Popular Science Monthly/Volume 30/February 1887/Notes


A specimen of the vibikari, or sacred snake of Japan, in Dr. Stradling's collection at Watford, England, recently gave birth to between sixty and seventy young ones. Some fifty living and still-born snakelets were collected, and it was believed that at least a dozen more had been destroyed by other snakes in the cage. At ten days old the young ones had cast their skins, and were beginning to eat earth-worms and small slugs. These snakes well illustrate the curious provision of a temporary, long, chisel-like front tooth with which baby-snakes are enabled to cut their way through the soft, membranous envelope of the egg. They showed fight as soon as they were born, and were always ready to snap at an intrusive finger. This is the first time this species has bred in Europe.

Sir Emerson Tennent long ago called attention to the power of the cocoanut-palm to conduct lightning, and the subject is again called up by a Ceylon paper. Five hundred of these trees were struck on a single plantation during a succession of thunder-storms in April, 1869. But the trees suffer terribly from the effects, for, however slightly they may be touched, they are sure to die. Even if only the edges of the leaves are singed, or only a few of them are turned brown, the tree will in the end wither gradually and perish.

Dr. J. Stuart Nairne, of the Glasgow Samaritan Hospital for Women, has recorded several instances in his practice in which the use of fish, boiled or fried, as food, by patients, even when considerably advanced in convalescence, was followed by evil consequences; and he had begun to believe that, under any circumstances of debility, fish was a very dangerous diet, and forbade its use. Further observation taught him that the fault was not in the fish itself, but in the method of cooking it; and that when steamed, instead of being boiled or fried, it was much more easily digestible and perfectly harmless.

Mr. J. Sturgeon explained to the British Association a scheme for the introduction of compressed air-power into Birmingham. He showed that although each 1,000 horse-power at the central station may only produce 500 effective horse-power at the user's engines, it will displace fully 1,000 horse-power of small boiler-plants, furnaces, chimneys, etc., and the same engines can be used with compressed air as with steam. The centralization principle permits the use of engines and boilers of large power, with all the modern improvements. At the pressure proposed (forty-five pounds) the air-driven engines will indicate from thirty to sixty-five per cent of the power developed at the main engines, according to the mode of using the compressed air.

The Rumford Medal of the Royal Society has been awarded to Professor Samuel P. Langley for his researches on the spectrum by means of the bolometer.

Summing up the points of an address on "What constitutes Malignancy in Cancer?" Dr. Herbert Snow, of the cancer Hospital, London, expresses the conclusion that the phenomena designated by that term "result from conditions which irritate normal protoplasm, cause it to proliferate abnormally, and to assume a quasi-independent parasitic vitality. These conditions may be mechanical; in a much larger proportion of cases they are neurotic. That is the farthest point we have yet reached; nor do I see how our knowledge of cancer can make much advance until we know far more than at present about the ultimate properties of protoplasm, and the manner in which this is influenced by states of the nervous system."

It is reported that the state management of railways has proved a practical failure in all those countries where private lines have been allowed to compete with it. Instead of the government regulating the private railroads, as it was expected to do, it is regulated by them, and has had to adjust its terms to meet those which they imposed. In Belgium, the Government railroads, and the canals, also owned by the Government, have had something very like what we call a "railroad-war" with one another. The "mixed system" has been abandoned—in Belgium and Prussia, by state management having been made almost universal; and in Italy by its having been practically given up.

M. A. Bulle, of Besançon, France, has effected the direct electro-chemical deposition of palladium on iron, steel, and other metals. The deposition is made directly and of any required thickness, and constitutes the last process in finishing the manufactured article.

In a paper read before the British Association, Lord Rayleigh described the method of experiments which he had made for measuring the intensity of reflection from glass and other surfaces, and the results. With a piece of optically-worked blackened glass the amount reflected was .058 of the incident light. The amount of reflection depended greatly on the clearness and polish of the surface. In one case repolishing increased the amount from .04095 to .0445. Fresnel's formula gave in this case .04514. Generally it appeared that the amount reflected was less than according to Fresnel's formula—a result contrary to Rood's. The numbers for polished glass, and for silver on glass, were .94 and .83.

The Uralian Society of Lovers of the Natural Sciences will open a Scientific and Industrial Exhibition of Siberia and the Ural Mountains, at Ekaterinburg, on the 27th of May, to continue till the 27th of September, 1887. The mining and metallurgical enterprises, for which the Ural is famous, will be fully represented; in the ethnographic department, the interesting aboriginal tribes of Siberia will be illustrated by groups of living families, with their habitations, furniture, implements, and costumes; and the archæological collections will be to a large extent composed of objects which have never before figured at an exhibition of the kind. Reduced fares from Nijni-Novgorod will be provided for by the committee, of which Mr. A. Mislawsky is chairman.


M. Dubsc, a distinguished optician of Paris, died in October. He is best known for having assisted M. Léon Foucault in all his constructions, and especially in the organization of his automatic electric lamp.

Professor Paul Morthier, for twenty-one years Professor of Botany at the Academy "of Neufchâtel, Switzerland, has recently died. He studied medicine in his early days, and became a skillful surgeon; then he studied botany under Dr. Oswald Heer; was appointed to his professorship In 1862; was the founder of the Swiss Botanical Society; and was regarded as a high authority on sponges.

M. Chancourtois, General Inspector of Mines in France, who has recently died suddenly in Paris, was the author of several works on geology, and a professor in the School of Mines.

The death has been reported of Elle Wartmann, Professor of Physics in the Academy at Geneva. He was the author of numerous important researches and books, among which were those on Daltonism (1840), voltaic induction, the simultaneous transmission of dispatches in opposite directions on the same wire, and on electric currents in plants. He contributed largely to the organization and arrangement of the splendid physical cabinet of the University of Geneva.

Alexander Boutlerow, a Russian chemist, has recently died, at the age of fifty-eight years. He was a pupil of Wurtz's, and, as a professor at Kazan and afterward at St. Petersburg, was largely instrumental in introducing modern chemical theories into his country. He took part in the foundation of the University for Women at St. Petersburg in 1879. His most important researches were on fatty bodies and the isomerism of the hydrocarbons. His treatise on organic chemistry was translated into German. He was interested in apiculture, on which he wrote some popular manuals, and was a believer in spiritualism, on which he also wrote a book—"Psychical Studies."

M. Jules Bouis, an eminent French chemist, member of the Academy of Medicine and Professor in the School of Pharmacy, died on the 21st of October, aged eighty-four years. He studied chemistry in Dumas's laboratory; distinguished himself by numerous experiments; and was engaged during a large part of his life in teaching chemistry in various important schools in Paris.

General John Theophilus Beaulieu, F. R. S., who has recently died, at the age of eighty-one years, performed a long service in India, beginning in 1820. He was for some time Superintending Engineer in the Public Works Department for the Northwest Provinces; founded the system of magnetic observations in India; and was the author of a book of logarithms.

The death, at Berlin, is reported of Dr. A. Fischer, who resided for a long time at Zanzibar, and by whose energy much has been added to our knowledge of the Kilimanjaro region