Popular Science Monthly/Volume 45/July 1894/Notes


The third summer session of the School of Applied Ethics is to be held at Plymouth, Mass., July 12th to August 15th. A special feature will be the attention given to the labor question and allied subjects in each of the departments. In the Department of Economics the relation of economics to social progress will be discussed by leading economists from different universities. In the Department of Ethics and History of Religion various phases of the labor problem in the past and present will be considered by a large corps of able educators. The relation of various forms of educational activity to ethical and social progress will be considered at a conference of educators and teachers, August 5th to 11th, and opportunity will be afforded for free and full discussion.

A committee has been formed in Paris, with M. Pasteur at its head, to raise funds for the erection of a monument to the memory of M. Charcot.

In a lecture at the Royal Institution on the Electric Discharge through Gases, Prof. J. J. Thomson deduced from experiments the conclusion that the conductivity of gases at a certain degree of rarefaction is greater than that of any metal, and almost infinitely greater molecule for molecule. At a higher degree of rarefaction, however, conductivity is diminished, and in a perfect vacuum, as has been shown by some of Prof. Dewar's experiments, it is probable that the discharge would not pass at all. From another series of experiments it was inferred that electric currents will cross a high vacuum freely though they produce no glow to indicate the fact.

Why man can not swim without having learned, while other animals can, is explained by Mr. Robinson in the Nineteenth Century. It is a question of atavism. When in great danger we make the defensive movements most familiar or instinctive to us. The first impulse of quadrupeds is to run away, and the movements of running sustain them in the water, while man, true to his simian ancestors, tries to catch hold of something, and pushes his arms up, with the sure result of himself going down.

A curious colloidal form of gold, soluble in water containing basic acetate of cerium, is described by Herr Schottlander. The solution is of a very intense reddish-violet color, turning to carmine red in dilute solutions. The color still remains distinct in a solution containing only 1500000 of gold. These solutions are obtained by precipitating a dilute solution of a salt of cerium mixed with gold, by means of a lye of potash or soda. The green precipitate obtained is then dissolved in warm dilute acetic acid. The acetate of soda then gives a violet-red precipitate containing all the gold in the liquor and a little basic acetate of cerium. On drying this precipitate an amorphous bronze-colored mass, soluble in water, is finally obtained.

The French Museum of Natural History received, a few months ago, a specimen of that rarest of birds, the Apteryx. It was carefully kept in a warmed room and fed with expressly chosen and prepared meats, for it was not supposed it could thrive in a foreign climate and among strange associations. One day in October it was gone, and could not be found, though the whole Jardin des Plantes was searched for it, till early in March a dog smelled it out in one of the ventilating holes of a row of newly erected buildings, in the cellar of which it had endured cold and rain and snow through the winter, and lived on what it could pick up. Never had it been known to be in better condition.

Orchid culture, as we know it, according to an article quoted in Garden and Forrest from the Orchid Review, did not exist till early in the last century, when, in 1731, a dried specimen of the species Bletia verecunda was sent to Peter Collinson from the Bahamas. Collinson sent the tubers to the garden of a Mr. Wager, where they were nursed during the winter, and produced flowers in the next summer. Two of our North American cypripediums were cultivated, perhaps, as early as 1737. At the end of the century there were cultivated in English gardens, besides several hardy species, orchids which had been brought home by travelers and naval and military officers from the West Indies, China, and the Cape of Good Hope. Our beautiful little Calopogon pulchellus was introduced accidentally in some bog earth which had been taken over to England with some plants of Dionea for the botanist Curtis. His gardener noticed some small, toothlike, knobby roots in the soil and took care of them so that they flowered in the following summer. The first orchid was figured in 1790 from the strongest of these plants.

Philibert Commerson, the eminent naturalist and botanist of Bougainville's scientific and exploring expedition, 1766-'69, wrote of Réaumur, the entomologist and author of the Réaumur thermometer scale: "Reaumur, the illustrious Réaumur, has just died from the effects of a fall which caused a suppuration of all the internal parts of his head. Thus the poor insects have become orphans for a long time, for we other Linnæists are nothing but cruel impalers; but Réaumur was their father, their accoucheur, their nurse, their interpreter, their all."

The results of examinations of European statistics by M. Lagneau go to show that as among occupations consumption is most prevalent among persons whose callings expose them to dusts; and next among those whose work is sedentary; while persons living in the open air enjoy an almost complete immunity. From another point of view, consumption appears to increase in towns rapidly with the density of the population.

Remarking upon a proposal to establish a psychological laboratory in England, similar to the institutions of the kind that exist "all over the Continent," the Revue Scientifique observes that there is only one such laboratory in France deserving the name, and that to find really important installations it is necessary to go to Germany or to the United States; and that the English in arranging their experimental establishment will have to draw their inspiration from these two countries.

The Geographical Club of Philadelphia was formed in 1891, and its first stated meeting was held February 24, 1892, when the president, Prof. Angelo Heilprin, read an opening address on the Present Aspects of Geographical Study. Since then, till January, 1894, twelve stated meetings have been held at which important and interesting papers have been read. The club was incorporated in May, 1892. Its purpose is defined to be the advancement of the science of geography and of geographical studies and exploration, the recording of discoveries, the presentation of researches, and the accumulation of works on geography. Among the features of its history to this time are its association, through a contribution of funds, with the Peary Arctic Expedition of 1893, and the issue of the first number of its Bulletin, containing an address, by Mr. E. S. Balch, on Mountain Exploration.

The English Society for the Protection of Birds aims at preventing the destruction of beautiful and useful birds by influencing public opinion, and, if possible, by promoting legislation. Mr. E. H. Bayley, M. P., the president, referred, in his address at the annual meeting of the society, to the wholesale catching and killing of birds for purposes of sale, or for so-called sport. As an example of abuse in sport, he instanced a case which had been brought under his notice of a man who went down to Devonshire from London, and in a short time destroyed all the kingfishers on a certain stream. The number of members of the society has increased in one year from 5,200 to 9,159.