Popular Science Monthly/Volume 45/July 1894/Popular Miscellany


Meeting of the American Association.—The forty-third meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science will be held in Brooklyn, N. Y., August 15th to 24th. The names of the officers were given in The Popular Science Monthly for October, 1893. The rooms of the Polytechnic Institute, the Packer Institute, the Art Association, the Long Island Historical Society, and the Academy of Music have been offered for the use of the association. The meetings will be held mainly in the buildings of the Polytechnic and Packer Institutes. The headquarters of the association will be at the St. George Hotel, Clark Street. The Ladies' Reception will be given August 16th. An unusually varied and attractive list of excursions is offered, including free excursions to Long Branch; Cold Spring Harbor, Long Island, where are the Biological Laboratory of the Brooklyn Institute and the station of the New York Fish Commission; up the Hudson to West Point and return; and around the harbor; geological excursions to sis points of interest; mineralogical excursions to six points; botanical excursions to five points; zoölogical excursions to four points; excursions for engineers to the Navy Yard and the Brooklyn Bridge; and an excursion to the White Mountains to attend the Congress of the American Forestry Association. The pay excursions will be at reduced fares. The meetings of the associations and societies affiliated with the General Association will be held before and during its meetings, beginning with those of the Geological Society of America and the American Microscopical Society, August 13th.

Classes in Economics.—Instruction in the Department of Economics in the School of Applied Ethics, Plymouth, Mass., during the session July 12 to August 15, 1894, will be devoted to a discussion of the relation between economics and social progress. The idea which underlies it is, that all phases of social activity and living are necessarily bound together, and consequently that no problem in which human relations are a prominent factor, whether theoretical or practical, can be properly understood, except it be studied in the light of some comprehensive theory of social development. The same general purpose will be recognized in the adjustment of courses in the other departments of the school, which include those of History of Religious and Applied Ethics. The scheme of lectures includes courses by Prof. H. C. Adams, director, on the Historical Basis of Modern Industries, Relation of Economic Theory to Social Progress, and The Transportation Problem; by Prof. J. B. Clark, on The Ethics and the Economics of Distribution; by Prof. R. Mayo-Smith, on Ethnical Basis for Social Progress in the United States; by President E. B. Andrews, on Civilization and Money; their Relation illustrated by the History of Money; by Prof. F. H. Giddings, on The Social Functions of Wealth; by Prof. J. W. Jenks, on the Relation of Political and Industrial Reform; and by Dr. E. R. L. Gould on Practical Problems in Municipal Economy.

The Benefits of Sanitation.—A paper on The Achievements of Sanitation measured by Vital Statistics, by George E. Willetts, of Lansing, Mich., contains some suggestive data bearing on the usefulness of modern sanitation. Having sought for some compilation of death-rates from a number of the principal diseases reaching back for so long a period as to tell a connected story concerning such diseases, without being able to find it, Mr. Willetts carefully worked out the subject himself from selected data relating to mortality from fevers, cholera, consumption, smallpox, and all causes as recorded in the death-rates of England, Sweden, the city of London, etc. The result is a demonstration of the alteration for the better that has taken place in modern times in the rate of mortality from these causes. Diagrams prove graphically that a marked diminution in the death-rate has taken place, especially in the last half century, or since the efforts at prevention and restriction of infectious diseases have become systemized. Facts are brought out in Mr. Willetts's presentation showing that the theory of M. Carnot, that the saving of life from infectious diseases is only apparent, and is made up for by an increased mortality from certain other causes of death, is untenable, for the death-rate from all causes declined during the period under examination. The doctrine of Malthus, likewise, that the effect of diminution of the death-rate is to cause the population to press more closely upon the limits of subsistence, is negatived by the fact which appears that the rate of pauperism has declined in England coincidently with the fall of the death-rate. It also appears that the population is increasing least rapidly where good sanitary conditions have prevailed. The effect of sanitary improvement is thus seen to lie, not in the direction of an over-production of the human race, but toward a better regulated and governed increase.

Expansion in Public Documents.—The latest report of the State Mineralogist of California furnishes an interesting object lesson as to the manner in which literature is prepared at the expense of the Government. The report relates, or is supposed to relate, to mining. The Governor of the Slate, in his message, objected to the voluminousness of this as well as some of the other department reports, saying that none but the unemployed and those directly interested and expecting to derive personal benefit from them could find time to read them; intimating that too little time was devoted by their authors to condensing their statements; and suggesting that while the printing of the mineralogical report would cost ten thousand dollars, "two thousand dollars worth of intelligent editorial work bestowed upon the manuscript would have saved four times that amount in the cost of printing, and the volume would have been of greater value to those interested. People," he added, "will not read long, tedious reports, and if it were not for the condensed statements given out through the press the people of the State generally would have very little information in regard to our public institutions." An appropriation having been made for the purpose, the material was put into the hands of an editor for condensation. He found several of the articles that had been prepared not directly related to the subject, though possibly of scientific value and doubtless suitable for publication through other channels, such as an academy of sciences, a geographical or an ethnographical society. In some cases the same ground was covered by the special reports of two or more assistants; in other cases matter was substantially repeated from previous reports, while no attempt had been made in either category to prune any excrescences. The manuscript showed no signs of having been edited, 'aside from the mere paging of the leaves and arranging in order. In parts of the manuscript that had been copied in the office, errors of copyists entirely unfamiliar with mining affairs had been retained without revision or attempt to correct them. Finally, the editor reduced the 2,307 pages of manuscript, largely type-written, to about 844 pages, or 954 pages if an article on mining law, valuable but not relating exclusively to California, is retained; and in doing this believes that he has retained all the matter proper for the report. This excessive expansiveness is not found in the public documents of California alone. We have observed it in those of the United States in more than one department.

The Soda "Lake" of Wyoming.—As described by H. Pemberton, Jr., and George P. Tucker, there exists a deposit of sulphate of soda, locally known as a "lake," about fourteen miles southwest of Laramie, Wyo. The deposit is composed of three of these lakes lying within a stone's throw of one another—the Big Lake, the Track Lake, and the Red Lake—having together a total area of about sixty-five acres. They are the property of the Union Pacific Railroad Company, are connected by a branch of that road with the main line at Laramie, and are generally known as the Union Pacific Lakes. In these lakes the sulphate of soda occurs in two bodies or layers. The lower part, constituting the great bulk of the deposit, is a mass of crystals of a faint greenish color, mixed with a considerable amount of black, slimy mud. It is known as the "solid soda," and is said to have a depth of some twenty or thirty feet. Above this solid soda occurs the superficial layer of pure white crystallized sulphate of soda. This is formed by solution in water of the upper part of the lower body, the crystals being deposited by evaporation or by cooling, or by the two combined. A little rain in the spring and autumn furnishes this water, besides which innumerable small sluggish-flowing springs are present in all the lakes; but on account of the dry air of this region the surface is generally dry, or nearly so, and in midsummer the white clouds of efflorescent sulphate that are whirled up by the ever-blowing winds of Wyoming can be seen for miles. The layer of white sulphate is from three to twelve inches in thickness. When the crystals are removed, the part laid bare is soon replenished by a new crop.

The Tea Gardens of Johore.—Johore is an independent kingdom—the only one now in the Malay Peninsula—on the Strait of Malacca, and fourteen miles from the British colony of Singapore. It is one of the richest native states in Asia—rich in its deposits of tin and iron, and in its virgin forests of valuable tropical trees, and in the productive capacity of its soil. The present sultan, Abu Bakar, has experimented liberally in the development of the native crops of tapioca, cocoa, sago, gambler, spices, and gums, and has introduced the cultivation of tea, coffee, and pepper with such success that they now form the chief products of the kingdom. The Johore tea has been declared by experts to be of a very superior quality. The moist heat required by the tea plant is afforded in such perfection by the climate of Johore that the plants flush, or afford the fresh shoots from which the young leaves are picked to make our tea, all the year round. The bushes are planted in rows about five feet apart, with a space of about five feet between the stools. Each bush flushes about three times a month; and once a year it flowers, and is then pruned. The leaves are picked by Chinese or coolies, who turn in their pickings twice a day, and are paid by the piece. An industrious picker can pick, when the flush is good, as much as sixty pounds of green leaf a day, which will make a little more than fourteen pounds of dried leaves. The green leaves are carefully "withered" in bamboo trays by experienced Chinese operators till they are sufficiently dried—a fact which is determined by the touch; they are then rolled, either by hand rollers or rollers worked by steam, in such a way that they are pressed and twisted without losing juice. After this they are placed in heaps upon a bench, where they are turned over and over again by hand, to be "fermented," till they lose their original green and become blue; thence they are removed to a large drying chest called a sirocco, and exposed to a heat of 260º F. Each sirocco will hold four trays, which are placed at different levels. The first batch of leaf is placed on the top tray, and after a few minutes is withdrawn, turned over by hand for a while, and is then placed on the second tray, while the first tray is filled with a new lot. The operation is repeated until each lot has had four treatments, when it is considered "made." The tea is then sorted in revolving cylinders made of wire work of different degrees of fineness. As the cylinders revolve, the tea in the top one works through the meshes, according to size, into the cylinder below it, and so on. The meshes determine the grades, which are known as broken orange pekoe, orange pekoe, broken pekoe, pekoe, pekoe souchong, and souchong, in the order of their value. More than half—perhaps sixty per cent—of the making will be souchong. Next come the weighing and packing. Four and a quarter pounds of green leaf are supposed to make a pound of "made" tea.

Early Alpine Climbing.—In prehistoric times, says Mr. W. M. Carney, the Alps were traversed by two or three trade roads, the most important being that along which the exchange in bronze and amber took place. Italy was invaded over more than one pass in early times. In the mediæval period the passes of the Alps were largely used by pilgrims, the Great St. Bernard being their favorite route. An interesting account is extant of the passage of this route in winter by Abbot Rudolf, of the Troad, in the year An itinerary of the way was drawn up about 1154 by Abbot Nicholas, of Thurgör, in Iceland. It was a kind of guidebook for pilgrims. The climbing of mountains has occurred sporadically from ancient times. Hadrian climbed Etna to see the sunrise. In the eleventh century an attempt was made to climb the Roche Melon, but the summit was not reached till 1358. Toward the end of the thirteenth century Peter III of Aragon climbed Canigon in the Pyrenees, and saw a dragon on the top. In 1339 Petrarch climbed Mont Ventoux, near Vaucluse, "to see what the top of a hill was like." Charles VIII of France sent one of his chamberlains up the wall-sided Mont Aiguille in 1492. Leonardo da Vinci's general scientific curiosity led him to pay attention to mountains, and he appears to have ascended some part of Monte Rosa to a point above the snow line. In the sixteenth century the study of mountains advanced considerably, and a group of regular mountaineers was almost formed at Zurich, but civil and religious troubles blighted their enterprise. Conrad Gesner and Josias Simler were their leaders. The former appears to have been infected with the regular mountaineering ardor of the modern sort. Simler published a valuable and interesting book about the Alps, in which he gave sound, practical advice to climbers. During the first half of the seventeenth century mountains were neglected. Dragons were still supposed to linger among them, and they were thought to be the homes of devils, against whom outpost chapels were built.

Peat-moss Atolls.—The attention of Mr. Conway Macmillan has been directed to examples of a peculiar and hitherto unrecorded peat-moss formation observed in some of the lakes of Minnesota. From their position in the middle of ponds of considerable size, he has named them sphagnum atolls. Ballard's atoll is situated in an almost circular pond about a hundred and fifty yards across, which is surrounded, except for a short distance on the west, where a channel has been cut between two low jutting bars. The atoll appears from the surrounding hills as a ring of green, conspicuous and sharply defined, about seventy-five feet in diameter, and having a uniform width of about ten feet. Another atoll, Anderson's atoll, is in a pond about fifty yards across, with high banks, and forms a ring within a foot or two of twenty yards in diameter and having a breadth of about twelve inches. Both atolls support a diversified vegetation, which is not alike on the two. This vegetation likewise differs from that of the pond outside and of the inner lagoon, and varies with the development and desiccation of the atoll. The origin of these formations is ascribed by the author to a season of gradual recession of the waters of the pond, when a loose turf was formed, lining the edges of the pond, followed by a season of comparatively rapid increase in area and level, when this surface became detached from the shore. The atolls then probably first appeared as annular floating bogs, separated from the shoreward turf as a result of the original zonal distribution of littoral plants and the rise of the waters, together with the favorable concurrence of a group of special and necessary conditions. Some of the apparent conditions of atoll formation are a definite maximum size and depth of the present pond; considerable height and regularity of the banks of the present pond (whereby the zone of vegetation is protected from violent winds); a regular and gentle slope of the pond bottom from shore to center; a definite original character of littoral vegetation when the pond was at a low level; a reduction within minimum limits of the lateral pressure and tension of winter ice; and a comparatively prompt anchoring of the atoll upon the bottom.

Dakota Climates.—The Dakotas are divided, according to Dr. D. W. Robinson, into two climatic regions by the range of hills and highlands known as the Missouri Divide. In the east divide country "many of the essential characteristics of an ideal health region are present. . . . Excessive cloud and dampness are not present beyond what is needed for successful agriculture. The air is rare, pure, and exhilarating. Diseases of an acute character are not extensively prevalent, and outbreaks of epidemic disease are rare and easy to control." The upper Missouri basin, which is about three hundred miles long, between a hundred and three hundred miles wide, and rises from twelve hundred to sixteen hundred feet at the Missouri Valley to from eighteen hundred to three thousand feet at the brines, "is the sunland of Dakota. It is drier than the east divide country." Contrary to what might be expected in a latitude so far north, the winters are short. The season usually begins about the holidays; with the exception of a few disagreeable days that come with the late fall rains, the weather is usually delightful. At times in midwinter the thermometer registers much below zero. These days of low temperature invariably follow a fall of snow, and before the bright sunshine that is sure to come has tempered the dry, cutting atmosphere. A very notable feature of this climate to those who have never before spent the winter in Dakota is their ability to pursue their outdoor employments on the coldest days without unusual discomfort. A temperature that would render outdoor pursuits impossible in an air laden with moisture will in this dry, sunny air be almost unnoticeable. Storms are frequent, but not as a rule destructive or dangerous. Probably the most disagreeable feature of this season as well as of all seasons in the Missouri basin are the sudden and ofttimes extreme changes of temperature. But in the coldest weather the United States Signal reports show that the temperature is not so low by several degrees at Pierre or Bismarck on the Missouri River as in the same latitudes east of the Missouri divide. Spring begins early. The warmth and sunshine bring this season fully a month in advance of the damper localities in the same latitude and many miles south in the Mississippi. In summer the days are often warm, but rarely oppressive. The autumn is the most delightful season of the year, and the year usually passes away with it. The favorable features of Dakota for health-seekers are that it possesses the proper altitude; that it has a water supply of the very purest; that by far the largest number of days of all seasons are days of sunshine; that it has a dry, porous soil; that it can not for years be overcrowded; that severe and fatal diseases do not extensively prevail; and that it has plenty of advantages for industrial pursuits, thousands of acres of cheap productive land, and a place where the poor and the prospective invalid can found a permanent home. The disadvantages are, that there are present to a certain degree sudden and depressing atmospheric changes; and that it lacks a great variety of means for diversion, although hunting, fishing, horseback riding, and other sports can be followed almost daily.

Mind Cures.—Why, asks Dr. A. T. Schofield, of Friedenheim Hospital, are not the great therapeutic powers of the mind given their due place and prominence in medical treatment? "Does any practical medical man doubt these powers? Is he not aware of the ingredient 'faith' which, if added to his prescriptions, makes them often all-powerful for good? Does he not know the value of strongly asserting that the medicines will produce such and such effects as a powerful means of securing them? Has he never witnessed the therapeutic value through the mind of the dentist's waiting room in curing toothache, or of the consultant's spacious dining room and back numbers of Punch, combined with the physician's august presence in the consulting room? And has he not seen how much more efficacious the very same drugs have proved when prescribed in such solemn surroundings than in his own humbler environment and less august presence?" Among the most valuable instruments of mental therapeutics is the mantelpiece striking clock. Sir Dyce Duckworth insists upon the great efficacy, in cases of persistent vomiting, of giving the liquid food in teaspoonfuls every five minutes by the dock. Food thus given is more readily retained, and all the more so if the clock can be clearly observed by the patient himself from the bed. At the exact time the mind, acting through the brain, enables the stomach (perhaps by some inhibitory power over the vomiting center in the medulla) to retain the food. The clock has also proved to be valuable in labor in promoting regularity in the intervals between the pains, as well as in the appointment of the hours for nursing the child. Its real value in these, as in all cases, is truly scientific, and lies in its potent aid toward rapidly forming accurate psychophysical habits or artificial reflexes in the brain. The clock is a strong aid to sleep by enabling a person to go to bed at exactly the same hour every night'; regularity in this matter is a powerful hypnotic.

Effects of Wind on Soil.—Investigations by M. J. A. Hensele show that when the wind bears in an acute angle upon the surface of a soil it produces a pressure of the air of the soil that increases with the speed of the wind and the increase of the angle of incidence. The excess of pressure diminishes as the strata grow deeper. The pressure determined by the wind increases with the grossness of the particles and as the structure is grumelous. The wind provokes a diminution of richness in carbonic acid of the air of the soil, which becomes greater with increase of velocity. It also increases the evaporation of water from the soil. Wind striking the ground at an angle occasions an evaporation of more unequal force than when it blows horizontally. Richness in moisture has much influence in retarding evaporation, while elevation of temperature quickens it. The wind has no direct influence on the capillary ascent of water in the soil, but only acts indirectly by favoring evaporation and thus provoking a movement of water toward the surface as long as there is much of it in the soil. The temperature of the soil is depressed by wind in proportion to its velocity and the magnitude of the angle of incidence.

Behavior of Different Trees to Lightning.—The resistance of different trees to the electric spark has been studied by M. Jonesco Dimitrie, who placed pieces of sapwood of beech and oak in the way of the spark of a Holtz electrical machine. The spark passed through the oak after one or two revolutions of the machine, while twelve or twenty revolutions were required to give it force enough to pass through the beech. Five revolutions were sufficient with black poplar and willow. Similar results were obtained with heartwood. The presence of water had no influence on the resistance, but richness in fat was an important factor. "Starchy trees," poor in fat, like the oak, poplar, willow, maple, elm, and ash, opposed much less resistance to the spark than "fatty" trees, like the beech, chestnut, linden, and birch. The pine, which is rich in oil in winter and poor in it in summer, shows a corresponding difference in behavior toward the spark at those two seasons. In the "starchy" trees the living wood was harder to strike with the spark than the dead wood. The bark and foliage are poor conductors in all the trees, but this is of little importance as compared with the conducting power of the tree itself. These results are in harmony with what has been observed as to the relative frequency with which trees of these several species are struck by lightning. The author found also that station and soil affect the liability of trees to be struck. The vicinity of water augments the danger. Isolated trees seem more liable than those which are massed. All species of trees may be struck when the electric tension is high.

Speech Tones.—Attention is called by Alexander Melville Bell to the tones associated with speech as a subject deserving scientific investigation. These tones are generally spoken of as accents. "Thus we say of a stranger that he has a foreign accent; or we may define the peculiarity and say he has an Irish, a Scotch, a French, a German, a Western, or a Southern accent. He may or may not add to this some distinctive pronunciations affecting vowels or consonants; but independently of these he will use in his phrases and sentences a combination of tones—a tune—which alone would suffice to suggest the nationality of the speaker. All national speech has its characteristic tune. This is especially noticeable in dialects of the same language. We are but little cognizant of our own habitual tunes, but we are at once sensible of any marked deviation from them in the speech of others." The author devotes a very interesting paper, which he read before the Modern Language Association last December, to the analysis of these "speech tones." He especially discusses the tones of the Chinese language.

Bacteria in Butter-making.—In a bulletin of the Storrs Agricultural Experiment Station, Connecticut, on the Ripening of Cream by Artificial Bacteria Cultures, the chief object of the ripening of cream is shown to be to produce the butter aroma. This aroma, though very evanescent, controls the price of the butter. The butter-maker owes the aroma to the bacteria, for by their growth the materials in the cream are decomposed, and the compounds are formed which produce the flavors and odors of high-quality butter. Different species of bacteria vary much as to the flavors which they produce, some giving rise to good, some to extra fine, and others to a very poor quality of butter. A majority of our common dairy species produce good but not the highest quality of butter. Heretofore the butter-maker has had no means of securing the best flavoring bacteria; but now the bacteriologist can isolate and obtain in pure cultures those species which produce the best-flavored butter, and can furnish them to the creameries to use as starters in cream ripening. This artificial ripening of cream promises much for the near future, but it has so far been applied on only a small scale.