Popular Science Monthly/Volume 36/April 1890/Notes


The scientific courses at Indiana University, of which our contributor, David Starr Jordan, is president, include departments of physics, with classes in physics proper, physical measurements, and meteorology; chemistry, with qualitative and quantitative analysis, special work, and water analysis; geology, with mineralogy, topographical geology, and field-work; zoölogy, with many classes, including theories of evolution, the critical study of Darwin's "Origin of Species," and original research; and botany, with six classes and advanced and original work in the senior year on a special subject. Since it was opened 3,816 students have been taught in the college departments of the university.

"Cocoanut day" is celebrated in most parts of India during the full moon in August. On that day numbers of nuts are thrown into the sea as an offering to the Hindoo god. Occasionally one meets with deformed nuts, consisting of the husks with small nuts having no kernel inside. The natives attribute this blighting to the tree-frog, which, by smelling the flower, can prevent the fruit from coming to maturity. A curious survival of customs was illustrated in Lisbon some days after the funeral of the late King Luis of Portugal. A funeral procession, composed of officers, military, and citizens, marched through the streets to places where platforms covered with black cloth had been erected. Four shields, on which were painted the royal arms, were borne aloft on long staves. On arriving at the platforms, the principal persons took their places upon them; one of the shield-bearers, advancing to the front and chanting, "Weep, Portuguese, for your king, Dom Luis I, is dead," dashed his shield to the ground with such violence that it was shattered. This was repeated at each platform, while the bells were tolled during the whole ceremony. The proceedings were closed with a requiem service.

At the recent annual meeting of the Rational Dress Society, Viscountess Harberton, the president, said that during the past year she had hardly met with any expressions of approval from women with regard to their present system of dress. Most of the remarks she had heard had been denunciatory of the weight, discomfort, or dragging, or—particularly from young women—the cold when evening dress was worn. This was cheering, because it marked a growing realization of the uncomfortableness of present costumes. In the speaker's opinion, the only hope of reform lay in a radical change to some kind of dress having the clothing for the legs dual; it should clearly follow the shape of the form it was meant to cover.

According to Mr. R. Andree, our Indians use rising smoke as a means of giving signals, and have a system of alternately smothering the column and letting it rise freely for transmitting different messages. A similar method is used in New Guinea and Australia. The great variety of the messages communicated by drums in the Cameroons and other parts of Africa have been described in the "Monthly." The Gallas, south of Abyssinia, have drums stationed at certain points of the roads leading to the neighboring states, at which watchmen are appointed to sound the alarm in case of threatened invasion. In New Guinea the natives learn from the rapidity and rhythm of the blows on drums what is happening—whether an attack, death, or a festival.

The opinion is expressed by Mr. Elliot, in his last Meteorological Report for India, that the period of minimum sun-spots is associated in that country with the largest and most abnormal variations of meteorological conditions and actions. Thus the snow was exceptionally heavy in the northwest Himalayas in the winters of 1866, 1876, and 1877. The most striking and disastrous famines have also occurred near the minimum sun-spots, as those of Orissa in 1866, Behar in 1874, and Madras in 1876-'77. So, too, with cyclone?, as at Calcutta in 1864, when sixty thousand people were drowned in the storm-wave, and Backerganj in 1876, when one hundred thousand were drowned.

The experiment has been tried in Moscow, Russia, with success, of using carrier-pigeons to convey negatives of photographs taken in a balloon. The plates were packed in light-proof papers and tied to the feet of pigeons, who speedily took them in good order to the station on the ground.

Medical geology and climatology are mentioned by the "Lancet" as departments of the science to which more attention might be paid than is. Their usefulness is illustrated by the recently published studies of Mr. Alfred Haviland on the distribution of cancer in the British Islands.

The undue increase in all the learned professions in Germany is the subject of a pamphlet by Prof. W. Lexis, of Berlin. All the theological faculties, except the Roman Catholic, are increasing "to an alarming extent." The average number of medical students for the whole empire—2,675—was increased in 1888-1889 by 2,344. If a proportionate increase takes place in the number of licenses, the year's new doctors will rise from the average of 456 to more than 800. A prize offered by one of the Teachers' Associations for the best essay on the overcrowding of the learned professions and the means of remedying it, was given to two papers out of seventy-six sent in, which are to be published in a book.

An apparatus for providing a steady platform at sea for guns, search-lights, telescopes, etc., was described by Mr. Beauchamp Tower in the British Association.