Popular Science Monthly/Volume 49/June 1896/Notes


Observations have been made by Prof. Lloyd Morgan on instinct in young birds with a view to determine how far the activities involved in swimming, diving, running, flying, feeding, bathing, etc., are instinctive or congenital, and how far the definiteness of this and other activities is a matter of individual acquisition. Other observations were on congenital and acquired timidity. They indicated that while the performance of the activities in question has a congenital basis, they are perfected by individual acquisition, and that there is no instinctive avoidance of insects with warning colors, this seeming to be entirely the result of individual experience. No material support was afforded to the view that the instinctive activities result from the inheritance of what is individually acquired.

Under the law of the State of New York the duty of analyzing artificial fertilizers and of prosecuting manufacturers of fraudulent goods is committed to the Agricultural Experiment Station at Geneva. Since May, 1894, prosecutions have been instituted in the case of eleven brands which fell materially below the guaranteed analyses. More than two thousand samples of commercial fertilizers have been collected and analyzed since July, 1890; and since October, 1890, thirteen fertilizer bulletins have been published, containing four hundred and twenty pages, of each of which about fifteen thousand copies have been distributed among the farmers of the State. The station has the addresses of one hundred and twenty firms doing business in fertilizers in this State, the goods of fifty-three of which are manufactured in other States. Its publications are sent free to all farmers in the State who ask for them.

The knowledge of sugar has been traced back away into the darkness of the past. The Chinese have been acquainted with it, according to the Fortschritte der Industrie, for more than three thousand years. From Asia, where it was extracted from a cane, it was brought into Greece by one of the generals of Alexander the Great, b. c. 325. In a. d. 150 it was prescribed by the doctor Galenus as a remedy for certain diseases. The refining of sugar was practiced in England about 1659. The story runs that the secret of sugar making was brought to Sicily by a Venetian merchant, who bought it from the Arabs for a hundred thousand crowns.

The number of metals found to be capable of combining with argon at a red heat is gradually increasing, and now includes magnesium, lithium, barium, aluminum, zinc, iron, and copper. Metallic barium has been found to absorb nitrogen rapidly, and its use as a cheap means of preparing argon from air has been suggested. Lithium absorbs nitrogen with incandescence at temperatures below a red heat; and it has been shown by M. Deslandres and M. Guntz that this absorption takes place slowly in the cold.

Among the scientific works announced for publication by Henry Holt & Co. are a book on Electricity, by Prof. Charles A. Perkins, of the University of Tennessee; A Problem Book in Elementary Chemistry, by E. Dana Pierce, of the Hotchkiss School, Lakeville, Conn., and the amusing Preisgekrönt of Eckstein, edited by Prof. Charles Bundy Wilson, of the University of Iowa, will shortly be added to the series of German texts published by this house.

In its issue for May 9th the Scientific American gives the particulars concerning an offer of a prize of two hundred and fifty dollars, which it makes for the best essay on The Progress of Invention during the Past Fifty Years received by June 20th. The prize essay will be published in the special fiftieth anniversary number of that journal on July 25th, and regular rates of compensation are offered for the five next best essays.

The institution of Arbor Day was started in Nebraska, in 1872, by the Hon. J. Sterling Morton, our present Secretary of Agriculture. The first efforts, as its history is told by Mr. B. O. Northrop, were not assuring; but its progress has been remarkable. The day is now observed in forty States and Territories of the United States, in Canada, and in certain districts of England, Australia, Japan, and South Africa. The Western settler who does not now plant trees is an exception; and the people of Nebraska, in particular, are proud of what they have achieved in this work.

The death-rate in the German army, which was 6·9 per thousand in 1870, was in 1894 only 2·4 per thousand. This decrease during the past twenty-five years in the death-rate in standing armies has been very general, and is accounted for by improved hygiene and sanitation. During the Franco-German War the French lost twenty-three thousand four hundred men from smallpox. The Germans, who had been strict vaccinators for thirty years, lost only three hundred men from this disease. The strictness of the vaccination law in the latter army may be gathered from the fact that since 1873 only two soldiers in this immense collection of men have died of smallpox.