Popular Science Monthly/Volume 52/April 1898/Minor Paragraphs


As the result of some recently conducted experiments on feeding hogs, it is announced by the Cornell University experiment station that fully twenty-five per cent of the diseases which are supposed by the farmer to be hog cholera, or some other of the infectious diseases which attack hogs, are simply due to unhealthy food or foul surroundings. It was found, among other things, that the dishwater from hotels (which forms the basis of the ordinary swill fed about towns) was especially injurious when any of the powdered soaps had been used for dishwashing purposes, and a large number of deaths among several herds were traced to this cause. The amount of free alkali, over fifty per cent, which is present in these soap powders in the shape of sodium carbonate (ordinary washing soda) was found to be the dangerous substance.

Is it possible, asks a writer in the Revue Scientifique, "to affirm positively that any particular medicine is injurious or any treatment bad? Assuredly not; what we condemn to-day will be good to-morrow. Did not the Sorbonne condemn quinine, tartar emetic, and antimony as injurious medicines? It was the same with transfusion. Science is revolutionized every moment by new discoveries. A doctor practicing laparotomy thirty years ago as it is practiced now would have been regarded as guilty of imprudence; yet the operation is very easily performed, perhaps too readily. There was a time when to give more than a gramme and a half or two grammes of iodide of potassium would have been a great fault; now, eighteen and even twenty grammes are given. Twenty-five years ago some doctors and even academicians denied that smallpox was contagious."

Dr. Brinton, in a recent number of Science, calls attention to a paper by the Marquis de Nadaillac on The End of the Human Race, and comments as follows: "Making anew the calculation of the increase of population as compared with the increase of food supply, he reaches the gloomy conclusion that in a few centuries there will inevitably be too little food to supply all the mouths. Russia alone, at its present rate of births, will in one hundred years be obliged to feed eight hundred million persons. What, he asks, can stem this overwhelming tide of population? He gives up the problem, and says we must leave it to God, a solution which is more creditable to bis piety than to his position as a scientist. The real solution is to educate men and women to the point where they will not recklessly produce offspring, nor yet ruthlessly prevent them, as is the case now in some departments of France. Unfortunately, prejudice stands in the way of a fair and free discussion of this solution."

Like our bison and the giraffe, the African wildebeest, or white-tailed gnu, is at the point of extinction. It is computed, the London Spectator says, that there are only about five hundred and fifty of these animals surviving in a wild condition, though they were at no great distance of time numbered by tens of thousands. Four herds are mentioned as still surviving in the Orange Free State, three of about one hundred each, which are fenced in, and one belonging to a wealthy Boer farmer, Mr. Plet Terblans, consisting of some two hundred and fifty animals, running perfectly wild, but protected on his wide domain by the vigilance of his sons and black servants. Having found the dead bodies of twenty-seven of these animals, all shot at one drinking place on the same day, from only one of which the skin and meat had been taken, he determined to stop the slaughter and did it. His farm is thirty square miles in area, and the wildebeests seem to be aware that they are exposed to danger elsewhere. They will go twenty miles in a night to feed upon some particularly good grass on other land, but gallop back to sanctuary at sunrise.