Popular Science Monthly/Volume 47/June 1895/Notes


The economic value of fossils, says State Geologist Charles R. Keyes in his report on the Palæontology of Missouri, is commonly entirely overlooked. To the laity usually these remains of life are merely curious; to the specialist the interest in the ancient organisms is largely scientific. But with him who wills it even a slight acquaintance with the true character of fossils enables the rocks to be read as a printed page. It is one of the best established facts in modern geological science that an intimate relation exists between mineral deposits and the surrounding rocks; hence the geological age of the particular beds becomes an important factor in the early attempts to develop new mineral districts. This suggestion, again, rests on one of the cardinal principles of geology: that the geological succession of strata is determinable readily by the remains of life contained. Thus, in reality, fossils are labels on the rocks, telling man at a glance the age of the bed he is working, and providing him with the most reliable guides he could possibly secure to direct him to the layers most likely to contain the mineral sought.

Colgate University, with three departments leading to degrees in arts, philosophy, and science, and offering a total of one hundred and twenty-five courses of instruction, has adopted the policy of requiring the master's degree to be earned by graduate work. The old plan will cease after 1896.

The summer course in botany of the Torrey Botanical Club and the College of Pharmacy of New York was opened in the College of Pharmacy, March 27th. It is to include fourteen lectures by Dr. Smith Eli Jelliffe, given on Wednesdays, with excursions for study in the field and the collection of specimens. The lectures during May and June will be on the stem, leaves, inflorescence, and parts of the flower, general conclusions, history, and herborization. Besides the lectures, Dr. Jelliffe is giving a course of lessons on Thursday evenings in Vegetable Histology, or the microscopic anatomy of plants.

A curious instance of the formation of snow was witnessed at Agen, France, on the night of the 30th of January. A fire broke out in a sawmill when the temperature was ten degrees centigrade below the freezing point. The water thrown upon it was instantly vaporized, and, rising into the cold, dry air, was immediately condensed and fell as snow. What with bright starlight and a strong northwest wind blowing, the whirling snow above and the raging fire below, a brilliant spectacle was presented.

A severe storm in England in December last was marked by the deposition of notable quantities of salt on the trees, the ground, and various objects at considerable distances from the coast. Similar phenomena have been observed rarely before. Mr. G. Symons has shown in the Monthly Meteorological Magazine that the spray of the ocean was carried to distances of between seventy-five and one hundred miles from the sea.

At the Los Angeles Public Library, California, the copies of magazines not needed for binding are filed away, some to replace worn-out circulating copies, while others are taken apart, the illustrations are cut out, sorted, and mounted on gray Bristol board, forming collections of pictures for teaching geography, history, literature, and mythology, besides being samples of the modern school of illustrators and artists. The articles are sorted into classified groups, which are sewed together, some for school, some for library use, some for the hospitals, etc. The comic pictures and advertising pages are sent to the social settlements and to kindergartens for scrapbooks. "For all-around usefulness, attractiveness, and satisfaction," the librarian says in her report, "the magazines which are duplicated for home use are unsurpassed. There is no trouble in securing volunteers for the cutting of pictures, for collectors of material will gladly exchange work for pictures. The report of the teachers on the use of this material in the school-room is a general cry for more."

An experience of the observers at the meteorological station on the summit of Ben Nevis, Scotland, is cited as bearing upon the question of the value of high-level residence in the treatment of tuberculous conditions. These observers are changed every three months. While on duty at the observatory, with all the exposure to extremes of weather to which they are subjected, they are remarkably free from all kinds of ailments. This has been the case during eleven years. The subsequent residence at a lower level renders them liable to a kind of influenzal catarrh.

The great exposition to be held in Paris in 1900 is to be much like the two which have preceded it; but a new and special feature will be added. It is intended to make it a sort of a mirror of the century of which it will mark the close.

The industrial exhibitions now so common are wittily characterized by the Count Alphonse de Calonna, in the Revue des Deux Mondes, as festivals of which industry is only a pretext and amusement has become the real object. "The great capitals and even the secondary cities take turns in dancing a grand six months' saraband around a shrine in which the product of the mental and material efforts of a decade has been piled up."

The Austro-German Alpine Club includes two hundred and fourteen local sections and more than thirty-one thousand registered members. Its purpose is to improve the roads of the Alps and increase knowledge of the mountains. An exhibition of remarkable maps was given at the general meeting in August, 1894, among them a relief map of the Jungfrau group, on a scale of 1 to 100,000.

Concerning the possibilities of the molecular constitution of argon and its chemical position, Prof. Mendeléef finds that if it be monatomic, with an atomic weight of 40, as found by Lord Rayleigh and Prof. Ramsay, it has no place in the periodic system. If it be diatomic, with a molecular formula A 2 , its atomic weight would be about 20, and its place would be in the eighth group of the second series, or after fluorine. If the molecule contains three atoms, the atomic weight of argon would be about 14, and it might be regarded as condensed nitrogen; and much may be said in favor of the hypothesis. If its molecule contains four or five atoms, its atomic weight would be 10 or 8, and there would be no room for it in the periodic system. If its molecule be found to contain six atoms, and its atomic weight to be 6·5, it would be placed in the first series, and probably in the fifth group. This, or the supposition that argon is condensed nitrogen, seems to Prof. Mendeléef most probable.

While the employment of anæsthetics has made only slow progress in veterinary practice, a considerable number of the English veterinary surgeons resort to them on all possible occasions, and find them of great advantage. Some operations on horses could not be attempted with any successful result without their aid. Of all animals, the horse is the one to which chloroform can be most safely administered; it is even very hard to injure him with it. Some surgeons, however, use it diluted with air. Attention is now increasingly directed to this matter. An improved apparatus to be used in connection with the administration of it has been devised by Mr. Wallis Hoare, of Cork, by the aid of which the treatment is made more convenient and even safer than before.

M. Berthelot has found that argon, under the influence of the silent electric discharge, combines with several organic compounds, and notably with benzene.

A curious report has been made to the Medico-chirurgical Society of Bristol, England, of operations performed in the Zoölogical Garden. Among them were the removal of an ingrowing nail on a lion, a Cæsarean operation on a gazelle, and gastrotomy on an ostrich which had feasted too heartily on indigestible food, having swallowed a handkerchief, pebbles, a pencil, a portfolio, and a prayer book. The unfortunate fowl died.

A society has been formed in Berlin for the purpose of preventing the extermination of the elephant in the German African possessions and of promoting the increase and usefulness of the animals.