Popular Science Monthly/Volume 33/October 1888/Notes


Wood-creosote Oil is recommended by Captain W. H. Bixby, in the Forestry Department's "Report on the Relation of Rail-roads to Forests and Forestry," as possessing valuable antiseptic properties. It is an efficient poison to animal and vegetable life; it thoroughly repels moisture, and its tar acids possess the power of coagulating albuminous and other fermentable matter. It forms an excellent insecticide, and is one of the best possible oils for preserving lumber and piling. Painted upon wooden or metallic surfaces, it preserves them from wet and dry rot, rust, and the attacks of insects. Forced into wood by hydraulic pressure, it will fill all the pores, extending its coagulating and antiseptic effects to the very center of the block. It is distilled on a considerable scale, in North Carolina, from the wood of the Southern Pinus palustris.

From a comparison of specimens of chipped implements from different sources—of flint nodules from Abbeville and St. Acheul, France, and Milford Hill, England; of argillite from Trenton, New Jersey; of quartz from Little Falls, Minnesota; and of black chert from the Little Miami, Ohio—Prof. F. W. Putnam has expressed the conclusion that man, in this early period of his existence, had learned to fashion the best available material, be it flint, argillite, quartz, chert, or other rocks, into implements and weapons suitable to his requirements; and that his requirements were about the same on both sides of the Atlantic, with conditions of climate and environment nearly the same on both continents. This brings up for future investigations the question whether he was the same on both continents, and whether he has left descendants or has passed out of existence.

A philosophical definition of luck is given by an English writer as a capability of being incapable. "The first Rothschild was probably right, from his point of view, when he said that he never would employ an unlucky man. On the other hand, the lucky man is usually the man who fits his fortunes; who, whether apparently able or stupid, can do just what his especial circumstances require him to do. Very stupid men are often ready men, armed with a readiness as of dogs when they twist from under a cart-wheel unhurt. The 'fool who makes a fortune' is usually a man with just the foresight, or just the judgment or the intuitive perception of the way things are going—a faculty like long sight or keen hearing, and independent of intellectual power—requisite to make large profits quickly. In fact, the fortunate man is usually the man who, in consequence of some hidden quality in his nature, deserves fortune.

As to the profitableness of hard-wood timber-growing, Martin Conrad, a wagon-manufacturer, of Chicago, says that of the five principal kinds of timber used in his business, white oak takes eighty years to mature; shell-bark hickory, from thirty to fifty years; white ash, thirty years; tulip-tree, sixty or more years; and red or Norway pine, at least sixty years. An acre of timber artificially grown is worth five times as much as an acre of natural timber. One tree will grow to the rod, or 160 to the acre—say 110 after eighty years. At that time each tree will give 500 feet of lumber, or 55,000 feet to the acre, and that in Chicago would be worth now $14.50 per thousand.

The question whether the rainfall is increasing on the plains has been investigated by Mr. M. W. Harrington, who, for the purpose, has examined two series of observations representing the average conditions at the epochs of 1850 and 1880. They show an apparent increase of rainfall toward the plains.

It is a common mistake, according to an eminent authority on bees, Mr. Frank R. Cheshire, to suppose that an angry bee is certain to sting on alighting upon a human hand. On the contrary, she will always examine the skin very carefully first with her palpi. It may seem that she stings at once, and without care or reflection; but a bee can do a great deal in a very short space of time, in proof of which it may be mentioned that "she can flap her wings more than four hundred times per second, and that each flap involves the extension and contraction, through a nerve impulse, of the muscles employed in the wing-movements."

The Linnæan Society celebrated its hundredth anniversary May 24th. A eulogy of Linnæus by Prof. Fries, of Upsala, was read by the president, William Carruthers. Sir Joseph Hooker spoke of the merits of Robert Brown, "the greatest botanist of the present century," and said that where others have advanced beyond the goal he reached, it has been by working on the foundations he laid, aided by modern appliances of optics and physics. Prof. Flower delivered an address on Charles Darwin; Prof. W. Thiselton Dyer spoke on George Bentham, "who had stood in the footsteps of Linnæus, and, though the descent was oblique, inherited the mantle of the master." A Linnæan gold medal was instituted, to be presented to a botanist and a zoologist in alternate years, but on this occasion awarded in duplicate to Sir Richard Owen and Sir Joseph Hooker.

Experiments by Dr. Russell, of London, show that city rain contains twice as much impurity as that collected in the suburbs; that is, if the city rain were diluted with a nearly equal bulk of water, we should have the rain of the suburbs. On the basis of Prof. Lodge's experiments in clearing a bell jar full of smoke by a discharge of electricity, whereby the carbon is deposited. Sir Douglas Galton argues that rain may be induced by disturbing the electrical condition of the air with kites or balloons. If this fails, no remedy for London smoke is left except that of using gas instead of open stoves,

A natural history of panaceas has been suggested, the outline of which might show "how they originate—generally abroad; how some one writes an account of them in English; how every one rushes into print to show that that author is not the only man to go to for treatment; how they are all described as 'the greatest triumph of the century,' and this the more certainly the smaller they are; how they are universally adopted"; and then, after many years, "how they arc finally investigated, and are often found to contain nothing."

A deformity of the hand peculiar to glass-blowers is described by M. Poncet as "glass-blowers' cramp." It consists in a permanent and pronounced flexion of the fingers, particularly of the third and fourth fingers of the hand, which comes on after a short practice in glass-blowing, and increases progressively. The glass-blowers call it main en crochet, or main fermée (hand in hook, or shuthand). It is supposed to be induced by the close and continuous application of the hand to the tube with which the workman manipulates his "metal."


M. J. C. Houzeau, an eminent Belgian astronomer, formerly director of the observatory at Brussels, died early in July. He was one of the editors of "Ciel et Terre," of Brussels, one of the most valued of our foreign scientific exchanges. As a writer, while exact and thoroughly versed—and a leader, too—in science, he employed a popular style, which laymen could read with pleasure, and students with the feeling that they were learning.

M. Henri Debrat, an eminent French chemist, died, July 19th, after a short illness. He was born at Amiens, in 1827, and became the assistant to Sainte-Claire Deville, and eventually the successor to his chair.

Philip Henry Gosse, F. R. S., an eminent English naturalist, died August 27th, in the seventy-ninth year of his age. He was born in England, but spent much of his youth in Newfoundland and Canada, traveled in the United States, studying our zoology and entomology, and sojourned for a considerable time in Alabama. He was author of the "Canadian Naturalist," "The Birds of Jamaica," an "Introduction to Zoölogy," "The Aquarium," "A Manual of Marine Zoölogy," "Life in the Lower, Intermediate, and Higher Forms," a "History of British Sea-Anemones and Corals," "Letters from Alabama on Natural History," "The Romance of Natural History," and several other volumes, with numerous memoirs.

Prof. Rudolph J. E. Clausius, the eminent German physicist, died August 25th, in the sixty-eighth year of his age. He was Professor of Physics in succession at Zurich, Wurzburg, and Bonn, but was most distinguished for his share in the development of the mechanical theory of heat.

Prof. L. J. Budge, an eminent German physiologist, for more than thirty years director of the Anatomical Institute at Greifswald, has recently died. He was author of a "Hand-Book of Physiology" and of a "Compendium of Physiology," which is the favorite "cram-book" of the German medical students.

The death is announced of Dr. Johann Odstreil, an eminent mathematician and physicist of Vienna.

Dr. Sigismund Wroblewski, Professor of Experimental Physics at the University of Cracow, died in May, from the results of a lamp-explosion in his laboratory. He was born in 1838, studied at St. Petersburg and Strasburg, and was appointed to his professorship in Cracow in 1882. He acquired great fame through his experiments and those which he performed in connection with Prof. Olszewski in the liquefaction and solidification of gases.

The death is announced, at Rochester, N. Y., of Seth Green, the eminent fish-culturist, at the age of seventy-one years.