Popular Science Monthly/Volume 44/November 1893/Notes


Polygonum sakhaliæ is the name of a forest plant from the island of Sakhalien, Japan, of which flattering accounts are given by M. Doumet Adanson, who has cultivated a few stools of it in France. He got it as an ornamental plant, and it is really very handsome. It grows to be about six feet high in three weeks; produces a considerable foliage of which cattle are fond; and yields a good second crop after the first cutting. A section of root planted will produce a stool covering a square metre of surface. It takes care of itself.

A league has been formed at Aix-en-Provence, France, for promoting agricultural interests by preserving the small insect-eating birds, and has allied itself with state and local authorities. It will seek to suppress nets and all machinery for capturing birds; to insure the preservation of nests; to forbid the manufacture and sale of spring nets and other bird-catching machinery, and to prohibit the use of poisons and of bird-lime against birds, and in general of anything except the gun for their destruction. It will favor the use of all means for the restoration and renaturalization of all useful species that are now tending to disappear. It will also strive to enlist the co-operation of the authorities and administrative officers in all practical measures to save the birds, and so to instruct the public that a generation shall grow up who have not been taught by the example or indifference of their elders that birds are mischievous creatures, to be got rid of, but the contrary.

The second medallist of the Royal Geographical Society this year (M. Selous, the African explorer, being the first) was Mr. Woodland Rockhill, an American diplomatist, who had made himself famous by his explorations in western China and northeastern Thibet.

A writer in the Génie Civil has shown that there is a difference in electric potential between the water and gas pipes in all houses, and that if one terminal of a telephone is joined, say, to the water pipe, on lightly touching the gas pipe with the other, a crackling sound will be heard in the telephone, indicating the passage of a current. When the telephone is replaced by the galvanometer, the negative pole is found to be formed by the gas pipe, and the galvanometer deflection to be permanent and constant in amount during several months, but with a slight diurnal variation. The currents are attributed to slow chemical changes. With the currents developed in these pipes the author has succeeded in carrying on a conversation between two houses a hundred metres apart.

A gorilla which had acquired considerable fame died recently in the Berlin Aquarium. The papers have published accounts of its daily operations. It awoke at eight o'clock in the morning and took a glass of milk. At nine o'clock it made its toilet with as much care as a civilized man, and ate its breakfast a few minutes afterward. This consisted of two Vienna loaves, Hamburg smoked meat, cheese, and white beer. At one o'clock in the afternoon it had a cup of chicken soup with carrot, rice, and potatoes, and an egg. Its evening meal consisted of fruits, bread and butter, and a cup of tea.

The Hindus are curiously frank in specifying their occupations for the census reports. Among the accounts many of them give of their trades they designate themselves as debtors, living on loans, men of secret resources—or plainly thieves, village thieves, or robbers. Others more modestly call themselves guests, visitors, story-tellers from house to house, dependents on relatives, supported by their sons-in-law, or idlers; and one is without work because he is silly. Among the more serious occupations are declarer of oracles, cleaner of eyes, sorcerer, foreteller of storms and hail, player of the tom-tom, or player, barber, doctor according to the Greek method, servant of a candidate, marriage broker of young domestics, marriage broker of his own daughters for money, etc.

According to an address by C. Theodore Williams before the Royal Meteorological Society, the chief features of the climate of Colorado appear to be: 1. Diminished barometric pressure, owing to altitude. 2. Great atmospheric dryness, especially in winter and autumn. 3. Clearness of atmosphere and absence of fog or cloud. 4. Abundant sunshine all the year round, but especially in winter and autumn. 5. Marked diathermancy of atmosphere, producing an increase in the difference between the temperature in the sun and in the shade, varying with the elevation in the proportion of one degree for every rise of two hundred and thirty-five feet. 6. Considerable air movement, even in the middle of summer, which promotes evaporation and tempers the solar heat. 7. The presence of a large amount of atmospheric electricity. Thus the climate is dry and sunny, with bracing and energizing qualities, permitting outdoor exercise all the year round.

According to a paper by Prof. Washington Matthews, of Fort Wingate, New Mexico, read in the American Association, the majority of the very numerous songs of the Navajos are divided into groups and follow in regular sequence; whence they may be called sequence songs. The order of the songs is arranged to correspond with a series of myths, there being a special myth for each set. The set of the "songs in the form of the house god" has thirty songs. In some instances the myth is the more important part of the work, but in more cases it is only a trifling element, and seems devised merely as an aid to the memory, or a means of explaining and giving interest to the songs. The master of ceremonies or leader in the production of these songs, called the thaman, must be a man of superior memory and of great intellectual industry. He must commit to memory many hundred songs, some of which are so sacred that the slightest mistake made in repeating them renders void an elaborate and costly ceremonial.

Two reforms in the system of life insurance commended in the English journals are the perfection of a plan by one company the object of which is to lighten the duties of trustees and enable the assurant to make better provision for his wife and children, the details of which are too technical to be published here; and the adoption by another company of a policy affording full and satisfactory information on all subjects concerning its operations and the nature and value of its policies, including those facts by the aid of which the assurant can see for himself what he can get every year upon his policy should he be constrained to sell it or borrow upon it.