Popular Science Monthly/Volume 27/September 1885/Notes


Professor John S. Newberry has described, in the "Annals" of the New York Academy of Sciences, some peculiar screw-like fossils from the Chemung rocks of Northern Pennsylvania and Southern New York, which at first sight suggest a resemblance that is not real to the fossil fruit Spirangium. Two species are identified, of one of which only one specimen has been found. They consist of a cylindrical or fusiform body traversed by double spiral revolving ridges, which make them look very much like common screws. The generic name of Spiraxis has a been given to them, with the specific names of major and Randalli. Professor Newberry regards them as casts of sea-weed stems.

In a paper on "The First Notice of the Pine-Grove or Forest River Shell-heap," Mr. F. W. Putnam reprints the report made by John Lewis Russell in 1840 to the Essex County Natural History Society. Up to this time it had hardly been doubted that these heaps were of natural origin, and Mr. Russell does not appear to have suggested any other view.

Helen C. De S. Abbott has published an analysis of the bark of Fouquieria splendens, or the ocotilla-tree, a thorny plant, of the order Tamariscineæ, native to the region of the Mexican boundary-line, which grows in the shape of a low fan, from eight to twelve feet high, bearing foot-long scarlet, trumpet-shaped flowers, and which the people find useful for making fences. The bark supplies a wax which differs generally in its properties from known vegetable waxes, and is evidently a new wax peculiar to this plant. The name ocotilla-wax is proposed for it.

Dr. Giles, of the Indian Government's surveying steamer Investigator, has obtained some animals from the Bay of Bengal which appear to be new, and has proved that "the Swatch," at the mouth of the Hoogly, is a deep, submerged valley, forming part of the original depression of the bay.

An interesting new feature of this year's May-day celebrations in London was a procession of cart-horses, similar to those which have been regularly held in some of the towns of the United Kingdom. About a hundred teams participated. No prizes were offered, but each driver received an illuminated card commemorative of the occasion, and acknowledging the evidences afforded of "care, attention, and kindness to animals." A regular observance of this kind might be made the means of greatly encouraging proper treatment of beasts of burden.

M. Witz states, as the result of observations he has been making for some time on atmospheric ozone, that the proportion of ozone in the air of Paris last year was inverse to the mortality from cholera.

According to a Moscow paper, only 21 per cent of the children attending school in Russia are girls. The proportion varies with the religion, being greatest among Protestants, 45·4 per cent; next among Jews, 34·1 per cent; next among Roman Catholics, 14·4 per cent; and lowest among Greek Catholics, 12·3 per cent.

M. Stanislas Meunier has described some silicious pebbles which are quite numerous in the quaternary gravels of the valley of the Loing, France, that are remarkable for being hollow and inclosing, together frequently with a loose stony nucleus, liquid water. They are about forty-five millimetres in diameter, and the water may be heard to strike against the walls of the cavity when the stones are shaken. The only way M. Meunier can account for the water getting into the pebbles is by its seeping through the pores, for not a sign of a crack can be seen with the eye or by the aid of a strong glass. Several cyclopædias contain the statement, in substance, that no land in Connecticut rises above a thousand feet in height. Professor Asaph Hall writes to "Science" that, according to Mr. G. M. Bradford's surveys, several points in the northwest part of the State are higher than this, and mentions six mountains that exceed 1,600 feet. They are: Ivy Mount, Goshen, 1,642; Haystack Mount, Norfolk, 1,672; Bald Mount, Norfolk, 1,770; Bradford Mount, Canaan, 1,910; Bear Mount, Salisbury, 2,100; and Bruce Mount, Salisbury, 2,300 feet.

Under the promptings of the universal recognition of the truth that, for Japan to take the rank she should hold among civilized nations, her literary and educational work must be freed from the trammels of the Chinese ideographs, a society—the Romaji Kai—has been formed to promote the general adoption of the Roman letters. Its committee, composed of native and foreign scholars, has drawn up a scheme of transliteration, and a monthly journal—the "Romaji Zasshi," which, besides this subject, will discuss general topics and publish classical and original literary papers—has been begun, to introduce the new system to the people.

Dr. Cornish, a student of cholera, proposes that a certain proportion of the persons who are condemned to death every year in India be used, their own consent having been obtained, as subjects for experiments on the transmission of cholera; further punishment to be remitted if they survive the tests.

A division of economic ornithology has been established in the Entomological Bureau of the Office of Commissioner of Agriculture, and Dr. C. Hart Merriam, Secretary of the American Ornithologists' Union, has been appointed to take charge of it. Its special field of investigation will be the inter-relation of birds and agriculture, and will include the relations of birds and insects, the food and habits of birds, and the collection of data bearing on the migration and geographical distribution of North American birds.

M. J. J. Martinez proposes a universal subscription for the purpose of boring a hole, thirty by one hundred and fifty feet in diameter, down into the earth, at which convenient stations may be fixed for the observation of all kinds of subterranean phenomena.

Lieutenant Van Gêle, of the French Equatorial Station, gives the following list, with the weights, of the various articles of costume of a Congo negro lady: A copper ring on each ankle, 1/2 kilogramme; brass-wire leglets on each calf, 1 kilogramme each; a petticoat of banana-fiber cloth, twenty inches long and nine inches wide, 1/100 kilogramme; a bell fastened with a belt, 1/5 kilogramme; a copper collar around the neck—the most important garment of the dress—27 kilogrammes. The total weight is 29.210 kilogrammes, or nearly 75 pounds—about the load of a European infantry-soldier—of which less than half an ounce is devoted to the purpose of real dress.

The French Association for the Advancement of the Sciences was to meet at Grenoble on the 12th of August, under the presidency of Professor Verneuil. The meetings would continue till the 20th, after which a series of excursions was projected, to last till the 24th. Two conferences were appointed: "On the Alimentary Resources of France," by Dr. Jules Rochard; and "On the New Paleontological Gallery of the Museum," by M. G. Cotteau.

Experiments reported by M. Guignet to the French Academy of Sciences confirm the views of M. Frémy that the behavior of chlorophyl, or the coloring-matter of leaves, is usually like that of an acid. M. Guignet has obtained chlorophyllate of soda, and from it, by double decomposition, salts of lime, baryta, and lead.

MM. Muntz and Marcano have observed that nitrification of the soil is going on in the equatorial regions of South America on an extraordinary scale. At some points the constituents of the mold are cemented together in a kind of paste by enormous proportions—sometimes forty per cent—of nitrate of lime. The origin of these conditions is traced to the numerous mountain caves, which are inhabited by legions of birds and bats, whence the streams carry the guano over extensive areas.


Dr. Henri Milne-Edwards, the eminent French naturalist, and the successor of Geoffroy St.-Hilaire in the chair of Zoölogy at the Museum of the Academy of Sciences, died in Paris, July 29th, in the eighty-fifth year of his age. A portrait and sketch of his life and works were published in "The Popular Science Monthly" for February, 1883.

Robert von Schlagintweit, Professor of Geography and Ethnology at the University of Giessen, has recently died, at the age of fifty-two. He was the youngest of three brothers who were commissioned by the British East India Company, on the recommendation of Humboldt, to explore India and the mountain-regions of the northwest.