Popular Science Monthly/Volume 40/November 1891/Notes


A remarkable meteor, found in Arizona, was described by Prof. A. E. Foote, in the Geological Section of the American Association. It was extraordinarily hard, so that a number of chisels were destroyed in cutting it, and the emery wheel used in polishing it was ruined. Cavities were reached in cutting it, which were found to contain diamonds, small and black, and of little commercial value, but of the greatest mineralogical interest. Granules of amorphous carbon were found within the cavity, in which a minute white diamond was revealed by treatment with acid. The general mass of the stone contained three per cent of nickel. Diamonds were previously observed in a meteorite by two Russian mineralogists in 1887.

In the Anthropological Section of the American Association, Mr. William H. Seaman read a paper on the Essentials of Education, with a new classification of knowledge, in which he set forth the changes or modifications in present systems of education required to adapt them to modern ideas. Mr. Walter Hough described the custom of cava-drinking among the Papuans and Polynesians; Major Powell exhibited his linguistic map of North America; Mr. Thomas Wilson described the jade implements from Mexico and Central America, and a collection of ancient gold ornaments from the United States of Colombia; Mr. J. Owen Dorsey discussed the onomatopous types and phonetic types of the Siouan languages; Mr. J. H. Perkins described a collection of stone pipes from Vermont; and Mr. M. M. Snell enforced the Importance of the Science of Comparative Religion.

A connection between tariffs and the distribution of life in the districts which they effect has not hitherto been supposed, but, according to the late D. H. Graham, of Iona, it was free trade brought the rooks to that island. Thus: "Since the ports were opened to the importation of foreign cattle, the rearing of black cattle has been abandoned in those parts of the Highlands; consequently sheep have taken their place, and in Iona, where two years ago you could hardly find a sheep, now you will sec scores of them; and whereas two years ago not a rook came to the island, now the hill-pastures are black with them."

A curious trial has recently taken place in London, in which an American named Pinter was prosecuted for an attempt at cheating by pretending to manufacture gold. The accused man set up in defense that he really possessed a secret by which he could increase the bulk of a mass of gold. It was alleged by the prosecution that he once did increase a piece of gold by placing a black powder in a crucible, and it was asserted that the powder must have contained gold. The accused asked the magistrate if he had ever known gold to float. Some of the powder being tested on water floated. This result was afterward said to have been produced by mixing lampblack with the powder and making it too greasy to sink quickly. The accused pretends to more power than the old alchemists, for they only assumed to turn other substances into gold, while he pretends to make it outright.

Dr. Carl Peters relates in his book on Africa that he came to a place where the natives on one bank of a broad river communicate with those on the opposite side by speaking with voices hardly raised, "and yet each side can perfectly hear what the other says." Dr. Peters says that Bishop Hannington was killed, not because he was a Christian, but because he insisted on approaching Uganda from the east. The Waganda have an old prophecy according to which an expedition from the east is to "eat up" the land and make an end of the dynasty of the Wakintu. Accordingly the approach from the east has been strictly forbidden.

The Philadelphia Zoölogical Gardens were visited during the year ending in April last by 211,884 persons, or 3,719 fewer than visited them in the previous year; giving an average of 581 daily admissions. The superintendent's report embodies the important remark that the attention of all institutions devoted to zoölogical pursuits is being directed more strongly each year to the rapid destruction of many of the more valuable and important animals of our native fauna, and to the need for immediate adoption of every means that can be employed to save them from complete extinction. In furtherance of this object increase in the capacity of zoölogical gardens is important, in order that room and facilities may be provided for their increase and growth, secure against improper crossing and inbreeding.

Besides the active enemies which are continually seeking to destroy earth-worms, these animals have a habit of seeking destruction on their own account. On any wet morning the shallow puddles in the roadways and elsewhere are often occupied by the dead bodies of earth-worms, or by individuals at their last gasp. Have these worms voluntarily sought a watery grave? or do they represent, as Darwin thought, merely the sickly and dying individuals that have been washed out of their burrows by the rain? Darwin's explanation is probably true, but it is also credible that the heating of the puddles by the sun's rays has something to do with the great mortality of the annelids. Cold fresh water seems to be practically harmless, though salt water is rapidly fatal to earth-worms.

An illustrated account of the drawings of aboriginal origin that are found in caves in different parts of the United States, prepared for Appletons' Annual Cyclopædia for 1889, has been sent us in a separate pamphlet by the author, Mr. T. H. Lewis. The designs include figures conventionalized from the forms of man, the hand, fishes, serpents, an elk, a face, birds, and combined figures. It is suggested by the editor of the Annual Cyclopædia that one of them may be intended to represent a family or tribal ensign.

In a paper read before the Medical Society of Virginia, Dr. W. W. Parker, of Richmond, favors burial rather than cremation on grounds of convenience and economy; natural sentiment, whereby we cling to every vestige of the body in which dwelt the soul of the dear one; the sentiment of affection, which wants to know the exact spot where the body lies; and religious motives.

The reports of the United Kingdom Temperance and General Provident Institution are regarded by Dr. J. J. Ridge as affording evidence of increasing weight and conchisiveness to the value of temperance as a factor in longevity. For the last year the actual claims upon the Institution for relief were, in the temperance section, 71·06 per cent; in the general section, 100·2 per cent of the expected claims. A summary of five quinquennial returns, or for twenty-five years, shows that while in the general section the deaths have fallen short of the expected number by 242, in the temperance section the deaths are 1,470 fewer. The fact that in the general section the deaths are below the healthy male average proves that the difference between the two sections is not due to excessive drinking on the part of any considerable number of the general section. The comparison is therefore fairly between abstainers and moderate drinkers, and goes to show that the use of alcoholic liquors produces degeneration of the tissues and shortens life.

Some habits of crocodiles are described by M. Voeltzkow, who observed the animals in Vituland. Seventy-nine newly laid eggs were obtained from a spot six paces in diameter which had been cleared of plants, apparently by the crocodile having wheeled round several times. The eggs lay in four pits, dug in the hard, dry ground, about two feet obliquely down. According to the natives, the crocodile, having selected and prepared a spot, makes a pit in it that day, lays twenty or twenty-five eggs in it, and covers them with earth. The next day, it makes a second pit, and so on. It remains in the nest from the beginning, and sleeps there till the young are hatched, in about two months, at the setting in of the rainy season.

A paper by Prof. William Frear, in the American Chemical Association, dealt with differences in composition in the European and the American chestnut. European chestnuts transplanted to this country lose their peculiarities in some degree, but American chestnuts also exhibit wide differences in different years.

The question of the relative influence of animal and vegetable diet on the animal temperature has never, according to the Lancet, been investigated in the human species on a sutficiently comprehensive scale to be of any value; hvX such comparative facts as throw light on the matter tend to indicate that vegetable feeders, among the lower creation, have a high temperature. The evidence, however, does not seem to be uniform to this point, and it is suggested that some of the apparent discrepancies may be due to the nature of the clothing of the skin. A correspondent of the Lancet and his wife have for about three years been living chiefly on fruit and vegetables, with a little milk and its products, eggs and cheese, and without alcohol, and find that they live as healthily as before, at a lower expenditure of energy. If it be proved that a minimum of animal diet will support life efficiently under reduced combustion and reduced waste of material, "a valuable as well as curious fact will be added to our practical knowledge."

The limit of a man's power to do without sleep has been the subject of curious experiments. Lord Brougham once tried it on himself, and, beginning Monday morning, kept awake till Tuesday night, when he fell asleep on seating himself while trying to dictate to an amanuensis. The recent competition of six men in Detroit, in trying to postpone sleep for seven days, is in point. Beginning on Monday noon, March 80th, four of the men failed before Thursday. A fifth kept up till Sunday morning, had a hard struggle with his sleepiness all through the day, and succumbed at midnight. The sixth completed the time and was conducted to the stage and introduced to the spectators, but was sound asleep before the introduction was over. It is said, however, that these men were allowed to sleep in fifteen minute naps at the end of their several vigils, and it is added that they suffered no permanent ill.

According to Brandis's Wald in der Vereinigten Staaten von Nord America, forest vegetation is much richer in North America than in Europe, and comprises 412 species—of which 176 are native to the Atlantic region, 106 to the Pacific, 10 are common to both, 46 to the Rocky Mountain region, and 74 are tropical species near the coasts of Florida—as against 158 species in Europe. Six North American species of forest trees—the red-bud or Judas tree, persimmon, hackberry, plane tree, hop hornbeam, and chestnut—are also indigenous in Europe, all now growing there naturally south of the Alps. And since many American forest genera existed in Europe in Tertiary times, while only five European forest genera (Ceratonia, Laburnum, Olca, Syringa, and Laurus) are not found in America, it is possible that other species formerly common to both countries were destroyed in Europe north of the Alps by the Glacial epoch.

A parliamentary report shows that ether is now used to a considerably large extent in Ireland to produce intoxication. It is preferred to whisky because it is cheaper and more effective. Its effects are described as arousing combative instincts and producing a high state of exhilaration accompanied by shouting and singing and the use of provocative words. Even children are accustomed to it, and come to school smelling of it.