Popular Science Monthly/Volume 28/November 1885/Notes


Dr. C. Keller, of Zürich, claims that spiders perform an important part in the preservation of forests by defending the trees against the depredations of aphides and insects. He has examined a great many spiders, both in their viscera and by feeding them in captivity, and has found them to be voracious destroyers of these pests; and he believes that the spiders in a particular forest do more effective work of this kind than all the insect-eating birds that inhabit it. He has verified his views by observations on coniferous trees, a few broad-leaved trees, and apple-trees. An important feature of the spiders' operations is that they prefer dark spots, and therefore work most in the places which vermin most infest, but which are likely to be passed by other destroying agents.

The New England Meteorological Society has been making a special study of thunderstorms. A series of circulars was prepared and sent out, explaining the details of the work. Several classes of observations were contemplated. On the 9th of June more than two hundred and fifty observers had offered their services.

A Women's Anthropological Society was organized in Washington, June 8th, with Mrs. Colonel James Stevenson as President, Mrs. Romeyn Hitchcock Recording Secretary, and Miss S. A. Scull Corresponding Secretary. Miss Cleveland was requested to name the society, and did so.

The "Bulletin" of the French Geographical Society gives some curious details about the system of numeration of the Indians of Guiana. It is based upon the five fingers of the hand. The Indians have names for only four numbers, corresponding with the four fingers; then, when they come to five, they say, not five fingers, but "a hand." Six is "a hand and first finger"; seven, "a hand and second finger"; ten, "two hands"; fifteen, "three hands"; twenty, not "four hands," but a man. From this they proceed by the system of twenties. Forty is "two men"; forty-six, "two men, a hand, and second finger."

The humming of telegraph and telephone wires, so often heard, is generally considered to be caused by the wind. Mr. R. W. McBride, of Waterloo, Indiana, who specially studied the matter for several years on his private wire, which had a strong gift of humming, is satisfied that the wind is not the agent, for he found the sound more likely to be heard on a dry, clear, cool, and calm evening' than at any other time. He is also convinced that the sound is not produced by electricity; for he could detect no signs of that agent when the humming was going on, while at times when the wire was evidently charged there was no sound. The humming was accompanied by a rapid vibration of the wire. Mr. McBride considers the question a subject of investigation which may lead to important discoveries.

Dr. Carl H. von Klein, of Dayton, Ohio, claims to have discovered a process for converting garbage and sewage matter into an odorless and clean fuel, lie treats refuse, to disinfect and deodorize it, with salt, slacked lime, and a little nitric acid to start the fumes; then, after tight days, with sal-soda. The composition will solidify in a few days, when it is pressed into bricks and dried till it is in fit condition to be used. It produces a better flame, the inventor says, and retains more heat, than Alleghany coal, and costs but little more than half as much as the cheapest other fuel in the market.

Lieutenant-Colonel Playfair observed, in the Geographical Section of the British Association, that his experience in Tunis had proved in the most forcible manner the importance of preserving forests. In Roman times the province of Africa and the territory of Carthage were the granary of Europe. In what was now practically a desert, the remains of magnificent Roman farms were everywhere found. The small hill-sides were now nothing but sands. This was entirely due to the destruction of the forests with which they used to be covered; for the vegetable soil had been washed away into the valleys, and there it was now to be found buried beneath some feet of sand and water-worn pebbles.

A scheme is on foot to establish a botanic garden in Montreal. A tract of seventy-five acres of land near the base of the mountain is promised by the city, and Subscriptions are solicited for means to fit it up and supply collections.

The French Association at Grenoble was well attended, and excited much interest among the people of the city. The subject of the inaugural address of President Verneuil was surgery in 1885, and the address is said to have been much more interesting than the subject promised.


Professor J. J. A. Worsaae, the eminent Danish archæologist, died suddenly August 15th. He was born in 1821. He was made inspector over antiquarian monuments in Denmark when twenty-eight years old. Having labored for many years with Professor Thomsen, who first established the division of the stone, iron, and bronze ages, in arranging the Museum of Northern Antiquities, he continued the work after his death in 1805, and brought the museum to its present state of perfection and richness in treasure, lie was Minister of Worship and Public Instruction in 1874-'75. He was the author of several works on the antiquities and early history of Denmark, and on the conquests achieved by the Northmen.

Mr. William John Thoms, formerly editor of "Notes and Queries," died August 15th, in his eighty-second year. His work was partly literary, but mainly in the line of antiquarian research. As editor of "Notes and Queries" he had often to deal with scientific matters; and he was a vigorous contestant of the claims of all persons who assumed to be centenarians, insisting that no one had ever lived to be more than a hundred years old.

Commandant Léon Brault, of the French marine, who died at Argenteuil on the 27th of August, was a meteorologist, and author of a series of meteorological charts, for which he received gold medals at the Exposition of 1878 and from the Geographical Congress of Rome. He contributed valuable papers on his favorite science to the first ten years' volumes of the journal "La Nature" and to the "Revue Scientifique," and was author of a number of monographs on subjects of meteorology.

Philip Leopold Martin, taxidermist and muscologue, died in Stuttgart, March 7th, aged seventy years. He was the author of an illustrated "Natural History of Animals," which was published in Leipsic in 1882-'84; and of a work on the praxis of natural history, relating to taxidermy, dermoplastics, and muscology, in three volumes.

Dr. Johannes August Christian Roper, Professor of Botany at Rostock, died March 17th, aged eighty-four years. He was author of papers and works on the spurges of Germany and Pannonia, the organs of plants, the flowers and affinities of the Balsimaneæ, the grasses, and the flora of Mecklenburg, and the Darwinian theory, and translated De Candolle's "Plant-Physiology."

Dr. Karl Jacob Zoppritz, Professor of Geography in the University of Königsberg, died a few months ago. He was born in 1838. His principal work in geography was the reduction of the barometric altitude-measurements of travelers.