Popular Science Monthly/Volume 23/August 1883/Notes


Dr. C. C. Abbott reports as among many interesting "finds" which he discovered in the Trenton gravels, after the heavy rains of last September, a wisdom-tooth of a man, which lay in the undisturbed gravel within a dozen feet of the spot where a mastodon's tusk, described in Professor Cook's "Geology of New Jersey," was found some years ago, buried almost as deeply as the tusk, and in a similar situation and among similar surroundings. This, he believes, proves the contemporaneity of man and the mastodon. He also describes some argillite spear-heads found in the gravels, more finished than the Palæolithic, ruder than the polished implements, which he is disposed to class as the handiwork of the direct, post-glacial descendants of palæolithic man.

Dr. Th. Fuchs, of Vienna, has undertaken to show that the distribution of life at the different depths of the sea is influenced more by the differences in the quantity of light than by differences in temperature. He reasons that all the known facts of the distribution of sea-life are consistent with his view, and that some of the facts favor it more than the other one. Thus, if temperature is the controlling influence, the shore-animals of northern regions should seek the deep sea when they find themselves in warmer climates, but they are still found near the shore. Genera which live in Arctic seas at a temperature below the freezing-point, find themselves at home in British seas at a temperature several degrees higher, and continue to be found in still warmer seas, till near the Island of Zebu, where they occur at 70° of temperature. Dr. Fuchs does not deny that heat has an influence in controlling the distribution, but he contends that it is very much less than that of light.

The death of William Spottiswoode, President of the Royal Society, was announced by cable from London, June 27th. Dr. Spottiswoode was born in 1825, and was graduated at Oxford in 1845, as first class in mathematics. By inheritance he became Queen's printer, and managed that business through his life, but at the same time continued his studies, and became famous in mathematics, languages, and philosophy, and was active in educational matters. He contributed much that is of value to scientific journals. He was President of the Dublin Meeting of the British Association in 1878, and in that capacity delivered an address of remarkable qualities. A portrait of him and a short sketch were given in the "Monthly" for November, 1878.

Mr. F. W. Putnam has described, in a paper before the American Antiquarian Society, a number of interesting copper implements from Mexico. These articles are now rare, because most of them have been sent to the melting-pot. The implements described by Mr. Putnam include a shapely axe from San Luis Potosi; axes from Tlacolula, Oaxaca; "hoes," with semi-lunar blades, from Teotitlan del Valle and Oaxaca; and scrapers of a little different shape, which are now in Dr. Valentini's collection and in the Peabody Museum. The exact character of many of these implements is not yet determined.

Another French expedition has started, in the steamer Talisman, to explore the depths of the Atlantic. It will begin with the coast of Morocco and the vicinity of the Canary Islands, and will go thence to the Cape Verd Islands, the red-coral fisheries of San Jago, and the desert islands of Branco and Raza, which are frequented by saurians that are found nowhere else, and will pay particular attention to the Sargasso Sea and its fauna.

Dr. H. Leffmann has observed, in bottoms of some of the silicious geyser-waters of the Yellowstone National Park, deposits of gelatinous matter, which an analysis has proved to be nearly pure silica. It is structureless, but becomes a white opaque mass when heated and dried. Confined for some weeks with strong sulphuric acid, it shrank to about one tenth its former volume.

The Rev. J. L. Zabriskie, of Nyack, New York, records the discovery, from observations of pods which he was keeping in his room, that the Wistaria-pod has the faculty of exploding with a very audible noise, and throwing its beans with force to a considerable distance. Two of the pods in his room thus exploded in succession. One of the beans was thrown to a distance of sixteen feet, and rebounded four feet. If it had been ejected with the same force from the position in which it grew on its native vine, it would have flown for a distance of at least thirty feet.

Professor W. P. Blake has found native lead and minium occurring in galena, near Bellevue, Idaho. The native lead is in small, rounded masses or grains of an eighth or a quarter of an inch in diameter, and sometimes in reniform bunches weighing an ounce or more. The minium is generally found incrusting it.

The efficiency of oil to temper the rage of the waves in storms at sea is now generally recognized, and it is becoming the practice for vessels to take oil with them to be used in this way in cases of extremity. The ship Glamorganshire was recently saved in a tempest by the timely use of oil; while a powerful steamer, the Navarre, neglecting it, was swept by the waves and went down in the North Sea, on the 6th of March, with those on board. The oil operates by preventing the waves around the vessel from breaking, and converting them into a heavy swell. "Chambers's Journal" remarks that "ships that leave port unfurnished with oil, in case of emergency, are defrauded of one of their chief elements of safety."

M. Richet, Professor of Clinical Surgery at Paris, has been chosen to the seat in the French Academy of Sciences made vacant by the death of M. Sedillot.

The greenhouses of the Dutch gardeners have been recently infested by a myriapod, heretofore unknown, called the Fontaria gracilis, which has the singular faculty of emitting a strong odor of prussic acid when attacked. A chemist of the country, M. Guldensteeden-Egeling, has ascertained that the animal really fabricates and secretes hydrocyanic acid. This substance bus hitherto been regarded as exclusively of vegetable origin.

M. Margis, of Paris, has succeeded in obtaining oxygen directly from the atmosphere by dialysis. By forcing air through a series of membranous bags prepared by immersing taffeta in ether, sulphide of carbon, or alcohol, and covering with a fine layer of caoutchouc, he has secured an increase of the percentage of oxygen in respect to nitrogen till the fourth bag gives ninety-five per cent of pure oxygen.