Popular Science Monthly/Volume 41/August 1892/Notes


Between four and five acres have been assigned in the forthcoming World's Columbian Exhibition to the Educational Exhibit. This is a much larger space than ever was offered before to this interest at a World's Fair. In order that the most advantage may be derived from this large privilege, the Bureau of Education has published a circular of suggestions of details as to the arrangement of the exhibit, in order that it may be made as comprehensive as possible, and as accessible in all its parts. A statement concerning the National Catholic Educational Exhibit, which has been determined upon, is printed on the same sheet with the department's circular.

It appears, from M. W. Brennaud's studies of the Surya Siddhanta, a book which contains the astronomy of the Hindus, that they were acquainted with the precession of the equinoxes and its effects, and with the theory of lunar and planetary movements. They had determined with fair exactness the diameter of the earth and the distance of the moon; they could calculate the orbits of the planets by the aid of the moon's daily motion in its orbit; could calculate and predict eclipses of the moon and the sun; and had a respectable knowledge of most of the fundamental problems of astronomy.

Observations made by M. Obrecht, at the observatory in Santiago, Chili, since July, 1891, show that the ground in the northwest quarter rises daily between noon and nine o'clock in the evening, and then falls back gradually till seven o'clock in the morning. Furthermore, there is a continuous rising movement of the southeast quarter, and from September to November a continuous rising of the eastern quarter. The daily variations had been observed by M. Moesta at the time the observatory was built, and by Gillis.

A few months since the Kew authorities dispatched, per the steamship Atrato, a botanical commission to the West Indies with a number of Wardian cases containing vine cuttings and Gambier plants. Unfortunately, cold weather set in, and the efforts to convey these tender plants, which had so often ended in failure, threatened once more to result in disappointment. The difficulty was that if kept on deck they would be inevitably destroyed by the low temperature; while, if taken below, the absence of light, which is so necessary to the existence of the delicate Gambier plants, was almost certain to be equally fatal. Under these circumstances it occurred to Mr. Morris to avail himself of the electric light, of which there was an abundance on board the Atrato. The experiment proved in every way successful.

The extent of the influence a lake may exercise upon climate is illustrated by the statement of M. Forel that the quantity of heat accumulated in Lake Leman during the summer is equivalent to that which would be given out by the burning of fifty-one million tons of coal. A railroad train carrying this coal would be eighteen thousand kilometres long, or nearly the length of the earth's meridian from pole to pole.

A story is told of a brown retriever dog in London which was sent to carry a letter in its mouth to drop in the post-box at Piccadilly. It got to the box just as the postman, having emptied it, was starting away. The dog seeing him, ran after him, caught up with him, put the letter in his hand, and then went off with the satisfied air of a dog that had done its duty.

Of the "rare metals," didymium is quoted at $4,500 a pound; barium, at $3,700; beryllium or glucinum, at $3,375; yttrium, at $2,250; rhodium and niobium or columbium, at $2,000 each; vanadium, at $1,875; iridium, at $700; osmium, at $625; palladium, at $500; and platinum, at $350. The price of the last metal, however, fluctuates between those of silver and gold.

M. Berthelot has traced the derivation of the word bronze to the city of Brundusium, now Brindisi, where was the seat of certain manufactures in which the alloy was employed. A Latin manuscript of the age of Charlemagne, found in the library of the chapter of the Canons of Luynes, gives a receipt for the "composition of Brindisi"—copper, two parts; lead, one part; tin, one part.

Among the interesting objects exhibited at a recent soirée of the Royal Society was a proof-sheet of the Archæological Survey of Egypt, by Mr. Percy E. Newberry, showing all the successive stages of a wrestling-match between a black and a white man, with more than a hundred different positions recorded. The white man seems in many of the pictures to be getting the worst of it.

A foolish report that the Department of Agriculture contemplated introducing the mongoose to contend with the rodents of the Western plains, so troublesome to farmers—with the ultimate result, of course, of taking their place as a nuisance—has been denied by the department.

A new preparation of the potato has been introduced by M. Moulin, the inventor of the potato bread, and is intended chiefly for feeding to cattle. The cleaned potatoes are scraped or crushed; the pulp is pressed for the extraction of free water; is finely divided; and is dried with a moderate heat sufficient to give it a pleasant taste without converting the starch into dextrin. The product is called torrefied pulp. It may also be used for human food by making a purée of it, or by making bread of a mixture of it with flour or meal.

At the last meeting of the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia resolutions were adopted for the celebration in a worthy and becoming manner of the sesquicentennial anniversary of the society; and a committee of five members was appointed to make all necessary arrangements for the same. The society celebrated the centennial anniversary of its foundation in 1843, with a series of addresses, meetings, etc., continuing from the 25th to the 30th of May.

The last giraffe in the London Zoölogical Gardens has recently died, and the institution is, for the first time since 1836, without a living specimen of this animal. It has had in all thirty specimens, of which seventeen were born on the place. The giraffe market is very poorly supplied, and there is but one specimen now for sale in Europe. The giraffe is practically extinct in South Africa, and can not be found within a thousand miles of Cape Town. There are still giraffes in East Africa, but there are no means of catching them.

The aborigines of the Andaman Islands, a curious and even unique people, are said to be fast disappearing. All of them on two of the islands are dead, and only a few are left on a third. Only a small number of children are born, and they die in infancy.

The Yahgan, one of the three tribes inhabiting Tierra del Fuego, according to Dr. Hyades, live chiefly on fish and mollusks. They also eat any kind of bird they can catch, and are fond of the flesh of the whale, the seal, and the otter. When pressed with hunger they will eat the fox, but never dogs or rats. Fishing is left to the women, while the men hunt. The people have splendid powers of digestion, and assimilate their food so rapidly that they sometimes become fat in the course of a single day. Their huts are made of branches or of the trunks of trees, the interstices being imperfectly filled up with moss or bark, with fragments of canoes, or with seal-skins. In the center is a fire, around which the inmates sleep at night, and at other times, when they have nothing else to do, sit talking and laughing. The Yahgan lose early the attributes of youth, but often retain their vigor to a great age. They are very courageous, and enjoy games that test their physical strength.

With the exception of certain Eskimo throw-sticks, Mr. Otis T. Mason remarks in Science that all the weapons of the Northwestern American Indians examined by him are ambidextrous; and he questions whether outside of the Eskimo area any American aborigines had apparatus that would not fit either hand.

Among the particular schemes connected with the celebration of the Columbian quadricentennial is that for a great food exhibition to be held in New York in October, 1892, under the auspices of the Food Manufacturers' Association. It will include displays of manufactured foods and of products direct from the dairy, orchard, and sea, and a special department of dairy products, with daily afternoon and evening concerts.