Popular Science Monthly/Volume 47/September 1895/Notes


A practical piece of work is reported in the bulletin of the University of Wyoming. This is a series of determinations of the heating power of fifty-four samples of Wyoming coal, six of petroleum, and two of asphalt, by Prof. Edwin E. Slosson and Prof. L. C. Colburn. Proximate analyses of the coals and a description of the bomb calorimeter used for the heat tests are also given.

It appeared in observations made in Russia during two years that at the depth of about a foot and a half the soil in the open steppe holds only about two thirds as much moisture as the soil of the woods and their immediate borders. The snow covering on the steppe on the 20th of February corresponded with only one third as much water as that in the forest. Frost reached four times the depth in the open land that it did in the woods. In summer, the upper layers of the ground were most dried in the open land, the deeper layers in the forest. It was therefore inferred that the action of trees is one of drainage. Woods planted in the steppes protect the ground against the direct effects of the sun and the wind, but utilize most of the water that falls. The existence and growth of groves depend on water coming from without. The subsoil moisture is too deep down to be available for the young plantations.

Two customs, supposed to be of Thibetan origin, were noticed by the American traveler W. W. Rockhill, as observed by Mongols in connection with the fireplace. When the party had finished drinking a big kettle of tea, the men put the leaves on the hearthstones on which the kettle rested. This practice was held to be equivalent to burning incense or making an oblation to the gods, and is usually observed by the Chinese frontiersmen, even though they profess Islamism. In case a hearthstone cracks, they are always careful to smear it with a little butter—"for good luck," they say.

Of the results of recent antarctic exploration, Prof. Angelo Heilprin, in an address on the Progress of Discovery, mentions the penetration by two Norwegian vessels on the opposite sides of Graham Land to the sixty-eighth and sixty-ninth parallels of latitude, thus far the "farthest south" positions. They discovered new lands-and islands, which they called King Oscar II Land, Weather, Robertson, Christensen, and Lindenberg Islands; and found that the supposed continental mass of Graham Land is possibly an archipelago. Two of the islands have active volcanoes. In the arctic regions Captain Johannessen has discovered a new land which he calls Hansenland, fifteen miles northwest of the New Siberian Islands. The new land is described as ruggedly barren, nearly destitute of vegetation, having high mountains, and supporting gigantic glaciers.

Prof. J. Kollmann communicated to the British Association in 1894 the discovery at Schaffhausen, Switzerland, in neolithic interments, side by side with the remains of full-grown European types, those of small-sized people, presumably pygmies of that age. The situation of the remains indicated that the two races lived peacefully together. In connection with this find it is observed that Sergi and Mantie have discovered some living pygmies in Sicily and Sardinia, looking like miniature Europeans. The Schaffhausen bones are declared by Virchow not to be of a pathologically degenerated people, but of those of normal structure. In the author's opinion these small types must not be regarded as diminutive examples of normal races, but as a distinct species of mankind, which may have been the precursor of the larger types of man.

An interesting and instructive enterprise, an International Exhibition of Hygiene, organized under the direction of M. Brouardel, was recently opened in Paris. The exhibits were grouped as follows: (1) Hygiene of Private Houses. (2) City Hygiene. (3) The Prophylactics of Zymotic Diseases, Demography, Sanitary Statistics, etc. (4) Hygiene of Childhood, including Alimentary Hygiene, Questions of Clothing, and Physical Exercises. (5) Industrial and Professional Hygiene.

The International Geographical Congress, which met in London from July 26th to August 3d, had a very successful and interesting week. The exhibits included a series of maps showing the development of English cartography; portraits of explorers and geographers from the thirteenth or fourteenth century down to the present day; a series of globes constructed by von Ravenstein to show how knowledge of the earth's surface has grown from century to century; many rare and curious old maps; a very large collection of photographs representing types of scenery in all parts of the world; and an extensive collection of geographical instruments, both ancient and modern. The congress was divided for convenience into two sections, one dealing with educational and the other with mathematical geography. Most of the prominent geographers of the world were present, and much valuable work was done. The visitors were entertained in royal style, and the social features were not the least attractive part of the meeting.

The yellow coloration of milk on exposure to heat is due, according to M. Cazeneuve and M. Haddon, to the oxidation of the lactose in presence of the alkaline salts of the milk. Lactose during this oxidation yields acids, especially formic acid, easily detected, the presence of which suffices to explain the coagulation of the milk as it ensues with any acid.

The French Association for the Advancement of Science will meet at Bordeaux, from August 4th to August 9th, under the presidency of M. E. Trelat.

Three cases of tuberculosis following tattooing are reported in the British Medical Journal. Three boys were tattooed by the same woman, who used her saliva as a vehicle for the coloring matter. The woman died soon afterward with pulmonary tuberculosis, and all the boys presented unmistakable signs of tuberculosis at the site of the operation.

Bacteriology has taken up the telephone as a disseminator of disease, and may make necessary the adoption of some device by which the danger of infection from the mouthpiece, which many people allow to touch the lips, can be avoided. The medical journals of Paris are agitating the matter.

The ultra-conservatism which is so certainly bred by life about an old university was sadly illustrated recently at Oxford by the rejection of a proposal to include anthropology among the subjects of the final school of natural science not as an extra but as an equivalent subject. There axe unfortunately still in high positions classical teachers who believe that science is an unessential part of a nineteenth-century education.

Rather a novel contrivance for utilizing air currents in irrigation is described in the Louisiana Planter. "A crude invention, which is called the 'Jumbo' wind engine, appeared in western Kansas about ten years ago, and is now coming into extensive use. It resembles the paddle wheel of a stern wheel boat, with a shaft twelve or fourteen feet long, with a diameter of twelve or sixteen feet, with six or eight radial arms. The lower half of this horizontal wheel is shielded from the wind, so that the air acts only upon the upper vanes. A crank upon one end of the shaft connects with a pump. Its power can be indefinitely increased by increasing its length. It is said that a Jumbo giving one hundred horse power in a fifteen-mile wind can be put up at a cost of five hundred dollars. The wind acts on this sort of paddle wheel from all points of the compass except two."

The recorded heights of what are called maximum waves on the ocean vary from forty feet from crest to hollow to ninety feet. The great storm waves travel very far and faster than the storms, so that preceding them they give warning of them. Sometimes they appear as a record of a far-away storm that is spent. When they have traveled beyond the limits of the wind that raised them they become long undulations, hardly noticed in deep water, but very evident in shallow places. These probably form the "rollers" that appear periodically in places situated in latitudes where gales do not occur. Other rollers are believed by Captain W. J. L. Wharton to be due to earthquakes or volcanic eruptions occurring in the bed of the sea. Of these are the sudden great waves which often cause so much destruction on the South American coasts.

A marked decrease in the killed and injured among railroad employees in 1894 is attributed in the report of the Interstate Commerce Commission to the smaller number of men, the smaller volume of business transacted, and perhaps to the increased use of automatic appliances and the improved grade of efficiency of the men. One man was killed out of every 428 in service, and one injured out of every 23. One passenger was killed out of each 1,912,618 carried, or for each 44,103,228 miles traveled; and one injured out of each 204,248 carried, or for each 4,709,77l miles traveled. A distribution of accidents to the terminal groups into which the railroads are divided exhibits the diversity in the relative safety of railway employment and of railway travel in the different sections of the country.

The Reichsbank, the German Government's banking establishment recently made some instructive experiments, with cement as a fireproof covering for safes. A safe consisting of steel wire netting, between two layers of cement, was subjected to a heat of 1,800º F. for over half an hour. When the safe was opened, silk paper was found uninjured, and a maximum thermometer, which had been in the safe, had only registered 85º F.

Some interesting observations on the relation of dust to rainfall and scenic effect were made during a trip to Greenland last summer by Prof. William H. Brewer, of the Sheffield Scientific School. He says that the fogs progressively thinned as they went farther north; that, owing to the small amount of dust in the air, the rain, even when streams were flowing from the scuppers, was extremely fine, and seemed more like a fog, so that it was difficult to believe one's eyes, and that even a few moments in a thin fog sufficed to thoroughly wet one's outer garments. He also speaks of the absence of that bluish haze which so softens and beautifies a distant view in lower latitudes. Unfortunately, Dr. Brewer was not equipped for accurate meteorological research, or we should doubtless have had from him valuable data on this very important and interesting subject.

A curious attempt to combine color impressions with musical sounds was recently made in London, by Mr. Wallace Rimington. The instrument used, called a "color organ," was so arranged that each organ note had a corresponding colored disk; pressure on the key threw this disk in front of a powerful arc or lime light by which an image was projected on a screen, and at the same time a musical tone was produced by the organ. Extracts from Chopin and Wagner were rendered; the effects are said to have been in the main pleasing, and were certainly novel.

The Royal Academy of Sciences of the Institute of Bologna offers a gold medal of one thousand francs' value for a memoir on a practical system for the prevention or extinction of fire. Italian, French, or Latin may be used; if in another language, it must be accompanied by an Italian translation. The essays should be signed by a nom de plume and accompanied by an envelope containing the author's real name. All essays must be in before May 29, 1896, and should be addressed to "Al segretario della R. Accademia delle Scienze dell' Institute di Bologna."

An examination of teas grown at various altitudes was recently conducted in the Lancet Laboratory, and seems to show that while the content of caffeine, the refreshing and important constituent of the tea leaf, is not materially affected by an increase of altitude, the tannin, the astringent principle, which gives to the stronger teas their harsh, disagreeable flavor, is quite markedly decreased. The essential oils, on which the agreeable flavor and odor depend, are increased by growth in higher altitudes. Unfortunately, the higher the altitude the less the yield—as, for instance, at seven thousand feet above sea level at Darjeeling, the yield is only two hundred to three hundred pounds per acre, while on the plains of Assam, at an elevation of from only one hundred to five hundred feet, the yield averages one thousand pounds per acre.

The report of the British Opium Commission is supplemented in a special memorandum by Sir William Roberts, who gives opium a position as to its effects on the system intermediate between alcohol and tobacco. But the habitual and excessive use of alcohol is followed by special organic changes that can be traced both during life and after death, while this is not the case with either opium or tobacco. Sir William thinks that the number of opium-eaters in India is likely to be underestimated rather than overestimated. He dwells upon the greater tolerance for opium among the natives of India as compared with Europeans, and cites the evidence of Surgeon-Lieutenant Colonel Crombie as to the very different effect of opium on native and English infants in support of the view that this enhanced tolerance on the part of the natives of India is apparently congenital.

A unique specimen of the great auk's egg was sold recently in London. It is a perfect egg, which was obtained sixty or seventy years ago in Iceland. It sold for $866.25.

In a paper read before the Geographical Club of Philadelphia, Mr. T. W. Balch relates several incidents observed by him in a journey through Alsace and Lorraine illustrative of the people's concealing French hearts under their Germanized exteriors. Among them was the evasion of the law forbidding the display of French flags, perceived in a show window in Strasburg. The storekeeper, with a thoroughly German name on his sign, had put in a conspicuous place some white candles between two packages of red ones, wrapped at the bottom in blue paper. "It was indeed a dull man who did not see at once the tricolor."