Popular Science Monthly/Volume 26/November 1884/Notes


An "American Electrical Exhibition" will be opened in the Massachusetts Charitable Association Building, Huntington Avenue, Boston, November 24th, and will be continued till January 3, 1885. It is intended to make the exhibition complete and comprehensive in every particular, and to exceed in novelty any that has ever been held in New England. The rooms will be open for the reception of exhibits from November 5th to November 19th. Applications for space must be made by November 1st. Communications should be addressed to "American Electrical Exhibition, Post Office Box 1130, Boston, Massachusetts."

Mr. D. H. Talbot describes, in the "American Naturalist," a specimen of the ground squirrel in a state of hibernation which he had an opportunity of observing. It was rolled up in a perfect ball, with its head resting forward of the root of the tail, and the tail curled carefully up on the body. It was resting in a perfectly closed ball of hay twelve or fourteen inches in diameter in the center of a hay-stack. It was evidently alive and healthy when found, though quite dormant, but either in consequence of having been inconsiderately exposed unwrapped to extreme cold by the finder, or of some change that took place while it was in Mr. Talbot's keeping, it grew limp, suffered hæmorrhage, and died.

A Correspondent calls attention to a clerical error—a genuine case of what Richard Grant White would call heterophemy—that escaped notice in the proofreading, by which we were made, in the September number, in recording the death of Henry Watts, to say that he had been a "demonstrator of anatomy" in University College, London. "Director in the laboratory" was what it should have been, and what was intended.

Mr. W. H. Preece stated in the British Association that he had been fairly successful in telephoning through the cable between Dublin and Holyhead, a distance of sixty miles. Accurately heard conversation, however, could not be carried on through cables beyond a distance of twenty-five miles; and it seemed at present impracticable to use underground wires in cities for distances of more than twelve miles. On overground wires he had no difficulty, with an arrangement of double lines, in speaking through two hundred and forty miles.

Professor Claypole read a paper, before the Geological Section of the British Association, on the crumpling of the earth's crust as shown by a sixty-five mile section across Huntingdon, Juniata, and Perry Counties, Pennsylvania, in which he estimated by mathematical methods that the strata had been shortened, by the foldings they had undergone, from an original length of about one hundred miles. That the contraction had been so great was disputed by some of his hearers, but Professor Claypole held to his conclusions.

The commission, appointed by the French Minister of Public Instruction, to verify the results of M. Pasteur's experiments on the prevention of hydrophobia by inoculation, has pronounced them decisive. The problem whether inoculation of a human being, after he has been bitten, can be relied upon to secure him against contracting the disease, is still under investigation. Time and many subjects will be needed before a rigorously exact solution of it can be reached.

The temperatures of the boiling-points of the liquid forms of certain gases, as determined by Mr. Wroblewski, were given in our September number with the minus-signs undesignedly omitted. Most readers would understand, as of course, that temperatures below zero were intended. For the benefit of those to whom this may not have occurred, we repeat the temperatures: oxygen -299° Fahr.; atmospheric air -314·4°; nitrogen -315·5°; carbonic oxide -314·4°; and we may now add, hydrogen -351°.

Sir John Lawes and Dr. Gilbert maintained, in a paper before the British Association, that the view which has been held that a soil is a laboratory and not a mine, is erroneous; for not only the facts adduced by them in previous papers, but the whole history of agriculture, so far as we know it, show that a fertile soil is one which has accumulated within it the residue of ages of previous vegetation, and that it becomes less fertile as this residue is exhausted.

Dr. Cobbold, an eminent authority on the subject, asserts that the danger of eating parasites in fish used as food is much exaggerated, and that there is extremely little of it. If the fish are only moderately boiled, the parasites will all be killed, and, if they are not, not one in a thousand of them will find itself at home enough in the human stomach to do any harm. Professor Huxley also declares that the thread-worm of the mackerel is harmless, and that the idea of its being a possible cause of cholera is sheer nonsense; and he thinks it outrageous that the suggestion has been made.

Masks of mica are made at Breslau for the use of workmen who are exposed to high temperatures, to acid vapors, or to metallic sparks. They are found to protect the eyes better than glasses, while there is space enough between them and the eyes to permit spectacles to be used also. The plates of mica are fixed in metallic supports protected with amianthus, and the neck and shoulders of the workman are covered with a hood of that substance.

The Eilsitt bridge, Lyons, France, is called "the singing-bridge," on account of the musical sounds it emits at different parts of its course, "when at particular moments one might believe it haunted by legions of invisible naiads pursuing the passengers with their plaintive melodies." The bridge is furnished with a stone parapet, which is pierced at intervals for light, with rectangular openings having their ends rounded off in semicircles. The effect of this passage, with the air-currents rushing through it, is that of a flute, of which the windows represent the holes. The tones vary considerably at times in intensity, with but little difference in their pitch.

The prairie-wolf has been introduced into Epping Forest, England, and appears to be breeding freely there. The animals have been confounded by some persons with cubs of the fox, and described by others as "strange animals from foreign parts." One of them was recently offered to Mr. Bartlett, Superintendent of the London Zoölogical Gardens, who, doubting whether it might not be a hybrid of some kind, visited the forest to learn something more about its real character. The less frequented parts of the forest seem well suited to the habits of the animals, and they promise to thrive.

Dr. Richardson has sounded a note of warning against the too hasty and complete acceptance of the bacillus theory for the origin of every kind of infection, to the neglect "of all the preceding clinical history." He asks: "Upon the evidence of how many or how few men does the bacillus hypothesis rest? On what reasoning does it rest? Who has separated, in relation to it, coincidence from causation?" To ask these questions, or to heed them, is not necessarily to question the validity of the bacillus theory, but simply to pause and review, and ask for the proof of it.

The question whether the water of a river like the Thames, when once polluted by sewage, can be made fit for drinking purposes, either by the oxidation incident to its own flow or by artificial filtration, was again up for discussion recently before the London Society of Arts. Dr. Frankland took the negative side upon it, and insisted that the Thames's supplies to London should be abandoned; while many eminent engineers and a few chemists positively contradicted both his data and his conclusions. Mr. W. Mattieu Williams suggests that the force of the latter gentlemen's opinions is somewhat detracted from by the fact that most of them are concerned in the construction of filter-beds and other engineering appliances for river-water purification, or in schemes for chemical precipitations.

The ice-plant of our ladies' window-baskets (Mesembryanthemum crystallinum) affords a striking illustration of the elective power which plants have of taking up by their roots from a complex soil the materials proper for them. M. Mangon has cultivated it for several years on the same ground with cabbage, celery, and other plants, and has found that, while the latter plants had their normal composition, the ice-plant, dried and burned, furnished an ash with an amount of chlorine and alkali that astonished him. From one hectare, or two acres and a half of ice-plants, he obtained 1,820 kilogrammes of ashes, containing 335 kilogrammes of chlorine, as much soda, and 588 kilogrammes of potash, the latter of which substances was capable of furnishing 863 kilogrammes of carbonate of soda, or nearly as much as is got from the incineration of one hectare's yield of the salt-works at Alicante. M. Mangon suggests that this plant might be cultivated for a potash-plant, and that it might be made serviceable in removing the excess of alkaline salts from salt grounds.

A correspondent of "Nature" writes from Java that, having recently killed one of the venomous snakes of that island, he noticed the tail of a second snake sticking from its mouth, and found that it had swallowed another individual of the same species, and nearly the same size with itself.