Popular Science Monthly/Volume 48/January 1896/Minor Paragraphs


The Belgian Astronomical Society, founded a year ago, for the advancement and popularization of that science and of meteorology, has recently become much extended. At the meetings in May, June, and July, 1895, papers were read on the history of astronomy at the time of the Renascence, by M. Doiteau; on the observation of the scintillation of the stars, by M. Vincent; on the application of the spectroscope to the study of the constitution of Saturn's rings, by M. Stroobant; on the theories of atmospheric circulation, by M. Marchal; and on other subjects. A co-operative system of observations of shooting stars, clouds, etc., was decided upon. An annual volume of the year's results is to be published in November, and a periodical bulletin has been arranged for.

A French journal, the Chasseur illustré, tells of a Russian gentleman who, wishing to ascertain where the birds go in winter, caught a number and attached to their tails a tube containing his address and a request in four languages that whoever might find the bird again would write him concerning the place and time of the finding. He waited long for an answer, but only recently received a letter from a European prisoner captured by the Mahdi at the taking of Khartoum, relating that a follower of the Mahdi in Dongola had killed one of the birds in November, 1892, and, not being able to read the paper, had brought it to him. The prisoner, in his glad surprise at receiving a letter from Europe in so strange a way, embraced the first opportunity on regaining his liberty to answer it.

The influence that the bearing of one man or nation may exert upon another is exemplified by what Mr. W. M. Flinders Petrie said in the British Association concerning the condition in the East, where an interminable system of reprisals in defrauding and exacting prevails. "The Egyptians are notorious for their avarice, and are usually accredited with being interminable money-grabbers; yet no sooner do they find that this system of reprisals is abandoned and strict justice maintained than they at once respond to it; and when confidence has been gained, it is almost as common to find a man dispute an account against his own interest as for himself, and scarcely ever is any attempt made at false statements or impositions. Such is the healthy response to straightforward dealing with them."

The purpose of the new division of agrostology in the United States Department of Agriculture is investigation and experiment upon grasses and other forage plants, in order to determine their adaptability to cultivation and use in this country; to inform the people concerning them; and to introduce those which promise well—whether native or foreign—into cultivation. A small plot has been furnished on the grounds of the Department of Agriculture on which four hundred varieties of grasses and forage plants are growing for the testing of their qualities, and a larger garden has been established in one of the Southern States. The division has in preparation a popular book on the grass and forage plants of the country, also a larger illustrated handbook on the grasses of North America.

A curious system of water cure is practiced by Sebastian Kneipp at Woerishofen, Bavaria. Its most striking feature is the importance it attributes to the action of water on the lower extremities. Patients are caused to walk in running water or on the dewy turf, or on flagstones freshly watered; and baths are prescribed without after-use of the towel or rubbing, the bather being instructed to dress himself as quickly as he can, and let the reaction take place in his damp shirt. The system is mentioned by M. E. Bottey in his theoretical and practical treatise on the water cure (Paris, 1893) as possibly affording the hygiene and régime which some diseases require, but as dangerous in most cases.