Popular Science Monthly/Volume 34/April 1889/Notes


Dr. H. A. Hark, of the University of Pennsylvania, has issued, through P. Blakiston. Son & Co., Philadelphia, his essay on "Mediastinal Disease," to which the Medical Society of London awarded the Fothergillian medal for 1888.

A curious story of foster relationship between a wood-duck and a hen is told by a Mr. Palmer. The duck was hatched along with a brood of chicks from an egg that had been placed under the hen. It was attended as well as her other chicks by the mother, and reached adult age. Then, when the hen brought out another brood of chicks, it kept in close attendance, much to the hen's annoyance, and with occasional resultant fights. Finally, the duck drove away the hen and took exclusive care of the chicks during the day, only giving them up at night.

A new oil-burning light, called from its inventor the Doty light, is said to be well suited for Lighting all places where brilliant illumination, without dark shadows, is required at moderate cost and without elaborate preparation. In it oil is forced by compressed air through a tube which has been formed into a double coil. The coil is heated, so that the oil is vaporized in passing through it, and, becoming ignited at the burner, issues in a brilliant flame. The pressure of the air is kept up by a few occasional strokes upon a hand-pump. Three sizes of the light are placed upon the market—300, 500, and 1,000 candle-power. The inventor claims for it numerous advantages resulting from its being self-contained, self-generating, and portable.

The greater prevalence of diphtheria, small-pox, and scarlet fever in the cold seasons of the year is explained by Dr. H. B. Baker as resulting from the tendency in those periods to catarrhal inflammations of the respiratory tract. This is also exemplified in the prevalence of influenza, bronchitis, and tonsillitis. The cause of these forms of inflammation may be found in the retention of non-volatile salts in the mucous lining of the air-passages.

The land of the salt-district in Cheshire, England, is gradually undergoing subsidence in consequence of the pumping up of the brine which is produced by the solution of the rock-salt far below the surface. As this brine is removed, fresh water takes its place, and this reacts upon the rocks, forming new brine, which is pumped up in its turn. And so the process goes on year after year, with constant removal of the props of the earth.

Experiments have been made by Mr. Saunders, of the Experimental Farms, Ottawa, in the cultivation of grains from the extreme north of Europe, for the purpose of securing varieties that will ripen in the shortest Canadian summers. Wheat from Lake Ladoga, latitude 69°, ripened from ten to fifteen days earlier than other varieties in cultivation; a difference sufficient to insure its maturing soon enough to escape the earliest autumn frosts. This wheat yielded nineteen-fold, and was of satisfactory quality. Onega wheat, from latitude 62°; barley, from latitude 66°; and barley and rye from latitude 67°—or from the extreme northern limits at which cereals are grown in Europe in a continental climate—are on trial.

How dependent schools were, and to some extent still are, on books as contrasted with individual power, is illustrated in the life of the late Prof. Thomas Hill Green. The first time he competed for the Queen's medal at Rugby he complained that, though the judges liked his essay the best, they gave the prize to another boy, "because his essay showed more labor, i. e., came out of thirteen books instead of his own head." In the next competition he was successful, contrary to his own expectation, for the subject was one for which, he says, he had "to consult a variety of forty authorities, which I never can succeed in doing well; I always find that, if I cram myself with the ideas of others, my own all vanish."

A new life-saving jacket—Mr. J. Johnson 's "Eclipse Life-Belt"—consists of twenty corrugated metal tubes joined with durable webbing, so adjusted as to give the tubes a vertical position on the chest and back. It has a supporting power of thirty-two pounds in fresh water. The belt can be readily adapted to the side of a ship's boat to render it unsinkable.

A sufferer from sleeplessness avers that he has found a remedy for his trouble by holding his breath till discomfort is felt, and repeating the process a second and a third time. The "Lancet," while it admits that this method may produce the desired effect, mentions some dangers connected with it which would make its general adoption unadvisable. Another victim of insomnia, regarding the affliction as a consequence of mental worry and deficiency of exercise and fresh air, advises hygienic living, moderation in eating and drinking, and abstinence from stimulants. In dealing with severe nervous irritation from mental or physical work, he has found a daily rest an almost essential prelude to sleep at night. This advice is pronounced sensible.

M. Des Cloizeaux has become President of the French Academy of Sciences; and M. Hermite has been chosen Vice-President, to become President in turn in 1890.

The Medico-Chirurgical Society of the Canton of Berne, Switzerland, has offered prizes for the best and next best essays on the question, "Up to what point is there ground for entertaining the criticisms which have been made from a medical point of view on the intellectual overpressure of children in the schools of a Swiss territory?" Essays of a purely theoretical character, and compilations from books embodying facts which the competitor has had no means of personally examining, will not be considered. The essays may be in French or German.

Mr. Im Thurm noticed, in the course of his explorations in British Guiana, that tamed animals of many species—parrots, macaws, trumpeters, monkeys, toucans, etc.—were kept in some of the Indian villages. They take the place of currency. These Indians, not having yet risen to the civilization of a protective system, carry on special occupations in their different villages: thus in one they spin, in another make mats, in a third pottery, in a fourth cassava-mills, etc. Some of the trading is done by barter between the villages, and the balances are adjusted with this living "currency."

The seventieth birthday of Prof. Von Pettenkofer—the father of hygienic science, as the Germans call him—was celebrated in Munich on the 3d of December, with enthusiastic demonstrations by the students, and visits and testimonials from scientific and medical men of all parts of Germany. Among those who thus honored him were the civic dignitaries of Munich; the National Liberal party; representatives of the royal family; numerous scientific and medical societies and universities at home and abroad; the Prussian Minister of Education; and old pupils. The students had a grand torchlight procession on the evening of the 5th, which was addressed by Pettenkofer, and ended with a shout and a song.

A compendium of transoceanic weather observations—from Walfisch Bay, South Africa; Hatzfeldhafen, New Guinea; and the coast of Labrador—has been published by the "Deutsche Seewarte." The last observations were made by missionaries on the initiative of the "Seewarte." Such observations will hereafter be regularly published in yearly volumes.

Among the more important papers in the "Year-Book" of the Italian Meteorological Society for 1887 are those of Ferrari on the relations of sun-spots to earth-magnetism, of Pagliani on the relations of cholera and weather, and of Roster on those of the air and health. The "Year-Book" also contains a bibliography of all Italian works on meteorology that appeared in 1886.

An Anthropological Congress is to be held in Vienna in August.