Popular Science Monthly/Volume 14/April 1879/Notes


The Royal Astronomical Society of London has awarded a gold medal to Professor Asaph Hall for "his discovery and observations of the satellites of Mars."

Heinrich Geissler, inventor of sundry ingenious physical apparatus—the Geissler tubes, the vaporimeter, etc.—died January 24th, at Bonn, aged sixty-five years.

Professor J. Lawrence Smith finds that the native irons of Greenland are mutually similar, and that they differ from the meteoric irons. He thinks it probable that the native iron may have been brought up from below, like the native alloy of platinum and iron.

Professor Daniel Wilson, of Toronto, is of the opinion that in the French Canadians there is a liberal infusion of Indian blood. In the neighborhood of Quebec, in the Ottawa Valley, and to a great extent about Montreal, there is, he believes, hardly a family descended from the original settlers who have not some traces of Indian blood. At Ottawa, where the French-Canadian element is strong, the traces of Indian blood are discernible in nearly every individual belonging to that race.

A diligent observer of the ways of animals, Mr. Sidney Buxton, says that dogs and horses are, as far as he knows, the only animals sensitive to ridicule, while cats and birds are wholly unaware that they are being laughed at. Certainly dogs, and probably horses, know the difference between being laughed at in derision, as we laugh at a fool, and being laughed at in admiration, as we laugh at a good comic actor—and enjoy the latter as much as they resent the former. Some parrots, however, seem to understand and enjoy the practice of making fun of their human acquaintances.

In Switzerland, the men conscripted into the army have to undergo an examination in reading, writing, arithmetic, history, and the geography and political Constitution of Switzerland. At the last examination not a single unlettered conscript was found in thirteen cantons, and the proportion of illiterates exceeded two per cent, in only three cantons, viz., Appenzell, Fribourg, and Valais. In these cantons the illiterates did not exceed four per cent, of the total number of conscripts.

The London "Lancet" denominates the movement for the cremation of dead bodies a "craze," now that steps have been actually taken to dispose of bodies in that way in England. It questions whether time will ever so completely obliterate the "sense of decency" in the people of England that the notion of burning the dead will be tolerated. To the Lancet, the idea of cremation is "revolting."

In London the seven weeks ending January 18th was a period of very low temperature, and the Registrar-General, in his reports, institutes a comparison between the mortality of those seven weeks and the seven weeks immediately preceding them. The result shows that the average weekly number of deaths in the cold period exceeded by 481 the average number in the period of moderate temperature, the annual rates of mortality being equal to 26∙8 and 19∙8 per 1,000 respectively. Among persons under twenty years of age the increased mortality due to cold did not exceed 2∙8 per 1,000 living, and the excess between twenty and forty was only 1∙3 per 1,000. Between forty and sixty years the excess was 8∙7 per 1,000, between sixty and eighty it was 54∙4, and among persons over eighty years of age the excess was equal to 173∙0 per 1,000 per year.

A correspondent of the Hiogo (Japan) "News" writes to that journal that the sect of the Nishi Honganzi are erecting several large buildings in the foreign styles near their temples, to be used for school purposes. In addition to the usual Japanese course, English will be taught. The school is intended for educating priests of the sect named, and a select few, when their education is finished, will be sent as apostles and evangelists to Europe and America, to win to the true faith the inhabitants of those benighted regions.

Pteratomus Putnamii, or "Putnam's winged atom," is the very appropriate name given by Professor Packard to a creature first described by him, and which is probably the smallest of all known insects. An individual of this species was captured last summer by Mr. J. D. Cox, who gives a full description of it in the "American Naturalist." Its body is twelve thousandths of an inch in length, the antennæ twenty thousandths. It is probably an egg-parasite of the leaf-cutter bee.

A new invention of great interest is announced in "Nature," viz., a real telegraph, an instrument with the aid of which one literally writes at a distance. A writer, say at London, moves his pen, and simultaneously at some other point, Brighton for instance, another pen is moved in precisely the same curves and motions. The inventor is E. A. Cowper.

An International Exhibition, or World's Fair, will be held next August in Sydney, Australia. This announcement is in itself an evidence of the marvelous development of wealth, industry, and refinement among the antipodes.