Popular Science Monthly/Volume 19/May 1881/Notes


A thermometric bureau has been established, in connection with the Winchester Observatory of Yale College, for the more accurate graduation and verification of thermometers. The thermometers in common use are, as a rule, not graduated with any approach to scientific accuracy, and the best of them, however exact they may be when new, increase their readings rapidly within a few months, so as to become as much as 2° in error in the course of a year. This is a matter of particular importance with clinical thermometers, of which several thousand are bought every year; and to instruments of this class special attention is paid.

The late Mr. Frank Buckland has bequeathed his valuable museum of "Economic Fish Culture" to the British nation, with the sum of £5,000 to go to the nation on the death of Mrs. Buckland, to be applied to the foundation of a professorship of economic pisciculture in connection with the Buckland Museum and the Science and Art Department at South Kensington.

A suggestion to employ artificial lights for the capture and destruction of noxious insects has found considerable favor. A medal was awarded at the last exhibition of agriculture and insectology in Paris for a lamp especially adapted for catching insects. The electric light has been found to be a very effective insect-trap, and its eventual coming into use for this purpose in bug-infected gardens and orchards may be regarded as among the things that are possible.

Arteriography is the name which Dr. Comte, a French army-surgeon, has given to a novel application of tattooing as a help in the saving of lives. Believing that a large proportion of deaths by bleeding from wounds received in battle might be avoided if the men knew just where to apply compression to the arteries till the surgeon should come, Dr. Comte has marked the most suitable points for the application by tattooed designs on the skins of the men of his regiment.

Mr. Thomas Meehan, of Philadelphia, has observed that the Yucca gloriosa has the property of collecting moisture on the outer surface of its flowers to such an extent that drops will fall to the ground. In the plant in which this peculiarity was first noticed, the whole outside of the flowers was covered with moisture; it accumulated in drops at the tip of each leaf of the perianth, and the under leaves showed by their appearance that a dropping of water had been going on for some time. Mr. Meehan could not decide whether the liquid was an exudation from the leaves, or had been condensed from the atmosphere through some special property of the plant, like that which is attributed to the rain-tree (Pithecelobium saman) of Peru.

Carl Weyprecht, one of the commanders of the Austro-Hungarian Polar Expedition in the Tegetthoff, which discovered Franz-Josef Land in 1874, died in Vienna, March 29th.

Mm. F. Fouqué and A. Michel Lévy have produced an artificial basalt identical in all respects with the natural basalts, and particularly so with that of the plateaux of Auvergne. The experiment is regarded as establishing the igneous origin of the basalts.

M. Lefranc has called attention in the "Journal de Pharmacie" to woolen mattresses as a possibly fertile nidus for disease. In a large city such mattresses may represent millions of fleeces that have been only partly cleared of grease, and have, moreover, been affected by long use through successive generations. They are rarely efficiently purified, and might become an active medium for the propagation of infection.

Sabino Berthelot, an eminent naturalist, died at Santa Cruz de Teneriffe in November last, in the eighty-seventh year of his age. He had made the Canary Islands his home for sixty years, and had done much to increase the knowledge of their natural history. His principal work was the preparation, in conjunction with Mr. Philip Barker Webb, of a series of six quarto illustrated volumes on that subject ("Natural History of the Canary Islands"), which was published in 1828. He was consul of France, and a member of the principal scientific societies of the Canaries and of Europe.

Mr. Potts, of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, observes that the order Spongidæ has many more representatives in our fresh waters than has generally been supposed. He recently described to the Academy three species of Spongilla which he found in a small stream near Philadelphia. Since then he has found the Spongilla fragilis of Leidy plentifully in the Schuylkill below the dam, and a lacustrine form above the dam, and has obtained a very slender green species which appears creeping along stems of Sphagnum, etc., in a swamp near Absecum, New Jersey; a beautiful species from the Adirondack lakes; another lacustrine form from the lake near the Catskill Mountain House; and four species from an old cellar at Lehigh Gap, Pennsylvania.

Mr. Edward R. Alston, a British working naturalist of growing reputation, died in London, March 7th. He contributed articles to "The Zoölogist" and other journals, chiefly on mammals and birds, published an account of a journey to Archangel and of the birds he observed there, was engaged in the compilation of the part of the "Zoloögical Record" relating to mammals, and of the new edition (1874) of Bell's "British Mammals," published a revision of the genera of the Rodentia (1876), and "Memoirs on the Mammals of Asia Minor" (1877 and 1880), and prepared the "Mammals" of Salvin and Godman's "Biologia Centrali-Americana" (1879 and 1880).

Honor to American Science.—Professor John W. Draper has been elected one of the twelve honorary members of the Physical Society of London, under the presidency of Sir William Thomson.

Professor S. Calvin, of the University of Iowa, not R. S. Calvin, as it was erroneously printed, is the author of the article entitled "A Piece of Coal," published in the March number of the "Monthly."

Dr. James Lewis, a well-known American conchologist, died at his home in Mohawk, New York, February 23d.

"Land and Water" has a curious account of a rat which, feeding upon the oysters in an oyster-cellar in London, was caught by one of the mollusks and held fast by the tail. It adds: "We have seen several instances of mice being caught by oysters. In the collection of the late Frank Buckland were several specimens, but in all these instances the mice were caught by their heads. In one case, two mice had fallen victims to an oyster."

Mr. John B. Hansler has made a study of the source of the drift-ice which accumulates in the harbor of New York during the severe weather of winter, and has traced the principal part of it to the Tappan Zee and Haverstraw Bay. In order to prevent future obstruction of the harbor, he proposes to confine the ice to the waters in which it is formed, by stretching cable netting across the river at the narrows below the Tappan Zee. The cost of the structures needed to effect the object would be, he believes, less than the amount of damage now frequently suffered from ice in a single season. The presumption that his plan would be sufficient is strengthened by the fact that the bridge of the Central Railroad of New Jersey over Newark Bay has wholly stopped the drifting of ice from that water through the Kill van Kull.

M. de Molon has obtained from the peats of Brittany, by means of suitable reagents, benzine, paraffine, fatty oils, phenols, resinous matters, acetic acid, and seventeen or eighteen per cent. of a waxy substance analogous to the resins, which in distillation furnishes enough paraffine to make the preparation profitable. The same peat affords an illuminating gas superior to that obtained from coal, and one third cheaper.

M. Bourdon has devised a system of drainage by means of which the underground atmosphere of a whole vineyard may be uniformly and effectively impregnated with sulphuret of carbon for the prevention of phylloxera. The expense of setting the system in operation is great, but after this a saving may be realized of four fifths of the material it has hitherto been necessary to use.

M. F. Zurcher has contributed a new element to the discussion of the question of the relation between the number of sunspots and the rainfall. He has made a comparison of the maximum heights of the inundation of the Nile and of the numbers of sun-spots as indicated by Wolf, for forty-five years, from 1825 to 1870. The curves representing the two values show a parallelism throughout that is remarkable, if nothing more.

M. Gaston Bonnier has found, from investigations recently made in Austria and Hungary, that the intensity in the color of flowers of the same species increases with the altitude, though in a less marked degree than the deepening of color that corresponds with a greater height of latitude. The fact has been made clear to him in many cases by the comparison of colors in two, three, four, and sometimes five places of increasing altitude, in which the hues showed a gradation of intensity. A microscopical examination disclosed that the change was not occasioned by a new disposition of the coloring matter, but by an increase in the number of grains of pigment on a given surface.