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


The last bulletin of the Hatch Experiment Station gives some interesting information regarding the nitrogen germ fertilizer. Hellriegel and his colaborers have established by careful observation the fact that leguminous plants, like clovers, beans, vetches, lupines, etc, with the assistance of certain root bacteria found in the soil, can utilize the nitrogen of the air for the formation of nitrogen plant food fit for the support of their growth. These micro-organisms fasten themselves upon the roots of the clover, penetrate the epidermis, and form in the course of their growth swellings, nodules, or tubercles of varying size or shape. Their presence and growth in the tissue of the roots of this class of plants are considered an essential condition for the conversion of the elementary nitrogen of the air into suitable nitrogen plant food. One of the latest developments in this direction is the appearance in the general market of patented germ fertilizers for leguminous crops.

The crude materials for the manufacture of carborundum at Niagara Falls are sand, coke, sawdust, and salt. These are ready for use except the coke, which has to be ground to a fine powder. The furnaces are built of brick and have the form of an oblong box about sixteen feet in length and five feet in width and depth. In the center of either end are the terminal*, consisting of sixty carbon rods thirty inches long and three inches in diameter. The mixture is thrown into the furnace, connection made with the dynamo, and after twenty-four hours the process is complete. The carborundum occurs in the center of the mixture as bright radiating crystals. In order to prepare the carborundum for the market it is first placed under heavy iron rolls for the purpose of crushing apart and separating the individual crystals, which are then washed in a solution of acid and water to remove solubles, and finally dried and sifted to separate the different-sized crystals. During the year 1896 the carborundum company produced in round numbers 1,191,000 pounds of crystalline carborundum. Carborundum is used chiefly as an abrasive, for which it is especially well suited, owing to its excessive hardness, which closely approaches that of the diamond.

An interview with the physician in ordinary to the living Buddha of Ourga educed the following statements regarding Mongolian medicine: Mongols do not dissect, hence their anatomical knowledge is very limited. They fix the number of diseases at four hundred and forty. Works on medicine are very numerous, the chief one being a kind of encyclopædia entitled Khlantap. Their methods of physical examination are like Sam Weller's knowledge of London, "extensive and peculiar." Thus more than seventy varieties of pulse are described. Urine analysis is insisted on, and sometimes extends as far as tasting. Their pharmacopoeia is mainly composed of vegetable substances. Aromatic plants, such as cinnamon and benzoin, play a large part in their therapeutics. The true medical man is not allowed to practice surgery, but in cases of crushed limbs where amputation is necessary, the physician may direct a butcher how to use the knife.

The pre-Columbian inhabitants of Mexico and Central America made very durable paper from the leaves of the maguey or century plant. In one of the records preserved upon this paper we are informed that twenty-four thousand reams of it were to be brought yearly as tribute to the storehouses of the ruler of Mexico—Tenochtitlan. Two cities are named as the principal places of manufacture, Yzamatillea and Amacoztilla. The people used the paper not only for books, but, like the Japanese and Chinese, for flags, banners, ribbons, clothing, etc. It was prepared by soaking and macerating the leaves of the maguey, and then beating them into thin sheets, which were either varnished or coated with animal membranes. The codices, or Aztec and Mayan records, were printed on long, narrow strips and then folded up like a screen, with a board cover at each end. Both sides of the paper were used.