Popular Science Monthly/Volume 51/July 1897/Fragments of Science

Fragments of Science.

Dr. Ebenezer Emmons and the Olenellus.—During the geological survey of the State of New York which, commenced in 1836, was almost the first of the geological surveys that were entered upon and properly prosecuted in the United States, there was a marked difference of opinion between Prof. Ebenezer Emmons, of Williams College, who had charge of the portion of the survey that embraced the rocks of western Massachusetts and the upper waters of the Hudson, and his associate geologists, which finally terminated in a bitter personal antagonism and almost social ostracism of Dr. Emmons. The point at issue was mainly the relationship in respect to position and age of the rocks in question, especially those typified by the strata of Greylock Mountain and the Hoosic Valley. The position taken by the majority of the associate geologists on the survey was that the so-called Silurian system of rocks constituted the basis of the fossiliferous rocks of New York and inferentially of the whole country, and that the so-called "Potsdam sandstone" was the lowest fossiliferous member of this system, and in fact marked the dawn of life upon the planet. Dr. Emmons, on the contrary, claimed that beneath the oldest member of the Silurian system there was an older and extensively developed system of fossiliferous rocks, to which he gave the name "Taconic," and exhibited an entirely new and characteristic fossil not before recognized or described, and which received the name of "Olenellus." For all this Dr. Emmons received little or no credit, and among geologists was regarded as visionary and something of a humbug. But time has at last brought its revenges, for, at the last meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (Liverpool, September, 1896), Mr. J. E. Marr, F. R. S., President of the Geological Section, in an address reviewing the recent progress in this department of science, took occasion to speak of the "Olenellus"—whose first discovery he attributed to Dr. Emmons—as characterizing a zone of life in rocks much older than the Silurian system, and as "furnishing us with a datum line from which we can work backward," and possibly prove the existence "of a fauna of a date anterior to the formation of the Olenellus beds." So that Dr. Emmons, in place of being wrong in his observations and deductions in 1845, did really find the fossil he described, and rightly located the rock containing it in the geological horizon; and thus was entitled to take the lead at that time over all his American and European colleagues.

 

Koch's Latest Tuberculin.—Since the premature announcement of Dr. Koch's consumption cure, some six years ago, the doctor has been steadily at work endeavoring to perfect his method, and it is now announced that he has succeeded in eliminating those irritating substances which were so troublesome in the early preparations. From his observations Koch concluded that the affected patient gradually acquired a degree of immunity through the absorption of certain constituents of the bacilli themselves. This immunizing, however, usually occurs too late in the disease to save the patient. In order to collect these substances, whatever they may be, he dries and triturates the dead bodies of the bacilli, and from the resultant powder makes two extracts. The first of these is opalescent, and is practically identical with his original serum. He calls it tuberculin O (TO). The remaining sediment is again dried, digested with water, and then centrifuged, and this is continued until the water is perfectly clear. These later extracts contain the essential immunizing principle which he calls tuberculin R (TR), and with which such encouraging results are said to have been obtained.

 

Some Notes on a Dust Storm.—Apropos of our recent article on Dust Storms, we have received the following item from Mr. W. S. Jackman: "On the 19th of February, 1896 (Ash Wednesday, by eternal fitness), a remarkable dust storm descended upon the city of Chicago. As the ground had been completely covered with snow to the depth of several inches a day or two previous, it was an easy matter to form some estimate of the quantity of dust that fell. The storm began in the evening and lasted several hours. The next morning, by selecting suitable open areas that were likely to be free from eddies and local currents, an average per square yard of 1·34 ounces of dust was obtained. This was gathered by scraping up the snow to the depth the dust had penetrated—about one inch—and, after melting it, the water was evaporated and the dust dried. The amount thus collected measured 2·45 cubic inches. At this rate the quantity of dust deposited upon a square mile would be about 129·6 tons; the volume would be on the same area 4,352 cubic feet, equal to a pile about thirty-four feet long, sixteen feet wide, and eight feet deep. On being strongly heated in a clay crucible the dust turned reddish brown and lost twelve per cent of its weight. The microscope showed it to be largely composed of irregular and rounded quartz grains. As the storm began after dark, people who were unfortunate enough to be caught in it were at a loss for a time to know just what was the matter. In many instances nothing unusual was suspected until, entering their homes, their smeared and blackened countenances called forth an unwontedly hilarious greeting. After the snow melted, in many instances the sidewalks were so covered with the slimy mud as to need scraping and washing. The storm seemed to come from the northwest, and was accompanied by a moderate gale."

 

The Law of Mississippi Floods.—An important point in Mr. James L. Greenleaf's study in the Engineering Magazine of the Times and Causes of Western Floods is the topographical division of the country drained by the Mississippi into several large water sheds, covering a total area of 1,259,000 square miles. Although this topographical division has been wrought by natural causes, the consideration of the water sheds must be combined with that of climatic areas for the purposes of the present study. All the rivers tributary to the Mississippi show a decided tendency to low water in the autumn, the southern waters beginning to fall from a high stage in June and the northern in July. All begin to rise from low water in winter—the southern tributaries earlier, and the northern ones later. Two freshets occur during the year in each of the large tributary basins. The coincidence of the highest stage in more than two of the large branches is extremely rare, and hence it is an exception for the main river to be subjected to the enormously congested state which would otherwise result. The varying st.ages of the Mississippi accurately reflect the fluctuations of rainfall and of temperature which occur upon its tributary basins, and these are followed in detail in the author's paper. The Mississippi being virtually created by the union near one point of three large rivers—the Ohio, the Missouri, and the upper Mississippi—these three branches, of which the Ohio is regarded as the most important, naturally stamp their characteristics upon it to a very marked degree, and it bears these features through the entire course to the Gulf. The large tributaries farther south modify but can not control their overwhelming influence. The two periods of flood characteristic of each of these large tributaries have an important bearing upon the continuance of high water in the main river, pouring their floods in one after the other as the force of the preceding flood is beginning to be spent, so that the tendency is for the main river to flow in strong volume until well into the summer. The river is a result; its tributaries are the cause. Viewed broadly, a general similarity of behavior is observed; yet each feeder of the main river has its special cycle of alternations between high and low water; each great line of drainage has its special feature of flow. Were the secondary watercourses followed, the vast Mississippi water shed would be seen covered by countless brooks and rivulets, each affected by local conditions, yet all obeying a few fundamental laws, "which gather the waters as in the hollow of the hand and pour them through a single channel to the sea."

 

The Turbinia.—In a recent issue of Industries and Iron is a detailed description of the Turbinia, the vessel which recently attained the highest velocity ever reached by a steam vessel, an average of 323/4 knots on the measured mile. As her name suggests, she is fitted with steam turbines instead of the ordinary form of engine. The Turbinia was built by a syndicate formed especially for the purpose of testing the application of the compound steam turbine to marine propulsion. She is 100 feet in length, 9 feet beam, and 441/2 tons displacement. The original turbine fitted in her was designed to develop upward of 1,500 actual horse power at a speed of 2,500 revolutions per minute. The boiler is of the water-tube type, for 225 pounds per square inch working pressure. The hull is built of steel plates, varying in thickness from 1/16 to 3/16 of an inch. A curious difficulty was encountered in the early trials. It was noticed that a great deal of power was being lost somewhere, and it finally turned out that, owing to the high speed of the propeller, what is known as cavitation was produced—that is, the screw tended to scoop out a hole in the water and run in this, thus using up a part of the energy simply in maintaining this cavity. This difficulty has been, to some extent, overcome by altering the pitch of the blades, but it Is believed that further experimentation will result in overcoming this fault more completely, and hence make a still higher rate of speed possible.

 

German Colonies for Unemployed Workmen.—The first of the German Arbeiter Kolonie, or refuges for workmen out of employment, one of which has been described in the Atlantic Monthly by Mr. Josiah Flynt, was established by Pastor von Bodelschwingh at Bielefeld, Westphalia, about 1882. There are now twenty-seven such colonies in Germany, where men able and willing to work may go, and at least pay their way till some more profitable labor is found. Connected with them is an estate near Berlin, where men who have proved deserving may acquire a piece of land and eventually set up homes of their own. Applicants for help must promise to stay in the colony at least four weeks, and have the privilege of staying longer if no work has been found for them outside; while the managers are on the lookout for work for them, in order that they may go and other out-of-works may take their place. The colonies are supported by contributions and the proceeds of the work of the colonists. Mr. Flynt applied at the Berlin colony at Tegel, and, on complying with the conditions required, was assigned to a section and set to making straw cases for wine bottles. He was expected to work to the best of his ability and to show respect to the officials—a Hausvater and a foreman, the only outsiders connected with the institution. The day was spent according to a prescribed routine, beginning at five o'clock in the morning and ending at nine o'clock at night, while Sunday was given to church and rest. Every man received a mark, or twenty-five cents, a day, and some, working by the piece or at special work, made a mark and a half. Out of these earnings, eighteen cents a day were taken for food and lodging. Several men had credit in the colony treasury. The food was simple but abundant, and the beds were fairly comfortable. A store was opened on Saturday afternoons, where the colonists could buy tobacco and various useful little things. Newcomers were confidentially exhorted and admonished on Sunday afternoons by the pastor. Forty-nine men were in the colony during Mr. Flynt's stay. In winter there are more than three hundred. The colonies are believed to be useful in distinguishing the deserving unemployed from the undeserving, and helpful to the former.

 

Diffusion of an Ancient Symbol.—The swastika—a design resembling two Z's, normal or reversed, so arranged as to cross one another—is described and studied as "the earliest known symbol" in a paper by Thomas Wilson in the Proceedings of the United States National Museum. It appears in various shapes, derived from the original, and is the parent of various scroll forms and ornaments. Its origin and original bearing or application are lost in the darkness of remote antiquity. It denotes something good, and is an ornament. It is found in the far East and the classical East, in all the cities of Troy, in Egypt, Algeria, and Ashantee, in the ancient Grecian countries, in western Europe from the bronze age down, on ancient coins, in prehistoric America, and among the North American Indians. Allied to it are meanders, ogees, and spirals; and associated with it are various prehistoric objects in both hemispheres. In America, the swastika of the mound builders, or of the oldest civilization we know here, is similar in every respect, except material, to that of the still living Navajo and Pueblo Indians. The two curious facts are emphasized that the swastika had an existence in America prior to any historic knowledge we have of communication between the two hemispheres; and that it is continued in America, and used at the present day, while the knowledge of it has long since died out in Europe. Mr. Wilson's chief study is to find how this symbol was carried from one region to another. While the theory that like features of life originate naturally at like stages in the development of different peoples, and the one that they are carried by migrating hordes, may both be true to a certain extent, neither should be insisted upon as exclusive. Mr. Wilson maintains that the swastika was carried, as some other customs may have been, by teaching, or by the transmission of the idea from one country to another—much in the same way as Greek art and architecture have come down to us—rather than by independent invention or by migration of peoples.

 

Richard Hakluyt.—The Hakluyt Society has recently celebrated in London the fiftieth anniversary of its work in publishing volumes, usually containing the texts of travelers and voyagers in all parts of the world, which were previously not known to the public. It is named. Sir Clements Markham says, after Richard Hakluyt, who was born in 1553, acquired a love of geography from an uncle of the same name, and assiduously sought and read every narrative of adventure he could procure, mastering six foreign languages in order to be able to do so. He strove to remedy the ignorance of seamen of the scientific branch of their profession, and to supply the absence of records for want of which important voyages and travels were allowed to-fall into oblivion, with a measure of success that has given him rank among the benefactors of their country. He was irrepressible in seeking new information. He rode two hundred miles to have an interview with the last survivor of Master Hose's Expedition to America in 1536. He saved numerous journals and narratives from destruction, and the deeds they record from oblivion. His work gave a stimulus to colonial and narrative enterprise, and inspired literature. Shakespeare owed much to Principal Navigators, his chief book. As the years passed on, he, according to his own quaint language, continued "to wade still further and further in the sweat studie of the historic of cosmographie," and achieved his great task, which was "to incorporate into one body the torn and scattered limbs of our ancient and late navigations by sea." He declared "geography and chronology to be the sun and moon, the right eye and the left, of all history." When he died, November 23, 1616, he was Archdeacon of Westminster, and had reached his sixty-fourth year.

 

Primitive Traveling.—Of the motives and lengths of the journeys of primitive man Mr. O. T. Mason observes, in his monograph on Primitive Travel and Transportation, that birds of passage made formerly longer journeys than men, and the length of their migrations in time and distance was equaled, perhaps, by those of fishes and marine animals. The simple motives that governed these movements were the same as constituted the incentive to human movements over the earth. The coming and going of birds and marine creatures are likewise the occasion of an enormous amount of human bustle and running about. Most of the domestication of animals is prompted by a desire to have them at our doors, and to make us independent of their migrations. Land animals, as well as birds and sea animals, were often obliged by natural conditions to travel great distances, and men followed them in order to live upon them. In every tribe there are stories of travelers who made long voyages and returned. Dr. Boas says that the myths of the northwest coast of America point across the Pacific. Besides the traditions that fix upon the present habitat as the primal home, there is a class of migration myths. The perfection of devices also prolongs travel. The East Greenlanders journey around to West Greenland to get snuff, and will consume four years in a single excursion there and back, often, according tc Nansen, remaining no longer than an hour at the trading station before taking up their homeward march. The Manchus and Manyarg, who navigate the Sungari River, spend from eight days to a month, according to the destination, in their journeys; the Turki, near East Cape, from four to six months. According to Seton Karr, the tribes of northwest British Columbia were afraid to quit their tribal territory, but now Indians are willing to accompany the white man through regions that are as strange and unknown to them as to him. The extent and direction of aboriginal journeys have been in some places cut off, and in others greatly stimulated, by contact with the Caucasian race.

 

Utilization of Wind Power.—A summary of the conclusions reached by M. Maximlian Plessuer from a study of the economies of wind as a source of power is given by M. Henry de Varigny in a paper on Air and Life, published by the Smithsonian Institution. The irregularity of the wind forms the chief objection to placing reliance upon it, but much depends upon localities. There are places and large regions where it is fairly regular. It seldom fails at the seashore, and the trade winds are nearly constant; while in most parts of the globe it becomes more regular as the altitude increases. Hence, upon the whole, a considerable part of the world is well suited for investigations upon the best methods of deriving power from the winds. The first requisites of a wind-power machine are some sort of a motor driven by the wind, and an accumulator to store the energy and yield it at the required moment. Dismissing the old windmill and the æolian wheel as not fully coming up to the mark, M. Plessuer turns to sails as affording a possible solution of the problem. "The utilization of the power of the winds," he writes, "and its transformation into mechanical work are only possible by means of sailing vehicles, driven by wind upon a circular railway, the power generated by such rotation being transmitted to an axle and thence to machinery." On this railway a circular train, made of small cars coupled together, each carrying a mast and two sails at right angles with each other, is driven by the wind. The sails are automatically trimmed, and automatically also they expand or contract, or rather take in the wind or withdraw from it. As long as the wind blows the train continues rotating, and if it is connected with a central axle the latter may work dynamos and charge electrical accumulators. A similar apparatus might be arranged in water, boats taking the place of the cars, and, since the wind power is transformed into electricity, the latter may be stored and kept in reserve, or transferred to a distance to perform ten, twenty, or fifty miles away any work that may be required.

 

"Our Friends the Monkeys."—Why, asks M. Paul Mégnin in La Nature, should we not call monkeys our friends? They have been calumniated and had all sorts of evil qualities attributed to them, because when we make pets of them we encourage and cultivate their odd traits, and spoil them as children are spoiled. All monkeys have not equal degrees of intelligence, but most of them are capable of a development equal to if not above that possible to any other animals. They love to learn, and the imitative instinct natural to them permits them to execute all sorts of feats with agility. They learn tricks more readily than dogs, and, although not manifesting so hearty good will toward the public, execute them with marvelous agility and grace. At Hagenbeck's establishment in Hamburg, where two hundred monkeys enjoy complete liberty of play in the great rotunda, they are given multitudes of children's toys, balls, hoops, wheelbarrows, joiner's benches, etc., and learn to manage them all without any one showing them how. In the center of the rotunda is an immense grain hopper, from which the seeds, corn, walnuts, chestnuts, apple quarters, etc., run into a trough when a wheel at the top is turned. The management of this hopper did not have to be explained to our friends the monkeys. While one of them turns the wheel, the others, sitting around the trough, enjoy the delicacies as they come down, till the one at the wheel, thinking his turn has come, stops, gives the signal for some one to take his place, and comes down to get his share. What other animals are capable of so intelligent an initiative?

 

Minute Earthquakes.—Very delicate experiments have been instituted by Prof. John Milne to determine the stress inflicted upon the earth's crust by small, even minute, disturbances, whether local earthquakes on a small scale, faint echoes of more violent distant disturbances, those arising from meteorological causes—which are receiving special attention—or even those which are due to the falling of rain and to dew. A shower of rain or a deposit of dew represents a considerable load on the soil, which may perhaps be regarded, in the first instance, as uniformly distributed, but which will probably, because of inequalities in evaporation, not remain so long. The ground on the east side of a building will be more quickly dried than that on the north; the dew on the east side will evaporate before that on the west side, and so on. Thus there will be bending stresses in the soil tending to tilt buildings or piers for instruments that have not deeplaid foundations. Tilts due to rainfall would be irregular; those arising from dew would show a diurnal period. The inquiry is made whether these tilts are large enough to affect astronomical observations. Diurnal oscillations of several sections of an arc have been detected by seismographs in Japan, which Prof. Milne attributes to the evaporation of dew. At the observatory of the University of Oxford a disposable weight, consisting of a crowd of human beings, was utilized. Formed into a solid square, they were marched back and forth, to and from the observatory wall. They were then spread out so that they only touched by the finger tips; and again so as to cover four times the space of that formation. This was supposed to represent the evaporation effect. Seventy-six persons were thus employed, and their marching back and forth produced an appreciable bending of the earth. As an aid to his research. Prof. Milne has had a horizontal pendulum set up in the Isle of Wight, in order to obtain a continuous automatic record of such disturbances as are there manifested.

 

Improvement in Antitoxine-Making.—In a recent number of the Archives des Sciences Biologiques issued by the Imperial Institute of Experimental Medicine at St. Petersburg is an important announcement by Dr. Smirnow, describing a new method of obtaining diphtheria antitoxine. Hitherto the preparation of the antitoxine has not only involved great expense, but also much time, several months oftentimes. The new method announced by Dr. Smirnow institutes a great saving in both time and expense, and consists simply of electrolyzing a virulent diphtheria broth culture, which is then found to contain an antitoxine of great power and efficacy. Dr. Smirnow states that a dog weighing from eighteen to twenty pounds, inoculated subcutaneously with 0·5 cubic centimetre of a virulent diphtheria broth culture, usually dies in two or two and a half days. If, however, even one day after inoculation, treatment with the new serum is begun, from three to five cubic centimetres of the latter suffice to save the animal.

 

Maxims for the Holiday.—The first requisite to the complete enjoyment of a holiday, as laid down by the London Lancet, is to have earned it. Only a true workman thoroughly enjoys his season of rest, while the idler, the trifler, the man of pleasure, knows little of its delights, for it brings him no change. It is well, in arranging for the holiday, to give attention to individual tastes and idiosyncrasies, so that the lover of natural scenery, the seeker for historical associations, and the lover of art may each go where he will find what he will enjoy the most. For the best use of a holiday some definite object may be combined with the general fundamental idea of rest; but there is a possibility of carrying this feature too far and making the excursion a season of work. This leads to the next rule, not to attempt too much. "Take it easy," should always be the motto. Long railway journeys and tedious excursions drawing upon the strength are good things to avoid. Age, physical condition, and previous training should always be regarded; change of life and surroundings should be sought, but mischief may result if the change is too violent; and whatever interferes with regularity of life and sleep should be indulged in only sparingly. Provided the traveler is a good sailor, few forms of holiday are so entirely unobjectionable as a sea voyage.