Popular Science Monthly/Volume 52/November 1897/Notes


Of the twelve hundred and six species of the animal kingdom which have been represented in the Zoölogical Gardens of Philadelphia up to the present time, one hundred and four have bred. The propagation of some of our native animals, which are becoming scarce in a wild state, has been conducted with a fair measure of success. This is notably the case with the American bison. Sixteen individuals are now in the gardens, nine of which are females; and all have been bred there except two, which were obtained in exchange for those of the garden's breeding, in order to infuse a new strain into the herd.

The chapter of Dr. White's Warfare of Science with Theology, From Demoniacal Possession to Insanity, is the subject of a friendly and appreciative review by Dr. Warren L. Babcock in the American Journal of Insanity.

A Canadian dog story in the London Spectator tells of a little cocker spaniel dog which was accidentally left by its mistress at a house she visited about a mile from her home. He could not be made to go away till he was taken to the telephone and the trumpet was applied to his ear. Then his mistress called from her house, "Come home at once, Paddy." "Immediately he wriggled out of the boy's arms, rushed at the door, barking to get out, and shortly afterward arrived panting at the rectory."

It is announced by V. H. Veley and L. J. Veley, in Nature of July 1st, that they have found in shipments of rum from Demerara a micro-organism belonging to the group Coccaceæ, which they regard as a new species. The organism was found as chains of small cocci in the sediment from specimens of barreled rum which had been returned as 42 per cent over proof, equivalent to 74·6 per cent alcohol by weight.

It is generally said that the American Indians at the time of discovery did not use anywhere on the continent a stringed instrument. Dr. D. G. Brinton has, however, found four examples which seem to controvert this, and has described them in a brief paper in The American Antiquarian. One is the quijongo of Central America, a monochord with a gourd or jar as resonator. The "Apache fiddle," specimens of which are in the Museum of the University of Pennsylvania, is an instrument of one cord, with a hollow reed as resonator. A third instrument is mentioned by James Adair, in his History of the American Indians, as having eight strings. The fourth is shown in the Metropolitan Museum, as from Brazil. It has four strings, with a reed and jar. These instruments may be borrowed, but the possibility of their being native and original is sufficient to justify investigation.

The most important action taken by the council and committees of the British Association during the past year was in the direction of impressing upon the Imperial Government the necessity of establishing a national laboratory of physical research and a bureau of ethnology for Greater Britain. It was felt that the nation does not contribute to physical research to the extent that the benefits derived from the inventions of students of physics warrant, and negotiations are in progress in regard to the matter. The proposed establishment of a bureau of ethnology is expected to be of use to officers performing administrative work, and to missionaries seeking preliminary knowledge of the characteristics of the peoples among whom they are to labor.

The considerable proportion of young men attending the Toronto meeting of the British Association was remarked in the Globe of that city.

Itis regarded as probable by Dr. D. G. Brinton that some valuable writings of earlier students of Mayan antiquities may still exist in the old libraries of Spain or Italy or in private collections of ancient convents. There have already been some accidental findings, as that of Landa's manuscript by Brasseur de Bourbourg, that of another work by Señor Marimon, and that of the Codex Peresænus by De Rosny in a waste basket. But if one knows what to look for, the probabilities of success will be greater. Dr. Brinton, therefore, in his papar mentions authors and titles of works that we know were written previous to the present century on the rites, customs, religions, and antiquity of Mayas, the present whereabouts of which are unknown. The list proves that the early missionaries did not always neglect the pagan rites and histories, and that if we had their manuscripts complete, our knowledge of Mayan antiquities would be greatly enlarged.

While the pioneer work of exploration has been to a great extent accomplished in Africa, and the lines have been run in all directions, Mr. Scott Keltie speaks of the broad meshes between these lines as still needing to be filled in; and one or two regions yet remain that afford scope for the adventurous pioneer. One region of considerable extent, still practically unknown, is south of Abyssinia, and west and north-west of Lake Rudolf, on to the upper Nile. Another extensive area is in the western Sahara. All over the continent are regions that will repay special investigation. Even in northern Africa, an English traveler, Mr. Cowper, has found, not far from the Tripoli coast, miles of magnificent ruins, and much to correct on our maps; and but little is known of the interior of Morocco and the Atlas Mountains.

Committees were appointed at the recent Detroit meeting of the American Association to secure uniform nomenclature in the scientific terms used in commerce; and to consider means for extending the influence of the association into the secondary schools.

The vice-president's address of Prof. William Ramsay before the Section of Chemistry in the British Association was devoted to an exposition of his reasons, founded on the atomic relations and behavior of argon and helium, for supposing the existence of another gas not as yet discovered.

The saguaro cactus of Arizona was described by Mr. Henry G. Hubbard to the Society of Economic Entomologists at Detroit as containing a woodlike fiber, allowing it to resist the most violent winds as solidly as an oak tree. The plants are sometimes sixty feet high, and are of great economic importance, serving in the desert for timber. The Indians use the fiber for roofing, laths, etc., in building their huts.

The Essex Field Club, England, has been considering methods for protecting the native fauna and flora from the destruction and even extermination with which some species are threatened; and at a recent meeting unanimously adopted a resolution to all lovers of Nature to avoid the danger—(1) by abstaining from wholesale collecting, from collecting for merely individual purposes, from needless rooting up of specimens, from attempting to cultivate wild specimens of refractory species, and from purchasing such wild specimens from dealers; and (2) by endeavoring to persuade others, especially school children, cottage gardeners, and dwellers in large towns, to similar abstention. The need of these precautions is as great in the United States as in England.

A note in Nature from Kumagusu Minakata gives a curious Japanese method of obtaining information regarding the future. "Noma Sanvanoshin narrated that the destiny of a belligerent could well be foretold by means of the ‘Tanishi’ (common black land snails, gathered for food in muddy rice fields). If two groups consisting each of three of these shellfish be placed in opposite corners of a tray, the three animals representing the future conquerors would advance, while the others which are doomed to defeat would withdraw. This method was approved by repeated experiments during the siege of Osaka (1615)."

The Hon. Ralph Abercromby, author of some excellent works on meteorology, died at Sydney, New South Wales, June 21st, fifty-four years of age.