Open main menu

Popular Science Monthly/Volume 46/March 1895/Notes


The course of eighteen lectures and conferences on social problems of the day, which was begun February 13th under the auspices of Columbian University, Washington, is to be continued, with three lectures a week, till March 28th. The conferences have special reference to the labor question, which will be considered from the points of view of ethics, economics, politics, education, and religion. Each conference is introduced by an address from a chosen speaker.

Attention has been recently directed to the artificial cultivation of India-rubber trees. Those of mature size of one species are found in the Royal Botanic Gardens at Trinidad to produce the gum in paying quantities; and several species of the genus have thriven there. Dr. Ernst urges that every effort be made to extend and preserve the forests, thickets, and groves on the Orinoco, and suggests that collectors be required when they work a grove to plant a certain number of trees. Only by such means, and by adopting a chemical mode of coagulation instead of the present crude way of evaporating the juice in the dense smoke of a wood fire, can the India-rubber production of the Amazon territory be increased in quantity and improved in quality.

The clock school at Furtwangen, in the Black Forest, Germany, established by the Duke of Baden in 1877, furnishes three years' instruction in preparatory, clockmaking, and supplementary courses. It comprises theory and practice, the higher mechanics, and electricity. The means of instruction include a large collection of all kinds of tools, instruments, drawings, models, etc., and carefully constructed and equipped school premises. Factories, electric plants, etc., are often visited under the direction of the teachers or of the mechanics employed in the places visited. The library contains books relating to clock and watch making, and the technique and mechanics of clock and watch making and electricity. Reading rooms, drawing rooms, laboratories, etc., are open to the pupils daily.

In the department of reptiles of the Paris Museum is a snake which climbs up the vertical smooth wall of its glass cage. It is about a foot long, and starts on its climb by lifting its head against the glass to a height of about six inches. It then disgorges through its salivary and lachrymal glands an abundant secretion of viscous mucus, which serves as an adhesive liquid and permits it to raise itself still higher till the hinder end of its body is no longer in contact with the floor of the cage. It climbs thus all the way up, very slowly.

Assuming that if man was already present in the United States when the Indian tribes first came here, his remains would be most likely to be found in caves near the Appalachian Mountain passes, Mr. H. C. Mercer, of the University of Pennsylvania, examined the caves of the New, Kanawha, and Ohio Rivers along six hundred miles of their course, and failed in all to find any traces of pre-Indian wanderers. He remarks also, in his paper describing his research on the absence from the caves of remains of any of the older animal inhabitants of the region.

The final report of the committee of the British Association on the Circulation of Underground Water represents that the exceptionally dry season rendered a special inquiry necessary as to the rate of descent of the underground water line and the rate of its subsequent restoration. The drought had made clearly plain the weakness of gravitation water supplies. The quality of the water in the best reservoirs steadily deteriorated as the quantity stored was reduced. The great value of underground water supplies was strongly brought out by the present yield of the Gainsborough Local Board well. Its total depth was thirteen hundred and sixty-one feet, and the yield of twenty thousand gallons an hour, in spite of the drought, did not fall off.

A curious list of laws is published as having been enacted at a recent grand palaver of the inhabitants of Abbeokuta, West Africa, who call themselves Egbas. They provide that "the practice of striking English silver coins upon the ground or upon stones to test them should cease, and that all English silver coins, whether new or old, should be received as a legal medium"; that the worship of the Shopernee, or smallpox, be discontinued throughout the country; and that vain boastings against the white men should stop. Other enactments relate to the prohibition of the slave trade and of seizure of strangers for debt.

A picture reproducing two photographs of the little bittern, in the attitudes it assumes to favor concealment, shows, in one of the figures, the bird standing in a reed bed erect, with neck stretched out and beak pointed upward, and looking very much like one of the reeds; the other picture representing the bird crouching against a tree stump at the riverside, in an attitude equally deceptive. W. H. Hudson remarks that the South American little heron, in the reed beds of the pampas, can not, when lost sight of, be found without the aid of dogs, even when the spot where it had lighted is marked.