will to the end of time repeat the past."

 

Miss A. W. Buckland, in a paper on "The Stimulants of Ancient and Modern Savages," said that the use of stimulants is almost universal. Among the lowest races the form of stimulant employed is now, as in ages past, some sort of root or leaf chewed for its strengthening and invigorating properties, such as the pitberry, recently discovered in use among nations in Central Australia, and the coca-leaf among the Indians of South America; but no sooner did the nations advance to the agricultural stage than they began to make fermented drinks from the roots of grains cultivated for food. Hence the beer of Egypt, which probably found its way with the wheat and barley of that land to the Swiss lake-dwellings, and over a great part of Europe, having been evidently known in Greece and Rome at a very early period, while a similar liquor still forms the chief beverage of all African nations, being now, as formerly in Egypt, fermented by means of plants. In China and Japan rice was and is used to make wine or beer instead of wheat or barley or American maize. The sour milk or koumiss of the pastoral tribes of Central Asia, and the mead of the ancient Scandinavians, both reappear among the Kaffirs of South Africa. Palm-wine is used wherever palms flourish, but wine of the juice of the grape, although known in very ancient times, seems to have been confined to the civilized races of Western Asia and Egypt, extending later to Greece and Rome. The multitude of wines described by Pliny were, however, in almost all cases flavored with herbs or garden-plants for medicinal purposes. The conclusions to be drawn from the history of fermented beverages, as recorded by travelers, are, that the earliest stimulants were simply leaves and roots chosen by animal instinct, chewed, and found by experience to produce exhilaration and strength. The art of distillation, though probably known early in the Christian era, is comparatively modern, and was certainly unknown to savage races until "fire-water" was introduced, to their serious detriment, by Europeans.

 

In a paper on the "Shifting of the Earth's Axis," Mr. A. W. Waters pointed out how the unequal distribution of land and sea might be an agent for preventing the movements of elevation and depression of the land in one part of the globe balancing those in another, and also showed how similar movements in various localities would differently affect the pole. Any movement, such as submarine elevation, which displaces water, would spread it over the oceanic area; and the effect of this would, with the present configuration, be the same as if about one-twelfth of the weight had been added in the northern hemisphere along east longitude 45° 44', namely, in a line passing by the entrance of the White Sea, over the Caucasus, and through the middle of Madagascar. As every submarine movement would create a force acting in this direction, there seems reasonable ground for thinking that the tendency would be for the shifting of the axis to take place near this line.

 

Simultaneous Contrast of Colors.—An incident in the life of Henry IV. of France finds its explanation in an experiment made by Chevreul. While yet Prince of Navarre, Henry IV. was playing dice with two courtiers a few days before the massacre of St. Bartholomew's-day. They saw, or thought they saw, on the dice spots of blood; and the party broke up in alarm. The phenomenon is explained by Chevreul by the law of simultaneous contrast of colors, and he illustrates this by experiment as follows: Seat yourself in a room so as to receive on the right side the sun's rays at an angle of 20° to 25°, the left eye being closed. On a table covered with gray paper and under diffuse light place two hen's-feathers, one black and the other white, distant 0.6 to 0.8 metre from the eye. After about two minutes, with the right eye in the sun's beams, the dark feather appears red and the white one emerald-green. After a few seconds the black feather of red color seems edged with green and the white feather seems of a rosy color. Now close the right eye and open the left. The black feather will be black and the white one white. The effect is evidently due to insolation: the black feather appears red because it reflects much less light than the white feather. From the law of simultaneous contrast of colors, the insolated eye seeing the green by white light, the black feather must appear of the complementary color of green, which is red.

 

Constitution of the Nebulæ.—Mr. E. J. Stone, in a paper read before the Royal Society, London, attempts to reconcile Huggins's discovery of bright lines in the spectra of nebulæ with the old view that nebulæ are irresolvable stellar clusters. The sun, he remarks, is known to be surrounded by a gaseous envelope of very considerable extent. Similar envelopes must surround the stars generally. Each star, if isolated, would be surrounded with its own gaseous envelope. These gaseous envelopes might, in the case of a cluster, form over the whole, or a part, of the cluster a continuous mass of gas. So long as such a cluster was within a certain distance from us, the light from the stellar masses would predominate over that of the gaseous envelope. The spectrum would, therefore, be an ordinary stellar spectrum. Suppose such a cluster to be removed farther and farther from us, the light from each star would be diminished in proportion of the inverse square of the distance; but such would not be the case with the light from the enveloping surface formed by the gaseous envelopes. The light from this envelope received on a slit in the focus of an object-glass would be sensibly constant because the contributing area would be increased in the same proportion that the light from each part is diminished. The result would be that, at some definite distance, and all greater distances, the preponderating light received from such a cluster would be derived from the gaseous envelopes and not from the isolated stellar masses. The spectrum of the cluster would, therefore, become a linear one, like that from the gaseous surroundings of our own sun.

 

Duration of the Flight of Bees.—To determine the length of time that bees can continue to fly about, Dönhoff took some of those insects from a hive, just as they came out of the entrance-hole, and placed them under a glass bell at a temperature of 66° Fahr. First they ran hastily up and down the sides of the glass, and flew about in the jar. Their movements grew gradually slower, and after forty-five minutes they all sat quietly together, or moved very slowly and clumsily, and were unable to fly. On being allowed to crawl upon a pencil, and then thrown off, they fell down perpendicularly without moving their wings. On killing one or two, the honey-bags were found to be empty. The author then fed the others with a sugar solution, and after three or four minutes threw some of them into the air. They were now able to use their wings a little. A minute or two later they appeared to be as lively as ever. The author remarks that if the temperature is under 66° Fahr. the bees lose the power of flying even sooner, and recover it more slowly. With higher temperatures the power returns sooner. Dönhoff's conclusion from these observations is that the bee "loses the power of flying because it does not possess the necessary strength to be converted into muscular action, and that this strength returns to its system because in sugar it finds the necessary vital support."

 

Singing-Flames and Inaudible Vibrations.—"Singing-flames" are known to be sensitive to the faintest sounds, provided the rate of vibration of the latter is sufficiently high. But are they equally sensible to vibrations that are so rapid as to be inaudible? This question has been studied by Prof. W. F. Barrett, and the results of his experiments, as stated by him in a communication to Nature, will be read with interest. Prof. Barrett employed a flame produced by coal-gas contained in a holder under a pressure of ten inches of water, and issuing from a steatite jet having a circular orifice of 0.04 inch diameter; the height of the flame when undisturbed was just two feet, but it fell to seven inches under the feeblest hiss or the clink of two coins. On sounding the lowest note of a "Galton whistle," little effect was produced on the flame; a shrill dog-whistle produced a slight forking, but that was all. Raising the pitch of the Galton whistle, the flame became more and more agitated, until when Prof. Barrett had nearly reached the upper limit of audibility of the left ear, and had gone quite beyond the limit of the right, the flame was still more violently agitated. Raising the pitch still higher, till he had quite ceased to hear any sound, he was astonished to observe the profound effect produced on the flame. At every inaudible puff of the whistle it would fall fully sixteen inches, and give its characteristic roar, at the same time losing its luminosity, and, when viewed in a revolving mirror, presenting a multitude of ragged images, with torn sides and flickering tongues. Nor was this effect sensibly diminished by a distance of some twenty feet from the flame; even at fifty feet the effect was very pronounced.

 

Functions of the Cerebellum.—The researches and experiments of Flourens have been considered conclusive as to the coordinative function of the cerebellum in animal movements. That eminent physiologist removed the cerebellum from pigeons in successive slices, and found that, on cutting away the superficial layers of the organ, there appeared only a slight feebleness and want of harmony in the movements; but that when the deepest layers were removed the animal lost completely the power of standing, walking, leaping, or flying. Volition and sensation remained; the power of executing movements remained; but the power of coordinating those movements into regular and combined actions was lost. Flourens's experiments have been again and again repeated, always with the same results. But now the subject has been investigated anew by Ovsiannikoff, whose conclusion is that, even though the entire cerebellum be cut out, the faculty of coordination still remains. In one of his experiments a rabbit remained alive during two whole weeks after all the upper half of the cerebellum was cut out, nor did it lose its faculty of coordinating its movements after all the cerebellum was cut out until an effusion of blood produced this result.

 

Appearance and Habits of the Andaman Islanders.—The natives of the Andaman Islands are described by Surgeon-Major Hodder, of the British Army, as not exactly prepossessing in appearance, though not deformed and hideous, as has been stated. In height they vary from four feet nine inches to five feet one inch; they are extremely black, more so than the African negro, and some of them have "a dull, leaden hue, like that of a black-leaded stove." They are fond of dancing, have a strong sense of the ridiculous, are exceedingly passionate, are easily aroused by trifles, and then "their appearance becomes diabolical." The men go entirely naked, and the women nearly so. They cover their bodies with rod earth, and, as ornaments, wear strings of their ancestors' bones round their necks, or a skull slung in a basket over their shoulders. They are tattooed all over their bodies; their heads are shaven, with the exception of a narrow streak from the crown to the nape of the neck. They rarely have eyebrows, beard, mustache, whiskers, or eyelashes. They are very fond of liquor and smoking; are short-lived and not healthy, not many passing forty years of age. Their language consists of few words, harsh and explosive, and chiefly monosyllabic. Almost their only amusement is dancing to a monotonous chant and the music of a rough skin drum, played by stamping with the feet. Their courtship and marriage usages are very simple. The male candidate for matrimony eats a sort of ray-fish, which gives him the appellation of "goo-mo"—bachelor desirous of marrying. The marriageable girls wear a certain kind of flower. The ceremony consists in the pair about to be married sitting down, apart from the others, and staring at one another in silence; toward evening the girl's father or guardian joins the hands of the pair; they then retire, and live alone in the jungle for some days. The only manufactures of the islanders are canoes, bows, arrows, spears, and nets. Of late years "homes" have been established for the Andamanese, consisting of large bamboo sheds, in which those who come in from the jungle put up, coming and going at will. They seem, however, to prefer the jungle, and the attempts made to cultivate their acquaintance do not appear to have been very successful.

 

The Ancient Ruins of Colorado.—A correspondent of the Worcester Spy writes as follows of certain highly interesting discoveries recently made by the Geographical and Geological Survey of the Territories conducted by Dr. Hayden:

"Prof. Hayden has given Southwestern Colorado a new interest, by discovering and describing the ancient ruins in that section and in Southeastern Utah. The fertile valley of the Animas was densely inhabited and highly cultivated by an enlightened race of people centuries ago. The ruins of the houses, corrals, towns, fortifications, ditches, pottery-ware, drawings, non-interpretable writings, etc., show that many arts were cultivated by these prehistoric people which are now entirely lost. Their houses were built of almost every kind of stone, from small bowlders to the finest sandstone.

"The finest of these ruins, and the nearest perfect, are situated about thirty-five miles below Animas City, in a large valley fifteen miles long by seven wide, on the west side of the river. This valley has been covered with buildings of every size, the two largest being 300 by 6,000 feet, and about 300 feet apart. They are built of small blocks of sandstone, laid in adobe mud, the outside walls being four feet and the inside walls from a foot and a half to three feet thick. In the lower story are found port-holes a foot square. There are rooms now left, and walls for about four stories high are still standing. About the second story, on the west side, there was once a balcony along the length of the building. No signs of a door are visible in the outer walls, and the ingress must have been from the top, in the inside there being passages from room to room. Most of them are small, from eight by ten to twelve by fourteen feet, the doors being two by four feet. The arches over the doors and portholes are made of small cedar poles two inches wide, placed across, on which the masonry is placed. The sleepers supporting the floors are of cedar, about eight inches thick, and from twenty to fifty feet long, and about three feet apart. A layer of small round poles was placed across the sleepers, then a layer of thinly-split cedar sticks, then about three inches of earth, then a layer of cedar-bark, then another layer of dirt, then a carpet of some kind of coarse grass. The rooms that have been protected from exposure are whitewashed, and the walls are ornamented with drawings and writings. In one of these rooms the impression of a hand dipped in whitewash, on a joist, is as plain as if it had been done only yesterday. In another room there are drawings of tarantulas, centipedes, horses, and men.

"In some of the rooms have been found human bones, bones of sheep, corn-cobs, goods, raw-hides, and all colors and varieties of pottery-ware. These two large buildings are exactly the same in every respect. Portions of the buildings plainly show that they were destroyed by fire, the timbers being burned off and the roofs caved in, leaving the lower rooms entirely protected. The rock that these buildings were built of must have been brought a long way, as nothing to compare with it can be found within a radius of twenty miles. All the timber used is cedar, and has been brought at least twenty-five miles. Old ditches and roads are to be seen in every direction. The Navajo Indians say, in regard to these ruins, that their forefathers came there five old men's ages ago (500 years), and that these ruin-were here and the same then as now, and there is no record whatever of their origin."

 

Political Economy in Law-Schools.—M. Waddington, the French Minister of Public Instruction, has issued a decree making the study of political economy one of the subjects of examination for the degree of licentiate in all the schools of law. The innovation does not seem to give unmixed satisfaction to the French lawyers, who have at all times treated this science with contempt. The basis of the teaching of law, says their organ, is the text of the law; political economy is no branch of the law—it has no texts—it is not positive science—and is at most a conjectural art, or kind of literature, less amusing than others; and to require that men desiring to become magistrates and advocates should pass an examination in the theories of Malthus, Adam Smith, and Say, is absurd. The claims of economic science will, of course, find plenty of defenders; and indeed it would appear, in view of the complications and contentions which have arisen from the pending negotiation of a commercial treaty between France and England, that it might be well to have a knowledge of economic principles made imperative somewhere.

 

A New Remedy for Wakefulness.—To those whose brains will not subside when the time for rest has arrived, Dr. John L. Cook, of Henderson, Kentucky, proposes a very simple method of securing prompt and refreshing sleep without the aid of drugs. When the mind is active, the circulation in the brain is correspondingly active; we breathe more frequently, and the movements of the heart are more rapid and vigorous. On the other hand, when the mind is at rest, as in healthy sleep, the circulation in the brain is notably diminished, the heart-beats are less rapid and forcible, and the breathing is perceptibly slower. In the wakeful state the mind, as a rule, is intensely occupied, whence we may infer an increased amount of blood in the brain. Dr. Cook's suggestion is to withdraw a portion of this from the head, or lower the brain-circulation, by taking deep and slow inspirations—say twelve or fifteen a minute. By this means the action of the heart will become slower and feebler, less blood is thrown into the brain, and very soon a quiet feeling, ending in sleep, is induced. As by a slight effort of the will any one may try this, we leave the question of its value to the test of actual experiment.

 

A New Optical Experiment.—Mr. William Terrill offers in Nature a new lecture experiment for proving the compound nature of white light. This method is to arrange seven lanterns so as to project their several circles of light side by side on a white screen, then to color each circle by introducing slides of glass stained to imitate the seven colors of the spectrum (the proper intensity of color being found by trial); in this way are produced seven circles on the screen, colored from red to violet, and arranged side by side. Then by turning the several lanterns, so that the projected circles exactly overlap each other, one circle of white light is obtained, proving that the seven colors together make white light. The same effect can be produced with five colors only, if properly selected; and even two, the ordinary cobalt-blue and deep orange, will nearly do. If these two be made to partially overlap, the effect is very striking.

 

Dallinger's Studies of Minute Animal Forms.—The Rev. W. H. Dallinger, whose researches into the origin and development of minute life-forms have earned for him a distinguished place in the world of science, in a communication to the Royal Institution of Great Britain, gives a brief historical sketch of his labors in this field. Ten years ago Mr. Dallinger determined to work out, by actual microscopic observation, the life-history of some of the lowly and minute organisms which occur in putrid infusions. After four years of preparation, he commenced his wink in conjunction with Dr. Drysdale, the plan needing two observers. Each set of observations was made continuous, so that nothing should have to be inferred. Very high powers were employed, and the largest adult objects examined were 11000 of an inch, the smallest 14000. Six forms altogether were selected, and their whole history was worked out. At first it was supposed that reproduction by fission was the usual method, but prolonged research showed that spores were produced. These were so small that a magnifying power of 5,000 diameters was needed to see them as they began to grow. The glairy fluid from which they developed seemed at first homogeneous, and it was only when growth set in that the spores became visible. All that could be learned about the origin of the glairy fluid was, that a monad larger than usual, and with a granulated aspect toward the flagellate end, would seize on one in the ordinary condition; the two would swim about together till the larger absorbed the smaller, and the two were fused together. A motionless spheroidal glossy speck was then all that could be seen. This speck was found to be a sac, and, after remaining still from ten to thirty-six hours, it burst, and the glairy fluid flowed out. The young spores that came into view in this were watched through to the adult condition. Bearing on the subject of spontaneous generation, this fact was learned, that, while a temperature of 140° Fahr. was sufficient to cause the death of adults, the spores were able to grow even after having been heated to 300° Fahr. for ten minutes. That there is no such thing as spontaneous generation of monads seems to Mr. Dallinger quite clear; and he is satisfied that, when bacteria are studied after the same manner, the same law will be found to hold good with them.

 

Influence of the Environment.—As a striking instance of the transformation effected in a race by changed conditions of life, Das Ausland quotes, from Khanikoff 's "Memoir on the Ethnography of Persia," some observations on a colony of Würtemberg which in 1816 settled in the trans-Caucasus country, near Tiflis. The original colonists, we are informed, were "singularly ugly," with broad, square countenances, blond or red hair, and blue eyes. The second generation showed some improvement; black hair and black eyes were no longer rare. The third generation was so entirely altered that their Würtemberg descent was no longer visible, for now black hair and black eyes were the rule, the face had gained in length, and the bodily habit, while nothing was lost in point of stature, was more slender and graceful. As the chastity of the women is not to be disputed, and as the colonists intermarry only among themselves—Khanikoff found only one case of a Würtemberger marrying a Georgian woman—the change in the race-characters can be attributed only to the influence of environment.

 

Extirpation of Injurious Insects.—A special meeting of the London Society of Arts was held a few weeks ago, to discuss measures for the extirpation of injurious insects. The paper for the occasion was by Andrew Murray, F. L. S., who advocated government interference as being indispensably necessary in the war against insect pests. He spoke of three principal modes of counteracting the ravages of insects, the first being county or district rotation of cropping. Most vegetable-feeding insects subsist on one kind of plant, as wheat, rye, potatoes, etc., and, if we take away their special pabulum, the race dies out. This we do by rotation of crops. The next means of extirpation recommended by Mr. Murray was burning the nidus in which the insect, in whatever stage, passes the winter; or using some substance, as Paris green, hellebore, etc. There remains the last refuge of all invaded countries, namely, destroying the resources of the country before the invaders, so that they may perish for the want of food. This, Mr. Murray said, can rarely be necessary, but it would be, he thought, the proper course to follow, should the Colorado beetle gain a footing in England. The larvæ of the beetle would probably first appear in some potato-field near Cork, or Londonderry, Liverpool, or Glasgow; the instant this is perceived, the vines of the potatoes should be cut to the ground, and Paris-green scattered over the field.

 

Recent Observations of Stomach-Digestion.—A man in Paris, having an impermeable stricture of the gullet, was saved, by the operation of gastrotomy, from death by starvation. The patient's gullet is so completely blocked that when a small quantity of potassium ferrocyanide in solution is swallowed, no trace of the salt can be detected in the stomach; hence the gastric juice is absolutely free from any admixture of saliva. The food is reduced to a pulp and injected by a syringe into the artificial opening in the abdominal wall; it remains in the stomach for three or four hours; when milk is introduced, it disappears in from one and a half to two hours. The chyme does not pass gradually, as is commonly supposed, into the small intestine: during the first three hours after its introduction into the stomach its volume does not appear to diminish; then within about fifteen minutes, the entire mass is driven through the pyloric orifice. At the end of four hours the stomach is nearly always empty, but hunger does not begin to be felt till two hours later. The mean acidity of the gastric juice, whether pure or mixed with food, is equivalent to about 1.7 grain of hydrochloric acid per 1,000, never falling below 0.5, or rising above 3.2 grammes. The quantity of liquid present does not seem to exert any influence on the degree of its acidity, which is augmented by wine and alcohol, and lessened by cane-sugar. The gastric juice is more acid while digestion is going on than during the intervals of the process; its acidity seems always to be increased as digestion is drawing to a close.

 

Contents of a Utah Mound.—In the vicinity of Payson, Utah Territory, are six mounds, covering a total area of about twenty acres of ground. One of these mounds was opened last year, and the discoveries then made are recorded in a letter published in the Eureka (Nevada) Sentinel. First a skeleton of a man was found, which measured six feet six inches in length. In the right hand was a huge iron weapon, but this crumbled to pieces in handling. There was also found a stone pipe, the stem of which was inserted between the teeth of the skeleton. Near by was found another skeleton, not quite so large, supposed to be that of a woman. "Close by," writes the correspondent of the Sentinel, "the floor was covered with a hard cement, to all appearances a part of the solid rock, which, after patient labor and exhaustive work, we succeeded in penetrating, and found it was but the corner of a box similarly constructed, in which we found about three pints of wheat-kernels, most of which dissolved when brought in contact with the light and air. A few of the kernels found in the centre of the heap looked bright, and retained their freshness on being exposed. These were carefully preserved, and last spring planted and grew nicely, though the field-insects seemed determined to devour it. We raised four and a half pounds of heads from these few grains. The wheat is unlike any other raised in this country, and produces a large yield. It is of the club variety—the heads are very long, and hold very large grains. . . . We find houses in all the mounds," he continues, "the rooms of which are as perfect as the day they were built. All the apartments are nicely plastered, some in white, others in a red color; crockery-ware, cooking-utensils, vases—many of a pattern similar to the present age—are also found. Upon one large stone jug or vase can be traced a perfect delineation of the mountains near here for a distance of twenty miles. We have found several millstones, used in grinding corn, and plenty of charred corn-cobs, with kernels not unlike what we know as yellow dent-corn. We judge from our observations that these ancient dwellers of our country followed agriculture for a livelihood, and had many of the arts and sciences known to us, as we found moulds made of clay for the casting of different implements, needles made of deer-horns, and lasts made of stone, and which were in good shape. We also find many trinkets, such as white stone beads and marbles; also small squares of polished stones, resembling dominos."

 

The Origin of Mineral Oils.—Mendelejeff, in a communication to the Russian Chemical Society, questions the current view as to the origin of mineral oils, namely, that they are the products of the decomposition of the fossil remains of organisms, and proposes a theory of his own. He calls attention to the possibility of the interior of our globe containing metallic masses of vast extent. If iron be the prevailing metal, and if it occur in combination with carbon, we have the material from which we can conceive the mineral oils to have been derived. Contact with water at a high temperature, and under great pressure, brought about by the upheaval or disruption of any of the overlying sedimentary strata, would result in the formation of metallic oxides and saturated hydro-carbons. The latter, permeating the porous sandstones of higher levels, condense there, or, by undergoing further change, become the marsh-gas of the "gas-wells," or are converted into unsaturated hydro-carbons. The invariable association of salt-water with mineral oil is not without its bearing on this interesting question. If the view recently advanced by Steenstrup that the curious metallic masses discovered by Nordenskjöld in Greenland, and generally held to be meteoric iron, be correct, and they are erupted matter and not of cosmical origin, their composition, which analysis has shown to be in a considerable degree carbide of iron, approaches nearly that of the material assumed by Mendelejeff as the source of the oil.

 

A Low Mammalian Brain.—At a meeting of the American Philosophical Society, as we learn from The American Naturalist, Prof. Cope exhibited a cast of the brain-cavity of a species of Coryphodon from New Mexico. This, according to Prof. Cope, is the lowest and most reptilian type of mammalian brain so far discovered, inasmuch as the diameter of the hemispheres does not exceed that of the medulla, which itself is as wide as the cerebellum. The latter is small and flat. The middle brain is the largest division, much exceeding the hemispheres in size, being especially protuberant laterally. The hemispheres contract anteriorly into the very stout peduncles of the olfactory lobes. These continue undivided to an unusual length, and terminate in a large bulbus, which is at first grooved above and then bifurcates at the extremity. The length of the hemispheres is 115 that of the cranium, and their united bulk 127 that of the hemispheres of a tapir of the same size. Their surface is not convoluted, and there is no trace of a Sylvian fissure. The region of the pons Varolii is very wide and exhibits a continuation of the anterior pyramids. The large size of the middle brain and olfactory lobes gives the brain as much the appearance of that of a lizard as of a mammal.

The Late Eruption of Mauna Loa.—The Rev. Titus Coan gives, in the American Journal of Science, a vivid description of the latest eruption of Mokua-weo-weo, the terminal crater of Mauna Loa, Hawaii. The eruption commenced between nine and ten in the evening of February 14, 1877, with great splendor. The summit of the mountain appeared as though melted, and the heavens seemed on fire. Vast masses of illumined steam, like columns of flaming gas, were shot upward to a height of 14,000 to 17,000 feet, and then spread out into a great fiery cloud. This continued through the night. In the morning the mountain was hidden by thick clouds, and the only symptoms of volcanic action were an occasional thud and a smoky atmosphere. Mokua-weo-weo had entered into a state of inactivity, but soon "a remarkable bubbling was seen in the sea about three miles south of Kealakekua, and a mile from the shore. Approaching the boiling pot, it was found emitting steam, and throwing up pumice and light scoria. This boiling," continues Mr. Coan, whose communication is dated Hilo, March 17th, "was active when we last heard. It is in deep water. On the island new fissures have been opened in the pahoihoi, which extend up to the higher lands, indicating the course of a subterranean lava-stream, that terminated in a submarine eruption—a new feature in our modern volcanic phenomena. About the time of this eruption beneath the sea, a tidal or earthquake wave of considerable force was observed along the coast of Kona."

 

Extraordinary Development of the Sense of Smell.—Dr. Maudsley, in his "Physiology of Mind," noticed elsewhere, speaking of the loss of one sense being followed by a notable increase in the functions of those which remain, in consequence of the greater attention given to them, cites the following instances as related by Dr. Howe in the "Forty-third Report of the Massachusetts Asylum for the Blind: "Julia Brace, a deaf and blind mute, a pupil of the American Asylum, had a fine physical organization ami highly-nervous temperament. In her blindness and stillness her main occupation was the exercise of her remaining senses of smell, touch, and taste, so that through them she might get knowledge of all that was going on around her. Smell, however, seemed to be the sense on which she most relied. She smelled at everything which she could bring within range of the sense; and she came to perceive odors utterly insensible to other persons. When she met a person whom she had met before she instantly recognized him by the smell of his hand or glove. If it were a stranger she smelled his hand, and the impression was so strong that she could recognize him long after by again smelling his hand, or even his glove, if just taken off. She knew all her acquaintances by the odor of their hands. She was employed in sorting the clothes of the pupils after they came from the wash, and could distinguish those of each friend. If half a dozen strangers should throw each one his glove into a hat, and they were shaken up, she would take one glove, smell it, then smell the hand of each person, and unerringly assign each glove to its owner. If among the visitors there were a brother and sister, she could pick out the gloves by a similarity of smell, but could not distinguish the one from the other. This case furnishes a strong argument in support of the conjecture that a dog removed to a distant place finds its way home by following backward a train of smells which he has experienced.

 

Mr. Boyd Dawkins on Museum Reform.—Writing, in Nature, of the need of museum reform, Mr. Boyd Dawkins recognizes the existence of a "collecting instinct"—a desire to accumulate whatever strikes the fancy—and this instinct he declares to be almost universal among mankind, whatever their stage of intellectual development. The collections which result from this instinct bear the stamp of the individual who makes them. They are "museum units" which, like molecules, have a tendency to coalesce into bodies of greater or less size, and thus constitute museums. The organization of the latter is of high or low type, according as the units keep or lose the stamp of the individual, and have been moulded into one living whole, or are dissociated. They are highly organized and valuable if the parts are duly subordinated to each other and brought into a living relationship; they are lowly organized and comparatively worthless if they remain as mere assemblages of units placed side by side without organic connection and without a common life. Mr. Boyd Dawkins regards most of the provincial museums in England as belonging to this lower type. His description of one or two of these collections is amusing enough, and worthy of being quoted entire; perhaps it will apply to some lauded collections to be found on this side of the Atlantic. "In one instance which occurs to me," writes Mr. Dawkins, "you see a huge plaster-cast of a heathen divinity surrounded by fossils, stuffed crocodiles, minerals, and models of various articles, such as Chinese junks. In another, a museum unit takes the form of a glass case containing a fragment of a human skull and a piece of oat-cake, labeled 'fragment of human skull very much like a piece of oat-cake.' In a third wax models are exhibited of a pound weight of veal, pork, and mutton-chops, codfish, turnips, potatoes, carrots, and parsnips, which must have cost the value of the originals many times over, with labels explaining their chemical constitution, and how much flesh and fat they will make." Museums of this low type "constitute a serious blot on our educational system, since they are worse than useless for purposes of teaching."

 

Size of Medicinal Doses.—One of the papers read at the last meeting of the American Medical Association was on "The Effects of Remedies in Small Doses." The author of this paper, Dr. John Morris, held that—1. The true physiological effect of remedies might best be obtained by the administration of small doses frequently repeated; 2. That medicines thus given are cumulative in their operation; 3. That the effect of remedies is greatly increased by combination, the manner of preparation, time and mode of administration, etc.; 4. That large doses of medicine frequently act as irritants; that they produce an abnormal state of the blood, as was evidenced by such conditions as narcotism, alcoholism, iodism, ergotism, bromidism, etc.; 5. That more special attention should be given at the bedside to the influence of remedial agents, to the end that greater certainty may be attained in the prescriptions.

 

Denationalizing Science.—Sir C. Wyville Thomson having called to his assistance, in working up the Challenger collections, a few foreign naturalists of eminence, Dr. P. Martin Duncan, President of the Geological Society, gives vent to his "feelings of disappointment" in a letter to Sir Wyville, and asserts that "a very large section" of British naturalists are in like manner pained by the way in which English workers have been passed over. Sir Wyville Thomson makes a dignified reply, in which he states that his endeavor had been to select first those who were generally regarded as authorities in special branches; and, second, those who could do the work assigned them within the allotted time. Where Englishmen fulfilled these conditions, Englishmen were chosen, because in that way a good deal of risk was avoided, in sending portions of the collections abroad. "Except for this consideration" (i. e., that of avoiding risk of losing collections), writes Sir Wyville, "I confess I saw and see no objection, but rather the reverse, to making a great work of this kind somewhat more catholic." Having thus mildly rebuked the rather despicable nationalism of Dr. Duncan, Sir Wyville gives a list of the naturalists employed in the work. It contains twenty-two names, all of them names of Englishmen, with six exceptions. He then begs the pardon of the Englishmen (if such there be) more eminent than Haeckel, A. Agassiz, Oscar Schmidt, Lyman, Gunther, and Claus, in their respective specialties of Radiolarians, Echinoidea, Sponges, Ophiuridea, Fishes, and Crustacea, but whom he has overlooked in favor of these foreigners. Notice has been taken of Dr. Duncan's letter by some of the most eminent scientific men in England, and a manifesto has been published deprecating national jealousies in science. This paper has received the signatures of Sir J. D. Hooker, Prof. Huxley, Dr. W. B. Carpenter, Mr. Darwin, Mr. St. George Mivart, and many ether representative scientific men. Nature, in giving an account of this very unpleasant affair, calls attention to the catholic spirit manifested by the directors of the United States Gulf Stream Expedition, who distributed their materials for description among sixteen naturalists, of whom only four were Americans.