Popular Science Monthly/Volume 30/December 1886/Notes


Mr. A. H. Allen, in a paper on oils, read in the American Association, said that shark and fish oils are often unsaponifiable, and hence are not fatty ethers. He believed them to contain cholesterine, like cod-liver oil. The fixed oils can be separated into groups, but we know no process for separating a mixture of lard and cotton-seed oil.

Professor A. R. Leeds reported to the Chemical Section of the American Association that his most careful analyses had given as the composition of human milk: albuminoids, varying from ·5 to 4·25 per cent; lactose, from 4·1 to 7·8 per cent; and fat, from 1·7 to 7·6 per cent. The appearance and specific gravity of the milk, he said, never indicate its composition.

M. Fayal has come to the conclusion that the rise in temperature to which the spontaneous combustion of coal-dust is due, is produced by the absorption of atmospheric oxygen. He finds that lignite is ignited at 300° C., anthracite at 500°, and other varieties of coal, in powdered form, at intermediate temperatures.

Dr. Börsch reported last year to the Meteorological Society at Berlin that three observers, working respectively at Berlin, Breslau, and Königsberg, to determine the differences of longitude between the three cities, noticed at the same moment abnormal deviations in the air-bubbles of their levels, which could be attributed to nothing else than movements of the ground. They afterward learned that some of the central parts of the Asiatic continent had at that very time been shaken with violent earth-quakes. The supposition that the deviations noticed were connected with these shocks was confirmed by the fact that they were more marked at the eastward stations.

For the many millions of dollars that have been expended upon astronomy during the past two or three centuries, results have been obtained, says Professor E. C. Pickering, of Harvard College Observatory, whose value it is impossible to estimate. Apart from the knowledge it has given us of other worlds and of the laws governing the universe, it has furnished us information regarding this world which has been of enormous practical importance. It has secured safe and certain communication between distant countries, accurate maps, and the precise determination of time. The pecuniary value of these results would many times repay the total expenditure made for astronomical purposes.

A new edition of Professor Ferrier's "Functions of the Brain" is announced. The book has been nearly rewritten, and will include the results of new investigations by the author, and of investigations made by others during the last ten years.

The Rev. George Brown, missionary in the New Britain Islands, read a paper in the British Association in which he said that the results of fourteen and a half years of labor in Samoa among Polynesians, and in New Britain among Papuans, in reducing the languages and studying the manners and customs of the people, had convinced him that the Polynesian race was descended from the great Papuan stock with an Asiatic admixture. Mr. Fellows remarked upon this that if they went back far enough, a common origin would be found for all people. It was, therefore, desirable that some time of common origin should be fixed.

Mr. R. Warrington reported to the British Association that the results of his later experiments at Rothampstead showed a far deeper diffusion of the nitrifying organism in the soil than had been concluded from the earlier experiments. The power of producing nitrification was now found to exist generally down to three feet from the surface. Below this point the occurrence of the organism became less frequent, though at five and six feet about half the trials resulted in nitrification; with soil from seven and eight feet no nitrification was obtained. The considerable difference between the earlier and later results was to be attributed to the employment of gypsum in the later solutions. The Marquis of Lorne, in big presidential address before the Royal Geographical Society, cited, in illustration of the rapidity with which Africa is being opened up, the journey of Mr. Thomson to the capitals of Sokoto and Gando, the two great negro kingdoms of the Central Soudan. In four months from the date of his leaving Liverpool, Mr. Thomson, proceeding by way of the Niger, reached the capital of Sokoto with a party of one hundred and twenty West Coast negroes. He then negotiated a treaty of great commercial and political importance, and three months later was again in England, the whole journey having only occupied seven months. Twenty years earlier, it would probably not have been made in less than double that time.

M. Pradanovic, of Pesth, has devised a way of driving stakes by means of dynamite. He puts a plate of iron about four inches thick on the top of the stake, and on this he places his charge of dynamite. With a single cartridge, containing fifty-five grains of dynamite, he obtains five times as much force as with the average pile-driver. One of his iron plates is good for about twenty-five explosions.

Sir William Dawson observed in the British Association that as the result of his studies of the footprints of a species of limulus, it appeared that a number of impressions—protichnites and climactichnites—and supposed fossil fucoids, may be really tracks of crustaceans, and probably of trilobites and limuloids.

The British Association passed a resolution expressing its solicitude that the exposed mummies of the Egyptian kings be carefully preserved against decay; and requested the owner of Stonehenge to take measures to secure that remarkable antiquity against dilapidation.

The British Association received two invitations to visit Australia, or send a deputation there—one to Sydney, to assist in the celebration of the centennial of the first settlement of New South Wales, and the other to Melbourne. The General Committee decided to depute a number of representative members to attend the meeting of the Australian Associations in that year. The meeting for 1888 was appointed to be held in Bath. Sir Henry Roscoe was appointed to be the president of the meeting for 1887, which is to be held in Manchester.

The British Government has decided to authorize the growing and curing of tobacco in the United Kingdom. In Europe, generally, the cultivation of this plant has greatly decreased during recent years. The acreage in the Netherlands is at present not more than about half what it was ten or twelve years ago. The decrease has been considerable, but not to so great an extent, in Belgium. In Austro-Hungary 8,768 acres less were under cultivation in 1884 than two years before; in Germany, 12,000 acres less in 1883 than in 1881. In Italy, 8,202 acres, and in France, 32,800 acres, were grown last year. In America, on the other hand, the crop rose from 109,752,655 pounds in 1850, to 472,661,117 in 1880, for the growing of which 638,841 acres were required. The crop of 1883 was 451,545,641 pounds from 638,739 acres.


Maurice Girard, formerly Professor of Physics in the Collége Rollin, France, died in September. He was a naturalist of considerable merit, and an eminent entomologist; and was the author of a number of scientific and popular-scientific books, including a "Treatise on Entomology" and "The Metamorphoses of Insects" in the "Library of Wonders." He was connected with M. Tissaudier's "La Nature" from its beginning.

Alexander Krapotkin, a man who has done some good work for science in Russia, died at Tomsk on the 6th of August, forty-five years of age. He translated Mr. Spencer's "Principles of Biology" and Clerk-Maxwell's "Theory of Heat" into Russian, and for several years contributed to Russian periodicals reviews of the progress of astronomy. In 1874 he was exiled to Minussinsk, in East Siberia, and there helped to organize a local museum, and carried on meteorological observations for several years. His most important work was a critical investigation of all our present knowledge of the stellar systems and the constitution of stellar groups, for which he made most thorough studies, but which he did not live to complete.

M. Paul Soleillet, an adventurous French African explorer, has recently died, at the age of forty-four years. He went to Algeria when twenty-five years old, and spent a large part of his life in explorations of the interior, particularly of the Sahara. He started on a journey to Abyssinia in 1883.

Dr. James G. Wakley, editor of the London "Lancet," died at his home near Chertsey, August 30th. He was the youngest son of the late Thomas Wakley, founder of the "Lancet," and had himself been editor of that journal since 1862.