Popular Science Monthly/Volume 54/November 1898/Minor Paragraphs


Mr. W. H. Huddleston, in his presidential address to the Geological Section of the British Association, spoke of the geology of the southwest of England, and began with supporting the claim of Bristol, where the association was meeting, to be regarded as the cradle of British geology, and even more; for, he said, Devonshire, Cornwall, and West Somerset first attracted the attention of the Ordnance Geological Survey. "Thus it comes to pass that the region which lies between the Bristol Channel and the English Channel claims the respect of geologists in all parts of the world, not only as the birthplace of stratigraphical paleontology, but also as the original home of systematic geological survey. The city of Bristol lies on the confines of this region, where it shades off northwestward into the Palæozoics of Wales and northeastward into the Mesozoics of the midland counties."

A committee of the English Society of Arts, appointed to inquire into the matter, attribute the doubtful quality of modern paper to "revolutionary" changes which the industry has undergone, including the introduction of new substances of varying qualities and chemical properties, in the working up of which there is still room for much improvement. The committee have examined many books, as evidence, on the question of the deterioration of paper. They distinguish two tendencies—to disintegration and to discoloration—which are independent but may be concurrent effects, and are notably concurrent in papers containing mechanical wood pulp. Disintegration, which has been brought to light in papers of all grades, is generally the result of chemical changes in the fibers, produced by acids in the rag papers, and by oxidation in the papers made of mechanical wood pulp. Discoloration of ordinary cellulose papers, as distinguished from papers containing mechanical wood pulp, is dependent upon the quality of the sizing, and particularly the proportion of rosin in it. The committee define as the normal standard of quality for book papers, required for publications of permanent value, fibers not less than seventy per cent of the cotton, flax, and hemp class, sizing not more than two per cent rosin, the paper to be finished with the normal acidity of pure alum, and the loading to be not more than ten per cent mineral matter.

Colonel G. E. Church, president of the Geographical Section of the British Association, pointed out in his opening address, which was on Argentine geography and the ancient Pampean Sea, that the drainage area of the Plata basin was, according to Dr. Bludan, 1,198,000 square miles, or more than two and a half times that of the Pacific slope of the Andes. The minimum water discharge into the Plata estuary would, every twenty-four hours, make a lake one mile square and 1,650 feet deep. About seventy-four per cent of it would represent the flow of the Paraná, and twenty six per cent that of the Uruguay River. These interlaced with the affluents of the Amazon along a line of fourteen degrees of longitude The author sought to show that the Plata drainage area was, in a recent geological period, much more extensive than it is today; that its extreme northern limit was in 10° 44' south latitude, and that nearly all the waters that now unite to form the Madeira River, the main affluent of the Amazon, once flowed southward into a Pampean sea that penetrated north over the plains of the present Argentine Republic to about 19° south latitude.

Dr. Le Neve Foster, who nearly met his death in 1897 from carbonic-oxide poisoning while investigating a mine accident in the Isle of Man, discussing, in his report on the disaster, the origin of the gas, points out that although it occurs occluded in certain rocks and minerals, it has never been found as a natural constituent of the atmosphere of the mines. He had, therefore, to seek an artificial source, and found it in the burning of the timber in the mine. It appeared that the combustion of a cubic foot of larch, the wood used in the timber construction of the Snaefell mine, gives rise to enough carbonic oxide to occupy four hundred and seventeen feet of space at a temperature of 60° F. and a pressure of thirty inches. Twenty-five cubic feet of timber will yield sufficient to infect the atmosphere with one per cent of the gas all through the mine—enough to cause almost immediate loss of consciousness and speedy death. It is important, therefore, to avoid, as much as possible the use of combustible material in the shafts and roadways of mines, unless they are constantly wet or damp. It is also well to have compressed oxygen at hand for the restoration of asphyxiated persons, and also apparatus for penetrating noxious gases.

Rafting, similar to that which formerly distinguished the navigation of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, and to that which is still employed by the wood dealers on the great rivers of northern Russia and Siberia, is in use among the farmers of the middle and upper courses of the Yang-tse-Kiang as a means of getting their produce to market. They join rafts till they have a surface of two or three acres, care being taken not to have them too large for the river at its narrowest passages, and on these they build veritable farmsteads, with dwelling houses, barns, stables, and pigpens, for horses, cattle, and swine; and provide supplies of hay, fodder, and provisions for beast and man, to last the human and animal population of the craft during their journey of six hundred or nine hundred miles. The men on board are not idle through this journey, but have their stock of osier twigs and spend their time making baskets and other articles. Arrived at one of the great river marts, the people dispose of their animals and products, sell the articles they have made, and find markets for the material of their rafts with the dealers in lumber and firewood—just as the Ohio and Mississippi boatmen used to do. Then they return home.