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Popular Science Monthly/Volume 20/March 1882/Notes

< Popular Science Monthly‎ | Volume 20‎ | March 1882


According to Professor Cope's "Review," members of the order of Rodentia were very abundant during the White River and Truckee (Miocene) epochs in North America. They are referable to thirty-one species and eight genera, of which three genera—Sciurus, Hesperomys, and Lepus—still exist in the regions where their fossil remains are found. All the species belong to the three great divisions of the order which now inhabit North America, while the fourth division, Hystricomorpha, now very sparingly represented on the continent, has not been detected in the formations in question, but appears in a single species of porcupine in the Loup Fork bed. None of the species are of larger size than their modern representatives, while the beavers, squirrels, and rabbits are smaller.

M. de Quatrefages has called attention to a story told in the "Histoire de la Louisiane" by M. Le Page du Pratz, of a Yazoo Indian named Moncatch Apé, who, before the year 1720, made a journey to the upper Missouri, thence over to the head-waters of the Columbia, in regions then wholly unknown to white men. Reaching a tribe of the Pacific coast, he learned that the Indians were visited regularly every year by white men with long, black beards, who came in fleets of thirty pirogues or more. They were described as stout and short, with large heads covered with cloth, their coats coming down to the middle of their legs, which, with their feet, were covered with a red or yellow dress. Their arms made a great noise and a great fire. M. de Quatrefages believes that those visitors may be identified with the Loo-Choo Islanders.

Professor Riley has described a new imported insect which has been found preying upon the clover-fields at Barrington, New York. Its damages were first observed in the latter part of April, when small patches of clover showed the leaves to be badly eaten, and increased till the end of July, when acres of the clover were ruined. The insect continued to lay its eggs till October, a part of them outside the plant, but most of them inside of the old and hollow stems. The insect is a beetle, known as the Phytonomus punctatus.

Governor John Pope Hennessy, of Hong-Kong, gives a good account of the success which has attended the faithful practice of vaccination among the Chinese of that colony and the neighboring mainland. No port in the world is more liable to a visitation of small-pox; yet the disease never spreads at Hong-Kong. The health-officer of the colony, noticing that nearly all the young Chinese emigrants had vaccination or inoculation-marks on their arms, learned on inquiry that the doctors of the Tung-wa Hospital—a native charitable institution—practice vaccination upon their countrymen in the colony, and send travelling vaccinators over the adjoining provinces of China, using lymph supplied them by the British Colonial Office.

Mr. M. E. Wadsworth, in a communication to the Boston Society of Natural History, has given his reasons for believing that the iron-ores of the Marquette district, Lake Superior, are of eruptive, and not of sedimentary origin, as has been commonly held. He rests his conclusions upon the fact that the jaspilite and iron-ore in this district, while they offer no characters inconsistent with those which known eruptive rocks have, "possess characters which eruptive rocks exhibit, especially in relation to other rocks, and which no sedimentary rock, proved to be such, has been known to have." The particular facts supporting this view are given in the paper.

Mr. P. Hoglan has made experiments toward ascertaining whether calomel is liable to decomposition in the human system, with the production of corrosive sublimate. He has found that calomel may be slowly decomposed and corrosive sublimate formed by the action of water at the temperature of the body, and that the change is accelerated by the presence of citric acid, sodium chloride, or sugar.

The geological formations of Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, embrace, according to Mr. P. W. Sheafer's monograph on the subject, the rocks, with an exception or two, from the Oneida conglomerate (Upper Silurian) to the coal-measures. The only formation of importance for its mineral wealth is the last. It rests upon the Pottsville conglomerate (Millstone Grit), which has served as a barrier to protect the coal-deposits from erosion, and which varies in thickness from 675 to 1,030 feet. The coal-bearing strata are 3,000 feet thick at their thickest point, and include, perhaps, thirty coal-beds, of which fifteen are workable and over three feet thick, giving a total of 107 feet of coal. The series can be separated into three divisions by the color of the ash of the coals: a lower or white-ash group, a middle or gray-ash group, and an upper or red-ash group, with a still lower red-ash group in the conglomerate.

M. Alfred Gauthier, for many years Professor of Astronomy at Geneva, died December 2d, in the ninetieth year of his age.

An English engineer, who bought a boiler sixteen years old, and used it as if its capacity to resist pressure was equal to that of a new and perfectly sound one, till it blew up and caused the death of several workmen, has been sentenced by the court at Leeds to a year's imprisonment for criminal negligence. The "Pall Mall Gazette" declares that the sentence is "severe, as it is probably novel," but can not consider it in excess of the merits.

So far as the Department of Agriculture has been able to obtain information on the subject, 181,583 acres of land in the United States arc devoted to the culture of the grape, giving a production of 23,453,827 gallons of wine, of an estimated value of $13,426,174. California leads in respect to both the area planted and the quantity of production, while the industry is not so concentrated anywhere east of the Rocky Mountains as in that State. Yet, while California produces three or four million gallons more than all the other States, the value of the crops of the latter is, in consequence of their greater accessibility to the market, more than twice as great as that of the crop of California.

Recognizing that the zero of thermometers is moved after undergoing sudden changes of temperature, and that it gradually rises during the first few months after the instruments are made, M. Pernet has inquired whether the distance between the "boiling-point" and the "freezing-point" is likewise subject to variations or is constant at all different stages of secular alteration in volume of bulbs. He has found that the distance is constant if the freezing point is determined immediately after the boiling-point; but that if the boiling-point be determined and a long interval elapse before the freezing-point is determined, there is a considerable error. For a thermometer to read rightly at any particular temperature, it should be exposed for a considerable time to the temperature for which exact measure is desired, or else for a few minutes to a slightly higher temperature.

Mr. Lawrence Bruner, of West Point, Nebraska, who has been traveling in the locust-centers of the West and Northwest, with especial reference to investigating the probabilities for another visitation of the pests, reports that there are probably no locust-eggs east of the Rocky Mountains this-season, and that, therefore, a general visitation in 1882 is highly improbable.

Dr. Ami Boué, who recently died at Vienna, at the advanced age of eighty-seven years, is stated to have been the author of more than two hundred works on subjects related to geology and natural history, he had been for more than fifty years an honorary member of the Geological Society of London, and received the Wollaston Medal in 1847.

The Nickajack Cave, near the corner of Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama, which is comparable in dimensions with the Mammoth and Wyandotte Caves, contains like them a fauna with peculiar characteristics. Professor Cope, who recently made two collecting expeditions into it, found abundant traces of human habitation near its mouth: first of the outer world so far within as light from without could be observed; and, farther in, blind crawfish, whose snowy-white forms could be readily distinguished by candle-light in the clear water. Of the five kinds of animals living in the waters of the cave, all but one differ decidedly from those of the caves of Kentucky, Indiana, and Virginia. This indicates, Professor Cope suggests, that these cave-forms are the descendants of different out-of-door species from those of the more northern caves.

Professor W. K. Brooks, Ph. D., of Johns Hopkins University, has been awarded a medal of the first class by the Société d'Acclimation of Paris, for his work on the "Development of the Oyster." Professor H. A. Rowland, of the same institution, has been awarded the prize of 1,500 lire which was offered by the Reale Institute Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti, for the best essay on the "Mechanical Equivalent of Heat." The essay has been translated into Italian, and will be published by the institute.

Professor E. D. Cope has described a new saurian (Champsosauris Australia), belonging to a genus of uncertain affinity, that has hitherto been regarded as peculiar to the Laramie strata, which is found in New Mexico, in a formation lying below the typical Wahsatch Eocene. Specimens of the genus appear also to have been found by Dr. Lemoine near Reims, in France, in the Sucssonian Eocene, associated with mammalia.

M. René Thury, of Geneva, has communicated some observations on the production of inductive currents by distant lightning. He stretched between the roofs of two houses a wire, one end of which communicated with the ground, while the other end was connected with a telephone. Whenever lightning was perceived at a distance that might reach as far as twenty-five miles, the telephone simultaneously uttered a characteristic sound.