Popular Science Monthly/Volume 32/December 1887/Notes


A discussion and analysis published by Professor F. G. Novy, of Ann Arbor, Michigan, in the "Pharmaceutische Rundschau," go to show that the new anæsthetic, stenocarpine, or gleditschine, which has attracted considerable attention, is nothing but a mixture of cocaine and atropine. More exactly, Professor Novy determines it to consist, essentially, of six per cent of cocaine hydrochloride; fifty per cent of atropine sulphate, and about a third of one per cent of salicylic acid, the latter being used as a preservative.

A correspondent in Whitby, Ontario, calls our attention to an omission—of considerable importance in countries liable to extreme cold—which he has observed in Dr. von Nussbaum's article on "Freezing," in the September number of the "Monthly." In the direction for rubbing with snow for the restoration of frozen parts, the author has omitted to state that the snow used should be of a temperature but little, if any, below the freezing-point. It has happened, through ignorance of this particular, that snow has been applied in cases of frost-bite of a temperature some degrees below zero with the result, of course, of freezing the injured part still more.

In a public lecture on "Electric Lighting," delivered during the meeting of the British Association, Mr. George Forbes, after remarking that there were probably more than 300,000 arc-lamps in use in the United States, said that the Americans were also getting the start of the English in electric railways and tramways, and generally in the application of electricity to motive-power.

Dr. C. H. F. Peters, Astronomer of Hamilton College, has had conferred upon him, by the President of the French Republic, the cross of an officer of the Legion of Honor, in recognition of the services which he has rendered to science.

Mr. C. E. Monroe presented, in the American Association, the results of some experiments, in which blocks of gun-cotton, after having been stamped with certain letters, were exploded, lettered side down, on flat pieces of wrought-iron. When the letters on the blocks were stamped in relief, they appeared in relief on the iron after the explosion; but when they were sunken in the blocks, they also appeared sunken in the iron.

Mr. William L. Wakeler tells, in the "Scientific American," how he once, in Georgia, saw a snake climb a tree in a very curious manner. The snake was a "coach-whip," and, frightened by the demonstrations of his observer, made a rush for a water-oak, the long branches of which came down to within four or five feet of the ground; "then rising, until he seemed almost to stand on the end of his tail, he shot up like an arrow through the branches, getting his grip entirely by lateral pressure and not by coiling around the branches."

Professor Louis Soret, President of the Swiss Society of Natural Sciences, has remarked on the æsthetic influence of reiterated impressions as illustrated by the repetition of the same design, both in symmetrical forms, and in lined patterns, such as we see in tapestry, furniture, or buildings, whether of the same dimensions or of dimensions regularly decreasing. It is the same with regular curves; but the æsthetic influence dwells less in the sensation itself than in the conceptions which it gives of a law.

Professors Michaelson and Morley gave accounts, in the American Association, of experiments by which they sought to measure the relative velocity of the luminiferous ether and the earth. Their method was to determine the interference between two beams of light, which were reflected back and forth a number of times; one being in the direction in which the ether was supposed to be moving, and the other at right angles to that direction. No effect was found, and it was concluded that the ether must be at rest with regard to the earth. This solution, however, has to encounter difficulties, and invites further research.

General Perier and his Spanish associate, General Ibanez, have presented their report on the surveys for the geodesic and astronomical junction of Algeria and Spain across the Mediterranean, by which the measurement of the arc of the meridian is completed for 27°, or from the Shetland Islands to Laghouat in Algeria. The independent geodesic operations executed in Spain and Algeria are shown by the results to have been very precise. It is also shown that the transmission and reception of rhythmic luminous signals conveying the time from one station to another are capable of great exactness.

Dr. Hain, of Zürich, read a paper at the Swiss Society of Natural Sciences last year on the deformations which fossils undergo in mountains through the enormous pressures to which the rocks are subjected. By them Agassiz was misled into distributing the fossil fish of the older rocks into eighty distinct species; while many of these supposed species were really identical, but deformed in such various ways as to appear different.

Professor Mees, discussing, in the American Association, the velocity of tornadoes, mentioned that straws and bits of hay are often driven like darts into pine boards, and even into the dense bark of hickory-trees. He had found that to obtain similar results by shooting straws from an air-gun, velocities of from one hundred and fifty to one hundred and seventy-five miles an hour were necessary.

Dr. R. W. Shufeldt has a portrait of Audubon which the great naturalist himself painted, with the aid of a mirror. He has had the portrait photo-engraved, and has prefixed the copies to a paper which he has published giving accounts of this and other mementos of Audubon.

It is doubtful whether death in burning buildings is as horrible as is generally supposed. "The Lancet," speaking particularly of the affair of the Opera Comique in Paris, observes that the burning seldom occurs in these cases until after death, or at least insensibility to pain, has been produced. Except under very peculiar conditions, the victim is made faint and pulseless by the carbonic acid, or the carbonic-oxide gas, before the fire reaches his body. It is the experience of persons who have been in a burning house that the heated and smoky atmosphere speedily induces a feeling of powerlessness and of indifference to what is going on around; and it is generally this stupefaction, with subsequent paralysis of feeling, that prevents judicious means being taken for escape.

M. E. Lavasseur, of Paris, has shown, by comparing the statistics of 1789 with those of the present, that chances of living long at any given age are greater now than they were before that year. The proportions are, for the survival of infants under one year, as 1,460 now, in every 2,000, to 1,186 then; for living to be forty as 1,110 to 738; and for living to be seventy-five, as 360 to 144.


Professor Kirchhoff, the discoverer of the spectrum analysis, died in Berlin in October, aged about sixty-three years. He was born in Königsberg in 1824, and came to the University of Berlin as a privat docent in 1837. In 1850 he was called to the chair of Physics at Heidelberg, where, with Bunsen, he prosecuted the researches which have given him a world-wide and lasting renown. He removed to Berlin in 1875.

Dr. Johannes Skalneit, President of the German Union of Analytical Chemists, and editor of the "Repertorium für Analytische Chemie," is dead. He was the author of many essays and other short works on questions of sanitary science, state medicine, and chemical analysis, and was an authority on analyses of milk and butter.

The death is reported of Dr. Johann Krejci, Professor of Botany in the University of Prague, and a member of the Bohemian Parliament.

Dr. Henry William Ravenel, botanist to the South Carolina State Department of Agriculture, died in Aiken, July 17. His speciality was fungi. He was best known by his "Fungi Caroliniani Exciccati," of which he issued a number of pamphlets; by his "Fungi Americani Exciccati," which he prepared in conjunction with Dr. M. C. Cooke; and by the papers which he published on the botany of his State.