Popular Science Monthly/Volume 39/August 1891/Notes


The Royal Society of Canada met in Montreal, May 27th to June 1st, Principal Grant, of Queen's College, Kingston, presiding. The society was founded by Lord Lome in 1881, on the lines of the Royal Society of England, combining, however, literary with its scientific sections. Sixty-three papers were read, several of them of high interest. Reports were presented by a score of societies scattered throughout the Dominion, each at work on some branch of natural science, historical research, or literary production. Several delegates from the United States were cordially welcomed; General F. A. Walker, Vice President of the National Academy of Sciences, representing that body, and Major J. W. Powell, Director of the United States Geological Survey, the learned societies at the national capital.

A new arctic expedition has been fitted out at this port, and sailed hence on the 6th of June. It is called the Peary Expedition, from Lieutenant Peary, its commander, and its object is the determination of the northern limit of Greenland, which its leader hopes to reach about the middle of July, 1892.

The third meeting of the Australasian Association was held in Christchurch, New Zealand, beginning January 15th. Sir James Hector presided. The American Association was represented by Prof. Goodale, of Harvard University, but no representative of the British Association was present. Recommendations were adopted that the sea between Australia and New Zealand be named the Tasman Sea; asking the appointment of a committee by the British and American Associations to define terms of general importance in biology; and that the Little Barrier Island, north of New Zealand, and Resolution Island, on Dusky Sound, be set apart as reserves, where the native fauna and flora of New Zealand may be preserved from destruction. The next meeting of the Association will be held at Hobart, Tasmania, with Sir Robert Hamilton as president.

Discrepancies in the names or in the spelling of them occurring in the surveys of the different departments of the national administration, and the absence of any authority on the subject, have prompted the organization of the United States Board of Geographic Names. Questions which are brought before this board are submitted to its executive committee, which examines the matter, consults authorities, and uses whatever assistance may be available. It then reports to the board, which decides the matter by vote. The first bulletin of the board relates to names in Alaska. The co-operation of all geographers, historians, and other scholars interested in geographical nomenclature is invited in its work.

While local farmers and butchers in the United States are pretending to adduce sanitary reasons for discouraging the use of meat that comes in refrigerating apparatus from a distance, the Lancet uses them in support of the transportation of all meat to the market in that way instead of bringing the cattle alive. It assumes that it would be much fairer to consumers to interdict the importation of living animals as food, and to insist upon receiving carcasses only. This would certainly lead to the abolition of the hardships and sufferings the poor brutes now undergo, would insure better meat, and would avert the introduction of contagious diseases which have already impoverished British agriculture, and which require the maintenance of an expensive system of inspection at ports all round the coast of the country. "The middle-man might perhaps complain; but as he is, so far as we can see, the only one who profits from this stupid and cruel business, we need not consider him in the matter."

Mr. Stanley, in his Darkest Africa, gives Emin Pasha as authority for the statement that the chimpanzees, which visit the plantations of Mswa station at night to steal the fruit, use torches to light the way. "Had I not witnessed this extraordinary spectacle personally," said Emin, "I should never have credited that any of the simians understood the art of making fire. One of these same chimpanzees stole a native drum from the station, and went away pounding merrily on it. They evidently delight in that drum, for I have frequently heard them rattling away at it in the silence of the night."

An International Colonial Exhibition is projected to be held next year in Paris. A peculiar feature will be the geographical rather than political character of the grouping of the sections. Thus, all the West will form one section, India another, and so on. Specimens of all the native populatious are to be brought over and housed as at their homes—as is habitually done at the Jardin d'Acclimatation; and colonial and ethnographical congresses are to be held.

The objection to cremation that it facilitates poisoning by diminishing the probabilities of detection, was dealt with by M. Frédéric Passy, at a recent meeting of the French Cremation Society. The speaker urged that vegetable poisons vanish rapidly, and, if mineral poisons are used, most of them can be detected in the ashes. Moreover, there are poisons the presence of which in a human body does not prove that a crime has been committed; and, if cremation is generally adopted, greater care will be taken to determine the precise causes of death.

Lake Urumiah, in Persia, 4,100 feet above the sea, is, according to British Consul-General Stewart at Tabriz, the saltest body of water on the earth, being salter than even the Dead Sea. It is eighty-seven miles long and twenty-four miles broad, and contains nearly twenty-two per cent of salt. Its northern coasts are incrusted with a border of salt glistening white in the sun. It is said that no living thing can survive in it, but a small species of jelly-fish manages to maintain an existence in its waters.

According to Mr. Joseph Jibrail, who has been a teacher among them, the most curious beliefs of the Druses are those connected with China, which they regard as a holy land, where they will be reborn when they die. Eclipses are supposed to be caused by a dragon eating a piece of the sun or moon. Some of their beliefs recall those of the early Gnostic and Manichæan sects in Syria.

A curious example of the natural "inarching" of trees exists in Lawrence County, Ill. The trunks of two elm trees, standing about twenty feet apart, have met at about the same distance above the ground, where they blend into a symmetrical trunk of large dimensions. The tree is nearly a hundred feet high, and well developed; and wagons can easily be driven through the great triangle which forms their base.

Mr. Merrifield, a British officer in Tenasserim, says that the belief that the teeth of the Malays and Siamese are colored by chewing betel mixed with lime is an error. The black color is produced by a special process employed for the purpose, for no respectable Siamese would like to have white dogs' teeth like Chinese, Indians, and Europeans. Cocoanut kernel is carefully charred, and then worked to a stiff paste with cocoanut oil. When carefully and regularly worked over the teeth, this produces the black varnish which is so much admired. Among some Malay tribes it is considered the proper thing not only to blacken the teeth, but to file them down to points like sharks' teeth.

The success which has attended the introduction from Australia of the Vedalia cardinalis as a remedy for the Iceria, or fluted orange-scale, is represented by Prof. C. V. Riley as having been phenomenal. It has fixed the attention of entomologists and of fruit-growers and farmers to the method of dealing with injurious insects by multiplying their enemies; and there is no question but that the cases in which the experiment may be more or less successfully repeated will be numerous. Fears have been expressed lest, after sweeping off the Iceria the Vedalia will perish for want of food, and the Iceria will increase again; but Prof. Riley thinks that this danger will work its own cure by the laws of balances. If the Iceria increase, the Vedalia will have more food, and will increase again, and so the work will go on, as according to nature.

Water extinguishes fire, not, as the common talk is, by virtue of any incompatibility between the two elements, but partly by the effect of the lowering of the temperature caused by its evaporation, and partly by acting as a mechanical extinguisher. Enveloping the parts of the body upon which it is thrown, it separates the combustible matter from the atmosphere, and cuts off the supply of oxygen—the life of the fire.

M. Berthelot has been investigating the cause of that peculiar and far from unpleasant odor which arises when vegetable soil is moistened. It proves to be produced by a camphor-like substance existing in extremely minute proportions—only a few millionths—exact analysis of which has not been practicable, on account of the small quantity obtainable. The author did not find the alcohol in the soil that M. Muntz claims to have detected there, and regards that found by M. Muntz as only an exceptional product of the spontaneous, fermentation of vegetable débris. The new odoriferous body has a similar action with alcohol in producing iodoform.

Fromentine is the name of a new food substance which Dr. Dujardin Beaumetz prepares by extraction from the embryos of grain seeds. On subjecting the mass obtained by collecting the embryos to a slight cooking, the proportion of albuminoid and nitrogenous substances is augmented. The water is evaporated, and the fat is separated by pressure or solution, when as much as fifty per cent of albuminoid matters and twenty-seven per cent of ternary substances are obtained. The new product contains twice as large a proportion of nitrogen as meat.