Popular Science Monthly/Volume 27/May 1885/Notes


Thirty years ago pines were planted in the Sologne, a tract of waste land near Blois, France. Fifteen years afterward, as the pines were cut away, oaks sprang up spontaneously to take their places, thus tending to restore what history tells was the ancient vegetation of the country. M. Émile Hausen-Blangsted states, in illustration of the struggle for existence among trees, that the pine is dislodging the larch in the Grisons, while there and in the Jura the beech prevails over both. In Switzerland generally the beech gains the place of the oak, fir, and birch, and in Prussia the pine encroaches on the oak and the birch. Birches and the ash are extending themselves in the pine-forests of Russia, and the birch is dislodging the aboriginal pines in Siberia.

Mr. Frederick Ransome is making a cement from blast-furnace slag and lime, much superior to the cements previously made from this refuse matter. He uses lime from the gas-works, gets rid of the sulphur by calcination with coal or coke, and then dissipates it in the form of sulphureted hydrogen. While Portland cement breaks under a load of 818 pounds, this cement, under the same circumstances, exhibits a power of cohesion up to 1,170 pounds.

The Convallaria polygonatum, whose name indicates its relation to the lilies-of-the-valley, may fairly be described as a traveling plant. It has a root formed of knots, by which it annually advances about an inch from the place where the plant was first rooted. Every year another knot is added, and this drags the plant farther on; so that in twenty years' time the plant will have traveled about twenty inches from its original place.

The continued publication of the "Index Medicus" has been undertaken, after arrangement with the editors and the representatives of the late Mr. F. Leypoldt, the former publisher, by Mr. George S. Davis, of Detroit. The first number of the journal for the current year, having been necessarily delayed, will comprise the literature of January, February, and March. Further publication will be made monthly as usual. At the end of the year, in addition to the usual index of names, subscribers will be furnished with an index of subjects to the volume.

The Geological Society has awarded the Wollaston medal to Mr. George Busk for his researches on fossil polyzoa and pleistocene mammalia; the Murchison medal to Professor Ferdinand Roemer, of Breslau; the Lyell medal to Professor H. G. Seeley, for his long-continued work on fossil saurians; and the Bigsby medal to M. Renard, of the Brussels Museum, for his petrographical researches.

The "Saturday Review" gives some more illustrations of the learning that is fostered by the English School-Board cram examinations. One is, that "the earth's axis is a pole put through the center of the sun, which turns it round." Another pupil stated that "the Nile is the only remarkable river in the world. It was discovered by Dr. Livingstone, and rises in Mungo Park." On ancient Britain the examinations brought out statements that Julius Cæsar invaded the country b. c. 400; that the women "wore their hair down their backs, with torches in their hands"; and that the "Druids were an ancient people, supposed to be Roman Catholics."

The latest reports from Sydney with reference to the Monotremata state that Mr. Caldwell has exhibited specimens "showing the stages in the development of the monotremes from the laying of the egg to the hatching," and that Baron Miklucho-Maclay, who had found that the temperature of Echidna was 82·5 Fahr., now finds that that of the Ornithorhynchus is only 76° Fahr., or more than 20° below that of man.

Messrs. Schulz, Knaudt & Co., Essen, Germany, are now producing, from the refuse of the fire-grates of the puddling and reheating furnaces, two hundred cubic metres of water-gas per hour, which contains forty-eight per cent of hydrogen, and forty-four per cent of carbonic oxide. The gas is used for welding and in the production of incandescent lights. The firm are about to build apparatus that will generate fourteen thousand cubic metres of the gas per day.

In a recent paper by MM. Fremy and Urbain, before the French Academy of Sciences, attention is called to cutose, the substance that covers and protects the aërial organs of plants, which is shown to approach the fatty bodies in its properties and composition. It resists the action of energetic acids, is insoluble in dilute alkalies, and is not acted upon by neutral solvents, but is modified in its conditions by boiling alkaline liquids.

In a recent paper before the Royal Society on "Underground Temperatures," Professor Prestwich, after considering the sources of error that affect thermometric observations in collieries and mines, suggested, as the result of a large number of observations in mines, Artesian-well borings, and Alpine-railway tunnels, that the mean thermic gradient is about forty-five feet for every degree Fahrenheit.



General Helmersen, a Russian officer of considerable distinction as a geologist and explorer, is dead.

The death is announced of Hofrath Schmid, Professor of Mineralogy at Jena.

Mr. John Francis Campbell, who recently died in England, was the inventor of a "sunshine recorder," a curious instrument in which the sun burned out its path for every hour of the day when visible, and indicated by the amount of charring the ever varying intensity of the influence of its rays. Other instruments have been invented with similar purpose, but their power is generally limited to the registration of the chemical action of the sun's rays.

Mr. Hodder M. Westropp, archæologist, author of a "Manual of Archaeology" and other works, is dead.

Mr. Thomas C. Archer, Director of the Edinburgh Museum of Science and Art, died February 19th. While a customs clerk in Liverpool, he was appointed to take charge of the exhibit of that town in the Great Exhibition of 1851. lie afterward added to his usual duties the work of lecturing at local institutions and educational establishments, and became a professor in the Liverpool Institution. He was appointed to the Museum in Edinburgh in 1860. Among his scientific publications are a text-book on "Economic Botany," and papers before the Royal Society of Edinburgh on "Graphite in Siberia," on an undescribed variety of flexible sandstone, on "Two Species of Foraminifera," and on "some objects from the Nicobar Islands of great ethnological interest."

Mr. Sidney Gilchrist Thomas, whose name is inseparably associated with the basic or Thomas-Gilchrist process for making steel from phosphoric pig-iron, died in Paris on the 1st of February. He was educated at Dulwich College, England, and was intended for the medical profession, but entered the civil service, while he kept up all his life a strong interest in the study of chemistry. The first announcement of the discovery in iron-working which he and his relative, Mr. Gilchrist, had made, was given in a paper which he read before the Iron and Steel Institute in 1878, "On the Elimination of Phosphorus."