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Popular Science Monthly/Volume 7/October 1875/Miscellany

MISCELLANY.

Detroit Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.—The American Association for the Advancement of Science met at Detroit, August 11th, and remained in session a week. Less than the average number of members were present, but in all other respects the meeting was considered to be quite up to the standard of former years. Increased vigilance by the sectional committee, in the examination of papers offered, resulted in a marked improvement in the interest of the proceedings. Probably at no time in the history of the Association were so many papers rejected as at this meeting; not because they were inferior in merit to many presented at former meetings, but because it was felt that from year to year the time of the Association had been too much occupied in hearing papers read which fell short of a reasonable standard of excellence. It will be another move in the right direction, if the Association will peremptorily check useless discussion, which wastes more valuable time than even the reading of inferior papers. When the presidents of the sections shall have the courage to do this, then will the Association do its allotted work more effectually, and its primary object, the "advancement of science," will be more surely attained. It is worthy of note that the chief papers read in the biological section were in favor of the principle of evolution. "Facts for Darwin" were contributed by Profs. Wm. S. Barnard, E. D. Cope, E. S. Morse, Burt G. Wilder, Messrs. A. R. Grote and Henry Gilman, and Hon. L. H. Morgan. Abstracts of these and other valuable papers follow. The suggestion of ex-President Le Conte, that the national Government appoint a scientific commission for the investigation and repression of our more destructive insect pests, is timely and important, and we hope that, in the interest of both agriculture and pure science, the newspapers of the country will unite in urging the matter upon the attention of the authorities. The value of such commissions, when properly constituted, has been abundantly demonstrated in other countries, and, as Prof Riley pointed out in some remarks following those of Prof. Le Conte, there is no country in the world more in need of the services of such a commission than the United States at the present time.

The officers of the Association elected for the ensuing year are: President, Wm. B. Rogers, Boston; General Secretary, Thos. Mendenhall, Columbus, 0.; Vice-President Section A, Chas. A. Young, Hanover, N. H.; Vice-President Section B, Edward S. Morse, Salem, Mass.; Secretary Section A, Arthur W. Wright, New Haven; Secretary Section B, Albert H. Tuttle, Columbus, O.; Permanent Secretary, F. W. Putnam, Salem, Mass.; Treasurer, Thomas T. Boune, Boston.

The twenty-fifth meeting of the Association is appointed in the city of Buffalo, to commence August 23, 1876.

 

Evidence of Evolution.—The scientific world has for some time been in possession of the fossil wealth of Wyoming and Dakota, but the remains of those early mammalian races had not been placed in relations with the genesis of the human species till Prof Cope's investigations were published to the Association. The paper which details these researches and their results was no doubt the most important document presented to the Association, and hence we give a rather lengthy abstract of it. According to Prof Cope, to prove the doctrine of evolution, two propositions must be established: 1. That there exists an orderly succession of structure, corresponding with succession in time; and, 2. That the terms of this succession of structure (species, etc.) actually display transition, or connection by intermediate forms. The first is to be demonstrated from paleontology; the proof of the second is restricted to the observation of living varieties and the discovery of connecting forms.

The structure of the feet is taken to be the best criterion of descent or relationship. The author distinguishes several types of structure of the foot in recent land-mammals, as the plantigrade, the carnivorous, the horse, and the ox type. The simplest form of feet is seen in the lowest vertebrata, as lizards, salamanders, which have five toes, with numerous separate bones of the palm and sole which they apply to the ground in walking. The plantigrade type approaches this. In the hind-foot a succession of forms leads from this generalized, many-toed, plantigrade type, to the extreme specializations of the horse and the ox. In any figure of the bones of' the human foot, the reader will see two rows called tarsal bones, the second row being followed by a row of long bones, called metatarsal, attached to which are the toe-bones. Observe, further, the form and position of the heel-bone and the astragalus, the ankle-joint. Above the foot, and articulating with the astragalus, are two bones, one small (fibula), the other large (tibia). In many reptiles the ends of these bones are nearly equal. Now, in Bathmodon, a mammal from the lowest Eocene Tertiary of New Mexico and Wyoming, the tibia and fibula articulate with the astragalus and heel-bone. As in man, the fibula is the smaller, and the heel-bone is short; the animal walked on the entire sole. From Bathmodon to Horse, on the one side, and Ox on the other, there is a complete succession of intermediate forms, corresponding to succession in time. Thus in Bathmodon the astragalus is nearly flat, while in the ox its upper surface presents a grooved face of a pulley, its under surface an angulated pulley-face, and a small convexity is presented to the hollow of the heel-bone behind. The progression toward this form from Bathmodon embraces these terms: Bathmodon (a gap filled by partially-known genera), Hippopotamus, Peccary, or Oreodon, Deer, Ox. The succession of feet to the one-toed extreme, Bathmodon, Titanotherium (in the Miocene), Tapir, Horse. In the heel-bone there is a succession from the short and flat form of Bathmodon to the long and slender one of the horse and ruminants, and this increase of length is associated with elongation of the bones of the toes, and the passage from the plantigrade to the digitigrade type. Another succession is seen in the diminished number of toes. The series commences in the primitive Eocene types with five digits; in the various series leading to the horse, the ox, the hyena, the cat, the reduction proceeds by the loss of a toe from one side or the other, until, in the ruminants, but two are left, and in the horse but one. In like manner the two bones of the leg, which articulate with the foot and hand, exhibit a succession of changes.

The relation of man to this history is significant. His limbs are those of the primitive type, so common in the Eocene. He is plantigrade, has five toes, separate carpals and tarsals, short heel, flat astragalus, and neither hoofs nor claws, but something intermediate between the two. The bones of the forearm and leg are not so unequal as in the higher types, and the ankle-joint is not so perfect.

A like succession is shown to exist in the forms of the teeth; but we have not the space for even the briefest synopsis of the author's remarks on this point. Thus in limbs and in teeth man retains the characters of the primitive type. From the generalized mammalian fauna of the Eocene the carnivora developed a highly-organized apparatus for the destruction of life. The cloven-footed and odd-toed hoofed orders, are the result of constantly increasing growth of the appliances for rapid motion over the ground. The ancestors of the carnivora were developing the arts and cruelty of the chase; those of the hoofed orders were developing speed; those of the quadrumana neither speed nor weapons of defense, and nothing was left to them but arboreal life. They took to the trees, and developed the prehensile powers of the feet. In limb and tooth, and digestive system, they remain nearly in the generalized condition from which the other orders have risen. Man's prominence consists solely in the complexity and size of his brain. While the order to which he belongs has made but little progress since the Eocene, in perfecting the organization of the skeleton, it has accomplished the greatest work of all time—the evolution of the human brain and its functions. "The race has not been to the swift, nor the battle to the strong."

 

Muscular Structure of the Hands and Feet.—While Prof. Cope has been working on the osteology of the hand and foot, Dr. William S. Barnard has been studying their myology, or muscular structure. On the history of the muscles the fossil world can throw no light, but Dr. Barnard's investigations of living types seem to demonstrate that muscles have had a history no less significant than the bones. Prof Cope has shown that, osteologically, the human foot is of ancient pattern. What is it myologically? Let the reader attentively study his own foot; let him experiment on the toes. Try to flex them, and they move, but rather clumsily. Try to flex a single toe, keeping the rest straight, and the thing will be found to be impossible; they all move together. The big toe may have a little independence, but not much. The Duke of Argyll has lately said, that we can know the animal by looking down from our higher selves upon our lower selves. If the duke would look at an opossum flexing its toes in climbing, and then look down on his own foot, he would have a closer acquaintance with the marsupial. Our toes have the same communal movements as those of the opossum. But our fingers we can flex one at a time or any way we like.

Now, Dr. Barnard's dissections would seem to show that the muscles which move the fingers and toes have been differentiated from one (communis) muscle. He has found many stages of differentiation. The flexor which inserts in the thumb of man inserts in two or three toes in the higher apes. The extensor of the index-finger is the same in the gorilla as in man, but in the lower apes and lemurs it has two parts. In lemurs the third finger gets a tendon from the extensor of the index. In all apes the extensor muscle of the third finger is inconstant. On the theory that the proprius muscles, the flexors and extensors of the fingers and toes, have been developed by specialization out of one communis muscle, these facts and many others of the same kind are luminous; on any other theory they are inexplicable. In the foot, man remains a creature of the past, not modified by that which makes him a man, the brain. The hand has been modified and perfected by its services to the brain.

 

The Orang and Man.—Dr. Barnard's paper on "The Myology of Simia satyrus" was based on a dissection he had made of an orang at Cornell University, and dissections of lower apes recently made in Germany. When, in 1818, Traill dissected one of the higher apes, he found a muscle which he homologized with the gluteus minimus (one of the abductor muscles of the thigh) in man. Other muscles in the same region he supposed to represent similar muscles in man. But one muscle he found in the ape, which he thought had no representative in man, and this he named the scansorius, or "climbing-muscle." Traill was followed by Owen, Wyman, Wilder, and by Bischoff, who, in his controversy with Huxley, argued from this muscle against a simian ancestry for man. Dr. Barnard shows that Traill was mistaken, and that the other great anatomists were misled by the weight of his authority. What Traill took to be the gluteus minimus is the pyriformis, and what he figured as a new muscle separating the apes from man, the scansorius, is the homologue of our gluteus minimus. In the orang, Dr. Barnard finds a muscle which has no homologue in man. It is a mere vestige. It occurs in some of the lower apes, as the lemurs, but has no functional value. It is found in the opossum, but no longer as a vestige. Thus when we go back as far as the marsupials, this muscle, which in man is obsolete, almost obsolete in the higher apes, less aborted in the lower apes, is an active organ, performing certain functions. In the orang the two external muscles of the calf do not unite to form one tendon, tendon Achillis, as in man. Now, this double tendon Achillis sometimes occurs in marsupials. These researches go far to prove that the muscles of man can be traced backward through the apes to the lemurs, and through them to the marsupials.

 

The Study of Mathematics.—Prof H. A. Newton, vice-president of Section A, at the Detroit meeting, advocated in his address a wider and deeper study of mathematics by American men of science. American contributions to the science of quantity have not been large; take away from their number three or four volumes, a dozen memoirs, and here and there a fruitful idea, and there is very little left that the world will care to remember. True, excellent text-books have been made here; but Prof. Newton is speaking of additions to our knowledge and not of the arrangement of it. The idea seems to be quite general among us that the mathematics is a finished science, and that it has few fertile fields inviting labor, and few regions to be explored. And yet hardly any science can show on the whole a more steady progress for the last fifty years, or a larger and healthier growth, than the science of quantity. The scientific investigator finds himself again and again arrested in his researches, for the want of sufficient knowledge of the mathematics. Hence Prof. Newton's advice to the young student in almost any branch of science is to acquire, first of all, a knowledge of geometry, analysis, and mechanics, so that the main ideas in them shall ever be familiar to him, and their processes readily recalled. Throughout the chemical and physical sciences, the laws are more and more assuming a mathematical form.

The unwisdom of neglecting the mathematics is again seen by considering some of the problems which appear to be in their nature capable of a mathematical solution. To explain by the accepted laws of rational mechanics all the forces and motions of the ultimate particles of matter, of inorganic matter even, may well be beyond the powers of the human mind. But that some of these forces and motions will be explained, even at an early day, seems to be almost certain. So the essential differences in the chemical elements may not be beyond discovery and explanation. Each line in the spectrum has its definite place, and those places are the results of certain laws of structure of the substance that gives the spectrum, and of its consequent action upon the light which comes from or traverses the substance. The time seems near for a Kepler who shall formulate those laws, and for a "Principia" which shall unite them in their most general mathematical expression. In like manner, along the line which in astronomy and physics separates the unknown from the known, there are hundreds of questions whose solution, if attained, must be in part mathematical.

Prof. Newton then speaks of the rôle of the laws of quantity in the sciences of political economy, geology, biology, and psychology
 

Coast-Survey Measurements.—We take from the Tribune the following brief abstract of Prof. Hilgard's paper on "Coast-Survey Measurements." The author described the work of measuring a primary base-line near Atlanta, Georgia. The work is liable to error chiefly from changes in the temperature and instability in the apparatus. As every error in the base vitiates all succeeding measures, in which any errors are necessarily multiplied, it will be seen what care was needed to insure accuracy. The results, obtained by methods which Prof. Hilgard described at length, were tested three times by a repetition of the measurement at different seasons of the year. The greatest error thus detected was a deviation from the average of about 11000000of the whole. To increase the severity of the tests, one of the measurements was made backward. Another way of stating the possible error is that it would be a third of an inch in six miles. Already this system of measurement, which is purely American, has elicited high praise abroad, and it will probably be adopted by European governments in their surveys. In previous papers before the Association the superiority of the American method for ascertaining longitudes had been expounded, and this system is now substituted for all previous ones in Europe. The apparatus used will form a part of our centennial display.

 

Grasshopper Dinners.—Prof. Charles V. Riley read a paper on "Locusts as Food for Man." The introductory portion of this paper was historical, tracing the use of locusts as human food to the earliest times of which there is record. Among the Nineveh sculptures are representations of men carrying different meats to a place of feasting, and some of the men are carrying sticks on which locusts are tied. In the book of Leviticus the locust is classed with "clean meats," and elsewhere in the Bible this insect is spoken of as food for man. Herodotus mentions a locust-eating tribe in Ethiopia, and Livingstone witnesses to the existence of this habit among modern African tribes. Even in the cities of Morocco, locusts are offered for sale in the markets and eating-houses. Many American tribes use this insect for food. In Southern Russia the locusts are salted and smoked; in Morocco they are boiled and then fried. Prof. Riley has had the locust cooked in a variety of ways, in order to test its flavor. This he pronounces "quite agreeable." Fried or roasted in their own oil, they have, he says, a pleasant, nutty flavor.

 

The Gar-Pike.—Several papers were read by Prof. Wilder, of Cornell University, who has spent the summer in the West. Of these one was on the gar-pike. The garpike is known to science as a very ancient type of ganoid fish—a sort of living fossil. The young gar has two tails, the one serpent-like and the other fish-like. The former is snake-like in motion as well as in form. It is largest and most active in the very young. As the fish grows, it aborts, and at adult age it is obsolete. Prof. Wilder's investigations show that this temporary tail is a vestige, a reminiscence, a survival. The ancestor of the gar was a reptile, and the young fish still carries the ancestral reptilian tail. Another paper by the same author was on—

 

The Sirenia.—The name we have borrowed from Greek mythology, according to which the sirens were young maidens who sat on the shores of a certain island near Italy, and "sang with bewitching sweetness songs that allured the passing sailor to draw near, but only to meet with death." Why the manatee and the dugong should be called sirenia is not apparent on the surface, for they are not graceful, neither are they sweet singers; besides, they bear no enmity to the human race. Externally the sirenia are whale-like, but internally they are pachyderm-like. Prof. Wilder has dissected a fœtal dugong (secured in Australia by Prof. Ward), and from a study of its structure he concludes that the sirenia are not modified whales, but modified pachyderms, and that they are descended from some ancient hippopotamoid quadruped.

 

Porcelain-Clay.—A paper was read by Prof. Cox, Indiana State Geologist, on a white clay resembling kaolin, lately discovered in Lawrence County, Indiana. A full synopsis of this paper was published in the Tribune, from which we derive the following particulars: The Lawrecne County bed of porcelain-clay occupies the position of the Archimedes limestone belonging to the Chester group. This limestone has been entirely removed where the clay is found, by the action of water charged with hydrated silicate of alumina and carbonate of protoxide of iron. The water which held these substances in solution is supposed to have contained alkaline carbonates, with carbonic acid in excess. It is thus that the water was enabled to dissolve the limestone, and by an interchange of chemical constituents, the hydrated silicate of alumina was precipitated and the lime carried off in solution. The carbonate of protoxide of iron also continued in solution until it met with a sufficient amount of oxygen for its peroxidation and precipitation. The upper portion of the clay, from one to twelve inches in thickness, is of a light cream-color, free from grit and laminated. Then follow from four to five feet of pure white clay, also free from grit. Beneath this is a clay of similar quality, but slightly stained at the joints with oxide of iron. Prof. Cox calls the white clay Indianaite; it has a composition of 12 to 14 per cent, water, 42 to 45 per cent, silica, and 36 to 39 alumina. The area of the deposit is known to be at least 42 acres, and there is little doubt that it is much more extended. Indianaite is now used in the porcelain potteries at Cincinnati, and ware made of it is fully equal to the best English ironstone pottery.

 

Are Potato-Bugs poisonous?—A paper by Augustus R. Grote and Adolph Kayser stated the results of an investigation of the supposed poisonous properties of the potato-bug. A quantity of the bugs were submitted to distillation with salt-water, so as to increase the temperature, the product being four ounces of liquid from one quart-measure of the bugs. This liquid had an alkaline reaction, owing to the presence of free ammonia and carbonate of ammonia. It was perfectly clear, and had a very offensive odor. A tincture of the daryphora was next prepared, the bugs having been digested for twenty-four hours in alcohol, which was then evaporated at a gentle heat. The tincture had a decided acid reaction, was brown in color, odor not offensive. On introducing into the stomach of a frog about half a cubic centimetre of the liquid and of the tincture separately, no effect was observed. Hypodermic injection of the distilled liquid was in like manner unattended by injurious results, but the tincture proved fatal when administered in this way. The leg, into which the tincture was injected, was quickly paralyzed, and in thirty minutes the heart had ceased to beat. This tincture, though highly concentrated, contained but a minute quantity of animal acids, of composition analogous to those secreted by the flea or the bed-bug. In the insect last named there are special organs for the secretion of these acids, but no such organs have been found in the potato-bug. The conclusion reached by the authors is, that the potato-bug is not poisonous, and that the cases on record of poisoning supposed to be caused by the bug are in fact traceable to Paris-green.

In the discussion which followed the reading of this paper. Prof Riley said that his own investigations had satisfied him of the poisonous properties of the doryphora. "Experiments on frogs," said he, "are not conclusive. Some people are far more sensitive than others to poisonous influences; and much greater differences are to be expected to exist between man and reptiles in this respect." Prof. Cook stated the results of a series of experiments which he too had made on frogs. He starved the frogs before administering to them a decoction of potato-bugs, and the effect on the reptiles was to make them very sick.

 

Chemistry.—A number of chemical papers were contributed by Prof. J. Lawrence Smith. One of these was descriptive of an apparatus for exhibiting the absorption of gases by palladium. The apparatus consists of slips of palladium and platinum; on being introduced into a flame, the palladium-slips coil up like a scroll, while the platinum-slips retain their original form. Another paper was on "Graphite Oxide, as prepared from the Graphites of the Sevier County Meteoric Iron, and DeKalb County Meteoric Iron." Further, he exhibited a pound-weight of cæsium alum. He gave an account of his unsuccessful attempts to obtain cæsium in the pure state. Small particles of the metal were obtained mixed largely with a carbonaceous compound, but they could not be detached from the black mass, as they took fire on being exposed to the atmosphere.

 

Meteorology.—A new meteorological instrument, designed to measure the effects of various climatic conditions on the human body, was described by John W. Osborne, of Washington. The instrument has a motive power, furnished by a clock, which agitates two pounds of water heated to the temperature of the blood. The water is contained in a paper vessel which permits some evaporation. The water for these experiments was heated somewhat above blood-heat, for quickness in registering and reading. The vessel containing the heated water represents the human body, and the effects of heat, cold, wind, and moisture, can be measured just as they affect the human body, and thus the precise extent of these changes can be registered and formulated.

 

Velocity of Electricity.—We take from the New York Times the following abstract of Prof. Joseph Lovering's paper on "An Acoustic Method of measuring the Velocity of Electricity." Practically, he said, electricity has no velocity. According to one experiment, when a very long conductor was used, electricity traveled at the rate of 288,000 miles per second. This rapidity is considerably lessened when a shorter conductor is used, and may come down to barely 800 miles per second. For satisfactory experiment, therefore, the longest possible lines should be used. A wire from Cambridge, Massachusetts, to San Francisco, and thence back through Canada to Massachusetts, about '7,200 miles in all, transmitted a message in two-thirds of a second, and some of this time was wasted through thirteen repeaters. Electricity traveled over 4,000 miles of cable in one second, even under some unfavorable conditions. Prof. Lovering's system connects the wire with tuning-forks, the vibrations of which indicate the ten-thousandth part of a second, or even less. The application can be made, however, only by those who are familiar with acoustics..

 

Transportation of Fish-Eggs.—A recent shipment of salmon-eggs from Glasgow to New Zealand was unsuccessful. The cause of this failure is not known, as every precaution was taken by Mr. Frank Buckland, who superintended the shipment, to insure success. The length of time, says Nature, during which the eggs were packed on board ship was one hundred and twenty-one days, or only nine days longer than the period during which it has already been proved by Mr. Buckland and Mr, Youl that the development of salmon may be safely retarded by ice. A large quantity of the ice surrounding the ova remained till the end of the voyage, so that the temperature of the ice-houses must have been kept very low throughout the voyage. The cases in which they were packed are described as "sodden," so that they did not suffer from dryness. Probably want of ventilation caused the failure of the experiment.

 

Ancient Glaciers of the Sierra Nevada at Lake Tahoe.—In the American Journal of Science for August is an interesting paper, by Prof. Joseph Le Conte, on the ancient "Glaciers of Lake Valley," in which is situated the well-known and beautiful Lake Tahoe. The great glacier which filled all the lower part of the valley had its source in the snow-fountains among the mountain-peaks at its southern end. The valley is a trough between two ridges of mountains near the top of the Sierras. It is 20 miles wide, 50 miles long from north to south, and is 3,000 to 3,500 feet deep; its lower half is filled with the waters of Lake Tahoe. This lake occupies an area of about 250 square miles, and is 1,640 feet deep.

On either side of the lake are mountains, but those which still show best the glacial sculpturings are on the westerly side. Some of these rise 3,000 feet above the level of the lake, and are between 9,000 and 10,000 feet above the level of the sea. The surface of the lake is at nearly as great an elevation above tide as the summit of Mount Washington. The ice at its greatest development filled the valley—a vast mer de glace—to a height of 300 or 400 feet above the present lake-level, and was therefore about 2,000 feet thick. It moved northward, and was discharged upon the plains; some of it evidently moved down the cañon through which the Truckee River now flows.

This glacier was fed by tributaries from the mountains, and these continued to flow after the great mer de glace had ceased to exist. Enormous mounds of débris, glacial moraines, occur between the lake-margin and the mountains, cut with wonderful regularity by water; and toward the southwestern portion of the lake occur those exquisite lakelets which add to the charm of the region. Of these. Fallen Leaf Lake, Cascade Lake, and Emerald Bay, are of wonderful beauty. The green waters of Emerald Bay contrast with the clear blue waters of Lake Tahoe. Lake Valley, in which Lake Tahoe lies, may not have been wholly scooped out by glacial action. Prof. Le Conte suggests that an area of depression may have been formed in the process of elevation of the mountains, which was enlarged and deepened by erosion.

 

American Grape-Vines and the Phylloxera.—Four years ago Prof. Riley went to France to study, on the spot, the grape-Phylloxera. Some of the scientific results of this visit—as the establishment of the identity of the European insect with that found in our own vineyards, and the American origin of the Phylloxera—are known to our readers; but the practical results are highly interesting and important. His experience, here, having taught him that some of our indigenous vines offered greater resistance to the insect than the European varieties, and that, with European vines, there was no hope of discovering a remedy which would prove practicable and satisfactory on a large scale, and under all conditions, he advised the French grape-growers, as one of the most promising means of restoring the ravaged vineyards, to import American vines, either for their fruit or as stocks for the French varieties. Results are fast justifying this advice. The insect continues to broaden the area of its devastations; and in many sections of Southern France, where but a few years ago the whole country was one great vineyard, the ground is now either entirely or partly devoted to other crops, to which it is poorly suited, or the vineyards are rapidly perishing. In spite of the large national reward for a remedy—in spite of the well-directed and persistent efforts of the government, and of the Academy of Science, to discover one—nothing but submersion, which is practicable to but a limited extent, proves effectual, and by degrees the fact is being acknowledged that all other remedies are futile. The American vines, however, are fast gaining ground, and the people begin to look to them as a means of restoring their blighted vineyards. From a few rooted plants selected by Prof. Riley, and sent over four years ago to Gaston Bazille, then President of the Central Agricultural Society of Hérault, the demand increased each year, until in 1874 it reached many millions, and we have the curious spectacle of a large exportation of American vines to a country that has hitherto despised them as unworthy of culture. We see from some of the French papers that Prof. Riley has this summer revisited the south of France, and that he has found the American vines flourishing in the midst of the dying and dead French vines, and in the order of the varieties recommended four years ago. To testify their appreciation of his services, the Central Society of Agriculture of the department of Hérault held an extraordinary session at Montpellier, and gave a grand banquet at Palavas, in his honor.

 

Formation of Hail in the Spray of Yosemite Fall.—The American Journal of Science for September contains an interesting article, by Prof Brewer, on the formation of hail in the spray of the Upper Yosemite Fall, as observed by himself on the 14th of April last. This magnificent fall is 1,550 feet high, and at the time, the stream being swollen by rains and melting snow, leaped clear from the rocks into the air and was soon torn into spray. "It seemed," says the professor, "as mobile as smoke, and assumed new varieties of outlines each instant, so light and airy that it seemed as easily swayed by wind as lace, yet it struck with deafening thunder. The concussion was perceptible through the granite for some distance." The discharge of water was estimated at 250 to 300 cubic feet each second.

The water in winter falls behind a great cone of ice which forms from 100 to 200 feet in thickness, and emerging beneath the ice a grand arch is formed like that in the glacier at Mont Blanc, whence the Arveiron flows. Standing at the foot of this upper fall, a thousand feet above the bottom of the valley. Prof. Brewer and his companions felt, in the violent tempest of spray, ice-pellets or hail which stung their hands and faces like shot. They fell in considerable quantity, rapidly melting, for the sun shone full on the fall, and the rocks around reflected the heat. The diameter of some of the pellets was estimated at one-tenth of an inch.

Here we have the spray of the water-fall condensed and frozen into hail. The process by which this may occur is clearly stated by Prof Brewer.

The water, supplied from melting snow, plunges over the cliff at just about the temperature of freezing. "In the fall it appears to be 'atomized' for 1,200 or 1,400 feet of its descent. A great volume of air is drawn into this falling mass along its whole course, the sheet spreading as it descends. The quantity of air is so great that it pours outward on the bottom of the valley and is very perceptible as a cool current more than a mile distant from the base of the upper fall. The air as sucked into the fall is immediately cooled to 32° by the ice-cold water. As it passes in, it is very dry, and the rapid saturation within the sheet is sufficient to freeze a portion of the drops."

 

Distribution of Temperature on the Solar Disk.—From the researches of Prof Langley, referred to last month in the abstract of Secchi's observations on sun-spots, it appears that, though the nucleus of a spot is much cooler than the surface surrounding it, there is no great difference of temperature between it and the photosphere near the sun's limb, though the difference in brightness is so considerable. In fact, Mr. Langley has shown that the relatively black nucleus actually radiates more heat than the bright photosphere quite close to the limb. Following up this discovery, he has shown that the absorption of light, both in the case of a spot, and of the parts of the sun's surface near the limb, is not accompanied by a corresponding absorption of all the heat-rays (invisible as well as visible), so that, taking Sir W. Herschel's estimate of the brightness of the nucleus as 71000 of that of the photosphere, Mr. Langley finds that we receive from a spot fifty times as much heat as light, and a similar conclusion is arrived at with reference to the surface near the limb. On comparing the equatorial and polar regions, no appreciable difference was observed in the heat received. How this is accounted for by Secchi was stated in the September number.

Prof. Mayer, of the Stevens Technological Institute, adopts a different method of observation, and his results differ considerably from those both of Langley and of Secchi. He causes the image of the sun to fall on the smoked surface of a thin sheet of paper, while the other side of the paper is coated with a film of Meusel's double iodide of copper and mercury. He begins with an aperture of object-glass, which does not give sufficient heat in any part of the solar image to blacken the iodide, gradually increasing the aperture till he gets a well-defined blackened area. This is the area of maximum temperature. The aperture being further increased, the blackened surface extends, and a new area is formed bounded by a well-defined isothermal line. This process is continued till the isothermals of the entire image are mapped out.

Prof. Mayer finds that—1. There exists in the solar image an area of sensibly uniform temperature and of maximum intensity. 2. That this area is of variable size. 3. That it has a motion on the solar image. 4. That it is surrounded by well-defined isothermals. 5. That the general motions of translation and of rotation of these isothermals appear to follow the motions of the area of maximum temperature, but that both central area and isothermals have independent actions of their own.

 

One-sided Development.—In an article entitled "Lop-sided Generations," published in the Journal of Anatomy and Physiology, Dr. Hollis points out the existence of the habit of using the right hand in preference to the left among those peoples whose monuments date from the remotest antiquity. What is the reason of this almost universal fact? The author turns to the anatomical mechanism of the human body for an answer. It is known that the right lung, liver-lobe, and limbs, exceed in size those of the left side, involving, of course, a greater amount of tissue-structure, and a larger supply of nerves and blood-vessels for their nutrition. A person walking in a dense fog figures with his feet the segment of a circle; and, if he is right-handed, he takes a direction to the left, because the right leg naturally takes a longer stride. The left side of the brain is larger than the right; it has been shown that the power of verbal articulation in the right-handed is confined to a certain convolution on the left side; and hence we arrive at the fact that in speaking and thinking we use the left side of our brain, this being the result of dextral education. Amnesia and aphasia in right-handed men indicate disease of the left brain. Hammer-palsy and writer's cramp show the results of excessive working of the left brain. Dr. Hollis insists on the necessity of adopting a system of education which will give an equal prominence to both sides of the brain in all intellectual operations.

 

The Tribes of Western Australia.—Mr. John Forrest, of the British Anthropological Institute, in giving an account of the natives of Western Australia, states that they are divided into two great tribes, Jornderuss and Ballavook, which are again divided into innumerable sub-tribes. These great tribes are exogamous: a Jornderuss may not marry a Jornderuss, but must take a Ballavook. Wife-stealing is a constant source of quarreling among them, and the women are frequently speared or killed. The children belong to the mother's tribe. Tattooing and marking on the shoulder and breast are almost universal among these tribes. The rite of circumcision is practised by all the tribes that Mr. Forrest met with, except those of the southwest corner of Australia. It is a religious ceremony, and the men and women part for a fortnight upon the occasion of it. The natives of the interior are entirely without clothing, and suffer much from the cold. They sleep in the open air, except in wet weather, when they build small huts. Cannibalism is common in the interior.

 

Science allaying National Antipathies.—The Edinburgh Review expresses the opinion that the study of two sciences, namely, comparative philology and ancient law, has already done much, and is destined to do still more, to bring about an understanding between the people of Ireland and of England. Comparative philology proves, beyond doubt, the connection of the Saxon and Celtic people; and indicates, in a general way, that these two branches of the Aryan stem were united during a great part of their history. It was left, however, to ancient law to solve the problem with more completeness, and to determine more clearly the place of Ireland in the great aggregate of Aryan nations. The preface to the third volume of the recently-published Irish "Brehon Tracts" gives a clear account of the development of the ancient laws of Ireland, of their relation with kindred Aryan usages, and of the social life that is reflected in them. Sir Henry Maine, too, has demonstrated that the native laws of Ireland are a mass of archaic Aryan customs. "He has shown that the old forms of Irish life, which he has reconstructed with marvelous skill, have a most striking and curious analogy to those of older races of Aryan descent, in various stages of growth and progress; and he has thus established the true inference, that the supposed barbarism of the Irish people is simply a conceit of undiscerning ignorance; that we may regard Ireland as a plant, of which the development has been checked and arrested, but that she is of the same stock as ourselves; and that we must seek the causes of her misfortunes in circumstances independent of race."

 

A Snake-eating Snake.—One of the recent accessions to the population of the London Zoölogical Gardens is a specimen of the Ophiophagus elaps, the snake-eating snake. The new-comer has been described by Frank Buckland, who represents him as a very formidable type of ophidian. In length he measures over seven feet; circumference about equal to the thickness of a man's wrist. His virus is as deadly as that of the cobra, and he is, moreover, a regular athlete among snakes. His head is very lizard-like and harmless-looking not flat and triangular as is the head of the puff-adder, the rattlesnake, or the viper. He has an intelligent eye. Like the cobra, he has a hood which he can expand when angry, and his body is ornamented with very pretty stripes. His mode of attack is peculiar: he glides after you with the swiftness of a hawk after a bird, and when he gets up to his enemy bites him and retires. He is, therefore, more to be feared than the lion, the elephant, or the boa-constrictor; one slight prick, quick as an arrow, of the poison-fang, and the life of the man ebbs out of a minute hole in the skin that would barely admit a needle's point. On his arrival at the gardens the Ophiophagus was treated to a live English snake, which he instantly seized and swallowed head foremost.

Mr. Buckland ascribes to Fayrer the credit of having given "the only correct account of this creature's habits, especially that of his eating other snakes." But herein he is corrected by Surgeon-General Stewart, who states, in Science Gossip, that Ophiophagus elaps was discovered by Dr. Theodore Cantor, of the Bengal Medical Service, who described the animal and its habits more than thirty years ago under the name of Hamadryas ophiophagus in the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal. Surgeon Stewart gives some of his own recollections of the behavior of this serpent, while he observed it in company with Dr. Cantor. He says that it devours rats, mice, and small birds. Once Cantor offered a bandicoot to a Hamadryas. The former showed fight, and the latter seemed to be afraid, so the bandicoot was knocked on the head, and so probably the life of the snake was saved.

 

Prevention of the Effects of Bee-Sting.—From a letter in the British Bee Journal, by Mr. G, Walker, it appears that immunity from the pain and other injurious effects of the sting of the bee may be gained by inoculation with the virus of that insect. Mr. Walker allowed a bee to sting him upon the wrist, taking care that he received the largest amount of poison, by preventing the bee from going away at once; then he let the poison-bag work, which it does for some time after being separated from the bee. The first day he was stung twice. The effect was rather severe cutaneous erysipelas, disorder of the motor nerve, with the usual signs of inflammation. A few days having elapsed, and the symptoms having subsided, he caused himself to be stung again three times in quick succession. The attack of erysipelas was on this occasion not nearly so severe, still a stinging sensation ran up to the shoulder, and a lymphatic gland behind the ear increased considerably in size, the poison being taken up by the lymphatic system. A few days subsequently he was stung thrice, and the pain was considerably less, though the swelling was still extensive. At the end of the next week he had had eighteen stings, and by the close of the third week thirty-two stings. After the twentieth sting there was very little swelling or pain, only a slight itching sensation, with a small amount of inflammation in the immediate neighborhood of the part stung, which did not spread farther.

 

Influence of Cobra-Poison on Ciliary Action.—In the Monthly Microscopical Journal for June is given a record of experiments made by Drs. Brunton and Fayrer upon the influence of cobra-poison on ciliary action. Ciliated epithelium from a frog's mouth was treated with a solution of the poison, and examined under the microscope. The cilia were then in vigorous action. Ten minutes later this action was much diminished, and in twenty minutes it had ceased. Again, ciliated epithelium was placed under the microscope, one part being treated with water and the other with the poisoned solution. Ciliary action was at first vigorous in both, perhaps more so in that subjected to the poisoned solution. Eight minutes later, non-poisoned cilia still active, poisoned cilia very feeble. Ten minutes, non-poisoned cilia still active, poisoned very feeble. Fourteen minutes, non-poisoned cilia still active, poisoned cilia very languid. Twenty minutes, non-poisoned cilia still active, poisoned cilia perfectly inactive. From this it is evident that the poison first stimulates and then destroys the activity of the cilia. The action of the poison on vegetable protoplasm is very different. This subject was investigated by Mr. Darwin, who tested the action of cobra-poison on Drosera. A minute drop of the solution (one-quarter grain to two ounces water) acted powerfully on several glands of the drosera-leaf—more powerfully than fresh poison from an adder's fang. Oil immersing three leaves in ninety minims of the solution, the tentacles soon became inflated and the glands quite white, as by the action of boiling water. The leaves appeared to be killed, yet after eight hours' immersion they were placed in water, and after about forty-eight hours re-expanded. Having immersed a leaf in the solution for forty-eight hours, Mr. Darwin found that the protoplasm was then incessantly changing form, being unusually active. "Hence," says he, "I cannot doubt that this poison is a stimulant to the protoplasm" of plants.

 

Copper-poisoned Pastures.—It was observed by the late Prof. Buckland, the geologist, that the bones of cattle pastured in the vicinity of copper-works became diseased. This observation has been confirmed by his son, Frank Buckland, who has examined the skull of a cow, which had for three years grazed the copper-smoked grass. He describes the substance of the bone as much thickened and enlarged. Instead of the usual ivory-like smooth appearance of healthy bone, it appears to be eaten into minute pits. The lower jaw presents several hard, osseous excrescences, and the general appearance closely resembles that of bones affected by mercurial poisoning, one of the symptoms of which is a superficial deposit of rough, porous bone. Whether the mineral deposited on the grass in the vicinity of copper-works, and which is eaten by cattle, and subsequently absorbed into their system, be copper or arsenic, or arsenite of copper, Mr. Buckland is unable to determine at present, but he intends to have the substance analyzed by a competent chemist. The symptoms of the poisoning are stated as follows by a correspondent of Mr. Buckland: First, the beast appears dull, and its hair is dry; the eyes water, and the belly becomes tucked up; soon the beast shows signs of being in pain when moved; hard lumps rise on the legs and on the ribs; the bones of the head become enlarged, and the eyes appear sunken; the teeth become black and worn; lameness appears, sometimes in one leg only, at other times in all the limbs; in milch-cows the milk dries up.

 

Sensitiveness of Silver-Salts to Light.—In the American Journal of Science, for April, M. Carey Lea has a paper on "The Action of the Less Refrangible Rays of Light on Silver Iodide and Silver Bromide," in which the following propositions are maintained, viz.: 1. That these two salts of silver are sensitive to all the visible rays of the spectrum; 2. That silver iodide is more sensitive than silver bromide to all the less refrangible rays, and also to white light; 3. That the sensitiveness of the bromide to the green rays is materially increased by the presence of free silver nitrate; 4. That bromide and iodide of silver together are more sensitive to both the green and the red rays (and probably to all the rays) than either the bromide or the iodide separately; 5. That, contrary to Becquerel's theory, there do not exist any rays with a special exciting or a special continuing power, but that all the colored rays are capable both of commencing and continuing the impression on silver iodide and bromide.