Popular Science Monthly/Volume 47/October 1895/Notes


In the construction of the new speedway at High Bridge, New York, a bed of quicksand was encountered, which much impeded the work. The difficulty was obviated by the artificial refrigerating process. A row of four-inch pipes was sunk a few feet apart to the depth of forty feet. These pipes were capped at the bottom, and inside them were inserted smaller pipes open at the bottom. Cold air was forced from a condenser through the smaller pipes into the larger and thence returned to the condenser. The air was cooled by expansion to a temperature of about—45° C, thus freezing the surrounding mud and wet sand, and checking the flow into the excavation.

A Mr. Bickesten, of Liverpool, proposes to avoid the hardship of having—in the future—to remove from the marine service persons who may be found defective in vision by making the tests for their admission more stringent. He therefore suggests new rules providing that no boy or man shall lie allowed to enter the service until his form vision and color vision have been tested and found sufficient; that their certificate of eyesight be exhibited by seamen before they are permitted to sign articles; that color-blindness and defective vision be made in themselves reasons for breaking indenture engagements; that officers affected in their vision be given shore employment; and that certain specified improvements be introduced into the method of testing for defects of vision.

The way changes are produced in the configuration of the country in a region of lakes by the action of the water is illustrated in a recent lecture by R. H. Mill. Taking certain English and Scotch lakes, Loch Tay has been gradually silted up during the last thirty years; a stony peninsula is building up at the foot of Ullswater; the rush of the waves is slowly eating away the eastern shore of Windermere; the affluent rivers are filling Haweswater with stones and rubbish, and a delta has been formed which nearly cuts the lake in two—a process which has been completed in certain lakes that are specified. The famous floating island of Derwentwater is probably a piece of the moat of waterweed that covers the floor of some parts of the lake, raised to the surface by the gas given off by its own decomposition.

Thoreau says in his Early Spring in Massachusetts, speaking of a class of books which have not yet gone out of fashion: "A good book is not made in the cheap and offhand manner of many of our scientific reports, ushered in by the message of the President communicating it to Congress, and the order of Congress that many thousand copies be printed with the letters of instruction from the Secretary of the Interior (or rather exterior), the bulk of the book being a journal of a picnic or sporting expedition by a brevet lieutenant-colonel, illustrated by photographs of the traveler's footsteps across the plains, and an admirable engraving of his native village as it appeared on his leaving it, and followed by an appendix on the paleontology of the route by a distinguished savant who was not there; the last illustrated by very finely executed engravings of some old broken shells picked up on the road."

Of a limited study of dietaries, mostly in New England, acknowledged to be imperfect, the results, as summarized by Prof. W. 0. Atwater, decidedly confirm the general impression of hygienists that our diet is one-sided and that we eat too much. The food which we actually eat, leaving out of account that which we throw away, has relatively too little protein and too much fat, starch, and sugar. This is due partly to our large consumption of sugar and partly to our use of fat meats. The rejection of so much of the fat of meat at the market and on our plates at the table is not mere willfulness. It is in obedience to Nature's protest against a one-sided and excessive diet. How much harm is done to health by our one-sided and excessive diet no one can say. Physicians tell us that it is very great.

A successful demonstration was given in April to a meeting of medical men in London by Mr. S. Schöntheil, of the most modern and scientific method of training the deaf and dumb so as to enable them to use articulate speech and give them a full command of language. Several pupils were introduced who were subjected, with highly satisfactory results, to exercises in pronunciation, lip-reading, dictation, recitation, reading, and answering miscellaneous questions.

It is now generally recognized in Great Britain, ex-President Teall, of the Geological Section of the British Association, says, that there is no important difference in structure or composition between the rhyolites, andesites, and basalts of the Palæozoic and of the Tertiary periods. Identity of structure and composition in this case implies identity in the physical conditions under which the rocks were produced. Hence we may sum up the case of the bearing of volcanic rocks on the theory that, so long as observations are confined to a limited area, doubts may arise as to the truth of the uniformitarian view, but these doubts gradually fall away as the area of observations is extended. There are still some outstanding difficulties, but, as many similar ones have been overcome in the past, it is improbable that those that remain will prove formidable.