Popular Science Monthly/Volume 16/November 1879/Notes


The important statement is made by Professor C. V. Riley that for the feeding of silkworms there is no appreciable difference between the leaves of the osage orange and the mulberry, provided care is taken to reject the more tender and milky leaves of the former, as they are apt to produce flaccidity and disease.

A writer in "Nature" suggests the employment of carrier-pigeons in the British meteorological service as a means of bringing accounts of the weather at different points in the Atlantic Ocean 300, 400, or even 500 miles out, the pigeons being dispatched on outward voyages of ships leaving such ports as Queenstown, Southampton, etc. The present great difficulty of the meteorological service of Europe is that storms reach the coast unannounced over the Atlantic.

Upon the publication of Siemens's remarks on conveying to a distance, by means of electricity, the power developed by the Falls of Niagara, several electricians declared the idea to be preposterous. Thus one writer calculated that the thickness of the cable required to convey to the distance of several hundred miles the current which could be produced by the power of Niagara, would require more copper than exists in the whole of the Lake Superior region. Another statement estimates the cost of the cable at about sixty dollars per lineal foot. But calculations made by Professor Elihu Thomson and Edwin J. Houston, of Philadelphia, show that these estimates are erroneous, and that it is possible to convey the total power of Niagara a distance of five hundred milts or more by a copper wire not exceeding one half inch in thickness. Even though in practice this result be unattainable, the important fact still remains that, with a cable of very limited size, an enormous quantity of power may be transferred to considerable distances.

Bernhard von Cotta, the eminent Saxon geologist and Professor of Geology in the University of Freiberg, died at that place September 14th, at the age of seventy one years. He was an indefatigable student and writer, and his published works are very numerous. His first book, on "The Dendroliths," was written while he was yet a student at Freiberg. Later he was associated with Naumann in preparing the geological map of Saxony. The first volume of his "Geognostic Travels" appeared in 1836, and the second in 1838. One of his principal works, namely the "Introduction to the Study of Geognosy and Geology," first published in 1839, passed through several editions. But his greatest work was undoubtedly his "Geologie der Gegenwart" (The Present State of Geology). This work has passed through five editions. A few of his works have been translated into English and other languages of Europe.

The metal scandium, obtained by its discoverer Nilsson from ytterbine, has lately been found by P. Clève in yttrotitanite from Norway. The only oxide of scandium, scandine, appears to possess the formula Sc2O3. The atomic weight of the new metal is 45. Scandine is a pure white powder, light, infusible, and resembling magnesia. The hydrate of scandium is a white and bulky precipitate like hydrate of alumina. The scandium salts are colorless or white; they have an astringent and very sour taste, very different from the sugary taste of the other yttria earths. Scandium is one of the metals predicted by Mendelejef; he gave it the name of ekabor, and fixed its atomic weight at 44. The characters of ekabor correspond pretty closely with those of scandium.

By means of his new spectroscope, with compound sulphide of carbon prisms, M. Thollon has produced a remarkable map of the solar spectrum. This map is no less than ten metres in length, and is composed of about 4,000 lines. M. Thollon has devoted great care to reproducing the physiognomy of each line; and there are many new features revealed which will doubtless be utilized for theory.

The German Empress, Augusta, soon after the death of the young Prince Waldemar, son of the German Crown-Prince, offered a considerable sum of money as a prize for the best essay on "Diphtheria, its Nature and Treatment." A commission of eminent physicians has been appointed, with Dr. von Lansenbeck, of Berlin, as chairman, to award the prize. The lists will remain open until December 15, 1880. The competing essays may be written either in German, French, or English.

During the first six months of the present year, regular tides have been observed in the subterranean waters of the Fortschrittmine in Bohemia. This strange phenomenon has attracted the attention of the Academies of Science of Berlin and Vienna, but as yet no adequate explanation of it has been proposed.

A Chinaman was fined ten pounds for "sweeping the streets" in an Australian town. In explanation, it may be mentioned that the streets are metaled with quartz, which is crushed to powder by vehicles, and that the sweepings often give a very lucrative return in gold-washing. Here the gold return is largest when the streets are left unswept!

The Rev. Dr. Barnard, President of Columbia College, New York City, in his last annual report, warmly advocates the co-education of young men and young women in colleges. It is, he says, mainly the spirit of conservatism which opposes the opening of colleges to women, rather than anything inherently objectionable in the proposition itself. That this is so, is made evident by the fact that no such opposition manifests itself to the association of students of both sexes in academies and high-schools, many of which profess to teach the same subjects as the colleges, to the same extent, and to pupils of similar ages.

The historian of civilization in some distant future period will probably quote the following passage from a letter written by a British officer in Zululand, as an illustration of the state of civilization existing in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. This officer writes: "I flatter myself that I put an end to six promising young Zulus. We expected no quarter and gave none. When the fighting was over, some of our native troops were sent out on the errand of dispatching the wounded, many of whom had crawled away into the long grass, and even into the ant-bear holes, but our allies were even with them all round."

At Baku, on the Caspian Sea, the residue (astalki) left after the final distillation of petroleum is produced in such enormous quantity that its price is only nominal, and much of it is poured into the sea for lack of stowing space or demand. For years it has been the only fuel used on board the war-ships and mercantile steamers of the Caspian. It is employed in cooking also, and for the production of illuminating gas. In the latter case it is allowed to trickle slowly into retorts raised to a dull-red heat, pure gas with a little graphite being the result. Weight for weight, astalki gives four times as great a volume of gas as ordinary coal.

According to Gerard von Schmitt, physician and traveler, the plant Mikania guaco possesses medicinal properties very efficacious in the treatment of cancer and allied diseases.

The following is Hersch's test for sewage contamination, or the presence of putrescible organic matter in water: Fill a clean pint bottle three quarters full with the water to be tested, and in it dissolve half a teaspoonful of the finest sugar; then cork the bottle and set it in a warm place for forty-eight hours. If, meanwhile, the water becomes cloudy or milky, it is unfit for domestic use. If it remains perfectly limpid, it is probably safe to use.