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Popular Science Monthly/Volume 36/January 1890/Notes

< Popular Science Monthly‎ | Volume 36‎ | January 1890


Attention has been called, in letters written by Mr. James R. Skilton to the Mayor of Brooklyn, to the dangers that are hidden in the pipes through which water-gas is conveyed into houses and in the meters. The pipes and the meters are often—it would hardly be too much to say, usually—leaky, and as the escaping gas, largely carbonic oxide, while extremely poisonous, is imperceptible to the senses, great harm may be and often is wrought before the family are aware that anything is wrong. It is hard, even when the nuisance is known to exist, to force timely attention from the companies furnishing the gas, and, when they do send men to make repairs, the work is, as a rule, done in the most negligent manner. Mr. Skilton has no doubt that "hundreds of people are sacrificed every year to the Moloch of the gas-meter."

In the "Monthly" for July there is a note in which Asamayama is spoken of as the highest active volcano in Japan. This is popularly correct, but is not scientifically exact. Asamayama is 8,284 feet high (Rein). The last fatal eruption took place in 1783, and the last emission of ashes occurred in 1870, while the evidences of volcanic eruption are much more conspicuous than they are around Fujiyama, the height of which is 12,287 feet (ibid.), and which has been quiet—i. e., not violently active—since 1707. But when one sees the "hot" place on the side of Fuji, it becomes very apparent that the activity of Asama is very little greater than that of her peerless sister. The heat at one place on Fuji is so great as to be perceptible to the hand. Snow will not lie; and it is said that there is an escape of steam.

Borings of rock-salt at Ellsworth and Kingman, Kansas, were described by Mr. Robert Hay at the meeting of the American Association. The veins were discovered in April and August, 1888. One hundred and fifty-five barrels of salt were manufactured in Kansas in 1888, and it is estimated that the output of 1889 will not be less than three times as large.

Respecting "artists' colors," Dr. A. P. Laurie said, in the British Association, that one point that came out in the course of his inquiries about the colors used by the old masters was the fact that they largely employed vegetable pigments, many of which were not used by modern painters. His researches into the ordinary methods of manufacturing colors showed that great variations prevailed in different makes of the same color, and the matter was an important one to look after. One of the most valuable oils used by the old masters was that of the walnut.

The work of Columbus is to be commemorated in Italy according to a scheme adopted by a Royal Commission, which includes the publication of a "Raccolta Colombiana" in six volumes, devoted to (1) the writings of Columbus; (2) Columbus and his family; (3) the discovery of America; (4) navigation and cartography of the discovery; (5) monographs (Italian precursors and continuers of the work of Columbus); (6) bibliography. This work will apparently be the outcome of a large amount of diligent research.

The establishment of a biological laboratory for the observation and study of freshwater Algæ was suggested by Mr. William R. Dudley, in a paper read at the meeting of the American Association.

Prof. J. W. Mallet has found, in experiments upon alum baking-powders, that most of the preparations of that class in the market are made with alum, the acid phosphate of calcium, bicarbonate of sodium, and starch. Among the resultants of the chemical changes by baking are aluminum hydroxide and phosphate. These substances, in doses not very greatly exceeding such quantities as may be derived from bread as commonly used, produce an inhibitory effect upon gastric digestion. This effect is probably due to precipitation in insoluble form of the organic substance constituting the peptic ferment and of some of the organic matter of food. Hence it is concluded that "not only alum itself, but the residues which its use in baking powder leaves in bread, can not be viewed as harmless, but must be ranked as objectionable."

According to a calculation furnished us by Prof. William Harkness, of the Naval Observatory, "a body weighing one pound avoirdupois on a spring balance at the earth's equator would weigh only 0·16584 of a pound, or 2·6534 ounces, upon the same spring balance, at the moon's equator. In the statements on this subject appearing in books the centrifugal force is neglected. It amounts to 24 grains in an avoirdupois pound of 7,000 grains.

According to a paper by Prof. Wiley, in the Society for promoting Agriculture, the butter of cows fed on cotton-seed is marked by the presence of a small supply of volatile acid and a high melting-point. The power possessed by cotton-seed oil of acting on silver, passes through the animal, and appears in the butter made from its milk—a fact which shows that substances can be carried directly from the food to the butter. A new standard of analysis will have to be adapted to the butters of cows fed on cotton-seed oil, for the low amount of volatile acid contained in them would cause them to be condemned as spurious.

The relative values as foods of the grains named below are given by Prof. Wiley as, first, wheat; second, sorghum; third, maize; fourth, unhulled oats. Sorghum-seed furnishes a flour like buckwheat, that makes passable bread, and is coming into considerable use.

The workmen in the Venetian glass factories at Murano, according to Dr. Salviati, fall victims in time to failure of eye-sight and ultimate blindness, caused by the excessive heat and intense glare of the furnaces. As they live simply and receive high wages, they are usually able to save enough before the disability comes upon them to support them for the remainder of their lives.

Prof. Renzi, of Naples, has reported cures of tetanus by securing absolute rest for the patient—that is, rest for the senses as well as for the body. The patient's ears are closed with wax, his room is dark, and the floor is heavily carpeted. His nurse attends him with a shaded lantern; he is served food that requires no mastication; and sedatives are given to relieve pain. It is not pretended that this treatment shortens the period of the disease, but that it lessens the force of the paroxysms, which eventually cease.

Experiments by Dr. Pinel show that hypnotic patients will obey the directions conveyed to them mechanically by the phonograph as readily as they will obey living words. Hence, he argues, the theory of animal magnetism—that is, of a magnetic current passing from operator to subject—is baseless; and the real cause of the phenomena of hypnotism is a disordered mental state.

A. W. Buckland has endeavored to restore to the moon the credit that has been snatched from it of having influence over the weather and the welfare of men. Some of the superstitions relative to the moon may be traced to the old moon-worship. For others, Mr. Buckland assumes, ground may be found in fact. Meteorologists deny any influence of the moon upon weather; but the moon raises the tides of the ocean, and it also creates tides in the air, which have received no attention from science. We are ignorant of the forces that may reside in the air-tides and of the phenomena that may be dependent upon them.

Mr. Bosworth Smith, in a report on the Kolar gold-field, in southern India, records some finds of old mining implements, old timbering, fragments of bones, an old oil-lamp, and broken pieces of earthenware, including a crucible, the remains of ancient mining operations. He expresses astonishment at the fact that the old miners were able to reach depths of two hundred or three hundred feet through hard rock, with the simple appliances at their command.

Buffaloes are said to be becoming very abundant and increasing rapidly in northern Australia, where they were introduced about 1829. They are described as being massive and heavy, "with splendid horns," and affording fine sport for bold hunters.

In the discussion in the British Association of the report of the Committee on Science Teaching in the Elementary Schools (which exhibited a continued decline), Sir Benjamin Browne said that the school boards would be amazed at the high standard of the qualifications of the lads who came to his firm to be apprenticed engineers. Recently a boy thirteen years of age came to him, and he failed to puzzle him with problems from Euclid. His opinion was, that whatever could be done voluntarily was better than what could be done by the Government.

Dr. D. G. Brinton, of Philadelphia, announces as in press a collection of sacred songs of the ancient Mexicans, entitled "Rig Veda Americana," with a gloss in Nahuatl, paraphrase, notes, and vocabulary. The texts are derived from two Nahuatl manuscripts, one at Madrid and the other at Florence, both of which have been personally collated by the editor. This volume will form number eight of the "Library of Aboriginal American Literature."

An instrument called the telegraphone has been patented, which enables the sender to record his message on a cylinder attached to the receiving instrument, in the absence of any one to hear it, and even to repeat the message back to himself for correction.

Mr. De Cort Smith, at the American Association, exhibited specimens of the Shamanic masks and rattles of the Onondaga Indians, and exemplified their use. The masks are symbolical of supernatural evil beings, and their aid is invoked to drive away witches. The spirits are believed to cause or remove illness. They are propitiated with feasts and sacrifices of tobacco.