Popular Science Monthly/Volume 32/April 1888/Notes


That teachers are alive to the defects of existing systems of public instruction—for which they are not usually responsible—is shown in the criticisms made against them by Mr. George L. Guy, in his address before the Southern Illinois Teachers' Association: "Are the young women of our time," he asks, "trained in those things which mothers most need to know? Are they being prepared properly for domestic life? If not, the vigor and happiness of the individual and of the race must diminish, and the educational system that has neglected the essential elements of a woman's life must take its place with other useless excrescences. . . . Does our bookish education, in any sense, fit our young people to enter upon the practical duties of life? Clearly it does not. Our method of instruction must be molded by a more thorough knowledge and consideration of the real needs of every human being."

Experiments in tasting are reported in the "Transactions" of the Kansas Academy of Science as having been performed by E. II. S. Bailey and E. C. Franklin upon forty persons, to determine the relative bitterness of different substances. Strychnine led the list of seven vegetable bitters. The average results in each case are represented in the following series: Of salicine it is possible to detect one part in 12,000 parts of water; of morphine, one in 14,000; of quinine, one in 76,000; of quassine, one in 90,000; of picrotoxine, one in 197,000; of aloine, one in 210,000; and of strychnine, one in 826,000. Twelve of the tasters were able to detect one part of strychnine in 1,280,000 parts of water.

The great industrial institution in Berlin, according to the account of Professor Sylvanus P. Thompson, occupies a very large building, which is situated in a domain of about twelve acres. It is aided by the state, and gives instruction in every known industry. It has about 500 rooms for technical teaching, and a good library. It cost, all fitted out, §4,800,000, or about as much as a British ironclad, and is maintained at an expense of about §190,000. This expenditure and the original outlay are recouped by the well-to-do character of the pupils who pass through its teaching, and become useful members of society instead of burdens and pests.

A curious story of "A Reasoning Lobster" is told by Willard Nye, Jr., in the "Bulletin" of the United States Fish Commission. The sagacious crustacean's home was under a rock in Buzzard's Bay, in water about five feet deep. The author carefully adjusted a noose over the hole, and baited it with a piece of menhaden. The lobster passed its claw through the noose to get the bait; and the noose was drawn upon the claw, but slipped off when the animal had been pulled half out of his hole, and he escaped. The noose was fixed again, but this time, instead of putting out his claws as before, the lobster first put his feelers through the noose, felt the string all the way around, and then pushed one claw under the string and seized the bait. The experiment was repeated several times, but every new setting of the trap was met in the same deliberate way, as if by one who had thought the matter out.

The gypsies of Transylvania, according to a writer in "Blackwood's Magazine," teach young bears to dance by placing the animal on a sheet of heated iron, while the trainer plays on his fiddle a strongly accentuated piece of dance-music. The bear, lifting up its legs alternately to escape the heat, involuntarily observes the time marked by the violin. Later on the heated iron is suppressed, when the animal has learned its lesson; and whenever the gypsy begins to play on the fiddle, the young bear lifts its legs in regular time to the music.

It is said that forty per cent of all the deaths from poison in Great Britain are due to opium; and this rate of mortality, according to Dr. Wynter Blythe, "arises in a great measure from the pernicious practice, both of hard-working English mothers and the baby-farmer, of giving infants 'soothing-sirups,' 'infants' friends,' and the like, to allay restlessness and keep them asleep during the greater part of their existence," It has been calculated that one preparation alone is the undoubted cause of death of 150,000 children every year.

Professor W. Mattieu Williams convicts the enemies of physiological experiment of inconsistency by showing that all male animals that come fully grown to market, as they must know, are subjected to one of the most painful mutilations that can be performed, merely to improve the flavor of their flesh. "A prominent member of the screeching sisterhood," he says, "has been seen lounging in her carriage drawn by a pair of horses that have been thus tortured for her luxurious convenience. To this she is supremely indifferent, but raves most virtuously against those who puncture the skin of a dog or rabbit in order to save thousands of human beings from cruel disease."

Mr. Harris, of the Institute of Civil Engineers, contradicts the belief, which is general, that mine-explosions are always accompanied by a low barometer. Very few of the explosions of 1886 and 1887 were thus accompanied; and out of the list of disasters in the eleven years 1875-'85, given by Sir Frederick Abel, only 18·75 per cent of the accidents and 17·4 per cent of the deaths occurred when the mercury was at 291/2 inches or below. One half of this small percentage of explosions took place with a low but rapidly rising barometer, when gas had begun to issue from the strata.

Mr. Francis Galton has described his ideal of an anthropometric laboratory as a place where a person may have any of his various faculties measured, and where duplicates of his measurements may be preserved as private documents. Besides the ordinary simpler apparatus, such an institution should contain instruments for psycho-physical research, for determining the efficiency of each of the various senses and certain mental constants. Instruction might be afforded to those who wish to make measurements at home, together with information about instruments and the registration of results. A library would contain works relating to the respective influences of heredity and nurture. It might also fulfill a welcome purpose as a receptacle for biographies and family records.

Otto Wiener, having made certain measures of the thickness of a film of silver which can just be perceived by the eye, concludes that 0·0000002 of a millimetre is an upper limit of the diameter of a silver molecule.

Mr. W. H. Preece said, in papers read in: the British Association on "Copper Wire," with particular reference to its use in telegraphy and telephony and high-speed telegraphy, that the speed of transmission on inland circuits had increased from eighty words per minute in 1870, to six hundred in 1887, and on the most difficult line to | Dublin, from fifty words in 1870 to four | hundred and sixty two in 1887. In fact, as many words could now be transmitted on one wire as on nine in 1870. Those improvements had been the results of greater perfection in apparatus, the elimination of electro-magnetic inertia, the improvement of the circuits (the wire and its surroundings), and the introduction of high-speed repeaters.


George W. Tryon, Jr., the distinguished conchologist, died at his home in Philadelphia, February 5th. He was conservator of the conchological collections of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, which is said to outrank even those of the British Museum, and was himself the owner of the most numerous collection in the world. He spent the later years of his life in arranging and systematizing the Academy's collection. He prepared the "Manual of Conchology, Structural and Systematic," which, although it has reached its fourteenth volume, is left unfinished. He was the author of a work on the marine conchology of the eastern United States and of a general manual of recent and fossil conchology, and was one of the founders and editor of the "American Journal of Conchology." His fame was world-wide, and his standing among conchologists in the highest rank.

Dr. Joseph B. Holder, Curator of the American Museum of Natural History, died suddenly at his home in this city, February 28th. He had been connected with the museum for several years, and had taken an important part in the arrangement and classification of its collections. He was a frequent writer on subjects connected with his lines of work, being the author of many articles in public journals, magazines, and scientific periodicals, and of books.

Emil Rousseau, a French chemist, died in Paris, February 4th, in the seventy-fourth year of his age. After working in the laboratories of Orfila and Dumas, and in the Central and Municipal Schools, he established a manufactory of chemical products, at which subsequently Sainte-Claire Deville and Debray with his aid worked out the industrial fabrication of aluminum. He first applied pyrites to the fabrication of sulphuric acid, introduced a new preparation of charcoal, and devised the sugar process known as the Rousseau process.

The death is announced of Dr. J. T. L. Boswell, a well-known English botanist, who was for many years Curator to the Botanical Society in London.

Anton de Bary, the eminent botanist of the University of Strasburg, died January 19th after a painful illness. He was born in 1831, was Professor of Botany successively at Freiburg, Halle, and Strasburg, was famous for his researches on the algae and fungi, was for many years after 1867 editor of the "Botanische Zeitung," and was the author of numerous treatises chiefly relating to cryptogamic vegetation, physiology, and morphology.

Mr. George Robert Waterhouse, late keeper of the department of geology in the British Museum, died on the 21st of January, in the seventy-eighth year of his age.