Popular Science Monthly/Volume 18/November 1880/Notes


During an excursion to the White Mountains made in July, 1879, Mr. W. H. Pickering visited a moving mass of snow in Tuckerman ravine, which he describes as presenting many of the phenomena of an Alpine glacier, only on a greatly reduced scale. The surface of the snow was convex, being highest at the middle; where not exposed to the sun it was very hard, and differed from ice only in color. Stones previously plated upon the surface of the patch showed that the middle had a motion of about eight inches per day, the sides moving more slowly. In Mr. Pickering's opinion, it corresponds with the upper portion of a glacier, and might, perhaps, be called an incipient glacier.

An illustration of the fixedness of the characters of plants is shown from the analysis of specimens of the oleaginous Chinese pea (Soya hispida) from Hungary, China, and France. Only insignificant differences in composition were discovered notwithstanding the peas had grown in widely separated countries under very different conditions of climate and soil.

Professor Benjamin Peirce, F. R. S., LL. D., died in Boston October 6, 1880, aged seventy-one years. He graduated at Harvard College in 1829, was made Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy in that institution in 1833, and Perkins Professor of Astronomy and Mathematics in 1842.

The minute organisms or microbes, which M. Pasteur has shown to be concerned in epidemics and contagious diseases, are so very minute that they may sometimes easily escape detection, especially in pure water. In such case they may be killed, without being deformed, by certain chemical agents, among which is osmic acid, and will sink to the bottom in such quantities as to admit of microscopic examination. The deposit may be examined after several hours (twenty-four or even forty-eight) if the water has been very pure. Coloring reagents mixed with dilute glycerine may also be used with advantage in the work.

A considerable number of the workmen engaged in the boring of the tunnel of St. Gothard were prostrated by a dangerous anemia. M. E. Perroncito, who has been investigating the causes of the disease, has found that all those who were affected by it were also troubled by certain species of parasitic worms, the mere presence of which was sufficient to account for the development of disease. This case is not an isolated one. Dr. Giaccone, a medical attendant of the St. Gothard company, states that a disease of identical character appeared during the boring of the tunnel of Fréjus.

An ostrich, long on exhibition at Rome, having been suffocated by thrusting its neck between the bars, there were found in its stomach four large stones, eleven smaller ones, seven nails, a necktie pin, an envelope, thirteen copper coins, fourteen beads, one French franc, two small keys, a piece of a handkerchief, a silver medal of the Pope, and the cross of an Italian order.

The phenomenon of the perforation of rocks by sand carried on the wind has been observed in the Valley of the Rhone in France. A very violent wind often prevails in the neighborhood of Uzès, and drives large quantities of sand against a band of quartzose pebbles contained in a tertiary soil. The pebbles contain cavities which might be believed to have been made by human hands, but which are really produced by the often renewed friction of the sandy particles against their surface.

Dr. Charles T. Jackson, distinguished as a chemist and geologist, and one of the discoverers of the anæsthetic properties and uses of ether, died at Somerville, Massachusetts, on the 29th of August, 1880, aged seventy-live years.

According to the recent census of New Zealand, the Maories or primitive inhabitants are rapidly decreasing, their numbers, which in 1861 were 55,334, having fallen in seventeen years to 43,595, or about twenty per cent. The causes given for this national decay are love of drink, bad food and clothing, neglect of cleanliness, and unwholesome dwellings. The natives of Hawaii are disappearing still more rapidly. In 1866 they numbered 57,125, and had fallen off in the next twelve years to 44,088.

The report of the experts employed to ascertain the causes of the Tay Bridge disaster is in refreshing contrast to the excusatory treatment of official recklessness and incompetency in this country. The bridge, according to this report, was badly designed, badly constructed, and badly maintained, and it tumbled down on account of defects of structure that became apparent and were patched up some time before the casualty happened. The initial blunders are laid at the door of Sir Thomas Bouch, the designer and constructor of the bridge, and General Hutchinson, the Board of Trade Inspector, has to bear the blame of allowing the bridge to be used when he knew it was in this dangerous condition.

M. Boutigny has called attention to the remarkable powers of resistance against chemical agents possessed by insects. Having put a common fly into the lye of potash, he found it in the best condition on the next day. He also found that weevils, imprisoned for a considerable time in a flask containing caustic stone and coriander-seed, prospered, multiplied, and lived as long as the seed lasted.

Samuel Sherman Haldeman, Professor of Comparative Philology in the University of Pennsylvania, died at his home in Chickies, Pennsylvania, September 10, 1880, at the age of sixty-eight.

M. Rivett Carnac, who has explored many of the barrows and burial-mounds of India, has found in them new evidences of the resemblance of the mounds and their contents to similar works in Europe. The shape of the tumuli is the same in the East and the West, and they are always placed on the slope of a hill facing the south.

Professor Forel, of Merges, Switzerland, has just published some interesting observations he has made upon the flickering of gaslights. At a distance of six miles these lights appear to the eye as star-like shining points; and from a large number of observations Professor Forel has arrived at the conclusion that their flickering is strongest when the air is still, and becomes weaker as the force of the wind increases. This appearance should not, of course, be confounded with the flickering which is produced by the wind. The study of the atmospheric conditions under which the flickering takes place might be made the starting point for investigating the twinkling of the stars.

Fritz Müller has found a bivalve crustacean allied to Cythera, a salt-water genus, living between the leaves of the bromeliads, or plants of the pineapple tribe, which grow upon the trees in Brazil. It does not resemble any living entomostraean, but has its nearest known ally in a fossil species of the Silurian strata of Bohemia. Müller has named it Elpidium bromellarium. He found it in the tree-frequenting bromeliads everywhere from the seaside to nearly one hundred miles in the interior. As it can not wander from tree to tree, or even from one plant of bromelia to another, its distribution must be effected by beetles or some other bromelia-infecting forms.

By putting chloride of aluminum, the vapor of water, and metallic magnesium in a heated porcelain tube, Stanislas Meunier has produced a multitude of microscopic octahedral crystals, of extreme hardness and wholly proof against the action of fuming nitric acid, which he says have the same composition as natural spinelle. He has also produced, by the reaction of water and chloride of aluminum, hexagonal laminæ of corundum crystallized as in nature.

In a paper on Japanese Pulmonifera, read at the Boston meeting of the American Association, Professor Morse called attention to the occurrence of a number of species of land-snails in Yezo, identical with forms occurring in New England. He also alluded to the occurrence of two species of slugs in Japan which are common in New England. While he had met with most of fresh-water genera of Pulmonifera in Japan, he had never yet found a example of Physa.