Popular Science Monthly/Volume 39/October 1891/Notes


The New Jersey Weather Service, organized in December, 1887, has already accumulated many valuable meteorological data. It has, at the request of the Superintendent of the Eleventh Census, prepared and forwarded a table showing the mean annual temperature and the mean annual rainfall, determined from observations made at fifty-eight stations, together with the length of each series from which the mean was determined; it has furnished the State Board of Health complete annual reports of twelve stations; and has distributed weather indications, cold-wave and frost warnings, and, during the growing season, weather-crop bulletins. As established and now in operation, it is an organization of voluntary observers, co-operating with the United States Weather Service, the State Agricultural Society, and the State Experiment Station; the national service detailing an experienced observer who acts as director and supervises the work carried on in an office furnished by the State Experiment Station.

In a paper on the Occurrence of Tin in Canned Goods, read in the American Chemical Society, Prof. H. A. Weber related a case of poisoning from eating pumpkin-pie made from canned pumpkin, in the investigation of which he had found as much as seven maximum or fifty or more minimum doses of tin salts in a pound of canned pumpkin. He had also found large traces of tin in canned fruits and tomatoes. The paper was very generally discussed, and it was agreed that the subject ought to be investigated. There is considerable difference of opinion among chemists concerning the extent and even the reality of danger from this source.

Prof. Springer informed the American Association that he has discovered a latent quality in aluminum which adapts it in a remarkable degree to use in the construction of sounding-boards. He has found that it differs from all other metals, so far as he is aware, in being free from the comparatively continuous and uniform higher partial tones that give the tone-color called metallic; and that it possesses an elasticity capable of sympathetic vibration uniform through a wide range of tone-pitch, that renders it in that respect superior to wood. The thickness of the sheet may be so reduced as to obtain the utmost amplitude of tone vibration without injury to the quality of the tone; and in this it is superior to both wood and other metals.

The photochronograph is an instrument intended to remove the personal equation in transit observations (astronomical) by means of photography. It was devised by Prof. Bigelow, of Woodstock College, and gave very satisfactory results as a first experiment with the star Alpha Aquiæ. The first apparatus was soon superseded by a second, and the second by a third, each being improved as the experiments suggested. An account of the instrument and its workings is given in a special publication of Georgetown College Observatory.

The Association of Agricultural Colleges and Experiment Stations adopted a resolution, at its recent meeting in Washington, asking the Secretary of Agriculture, in the interest of forest preservation, to secure the passage of laws exempting from sale or pre-emption Government forest lands now unsold, and to cause them to be surveyed, reported upon, and protected. It also suggested that the Weather Bureau organize and, co-operating with the agricultural colleges and stations, assist in maintaining a study of climatology in its relations to farming; and that the sphere of this work should be enlarged to include the physics, conditions, and changes of agricultural soils.

A cavern was discovered lately on the slope of the mountain at Baden which had evidently been used in the middle ages and long previously. Remains of the foundations of a vestibule were found at the entrance. In a niche hewn out of the rock was an altar with the sacrificial stone table. In front of the cavern was a regularly constructed building, fully ten feet below the surface of the ground above, designed probably to conceal the cavern behind, which may have been employed as a temple to Mithra. There were two stalls for horses, fragments of utensils, knives, flint arrow-heads, and carved bones, mixed up with Roman coins, lamps, and stamped tiles.

A course of lectures on the work of the Rothamstead Agricultural Station was delivered at Washington by Mr. R. Warrington, Vice-President of the Chemical Society of England, during the recent meeting of the Association of American Agricultural Colleges. At the conclusion of his lectures the speaker congratulated our country on having more than fifty experiment stations, each of them endowed with an income equal to or surpassing that possessed by Rothamstead; but advising his hearers that if at the end of fifty years each of our stations is to show a record of work done equal to or surpassing that accomplished by the old station in England, it will only be by each one pursuing its work in the same spirit of accuracy, thoroughness, and patience that has characterized the Rothamstead experiment.

The minor planets 296, 297, 298, 300, 302, and 303, have been named respectively Phaetusa, Cecilia, Baptistina, Geraldina, Clarissa, and Josephina.

The address of Vice-President J. J. Stephenson before the Geological and Geographical Section of the American Association was on the relations of the Chemung and Catskill formations on the eastern side of the Appalachian basin. The speaker found that the deposits were not made in a closed sea, but that the influx of great rivers with their load of débris made conditions of the shallow basin such that life could not exist; and that in the present state of our knowledge we are not justified in including the Chemung period in the Carboniferous age.

The British consul at Hankow, China, writes that the varnish exported from that city is the gum of the Rhus vernifera, or varnish-bearing sumach. It has to be collected and strained in the dark, as light spoils the gum and causes it to cake with all the dirt in it. And it can not be strained in wet weather, because moisture causes it to solidify; but then it should only be used in wet weather, as, if the atmosphere is dry when it is rubbed on, it will always be sticky. As used by the Chinese, the varnish takes about a month to dry, and during the time it is drying it is poisonous to the eyes.

In his vice-presidential address at the American Association on the Evolution of Algebra, Prof. E. W. Hyde, in the Mathematical Section, made a concise presentation of the history of algebra from before the Christian era to the present time, and even projected the future of the science. After tracing it through the rhetorical stage of the ancients, in which the reasoning was done with words, and the syncopated stage of the middle ages and the revival of learning, when abbreviations were introduced and used instead of words, the author found it in the symbolical stage of the present, or that of arbitrary signs; and "finally, in the present century, we have noted the approach of multiple algebra from different and independent sources, whose value is the glorious future."

In a series of papers on The Unitary Science, the Science of the Future, Mr. Henry R. Rogers, of Dunkirk, N. Y., elucidates as the basis of the unitary philosophy the four cardinal principles of the unity or identity of all so-called forces; the conservation of force; the substantial character of force; and the identity of constitution of all celestial force.

The remains of about a hundred elephants have been found at Mont-Dall, in Brittany, where they arc gathered on a surface of about nineteen hundred square metres. All the bones are broken, and it is thought that the animals must have been eaten by prehistoric men.

Two of the papers read at Washington before the Society for the Promotion of Agriculture are suggestive as to the nature of the agricultural character of soils. Prof. E. W. Ililgard held that maps showing simply the chemical constituents are of little value, and that a map truly to represent the agricultural quality of a soil should take into consideration geology, botany, climatic conditions, meteorology, and chemistry. Prof. Whitney, discussing the structure of soils and the circulation of soil moisture, showed that as much or more depends upon the physical condition of the soil as on the chemical composition. Where land is worn out, it is because a physical change has taken place, not because of any chemical exhaustion, for the chemicals are always there in abundance.

In the Biological Section of the American Association, Vice-President Coulter spoke of the future of systematic botany. Some one has said that the highest reach of the human mind is a natural system of classification. This simply means, he raid, that when the results of all departments of botanical work are well in hand, then the systematists will be in a position to put on a sure foundation the structure they have always been planning. The real systematic botany, therefore, is to sum up and utilize the results of all other departments, and its work is well-nigh all in the future. It is bound to be the Isst expression of human thought with reference to plant-life, just as it wase the first.