Popular Science Monthly/Volume 24/February 1884/Notes


Mr. Robert E. C. Stearns, in a paper read before the California Academy of Sciences, announces his conclusion, from his studies of the shells of the Colorado Desert and the region farther east (particularly from studies of Physa and Anodonta), that every item bearing upon the geographical distribution of the species indicates the mountain-lakes as the sources whence they are derived; points to their descent from northerly regions as well as from higher altitudes; and contributes additional testimony as to the antiquity of these widely spread though inferior forms of life.

General Richard D. Cutts, of the United States Coast Survey, died in Washington, December 13th, in the seventy-seventh year of his age. He had been connected with the Coast Survey during the greater part of his life, and was at the time of his death first assistant superintendent of the service.

In a paper before the American Association on the "Serpentine of Staten Island, N.Y.," Dr. T. Sterry Hunt expressed himself in favor of the opinion of Dr. Britton, of the School of Mines, Columbia College, that the belt containing the mineral is a protruding portion of the Eozoic series. The appearance of isolated hills and regions of serpentine is common in other regions, and is by Dr. Hunt explained by the consideration that this very insoluble magnesian silicate resists the atmospheric agencies which dissolve limestones and convert gneisses to clay—the removal of which rocks leaves exposed the included beds and lenticular masses of serpentine. Similar appearances are seen in many parts of Italy, where ridges and bosses of serpentine are found protruding in the midst of Eocene strata, and have hitherto, by most European geologists, been regarded as eruptive masses of Eocene age. Mather, who described the Staten Island locality more than forty years ago, also looked upon the serpentine as an eruptive rock.

A curious instance of the kindling of a fire by means of the concentration of the sun's rays by a globular water-bottle through which they passed is related by a correspondent of "La Nature." The day was cold, but the sun shone brightly; the bottle, an "onion-shaped" flask, filled with water so as to form a perfect lens, sat upon the table. The starting of the fire, which would have caused great damage if the relater of the incident had not been present to extinguish it, was revealed by the smoke. A deliberate experiment was made on the next day, with complete success, in kindling a fire by this means.

The "Pall Mall Gazette" cites some more cases illustrating the quality of the learning furnished by the English board-schools. The study was geography. The children were able to give an accurate list of the exports of Norway, but could not recall the picture of a fiord. They knew that the latitude of Paris was 49°, but when asked, "What is latitude?" they were either dumb, or gave such answers as—"Latitude means lines running straight up"; "Latitude means zones or climate"; "Latitude is measured by multiplying the length by the breadth." Correct lists of imports were given, but customs duties were defined, by a girl, "Customs are ways, duties are things that we have to do, and we ought to do them"; by a boy, "Customers' duties are to go to the places and buy what they want, not stopping about, but go out when they are done."

According to tables prepared by Dr. Daniel Draper, of the New York Meteorological Observatory, Greenwich Observatory had 1,245 hours of sunshine in 1878, in a possibility of 4,447, while New York had 2,936 hours, in a possibility of 4,449; and in 1879, Greenwich had 977 hours, and New York 3,101 hours.

Professor Sven Nilsson, of the Lund University, Sweden, a distinguished zoölogist, died November 30th, at the age of ninety-seven years.

It is proposed to hold next year, in the building of the International Fisheries Exhibition at South Kensington, an exhibition illustrating the relations of food, dress, the dwelling, the school, and the workshop, with health. The exhibition will be divided into sections of education and health, and further into six principal groups: 1. Food-matters and their preparation; 2. Dress, with specimens of different styles and materials; 3, 4, and 5. What pertains to the healthful construction and fitting of the dwelling, the school, and the workshop; and, 6. All that relates to primary, technical, and art education.

Popular lore teaches several signs by which it pretends to determine from the weather on a particular day what the weather will be for a longer or shorter time in the future. M. A. Lancaster reports, in "Ciel et Terre" of Brussels, concerning a test he has made of one of these signs. It is that of St. Medard's day, or the 8th of June, concerning which a proverb is rife in the Continental countries that, if it rains then, it will rain for forty days afterward. M. Lancaster examined the record for fifty years, from 1833 to 1882, and found from it that, as a rule, it rained about as much and as often during the forty days following the 8th of June when it did not rain on that day as when it did. Taking the averages of all the years, there was a difference of 2·3 days, or less than one seventeenth, and of twelve millimetres (88·1-77·6) of rain in favor of the rainy St. Medard: not enough, certainly, on which to found a rule.

Mr. John Eliot Howard, F.R.S., a well known chemist and quinologist of London, died in November last, at the age of seventy-six years. His father, Mr. Luke Howard, F.R.S., was in his own day distinguished as a meteorologist.

Turgenieff, the great Russian novelist, recently deceased, had the heaviest brain that has yet been weighed—2,012 grammes. The average weight of the human brain is 1,390 grammes. The statistics of brain-weights so far gathered do not show that great intellects are marked by heavy brains. Cuvier's brain, 1,800 grammes, was considerably larger than the average, while Gambetta's was remarkably small. The brains of Raphael, Cardinal Mezzofanti, Charles Dickens, Lord Byron, and Charles Lamb, did not exceed the average, and only Mezzofanti's reached it.

Lieutenant Wissmann, a German explorer, is about to make another journey into Africa, the cost of which is defrayed by private contributions. His object will be to explore the Kaissai from Mukenge to its mouth into the Congo. The success of the expedition is likely to have an important bearing on the extension and development of trade on the Congo, and to contribute much to geographical knowledge; for the contemplated route will intersect the southern and unexplored part of the bend of the great river, probably in the middle,

The remains of Commandant Langle and other companions of the explorer La Pérouse, who were massacred by savages in the last century, have been discovered by the Roman Catholic missionaries on the Island of Tutuila, where the massacre occurred. A memorial chapel is to be built at the spot where they are buried.

The Italian traveler Sacconi, who was exploring the country of the Somaulis under the auspices of the Geographical Society of Milan, was murdered by the natives on the 12th of August. His death puts an end to one of the most important explorations of the day into a country concerning which many questions still remain to be settled.

Among the 20,000 articles of bronze belonging to the lake-dwellers so far found in Switzerland, about 30 per cent are rings, 17 per cent bracelets, 4 per cent knives, 3 per cent needles, 0·4 per cent hammers, and 0·2 per cent fibulæ.