Popular Science Monthly/Volume 37/May 1890/Notes


Prof. D. S. Martin's Geological Map of New York City and its Environs is the only map giving in detail the geology of the entire region (fifty-five by sixty-eight miles) surrounding the metropolis; it is compiled with great care from separate sources, some of which are not easily accessible, and some are unpublished; it exhibits the relations of many geological systems and series east of the Alleghanies; and shows striking features connected with the Glacial age, the terminal moraine, and the ancient (now submerged) channel of the Hudson River. A pamphlet of explanations accompanies every copy. A few copies of the second edition of the map still reman for disposal at ten dollars each. No more are likely to be published. Address Prof. Martin, at Rutgers Female College, West Fifty-fifth Street, New York.

Mr. C. R. Orcutt remarks, in the West American Scientist, on the prominence of the great variety in rock-lichens in producing a pleasing effect in the scenery of Lower California. Red, yellow, gray, and white are the prevailing colors, and the whole side of a cliff is often covered by lichens of the same tint. Quartz, however, is not a favorite rock with the lichens, and consequently is seldom concealed. The lichens frequently imitate, in coloring, the natural hue of the rocks on which they are found.

A book by Mr. George F. Kunz, the distinguished mineralogical expert of the house of Tiffany & Co., on the Gems and Precious Stones of North America, is announced for publication by the Scientific Publishing Company, New York. It will be a popular description of the occurrence, value, history, and archæology of precious stones in America, and of the collections in which they exist, with a chapter on pearls. The several species and varieties are described systematically. The work will be sold at ten dollars a copy.

Mr. John Griffitt, of Smyrna, has reported favorably on the results of a season's experiments in rearing silk-worms on mulberry-trees, under muslin screens, in the open air, using the regenerated Bournabat graine. They show that the regeneration was thorough and complete, enabling the worms to endure the low temperature of 45° F., with storm and wet for ten consecutive days. The proportion of satiné or satin-like cocoons was extraordinary—fifty to two hundred and ninety-four in all. A somewhat similar trial made in India some years ago was successful experimentally but not financially. In this case the worms, under calico screens, ate along the hedge at their will, new relays taking the place of the old ones as the parts of the hedge over which they had eaten recovered their leaves.

River water was substituted for spring water in one of the quarters of Paris several times last summer. In every instance, according to the "Semaine Médicale," an increase of typhoid fever was observed. The quantity of spring water brought to Paris being insufficient for the demand, the Council of Public Hygiene and Health has determined to expedite the labors for the new supply from springs recently bought by the city, and to insist that the use of the present spring waters be limited to food purposes.

Henry Holt & Co. will publish soon, Introduction to Systematic Botany. By Charles E. Bessey, professor in the University of Nebraska, and author of Bessey's Botanies in the American Science Series.

M. de Malarce recently informed the French Academy of Sciences that the use of the metric system had in 1887 become compulsory in countries having an aggregate population of 302,000,000, being an increase of 53,000,000 persons obliged to use it in ten years; use was optional in countries having nearly 97,000,000 inhabitants; and was legally admitted and partially applied in countries having an aggregate population of 395,000,000. The systems of Japan, China, and Mexico are decimal but not metric. Hence the metric system is legally recognized by 794,000,000 people and decimal systems by about 474,000,000 others.

By the Hungarian trade law of 1884, every commune in which there are fifty or more apprentices must provide for their education, and afford special courses of instruction. The apprentice schools in Buda-Pesth contain a preparatory class, provide a course of three years, and are chiefly designed to educate apprentices for the higher trade schools. Each district of the town must have at least one apprentice school. No class is to have more than fifty or at most sixty pupils. Deserving pupils are promoted at the end of each year. In the other towns and counties of the kingdom there are 229 apprentice schools, with 1,237 teachers and 38,081 pupils.

The Swedish Oyster-culture Society is trying to acclimatize American oysters from Connecticut on the coast of the province of Bahus. The young oysters seem to thrive well.

A scheme of the French Government to encourage the intermarriage of life-convicts in New Caledonia with life-convicts imported from the prisons at home is pronounced mischievous by the "Lancet." The purpose is to build up family relations in the interest of morality; but British experience is to the effect that such alliances lead to the multiplication of criminals, and that the real check to crime lies in breaking up and isolating the criminal class. Testimony gleaned by M. Louis Barron from the journals of New Caledonia points in the same direction, and forms an instructive commentary on the law of heredity as deduced by Darwin.

The French fishermen are troubled by the depredations of porpoises, for which they have not succeeded in finding a remedy. An attempt was made to catch them in seine nets, but they jumped out of the snares. They were scared away by guns and torpedoes, but the fish were frightened and disappeared with them. They are too numerous to be shot one by one in an effective manner. The only thing to be done seems to be for the fishermen to unite and drive them away in crowds; but this will have to be often repeated. Insurance and payment of damages by the Government are the last measures of relief suggested; but they, too, are expensive to somebody.

Vanilla is produced from a species of orchid that attaches itself to walls, trees, and other suitable objects. The plant has a long, fleshy stem, and the leaves are alternate, oval, and lanceolate. The flower is of a greenish-white color, and forms axillary spikes. The fruit is a pod, measuring when full grown some ten or twelve inches in length and about half an inch in diameter. The quality of the pod can be determined by the presence or non-presence of a crystalline efflorescence called givre, and by its dark chocolate-brown color. The fragrant givre is vanillin, C8H8O3. The pods also contain vanillic acid, oily matter, soft resin, sugar, gum, and oxalate of lime.

A striking example of degeneration in growth is exhibited by the scale that attacks greenhouse and other plants. According to Mr. Bernard Thomas, in "Science Gossip," it is a degenerated female which lives upon the sap of the plant, continuing to increase in size and reproduce its young. These may be found underneath it as minute red bodies, just visible to the naked eye, and at this time of their life comparatively active creatures; but they soon settle down and begin to degenerate. Their eyes become indistinct, and finally, with their antenna; and legs, shrivel away, the body loses its thickness, and they appear as if without life.

Totems are defined by Mr. J. G. Fraser as "a class of material objects which a savage regards with superstitious respect, believing that there exists between him and every member of the class an intimate and altogether special relation." They are tribal emblems, family symbols, signals of nationality, expressions of religion, bonds of union, and regulators of marriage-laws and of the social institutions. The system of totems exists among most primitive peoples, and in similar forms with the North American Indians, Australians, South Africans, Arabs, hill tribes of India, Polynesians, and many other peoples. Among a tribe in Colombia, where descent is in the female line, it goes so far that if a man happens to cut himself with his own knife, to fall off from his own horse, or to hurt himself in any way, his mother's clan demand blood-money from him for injuring one of their totems.