Popular Science Monthly/Volume 35/May 1889/Notes


We are indebted to the kindness of the Tiffany Glass Company, of New York, for the use of the photographs from which the illustrations were engraved for Prof. Henderson's article on "The History of a Picture-Window," in this issue of the "Monthly."

Alaska is commonly thought of as an exceedingly cold place, but, except in the northern part, this reputation is not justified. To be sure, in the Yukon district, comprising the country north of the Alaskan Mountains, the mean annual temperature is about 25° Fahr., and the ground thaws in summer only two or three feet down from the surface, remaining frozen continually below. In the Aleutian Peninsula and Islands, however, the mean is from 36° to 40°, and in a series of observations, extending over five years, the greatest cold was found to be zero, while the highest temperature was 77°. A still warmer and a moist climate belongs 10 the Sitka district, the strip extending down along the coast of British America. Here the mean is 44'7°, and the temperature during the winter seldom goes so low as the freezing-point. The mean annual temperature of the State of New York is 46-49°.

The French Academy of Sciences has awarded its Cuvier medal to Prof. Joseph Leidy, of Philadelphia, for his eminent services in zoology. The medal was accompanied by a letter recognizing Dr. Leidy as a leader in his specialty.

The report of the United States Commissioner of Education shows the following percentages of increase in ten years (1876-'77 to 1886-'87), in the five divisions of the Union, in population, school enrollment, and school expenditure:

DIVISIONS. Population Enrollment Expenditure
North Atlantic division 16·5 5·7 21·7
South Atlantic division 26·7 58·7 50·4
South Central division 36·8 83·4 65·4
North Central division 32·0 29·7 51·1
Western division 72·1 58·3 75·9
United States 29·0 31·1 41·1

Some erroneous opinions respecting reptiles are corrected by Arthur Ayling in "Science Gossip." Thus, the slow-worm or blind-worm (Anguis fragilis) is not blind, but has eyes which, though small in comparison with its size, are very bright, and are in fact the prettiest part of its body; and it can not inflict a poisonous bite. Snakes do not "sting" with their forked tongues. Reptiles can live a long time without food—a triton, for instance, has been kept in that condition for six months—but they die in the end; and stories of toads having been imprisoned in rocks for years or ages under circumstances where air was excluded from them are false. Toads can not "spit fire," and newts and lizards can not inflict dangerous bites.

Dr. F. B. Jessett, of London, claims to have shown, from a comparison of the number of deaths in England and Wales in various years, that the mortality from cancer increased from 4,966 in 1850 to 1.3,542 in 1881, and the death-rate per million inhabitants from 320 to 520. In view of these facts, he suggests that, instead of shirking the subject, it should be met, the cause of the mortality studied, and a remedy sought.

Nervelessness is mentioned by the "North China Herald" as the distinguishing quality of the yellow race. A Chinaman can go through the most tedious and monotonous work from hour to hour and from day to day, without any appreciable sense of weariness or irritation; and a school-boy can do the same with his lessons without even longing to be at play. The Chinese can also sleep under conditions which would make a European very uncomfortable and restless. This quality is one of the things that make the Chinese such unwelcome competitors in the labor markets.

The hamlet of Niveze, near Spa, in Belgium, is infested with what the inhabitants call "bad-air wells," or outlets whence carbonic-acid gas exhales. Dr. Parkin, of Spa, describes eight spots whence the exhalations are abundant, and most so in times of storm and seasons of low barometer. In some the escaping gas makes noises that can be heard from sixty feet away. The ground presents no peculiar appearance, except that nothing will grow immediately around the outlets. Some of these places are under houses, or near them, and cause considerable inconvenience. Dr. Parkin believes that the phenomena are connected with the volcanic region of the Eifel. Prof. Lancaster, of Brussels, thinks that the source of the gas is deeply seated in the earth.

An experiment has been tried at Guildford, England, to test Mr. Conder's system for treating and purifying sewage with a list of ingredients, a principal one of which is sulphate of iron. An open wire-work cage containing the purifying material was let down into the sewer and immersed for about an inch and a half in depth into the flowing sediment. The result is reported to have been a vast improvement in the character of the liquid flowing from the drains into the river, and an abatement of nuisance at points where heretofore nuisances and offensive smells had been complained of.

"Omitting articles in which its occurrence has been purely accidental," says Mr. A. W. Stokes, in "The Chemical News," "arsenic has been found of late years to be present in some samples of muslins, cretonnes, wall-papers, playing-cards, the glaze of some enameled stew-pans, the paper of fancy boxes, and in some furs. These last are usually the furs prepared by amateurs. . . . One has no wish to be an alarmist, or in any way to harass trade, and it must freely be acknowledged that cases of any ill results whatever being traced to the use of these articles are very rare. None the less, seeing how unnecessary they are, and how each year arsenic seems to be finding its way into new quarters, it seems advisable to stop its further progress."

To furnish the French railroads with cross-ties—10,000 a day and 3,650,000 a year—more than a thousand fine trees have to be cut down every day. In the United States more than 16,000,000 cross-ties are used yearly, to furnish which requires the destruction of 197,600 acres of forests. The "Bulletin du Musée Commercial" estimates the number of logs required for the railways of the world at more than 40,000,000.