Popular Science Monthly/Volume 52/March 1898/Fragments of Science

Fragments of Science.

The Effect of Trade Unions on Individual Advance.—The growth of a country in civilization and wealth depends chiefly on the efforts of its individuals. The great advances in modern science and industry have been made by men a little ahead of their neighbors in clear-sightedness and push. Hence, anything which puts a curb on individual effort and ambition is antagonistic to the best interests of society and civilization. The trade union, which in its inception had only a co-operative function, enabling the men in a given trade to help one another in cases of injury, sickness, etc., and to meet representatives of other industries for furthering trade relations and association, has in the modern industrial world assumed quite a different function, whose worst manifestation is the stifling of whatever individuality and push the workman may have, and forcing him to limit his work to that of the least efficient of his fellows. The fact that Brown can do in a day half as much more work than Jones, and do it better, is an item which if known is not considered unless he does it, in which case he is informed that he is doing too much and must "let up." The official amount is prescribed, and no one, whatever his ability, is expected to exceed that. There can be only one result of a system which discourages a man's doing his best, and limits him to the capacity of the poorest workman in the union, and that is to destroy individuality and ambition, the two most powerful forces which work for human advancement. That such is the real effect of the trade union has recently received additional confirmation by the statements of a skilled mechanic who has actually "been through the mill" and risen from the ranks. In the November number of the Engineering Magazine, Mr. Hiram S. Maxim, widely known for his important industrial and scientific work during the past fifteen years, and who began his career as a common hand in a machine works in Fitchburg, Mass., writes on the subject of trades unions. He shows that in every instance the effect of the union is to decrease the work, both in quantity and quality, demoralize the workman, and foster a tendency to soldiering and dishonesty.

The Metals of Canada.—In his address at the British Association on the Metals of Canada, Prof. Roberts Austen showed that the recognition of the extent and variety of the mineral wealth of the Dominion had been comparatively recent, and the development of the related industries slow. This was due partly to the policy pursued by the Hudson Bay Company of keeping the country wild for the sake of the fur-bearing animals; partly to ignorance in the mother country of the resources of Canada; and partly to the difficulty of access to the mining districts before the railroads were built. In speaking of the Dominion generally, the richness of the deposits and the hopefulness of prospects must be kept in view rather than the immediate output; but it should be remembered that since the meeting of the British Association in Montreal in 1884 the mineral production of the Dominion had more than doubled. The principal metals of Canada are gold, silver, nickel, copper, lead, and iron; besides these, manganese, chromium, antimony, and zinc occur, with platinum and rarer metals. The gold is at present obtained from the provinces of British Columbia, Ontario, and Nova Scotia. In Ontario, discoveries of this metal have been made over an area of about two thousand square miles, in a tract one hundred miles wide and two hundred miles long. As for silver, the Slocan mines and those of Trail Creek and East and West Kootenay appear to be of extraordinary richness. The lecturer dwelt at some length on the importance of the resources of Canada in iron and steel, and mentioned nickel, which greatly affects the quality of steel, as a metal the importance of which it is impossible to overestimate, and chromium as a metal with which the manufacturer of projectiles would probably triumph over the man who put nickel into his steel armor.

The Cruelties of Antivivisectionists.—Dr. Charles Minor Blackford, after reviewing the present position and needs of pathology in an address on that subject before the Medical Society of Virginia, spoke of a danger as confronting it which has passed away from every other science. Prof. Andrew D. White, he said, "has lately given us a history of The Warfare of Science, in which he has told, plainly and simply, the story of the army of martyrs to scientific truth, and his record is one that may well make us blush for humanity. It is true that we no longer have to fear the stake and rack in investigating Nature, but, though life and limb are safe, the same spirit survives in other forms. A number of persons, whom, for the sake of our civilization, we will assume to be well intended, are striving in many ways to oppose freedom of thought as much now as in the fifteenth century. They lay great emphasis on the commandment 'Thou shalt not kill,' but ignore 'Are ye not worth many sparrows?' Assuming a number of facts that they are unable to prove, they endeavor to make those whose lives are devoted to saving life and relieving pain appear the most cruel of wretches. Never having seen the interior of a laboratory, they erect an imaginary one, and coolly assert that the scenes that their own imaginations have conjured up go on in them, and at their meetings vote resolutions condemning physiologists for attempting to save life, and legislatures for forbidding the wearing of our song birds on their hats. In our climate there are not five days in as many years that it is necessary to wear furs for shelter from cold, yet two of the greatest nations of the world have been on the brink of war for some years past, and a harmless and beautiful race of animals have been well-nigh exterminated to supply what is purely an article of vanity and luxury. To supply the 'aigrettes' worn on woman's bonnets, female herons have to be killed at a time when the death of the mother means the death of her brood; and yet when a British Humane Society appealed to the leader of the British fashionable world to give up this senseless and cruel ornament, it met an abrupt refusal. Similarly, the American bison has been exterminated to gratify vanity; the same fate awaits the elephant; and, I will venture to say, the pain endured by geese to supply the 'live-goose feathers,' and by horses in having their tails docked and in wearing the 'kimble-jack'—both thoroughly useless affectations of fashion—is greater than that endured by any animals in a laboratory. In this latter case, not merely do the horses have to endure, without an anæsthetic, cutting through a highly nervous part, but they are rendered defenseless from the attacks of flies and other insects by the loss of Nature's weapon, and are forced to drag heavy vehicles at high speed with the head held in an unnatural position by a rough bit in the tender mouth. We can picture the members of antivivisection societies driving to their meeting with horses so mutilated, removing their sealskin coats and aigretted bonnets, and denouncing attempts to find a cure for diphtheria.

"'Oh, wad some power the giftie gi'e us
To see oursel's as ithers see us!'"

Economical Experiences in Canada.—In a study of certain characteristics of the history of economics in Canada, presented to the British Association, Prof. Adam Scott describes this history as having been, up to the beginning of the present century and for some time afterward, mainly a record of numerous governmental experiments covering the leading features of economic life. The results were mostly of a negative character, but were valuable for the student. Study of the conditions in French Canada should be accompanied by a study of the conditions that prevailed in France, England, and the English colonies. The differences between the colonies were due not so much to their location, their race, or their products as to the regulations by which they were controlled. The French bureaucratic system, with its tendency to minute interference with every aspect of social life, was opposed in New England by a system which left to the colonists the utmost liberty in the practical direction of their affairs. Much good was accomplished in Canada under the influence and direction of Colbert, but as much or greater harm was done by incompetent administrations later. In Canada despotism was tempered by access to the woods, those too heavily burdened readily taking to the ways of the savages, a fact that gave the French an influence upon the Indians greater than could have been expected, inasmuch as their pecuniary advantages lay almost altogether with the English. Although in theory the English colonies were dependent for all things upon the home government, they were largely left to themselves, and when George III thought to atone for past neglect by vigorous administration it was found that the lapsed authority could not be recovered. Thus, while in Canada a colony had grown up dependent on European influences, the English colony had become accustomed to look to itself for all things. The whole study was presented as emphasizing the necessity in theoretic economics of keeping in mind differences in conditions and in their range of operation and influence.

Singing Flames.—In a recent number of the American Journal of Science, Mr. H. V. Gill has an interesting paper on The Theory of Singing Flames. The phenomenon of a gas jet burning inside an open tube, emitting a musical note, is one of those facts which, although known for many years and much written about, has never been fully explained. Among the more interesting theories was that of De la Rive, who supposed the sound to be due to a periodic condensation of the water vapor produced in the combustion of hydrogen gas. Faraday showed the inadequacy of this theory by the use of a flame which did not form water vapor, and proposed in its stead the theory that the so-called singing was caused by successive periodic explosives of a mixture of gas and air. This was accepted by Tyndall. Another theory which has been proposed is that the sound is produced by vibrations maintained by heat, the heat being communicated to the mass of air confined in the sounding tube at a place where in the course of vibration the pressure changes. Sondhauss performed a series of experiments, his chief conclusion being that the condition of the column of gas in the supply tube had an important influence on the phenomena. Mr. H. V. Gill sums up his conclusions as follows: "We think we have made it clear that the pressure on the gas plays the important part in this phenomenon, and that a consideration of the reactions we have described will be found to explain the many facts noted in the case of a singing flame, some of which we have alluded to. We look, therefore, on the chief cause as a mutual reaction between the pressures in the tube and on the gas, the energy necessary to sustain the note being supplied by the pressure on the gas and the action of the flame. We may compare the singing flame to the siren, in which the current of air causes the disk to rotate, the note being produced by the reaction of the disk on the current of air. . . . We have, then, three kinds of singing flames, one depending on changes of pressure, another on air currents, and a third depending at once on both changes of pressure and on air currents."

Sanitariums for Consumptives.—The urgent need of sanitariums for the consumptive poor in our large cities was forcibly presented by Dr. S. A. Knopf in a paper which he read before the American Public Health Association in October, 1897. The author shows, in the first place, that the homes of these invalids are as unsuitable as they can be for their proper treatment; that with them their families and fellow-tenants are sure to be infected, and the neighborhood is in danger. Neither can they properly be received in the general hospitals, where the annoyance to other patients in the ward—always a great danger in itself and sometimes fatal to the patients—is added to the danger of communicating tuberculosis. They should be isolated. A number of instances are cited of special hospitals for consumptives maintained by private enterprise, to show that patients can be cared for economically at such institutions, and with a success according to the stage of the disease when they are taken there. At St. Joseph Hospital, New York, fifteen hundred far-gone cases are cared for annually at an average cost of fifty cents a day. At Saranac Lake, where incipient cases are taken, from thirty to thirty-five per cent are cured with an average stay of eleven months and ten days; at Liberty fifty per cent are improved after three months, and about twenty-five per cent are cured. At Sharon Sanitarium, near Boston, twenty-five per cent of "arrested cases" are reported. Other sanitary advantages of inestimable value to the community are mentioned as likely to accrue from the establishment of such sanitariums and their proper management. Patients will, for instance, receive there a proper sanitary education, and be drilled in sanitary practice, taking which to their homes, they will become educational factors in public hygiene. Dr. Knopf proposes to have these sanitariums controlled and maintained by States and municipalities. It would be well to have the infection of corruption removed from State and municipal politics before this is done.

Crater-Lake, Oregon.—Crater lakes are defined by Mr. J. S. Diller as lakes that occupy the craters of volcanoes, or-pits of volcanic origin. They are most abundant in Italy and Central America, regions in which volcanoes are still active; and they occur also in France, Germany, India, the Sandwich Islands, and other parts of the world where volcanic phenomena have been important in geological history. Only one is known in the United States, and that is in southern Oregon, in the heart of the Cascade Range. It is interesting to the geologist and inviting to the tourist and health-seeker. It is as yet reached only by private conveyance over about eighty miles of mountain roads from Ashland, Medford, or Gold Hill, on the railroad. The lake, which appears to be about the height of Mount Washington above the sea, is surrounded by a series of unbroken cliffs ranging from 6,759 to 8,228 feet in height, or from more than five hundred to nearly two thousand feet above it, which are clearly reflected in its deep-blue waters. The outer slope of this rim is gentle, while the inner slope is abrupt and full of cliffs. The rim crest is generally passable, so that a pedestrian may follow it continuously round the lake—a circuit of about twenty miles—with the exception of short intervals on the southern side. The inner slope of the rim, though precipitous, is not a continuous cliff, but is made up of many cliffs, whose horizontal extent is generally much greater than the vertical. Other elements of the inner slope are forests and talus, and these make it possible at a few points to approach the lake, not with great ease, but, if done carefully, with little danger. On arriving at the water's edge, the observer is struck with the fact that there is no beach. The steep slopes above the surface of the lake continue beneath its waters to great depths. "Here and there upon the shore, where a rill descends from a melting snow bank near the crest, a small delta deposit makes a little shallow, turning the deep blue water to pale green." Among the most salient features of the lake are Wizard Island and the Phantom Ship. Wizard Island embraces an extremely rough lava field and a cinder cone, from the base of which the lava has been erupted. The cinder cone is a perfect little volcano with steep, symmetrical slope, eight hundred and forty-five feet high, and surmounted by a crater eighty feet deep, and is so new and fresh that it is scarcely forested, and shows no trace of weathering. The Phantom Ship is a craggy little islet with features that suggest the name. "Aside from its attractive scenic features, Crater Lake affords one of the most interesting and instructive fields for the study of volcanic geology to be found anywhere in the world. Considered in all its aspects, it ranks with the Grand Canon of the Colorado, the Yosemite Valley, and the Falls of Niagara."

The Enchanted Mesa.—An article in a recent copy of the National Geographic Magazine, by F. W. Hodge, gives an account of some interesting exploratory work done by him in the valley of Acoma in central New Mexico. The Katzimo, or enchanted mesa, is an isolated mass of rock rising from the center of the plain to a height of four hundred and thirty feet. Native tradition has it that this was once the home of their ancestors, but during a great convulsion of Nature, at a time when most of the inhabitants were at work in their fields below, an immense rocky mass became freed from the friable wall of the cliff, destroying the only trail to the summit and leaving a few old women to perish on the inaccessible height. This tradition has been strengthened by the finding of numerous fragments of pottery of very ancient type in the talus beneath the wall where it is said the path originally existed, and also by traces of hand and foot holes for some distance up the side of the cliff. Professor Hodge, by the aid of an extension ladder and several hundred feet of rope, after two hours' hard work, succeeded in reaching the summit of the mesa. The first recorded ascent was that of Professor Libby, of Princeton, in July, 1897. Several ancient potsherds and a curious sort of monument were the only archaeological finds. Professor Hodge, however, drew a map of the surface and accurately determined its altitude.

The Age of Trees.—The following information is taken from a recent circular of the United States Department of Agriculture: In all the timber trees of the temperate portion of our country the wood of the stem is laid on in sheets, which on any cross-section appear as so many concentric rings. Generally these rings are sufficiently well defined to be readily counted, and since only one is formed during each growing season they furnish a very convenient record of the age of that portion of the tree. In the cross-section of a pine, fir, or cedar these rings appear as alternate narrow bands of lighter and darker color, the dark line, or "summer wood," occupying the outer portion of any one ring, and being sharply contrasted against the lightest part of the inner lighter, or "spring wood." These rings are conspicuous through rows of pores, each row occupying the inner or spring wood part of a ring and being separated from the row of pores of the next ring by wood practically devoid of large pores. In the "diffuse porous" woods, like birch, poplar, tulip, etc., the rings are generally less conspicuous, being defined by a mere line, often scarcely perceptible in the fresh wood, and due to the fact that the outermost cells of the summer wood are always small, flattened in form, and have thick walls, while the adjoining innermost cells of the spring wood of the neighboring ring are much larger, not flattened, and always have thin walls. The growth of these rings is very even and regular, especially in young and thrifty timber, where the conditions for tree life are favorable. Where the conditions are not good the ring formation varies in a number of ways, and is a not at all reliable source for obtaining the age of the tree. A cross-section from one to two feet, above the ground should have added to the number of rings found from five to seven years, as the seedling would probably have required that period to reach a height of two feet.

The Pitch Lake of Trinidad.—Some romances and exaggerations of which the pitch lake of Trinidad has been the subject are corrected by Mr. Albert Cronise, of Rochester, N. Y. Its area, height, and distance from the sea have been overestimated, and a volcanic action has been ascribed to it which does not really exist. It is one mile from the landing place, is one hundred and thirty-eight feet above sea level, is irregular, approximately round, and has an area of one hundred and nine acres. Its surface is a few feet higher than the ground immediately around it, having been lifted up by the pressure from below. The material of the lake is solid to a depth of several feet, except in a few spots in the center, where it remains soft, but usually not hot or boiling. But as the condition of the softest part varies, it may be that it boils sometimes. The surface of the lake is marked by fissures two or three feet wide, and slightly depressed spots, all of which are filled with rain water. In going about, one has to pick his way among the larger puddles, and jump many of the smaller connecting streams. Each of the hundreds of irregular portions separated by this network of fissures is said to have a slow revolving motion upon a horizontal axis at right angles to a line from the center of the lake, the surface moving toward the circumference. This motion is supposed to be caused by the great daily change in temperature, often amounting to 80°, and an unequal upward motion of the mass below, increasing toward the center of the lake. A few patches of shallow earth lying on the pitch and covered with bushes and small trees are scattered over the surface of the lake.

Nature's Landscape Gardening.—A curious and interesting and yet easily explainable phenomenon is mentioned in a recent paper by N. F. Drake, in the Journal of Geology, on The Topography of California. In assisting to map a number of sand-dune areas along the coast in San Luis Obispo County it was noticed that where the sand was free from vegetation or obstruction it was piled in ridges at right angles to the prevailing sea breezes; but that where patches of vegetation grew, the dunes became parallel to the direction of the wind, and where the vegetation became thicker over the ground the regularity of the arrangement of the dunes was more broken. The reversal of the direction of the ridges where patches of vegetation existed was accounted for as follows: A mass of grass or bushes once started would check the sand from moving at that point and make a shelter for deposits to the leeward. This point of the sand dune now being more stable, other plant growth would spring up—mainly on the leeward side, so as to lengthen and increase the elevation of the ridges, while the unprotected sands at either side would drift away, thus forming narrow parallel ridges in the direction of the prevailing winds. Ridges from fifty to seventy-five feet high and four to six hundred feet long, or even longer, were not uncommon where the sand dunes were extensive.

Pegamoid.—Pegamoid is a substance of similar composition with celluloid, possessing its desirable qualities, while it is not inflammable and does not lose shape when heated. It was discovered by an English lithographer seeking a means of protecting the posters of his making from injury by the atmosphere. Its composition is a secret, but it appears to contain a nitrified cellulose, alcohol, and camphor, or the essential constituents of celluloid, together with some substances intended to increase its impermeability and make it supple and uninflammable. It may be applied in thin varnishes to any material—cloth, leather, paper, etc.—so closely that it can not be separated by any mechanical means, and so as to form an impermeable coating, easily cleaned by washing, and proof against heat, grease, and alkalies, while it has the further property of communicating its qualities to the material to which it is applied without destroying its individuality. Pegamoid cloth is a cotton fabric covered with a suitable thickness of pegamoid and gauffered. The process of manufacturing it is very simple, and consists in dyeing the cloth in the desired color, mechanically coating it with colored pegamoid, and stamping it. This is only one of the innumerable applications of which pegamoid is capable.