Popular Science Monthly/Volume 42/January 1893/Notes


Mr. T. C. Stearns records, in the Popular Science News, as a result of his observations of many snakes of every usual size, that he finds them lying in the spring on hill slopes in their torpid state. He never saw them lying straight, but they were all in the form of the letter S. He has also noticed that the first movement they make when aroused is toward the tail, and that indifferently whether he is standing at the head or the tail.

A mask in the National Museum which was found in a grave in southeastern Alaska, is described in a special paper by Lieutenant T. Dix Bolles, U. S. N. It is skillfully carved from cedar wood and painted in the usual grotesque manner with native colors, and is marked by the unique peculiarity of having for its eyes two large bronze Chinese temple coins. The grave in which it was found is more than two hundred years old. Lieutenant Bolles regards it as proof that a Chinese junk was, at some time in the past, driven upon the Alaskan coast.

The British Association for the Advancement of Science has been invited to meet in Toronto in 1895 or 1896. Its first visit to Canada took place in 1884, when it assembled in Montreal. Since that year the scientific interests of the city have made rapid strides, the impulse thereto being in large measure due to the interest evoked by the Association's work. In its new technical departments, established through the bequest of the late Mr. Thomas Workman, and by the princely gifts of Mr. William C. McDonald, McGill University is as thoroughly equipped as any university in America. Mr. Peter Redpath, who gave the beautiful building for its Natural History Museum, has given a handsome building, fast approaching completion, for its library. The muster-roll of McGill is now 650.

At a meeting held in October the trustees of Columbian University, Washington, D. C, elected three chemists to as many chairs in the faculty: Dr. E. A. de Schweinitz, lately of the United States Agricultural Department, Washington, was elected Professor of Chemistry in the medical department; Prof. Charles E. Munroe, formerly of the Annapolis Naval Academy and lately of the United States Torpedo Station, Newport, R. I., was elected to the chair of Chemistry in the university; Prof. H. Carrington Bolton, of New York city, was elected "Non-resident Lecturer on the History of Chemistry," a position created expressly for him, and the first of this title in the United States.

Prof. G. C. Caldwell, of Cornell University, regards the healthfulness of oleomargarine as dependent largely on the quality of the material from which it is made; and finds that there is no positive proof that it has ever been made from unwholesome materials, or that any disease has ever been communicated to man by its use. He is of the opinion that when it is properly made from fresh and clean materials it differs but slightly in healthfulness from butter. Yet it is not so good as butter; for when oleomargarine was substituted for butter in a blind asylum at Louisville, Ky., the children, although they had no knowledge of the change, gradually ate less and less of the new butter, and finally declined it altogether—without making any complaint, or exhibiting any evidence of bad effects on their health.

According to a description by Prof. Pickering, of the Boyden station observatory near Arequipa, Peru, the air is so clear there that stars of the 6·5 magnitude are picked out by the naked eye with great ease, and when the moon is not too bright the eleven Pleiades can always be counted. The nebula in Andromeda forms also a very conspicuous object, "appearing larger than the moon," while in the thirteen-inch Clark refractor "the whole photographic region of the great Orion nebula, first shown in the Harvard photographs of 1887, is clearly visible to the eye," rendering it "the most splendid object in the stellar universe."

Sir William MacGregor, British High Commissioner of New Guinea, reports having passed in a recent coasting trip several islands which appeared uninhabited; but on landing he discovered that this appearance was due to their singular configuration. A narrow belt of gently sloping land led from the sea to a steep wall of coral rock, from three hundred to four hundred feet high, from the summit of which an undulating plateau was seen dipping inland. Here the villages were built, from fifty to a hundred feet below the level of the encircling rim, and sheltered from the trade winds. Sir William considers these islands to be upraised atolls, modified in most cases by subsequent wave action on the shore strips.

A mountaineering party in the Himalayas, under the direction of Mr. Conway, report having climbed a peak of 20,000 feet and a pass of 18,000 feet in the neighborhood of the mountain K2; they attempted the ascent of a new peak, which Mr. Conway named the Golden Throne. At 23,000 feet they found that they were on a peak distinct from the Golden Throne, which was still 2,000 feet above them. The peak they ascended was named the Pioneer Peak. It commanded a magnificent view, extending at least 200 miles in one direction. The party suffered from the great altitude, but not severely, and could have climbed a thousand feet higher, if not more.

In an electric heating apparatus devised by M. M. Olivet, of Geneva, a current is sent from the dynamo into receivers of special metallic composition, which become rapidly heated, but without exceeding a certain temperature, and a heated air current is set up as with steam heating.

An English paper has an account of a fog in the valley of Wensleydale, near Leyburn, which resembled a great lake with rising hills on either side, that more than half filled the valley; while the hillsides above the level of the apparent flood were reflected with extraordinary distinctness in it. The sun was shining brightly at the time, and the mist began to disperse and the mirage to fade away almost immediately.

Ants, according to the experiments of Mr. H. Devaux, perceive the difference between sugar and saccharine. They swarmed around sugar that was laid out for them, but deserted saccharine as soon as they tasted it. Even sugar became unpleasant to them when it was mixed with saccharine.

Prof. Otis T. Mason has been surprised, in examining a large collection of American aboriginal musical instruments, to find that not one was peculiar to women, and that those of the men were never played upon by the women. He is seeking fuller information on the subject.

Cancer has been detected by Prof. Scott, of New Zealand, in specimens of American brook-trout confined in one of the ponds of the Dunedin Acclimatization Society. The author was able to examine several individuals, showing the disease in various stages of advancement; and he gives in his paper a short account of the naked-eye and microscopic appearances of the growth. The occurrence of cancer in animals has been frequently observed of late years.

In the Shattuck Lecture, on the Prevention of Disease in Massachusetts, accepting the germ theory of the origin of consumption, and in view of the swarms of bacilli in phthisical sputa, Dr. J. F. A. Adams lays down the following rules for precaution against transmitting the disease: (1) Let all sputa be carefully collected and destroyed by fire. (2) Let sputa never be deposited on handkerchiefs, carpets, floors, or any other place where it may dry and become mingled with the atmosphere. (3) Never drink from the same glass with a consumptive. (4) Never kiss a consumptive upon the mouth. These rules are equally applicable to pneumonia and perhaps also to bronchitis. It will, therefore, be best to call them, not rules for consumptives, but for all persons who cough and expectorate. This will save the patient from the shock of a positive and perhaps too hasty diagnosis.

Dr. J. S. Burdon Sanderson, Waynflete Professor of Physiology in the University of Oxford, has been nominated for President of the British Association at the Nottingham meeting, 1893.

The claim of Prof. Cyrus Thomas that he has found the Maya hieroglyphics to be in part phonetic, and has ascertained the interpretation of a sufficient number to form a key to the solution of the problem, having been disputed by the distinguished Americanist, Dr. Seler, Prof. Thomas is preparing a paper corroborating his views for publication by the Bureau of Ethnology. In the mean time he has published a paper, presenting some of his proofs, in Science for October 7th.

The programme of lectures of the Franklin Institute, Philadelphia, for the season 1892-'93, includes the topics of thirty-two lectures to be delivered on Fridays and Mondays, from November 4th to February 27th, on subjects relating to transportation, mining and engineering, economics, electricity, chemistry and physics, evolution, art, and other subjects of scientific and popular interest.

The name of fluorography is given to a process for transferring pictures to glass by means of inks containing fluorides. These inks, when sulphuric acid is applied to them, disengage hydrofluoric acid, which etches upon the glass. A composition, described in the Genie civil, consists of 400 parts by weight of glycerin, 200 of water, 100 of fluor spar, 100 of tallow, 50 of borax, and 50 of lampblack.

Old newspapers are said to be of value for wrapping up winter clothing in summer, because the printer's ink is as noxious to moths and their larvæ as camphor and coal-tar. Being impervious to air, they also make good wrappers for ice and for liquids which it is desired to keep cool.

The measure of a snail's pace has at last been found. Camille Flammarion is quoted in Dahcim as estimating it at fifteen ten-thousandths of a metre per second.

The modern case of exorcism, related by Prof. Evans in the December Monthly, is supplemented by a news item in the New York Herald of November 21st. The woman Herz brought an action for slander against Father Aurelian, on account of his saying that she had sent a devil into her boy. The case was tried in the courts of Eichstadt, Bavaria, and the woman was awarded small damages. In his defense Father Aurelian testified that he had exorcised the devil from the boy, and supported this evidence by quotations from the writings of the fathers. The boy himself deposed that he knew nothing of the alleged exorcism.