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Popular Science Monthly/Volume 46/April 1895/Notes


The process of manufacturing calcium carbide by heating in an electric furnace a mixture of coal dust and lime is now well known. The appearance of this material, in masses, is like that of the mineral serpentine, it being greenish gray in color, with a luster like that of feldspar. If a few drops of water are thrown on this seeming rock, gas is given off, which, if ignited, burns with a brilliant flame, and will continue to blaze, if supplied with water, till the mineral is exhausted. It is proposed to use acetylene gas thus produced for local gas engines. A charge of the mineral is placed in a closed vessel in which a regulated supply of water is admitted. A little water entering evolves a quantity of gas, whose pressure shuts off the water, and, as the gas is exhausted, more water is admitted to renew the supply.

The fiftieth anniversary of the discovery of anæsthesia by Horace Wells was celebrated in Hartford, Conn., December 10th, by a meeting and banquet of about fifty dentists of the State. It was claimed by some of the speakers that there w as now no question as to Dr. Wells's priority in the discovery; and the story of the early experiments was told by Dr. G. Q. Colton, whose administration of laughing gas fifty years ago suggested to Dr. Wells the idea of using it as an anæsthetic. Mr. J. Gray read a paper in the British Association on the Distribution of the Picts in Britain, as indicated by Place Names. The Picti of North Britain and the Pictones or Pictavi of South Gaul are both mentioned by Roman writers. The evidence of place names shows that probably the whole intervening country was at an earlier date occupied by the same race. The language of the Picts was Basque. The name Pict is derived from a Basque word pikatu, to cut. Place names in the British Isles involving all forms of the root Pakat have been classified under counties and their densities calculated. The Goidels, who followed the Picts, spread along the valleys of the Thames and Severn to the Mersey, where a part probably crossed to Meath and spread in two streams to the west coast of Ireland; the other part moved northward, and advanced into Scotland almost to the Forth. A second incursion entered Scotland by Argyll and spread along the west counties to the extreme north. The pre-Pictish inhabitants were probably Iberians, and prevailed mostly in Ireland, South Wales, Cumberland, and South Scotland.

Experiments made by different observers at different times and places, culminating with those of M. Kœchlin on the Eiffel Tower, indicate that the formulas used by meteorologists for the conversion of wind velocity into pressure give results about one third too high.

The Pilot Chart of the North Atlantic Ocean, published by the Hydrographic Bureau of our Navy Department, shows that from the 9th to the 23d of November there were only two days of good weather. The system adopted by this bureau for collecting and discussing observations made at sea enables it to present the chart of the results very quickly.

It has been found, after careful investigation, by Profs. A. Bartoli and E. Stracciati, of the absorption of solar radiation by fog and by cirrus clouds, that a veil of cirrus is able to intercept as much as thirty per cent of the sun's rays; while a slight fog, equally diffused in all directions, intercepted from fifty-eight to ninety-two per cent of the solar rays that would have been transmitted with a clear sky.

Prof. G. S. Brady, after an examination of British fish-cultural establishments, has recommended the foundation of a hatchery on the Northumberland coast to aid in keeping up and improving the supply of sea fish, and of a biological laboratory attached to it for the scientific study of the marine fauna of the neighborhood.

In a recent lecture before the English College of Preceptors on Science Teaching, Mr. H. G. Welles pointed out that a rational course of science should grow naturally out of the kindergarten. This should lead to object lessons proper, and demonstrations in physics and chemistry may be made to grow insensibly, without any formal beginning, out of such lessons. The best—about the only permanently valuable—preparation for a scientific calling that can be given to a boy in a secondary school is the broad basis of physics and chemistry led up to in this way.