Popular Science Monthly/Volume 31/June 1887/Notes


A series of charts, showing the surface temperatures of the Atlantic coast waters, from Maine to Florida, is under preparation by the United States Fish Commission, assisted by the Lighthouse Board and Signal Service. Observations, covering five years in time, have thus far been made at twenty-four lighthouse-stations. The temperatures at the several stations are shown for each year by ten-day means, and in such a manner as to give the isothermal relations of the stations.

It is said, on the authority of "an American railway engineer," that low temperatures do not decrease the strength of rails, as is commonly supposed, although it is true that accidents are more likely to occur from broken rails in cold weather. This is because, when the ground is frozen hard, it loses its elasticity. Nevertheless, something must yield when the train rune over the road; it is the ground that yields in unfrozen weather; but during a freeze the ground will not yield, and the rail, as being the weakest part of the structure, has to suffer the consequences.

Mr. Blanford, in his report on the "Administration of the Meteorological Department of India" for 1885-'86, describes the steps which have been taken in the peninsula to discover to what extent forests influence the rainfall. A few observatories have been established in the Ajmere forests, and the results so far have been to show slightly but appreciably higher rainfall in the forests than without. It is admitted that more careful inquiry must be made before any definite conclusions can be drawn. Mr. Blanford points out that M. Woeikoff, in a paper on the subject with special reference to India, essentially supports the view, which he himself regards as probable.

The Paris Academy of Medicine has been discussing the bad results of mental strain on young persons. A particularly hard bearing of the process was shown upon French girls, twelve thousand of whom are competing for diplomas entitling them to two thousand appointments in government schools.

Professor Sargent, Director of the Arnold Arboretum, of Harvard College, estimates that five foreign trees are planted in New England to one native. Yet, of all foreign trees introduced into America, the willow alone, he thinks, has qualities not possessed in a greater degree by some native. The European oak, and the Scotch, Austrian, and Corsican pines all die at about the time when they should be at their prime, and the Norway spruce, at a corresponding age, is decrepit and unsightly.

Oyster-culture is carried on actively and with yearly increasing returns at Arcachon and Auray in France. Fifteen thousand of the 37,500 acres of the bay of Arcachon are now covered with oyster-beds, which yield 300,000,000 oysters a year. The oyster-beds at Auray, on the coast of Brittany, are less important than those of Arcachon, but they furnished 70,000,000 oysters in 1885.

The Hon. Carroll D. Wright has reported upon convict-labor that the system of hand-labor under public account is the best. The facts show that the contract system is objectionable though it is the most profitable one, and sustain the complaints that are made against it. Mr. Wright believes that none of the disadvantages arising under the contract system or the piece-price modification of it could be urged against the plan he recommends, and the adoption of it would reduce the effects of convict-labor on rates of wages to a minimum.

According to a report from the Internal Revenue Office, there are in the United States 37 oleomargarine-factories, and 266 wholesale and 3,537 retail dealers in that product who paid special taxes in November, December, January, and February last. During the same months, 12,645,740 pounds of oleomargarine were manufactured, and 152,797 pounds were exported.

The jubilee of Professor Otto Struve was recently celebrated at the Pulkova Observatory, and was honored by the attendance of many delegates from learned societies and scientific institutions.

It is related, as among the incidents of the Charleston earthquake, that a young girl who had lost her power of speech from infancy, through severe illness, found it suddenly restored in the terror of the shock. Her first use of the recovered faculty was to scream for fear; but, finding she was able to scream, it took but a step to discover that she could also frame words.

If the stories that are told are true, the negroes at Charleston showed during the earthquake how the power of old habits would cling to them, notwithstanding the great changes that have taken place in their condition. After having been trained for twenty years in the cultivation of self-reliance and the recognition of their parity with the whites, it is said that, when the earthquake came, next to their dependence on the Deity was conspicuous the trust they put in the white people; and, whenever they caught sight of a white face in the darkness and confusion, "they would turn to it as to that of an angel."

The tenth annual meeting of the American Society of Microscopists will be held in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, beginning August 30th.

President Harrington, of the Ottawa Field Naturalists' Club, has suggested a test of what we really know about objects with which we imagine ourselves well acquainted. "Sit down with paper and pen," he says, "and try how much you can write about some species with which you are familiar, and you will probably be surprised to find how little there is regarding it of which you are entirely certain. Unless your memory for details is much better than mine, I fear your history will be far from exhaustive. It is easy to believe that you are fully acquainted with a certain form, that you know where and when it appears, and its manner of life and reproduction, but when you attempt to record these, doubts begin to flit through your mind, and your knowledge seems less assured."

We noticed some months ago that Captain Willard Glazier claimed that he had discovered in 1881 the true source of the Mississippi River in a lake, hitherto unexplored, a short distance above Itasca Lake, to which he gave his own name. The validity of the discovery was disputed; the Minnesota Historical Society took it up for examination; and its report by the Hon. James H. Baker demonstrates that Captain Glazier's claim is of the most fraudulent character. The lake, the true name of which is Elk Lake, is not new, but was known to Schoolcraft and Nicollet, was marked on their maps, and has been marked upon every map of respectable pretensions since 1832. Mr. Henry D. Harrower has also established the same facts in a pamphlet published by Ivison, Blakeman & Co., in which he shows by parallel columns that Captain Glazier stole a considerable part of his narrative bodily from Schoolcraft. The reports afford a convincing exposure of an attempted imposture, which was as silly as it was impudent.

It has been observed in Ottawa, Canada, that the introduction of the electric light in street illumination has facilitated the collection of entomological specimens, particularly of rare species, as insects of all kinds are attracted to the lamps in large numbers.


Dr. Grothe, of the Polytechnical School at Delft, died on the 10th of February, in the eighty-first year of his age.

M. Thollon, astronomer at the observatory in Nice, died April 8th, after a long illness, at the age of fifty years. His name was associated with many important discoveries in spectroscopy, the most notable of which, perhaps, was that of the means of distinguishing between telluric and solar rays.