Popular Science Monthly/Volume 15/September 1879/Notes


Sir William Fothergill-Cooke, Wheatstone's associate in the work of introducing in England the electric telegraph, died June 25th, in the seventy-third year of his age.

There lately died in England the Rev. Canon Beadon, of Stoneham, who distinctly remembered some of the events of the Lord George Gordon riots in 1780. He was born in 1777, and succeeded his father in the "living" of Stoneham in 1812. He was fond of shooting and fishing; the former amusement he kept up till ninety-four, the latter till eighty-eight. At ninety-seven he had his first severe illness—an attack of bronchitis, and he was never after quite the same.

In Berlin there is a chemical laboratory, established by a society of housewives, for the examination of articles of food. It is directed by a competent chemist, who gives to the members of the society a course of lectures on practical chemistry. There is also a cookery-school under the patronage of the society. Domestic servants who have remained a certain number of years in one household (of a member of the society) are rewarded with prizes. The society also procures situations for domestic servants.

Among many new and interesting facts developed by Dr. Arthur Haviland in a recent discourse on the distribution of disease, was this, that the mortality of women from cancer is highest in those districts which skirt the banks of rivers subject to periodic floods. Having ascertained this fact, Dr. Haviland studied the physical and geological characters of the districts where cancer does not thrive, and found that all these districts are characterized by being high and dry, with non-retentive soils. The obvious conclusion for all this is, that patients who show tendency to cancer, or persons in whose families cancer appears to be hereditary, should choose for their permanent residence high, dry sites. During the last twenty years no less than 100,000 women died from cancer in England.

Professor Cohn, of Breslau, has been making experiments with the electric light on the eyes of a number of persons, for the purpose of ascertaining its influence on visual perceptions and color-sensations. He finds that letters, spots, and colors are perceived at a much greater distance through the medium of the electric light than by day or gas light. The sensation of yellow is increased sixty fold compared to daylight, red six fold, blue two fold. Eyes which can only with difficulty distinguish colors by day or gas light, are much aided by the electric light.

A curious survival of an old-time institution exists in some remote places in England, viz., the official ale-taster. The ale-taster takes an oath to "try, taste, and assize the beer and ale put on sale" in his district "whether the same be wholesome for man's body." The old ale taster's method of "analyzing" beer for the purpose of detecting the addition of sugar to the liquor was rather primitive. Like most men in those times, he wore leather breeches, and, when he went to test the ale for the presence of sugar, a pint of fluid was spilt on a well-cleaned bench, and the taster sat upon it till it dried. If, on rising, the seat of the breeches stuck to the bench, then sugar was present, but if not the beer was pure.

In the Himalayas, says "Das Ausland," is found a plant of the family Aroideæ, which strikingly resembles a cobra with its head erect: it is known as the cobra-plant. The half-moon-shaped markings on the cobra's head, and the lines on its neck, are imitated in the flower-sheath of the plant, while the tongue-like elongation of the pistil and of the midrib of the flower-sheath serve to increase the resemblance of the plant to a living animal. Indeed, so striking is this resemblance, that on coming upon it unawares a person instinctively recoils with horror.

Professor Emerson Reynolds, of Dublin, has discovered a new explosive, compounded of two substances, which can be kept apart without risk, and can be mixed as required to form a blasting agent. The powder is a mixture of seventy-five parts of chlorate of potassium with twenty-five parts of "sulphurea," a body discovered by Professor Reynolds, which can be obtained cheaply from a waste product of gas manufacture. The new explosive is a white powder, which can be ignited at a lower temperature than gunpowder, and leaves less solid residue.

A first trial has recently been made at Woolwich, England, of a new gun having the following dimensions: Length, 36 feet; diameter at breech, 6 feet 6 inches; diameter at muzzle, 2 feet 4 inches; depth of bore, 33 feet; caliber in powder-chamber, 1934 inches; caliber at muzzle, 1734 inches. The gun weighs a hundred tons, carries a shot weighing one ton, and the first time it was fired received a charge of 440 pounds of powder.

A report of the Medical Department of the Russian Army shows that, of the 1,400,000 boys registered as having been born in 1855, there were living in 1876 only 610,000, or 4312 per cent.

A "very peculiar, if not unique" case of albinism is recorded in the "Lancet." The subject is a girl of eleven years of age, having pink eyes, with the usual photophobia, but hair of a bright-red color.

A new process for making artificial stone, invented by Ternikoff, is thus described in "Le Monde de la Science": A mortar consisting of equal parts of lime and sand is exposed for a few hours to a temperature of 150° Centigrade in the presence of water-vapor. The paste having been taken out of the furnace is now passed under the cylinders of a machine like that used for molding bricks, and it comes out in the form of cubes which, on being exposed to the air, become dry and hard. In the course of eight or nine hours these cubes are as hard as good building stones, and are fit for use. This artificial stone is in fact a sort of brick of mortar baked at a low temperature, and the cost, too, is about the same as that of bricks.

In the Rotorua District, New Zealand, are several hot springs, one of which at least differs essentially from any other thermal spring of which we have any knowledge. This is Tapui Te Koutu, a pool eighty feet deep, with a temperature of 90° to 100° when the wind is westerly or southerly; but, if a change of wind to north or east takes place, the water rises four feet and the temperature to 180°! Turi-Kore is a waterfall with a temperature of 96° to 120°, and is in high repute among the Maoris for the cure of all cutaneous diseases. Kuirau, 136° to 156°, is so soft that clothes can be washed in it without soap. Koroteoteo, a boiling spring, 214°, is known as the "Oil-bath." Kauwharga, a powerful sulphur-bath, bears the name of the "Painkiller." Ti Kute, the Great Spring, three-quarters of an acre in extent, boiling furiously and always throwing off great clouds of steam, is reported to be "wonderfully efficacious in cases of rheumatism and cutaneous diseases."