Popular Science Monthly/Volume 21/June 1882/Notes


The Boston Society of Natural History announces that a sea-side laboratory, under the direction of its curator, will be opened at Annisquam, Massachusetts, July 1, to continue until September 1, 1882. A limited number of students can be accommodated, and the work will consist mainly of study and observation of the common types of marine animals, under the immediate care of Mr. B. H. Van Vleck, assistant in the museum and laboratory of the society. Full particulars may be obtained by addressing the curator of the society, Professor Alpheus Hyatt, of Boston.

The French Association for the Advancement of Science will meet at La Rochelle, August 24th to 31st. The organization of the congress is already in active preparation. M. Jousset de Bellesme has published a note calling attention, as the topics most likely to attract the interest of zoölogists, to ostreiculture, which is carried on along the neighboring coasts; to termites, whose nests are found in the vicinity; and to several valuable collections of the local fauna. Among the excursions will be dredging expeditions at sea, and geological excursions under the guidance of local experts.

The account of the late Professor Clerk Maxwell, to be published by Messrs. Macmillan & Co., will include a biographical outline, with selections from correspondence, by Professor Lewis Campbell, who was very intimate with Mr. Maxwell in early life; an account of his chief contributions to science, by Mr. William Garnett, who was associated with him as demonstrator at the Cavendish Laboratory for the last six years of his life; and a collection of his poems, some of which are already known to the public, while the greater number will be published for the first time.

John Charles Frederick Zoellner, Professor of Physical Astronomy in the University of Leipsic, died April 29th. He was born, in Berlin in 1834. After receiving the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at Basle, he devoted himself to the study of photometry as applied to astronomy and physiology. He was the author of several works on subjects related to astronomy and photometry, the best known of which is that "On the Nature of Comets." He invented the spectroscope which is generally used by astronomers for the observation of the solar protuberances and the lines of their spectrum. He was specially prominent in the later years of his life through his efforts to explain the alleged phenomena of spiritualism by means of a fourth dimension of space.

An extraordinarily high death-rate which was recorded in London for the week ending February 11, 1882, was ascribed to the dense fogs which had been prevailing. This view is strongly confirmed by the fact that the only weeks in which similarly high death-rates have been recorded during recent years were those ending December 20, 1873, and February 7, 1880, each of which immediately followed a period of dense fog and intense cold. It is also sustained by the fact that the death-rate for the week ending February 11, 1882, in the twenty-seven large provincial towns, was more than ten per cent below that of London; which goes to show that the increase of deaths was caused by the fog rather than by the cold.

The Popular Observatory, which was opened by M. Jaubert on the Trocadéro, Paris, in July, 1880, has been visited by several thousand persons desiring to observe the stars, more than two thousand of whom have enrolled themselves as regular astronomical or microscopic observers, or attendants on the lectures. The pupils of the Popular School of Astronomy have made a considerable number of observations, of which they have given accounts in a journal, and several of them have associated themselves to put up a laboratory at their own expense. M. Jaubert has established a popular scientific class, meeting twice a week, which is largely attended by teachers.

The value of porcelain depends on the purity of its color, and this is dependent on the absence of dark spots in the clay, which are produced chiefly by particles of iron. These particles are now extracted at some of the French factories by means of large electro-magnets, which are kept in operation by the steam-power used in other departments of the manufacture. At Mehun three machines purify about 600 kilogrammes (or 1,500 pounds) of porcelain paste every day, the proportion of impurities found averaging about 8 kilogrammes of impurities to 100,000 kilogrammes of paste.

Dr. Josef Chavanne, the Austrian geographer, estimates the mean altitude of the Continent of Africa to be 2,169·93 feet, or double the mean altitude of the Continent of Europe, which M. G. Leipoldt has estimated at 971·41 feet. According to M. Chavanne, if the Atlas range were spread over the entire Continent of Africa, it would give a height of 85·86 feet only, while the Abyssinian mountain-mass would similarly give a height of 79·72 feet.

Dr. Carl Vogt has declared, peremptorily, that "the organisms in meteorites announced by M. Hahn have no existence; what have been described as such result from crystalline conformations which are absolutely inorganic. None of the imagined organisms have the microscopic structure belonging to the organisms with which they have been associated. In particular, the asserted sponges do not show the structure of either existing or fossil sponges; the so-called corals do not show that of polops or anthozoa; and the imagined crinoids do not show the structure of known crinoids. The observed structures are due to an opaque crust, or result from optical illusions, caused by an incomplete method of conducting microscopic researches."

Signor Roncelli, of the Italian Parliament, has devised a simple and practical method of voting by electricity. Each member of the House has in front of him a metal plate bearing his name or number, on which are three buttons, marked respectively, "Ay," "No," and "Abstain." The buttons are connected with a central printing apparatus which prints in three separate columns the ayes, noes, and abstentions, according to the buttons touched by the members; while, with every addition to each column, the sum of the votes in the column is automatically recorded.

M. Delahaye has published in the "Revue Industrielle" some facts concerning extraordinary pressures of wind that have been observed in railway management in India. On the 5th of October, 1864, two trains on the Eastern Bengal Railway, one of eight cars, the other of twelve, were blown over during a violent storm. Four other cars were blown down a side-track, and overturned near the station by colliding with other cars which had also been blown there. On the 21st of September, 1878, a long freight-train on the same railway, while going about eight miles an hour, was blown back nearly a mile, although the engine had a full head of steam and the breaks were put on. Half the train was taken off, when the rest could barely make headway. The Indian railway service affords several other cases of trains that were stopped or greatly hindered by strong winds.

M. Pitre de Lisle has described a singular class of stone celts or hatchets which have been found so far only in Brittany and Northwestern France. They differ from other stone hatchets in having a knob or button-like termination on the butt or hammer end, while other hatchets taper away to a more or less conical point in this part. The blades vary in length from about three inches to about fifteen inches, and are all made of rocks belonging to the family of diorites. M. de Lisle calls these instruments haches à tête, or haches à bouton—hatchets with heads, or hatchets with buttons. He believes that the object of the expansion was to give greater security to the fastening of the blade or to the holding of it in the hand.

Sir Robert Christison, Professor of Materia Medica in the University of Edinburgh, died January 27th, in the eighty-fifth year of his age. He was the son of a professor in the university, was graduated as Doctor of Medicine in 183 9, and became Professor of Medical Jurisprudence in the university in 1822, and of Materia Medica in 1832. His specialty was poisons, on which he published a "Treatise" in 1829 that is still recognized as a work of great value. He received numerous honors on account of his eminence in his department, and held many public positions for which his gifts of knowledge and experience furnished important qualifications. He was elected to the presidency of the British Association in 1876, but declined it on account of his advanced age. He was noted in his youth as the most accomplished athlete in the university.

Besides the contributions in physical science which have, within a year or two, appeared in European journals, from Japanese students, we find that they are doing their share of the work in biological science as well. Within a few months there have appeared in the "Quarterly Journal of Microscopical Science," London, an article on the structure of the gills of Lamellibranchiates, by Mr. Mitsukuri; and another paper, by the same author, on the development of the suprarenal bodies in mammalia. In the "Zoologischer Anzeiger," Leipsic, Mr. Ijima gives a condensed summary of a memoir on the structure of the ovary, and the origin of the egg and the egg-string in Nephelis; and Mr. Iwakawa gives the results of his observations on the genesis of the egg in Triton. The two latter-named gentlemen have never been abroad.

A wealthy land-owner in the Tyrol has made an application of the microphone to the detection of subterranean springs. He fixed the microphones at the spots where he supposed water might exist, each being connected with its telephone and battery. Then, at night, he put his ear to each of the instruments and listened for the murmuring of the waters—and in several cases heard it.

An exposition of electricity is to be held in the Palais Royal at Munich, under the auspices of a committee, of which Dr. G. de Beetz, of the Royal Scientific School, is president.