Popular Science Monthly/Volume 3/October 1873/Notes


The year 1759, which witnessed the completion of the Eddystone Lighthouse, closed with tremendous storms, and the courage of the light-keepers was tested to the utmost. A biography of John Smeaton, the builder of .the Eddystone, states that for twelve days the sea ran over them so much that they could not open the door of the lantern, or any other door. "The house did shake," said one of the keepers, "as if we had been up a great tree. The old men were frightened out of their lives, wishing they had never seen the place. The fear seized them in the back, but rubbing them with oil of turpentine gave them relief!"

Sir Charles Lyell, in his "Geology," speaking of Madagascar, says that, with two or three small islands in its immediate vicinity, it forms a zoological sub-province, in which all the species except one, and nearly all the genera, are peculiar. He singles out for special remark the lemurs of Madagascar, comprising seven genera, only one of which has any representatives on the nearest mainland of Africa. Hitherto no fossil remains of these Madagascar species have been known to exist, but M. Delfortrie, of the French Academy of Sciences, announces that he has found, in the phosphorite of the department of Lot, an almost complete skull of an individual belonging to this lemurine family.

Of the 35,170,294 passengers carried over the railroads of Pennsylvania last year, only thirty-three were killed, less than one in a million. But the English lines make a far more favorable showing, the number killed in the year 1871 being only twelve—or one in 31,000,000. In the "History of the Fishes of the British Islands," Giraldus Cambrensis, a writer of the twelfth century, is quoted for the observation that in the Lyn y Cwn, or Pool of Dogs, in Wales, the trout, the perch, and the eel, were deficient of the left eye. A recent work on "Trout and Salmon Fishing in Wales," strangely enough, confirms in part this observation, asserting that one-eyed trout are still caught in the same waters.

Professor Smee recently, at the Berlin Chemical Society, proposed a method for detecting organic matters contained in the air, and for effecting at the same time a kind of distillation by cold. A glass funnel, closed at its narrow end, is held suspended in the air and filled with ice. The moisture of the air is condensed, in contact with the exterior surface; it trickles to the bottom of the apparatus, and falls into a small basin placed for its reception. The liquid obtained in a given time is weighed. It generally contains ammonia, which is determined by known methods. Distillation by cold may be employed for separating volatile substances which might be injured by heat. Thus, if flowers are placed under a large bell-glass along with the refrigerating funnel, a liquid is obtained in the basin saturated with the odorous principles of the flowers.

At various points on the river Thames, between Woolwich and Erith, there are visible at low water the remains of a submerged forest, over which the river now flows. This fact, taken in connection with other local phenomena, has led geologists to conclude that the present outlet of the Thames to the North Sea is of quite recent origin, the waters having formerly passed southward into the Weald by channels which still remain. Excavations in the marshes expose to view a deep stratum of twigs, leaves, seed-vessels, and stools of trees, chiefly of the yew, alder, and oak kinds.

A traveller in Zanzibar describes the red and black ants as one of the greatest scourges with which Eastern Africa is afflicted. These insects, he says, move along the roads in masses so dense that beasts of burden refuse to step among them. If the traveller should fail to see them coming, in time to make his escape, he soon finds them swarming about his person. Sometimes, too, they ascend the trees and drop upon the wayfarer. The natives call them madinodo, that is, boiling water, to signify the scalding sensation produced by their bite. These ants are of great size, and burrow so deep into the flesh that it is not easy to pick them out. In certain forests they are said to exist in such numbers as to be able to destroy rats and lizards.

An eccentric and methodical man is Dr. Rudolf, Danish governor of Upernavik, Greenland. Dr. Rudolf is a scientist of some distinction, and has contributed his share to the scientific literature of his own country, yet it is his choice to live in a region where darkness prevails four months in the year, and where he can have no communication with civilized life beyond the annual visit from the government storeship, and the casual arrival of whalers. By the storeship the governor receives annually a file of Danish newspapers; but instead of glancing through them hastily, he takes a fresh journal every morning, reading the Dagblad of Jan. 1, 1872, on Jan. 1, 1873. He thus follows, day for day, the changes in the mind of Denmark: is glad in the order in which Copenhagen is glad, and vice versa, but always precisely twelve months after the event.

If the white of an egg be immersed for some 12 hours in cold water, it undergoes a chemico-molecular change, becoming solid and insoluble. The hitherto transparent albumen assumes an opaque and snow-white appearance, far surpassing that of the ordinary egg. Dr. John Goodman, writing in the Chemical News, recommends this material for diet in cases where a patient's blood lacks fibrine. The substance being light and easily digested, it is not rejected even by a feeble stomach; and as it creates a feeling of want rather than of repletion, it promotes, rather than decreases, the appetite for food. After the fibrine has been produced in the manner described above, it must be submitted to the action of a boiling heat, and is then ready for use.

One of the great dangers attending the use of the various sedatives employed in the nursery is that they tend to produce the opium-habit. These quack medicines owe their soothing and quieting effects to the action of opium, and the infant is by them given a morbid appetite for narcotic stimulants. The offering for sale of such nostrums should be prohibited, as tending to the physical and moral deterioration of the race. In India mothers give to their infants sugar-pills containing opium, and the result is a languid, sensual race of hopeless debauchees. In the United States the poisonous dose is administered under another name; but the consequences will probably be the same.

During last autumn, says the Journal of the Society of Arts, there were no less than seventeen companies engaged in extracting gold from the auriferous sand of Finland. The alluvial deposits at Toalo are said to be extremely rich in gold, the total production last season being estimated at about $50,000. One of the companies returned a dividend of 70 per cent. The largest nugget weighed 40 grammes.