Popular Science Monthly/Volume 46/November 1894/Notes


Mr. Gerard Fowke calls attention to the fact that, while Ohio has furnished prehistoric articles and relics for hundreds of collections at home and in Europe, and still possesses material to furnish specimens exceeding in number those of all collections combined of American archæology, the State has no adequate collection of its own accessible to all the public. The opportunity to form such a collection is now afforded through the new geological building of the State University, where should be established "the nucleus of a museum of Ohio archæology that would properly represent the great wealth of prehistoric remains within her borders." These remains should be gathered up industriously, "for they are being as slowly but as surely blotted out as are the aboriginal conditions of life which gave them existence."

Prof. Riley read a paper in the British Association on Social Insects and Evolution. He gave an account of the different kinds of individuals in the communities of bees and ants, and pointed out differences which indicated a gradation in the degree of their development. In the colonies of white ants the production of different kinds of individuals was even more under the control of the community. There were also many variations in different species: some had no soldiers; others, supplementary and complementary kings and queens, which were capable of reproduction in their pupal and larval stages. They fed, among other things, on their dead companions, and hence might be destroyed by poisoning a few, who in their turn poisoned their cannibal fellows. In these and other cases which were adduced the competition was between colonies, not between individuals, and, on the whole, the evidence drawn from these insects is in favor of the transmission of acquired characters.

The name Mashona (in Mashonaland) was explained by a Mr. Drule in the British Association as an English corruption of the nickname Amashuina (baboons) given by the Matabele to the Makalanga.

Great interest was awakened in the British Association by the communication of Lord Rayleigh and Prof. Ramsay on a new gas occurring in the atmosphere. Attention was first called to this substance by the fact that the density of nitrogen obtained from atmospheric air differed by about one half per cent from the density of nitrogen obtained from other sources. It was found that if air is subjected to electric sparks, the resulting nitrous fumes absorbed by potash and the excess of oxygen by alkaline ])yrogallate, there remains a residue which is neither oxygen nor nitrogen, as can be seen from its spectrum. The same gas may be isolated by exposing nitrogen obtained from the air to the action of magnesium. As the magnesium gradually absorbs the nitrogen, the density of the residue rises to nearly twenty. The newly discovered substance constitutes one per cent of the atmosphere, and gives a spectrum with a single blue line much more intense than a corresponding line in the nitrogen spectrum. Prof. Dewar is of the opinion that this "new element" is an allotropic form of nitrogen.

Liverpool was designated as the place for the meeting of the British Association in 1896. Sir Douglas Galton will be president of the meeting at Ipswich next year. The meeting for 1897 will probably be held in Toronto.

Prof. T. Johnson exhibited in the British Association a large collection of algæ from the west coast of Ireland which have the power of strongly incrusting their tissues with chalk and forming hard masses of calcareous matter. He considered that by this means the algæ obtained protection from the ravages of nibbling animals. He also described a number of algæ which possess an entirely opposite property, and by their power of dissolving calcareous matter bore minute holes in the shells of various molluscs and thus completely destroyed them.

Prof. L. H. Pammel, in a paper on the Effects of Cross-Fertilization in Plants, cites experiments by Prof. Bailey, of Missouri, who obtained more than a thousand types of pumpkins and squashes by as many careful hand pollinations without having ever seen any influence on the season's crop by mixing, except such as was due to imperfect development. The effects of the pollen were seen only in the offspring of the fruits. The author himself had made similar experiments without obtaining any results favorable to the theory of immediate influence. Prof. Bailey has made a like report of experiments with cucumbers and muskmelons.

In a paper read in the Association of Economic Entomologists on The Rise and Present Status of Official Economic Entomology, President L. 0. Howard reviewed the entire history of official economic entomology in all parts of the world from the time when in the early part of the century Dr. T. W. Harris, of Harvard College, wrote his report on insects injurious to vegetation in Massachusetts, for which he received one hundred and seventyfive dollars, down to the present year, when the United States Government spends one hundred thousand dollars annually in employing some sixty official entomologists in different parts of the country, and when some twenty different countries in all parts of the world have reached the conclusion that it pays to employ trained investigators to study the subject of insects injurious to crops. The speaker asserted that America leads the rest of the world in this branch of applied science.

The University of Chicago desires to secure for its museum collections illustrating the various religions of mankind, and invites workers in foreign lands, and especially missionaries and teachers, to assist it and co-operate with it. A beginning has already been made in a collection which the university now holds as a loan of objects illustrating Shinto worship and Japanese Buddhism, gathered by Mr. Edmund Buckley in Japan. A catalogue of the Shinto specimens is published in illustration of the kind of objects sought, and for the guidance of persons who may wish to co-operate in the work of collecting.

A course of lectures on prehistoric archaeology, outlined by Prof. Frederick Starr for the University Extension Course of the University of Chicago, is to embrace twelve lectures. A syllabus has been published of the first six lectures, the subjects of which are Man and the River Gravels, The Man of the Caverns, The Stone Age in Denmark, Lake Dwellings of Switzerland, Megalithic Monuments, and The Bronze Age in Scandinavia. The subjects of the other six lectures, of which a second syllabus is to be published, are Hallstadt, La Téne, Spain and Portugal, The Copper Age in Hungary, The Hill of Hissarlik, and The Question of Tertiary Man. Topics for exercises are to be given at the end of each lecture, to which answers in writing, to not more than two questions each week, are invited from all persons attending the lecture.

In a paper on The Relation of Biology to Geological Investigation, Dr. Charles A. White, of the United States National Museum, pertinently observes that a special cause of the perpetuation of extreme views respecting the degree of prominence to be assigned to biology "evidently exists in the form of personal domination by such of those who entertain them as happen to possess unusual opportunities for their enforcement. It is well known that such influence has at various times and in various ways retarded the progress of geological science, and that there is danger of its being exercised in all cases when the personal judgment of an observer is liable to be modified or controlled by official or other temporary authority."

Oil of beechnuts and oil of linden seeds have for some time been manufactured in Germany for use instead of olive oil. The oil of beechnuts has been in active demand for several years, but the crop is uncertain, and a steady trade has therefore not been built up. Experiments were made with linden seeds, of which there never fails to be a food crop, with most satisfactory success. They furnish much more oil than beechnuts; an oil that has a peculiarly fine flavor, does not evaporate or become rancid, has no tendency to oxidation, and does not solidify at a temperature of three degrees below zero of Fahrenheit.