Open main menu

Popular Science Monthly/Volume 34/November 1888/Notes


The article on "Bird Courts of Justice" in the last number of the "Monthly" should have been credited to "Chambers's Journal," from which it was, with a few adaptations and abbreviations, compiled.

Committees were appointed by the American Association at its Cleveland meeting as fellows: Committee on Chemistry Teaching—W. H. Seaman, W. L. Dudley, H. W. Wiley, W. O. Atwater, and W. A. Moyes; Committee on Water Analysis—O. C. Caldwell, J. W. Langley, J. A. Myers, W. P. Mason, R. B. Warder, and W. H. Seaman; Committee to confer concerning the Organization of a National Chemical Society—A. B. Prescott, Alfred Springer, and Edward Hart. Dr. A. B. Prescott was substituted for Dr. Scudder on the Committee on indexing Chemical Literature.

In a paper read by Dr. Franz Boas before the American Association, on "The Development of the Civilization of the North American Indian," the legends of the various tribes are discussed, and it is shown that, notwithstanding their general similarity, the mythology of each tribe is founded on a separate basis. Thus it is shown that the common culture of the tribes of the northwest coast of America is not uniform, and the influence of one of them is more particularly traced. This culture should be analyzed more carefully before any comparisons with Asiatic and Polynesian tribes can be successfully made.

Prof. B. E. Fernow, having shown in the American Association that the prevailing definitions of a tree—as distinguished from a shrub—are various and inexact, proposed this: "Trees are woody plants, the seed of which has the inherent capacity (potential energy) of producing naturally within their field of distribution one main, erect axis (single stem or trunk), not divided at or near the ground (bearing a crown), the primary axis continuing to grow for a number of years more vigorously than the lateral axis, and the lower branches dying off in time."

Steps were taken at the recent meeting of the American Association for the formation of an American Geological Society. A constitution was adopted, under which the society will consist of not less than a hundred Fellows, and will meet annually during the Christmas holidays, with a second meeting in connection with that of the American Association. The committee under whose charge this action was taken, of which President Alexander Winchell is chairman, was continued as a committee to secure members.

From examinations of certain waters—one of them being a "mineral" water free from all possible sources of contamination—in which free ammonia was present—Prof. E. H. S. Bailey remarked, in the American Association, that he was inclined to consider that that substance may be sometimes a natural constituent, and not indicative of any pollution, of the water.

Australian experiences prove it bad policy to offer scalp-bounties for the destruction of animal pests. Such bounties have been offered for the rabbit pest, and, encouraged by them, a class of professional rabbit-hunters has sprung up, who carefully nourish the supply of their profitable game, and see that the natural enemies of the rabbits, which might do a great deal to limit their increase, are kept down.

A study has been made by Prof. T. G. Bonney of the rounding of pebbles by the Alpine torrents and rivers. From this it appears that pebbles are rounded with comparative rapidity when the descent of the stream is rapid, and they are dashed down rocky slopes by a roaring torrent capable of sweeping along blocks of much greater volume; while the rounding takes place with comparative slowness when the descent is gentle and the average fall of the river is about adequate to push them along in its bed.

The International Congress of Americanists, which meets in Berlin October 2d to 5th, will discuss, on the first day, questions relating to the discovery of the New World, to the history of America before the time of Columbus, and to American geology; the second day, subjects of archæology; the third day, those of anthropology and ethnology; and the fourth day, philology and palseography.

Comparatively little attention was given by the medical profession to the treatment of sprains till in 1870 or 1871, when Sir James Paget urged the investigation of the subject and the institution of scientific methods in the matter. Dr. Wharton Hood afterward published in the "Lancet" an account of the methods followed by the professional bone-setters of the public, which, with some blunders, were attended with considerable success. A full treatise on the subject has recently been published in London by Dr. G. W. Mansell Moulin. This author recommends a treatment chiefly hydropathic, with the avoidance of such lotions and liniments as arnica and rhus toxicodendron; an accurately measured rest, followed by moderate and careful movements, and suitably adapted massage.

Parasitic fishes—extremely small beings, shaped like an eel—have been recognized only for a relatively short time. Ten species have been distinguished in different seas and oceans. They usually attach themselves to some hollow part of the bodies of marine animals, preferably entering the respiratory cavities of star-fish. They have even been found in the interior of the shells of pearloysters. They do not injure the animals with which they associate themselves, for they do not live upon them, but upon the minute organisms which the sea-water brings to their cavities, so that they are really commensalsrather than parasites.

The property which platinum and palladium display of throwing off flakes of their substance when under the influence of a strong electric current is due to the gases which they have occluded. Gold exhibits it in a less degree, and it may be that the old experiment of exploding wires by the discharge from Leyden-jar batteries depends upon the outbursts of occluded gases. The same property of occlusion exists in carbon, and has to be taken account of in the manufacture of incandescent lamps, from the wicks of which the gases must be driven out previous to using, else there will be no durability to them.

Mr. Maries, superintendent of the gardens of the Maharajah of Durbunga, India, has succeeded in reclaiming a tract of waste saline soil, in which not even weeds would grow, by digging down to the depth of two feet and planting thickly at the beginning of the rainy season with trees that had been grown in pots. In three years the ground was filled with roots, and to all appearances the salt had gone. When the trees were thinned out in 1887, the soil was found to be in good condition. Similar experiments have been successfully carried out in other places. Various kinds of trees were employed in the reclaiming operations, but the best were the Inga saman, or rain-tree, and the Albizzia procera.

Last year's coroners' inquests in England furnished two examples of death resulting from tight-lacing. The last case was of a young lady suffering from fatty infiltration of the heart, who died suddenly while dressing hastily after a hearty meal. The corset was proved to have had a close agency in determining the fatal result.

In a communication on injuries by lightning in Africa, Emin Pasha shows that in the central regions (from latitude 2° to 6° north) they are of average frequency, while further north, as at Fashoda, Khartoum, and Berber, they are nearly unheard of. A belief prevails among the Soudan Arabs that with every flash of lightning a piece of meteoric iron is thrown to the earth. They fancy that whoever is able to secure such a piece of iron has gained a great treasure, because swords and knives made from it can not be surpassed in quality, and their possession gives immunity from danger in battle, and protection against lightning-strokes. Sheik Narr, chief of the Takkala Mountains, is said to have resisted all Egyptian attacks, and to have preserved his people's independence, through the possession of such a sword.

Antipyrine, an artificial alkaloid obtained from coal-tar, is recommended by M. E. Dupuy and M. Ossian-Bonnet as a remedy for seasickness. M. Dupuy asserts that, administered for three days before embarking and during the first three days of the voyage, in doses of three grammes a day, it prevented sea-sickness during the voyage across the Atlantic. M. Ossian-Bonnet usually obtained effects in ten minutes from a dose of one and a half gramme, and in no case had to use more than three grammes in two doses. When the stomach would not hold the medicine, a subcutaneous injection was efficient.

M. de Chardonnet has artificially produced a substance having the apparent qualities of silk. He treats the ethereal solution of cellulose with a similar solution of perchloride of iron or perchloride of tin, and, adding an alcoholic solution of tannic acid, obtains a substance that can be drawn out into a thread. These threads, which may be spun into stronger cords, are supple, transparent, and cylindrical or flattened; silky to the look and the touch; break with a weight of twenty-five kilogrammes per square millimetre; burn without the fire extending; are slowly decomposed by heating; are not acted upon by acids and alkalies of moderate degrees of concentration, water, alcohol, or ether; but are dissolved in etherated alcohol and acetic ether.

The Belgian Government, after experiments to ascertain the best methods of making the clothing of its soldiers water-proof, has adopted that of bathing the goods in acetate of alumina, and then drying them in the air, without wringing. The doctors have expressed the opinion that clothing thus prepared offers no obstacle to perspiration, and is therefore hygienically unobjectionable. It appears also to be determined that the goods are not depreciated either in quality or color by the preparation. The only serious objection to the process is its cost.

While the question of the origin of the Aryans is under discussion, Mr. G. Bertin suggests that we may learn something of it by looking further than we have yet done into the roots of their languages. Even in the oldest specimens they bear evidence of being hybrids—in inconsistencies of syntax; in the promiscuous use of prepositions and postpositions; in having many words and roots to express the same objects; and in the use of three genders. Hence the original tongue may have been a fusion of two languages—say of Accadian or some closely related speech and some Semitic language. The supposition is supported by the fact that a great many resemblances have been observed between Accadian and Sanskrit.

A new view of fetichism is taken by Major A. B. Ellis, in his book on the "Tshi speaking Peoples of the Gold Coast." He does not think it characteristic of primitive peoples, or of races low in the scale of civilization, but believes that it is arrived at only after considerable progress has been made in religious ideas, when the older form of religions becomes secondary. And "it owes its existence to the confusion of the tangible with the intangible, of the material with the immaterial; to the belief in the indwelling god being gradually lost sight of, until the power, originally believed to belong to the god, is finally attributed to the tangible and inanimate object itself."

Some recent comparative analyses, made at Dundee, Scotland, of the air of sewers and that of the close rooms of some of the well inhabited houses of the city, turned out to the advantage of the sewers. That is, the analysts found in small and ill-ventilated houses more carbonic acid, more organic matter, and far more micro-organisms than in the sewer-air they examined; so that, if the experiments were to be taken as final and conclusive, the inhabitants of a small room would improve their position by living in the atmosphere of a sewer! The experiments are, of course, not to be thus taken; but it is easy to conceive of cases in which the inference would be correct. The lesson to be drawn from it would be, not that sewer air is less dangerous than it is thought to be, but an admonition of the necessity for improving the sanitary condition of some houses.

The Zirknitzen Lake in central Carniola, according to Herr Putik's description, exhibits remarkable phenomena of periodical emptying and filling. A gigantic cave, called Gilovca or Karlovca by the natives, and situated at the northwest corner of the lake, forms an outlet for the overflow. It lies at the foot of perpendicular rocks, and leads to a number of subterranean lakes, five of which Herr Putik has crossed.