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Popular Science Monthly/Volume 48/January 1896/Fragments of Science

< Popular Science Monthly‎ | Volume 48‎ | January 1896

Fragments of Science.

A Device for Geological Teaching.—It is now six years since there was issued a small edition of an educational appliance invented by James T. B. Ives, F. G. S., and appropriately named by him the Strata Map. Since that time the inventor has made various improvements, and is now bringing out his map in a more completely satisfactory form than heretofore. Hanging on the wall it appears as a geological map of the United States, east of Denver, in the ten colors recommended by the International Congress of Geologists for the coloration of geological maps. On touching the fastening at the upper edge of the frame, the glazed front may be let down. It is then found that the map consists of ten cards, each of one color, all the cards being cut away so that part of each is exposed to view. The uppermost card represents the Quaternary, and all is cut away except so much as correctly represents the Quaternary beds on the surface of the region. The next card below it exhibits the Neocene areas in the same manner, cropping out from underneath, and extending beyond, the Quaternary. Then follows the Eocene, succeeded by the Cretaceous, which again is underlaid by the Jurasso-Triassic, and so forth. Finally, the foundation represents the Archæan systems collectively, and is seen exposed where the well-known Archæan areas occur. The fact of superposition of the formations is brought home to the student by this device, while denudation is illustrated by the cutting away of parts of the several cards. Such resultant phenomena as inliers and outliers are seen, also escarpments, the edge of each card forming one in miniature; while by tilting or bending the cards, dip and strike with synclinal and anticlinal folding may be illustrated as well as conformability of stratification. One important advance which the inventor has made since the earlier output of his work is the embossing of the Archæan foundation and all the superposed strata so as to bring the whole to a plane surface.

More recently Mr. Ives has been occupied with the problem of constructing relief maps combining strength and lightness with moderate cost, printed maps being used to furnish the geographical details in which relief maps are often so deficient. One novel feature is the combination of distinctive colors, to represent successive levels, with actual relief. Regions that are less than one hundred feet above sea level are colored buff; from one hundred to five hundred, light green, and so on; there being eight stages in all, represented by eight well-contrasted colors.

These maps are made of specially prepared paper, and the means by which the inventor contrives to emboss them while still retaining the register—that is to say, making the printing on the map exactly correspond to the mountain peaks and river courses of the embossed foundation—is a secret not yet divulged.

The structural and artistic finish of these maps exhibits the painstaking of one who himself appreciates the value of his work. They received a diploma and medal at the Columbian Exposition, both in the Liberal Arts department and also in that of Mines and Mining, and have been heartily commended by many prominent geologists and educators, including the late Profs. James D. Dana, Alexander Winchell, and John S. Newberry, Profs. James Hall, E. D. Cope, and N. S. Shaler, and President D. C. Gilman.

 

The Davenport Academy of Sciences.—The Davenport Academy of Natural Sciences has Just received a legacy of ten thousand dollars from Mrs. Mary Putnam Bull, of Tarrytown. N. Y. It is given as a memorial to her brother, Charles E. Putnam, and his son, J. D. Putnam, who were, during their lifetime, among the chief promoters of the academy. Wisely the gift is made a Permanent Publication Fund. The academy has already published five volumes of Proceedings, and a sixth volume is in progress. Among many valuable papers in these volumes the entomological studies of Mr. J. D. Putnam and the archæological discussions of Dr. Farquharson are notable. Through exchange of its Proceedings the academy has acquired a valuable library comprising some forty thousand books and pamphlets. The last paper published by the academy was a seventy-two-page Summary of the Archaeology of Iowa, by Prof. Frederick Starr. The academy is now organizing a comprehensive archæological survey of that State, which if fully carried out will be one of the most important archaeological enterprises ever undertaken in this country. The academy is now working for a permanent fund of fifty thousand dollars, for the better equipment of its work. With its creditable past and its worthy present it may well hope for success in securing the funds necessary to insure a brilliant future.

 

The Growth of Preventive Medicine.—There came a time in the medical ranks, fifty odd years or so ago, says Dr. Cameron in a recent article in the Lancet, when the classification of disease threatened to become a mere cataloguing of the phenomena immediately preceding death. Indeed, a certain hopelessness, begotten of this mistake, threatened to sap the energies of the physicians. When Sydenham had, two centuries ago, introduced a rational and hygienic element into treatment, he had also, as it were, pointed in the direction to which, when the hopelessness referred to came upon us, we might look for the prevention of disease itself. A belief, therefore, in the value of cleanliness, fresh air, and reasonable diet, along with a certain not altogether unhealthy skepticism as to the need in every case of drugs, was not the least important weapon in the armament of the young physician of thirty years ago. And although new drugs always find new votaries, and many of them have great value, the absolute usefulness of all mere remedial measures is at the present time looked upon as very slight compared with the shielding influence which the physician exercises in placing his patient under the most favorable circumstances for Nature to effect her cure. And it is largely this belief in conquering Nature by obeying her, lighted up by a certain afterglow of the hopelessness already spoken of, which has caused so much of the energy of the medical profession and the sanitary authorities to be thrown into the preventive service. While, therefore, the ancient physician was strong chiefly in his acquaintance with and prophecy as to the probable results of the diseases which he was called upon to treat, the modern hygeist attempts to grapple with the remoter causes of those processes themselves, not in the individual alone, but also in the community.

 

Color Nomenclature.—In music and form we have specific and generally accepted terms for describing definite sense perceptions, but in the case of color nothing that can be called even a system exists. The terms vermilion and ultramarine, which have been used by many of our best authorities, for want of anything better, are nevertheless used for very variable concepts. The difference between a Chinese and a German vermilion in pigments is very noticeable. A Winsor & Newton chrome yellow and a German chrome yellow differ by more than twenty -five per cent of yellow. Among several samples of blue pigments a still greater variation is generally found; while such terms as olive, citrine, russet, crushed strawberry, baby blue, ashes of roses, peacock blue, and a host of others, have practically no exact significance whatever. This uncertainty and lack of a standard have caused naturalists much inconvenience in botanical, entomological, ornithological, and zoölogical descriptions. In applied science, in the arts, and in chemistry the inconvenience has, if possible, been even greater, and the rapid advance in the art of dyeing alone makes some system of color nomenclature absolutely necessary. Mr. J. H. Pilsbury, who has been working for some years to perfect a practical system, contributed an article on the subject to a recent copy of Nature. He says: "In order that any fixed scheme of color nomenclature may be of some practical value, it must of course be readily understood by people of ordinary intelligence, and must be complete enough to meet the ordinary wants of everyday life. There must be something that is so completely fixed as to be perfectly trustworthy for present and future needs. In the solar spectrum we have an invariable source from which to derive our spectrum standards, and upon these the whole scheme is to be based. Since the six spectrum standard (red, 6,587; orange, 6,085; yellow, 5,793; green, 5,164; blue, 4,695; violet, 4,210—the numbers indicate the wave-lengths in ten millionths of a millimetre) do not give a very extensive répertoire for common use, to say nothing of the needs of the more artistic, it was proposed to introduce between each two spectrum standards two intermediate hues to be formed by the union of two spectrum standards in definite proportions. Thus between orange and red would be introduced an orange-red and a red-orange. . . . It is also very desirable that the standards be produced in some material form in order that it be of any practical value. The task of reproducing the brilliant hues of the solar spectrum in pigmentary material or in glass is much more difficult than one not acquainted with the matter would suspect. In order to accomplish this, it has been found necessary to use the somewhat fugitive aniline colors." The colors thus produced, with the addition of black and white, give a fairly satisfactory system. In a later number of the same journal Herbert Spencer has a letter in which he suggests a scheme for colornaming, composed of terms patterned after those used in the compass for denoting direction; giving a form: Red, red by blue, red red blue, red blue by red, red blue, red blue by blue, blue red blue, blue by red, blue. He says: "Of course, these names would be names of pure colors only, the primaries and their mixtures with one another; but the method might be expanded by the use of numbers to each, 1, 2, 3, signifying proportions of added neutral tint subduing the color, so as to produce gradations of impurity."

 

Kindergartening in a New Role.—There is to be opened in Boston this fall a kindergarten settlement, to be known as the Elizabeth Peabody House. It is designed as a memorial to Elizabeth Peabody, who did so much, in the early days of kindergartening, to help the cause. The plan is to take a house in some poor and crowded quarter, and officer it with a group of eight or ten kindergarteners, normal students, and teachers. They will conduct a kindergarten, and through acquaintance with the children enter into friendly and helpful relations with the people of the neighborhood. Interesting plans are under consideration for a cooking school, a training class for nursery maids, and for mothers' clubs and classes, where helpful hints may be given as to the care of children and of the home.

 

Fish-bait Farms.—Fine openings for new industries are discovered by Dr. W. A. Herdman, President of the Zoölogical Section of the British Association, in the cultivation of supplies for fishermen. The Scotch long-line fishermen alone, he says, use nearly a hundred millions of mussels every time all the lines are set, and many tons of them have to be imported every year. If squid could be obtained reasonably and in sufficient quantity, it would probably prove more valuable even than mussels. A fishing firm in Aberdeen last winter paid more than two hundred pounds for squid bait for a single boat's lines from October to December, and there are fifty such boats north of the Tyne. "Here is a nice little industry for any one who can capture or cultivate the common squid in quantity." Innumerable young mussels perish around the coasts every year for want of suitable objects to attach to. The erection of proper stakes or plain bouchots would serve a useful purpose, at any rate in the collection of seed. Dr. Herdman further pointed out the opportunity that exists for opulent landowners to erect sea fish hatcheries on the shores of their estates, and for rich merchants to establish agriculture in neighboring estuaries, and so instruct the fishing populations, resuscitate declining industries, and cultivate the barren shores, in all reasonable probability to their own ultimate profit.

 

The Sage School of Philosophy.—The Sage School of Philosophy in Cornell University is devoted "to the free and unhampered quest and propagation of truth" in regard to all those questions of human inquiry which are embraced by logic, psychology, ethics, pedagogics, metaphysics, and the history and philosophy of religion. Its aim is to secure comprehensiveness and thoroughness. It is founded on an endowment by the Hon. Henry W. Sage, the proceeds of which are supplemented, when necessary, with appropriations from the general funds of the university. Six scholarships and three fellowships are open to graduates of Cornell and other universities; four progressive courses of study are given, corresponding with the four years of the college course, and also seminary courses in experimental psychology, ancient and mediceval philosophy, modern philosophy, ethics, pedagogics, and the history of religion. The students are further free to select any of the courses given in the university. A psychological laboratory is attached to the institution; a philosophical club has been formed; and a periodical—the Philosophical Review—is published under the editorial direction of two of the professors, assisted by their associates.

 

Face-Reading.—In the acquisition of the art of speech-reading by sight, the eye of the deaf pupil becomes accustomed to certain positions of the organs of articulation, and he thus learns to understand the spoken words of others, although he does not hear them. In teaching this art, Lillie Eginton Warren has found that the forty odd sounds of the English language are revealed in sixteen outward manifestations or pictures, and practice in following them as they rapidly appear in a face enables us to understand what is said. Some faces differ from others in strength of expression, and thus many show less action in the lower part. Nevertheless, there is in all persons a general approach to a certain definite movement of muscles, particularly when in animated conversation, and the trained eye notices what the inexperienced one fails to discover. After attaining a degree of proficiency in this art of expression-reading, persons seem to feel that they hear instead of see the words spoken. Reading our language in this way may be said to be mastery of a new alphabet, the rapidly moving letters or characters of which are to be found upon the page of the human countenance.

 

A Dream of Railroad Development.—Forecasting, in the Engineering Magazine, the future of American railroading, Mr. H. D. Gordon assumes that the lines on which our inventors will have to do their work hereafter seem to be far more clearly defined than ever before. There is no engineering reason why a speed of one hundred miles an hour should not be maintained on fast trains; the objections are commercial rather than technical. The chief obstacle lies in the ponderous and wasteful mechanism needed to generate the requisite amount of steam under even the best methods. The remedy may be found when electric energy can be generated in a simpler and less expensive manner than hitherto. In passenger trains too many horse powers are needed to carry each ticket-holder to his destination, and too many hundredweight of dead material have to be dragged along with him. Within the carriage he is entitled to better ventilation and better light than he is apt to get, and electricity is looked to to provide him with both. Some benefit has been derived, and much more may be reasonably expected, from the experiments made in introducing steel frames into cars, and otherwise improving their structural resistance to abnormal shock or accident. Outside of the train, in signaling, a considerable advance has already been made toward having the semaphore raised and lowered by directly applied electric force; and the author anticipates that it will not be many years before a train may be seen through its successive blocks by the glare of electric lights, leaving each block in darkness as it enters and lights the next. What has already been done in railroad invention in the United States is but an earnest of what the future holds in reserve.

 

The Ball Nozzle.—Mr. Arthur Kitson, in an address on the ball nozzle, published in the Journal of the Franklin Institute, gives the following explanation of its apparent contradiction of natural laws: The problem connected with this invention may be put thus: Why does the ball adhere to the nozzle when there is behind it a force aggregating as high as hundreds of pounds pressure? The explanation usually given is that the atmospheric pressure holds the ball in its place and prevents it from falling or leaving the mouth of the nozzle. To this others answer that the pressure behind the ball far exceeds the atmospheric pressure; for instance, there is an exhibition given daily in New York with one of these nozzles where the water pressure equals a hundred pounds per square inch, and as the atmospheric pressure is only about fifteen pounds, it would at first sight seem that the excess of pressure on the under side of the ball was eighty-five pounds, and ought, therefore, to expel the ball. The error, however, in this argument arises from failure to distinguish between the pressure of the water when confined in the pipes and when issuing around the ball. It is very certain that if a hundred pounds pressure were acting directly upon the ball, it would be blown out of the nozzle, but it does not appear to me to act in this way. When the ball is confined to the mouth of the nozzle and pressed against it, it is undoubtedly subjected to the pressure of the water, but the moment it is raised slightly from the mouth, it is no longer subjected to this pressure, since the water is escaping all around it. In this respect it resembles the lid of a teakettle when the water is boiling. By plugging the spout, the lid will be raised by the steam pressure sufficiently to allow the steam to escape at the sides. The explanation that seems to me to be the correct one is as follows: The ball is acted upon by three forces: first, gravity; second, atmospheric pressure; and, third, the force of the issuing stream. At first, the atmospheric pressure is the same at all points, and hence gravity has free play; but as soon as the stream passes through the nozzle, the atmospheric pressure from the under side is counteracted by the momentum of the issuing water, and the ball rising to a point where the water can pass freely around the sides, without pressing materially upon the ball, we have the full pressure of the atmosphere on the under half-side of the ball resisting the force of gravity. The ball, therefore, simply serves as a deflector to divert the current of water or to spread it out, and the resistance of the atmosphere against the ball suffices not only to perform this operation but also to sustain its weight.

It is possible that the density of the air may also be somewhat increased under the ball by the action of the spray. With a heavy pressure, the ball is farther removed from the nozzle than with a light pressure. The same holds good respecting a heavy ball and a light ball.

 

Native Sulphur in Michigan.—Beds of native sulphur are described by W. H. Scherzar in the American Journal of Science as having been discovered during the past year in the upper Helderberg limestone of Monroe County, Mich. They lie from sixteen to eighteen feet below the surface, between a compact, dolomitic limestone and a calcareous sand rock. They consist of a yellowish-brown, impure limestone, containing fossils, and giving here and there a strong, oily odor, which, wherever exposed to view, appears to be cavernous in structure, having pockets of from a fraction of an inch up to three feet in size. These pockets contain scalenohedrons of calcite or tabular crystals of celestite, or both together; while the sulphur generally occurs in bright, lustrous masses toward the center of the cavity, intermatted frequently with the lime minerals. Fragments as large as one's fist are readily removed. Some of the smaller cavities contain nothing but pure sulphur. Nearly one hundred barrels of pure sulphur have been obtained from about an acre of this bed.

 

Antirabic Sernm.—In the light of some of the recent experimental work of Tizzoni and Centanni, published in the Lancet, there seems little doubt that a great advance has been made in the treatment of rabies. Instead of manufacturing the antitoxic material in the body of the patient, by a process of vaccination as in the Pasteur method, Tizzoni and Centanni prepare this substance in an animal, from which it is conveyed to the individual to be treated, in the blood serum as a vehicle. In place of using Pasteur's method of protective vaccination for the animals from which the serum is obtained, they, by a process of peptic digestion, attenuate the virus to be used. It is possible by drying to prepare a permanent form of this serum which will, if kept from air and light, remain active for a long period. It is very portable, is readily dissolved, and may be used by any one who is capable of sterilizing a hypodermic needle and syringe. The treatment, therefore, can be commenced almost as soon as the patient has received the bite, and it is not necessary that he should leave his home or his own medical attendant.

 

The Meaning of Race.—Attempting to frame a definition of race, Mr. W. M. Flinders Petrie remarked in the British Association that when only a few thousand years had to be dealt with, nothing seemed easier or more satisfactory than to map out races on the supposition that so many million people were descended from one ancestor and so many from another. Mixed races were glibly separated from pure races, and all humanity was partitioned off into well-defined divisions. But when the long ages of man's history, and the incessant mixtures that have taken place during the brief end of it that is recorded, come to be realized, the meaning of "race" must be wholly revised. The only meaning that a "race" can have is that of a group of persons whose type has become unified by their rate of assimilation and of their subjection by their conditions exceeding the rate of change produced by foreign elements. If the rate of mixture exceeds that of assimilation, then the people are a mixed race, or a mere agglomeration.