Popular Science Monthly/Volume 27/August 1885/Notes


M. Domeyko has summarized the results of forty-six years of observations on earth-quakes in Chili. They are more frequent in the northern part of the country, where there are no volcanoes, and the Andes are fifteen thousand feet high, than in the southern part, where there are volcanoes, and the mountains are only a third as high. The effects of the shocks on buildings depend more on the nature of the soil than on the violence of the spasms. The sea-phenomena are of two kinds: local, or oscillating, when the waters retire to beyond the lowest-water mark, to return in waves a hundred feet high beating upon the coast and destroying everything they reach; or, when the shocks occur at a distance, the water runs along the coast in a grand wave without previously retiring. In the more severe earthquakes, when there are several shocks in the same day, it is generally the second or third one that produces the greatest destruction. The destructive effects of an earthquake are never as considerable in the interior of a mine as at the surface.

M. Quentin Paul Desains, of the Physical Section of the French Academy of Sciences, died after a very short illness, about the 1st of May. He was born in 1817, and had been a professor in the Colleges of Caen, Stanislas, and Bourbon, and a member of the Academy since 1873. He was the author of several valuable papers on the laws of radiant heat, the polarization of the calorific rays, the latent heat of aqueous vapor, etc.

M. Jamin attributes the cold nights usual in April and May to the fact, which he deduces from the experiments of Mr. Glaisher and others, that the minimum of vapor in the atmosphere prevails then, the maximum being in August.

M. Edouard Heckel, of Marseilles, has called attention to a new prospective source of gutta-percha in the Butyrospermum Parkii, or Barsia Parkii, of the interior of Africa, from the seeds of which the natives already extract a kind of butter. The plant possesses many advantages. It is very widely diffused; it will grow apparently in the most desert, gravelly soil; it matures in four years; and it is available to a certain extent, to native taste, as a food-plant.

M. Dieulefait has been inquiring why there is so much sulphur in stone-coal, and why there is so little of free alkaline carbonates in the ashes. For that purpose he has analyzed the surviving species of the families of the coal-plants, particularly the Equisctaceæ, and has found in them a greater than the usual proportion of sulphuric acid. Hence he deduces, as the answers to his questions, that the coal-plants were more highly charged with sulphur than most existing plants; and that, for that reason, their alkaline constituents assumed the forms of sulphates instead of carbonates.

The chimney of a manufactory in Breslau, about fifty feet high, is made of pressed paper, a substance which, it is remarked, has almost perfect powers of resistance to fire.

M. Admiral Mouchez has taken, at the Paris Observatory, distinguishable photographs of stars of the fourteenth magnitude. On a plate about ten inches square he has photographed a field of about five degrees square on which are shown 2,790 stars of between the fifth and fourteenth magnitudes, equally clear in the edges and the center of the picture. Stars of the fifteenth magnitude can be discerned in the negatives, but they were not clear enough to be transferred to the paper. It is estimated that, if the stars are distributed over the whole sky as thickly as over these five degrees, then the total number of them is 20,500,000.

A commission of inquiry respecting the earthquake in Ischia of July, 1883, appointed by the Italian Government, has reported that the number of victims of the catastrophe, not counting mere contusions, was 3,075, of whom 2,313 were killed or died in the hospitals, and 762 were wounded. Of the 672 dwellings in Casamicciola, 537 were wholly destroyed, and only one wholly escaped injury; of the 4,300 inhabitants of the town, 1,784 were killed. At Ischia town the shocks were strong, but no serious harm was done. Accommodation was provided after the disaster for 9,500 unhoused inhabitants of the island, in 700 temporary barracks of corrugated iron.


Professor Fleeming Jenkin, of the University of Edinburgh, died June 12th, in the fifty-third year of his age. He was distinguished in locomotive and constructive engineering art, and in connection with the laying of cables, including the first transatlantic one, and general telegraphy. He was made Professor of Engineering in University College, London, in 1865, and in the University of Edinburgh three years later. He has written several papers in engineering and electrical science, and was the author of the article on "Bridges" in the "Encyclopædia Britannica."

Lieutenant Tilly, the leader of one of the German West African exploring expeditions, has recently died in the Cameroons.

Mr. Alexander Croall, Curator of the Smith Institute, Stirling, Scotland, is dead, in the seventy-seventh year of his age. He was the author and illustrator of "Nature printed British Sea-weeds."

Mr. Alexander Murray, formerly of the Canadian Geological Survey, died in the early part of this year. He was born in Scotland in 1811, and, after serving in the British Navy for several years, went to Canada about 1837. He was invited by Mr. W. E. Logan to join the geological survey of the province, which was about to be begun, and, having no previous knowledge of the science, qualified himself for the work by special studies. On the survey he was able and efficient, and superintended a large part of the work for twenty years. He had charge, from 1863 to 1883, of the geological surveys of Newfoundland, the collated reports of which, published in 1881, are our chief sources of information on that subject.

The Rev. T. W. Webb, of Hereford, England, author of "Celestial Objects for Common Telescopes," and of numerous articles on observational astronomy, died May 19th.

The anatomist, Professor Henle, of Göttingen, died on the 13th of May last.