Popular Science Monthly/Volume 36/February 1890/Notes


A bacterial disease of carnations was described by Prof. J. C. Arthur at the meeting of the American Association. It is revealed by the presence in the leaves of transparent dots that can be seen only by transmitted light. These spots increase and coalesce, and finally kill the tissues, when the leaves dry up and the plant gradually dies. The transparent spots are found, under the microscope, to be due to the enlargement of the cells with bacteria.

When the governor of a province in Madagascar wishes to issue a proclamation, he sends out, according to Mr. L. H. Kansome, messengers to all the villages under his control, bidding the principal men from each to assemble at an appointed time; this gathering is called a kabary. When all those summoned are present, the governor or his deputy reads aloud the proclamation, which then becomes law, the representatives of each village being responsible for its publicity. Sometimes justice is administered at a kabary of this kind, when the governor pronounces sentence, after hearing the evidence on both sides.

A method of sewage purification called the "Amines" process is being tried at Wimbledon (England) Sewage Farm. It is so named because it employs certain basic carbon compounds called amines, together with milk of lime. At present herring-brine is the cheapest substance which contains the amines. When the brine is introduced into freshly made milk of lime it is decomposed and a very soluble reagent is evolved, to which the inventor has given the name "aminol." This substance has a peculiar briny odor, and when introduced into sewage is said to extirpate all micro-organisms capable of causing putrefaction and disease.

A committee of the Royal Society has been appointed on the erection of a national memorial to Dr. Joule.

A specimen of the crested starling (Fregilupus varius), of Réunion Island, has recently been obtained for the British Museum. This bird, which has been probably exterminated, is rarer in collections than the great auk. Its coloring consists simply of black, white, and gray, but when alive it must have been a graceful bird. Some Creoles on the islands, who remembered the bird in their younger days, told the late Mr. Pollen that it was so tame and stupid that it could be knocked over with a stick. Only sixteen specimens are known to exist, and there is none in any American museum.

Concerning "the grass problem in Nebraska," Prof. Bessey, at the agricultural meeting of the American Association, mentioned places where buffalo grass is plentiful, and others where the soil is a moving sand, that gradually becomes covered with native American grasses. In older tracts, timothy has been introduced, Kentucky blue grass is grown successfully, and clovers are doing well. Prof. Beal, in a paper on "Wild Grasses under Cultivation," said that he had found in his researches many wild grasses that were valuable, and advised selections for experiment.

Prof. Fernow is quoted in the "Toronto Globe" as advancing, in an interview, the opinion, respecting the influence of forests on climate, that the lack of moisture on the plains of a large portion of the West was due not so much to deficient rainfall as to excessive evaporation, which in turn was due to the unchecked action of the wind. Were there wind-breaks in the form of patches of trees in that country, part of the land would be thereby reclaimed, and the reclamation of the rest would be rendered far more easy. The proposition of Major Powell, to remove the forests from the crown of the Rocky Mountains, as a means of improving the water conditions of the desert, he regarded as preposterous, and opposed to all our knowledge regarding the natural conditions of mountainous districts.

Dr. von Reuben Paschnitz having concluded that when earthquake-shocks occur simultaneously at different places, as recently happened in Japan and Germany, a connection may be presumed between them, Mr. William White has presented some very forcible arguments in "Nature" in support of an opposite view.

A statue of the French chemist, Nicolas Leblanc, has been erected at Saint-Denis, where he had a manufactory.

While the enormous output of coal during the last few years has not actually crippled British fuel resources, Prof. Hull anticipates a general rise in the value of coal in the near future, on account of the great depth at which the mines will have to be worked, and the increased cost of coal mining.

Both the Russian and English engineers are planting trees extensively as an aid to their operations in Central Asia. The Russians, under the direction of General Annenkoff, are especially active in this work. Orders have been given that no bushes are to be cut down within ten miles of the Transcaspian Railway, and that the existing forests of saxaul are to be preserved. Plantations of this, which is a kind of brier-wood, are to be made along the line, with camel-thorn and other native bushes that thrive well. It is expected that these will protect the line and provide shelter for weaker trees and bushes of foreign origin. The tree-planting of the last three years has not been a complete success, but experience has shown what varieties will and what will not thrive.

The London "Spectator" publishes letters showing that the idea that horse-hairs dropped into water in time beget life and become worms or "snakes" prevails extensively over Europe as well as America. It is based on the fact that worms resembling short horse-hairs exist, and are not uncommon in placid pools. A contributor to the "Spectator" accounts for the experiences of persons who claim to have "seen" the horse-hairs become living, by observing that after lying in the water for a long time a hair swells, assumes the form of a young eel, and, in a way common to many inanimate substances, acquires a slow, wriggling motion.