Popular Science Monthly/Volume 43/September 1893/Popular Miscellany


Explosion of Kitchen Boilers.—The most common cause of the explosion of kitchen-range boilers is frost. If the pipes are frozen so that the steam raised by the fire can not escape, the danger of an explosion is very great. This should be prevented, where there is a liability of the pipes being frozen, by protecting the pipes and apparatus generally from the effects of frost. Protection may be given by covering the pipes with hair felt. Some boilers are in danger of explosion from the failure of water supply; but in the modern system of cylinder the hot-water tank is not entirely emptied, and a sufficient supply of water is usually left to carry the fire several hours. Boilers in districts where the water is "hard" may fail in consequence of the accumulation of an incrusted deposit within them and the pipes, whereby the pipes may be in time stopped up. The pipes, however, usually give warning of this danger long before it becomes imminent, In the shape of violent noises and vibrations proceeding from the apparatus, which become unendurable and have to be removed before the explosion takes place. Finally, a safety-valve is a sovereign preventive of explosions from whatever cause.

The Australasian Association.—The next meeting of the Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science will be held in Adelaide, South Australia, beginning September 25th. The meeting will be presided over by Prof. Ralph Tate, of the University of Adelaide. The presidents of sections will be: Astronomy, Mathematics, and Physics—H. C. Russell, Government Astronomer of New South Wales; Chemistry—C. N. Hake, of Victoria; Geology and Mineralogy—Sir James Hector, Director of the Geological Survey of New Zealand; Biology—C. W, De Vis, of Brisbane; Geography—A. C. MacDonald, of Victoria; Ethnology and Anthropology—Rev. S. Ella, of New South Wales; Economic Science and Agriculture—H. C. L. Anderson, of New South Wales; Engineering and Architecture—J. R. Scott, of Canterbury, New Zealand; Sanitary Science and Hygiene—A. Mault, of Tasmania; Mental Science and Education—Henry Laurie, of the University of Melbourne. The association has been in existence since 1888. The four previous meetings have been held at Sydney, Melbourne, Christchurch, and Hobart. The association has grown steadily since its beginning and now numbers about nine hundred members. The season of the meeting—when spring is passing into summer—is recommended as being one of the most favorable to visit South Australia, and particularly attractive to naturalists.

Derelicts on the Ocean.—We gave several months ago an account of the wanderings of the derelict schooner W. L. White, which, after having been abandoned not far from New York in the great blizzard of March, 1888, went ashore ten months afterward near the Hebrides, after having drifted five thousand miles back and forth on the Atlantic Ocean. The history of several other vessels pursuing a similar career may be found in the bulletins of our Hydrographic Office. The schooner Twenty-one Friends, abandoned in March, 1885, one hundred and sixty miles from Chesapeake Bay, drifted two thousand miles in four months, and was seen near Cape Finisterre at the end of eight months. The Ethel M. Davis drifted four thousand four hundred miles in three hundred and seventy days, and the David W. Hunt four thousand eight hundred miles in three hundred and forty-seven days, during which she was seen by forty-one passing ships. According to the United States Wreck Chart of the North Atlantic, there were forty-five derelict vessels in that ocean, and more than half of them were in the route of the transatlantic line steamers. These waifs are very dangerous, for their positions and courses are unknown, they are under no control, and may appear at any unexpected moment, at night or in a fog, or in storms, to crash into and sink whatever vessels they may meet. Possibly some of the steamers that have been lost and left no record have gone down after meeting with them.

Indo-China.—The whole region of Indo-China, as the Hon. G. N. Curzon, M.P., pointed out in a lecture before the Royal Geographical Society, is dominated by its great rivers, and may be divided into the mountain districts of the north, cleft by vast gorges; and the low plains of the south, mainly composed of alluvial deposits, where the coast lands are steadily encroaching on the sea. In the seventh century, Tongking, now sixty miles inland, was on the coast. A very remarkable feature, which gives parts of the coast a beauty comparable with that of the Inland Sea of Japan, is a broken belt of limestone cut into curious, flat-topped sections of all sizes, and perforated by the sea or rivers with many fantastic caves and tunnels. The masses of caverned rock rise to a height of from fifty to five hundred feet, and are best seen in the Bay of Along in Tongking. In Annam Mr. Curzon traveled to Hué by the "Mandarin's Road," a track which is carried over several cols by some skillful engineering in the form of rock staircases. Hué is a city of great interest, is beautifully situated, and is near a number of magnificent ancient tombs.

Mongol Waterworks.—The city of Aurungabad, India, is supplied with water by a system constructed three hundred years ago by Malik Umber, the Viceroy of Shah Jehan. Though the water came regularly, no one in recent times had determined the source of the supply. All that was known was that the water came from the stone image of a bull situated seventy feet above the level of the town, while further search was defeated by the superstition of the natives. The matter has been recently investigated by Mr. Beveridge, an engineer in the service of the Nizam, who found that the Gya Mookh, as it was called, was supplied by a pipe and a covered channel. This channel was traced up for a considerable distance, but the work was suspended on account of unhealthy emanations and the difficulties interposed by superstition. It was resumed by another engineer, Mr. Massett, who found that the channel crossed the Ursool River by a siphon made of cut stone pipes, and ended a short distance thence in a large infiltration gallery, the roof of which is arched over with brick, supported by the natural sides of the excavation formed of trap rock. This gallery, which is 9,460 feet long, is twelve feet below the bed of the river, and evidently obtains its supply from subterranean stores from the subsoil rock on its way to its natural outlet, the river. The position of the gallery has been chosen with great astuteness, which shows that the engineer of Malik Umber knew exactly what he was about. Behind it stretch hills surrounded by table land, having an area of twenty miles, with a configuration that would argue that the collecting area of the gallery must be at least twelve square miles. The hills contract in the direction of the river, till a semicircular valley is formed bounded by the river Ursool. The gallery has been so placed between the river and the hills as to form the chord to the arc. The works are now dilapidated, and do not furnish one third of the supply of water for which they are calculated.

Hygienic Value of the Bicycle.—The bicycle is highly commended as a hygienic instrument in a paper by Dr. Seneca Egbert on that vehicle "in its relation to the physician"—the relation, according to the author, being apparently one of keeping the doctor away. "In the first place," he says, "as an exercise cycling is superior to most if not all others at our command. It takes one into the out-door air; is entirely under control; can be made as gentle or as vigorous as one desires; is active and not passive; takes the rider out of himself and the thoughts and cares of his daily work; develops his will, his attention, courage, and independence; and makes pleasant what is otherwise most irksome. Moreover, the exercise is well and equally distributed over almost the whole body, and, as Parkes says, when all the muscles are exercised no muscle is likely to be overexercised. This general muscular exercise also has its direct effect upon the other and vital organs of the body, the heart, lungs, and digestive organs especially; and the improvement in general health and digestion, after a few weeks' riding, is by no means illusory or fleeting. We all know that the trouble with many of our patients is purely functional, and that their maladies have been brought on by lack of pure air, too little exercise, and too much mental worry over their work or business. For these the bicycle furnishes an agreeable remedy." It is thus recommended specifically for venous or anæmic dyspepsia, torpor of the liver and intestines; for tuberculous diathesis, incipient consumption, nervous troubles, rheumatic disorders; and "is destined to be of great benefit to women. It gets them out of doors, gives them a form of exercise adapted to their needs, neither too violent not too passive, one very pleasant withal that they may enjoy in company with others or alone, and one that goes to the root of their nervous troubles." A correct position in bicycling is important; it is the upright one, and not "a posture resembling a half-opened jackknife," which cramps the chest and interferes with the flow of blood. Excess either in quantity or intensity of bicycle work must be avoided.

"Crocodile Tears."—The figure "crocodile tears" rests, it appears upon a real fact, although the tears appertain more particularly to the snake. According to the explanation of the matter offered by Mr. R. H. Burne, of the Royal College of Surgeons, the eye of the snake is protected from dust, etc., by the eyelids, which are transparent and joined to each other so as to form a layer of skin between the eye and the outer lid; in other words, the snake always goes about with its eyelids shut. Thus the real occupation of the tears is gone, there being no dust on the surface of the eye to be washed off. Instead, however, of the tear-gland being reduced in size, it is exceptionally large; in some snakes, indeed, in which the eyes are reduced and practically functionless, the gland is some two or three times larger than the whole eye. This peculiar state of affairs was explained by the discovery that the gland had lost its connection with the eye, and opened through the mediation of the tear-canal directly into the mouth, thus doubtless, by means of its secretion, making the descent of Avernus smooth and easy to any unfortunate creature that this snake may have taken a fancy to. This is possibly not quite what was meant by the fable of the crocodile's tears, but it affords a curious example of how very near a false popular superstition may unwittingly come to the truth.

The Limits of Parental Discipline.—The point to which parental discipline may go might be made a subject of fruitful study. It is agreed, of course, that the child must be trained and kept in a certain degree of subjection for its own good and to prevent its becoming a nuisance to society, and a certain pliancy to the control of superiors is, as a writer in an English journal well remarks, absolutely essential to the organization of a household, a school, or a state. "Discipline," this writer continues, "implies ready obedience to orders of which the reason is not understood; but it should always rest on the belief that these orders are given for sufficient reasons, and not for the mere satisfaction of those who give them in seeing them obeyed." The theory of "breaking" the will of the child, in which parents and teachers indulge, is all wrong. The first thing a superior has to learn "is that there is no such thing as property in the character of a human being; that when the individuality of a character has to be suppressed—and of course the organization of society requires that it must often be suppressed—it is suppressed either for its own good or for the good of others to whom consideration is due, and that, beyond the limits of these obligations, individuality, far from being a hindrance and annoyance to be got rid of as completely as possible, is a distinct gain to the universe. The wish of some parents to wield as much power over the wills and characters of their children as they do over the motions of the horses they ride or drive is not only a foolish but an evil wish. To get excellent instruments on which they can perform as they would perform on a piano, always eliciting exactly the particular vibration they desire and expect, is clearly not the true object of family life. On the contrary, character, far from being an instrument to be performed on by others, should always be a new source of life and originality, which no one should be able to govern despotically from the outside, and which, even from inside, is in a great degree a mystery and a marvel to him who has most power over it. The mere notion of making character a kind of repeater, which responds by a given number of strokes to the parent's touch, is a radically absurd one. What a parent ought to wish for is, indeed, instant obedience to orders given for the child's good, and an eager intelligence in the child to trust its parent; but beyond this, as much that is distinct and individual, and that has a separate significance of its own, as the child's nature can provide."

Vitality in Intellectual Work.—So far from intellectual work diminishing vitality, says a writer in the London Spectator, the chiefs of all the intellectual professions are, and in recent times have been, men who have passed the ordinary term of years with undiminished powers. In politics the principal leaders whom this generation has known have been Earl Russell, Lord Palmerston. Lord Beaconsfield, and Mr. Gladstone, and every one of them was at seventy in full vigor, while the last, at eighty-three, is still a mighty power in British politics. Prince Bismarck remains at seventy-eight a force with which his Government has to reckon; while the will of Leo XIII, an exceptionally intellectual Pope, at eighty-three, is felt in every comer of the world. "The most intellectual and successful soldier of our time, the man who had really thought out victories. Marshal von Moltke, was an unbroken man at ninety and more years. No men dare compare themselves in literary power with Tennyson or Carlyle, Victor Hugo or Von Ranke, and they all reached the age which the author of Ecclesiastes declared to be marked only by labor and sorrow; as also did Prof. Owen, whose life was one long labor in scientific inquiry; and so also has Sir William Grove, one of the most strenuous thinkers whom even this age of thinkers has produced. We might lengthen the list indefinitely; but to what use, when we all know that the most intellectual among lawyers, historians, novelists, physicians, politicians, and naturalists survive their contemporaries, usually with undiminished powers? In all statistical accounts, the clergy, whose occupation is wholly intellectual, rank first among the long-lived. A little lower down in the scale the most hale men among us are those who have been doing intellectual work, often extremely hard work, through all their lives, and who are still so strong that all the professions are affected by their resolution not to retire, and the inability of younger men to invent a reason for making their retirement compulsory. To say that they are picked lives is false, for they are so numerous that the intense vitality of the old and intellectual actually affects the organization of society; and to say that the unintellectual flourish equally well ... is not probably true." The stupid among the cultivated do not survive in anything like the same proportion. Among the ladies of the century, likewise, the oldest have been the highest.

Science in Elementary Schools.—Remarking, in a paper, on the Place of Science in Elementary Schools, Prof. Samuel G. Williams observes that all sciences of Nature have their very foundation in correct and definite observation of the facts which Nature presents. It is therefore of .the very essence of science that the pupil should be first of all taught to observe, to use his own senses directly upon appropriate objects, and thus to increase their delicacy and power by repeated employment; and, moreover, to give an account of what he has in any way experienced, that the fact observed may be assured and that its results may be embodied in language. When even the youngest child is thus brought into direct contact with Nature, he is quick to note the infinite variety which it presents, to see that this object is similar to that and quite unlike the other. Incipient powers of comparing and judging emerge, and should be appealed to in all possible ways; for ripeness of judgment results only from repeated acts of judging. Rude and then more perfect classifications result from the grouping of the like and the separation of the unlike; and the beginning of class notions is made which future experience shall fill with even clearer and more definite meaning, until gradually and almost unconsciously the pupil grows to a considerable mastery of the general and abstract terms which make so large a part of the language of the more enlightened members of his race. Even those large operations called generalization and induction from observed facts and phenomena, should have their definite beginnings in some part of the elementary course, and especially in certain easy and natural observations of physical phenomena. The youngster whose attention has a few times been directed to the flash of a distant gun and the report which more tardily reaches his ear, can readily be brought to infer that sound travels more slowly than light, and to apply his generalization to lightning and the resultant roll of thunder. Thus, it is obvious that the aim which the science teacher should keep ever clearly in view is first of all to train the senses to ever-growing accuracy and completeness in observation; as accessory to this, to secure the expression and interpretation of what is observed; to neglect no opportunities, however slight, for the exercise of judgment; and to advance, gradually indeed, but always with definite purpose, toward the classification and generalization of results secured by direct personal observation. It will be observed that the keynote of the whole matter is direct contact with Nature, and diligent study of what she has to teach through the proper use of trained senses.

Fighting the Gypsy Moths.—The State Board of Agriculture of Massachusetts, through its agents, Prof. C. H. Fernald and E. H. Forbush, appears to be carrying on an effective campaign against the gypsy moth. The work was begun systematically in 1890, so that only the results of the first two season's operations have yet been embraced in the official report; yet, though the attempt was the first on a large scale ever made in the Commonwealth to destroy a species of insect, and the operators were without experience, a very perceptible reduction in the number of the insects and in the damage by them was realized; and trees and orchards that were stripped in 1891 enjoyed the full luxuriance of their foliage in 1892; and the members of the board are now confident that it can be eradicated. Destruction of the insect is found to be a most effectual method of eradication. Another method is to entrap the caterpillars within bands of burlap fastened around the trees. They are in the habit of seeking shelter during the daytime, and if the holes in the trees are stopped up they resort to the burlaps and can then be easily destroyed. When the insects get into the woodlands, dealing with them is more difficult, on account of the underbrush and the dead leaves on the ground. In these cases the board suggests clearing away the brush and the worthless trees and careful burning over the ground. When the work was first begun it was thought that the moth occupied only a small part of one town. It was, however, shown that it infested thirty towns and cities. As the moth multiplies rapidly and eats everything that is foliage, leaving nothing behind, the danger arising from its presence is really a matter of national importance.

Superstitions about Snakes.—In his refutation of Some Superstitions about Snakes, Dr. Arthur Stradling tells of a "weirdly horrible" fancy of the Singhalese Tamils, that every time the cobra di capello bites and expends its venom after it has attained its full length, it loses one joint of its spine. The process of curtailment goes on until the whole body has disappeared, with the exception of the head and hood, both of which have undergone a sort of compensating enlargement, while the mouth has widened until the face of the reptile presents the aspect of a malignant toad. With increased death-dealing powers, the exercise of which subjects it to no further penalty, it now betakes itself to an aërial mode of life, flying by the flapping of its extended sides after the manner of a bat. A somewhat similar fable is heard among the natives of Bengal, who furthermore declare that this square-winged fiend is the only snake that refuses to be frightened away when the name of the king of the birds (Garudá) is called aloud in its hearing, and that the docking of the vertebra; corresponds to the number of human lives which the cobra has sacrificed in former days. This superstition is curiously akin to that held by the settlers in many parts of America, to the effect that the rattlesnake acquires a new thimble to its rattle for every man it kills.

Cruelty to Children.—From the report of the English National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children it appears that poverty and large families are not a common cause of cruelty. On the contrary, the worse the cruelty the better, on an average, were the wages of the cruel parent and the fewer the children to whom the cruelty was displayed. The report further shows that the effect of warnings and even of prosecution and conviction on cruel parents is not to inflame their passions against the children who have been the occasions of their alarm and punishment, but to increase the regard of the cruel parent for the children, and for those who interfered to protect them. The cruel parent becomes less cruel when he finds that the law concerns itself with his children, and often seems to discover that there is a good deal more to like and respect in the children who had been cruelly treated, and in those who took the children's part, than he had perceived before. Summing up the domestic effects of a visit of the society's inspector, a mother said to one of the secretaries of the society, "It is like courting over again." In other words, as an English journal views the case, the woman had risen in the estimation of her husband as soon as he found that the law and public opinion of the neighborhood were on her side. Instead of increased irritation against his wife for not siding with him, he felt her to some extent raised above him, and began to see her with new eyes as a person whose approbation it was worth while to gain. The prevalence of cruelty among well-to-do parents rather than among the lowly is, perhaps, to be explained on the same principle. Cruelty is favored by the sense of arbitrary power, and by the absence of any feeling of responsibility to others. Anything that stimulates the sense of irresponsibility and independence increases cruelty; anything that diminishes that sense, anything that brings home to the heart the feeling of a social or physical yoke, diminishes it.

Steamboats on Long Island Sound.—From a Review of the Past and Present of Steam Navigation on Long Island Sound, published by the Providence and Stonington Steamship Company, it appears that experiments to move steamboats were made by several persons toward the end of the last century on the Hudson and the Delaware. John Fitch's was the first, and his skiff, rowed by oars or paddles on the sides, moved by cranks worked by steam machinery, was publicly tried on the Delaware, July 27, 1786. An amazing contrast is presented between its portrait and those of the Stonington line's latest masterpieces in steamboat architecture, the Maine and New Hampshire. Fitch's first boat for carrying passengers was completed in 1788. It was worked with oars or paddles placed at the stem and pushed against the water, and took thirty passengers from Philadelphia to Burlington in three hours and ten minutes, or over six miles an hour. Fitch's third boat was advertised in 1790 as "the Steamboat" to run to Burlington, Bristol, Bordentown, and Trenton, and return the next day. Congress adjourned to see it start, and the Governor and Council presented it with a flag. The Eructor Amphibolis of Oliver Evans was a combined locomotive and steamboat—a scow on wheels with modern axletrees and a paddle wheel behind, to travel as a wagon on land and as a boat in water. It was propelled by the engine up Market Street in Philadelphia and round the circle to the waterworks, where it was launched into the Schuylkill. The paddle wheel was then applied at its stern, and it thus sailed down that river to the Delaware. Then came Fulton's Clermont, steaming from New York to Albany in thirty-six hours, the pioneer in a fleet which numbered eight boats in 1816. The first steamer on Long Island Sound was the Fulton, a vessel with one mast and sloop rigging, which depended on its sails to accelerate its speed, and began its trips to New Haven in 1815; and the Fire Fly, one of Fulton's boats, first rounded Point Judith and reached Newport in 1817. The establishment of the packet line between Providence and New York was an important event in American travel, and the departure and arrival of the boats presented an imposing spectacle. The fare was ten dollars, and the first advertisement of the company appeared under the cut of a man-of-war, with portholes open and every sail set. In their painting, these boats, according to the account, somewhat resembled a barber's pole, being striped in curious designs.

Unsolved Problems In Geology.—Rather technical is Mr. G. K. Gilbert's review of the continental problems that are before geologists for solution, made in his presidential address before the Geological Society of America; but he enumerates several such problems and (questions on which no clear light has yet been thrown. As he summarizes them, it appears that "the doctrine of isostasy, though holding a leading position, has not fully supplanted the doctrine of rigidity. If it be accepted, there remains the question whether heat or composition determines the gravity of the ocean beds and the levity of continents. For the origin of continents we have a single hypothesis (that laid down by Prof. Dana in his Manual of Geology), which deserves to be more fully compared with the body of modern data. The newly determined configuration of the continental mass has yielded no suggestion as to its origin. The cause of differential elevation and subsidence within the continental plateau is unknown and has probably not been suggested. The permanence of the continental plateau, though highly probable, is not yet fully established; and the doctrine of continental growth, though generally accepted, has not been placed beyond the field of profitable discussion. Thus the subject of continents affords no less than half a dozen great problems, whose complete solution belongs to the future. It is not altogether pleasant to deal with a subject with regard to which the domain of our ignorance is so broad; but, if we are optimists, we may be comforted by the refection that the geologists of this generation, at least, will have no occasion, like Alexander, to lament a dearth of worlds to conquer."