Popular Science Monthly/Volume 39/July 1891/Notes


The Hon. David A. Wells has been awarded a gold medal by the jury of the group of Social and Political Economics of the French Exhibition of 1889. This recognition of the great services he has rendered in that branch is all the more significant because it comes to him, a plain-spoken freetrader, from a leading protectionist nation.

One of the subjects touched upon by Dr. Fernow, in his Forestry Report for 1889, is osier culture. Of the many kinds of willows, but few are osier willows fit for basket-work. Some coarse baskets are made from our native willows. For better work, one of the European kinds—the red osier—is grown in this country, but the finest baskets are almost wholly imported. A large number of the hands employed in the salt-works around Syracuse in summer occupy their winters with basket-making. In 1887 Dr. Fernow obtained from an Austrian grower cuttings from some seventy varieties of osiers, which were distributed to the agricultural experiment stations. Some information has thus been gained in regard to the growth of these plants in our climate, but further trials are still needed.

The first rain-gauge, according to Mr. G. J. Symons, was designed by Sir Christopher Wren in 1663. Sir Christopher also designed the first recording gauge, but the instrument was not constructed till 1670. The earliest known records of rainfall were made at Paris, in 1668; Townley, Lancashire, in 1677; Zurich, in 1708; and Londonderry, in 1711.

In an address before the Medical Society of Pennsylvania, Dr. Thomas J. Mays presents evidence for doubting the view that consumption is contagious, and closes by saying that "never was an ignis fatuus pursued which left more promises broken and greater anticipations unfulfilled than the bacillus theory, so far as it stands related to the prevention and treatment of pulmonary consumption."

M. Moissan has detected free native fluorine in the fluor-spar of the variegated vein that occurs in the syenite of Guinchay, near Lyons. He and M. Henri Becquerel have ascertained that the mineral on being crushed exhales a pronounced odor, something like that of chlorine, but more like the odor of fluorine. The gas thus disengaged displaces the iodine in iodide of potassium, so that starch is turned blue on contact with it; and it retains this property after the stone has been heated to 200° C.—a temperature at which ozone, to which the action might otherwise be attributed, is destroyed. It does not precipitate silver from its nitrate, as chlorine does. With water it forms a liquor which corrodes glass and attacks silicon at ordinary temperatures. It is fluorine occluded in the mineral.

In reply to a suggestion that the Germans owe their success to a habit of drudgery acquired in school, the late R. H. Quick, author of Educational Reformers, writes to The Spectator that "without desire—or interest—the higher powers of the mind can not come into play; and the habit of painstaking will never be acquired by any amount of 'slaving' away against the grain. Drudgery that is self-imposed, or accepted from a sense of duty, or the desire of some foreseen results, is one thing; to be kept slaving away by your schoolmaster is quite another." He combats a statement of The Spectator that "you can habituate yourself to work ten hours a day as easily as eight," and says, "I have known the experiment of ten hours a day tried, and a very inferior quality of work has been the result."

Some curious instances of individuality—in density of population, wealth, mobility, birth, marriage, and death-rate—have been discovered by M. Dumont in the small towns of France. With one exception, the eleven rural communes in the outskirts of Caen are being depopulated. Great mobility in the rural population is generally associated with a low birth-rate, great fixity with a high one. Side by side in the same department, and even in the same canton, are very different birth-rates. In one canton the birth-rate was steadily low for many years, and then a remarkable rise took place. Equally curious wants of relation are betrayed between the marriage-rates and fecundity.

According to an official report, 1,009 fathers of families in the province of Quebec applied last year for a bounty of 100 acres of crown land which had been offered for every family of twelve living children, and 12,447 children were represented in the applications. The new land-owners are to be collected in groups, which may form parishes later on.

It is intended by the committee of the Royal Society on that enterprise to give the contemplated memorial of the late James Prescott Joule an international character, and to make it contributory to the encouragement of research in physical science. A portion of the money obtained will be applied to a medallion portrait, and the rest directly to this purpose, to be used in the manner that may appear to the council of the society most suitable.

A commission has been appointed by the French Society of Physiological Psychology to investigate the phenomenon in which one imagines he sees or hears an absent person.

In a paper on Shakespeare's References to Natural Phenomena, Miss E. Phipson, after noticing that the play of Richard III was especially rich in such allusions, pointed out that while most poets only found Nature useful for purposes of comparison, Shakespeare was fond of tracing a sympathy between Nature and the works of man. While Shakespeare was the richest in this sort of reference, Drayton came nearest to him, and Chapman followed close. Peele and Greene were essentially artificial in their allusions, and Marlowe almost entirely classical. Shakespeare seemed to love the sun, which to him represented the spirit of good in the world, and to hate the night.

The Rev. George Brown, Superintendent of Australasian Wesleyan Missions, describes the following curious ceremony which he experienced at Guisopa, on one of the islands of New Guinea: "I was standing among the crowd, when one of the principal men came quietly behind me, and, before I knew what he was up to, he blew a mouthful of chewed betel-nut, masooi bark, and spittle over me, which fell in fine spray over my head, neck, and shoulders. The governor and his party, as I found out afterward, had been treated in the same manner prior to my arrival. I suspected the reason for this proceeding, and so did not say anything to the man. It is done, I think, to guard against any evil spirits who might be accompanying us, and as a sign of amity, and that we were free to remain."

Certain low castes of the Vaishnava sect in the Kistna district, southern India, bury their dead, according to Mr. A. Rea, in kistvaens, as follows: "The body is laid horizontally in a shallow grave, the earth is heaped over it in a long, narrow mound, and these kistvaens are then placed over it. They do not approach a square as in the ancient examples, but bear a proportion to the size of the body. At the head and feet are small upright slabs about two feet broad; long slabs are placed upright at the sides, and another of sufficient length and breadth to cover these four upright stones is laid on the top. In some instances a separate stone is placed upright at the head of the grave."

Mr. J. R. Werner has, in his account of his visit to Stanley's rear guard, some pointed remarks on the healthfulness of Nature as compared with the unsanitary conditions induced by civilization. He says: "Nature, when left alone, does her own scavengering; but as civilization advances, the works of man often interfere with the natural drainage, without providing any substitute; and it is only when the population has been decimated by disease that men's eyes are opened. . . . The primitive savage living in his hut has no need of dust-bin or dust-cart. The ants from the large hill close by will soon make short work of any meat he may have left on the bones; the sexton-beetle will soon bury what remains out of sight; and the wind and rain sweep all feathers and dirt into the river. . . . As civilization advances, roads are made, the ant-hills get destroyed, and hawks and carrion birds disappear before the death-dealing shotgun. The natives congregate together in large towns, without any improvement in their sanitary arrangements, where the salutary effects of wind and rain are probably neutralized by the way in which the streets are built; and so things go on till disease is generated and men fall by hundreds."

A reward was offered by the French Government in 1882 for killing wolves. In the next year 1,316 wolves were destroyed; but the number has since decreased almost yearly as follows: 1,035 in 1884, 900 in 1885, 760 in 1886, 701 in 1887, 505 in 1888, and 515 in 1889. It is believed that very soon no specimens of the animal will be left in France except those which occasionally reach it from neighboring countries.