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Popular Science Monthly/Volume 51/May 1897/Minor Paragraphs


The Municipal Administration Committee of the Reform Club of the City of New York has secured Mr. Robert C. Brooks as its secretary, who has established his office at the University Settlement House, 26 Delancey Street; has begun the collection of a working library, which is rapidly growing; and has practically completed a bibliography of Municipal-Administration, of twenty-five hundred manuscript pages, comprising a subject index and another list, arranged alphabetically and containing nine thousand entries referring to thirty four hundred articles in American, English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish publications, with the names of twelve hundred writers. It has more recently begun the issue of a quarterly magazine called Municipal Affairs, the first number of which contains the bibliography. It is working earnestly to enlist those who are willing to aid in propaganda work—chiefly by holding meetings, at which questions of municipal polity are discussed by competent speakers.

The importance is insisted upon by Thomas A. Williams, in a paper on the Grasses and Forage Plants of the Dakotas, of making every effort to preserve the native grasses. They are naturally adapted to the conditions that prevail in the region, and it is very improbable that introduced forms can be had to take their places satisfactorily for many years to come. Climatal evidences are abundant to prove that some of the native forms will flourish under conditions that would kill the common cultivated ones; and the prolonged dry weather of the later summer, which would be destructive to cultivated species, simply cures these native ones on the ground, so that cattle can forage on them in winter as if they were hay. The importance of these grasses is illustrated by the immense shipments from the Dakotas of stock which have had no other feed than that growing naturally on the prairies. Many of the most valuable of these grasses are much benefited by judicious irrigation, even though it be only slight.

An expedition is fitting out by the American Museum of Natural History, with the aid of Mr. Morris K. Jesup, for the systematic study of the peoples inhabiting the coasts of the North Pacific Ocean between the Amoor River in Asia and the Columbia River in America. The exploration is to be prosecuted during six years, and to include both the Asiatic and the American coasts. Its primary object is to search for light concerning the origin of the American race and its relations to the races of the Old World, concerning which, in the absence of all definite knowledge at present, a confusion of opinions exists. The characteristics of the American races have been studied to a considerable extent by the Russian missionary Vemiaminoff, Dall, and others, in Alaska and the Aleutian Islands; Murdoch among the Eskimos of Point Barrow, and Boas under the auspices of the British Association in British Columbia; but, as Dr. Boas observes, very much remains to be done in those districts; while of the corresponding region in Asia, notwithstanding the few investigations that have been published, the types of man, languages, customs, and mythology are practically unknown.

Among the interesting jubilees celebrated during 1896 was that of the York Retreat in England. In 1792 William Tuke, a member of the Society of Friends, became convinced that the methods of treatment of the insane which prevailed at that time were unnecessarily harsh; they were treated more like wild beasts than as human beings. William Tuke therefore conceived the idea of founding an institution where sufferers from mental disease could be treated in a manner more in accordance with humanity and with sound therapeutic principles. The necessary support was after a time obtained, and the "Retreat" was opened in 1796. It was the first institution in England where the insane were treated min a humane and rational manner.

Mr. b. n. brough affirms, in a lecture on deep mining, that the greatest depth yet reached in mines is 4,900 feet at the Red Jacket shaft of the Calumet and Hecla mine, in the Lake Superior district. The Tamarack mine, in the' same district, 4,450 feet, is the only other mine going below 4,000 feet in depth. Four mines in Germany, two in Belgium, and one in Austria-Hungary are between 3,500 and 4,000 feet deep. The deepest British mine is the Pendleton, near Manchester, 3,474 feet deep; and the deepest in Scotland is the Niddrie, at Porto Bello, 2,010 feet. The products of the mines are now lifted with ropes of crucible steel wire, of which a flat rope is mentioned weighing only 8·2 pounds per foot, which had a tensile strength of eighty-nine tons per square foot, and lasted twelve months while used for raising loads of eleven tons from a depth of 3,117 feet. At the deep mines of Calumet the cage, carrying six tons, was lifted at the rate of a mile in a minute and a half. In England the speed has been as great as fifty-seven miles an hour. The increased cost of sinking these deep mines is believed not to be very appreciable where the output is considerable. At Tamarack the cost of increasing depth was more than compensated by the increased output and improved machinery.

The most important events in last year's history of the astronomical observatory of Harvard College were the erection of the Bruce photographic telescope in Peru, and the establishment of a series of circulars, which furnish a prompt means of announcing discoveries. Twenty-five hundred and eight photographs were taken with the eight-inch Draper telescope, and twenty-seven hundred and seventy in Peru with the eight-inch Bache telescope; and "there is probably no star brighter than the thirteenth magnitude in any part of the sky from the north to the south pole that does not appear on one or more of these plates." The attempt is made to photograph all the regions in which variables are discovered at least once a month. In Mrs. Fleming's examinations of the spectra photographed, a large number of objects having peculiar spectra have been discovered. Two new stars have been found in the constellations Carina and Centaurus. The photographs of one of the new variable stars show a very peculiar spectrum and changes of light unlike those of any star hitherto discovered. Meteorological observations were continued at La Joya, 4,150 feet above the sea; Arequipa, 8,060 feet; Alto de los Huesos, 13,300 feet; Mont Blanc station on El Misti, 15,600 feet; El Misti, 19,200 feet; and Cuzco, 11,000 feet.

A work by M. Meguin on the Bacteria of Dead Bodies is reviewed in a recent issue of the British Medical Journal: "As a result of this work it is now possible to determine in a most accurate manner the time of death of an individual by an examination of the cadaver and of the successive generations of insects which are found inhabiting it. The author has established the important fact that these successive inhabitants always arrive in the same order from the time of death to that of complete disintegration of the body. . . . The importance of this work from a medico-legal point of view can not be overestimated, and that it is capable of practical application the author shows by a number of interesting cases."