Popular Science Monthly/Volume 36/November 1889/Notes


According to Mr. F. F. Payne's paper in the Canadian Institute, the Eskimos of Hudson Strait have a right to be called keen observers of nature. The author found them of great assistance while he was making his collections of birds, insects, and plants. "If an insect was shown them," he says, "they could usually take me where more of the same species might be found. On the approach of summer, they watched with more interest its signs, and often would bring to me insects which they believed were the first of the season."

The use of borax for the preservation of milk, which has become quite common when the milk has to be carried for a considerable distance, has suggested the question whether we may not have in this a means of promoting immunity against scarlet fever. Recent investigations have shown that this disease is often carried by milk, and in all probability frequently starts from cows. It has been remarked by Prof. W. Mattieu Williams that in all the cases where an outbreak of scarlet fever has been traced to milk, the dairy has been a local one that is, a dairy that has supplied milk to families in its own immediate neighborhood, or so near as to render the use of borax unnecessary.

Fish-meat according to Prof. Atwater's researches, does not contain more phosphorus than ordinary butcher's meat. The benefit which brain-workers are said to derive from a diet of fish should therefore be ascribed, not to the phosphorus, but to the greater digestibility of the fish. The excess of phosphorus in the urine of such persons need not be regarded as a resultant of brain-work, but as an indication of the disordered digestion to which sedentary persons are liable. The recent researches of Zuelzer and others seem to indicate that excessive elimination of phosphorus by the urine is associated with nervous depression rather than with nerve activity.

Several instances of apparent counting are mentioned by Sir John Lubbock, in his "Senses of Animals," as exhibited by insects. The several species of Eumenes, for instance, supply their young with definite numbers of victims; and, while the males are smaller than the females, and require less food, the insect seems to know whether the egg will produce a male or a female grub, and apportions the quantity of food accordingly, giving five victims to the male and ten to the female. It is suggested by Mr. G. A. Freeman that the matter is one of physiological interval. The male eggs follow one another in less time than the female, giving time to store a smaller number of caterpillars before the next egg has to be provided for.

Powdered milk is prepared by reducing fresh milk, after having removed a portion of the cream, in a vacuum-pan, to the consistency of ordinary condensed milk. Granulated white sugar is next added, to render the mass sufficiently friable, and the temperature is lowered some twenty or thirty degrees. The contents are then removed from the vacuum-pan, and distributed in lumps, or reduced to a powder. It is claimed that powdered milk possesses excellent keeping qualities, even in moist air at high temperatures.

Dr. B. W. Richardson sounds the praises of a vegetarian diet when he assumes, in his lecture on "Ideal Foods," that what is commonly called happiness—lightness of heart, rapidity of thought, and all else that springs from a happy life is connected with what we take as food. That happiness is best sustained by those foods which minister quickest and with least trouble to the digestion, and therefore to the wants of the body. Sir James Hannen had been struck, when he changed from animal food to a nearly vegetarian system, by the state of happiness that he experienced, compared with what he had felt before. The speaker had also felt this in his own life, and most when he was most nearly a vegetarian.

Although it was written in French and translated from that language into English, Prof. Guyot's "Earth and Man" has only recently been published in French for the first time.

The security of the Davy safety lamp has been partly improved, while a remedy has been found for the obscurity produced by the use of Marsant's safety bonnet, by the application of Mr. Andrew Howat's "deflector." The leading feature of this device lies in a flanged ring which is to be fitted tightly between the outer metal shield or bonnet and the gauze cylinder, by means of which all the air admitted for combustion is carried under or near the bottom of the bonnet and passed through the gauze into the burner part of the lamp. A brilliant light is thus obtained. This lamp has been passed through some severe trials, and has always been extinguished at once when exposed in a current of explosive mixture. Mr. Thomas Ward assigns the causes of subsidences which have taken place at Northwich and its neighborhood, Cheshire, England, to the pumping of brine for the manufacture of salt. The first subsidence was noticed about 1770. The sinking has since gone on very rapidly, and much destruction of property has resulted. Large lakes or "flashes," one of more than one hundred acres in area, and of all depths down to forty-five feet, have been and are being formed.

In Central Africa, according to Dr. Junker, an almost perpetual state of warfare prevails. The abduction of a woman is often sufficient to engender strife; and, consequently, the abodes of the Central African tribes and their political conditions are subject to continual and incessant changes. If a conquered tribe will not surrender its territory, it falls into a condition of bondage to the victorious race. It can not be said that one district is wholly occupied by one race, but the population is in every case very mixed and composed of the most diverse elements.

The Akkas are described by Dr. Junker as the only voluntary nomads of the Central African regions. They construct their little cone-shaped grass huts in the shelter of the trees of the woods, and live in a district as long as the chase lasts. They prefer to abide among some tribes and avoid others. The rulers welcome them, and they, being practiced archers and cunning warriors, are employed in the invasions of the territories of neighboring tribes. They possess no industry, and buy even their arrow-heads in exchange for meat, the produce of the chase. They are timid and suspicious, and Dr. Junker only once saw about one hundred and fifty of them together. They can not properly be described as dwarfs, but only as relatively very small men.

M. Jean Luvini supposes that the electrical manifestations of the atmosphere are produced by the friction of particles of water and ice, and such other substances as may be lifted to the upper regions and dispersed through several miles of thickness. The differences in the character of the manifestations are dependent upon differences in intensity. Auroral lights are due to discharges in rarefied air.

A sailing vessel of new construction has undergone a successful trial at Southampton, England. Its peculiar feature is the shape of the submerged part, which is that of a W, with the angles well rounded off. The two keels are of brass, and hollow, so that the water flows through them from end to end. The vessel possesses remarkable buoyancy.

The Medico-Chirurgical Society of Edinburgh, discussing recently the subject of further legislation for habitual drunkards, were agreed that past legislation in the matter had been a complete failure. The present law presupposes the consent of the patient to measures for putting alcohol out of his reach for a year; the proposed new law, which the society approved, will do away with this condition. Sir D. Maclagan regarded the so-called "liberty of the subject" in such a matter as this as "an intense humbug. Dr. Batty Tukc insisted on a distinction between those whose drunkenness was a pure vice and those with whom it was an insanity; to which Dr. Yellowlees objected that it was hard to "house respectable lunatics with the class of habitual drunkards."

In a paper on "Clothing," Mr. Francis Vacher insists, as a primary consideration, on the importance of wearing clean, porous, and warm woolen clothing; condemns aniline and other injurious dyes; exposes the evils of scanty clothing, unequal pressure, heavy superfluous ornaments, ill-adjusted corsets, and high-heeled boots; discriminates between different styles of children's clothing; and pronounces the morning suit and under-wear of men nearly perfect.

As the conditions are set forth in Mr. J. B. Bailey's work on "Modern Methuselahs," moderation in eating, drinking, and living are conducive to long life. Persons in a comfortable position and of average intelligence enjoy better prospects for a long future than those at either extreme. "Earnest and ungrudging exercise of the mental powers appears to be no bar to old age, and at times to favor it; but, as a rule, while a moderate use of the faculties tends to health and endurance, excessive use of them has often, directly or indirectly, had a reverse effect."

For the removal of tattoo-marks from the skin, M. Variot recommends, in the "Revue Scientifique," covering with concentrated solution of tannin and retattooing in the part to be cleared; then rub with a nitrate of silver crayon, when the parts will turn black; sprinkle tannin-powder on the surface several times a day. A dark crust will form, which loses color in three or four days, and in a fortnight or so comes away, leaving a reddish scar free of tattoo-marks, which in a few months becomes little noticeable.

The question whether the cuckoo ever hatches its own eggs is still a subject of active discussion. Herr Adolf Midler has lately described a case which he himself claims to have observed. Herr Adolf Walter, who has not observed a case, thinks Dr. Midler is mistaken. An incident related by Dr. Erasmus Darwin is cited in evidence for the affirmative; but, as Dr. Darwin and his authority are beyond the reach of cross-examination, the adherents of the negative refuse to receive it.