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Popular Science Monthly/Volume 56/January 1900/Notes

< Popular Science Monthly‎ | Volume 56‎ | January 1900


Mr. James Weir tells of a spider which stretched its web in the division between two parts of a sawmill, where the lower fastenings of the structure were frequently broken by the repeated passing of lumber through. Discovering the situation, the insect gave up the use of guy threads, and, finding a nail, wove it into the lower edge of its web, so that it should operate as a sinker to keep the web stretched.

N. G. Johnson, of the Maryland Agricultural Experiment Station, telling the Society for the Promotion of Agricultural Science the story of his fight with the pea louse, represented that the pea raisers in his State had lost this year more than three million dollars by the ravages of this insect. A parasite bad been discovered which practically annihilated the pest, but the discovery was not made in time to save the crops in some parts of the State from destruction.

The American Society for the Promotion of Agricultural Science, after hearing the account of the work of the Gypsy Moth Commission of Massachusetts, which has spent more than a million and a half of dollars in trying to exterminate the mischievous insect, approved the action of the Massachusetts Legislature in maintaining the commission, and requested that the work be kept up for a short time longer. This was because it was represented that the moth was now confined to a limited area, and could be easily exterminated by the expenditure of a small amount more of money.

The history of science has sustained a great loss by the burning of most of the relics which had been collected for the Volta Centenary Exhibition at Como, Italy. Only a few things were saved, comprising a sword presented by Napoleon Bonaparte to Volta, a cast of the skull of the great electrician, his watch, and a few personal relics. On the other hand, his books and manuscripts, his collection of batteries, the only authentic portrait of him, and his will, were destroyed. Nevertheless, the celebration was not stopped. The fire was attributed to the fusing of some electric wires.

An example of patient industry is the sorting of hogs' bristles as it is carried on at Tientsin, China. Each one of the hairs of the six hundred thousand kilogrammes exported from that place in 1897 had to be picked out, measured, and placed in the bundle of hairs of corresponding length; and the different lengths by which the hairs are sorted are very numerous.

It is stated by M. Léon Vaillant that the late M. A. d'Abbadie had and used an effective remedy against the bites of insects and the infections they bring by fumigating the entire body with sulphur. For this purpose he covered the unclothed body with a suitable envelope, under which the sulphur was burned. The remedy was communicated to M. d'Abbadie by a hippopotamus hunter who had, by using it, escaped all the diseases incident to the swamps to which he had to resort.

The Gregorian Calendar is to be adopted by the Russian Government on January 1, 1901, or at the beginning of the new century.

The following figures, from the Engineering and Mining Journal, are of interest as showing the enormous quantity of iron and steel which was manufactured in 1898, and the leading position which the United States has already assumed in the industry:

Iron and Steel Production, is Metric Tons.*

Countries. pig iron. steel.
1897. 1898. 1897. 1898.
United States 9,807,123 11,902,317 7,289,300 9,045,315
United Kingdom 8,930,086 8,769,249 4,559,736 4,639,042
Germany 6,889,087 7,402,717 5,091,294 5,784,807
Total 25,626,296 28,134,383 16,940,330 19,418,664
Austria-Hungary 1,205,000 1,250,000 553,000 605,500
Belgium 1,024,666 982,748 616,604 653,130
Canada 41,500 46,880 . . . . . . . . . . . .
France 2,472,143 2,534,427 1,281,595 1,441,632
Italy 12,500 12,850 57,250 58,750
Russia 1,857,000 2,228,850 831,000 1,095,000
Spain 282,171 261,799 121,800 112,665
Sweden 533,800 570,550 268,300 289,750
All other 450,000 545,000 310,000 355,000
Grand total 33,505,076 36,507,487 20,979,179 24,030,032
* A metric ton is about 2,200 pounds.

Although fewer casual members or members for the year than usual were present at the recent meeting of the British Association at Dover, the attendance of distinguished men of science and of active scientific workers, according to the London Times, seemed to be greater. And so far as the proper work of the association is concerned, the meeting should take a high rank. Excellent and serious work was done in all the sections.

A paper has been published by Pliny T. Sexton, of Palmyra, N. Y., setting forth reasons for favoring the unification of the whole educational system of the State of New York under the jurisdiction of a single board—that of the Regents of the University. The reasons are presented in the form of various newspaper articles which were published last year against a proposition of an opposite character—to abolish the present Department of Public Instruction and create a State Commission of Education, the affiliations of which would be political.!Mr. Sexton has further offered two prizes of one hundred dollars each for articles or essays by women and similar productions by men in support of the proposed unification.

M. Hildebert Richard, of Avignon, France, relates that he experimented upon two adult geranium plants, both healthy and of vigorous growth, under like conditions of exposure, watering one (A) with well water and the other (B) with water containing a measured proportion of butylic alcohol daily. A kept on with its healthy growth. B, after four days of alcoholization, showed an enfeebled growth, with symptoms of jaundice, drowsiness, and intoxication; a special odor perceptible in all parts of the plant, partially burned spots, and melanosis and geotropism in the leaves.

In his papers on The Art and Customs of Benin, Mr. Ling Roth concludes that the art of that savage land consists of mixed elements, partly European forais which the native mind was prone to copy, partly introduced from other parts of Africa. It is characterized by boldness, freedom, clearness in execution, originality, and variety. Among the customs he mentions are the practice of human sacrifice and the sprinkling of the blood of the animals killed at the periodical sacrifices on the ivories and 'on the cast-iron or bronze figure-heads placed on the altars. When there was too much rain, a woman had a message saluting the rain god put into her mouth. She was then killed and set up in the execution tree, so that the rain might see.

Our scientific obituary list of the month includes the names of Sir William Dawson, the distinguished Canadian geologist, of whom a fuller notice is given in another place; Dr. Luther Dana Woodbridge, Professor of Anatomy and Physiology in Williams College, at Williamstown, Mass., of heart disease, November 3d, aged forty-nine years; Dr. Oscar Baumann, African explorer, geographer to the Austrian Congo Expedition of 1885, who made studies for the projected railroad from Tanga to Karog; Dr. F. Kuhla, botanical explorer, at Manfios, Brazil; Percy S. Pilcher, inventor of flying machines, from an accident while experimenting. September 2d; Professor Hayduck, Privat Docent in Chemistry in Berlin; M. A. Snow, Instructor in Entomology in Leland Stanford Junior University, drowned October 10th in San Francisco Harbor; he had also been Instructor in Entomology in the Universities of Kansas and of Illinois, and was the author of several systematic papers on Diptera; Prof. J. B. Carnoy, of the Catholic University of Louvain, author of Biologie Cellulaire and of papers on the development of sexual elements, and founder of the journal La Cellule, at Schuls, Switzerland, September 6th; Dr. A. Ernst, Director of the National Museum, Caracas, Venezuela; Dr. Edward Petri, Professor of Geography and Anthropology in the University of St. Petersburg, aged forty-five years; Dr. Ottmar Mergenthaler, inventor of the linotype type machine, in Baltimore, Md., October 28th; and Dr. Henry Hicks, an English geologist and Lyell medalist, at Hendon, England, November 18th, aged sixty-two years.