Popular Science Monthly/Volume 32/January 1888/Notes


The Leander McCormick Observatory of the University of Virginia, Professor Ormond Stone, director, devoted much attention last year to the nebula of Orion, in which the director believes that the principal changes going on are of brightness. Besides these, three hundred and fifty-one observations of miscellaneous nebulæ have been made, resulting in a large number of sketches, and in the discovery of two hundred and seventy nebulæ which are supposed not to have been hitherto detected. A working-list of all known nebulæ north of thirty degrees south declination, which are as bright as the fourteenth magnitude, has been made to aid in the determination of nebular motions. Three independent publications have been issued, and six articles published in astronomical periodicals.

The recent Manchester meeting of the British Association appears to have been one of the most successful that was ever held. It was said, at the close of the proceedings, that Manchester had surpassed all other places visited by the Association, alike in the numbers attending, the amount received in subscriptions, and the amount which the Association in its turn was enabled to vote for scientific research.

A committee was appointed by the Chemical Section of the British Association, at the Manchester meeting, 1887, to inquire into and report upon the methods adopted for teaching chemistry in the various schools. It consists of the representatives of the universities and colleges, schools and technical institutions in which chemistry is taught. This action was taken after expressions of dissatisfaction in a discussion on the subject, with the present methods of teaching the science, and of the desire for important changes.

Mr. T. Mellard Reade has projected a new theory of the origin of mountains, which contradicts all the other theories. Having shown that periods of great sedimentary deposit precede the birth of every large mountain-chain, he supposes, as Babbage has proved, that a great elevation of temperature ensues, producing expansions of the strata. These being prevented from spreading horizontally by the rigid mass of the earth's crust that bounds the local area, can only swell upward and cause those ridges which we know as mountains. The author has tried experiments in the mechanical effects of expansion by heat on various rocks, and has found a similar result in miniature produced upon them.

Barrels are made in Jersey for the use of the Channel Islands farmers which will fold up when empty, and thus, having been sent to market, can be packed into a small space on the return. The staves are fixed upon the hoops so that, the heads being removed, they may be rolled up. They are made perfect cylinders, and therefore occupy less space for the same capacity than ordinary barrels.

Sir James Paget spoke at a school festival, some time ago, of the importance of "learning how to learn," and showed that knowledge not immediately useful in itself may be the means of developing the power of learning in the mind acquiring it. The cultivation of the faculty of knowing is of incomparably greater importance than the mere acquisition of knowledge; and to the student this faculty, so developed that when need arises, knowledge may be quickly obtained, is a better provision for the business of life than is afforded by the largest and richest stores of information packed away in the memory; thus the brain-property most worth carrying about is the power of finding at pleasure and learning at will precisely what is wanted.

Oyster-culture has had a great development in France. Thus, while in 1857 there were in the Bay of Arcachon twenty parks, or district oyster-beds, in 1865 there were 297 beds, producing 10,000,000 oysters annually; and there are now 15,000 acres of beds, yielding an annual supply of 300, • 000,000 oysters. From Auray, on the coast of Brittany, 7,000,000 oysters were sent to market in 1876-'77; in 1885, the numbers exceeded 70,000,000. On the other hand, the British oyster-industry has declined; and the coast which furnished ancient Rome with oysters, and within a generation exported then to Paris, now ranks low in the list of oyster-nurseries.

The recent International Hygienic Congress at Vienna was attended by twenty-two hundred and fifty members. M. Brouardel spoke upon typhoid fever, which he said was a far more dangerous disease to man than cholera. Concerning its origin—whether from the decomposition of organic matter or from specific virus—there was still an open question. Herr Pettenkofer, in a lecture on hygienic instruction in universities and technical schools, dwelt on the necessity of spreading hygienic principles among all classes of society. lie referred to the statistics of mortality of London as showing bow hygienic piety there had been rewarded.

The climate of the Sandwich Islands is peculiarly adapted to the cultivation of rice of a superior quality and in great quantity, its evenness of temperature permitting the raising of two crops a year without any particular strain upon the soil. The crops are raised in fields called patches, most of which were formerly used by the natives for raising taro, and which are often not more than an acre in extent. The fields are situated in the lowlands, where abundant irrigation can be obtained, and sometimes on slight elevations where artesian wells can be successfully established, and are the highest priced lands in the kingdom. The cultivation is almost entirely in the hands of the Chinese.

Mr. Matall, a London photographer claims to have perfected a system of photography in colors. He takes a negative on a specially sensitized plate; from this a positive is produced on a chemically treated basis by the aid of a solar camera and a spectroscopic arrangement. The image is produced in colors on the basis without the aid of hand-work or brush. The colors are said to be all hydrocarbons, specially prepared and capable of subdivision to the 180-millionth of an inch. When the colored picture is produced by chemical action, the image exists between two films not more than the hundredth part of an inch in thickness. These photographs are said to be permanent and not affected by climate.

M. Wiecyk has observed that the workmen in the petroleum-mines of the Carpathians, having to breathe an air contaminated with various hydrocarbons, carbonic acid and oxide, and sulphureted hydrogen, are not rarely subject to asphyxia. They are also exposed to tingling in the ears, dazzling, beating of the arteries of the head, syneopes, and hallucinations of usually an agreeable character. The respiration of petroleum vapors induces at first feelings of lightness in the breast and greater freedom in breathing, but in the end palpitations and general weakness. The rareness of consumption and infectious and epidemic diseases among the workmen is remarked upon.

M. Olszewski has, by the aid of excessively low temperatures, liquefied the more permanent gases at pressures averaging only 740 millimetres, and has also determined the boiling-points, melting-points, and densities at atmospheric pressure. The boiling-points have thus been determined: Of methane, -16·1° centigrade; oxygen -181·4°;—nitrogen, -194·4°; carbon monoxide, -190°; and nitric oxide, -153·6°. The melting-point of carbon monoxide was also determined to be -207°, and that of nitrogen -214°. M. Olszewski's nearest approach to absolute zero was -225° C, or -373° Fahr., for solid nitrogen. The density of methane at 736 mm. and -164° C, was found to be 0·415; that of oxygen at 743 mm., and -181·4° was 1·124; and that of nitrogen at 741 mm. and -194·4° was 0·885.

Professor Schnitzler has described a curious moss which grows at the depth of two hundred feet in the sub-lacustrine moraine of Yvoire. It contains grains of chlorophyl perfectly formed.


Count August von Marschall, Director of the Archives of the Geologische Reichanstalt of Vienna, died recently near that city, at the age of eighty-two years. He was the author of several scientific works.

Oscar Harger, Assistant Professor of Paleontology in Yale College, died in New Haven, November 6. He was born in 1843, was graduated from Yale in 1878, and, having devoted himself to the study of Natural History, became a co-worker with Professor Marsh. He was on the staff of the dredging expedition of the coast-survey steamer Bach to St. George's Banks in 1871, and accompanied Professor Marsh on his geological expeditions in 1871 and 1873. Among his contributions to scientific literature were the catalogue of isopods in Verril and Smith's "Invertebrata of Southern New England," and "A Report on the Marine Isopoda of New England and Adjacent Waters."

M. H. Bayard, who recently died in Paris at the age of eighty-one years, discovered a photographic process, in 1839, almost simultaneously with Daguerre and Talbot, He delayed to perfect and publish his discovery and thereby lost the priority which it is asserted he might easily have claimed.

The death is reported of Dr. E. Luther, Professor of Astronomy and Director of the Observatory at Königsberg, Germany, in the eighty-first year of his age.

Dr. Robert Caspart, Professor of Botany in the University of Königsberg, died recently from the effects of a fall downstairs. He was born in 1818, and, while not a prolific writer, was well known to botanists as a critical authority on Nymphæaceæ.

The Rev. William S. Symonds, F. G. S., rector of Pendock, who died September l.'i, was an earnest student of British geology, and contributed papers to the scientific periodicals on the rocks and fossils of the west of England. He paid, however, more attention to physical geology than to paleontology; and was greatly interested in the phenomena of the glacial drifts, and in questions relating to the antiquity of prehistoric man. He was the author of "Records of the Rocks," "Old Stones," and "Old Bones," of more than forty papers in scientific journals, and of the romances "Malvern Chase" and "Hornby Castle."

Joseph Maxendell, a British meteorologist and astronomer of eminent local reputation, died in Southport, October 7, in the seventy-second year of his age. He is declared by Balfour Stewart to have been the pioneer in the suggestion of the eleven-year sun-spot theory of meteorological cycles, and to have been the first to propose the use of storm-signals as they are now adopted by all maritime nations. He was a member of many learned societies at home and abroad.

Robert Hunt, F. R. S., keeper of the British Mining Records, died October 17, in the eighty-first year of his age. He had been writing on scientific subjects for nearly fifty years. While a medical student, he became acquainted with pharmaceutical chemistry. During a walking tour, he collected the materials for a bock on west of England folk-lore. He studied and wrote upon photography, crystallization, the chemical action of light (in relation to which he introduced the term actinism), the influence of colored media on plant-germination and growth, and other kindred subjects. He was the originator of the publication of statistical returns of the mineral produce of the United Kingdom; and in 1866 was one of the commissioners to inquire into the stock of unworked coal in the mines. He published, in 1884, a comprehensive book on British mining. He was author of works on the "Poetry of Science," "Panthea, or the Spirit of Nature," and "Handbooks" of the great Exhibitions of 1851 and 1852; and he edited, after Dr. Ure's death, the successive editions of that author's "Dictionary of Arts."

Mr. Thomas Bolton, of the Microscopists' and Naturalists' Studio, Birmingham, England, died November 7th. His services as a naturalist and microscopist were recognized several months ago by the award of a civil-service medal, in connection with which a memorial, signed by many eminent men of science, was presented, setting forth his claims and discoveries.