Popular Science Monthly/Volume 33/June 1888/Notes


How timber can be intelligently cultivated on farm-lots of from sixteen (o twenty acres was explained by Mr. Benjamin Hathaway at the Michigan Forestry Convention. While the timber is young the ground can be used for pasture, and even for wheat and oats. After the shade has grown dense, the temporary value of the land is reduced; but in eight or ten years afterward the timber becomes marketable. Trees planted in border screens, ten feet apart, will support a wire fence, afford a supply of fire-wood from their trimmings, and add positively to the attractiveness, value, and profitable cultivation of the farm.

The French Association met this year in March, at Oran, in Algeria. M. Laussedat was chosen president, and delivered an address on the civilizing influence of science. The meeting was held in the spring instead of the summer, on account of climatical considerations. One previous meeting of the Association—that of 1881—was held in Algeria,

The great Bressa prize of 12,000 francs, or $2,400, has been awarded to M. Pasteur by the Academy of Sciences at Turin.

Mr. Vincent Jackson, senior surgeon of the Wolverhampton and Staffordshire General Hospital, who is also Mayor of Wolverhampton, presided recently at a "Burial Reform" meeting, and defined the reforms required to be: coffins of the most perishable and lightest material, all lasting substances being rejected; interments as early as possible; the pall to be discarded as an unnecessary and baneful covering, and burial in plain earth with total disuse of vaults and bricked graves. Vaults were condemned by Dr. Malet, medical health-officer for the borough, as tending to the spread of disease, and injury to the health of persons attending burials.

A collection of objects relating to religion—altars, priests' robes, and kindred objects—made in the course of several years by M. Guimet, was some time ago presented by him to the municipality of Paris on condition that a building should be specially devoted to them. The building, which is close to the Trocadéro Palace, has just been finished, and will shortly be occupied as a museum of religions.

"Railway-brain" is a term applied by Dr. Thomsen to a neurosis or general derangement of the nerves produced by a shock received by the head on a railway-car. In the particular case described, no wound was received, and consciousness was preserved at the time of the injury. Afterward the patient became melancholic, and complained of insomnia, headache, spinal pain, weariness, and failure of appetite. A hygienic and palliative treatment was given.

An interesting experiment was recently made by a Dr. Durand, in reference to the relative power of imagination in the two sexes. lie gave to one hundred of his hospital patients a dose of sweetened water, and shortly afterward entered the room, apparently greatly agitated, saying he had by mistake administered a powerful emetic. In a few minutes four fifths of the subjects were affected by the supposed emetic, and were mainly men, while every one of those not affected were women.

M. Bonnetoud, a French engineer, employs the explosive force of dynamite to drive out, for a brief period, the water from portions of wet ground in which foundations are to be made. A hole is bored in the wet ground, ten or twelve feet deep, and about an inch and a half wide. By exploding cartridges of dynamite in this hole the water is driven far out beyond the sides of the yard-wide cavity which is produced, and does not reappear till after half an hour at least. The workmen thus have time to clear the cavity and introduce quickly-setting concrete.

The deleterious effect of arsenic upon the skin was recently discussed in the Pathological Society of London, after a communication by Mr. Jonathan Hutchinson. The skin is the tissue on which arsenic has perhaps its most marked influence. The poison may spoil the complexion instead of improving it, by making it muddy and unsightly. A similar action is exhibited in all parts of the skin, and may lead to the development of soft corns, not warts, in the palms of the hand and soles of the feet, where a roughened condition also grows up under its influence. Mr. Hutchinson expressed the belief that arsenic can produce epithelial cancer.

Assuming that the coincidence of the earth's perihelion passage with the summer solstice every twenty-one thousand years marks the regular recurrence of a northern glacial period, M. Adolphe d'Assier has calculated that the last glacial period reached its culmination in 9250 b. c., and that the alternating period of greatest warmth in the northern hemisphere occurred a. d. 1250, after which we immediately began to move toward the next glacial period, which will reach its height in, say, a. d. 11,750. Hence the north must have been growing cooler during the last six hundred years. Evidence is not wanting, M. d'Assier asserts, in changes that have been observed in the northern limits of growth and ripening of certain plants, that this has been the case, and he names several instances.

Dr. R. W. Shufeldt, in a paper on Dr. Thomas H. Street's collection of birds' sterna and skulls, mentions as a fact long well known to him, which is illustrated by specimens in the collection, that there are a great many species of North American birds that gradually increase in size as we pass from the southern parts of the country toward the north.

The Congo in the neighborhood of Stanley Falls, according to the account of an English engineer formerly in the service of the Free State, is so full of islands that an uninterrupted view from bank to bank is obtained at only three or four points. The misleading statement, without mention of the islands, that both shores are seldom visible at the same time, has given rise to mistaken and exaggerated ideas of the size of the river. The great plain, some five hundred miles in extent, through which it runs here, is covered for the most part with dense tropical jungle, abounding in rare and valuable forms of plant-life. Tree ferns, and many varieties of orchids yet undescribed, are common, as well as the wild coffee shrub, several kinds of plants yielding India-rubber, mahogany, and other splendid timber-trees.

A curious combat between two hawks and an owl is described in Major-General Newhall's "Highlands of India." The three birds first performed a preliminary series of upward gyrations, each endeavoring to get a position of advantage above the other. Finally one of the hawks made good his stroke, and both birds fell to the ground like a stone. When the author rode up, the little hawk was standing in the attitude of a conqueror on the owl's body, whose head he had twisted off and held in his claw.

The world consumes annually, according to an English authority in the trade, about 650,000 tons of coffee, and produces a corresponding quantity. Estimating the average price at $400 a ton, this represents a value of $260,000,000. Jamaica coffee is the finest grown, but only furnishes about 5,000 tons. East Indian and Ceylon coffees are of very high quality, but they do not together produce more than 25,000 tons. The Ceylon crop used to be more important than it is, but has been reduced in consequence of a disease of the plants. The average crop of Java is from 60,000 to 90,000 tons, and that of Brazil from 340,000 to 380,000 tons. Costa Rica and the other Central American states also export coffee.

While it appears from the records of English health officers that some diseases have special seasons in which they are most likely to prevail, it is not shown that occasional variations in temperature have much influence in the matter. Scarlet fever is at its minimum from January to May, and at its maximum in October and November. Diphtheria is more evenly distributed through the year, and is most dangerous a little later than scarlet fever. Measles and whooping-cough seem to be somewhat aggravated by cold weather, but are most fatal in May and June. Hot weather is adverse to small-pox, and favorable to disorders of the bowels, particularly in children.

Running to catch trains is declared to be dangerous, not only on account of the immediate perils it involves, but also because it tends in the long run to shorten life. We—at least persons who have passed middle age—have only a certain amount of reserve force, and all that we draw upon in hurries is abstracted from that which should be distributed through the remainder of life. The secret of longevity is probably skill in so economizing the reserve of vital energy as to make it last out an unusual period. Persons who begin unusual exercises in youth may adapt their constitutions to the habit, and may thereby hold on to their full term of life; but this can not be done safely if one waits till mature age before beginning.

Dew is known to play an important part in the growth of plants by furnishing them and the surface of the soil with moisture. In hot and rainless countries and seasons, in fact, plants would not be able to reach maturity were it not for the dew which supplies the deficiency of rain. According to M. Prillieux, dew plays another and mischievous part in promoting the growth of parasitic fungoids, whose spores, brought by the wind, owe to it their power to germinate on the plants on which they light.

A committe of the English Medical Council has been appointed to consider the best means of increasing the practical element in medical education. Although the strictly scientific parts of medicine are taught as they never have been taught before, it is conceded that there has been a falling off in the practical part, and that the new graduate, although more learned in minute anatomy, chemistry, and physiology than his predecessors, is less apt at recognizing and treating common diseases.

The capacity of magnesia to form a cement, long known, has been regarded from a practical point of view since the residues and sub-products of the Stassfurt potash manufacture have risen to commercial importance. Dr. Frank's cement of magnesia and chloride of magnesium was unfortunately liable to the objection of swelling and breaking up, like some of the lime-cements, in consequence of slow hydration. Dr. Grundman, of Hirschberg, has patented a new process, in which, instead of calcining the magnesia and treating it with water, he makes a carbonate of it by exposing it to carbonic acid as produced by the burning of coke in close apartments. It thus forms a substance as hard as magnesite and capable of taking on a fine polish. Mixed with marble-dust, it forms an artificial dolomite; and, with soluble silicates, an artificial stucco.

Experiments with an electric locomotive are now being made on one of the underground roads in London, which, if successful, will do away with the chief annoyance of underground travel, the smoke, and the danger incident to carrying a powerful electric current along the line will be very much lessened on the underground system.

Dr. R. W. Shufeldt has made measurements of the leaps of the Mexican hare (Lepus callotis callotis) and the sage-hare or rabbit (L. Silvaticus Nuttalli) on the snow covered plains of New Mexico, the animals having been stimulated by a scare from the shot of a fowling-piece. The Mexican hares cleared twelve and thirteen foot, while the Mexican rabbits could leap fully six feet, and, in one case, more than seven feet. At their common rate of going, he says, "the hare rarely clears more than four feet at any single leap, while the rabbit is satisfied with rather more than two feet, and, when quietly feeding about the sage-bush, the tracks made by an individual of either species may actually overlap each other."

The Municipal Council of Paris intends to found, in connection with one of the prominent public institutions, a chair of Philosophical Zoölogy, with a special view to the propagation of the Darwinian doctrine of evolution. Among those who are named as probable occupants of this chair, the fittest is said to be M. Alfred Giard, late of Lille, but now of Paris, who has taught this doctrine and made researches regarding it, and has gathered around him a school of young zoölogists. A writer in "Chambers's Journal" has suggested that, if school-prizes are to be continued, their character might be improved, and they might be made to contribute to real zeal in the pursuit of knowledge, and to become a stimulus to further effort, by giving a part of their value, at least, in the form of privileges of free tuition in some school where the recipient's favorite branches could be studied for a longer time and to greater proficiency; while a smaller part might still be applied to the provision of a medal, as visible evidence of the merit and distinction.


Dr. Maximilian Schmidt, an eminent geologist, and Director of the Zoological Gardens at Berlin, has recently died, at the age of fifty-four years.

Prof. Hans Carl Frederick Christian Schjellemp, the Danish astronomer, died at the Copenhagen Observatory, November 13th. He was born in 1827, distinguished himself in mathematics at the Polytechnic School in Copenhagen, was appointed observer in the old observatory at Copenhagen in 1851, and succeeded to the new one when it was completed. He determined the orbit of the comet of 1580, made zone observations of the stars between 15° of north and 15° of south declinations, translated Sufis's descriptions of the fixed stars from the originals, contributed to the journal "Copernicus" articles on the astronomy of the ancients, and published a catalogue of the "red stars."

Admiral Sir Astley Cooper Key, of the British Navy, died March 3d, in the sixty-seventh year of his age. He had during his service held the positions of Principal Naval Lord of the Admiralty and Director of the Royal Naval College, and had done much in behalf of the application of science to the wants of the navy.