Popular Science Monthly/Volume 44/January 1894/Notes


An Experimental Study, by William O. Krohn, of simultaneous stimulations of the sense of touch, made upon ten different persons, among its interesting results showed that skin over the joints is much more sensitive than at other places; that touches on the back of the body are more distinctly felt, more clearly remembered, and therefore better localized than on the front part of the body; that the localizations are better for points not on the median line than for those on it; that they are not so correctly made on the left as on the right side of the body; that they are better on hairy portions than on those not covered with hairs; and that a difference in the power of correct localization exists between usually clothed and usually unclothed parts; the parts not covered, except in case of the joints, giving the more correct localizations.

By exposing hen's eggs to the vapors of alcohol for periods ranging from twenty-six to forty-eight hours, M. Ch. Féré has ascertained that their development is much retarded and often results in the production of monstrosities. In some instances alcoholized eggs of nearly a hundred hours were hardly as far developed as normal eggs of twenty hours. These facts may be regarded as having a bearing on the frequency of sterility and premature abortions in human beings afflicted with alcoholism. They show, further, that alcohol may have an effect on the embryo, even when the progenitors have not been subject to chronic alcoholism.

The character of the writing found in the Maya codices and inscriptions has been a topic of discussion among students of the subject, and three theories have been sustained: one that the symbols are ideographic; another, that they are chiefly phonetic; and a third, or middle theory, by Dr. Brinton, that they are in the nature of rebus-writing, or "iconomatic." The personal statements of certain old Spanish writers—particularly of Bishop Landa,—who assumed to publish the alphabet are in favor of their phonetic character. This is also maintained in a recent paper—Are the Maya Hieroglyphics Phonetic?—by Dr. Cyrus Thomas, who presents interpretations which, he believes, if they are accepted, will settle the question.

At the last annual meeting of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, the president, Mr. Samuel Colgate, spoke of the encouragements that existed for the continuance of the work. The money receipts for the year 1892 had been equal to those of any previous year. The large proportion of prisoners convicted to the number brought to trial is cited as showing that the society is careful in instituting prosecutions. Several evidences were cited to show that the society had been brought into closer touch with public sympathy than ever before; among them was the fact that the year had been exceptionally free from newspaper assaults and adverse criticisms. Yet defects in the law needing amendment, and even legislation in favor of vice, and frequent laxity in the administration of existing laws, were complained of.

A university course of thirty lectures on Celestial Mechanics, by G. W. Hill, is now in progress, beginning October 14, 1893, at Hamilton Hall, Columbia College. The lectures are given every Saturday except the last two in December, at 10.30 a. m. A full presentation of the subject is given, rather than a rapid summary.

M. Janssen has telegraphed the fact that the observatory on the summit of Mont Blanc is completed, and nothing now remains to be done but carry out the interior arrangements. The machinery adopted for hauling materials up over the snow worked to perfection and contributed greatly to the success and comfort of the workmen. M. Janssen used it to assist in his own getting up, and it was "curious, extraordinary," he says, "to see materials moved by these engines climbing over the icy slopes of the peak by ways of a new sort, which science only was able to contrive and realize."

In an interference experiment described by Lord Rayleigh the light from a single slit, illuminated either by sunlight or a lamp flame, passes down a tube about a foot long and is received on two very fine and very close slits. An eye placed at the back of these sees a beautiful set of interference bands. No lens is required, because the eye itself acts as such. The two slits are really swatches made by a knife on an evenly silvered microscope cover-glass.

The consultative committee appointed in Italy to study the question of alcoholism has recently presented its report to the Government. It appears from the document that the yearly mortality ascribed to alcoholism for the whole kingdom is 1·62 per hundred thousand inhabitants. It was greatest in Liguria (3·46) and the March (3·11), and least in Campania (0·53) and the Abruzzi (0·75). Under the application of the new penal code, which makes intoxication a crime, 16,504 offenses were reported in 1890 and 16,382 in 1891.

In a paper on the wearing of rings in ancient Rome, M. Maximin Deloche shows that in the early days of the republic the iron ring was reserved for persons who had distinguished themselves by some splendid act in war or had rendered the state some important service. Afterward, patricians, knights, and magistrates had the privilege of wearing it. When the wearing of rings became general the metal used became the distinctive sign of the several classes of citizens, and the metal worn was determined by birth. The most precious metals were worn by the ingenui; senators and knights alone had golden rings; while the plebeians' rings were of iron. The freedmen in time made claims to the privilege of wearing gold, and it was given to them by a constitution of Justinian.

Noticing the fact that the Smithsonian Institution has obtained a table in the Zoological Laboratory at Naples, the Revue Scientifique remarks that it is curious that Americans should go to Europe to seek subjects for study when they have so abundant and varied a fauna at home.

A manufactory of flints for guns and tinder boxes still exists at Brandon, England, in which, according to Mr. Edward Lovett, the methods supposed to have been used in the stone age are employed without much change at the present time. The flint is broken into conveniently sized fragments by placing it on the knees and striking with a hammer. The pieces are then split into flakes, and these into squares, which are trimmed into finished gun flints. Most of the gun flints are sent to Zanzibar and African ports, and the tinder-box flints to Spain and Italy.

A theory has been put forth by M. Rateau in the French Academy of Sciences that the crust of the earth beneath the continents does not touch the fluid globe, but is separated from it by a space filled with gaseous matter under pressure. The continents would therefore constitute a sort of blister, much flattened, inflated and sustained by gases, while the bottom of the oceans is supposed to rest directly on the fiery mass. By this hypothesis the author believes that many phenomena of the terrestrial crust may be explained which are not clearly accounted for under the present theory.

A rapid deterioration is described by Mr. C. H. Morse as being produced in the water pipes of Cambridge, Mass., by the electrolytic action of the current from the electric cars. It is observed in pipes composed of lead, iron, galvanized iron, brass, and rustless iron. In one instance the current was so strong as to set on fire oakum which was applied in making a joint. A partial check to the deterioration has been found in connecting the water and gas pipes and the negative pole of the dynamo.

The Bank of France has put in circulation notes printed on ramie paper. The notes are of the same form as the old-fashioned ones, but the new paper is lighter and at the same time firmer than the old, and permits a clearer impression, rendering counterfeiting more difficult.

Under the Thibetan system of polyandry, as observed by Mrs. Bishop (Isabella Bird), the eldest son alone of the family marries, and the wife accepts the brothers of her husband as secondary spouses. The whole family is thus held to the home. The children belong to the elder brother, while the other brothers are "lesser fathers." The natives are strongly attached to this custom. The women, in particular, despise the monotony of European monogamy, and the word "widow" is a term of reproach among them. Children are very obedient to their fathers and their mother, and the family feeling is strongly developed.

Strong additional evidence of the presence of cretaceous strata beneath the most of Long Island is adduced by Mr. Arthur Hollick, in a paper on that subject. They have been found in the shape of fossil remains of plants at Williamsburgh, Lloyd's Neck, and Glencove. Clays containing the fossils have been found in place in the neighborhood of Glencove; while at other sites the rocks appear to have been glacially transported. "Only a beginning," says Mr. Hollick, "has yet been made in the search for plant remains; but now that attention has been called to the matter they are being reported from a number of localities, and specimens are constantly coming to the light, and there seems to be no doubt that the entire north shore of the island will present the same story to the searchers when it has been carefully explored."

Trees in London, as in other cities, have two adverse influences to resist coal smoke and the heat reflected from miles of brick and stone work. The past unusually hot summer has afforded a fine opportunity for observing what species can most successfully contend against these influences. Among them Mr. Herbert Maxwell names the Oriental plane tree, which has stood the trial fairly well, coming out with half its leaves gone and the other half fresh and green; aspens and poplars, which "have suffered not at all"; the ailantus, "which is (September 7th) in splendid foliage"; and our common locust (Robinia pseudacacia), which "for beauty of form or freshness of verdure can not be excelled for planting in towns."