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Popular Science Monthly/Volume 21/August 1882/Notes

< Popular Science Monthly‎ | Volume 21‎ | August 1882


Dr. Byron D. Halstead, of the "American Agriculturist," has published, in the report of the Secretary of the Connecticut Board of Agriculture, an important memoir on "Fungi injurious to Vegetation, with Remedies." In it he describes ergot, the potato-rot, the rust of wheat, corn-smut, the onion-smut, the apple-leaf fungus, the peach-curl fungus, the American grape-mildew, the lettuce-mildew, and the raspberry fungus.

M. Barral, Secretary of the National Agricultural Society of France, has shown recently that the beet-sugar industry is advancing steadily in Germany, but is stationary in France. A great change has taken place in the character of the apparatus used for extracting the sugar in Germany, where hydraulic and continuous presses have given way to a process of extraction by diffusion, the apparatus for which is much more simple. A similar change is going on in France, but it has made less advance there than in Germany and Austria. The relative depression of the industry in France is owing to two causes: the quality of the beet-roots, which is inferior; and the manner of laying the taxes, which in Germany and Austria bear upon the fabrication, and stimulate it to devices to improve the yield, while in France they bear upon the consumption, and tend to discourage it.

A bark containing quinine and quinidine, and currently known as Cuprea cinchona, imported from Colombia, has recently had a sale in England comparable to the entire amount of the importation of cinchona-bark from all other countries. The affinities of the tree which produces it, hitherto unknown, have been traced out by M. Triana, who has found that the bark is chiefly derived from two species of Remijia, a genus of which no species was previously known to contain quinine. Seeds of the Remijia have been received, and are in cultivation at Malvern House, Sydenham. The tree is likely to prove valuable for cultivation in countries where malarial fevers abound. It grows at an elevation of from six hundred to thirty-three hundred feet above the sea, where even red cinchona will not flourish.

The census report on fire-arms and ammunition lays stress on the advantage of the "interchangeable system" of manufacturing, or the system by which any single part is made to fit into any machine of the same class, and its influence in the development of industries. Two of our great industries, agriculture and manufactures, now depend largely upon this system, which is of American origin, and has reached its greatest development in our country. Its introduction has reduced waste and effected economy in production. By it the manufacturer is able to furnish machines of all kinds at reasonable cost, repairs are made easy and cheap; and agricultural processes, by the aid of generally available machinery, have become greatly extended. One of the direct results of the system has been a great improvement in the strength, durability, and working performances of the machines made.

M. Torcapel describes a formation of basalt rich in pyroxene and very hard, and more than six hundred feet thick, at Aubenas, in Ardèche, France, under which the washings of the river Rhône have exposed a succession of beds of tufa, volcanic mud, and decomposed basalt containing teeth and bones of mammals which have been assigned by M. Gaudry to the Upper Miocene. The situation of the fossils and the superincumbence of the basalt leave no doubt that the animals to which the bones belonged were contemporaneous with the eruption and its victims. The date of the latter and that of the basaltic eruptions, the outflows of which cover a large portion of the central plateau of France, may therefore be referred to the period named. M. Gaudry remarks that these conclusions agree with those reached by M. Earners in the Cantal.

M. L. Clemandot has given the name of tempering by compression to a new method of treating metals, particularly steel, which consists in heating the metal to a cherry red, and then putting it under a strong pressure, and keeping it there till it is cooled.

The fifth in the series of "Saturday Lectures," in the National Museum at Washington, for 1882, was by Professor Riley, and gave "Little-Known Facts about Well-Known Animals," in the form of a popular account of the life-history of the oyster and his enemies, the star-fish, the shore crab, the common frog, the house-fly, parasitism, the mosquito, and the earth-worm.

The report of the census shows that, in the whole United States, 14,462,431 acres of land are devoted to the cultivation of cotton, and that the total product of the country is 5,176,414 bales, or 410 of a bale per acre; Georgia gives the largest extent of land to the cultivation of the staple, 2,617,138 acres; Mississippi produces the largest quantity, 955,808 bales; and Louisiana gives the largest return per acre, 0·59 bale.

Mr. William Morris Davis has made, in "Appalachia," an interesting study of "The Little Mountains east of the Catskills." These mountains, which rise only one or two hundred feet above the plain, and are about two miles wide, have a complicated structure and "a charmingly picturesque surface, and in tracing out their continual changes one encounters problems of great variety and beauty. The belt they occupy "is not great in quantity but very varied in quality." Their rocks, of the Hudson River and Lower Helderberg groups, are adorned with numerous fossils; and they afford examples of the six types of surface form as determined by folded, stratified rocks; both mountains and valleys of monoclinal, anticlinal, and synclinal structure. The whole system exhibits the Appalachian character of increase of variety and abruptness of change from east to west.

The United States produces, according to the reports of the census, 44,113,495 bushels of barley, 11,817,327 of buckwheat, 1,754,861,535 of Indian corn, 407,859,999 of oats, 19,831,595 of rye, and 459,479,505 of wheat. Of the several States, California produces the most barley, 12,579,561 bushels; New York the most buckwheat, 4,461,200 bushels; Illinois the most corn (325,792,481 bushels), oats (63,189,200 bushels), and wheat (51,110,502 bushels); and Pennsylvania the most rye, 3,683,621 bushels.