Popular Science Monthly/Volume 47/August 1895/Notes


In the excavation of the ancient Roman city at Silchester, England, twelve rectangular inclosures or buildings have been found, all of the same type, and containing furnaces, obviously of an industrial character, and of various sizes. The circular furnaces correspond exactly with the dyeing furnace at Pompeii, and are supposed to have been used for a like purpose. The supposition is corroborated by the large number of wells discovered. A number of other furnaces with a straight flue are supposed to have been intended for drying. Several rooms are traceable which, it is presumed, were intended for the storage of goods and materials, and open spaces with no remains of flues which may have been used for bleaching grounds. A number of querns for hand-grinding the madder-roots used for dyeing purposes have been discovered.

A man shot through the brain, says Mr. Victor Horsley, dies, not through failure of the heart's action, but through the want of breath occasioned by the explosive effect of the bullet passing through the wet brain substance, and consequent injury to the base of the brain. The heart goes on beating, but respiration stops; indeed, the heart is stimulated, not depressed, when a bullet enters the brain; and the proper treatment of a man thus shot is the same as that resorted to in the case of drowned people—one should try to set up artificial respiration.

The investigation of the effect of metals on the growth of bacteria has been continued by Dr. Meade Bolton. His process was to inoculate a tube of melted jelly with particular microbes, and pour the contents out on a sterilized glass plate, after which bits of the metal under examination were laid on the jelly while it was still soft. If the metal has an inhibitory action on the microbes, then a clear zone is left around it after the colonies have developed in the other parts of the jelly. The width of this zone, Dr. Bolton found, varied very considerably with different organisms, as well as with different metals. Throughout the investigation it was found that those metals that are resistant toward chemical reagents in general failed to produce an effect on the microbes; while those metals which are readily attacked by chemical reagents all exhibited a marked inhibitory action upon the growth of bacteria. This result is probably due to a solution of the metal taking place in the medium.

Provision is made in the Missouri Botanic Garden for the furtherance of advanced research in botany and cognate sciences, and facilities are freely given to professors of botany and other persons wishing and competent to perform such work. The garden is rich in native and exotic species of plants, and horticulturists' varieties under cultivation; the herbarium includes nearly two hundred and fifty thousand species, fairly representative of the vegetable life of Europe and the United States, with specimens from other regions, and is supplemented by a large collection of woods; and the library is representative of the present condition of the science in its various departments, and contains besides nearly five hundred botanical volumes prepared before the period of Linnæus. Botanists wishing to pursue their studies here are invited to communicate on the subject with Prof. William Trelease, director, St. Louis.

The rapid decrease in the population of Ireland from 8,300,000 to 4,600,000 in fifty years is ascribed by Dr. Grimshaw, registrar general, to three causes: the frequent failure of the potato crop; the emigration stimulated by the high wages in America and the low wages at home; and the lack of manufacturing industries, the result of which is that when the crops fail the people become destitute and have to leave the country. Notwithstanding the decrease in the population, the registrar general believes that the country has gained in wealth.

Prof. Simon Newcomb has been elected by the French Academy of Sciences an associate academician as successor to the late Prof. Helmholtz.

In addition to the general courses of instruction of the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Holl, Mass., special lectures will be given on Embryology, by C. O. Whitman; Botanical Museum Development, by J. M. McFarlane; Matter and Energy, by A. E. Dolbear; and evening lectures will be delivered by specialists on biological subjects of general interest. Forty private laboratories are provided for investigators. The course of invertebrate anatomy will embrace simply a study of typical marine invertebrates, through lectures, laboratory work, and excursions; that in vertebrate anatomy has been arranged for those who desire a thorough study of the vertebrate body. The work in botany will be restricted to the study of the structure and development of types of the various orders of the cryptogamous plants Applications should be addressed to William A. Setchell, 2 Hillhouse Avenue, New Haven, Conn.

Dr. E. B. Tylor suggests the use of correspondence in culture as a means of tracing lines of connection and intercourse between ancient and remote peoples. The Egyptian conception of the judgment of the dead by weighing in a spiritual balance may be traced in a series of variants that seem to draw lines of intercourse through the Vedic and Zoroastrian religions. The associated doctrine of the Bridge of the Dead, which separates the good, who pass over, from the dead, who fall into the abyss, appears first in the ancient Persian religion, reaching to the extremities of Asia and Europe.

The subscription of $250,000 required by the law incorporating the New York Botanic Garden as a condition precedent to the city's furnishing $500,000 more and a site, has been completed, and the Garden may now be regarded as a near certainty. Its friends purpose to go on with their efforts and secure an increase of the subscriptions to $500,000. The site chosen, comprising 250 acres, is in Bronx Park, on both sides of the Bronx River.

The difference between European (continental) and our own methods of criminal procedure was strikingly illustrated in a trial for murder by poisoning which recently took place in Antwerp. The presiding justice freely expressed the opinion that the evidence was convincing, and questioned the prisoner as if he had been a prosecuting lawyer; and the prisoner, who expected this, had to prepare herself for such treatment. She was herself the principal witness. The jury was presumed to take the judge's questioning for what it was worth as it would have taken them from a prosecuting counsel, and not as carrying any authority, as whatever the judge might say would do with us. The prisoner had her advantages under this method, for she could be her own witness and counsel, and explain the circumstances herself. No prejudice appears to have existed in the minds of any except that which was raised by the evidence.

The Report of the Interstate Commerce Commission shows that the percentage of increase of railway mileage in 1894 was less than for any preceding year for which reports have been made to the commission. No better showing is anticipated for 1895. Sixteen roads were abandoned. The gain in the use of train brakes and automatic couplers was largely in excess of the increase of equipment during the year, but can not be considered as showing a marked tendency toward compliance with the law; for 74·80 per cent of the total equipment is still without train brakes and 72·77 per cent without automatic couplers. All must, by law, be supplied before January, 1898. The number of men employed was smaller than in any year since 1890, the largest decrease being in trackmen.

The man or woman, says Dr. B. Ward Richardson, who trains himself in the best bodily health makes the best of life. Bodily welfare is important, not for itself only, but because the health of the mind so largely depends on the health of the body. A good engine outlives many of its masters because they attend to it more carefully than they attend to their own bodies. The usual relations of the age of maturity to length of life, indicating a ratio of one to five, suggest that a man taking twenty-one years to mature should live one hundred and five years. The fact that such life is exceptionally attained shows its possibility; and it is owing to errors that it is not more widely attained in the human species.