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Popular Science Monthly/Volume 29/August 1886/Notes

< Popular Science Monthly‎ | Volume 29‎ | August 1886


Emma H. Adams, in an account of "Salmon-Canning in Oregon" which is published in the Bulletin of the United States Fish Commission, says: "In the four large houses I visited, Chinamen were doing all the work of canning, under an American superintendent; and I believe every firm employs them. The process, consisting of not less than a dozen or fifteen different steps, requires at some stages great skill and celerity. For such work the lithe Celestial is well adapted. He is attentive, exact, prompt, faithful, and silent. Garrulous as a parrot with his countrymen usually, he is speechless if set to precise tasks, especially where his wages are to be proportioned to the amount of labor he performs."

The war against the phylloxera in France has been waged with wonderful vigor, and has resulted so far in redeeming more than half of the infected country from the attacks of the pest. The methods of fighting employed are first, submersion of the whole land until the invaders are drowned—the most effective method, but applicable only to low lands; second, carbon bisulphide, which kills by direct contact and by its vapor; and third, potassium sulpho-carbonate. In 1885 submersion was applied to 24,839 hectares; carbon bisulphide to 40,585 hectares; and the sulpho-carbonate to 5,227 hectares. Professor W. Mattieu Williams remarks on the way the French farmers have barred this visitation and succeeded in staying it, that it affords a clinching proof of the success of the system of peasant proprietorship, which has converted every rustic, even the very poorest, into a capitalist with a sufficient reserve to battle against such a calamity.

Fixed color-standards are in demand for anthropological purposes. Those which were issued by Broca several years ago show a tendency to fade. Mr. Galton, looking about him for something more durable, has decided upon the imperishable enamel which is employed for Roman mosaic-work, and has recently visited the Vatican manufactory for the purpose of obtaining typical colors among its products. Dr. W. F. Morgan, of Leavenworth, Kansas, communicates to the "Medical Record" a story which would indicate that swallows have considerable surgical skill as well as intelligence. In a nest he found a young swallow much weaker than its mate, which had one of its legs bandaged with horse-hairs. Taking the hairs away, he found that the bird's leg was broken. The next time he visited the nest, he found the leg again bandaged. He continued to observe "the case," and in two weeks found that the bird was cautiously removing the hairs, a few each day. The cure was entirely successful.

Professor Robert von Helmholtz has published in Widermann's "Annalen" the final results of the experiments and arguments on the formation of mist. The air must contain a normal quantity of solid particles of dust, and must be free from bodies that will act chemically on aqueous vapor.

The Himmelbjerg, or Heaven Mountain, has until recently enjoyed the distinction of being the highest mountain in Denmark. It is four hundred and eighty-two feet high. It has now to yield the palm to two peaks recently measured in the forest of Ky, the highest of which is five hundred and thirty-two feet above the sea. These mountains have not been named; and it would indeed be hard to find a suitable name for a mountain overtopping the "Heaven-peak."

The fact has recently been confirmed by a number of observers that the electric eel can exert its power through the water to a distance. Professor W. Mattieu Williams relates that he once plunged both hands into water containing one of these fish, intending to grasp it, but failed to reach it; but he received a very severe shock when at some distance, probably three or four inches, "the sensational nature of the experiment rendering any approach to accurate estimation of the distance quite impossible."

The bascule is a new instrument for recreation, which has been developed out of the primitive see-saw by Mr. Piercy, of Birmingham, England. His first specimen was constructed for his own family. The bascule consists of a wooden beam, which is supported on a four-legged iron stand. The seats are so arranged as to remain always horizontal, whatever the position of the beam may be, while the adjustment for players of unequal weight is effected by a balancing block, which is slid along the beam till it reaches the point where it is wanted, and is there locked in position by the act of loosing the handle. The bascule has also a horizontal movement, and can be used as a merry-go-round.

A story of two sagacious crows is told in "Land and Water" by the Rev. F. O. Morris, on the authority of a land-owner of Loch Orr, who saw the birds annoying two hares. Although he could not see clearly, on account of the high grass, he was sure the hares had young ones, which the crows were trying to carry off. After the hares had fought the birds for some time, one of the "black robbers" managed to attract their attention, and led them off a little, while his confederate flew round and seized a small animal, which screamed loudly, when both birds flew away. He was satisfied that their purpose had been to get one of the young ones of the hares, and that they had succeeded.

Sir William Thomson has described a new form of spring-balance for the measurement of terrestrial gravity. One end of the spring is fastened, while the other end is weighted sufficiently to keep the spring straight when horizontally fixed. The spring is adjusted within a brass tube on a slope of about one inch in five, in which position it is in nearly unstable equilibrium. The observation consists in marking the number of turns of the micrometer series attached to the spring which are required to bring the weight from the balanced to the horizontal position. The instrument is sensitive to a forty-thousandth of the force of gravity, and to differences of temperature of 7/20° C.

It is proposed to erect a monument to the memory of Thomas Edward, the Scotch naturalist whose death we have recently noticed. A committee has been formed, under the auspices of the town authorities and the scientific and literary clubs of Banff for the furtherance of this object, and invites subscriptions.

M. Chevreul, who attended the meeting of the French Academy of Sciences on the 17th of May, was there presented, in anticipation of his attaining a hundred years of age in August, with a bronze bust of himself, executed by M. Paul Dubois. The presentation was made at that time instead of waiting till the coming of M. Chevreul's birthday, on account of the approach of the summer vacation, which would take many of the members of the Academy away from Paris.

Herr Familiant, of Berne, has been studying the brain of a lioness, and finds that in form it is nearly intermediate between that of the dog and that of the cat. It is distinguished from both by relatively small projection of the cerebellum and narrowness of the lobus pyriformis. Further, the chief fissures of the brain of carnivoras are also to be found, with minor differences, in that of primates. Professor A. Vogel has observed that plants do not always contain their characteristic alkaloids when grown under other than natural conditions. Hemlock does not yield conine in Scotland, and cinchona-plants are nearly free from quinine when grown in hothouses. Tannin is found in the greatest quantity in trees which have had a full supply of direct sunlight.

The severe weather of the early days of March in parts of England was very fatal to birds of the thrush tribe, many of which died from starvation and weakness. A total change of scene followed the turn of weather to warm, and the bird-life became one of general vigor and activity, with mating and singing, and nest-building constantly going on.

Dr. C. Blarez says that the materials used for coloring wine, such as sulpho-fuchsine, are capable of setting up a great deal of gastric disturbance in persons having weak digestion.

Werkhojanck, in Siberia, latitude 671/2° north, still maintains its position as the coldest place on the earth. A Russian Government surveying expedition reporting to the Academy of Sciences of St. Petersburg, concerning its temperature observations there in 1885, gives the mean temperature of the year as 17° C, or 1° Fahr., the mean temperature of January of that year as -49° C, or -56° Fahr., and the minimum for the same month as -68° C, or -90° Fahr.



M. Jules Célestin Jamin, one of the most eminent French physicists, died in Paris on the 12th of February. He was born in 1818, and spent most of his active life in scientific professorships. He was intrusted by Minister Duruy with the duty of opening the public lectures of the Sorbonne. He was made a member of the Physical Section of the Academy of Sciences in 1868, and was elected perpetual secretary, succeeding Dumas, in 1884. His most important scientific labors were in the field of optics. He also made investigations in capillarity, devised a new method of preparing magnets, introduced modifications into the Jablochkoff system of electric lighting, and at a later period devoted his attention to the hygrometer.

Professor Heinrich Fischer, of the University of Freiburg in Baden, who died last February, was a diligent student of microscopic mineralogy, and distinguished himself by his investigations on the origin and character of jade, concerning which he published, in 1875, the book "Nephrite and Jade."

Mrs. Erminnie A. Smith, who was a student of American anthropology of growing fame, died at her home in Jersey City, New Jersey, June 9th. She was born at Marcellus, New York, in 1838, and was taught in Mrs. Willard's Seminary at Troy. As President of the Jersey City Æsthetic Society, which she formed in 1876, it was her privilege to entertain many literary persons. In 1880 she was engaged by the Smithsonian Institution to investigate the folk-lore of the Iroquois Indians, and went among them, becoming a member of the tribe. At the time of her death she was employed in preparing a dictionary of the Iroquois language. She was a member of Sorosis, the New York Historical Society, the New York Academy of Sciences, and the London Scientific Society.

Dr. Julius Adolph Stöckhardt, the eminent chemist, died at Tharandt, in Saxony, June 1st, in his seventy-seventh year. He was best known by the services he rendered to agricultural chemistry. He was the originator of the system of agricultural experiment stations now become so general, and was for many years director of the establishment of that character at Tharandt. He was successively editor of the "Polytechnisches Centralblatt," the "Zeitschrift für deutsche Landwirthe," and "Der chemische Ackersmann," and aided in the establishment of the journal "Die Landwirthschaften-Versuchs-Stationen." His writings were usually intended to make chemistry intelligible to lay minds; and one of them, translated and published as "Stöckhardt's Principles of Chemistry," has found much favor in this country as a text-book. A sketch by Professor Atwater and portrait of Professor Stöckhardt were given in the "Monthly" for June, 1881.

Dr. E. Linnemann, Professor of Chemistry at Prague, died April 27th. He had prepared a communication, which was found among his papers, announcing the discovery, in the orthite of Arendal, of a new metallic element, which he called Austrium. M. Lecocq de Boisbaudran has, however, suggested that this metal is probably gallium, of which orthite contains a small quantity.

A. Von Lasaulx, Professor of Mineralogy in the University of Bonn, who died in January last, was one of the most active of German workers in mineralogy and petrology. He was forty-six years old.

Dr. Charles Upham Shepard, formerly of Amherst College and the South Carolina Medical College, died in Charleston, S. C, May 1st. He was the owner of extensive collections in mineralogy, which he gave to Amherst College a few years ago.