Popular Science Monthly/Volume 43/October 1893/Notes


An English edition of the Reminiscences of Werner von Siemens, to which we are indebted for the material of the sketch of him published in this number, is now in press and shortly to be published by D. Appleton & Co. It abounds in stirring incidents and bright anecdotes.

A World's Congress of Evolutionists has been called to meet in the Art Building, Chicago, September 27th, 28th, and 29th. Morning, afternoon, and evening sessions will be held each day. A carefully arranged programme of subjects has been provided for the discussions. The first subject, set down for the morning session of September 27th, is Constructive Evolution. Progress of the Doctrine in Forty Years. Its Present Scientific and Popular Status. Its Upbuilding and Beneficent Character. Other subjects, under each of which are several subheadings, furnishing a wide and varied scope for expression by different speakers from their respective points of view, are Biology as related to Evolution; The Heroes of Evolution (Darwin, Spencer, Wallace, Haeckel, Gray, Youmans, etc.); Psychology as related to Evolution; Sociology, with Evolution's Promise for the Settlement of Social Problems and the True Conservatism of involution; Economics as related to Evolution; Philosophy as affected by Evolution; Ethics, the Moral of Evolution; and the final series, Religion: how it is affected by the Doctrine of Evolution, Spiritual Implications in all Progress, Materialistic Speculations Untenable, The Immanent and Transcendent Power that makes for Beauty, Order, and Righteousness. The arrangements for the congress are under the guidance of Dr. Lewis G. Janes, James A. Skilton, and other persons of representative character. All friends of evolution are invited to attend.

A writer in the London Spectator suggests that, in studying the intelligence of animals instead of ourselves, we should compare them with men who are more or less in the same state of education with them. He lives in Bolivia, in a country close to three tribes of Indians who are more or less savages, although engaged in agriculture of a desultory kind; and he has had it forced upon him on various occasions that the nobler animals—such as the horse and the dog—are quite as capable of "reasoning" or "thinking" out the ordinary problems of maintaining their existence as those savages. "Of the wild animals, many put whatever brain power they possess to 'cunning.' Again, what is 'cunning'? Their cunning is very similar to that of the Indians of this country, who would rank high among savage races."

According to an observation by C. Margat, of the University of Geneva, when aluminum, previously well cleaned, is lightly rubbed with an amalgam, its surface becomes covered with an arborescence of alumina, which can literally be seen to grow, and in the course of half an hour the forest may reach the height of a centimetre. The growth ceases on the application of heat, to be resumed on a new rubbing with the amalgam. If the forest growth is brushed away, the surface of the metal where the oxidation was most rapid will be found to have been eaten, as if with an acid. The mercury acts in some way to make the aluminum more amenable to oxidation. The experiment is more conveniently performed with an amalgam than with pure mercury, because the amalgam can be powdered and brought into more immediate contact with the aluminum.

In the investigation of the purity of the ice supplied to Paris, Lac Daumesnil at Vincennes, whence a considerable proportion of the natural ice comes, has been found to be polluted by the entrance of a sewer and by an artificial stream from the plateau of Gravelle. It is proposed to limit the use of this ice to applications in which it is not brought into direct contact with the articles to be cooled, and to enforce the use of artificial ice got exclusively from spring water or from river water sterilized by heat, when such contact takes place.

Lake Memphremagog, on the line between Vermont and Canada, has been subjected to a hydrographic examination by Mr. A. T. Drummnond. It is a deep-water lake, giving soundings of six hundred feet, and is found by Mr. Drummond to be also a cold-water lake, giving bottom temperatures in August of 44-75° Fahr., with the high surface temperature maintained for relatively only a few feet; beneath this depth the mercury falls rapidly toward the lowest reading.

A writer in the Lancet calls attention to our still persisting lack of practical knowledge on the hygiene of schools, although a complete revolution has taken place during the past fifty years in our ideas relating to the management of children and the methods to be adopted in educating the young. This position of affairs seems to have arisen, not from any want of knowledge in sanitary affairs, but rather from lack of system in following up the subject. We habitually insist that certain conditions shall be fulfilled before a dwelling house shall be considered habitable or a hospital fit for the reception of patients, and in other matters, but do not as firmly stipulate that certain rules shall be followed in the building of schoolhouses.

A number of the plates—so many of them being missing as to preclude the formation of complete sets—of Audubon's Birds of America, are offered for sale by Estes and Lauriat, Boston, at largely reduced prices. Of many of the plates but few copies are in store, and, the original stones having been destroyed, it is certain that no more copies will be published.

Volume V, No. 2, of Insect Life is chiefly filled with proceedings of the sixth meeting of the Association of Economic Entomologists, which was held in connection with the meeting of the American Association at Rochester in August, 1892.

Metallurgy is tending to become one of the most efficient producers of manures in the world. Twenty years ago, says the Annales industrielles, twenty thousands tons of phosphoric acid were as poison to the two million tons of cast iron which England produced, while English ships were ransacking the most distant regions of the globe for phosphoric acid for agriculture. The basic process has been the end of this anomaly. Apparatus attached to the furnaces in Scotland for the recovery of the ammonia out of the furnace gases have furnished a new and important source of sulphate of ammonia for agriculture.

A curious method of anthropometrical measurement for the determination of identity is described by the French Captain Cupet as in use in southern Anam. A sliver of bamboo is placed between the middle and fore fingers of the left hand of the person it is desired to identify, and on it notches are cut to mark the base of the nail and the distance between the phalanges. The stick is kept, to be used as occasion requires when the identity of the person in question is to be established.

The emerald mines of Muzo, Colombia, are situated on the Minero River, about eighty miles northwest of Bogotá, and are farmed out to a French syndicate. They are situated in a very rough, wild country, with nearly impassable roads, and are worked by open cuts, with provision for washing away the débris. The rough stones are for the most part sent to Paris to be cut. About three hundred natives are employed at the works, and the yield is about one hundred thousand dollars a year.

The advance in the knowledge of the coal fields of India, promoted by the Geological Survey of the country, is great. The centers of production, which a few years ago were almost confined to Bengal, have been extended to Assam, the Punjaub, the central provinces, the Nizam's territory, and Burmah. The survey has also done much to determine the character of the oil resources of the country. The government is anxious to associate natives educated in the country with the European officers in the work of original investigation and research, but the attempt has had to be abandoned for the present in consequence of the difficulty of finding young men suitably educated for such a career.