Popular Science Monthly/Volume 24/December 1883/Notes


In Dr. Pyburn's article on "A Homemade Telescope," in the last (November) number of the "Monthly," page 86, seven lines from the bottom, the diameter of the thirty-inch roller is given as "two and five eighths inches"; it should read "one and five eighths inch."

Professor Baird announces the final solution of the problem of the culture of oysters from artificially impregnated eggs. The Government station at Stockton, Maryland, had in September last many millions of young oysters three quarters of an inch in diameter, which had been hatched from eggs artificially impregnated forty-six days before. Oyster's had already been artificially impregnated by Dr. Brooks, but the practical difficulty existed of preventing the young oysters, which could pass through the meshes of the most closely woven fabrics, from escaping.

Our Educational Bureau is circulating an excellent paper from an address given to school-teachers in Switzerland on how natural science should be taught. The object, it says, should be, not to fill the mind with facts, but to bring all the scholars, including the slowest ones, to discover and observe facts for themselves. Books should be little used, and nothing about an object should be taught without the object being before the class. The next lessons should be in describing the facts observed, with the help of drawing, if possible. Plants should be chosen first, then animals of different classes, then minerals, with observations of mechanical and afterward of chemical effects upon them. But the bare making of collections should not be particularly encouraged.

The "United States Hay Fever Association" held its tenth annual meeting at Bethlehem, New Hampshire, during the last week in August. The speeches made and the experiences related indicate that the cause and specific cure for the uncomfortable disease in question are yet to be found. A particular preparation which has been much recommended was, by nearly general consent, pronounced of no value as a remedy. Much information regarding the malady had been gathered by Dr. Geddings.

The lowering of the freezing-point of water by increased pressure is frequently illustrated by the experiment of Bottomley, which consists in throwing across a cake of ice a wire weighted heavily at both ends. The wire slowly sinks through the cake, the ice melting beneath it and freezing above it. Professor Guthrie, at a meeting of the Physical Society in London, has stated his belief that the wire conducts heat to the ice from the atmosphere, and that therefore the experiment does not illustrate the fact above mentioned. A silk cord weighted to the same amount as a wire will not cut through a block of ice.

The death is recorded of Hermann Müller, of Lippstadt, one of the most industrious and distinguished scientific investigators of the day. His specialty was the fertilization of flowers by insects, in which subject he was regarded by naturalists as the highest authority. He was the author of two books on the subject, "Die Befruchtung der Blumen durch Insecten" ("The Fertilization of Flowers by Insects"), recently translated into English, and "Alpenblumen, ihre Befruchtung durch Insecten" ("Alpine Flowers, their Fertilization by Insects"); of an article in Schenk's "Handbuch der Botanie," and of frequent contributions to the German periodical "Kosmos."

Ernest Ingersoll observes, in the "American Naturalist," that if we judge by the standard of their possessing a convenient currency, the American Indians must be ranked high among barbarians in point of advance toward civilization. They had in their wampum a regular money of recognized value. It marked an advance upon the African cowry, for, while the latter was simply a shell with a hole in it, wampum was a manufactured article, made with a degree of patient labor which was included in estimating the value given to it. That to which the most value was attached was made from the dark part of clam-shells. An inferior "coinage" was made from the white parts of the shells, and from periwinkle-shells. The value of wampum was almost as well defined as that of our own money, and regular tests were in use for judging of it. Shell money was also used by the Indians of the Pacific slope; and Mr. Ingersoll describes three kinds of it, all somewhat different from genuine wampum.

Mr. Ernest Hart, Chairman of the London Smoke Abatement Institute, remarks that at the recent exhibition by that society improvements in the construction of open fire-places were shown by which common bituminous coal can be consumed in a practically smokeless manner. Simple methods of underfeeding were exhibited which proved to be productive of admirable result's both in respect to economy of fuel and reduction of smoke from ordinary coal. Mr. Hart recommends as an elementary measure of economy the use of equal quantities of coke and coal mixed. He has great expectations of the realization of Dr. Siemens's projects for using gas as a heating agent.

The French Academy of Sciences has had a discussion about busts. It was invited to witness the progress of the bust of Leverrier, and express an opinion as to the quality of the resemblance and the work. M. Bertrand took the opportunity to speak of the scandalous badness of some of the busts in the hall of the Academy, particularly of those of Delaunay and Claude Bernard, which, he said, were mere caricatures, and to advice that they be turned out at once; and M. Dumas remarked that several of the busts were in reality only fit to be used for making carbonic acid.

Mr. Cromwell Fleetwood Varlet, F. R. S., an English engineer distinguished for his work in connection with electric telegraphs, died September 2d. He devised a method of locating distant faults in land telegraphic wires, and was associated with other engineers in devising the first really successful Atlantic cable.

The curious question has been raised in England whether the recent decline in the death-rate has actually added to the average length of useful life, or whether its benefits have not chiefly been spent in relatively unimportant prolongations of the lives of children and of the aged. It has been answered by Mr. Noel A. Humphreys, after a new examination of the returns of mortality, and the compilation of new life-tables. He finds that the average expectation of life of males at birth has been raised from 39·91 years, as it was fixed in Dr. Farr's tables, to 41·92 years by the new tables, or has been increased by two years, or five per cent; and that the expectation of females has been raised from 40·86 years to 43·56 years, or by 2·70 years, or nearly 7 per cent.

Charles F. Parkes, Curator of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, died September 7th, after a long illness. He had considerable distinction as one of the leading botanists of America, and had paid special attention to the botany of New Jersey.

Professor C. Y. Riley, in a paper read at the American Association recommends emulsions of petroleum to be applied to plants as insecticides. A soap emulsion of twenty parts of scraped bar-soap, ten parts of water, thirty parts of kerosene, and one part of fir-balsam, is stable enough for all practical purposes, but milk emulsions are better. One or two parts of refined kerosene to one part of sour milk is quite satisfactory. It must be churned till a butter is formed, which is thoroughly stable, and will keep indefinitely in closed vessels, and may be diluted at pleasure with water when needed for use. An emulsion of gum from the root of Zamia integrifolia, of Florida, has proved useful. The diluted emulsion, of strength varying according to the plants and insects to which it is applied, should be finely sprayed upon the insects to be killed.

Science has furnished another victim to African sickness in the person of Mr. William Alexander Forbes, Prosector to the Zoological Society of London, whose death on the Niger River has been reported. He made an excursion to the forests of Pernambuco, Brazil, in 1880, afterward passed some time in the United States, and started from England for Africa and the eastern tropics, in July, 1882. His published works consist chiefly of about sixty papers in the "Proceedings of the Zoölogical Society" and the "Ibis."

M. Engelman has been studying the manner in which the movements of the lower organisms are influenced by light. He finds that light may act in three ways: 1. Directly, by a modification of the exchanges of gases; 2. By modifications of the sensation of respiratory necessities, and, 3. By means of a specific special process corresponding probably in some sort to our luminous perception.

Mr. Thomas Plant, a life long student of meteorology, died in Birmingham, England, about the 1st of September. His regular records of the weather and associated phenomena are complete for forty-six years.