Popular Science Monthly/Volume 43/September 1893/Notes


Wood ashes are recommended in the American Agriculturist, by Mr. J. M. Stahl, as a valuable medicine for farm animals. The author keeps them, with charcoal and mixed with salt, accessible to his hogs, with the best effects; and he furnishes them to his horses by putting an even teaspoonful with the oats twice a week or by keeping the ashes, with the salt mixture, constantly before the animals.

The most striking feature of Mr. A. T. Drummond's examination of the colors and times of flowering of five hundred and thirty-nine of the plants of Ontario and Quebec is the preponderance of white flowers, which form rather more than one third of the whole. Following them are the yellow flowers, largely composites, which include about one quarter; while the purples and blues are much less numerous, and comprise about one ninth and one tenth respectively of the whole. In time of flowering April, May, and June are remarkable for the prevalence of white; July, August, and September of yellow; and September and October of purple and blue.

The caves of Mount Elgonin, East Africa, extend right round the mountain and occur in the lava as well as in the agglomerate beds. Mr. J. Thomson believes that they are old excavations; but a correspondent of the London Times, who visited them in February, 1893, has come to the conclusion that they are merely vast blow-holes in the mountain, "which is a grand specimen of an extinct volcano, the crater being some eight miles in diameter and from fifteen hundred to two thousand feet in depth." The mountain is fourteen thousand feet high, with a base of about one hundred and fifty miles in circumference.

The report of the Massachusetts State Board of Health on the Geographical Distribution of Certain Causes of Death in that State presents the results of an inquiry respecting the relation of paper mills to smallpox mortality. In eleven cities and towns having extremely high ratios of smallpox mortality, six contained one or more paper mills in which rags were used; and a list of twenty-eight cities and towns in which there are paper mills contains only four places in which there were no smallpox deaths during twenty years, and non-fatal cases are known to have occurred in two of these towns. Frequent investigations of the board have shown that smallpox in Massachusetts is very often due to infected rags. In many of these cases it appeared probable that domestic rags collected in the large cities of the United States were the source of infection.

A settlement of the silver question is propounded by Mr. Roderick H. Smith, author of several works on business, which he beUeves will be sovereign and permanent. It is the enactment of a law, of which he submits a draft, the essential feature of which is a provision for the issue by the Government of certificates against deposits of silver, which shall be redeemable, on demand, in an equal value of silver to the amount of the deposit. Thus, whatever may be the fluctuations in the value of silver, the certificates can never command more than they are actually worth.

The Massachusetts State Board of Health, inquiring into the distribution of cholera infantum, finds the disease apparently promoted by the employment of mothers away from home. It also finds that a high mortality rate from cholera infantum occasionally exists in a comparatively small town where there are one or more densely populated manufacturing villages in which the conditions of living may resemble those of a large city. Upon this point Dr. Haven says: "We may have all, or nearly all, of the most vicious conditions of city life in a single tenement house in some small town of perhaps only a thousand inhabitants; we may have, that is, the heat, the dirt, the overcrowding, the bad drainage, and the artificial feeding which are the concomitants of city life."

Experiments by Grassi, Cattani, Tizzoni, Simmonds, and Saivchenk, made under various conditions and in great diversity of forms, are confirmatory of one another, and afford cumulative evidence of the competency of flies to convey cholera germs. Sawchenk even suggests that the bacilli may be able, under suitable conditions, to multiply within the bodies of flies; in which case, besides being dangerous carriers of infection, the flies would be a veritable hotbed for the preservation and further multiplication of cholera bacilli.

A remarkable illustration of the perseverance shown by roots in seeking food is related in Nature by the Rev. W. H. Oxley, vicar of Peterham. The roots of a wistaria entered the dining-room of Eden House, Ham, by a very small chink in the side of the window near the ceiling. On removing from the walls the paper, which had not been disturbed for many years, the whole of the plaster beneath was found covered with a fine network of roots spreading all round the room. There was no appearance on the paper to give rise to any suggestion of the presence of roots being there. Prof. Dyer remarks that the roots seemed to have behaved more like the mycelium of a fungus than an ordinary axial structure. The room was constantly inhabited, with fires.

The Italian Minister of Public Instruction, Signer Martini, has called the attention of the Chamber of Deputies to the evils of overpressure in the public schools, under which the programmes have been enlarged without corresponding enlargement of the cerebral convolutions, and the pupils are "swallowing, much and digesting little." "While the able-bodied artisan," he says, "demands the restriction of his labor to eight hours, we exact from our boys of ten a labor at once more prolonged and more severe." The minister has been quick to learn from the lessons given him, and has already instituted reformatory measures. The tasks to be undertaken after school hours have been minimized, inducements to prolong mental labor beyond the just limits have been diminished, and the overstrain due to excessive competition is discouraged; the number of subjects to be taken up at once is curtailed, the schools have developed a "modern side," and happy results and improvement are already visible.

In a recent "long-distance walk" between Berlin and Vienna—some three hundred and sixty miles—the winner among fifteen com competitors accomplished the distance in one hundred and fifty-four hours and forty-five minutes, and the one next behind him in a little more than one hundred and fifty-six hours. The winner, however, came in exhausted, while his competitor seemed not to have suffered at all. Both lost five pounds in weight. The remarkable fact about the feat is that these two foremost men are called vegetarians, and were able to walk an average of eighteen hours a day for seven consecutive days on the kind of diet classed under that designation.

Four sulphurets are named by M. Jacksh, of Triesch, Moravia, as becoming phosphorescent after a brief exposure to daylight—viz., the sulphurets of calcium, strontium, barium, and zinc. The last compound has been obtained in a luminous condition only recently by distillation in a vacuum. Prepared in the usual way, by precipitating soluble salts of zinc with sulphurets, it shows no signs of phosphorescence. Sulphuret of barium gives a yellowish-orange glow, but only for a few minutes after each exposure to the light, and is of as little use as the sulphurets of strontium and of zinc, the greenish glow of which disappears after about two hours. For practical uses the sulphuret of calcium of commerce is the only phosphorescent of value. Pure, it gives a faint yellowish light; but treated at a red heat, with the addition of a small quantity of a salt of bismuth, it is transformed into a substance giving a violet light and retaining its luminous quality for nearly forty hours after an exposure of only a few seconds.

Records kept by Dr. Spengler at Davos Platz for two years and a half, resting largely on communications kept up with the patients after leaving, show that a permanent cure (of consumptive diseases) is apparently effected in 42·8 per cent of the cases. It is noted that most of the patients were subject to influenza in the epidemic of 1889-'90. In the treatment, till acclimatization is completed and the patient has slept well one or two weeks, he lies much in the open air, and takes little exercise. Patients who come with fever soon lose it.

Alcohol, although the most convenient heretofore found, has proved an unreliable fluid for low-temperature thermometers. It is subject to the three vices of sticking in the tube, irregular expansion, and defect from impurities and variations in water content, which affect its expansion materially, M. Chappuis has found toluol, the boiling point of which is 110° C, a liquid well adapted to the purpose and free from these disadvantages.

The Psychological Section of the Medico-legal Society is interested in all that pertains to psychology, and purposes, through committees appointed from among its members, to make special studies in the departments of animal magnetism, hypnotism, telepathy, clairvoyance, supposed apparitions, and other claims of "respectable" modern spiritualism. It is intended to conduct these inquiries and investigations with candor and fairness, upon strictly scientific lines, and to reach, in so far as possible, a valuable and enlightening collection of facts incident to these phenomena, from which important deductions may be made.

Experiments, pursued during two years by himself and his associates, are recorded by Prof. Chodat, of Geneva, concerning the influence of static electricity on vegetation. Beans, sorted into two equal lots, were similarly planted in a vessel filled with sawdust moistened with the same quantity of water, and exposed to identical conditions of warmth and light. One of the vessels was put under electrical influence during a part of the day, rising from forty minutes at the beginning to three and four hours. Leaves began to appear in the electrified lot on the fourth day, while the other lot as yet showed no signs of them. The difference was plainer on the fifth day, and still more so on the seventh, when the electrified plants had grown to a considerable size, while the non-electrified ones were only just starting. The difference was also apparent in the superior vigor of the stems and roots of the electrified plants. The experiment confirmed the opinion that electricity acts to promote germination and growth in length; but the leaves of the non-electrified plants obtained a better development than the others.