Popular Science Monthly/Volume 8/February 1876/Notes


The article on "the Horseshoe Nebula in Sagittarius" in the number of The Popular Science Monthly for January, 1876, contains two annoying errors which the editor desires to correct. In Fig. 2, page 271, the letters W and E also the letters N and S are interchanged.

In Fig. 6, page 279, great injustice is done to M. Trouvelot's drawing, owing to the introduction by the engraver of two bright patches near e and d, and c and h (see figure). These should be as faint as the nebulosity near g.

The cores of a pair of enormous ox-horns were discovered, some years since, in Adams County, Ohio, at the depth of about 18 feet below the surface of the ground. According to the American Journal of Science they measure nearly 6 feet from tip to tip, and are 22 inches in circumference. The original horns must have been of enormous size, as the core of the horns of the ox is about one-third of the entire length. These horns are now in the Museum of the Cincinnati Society of Natural History.

It is an error to suppose that the lion is stronger than the tiger. Dr. Haughton has proved that the strength of the lion in the fore-limbs is only 69.9 per cent, of that of the tiger, and the strength of his hind-limbs only 65.9 per cent. Five men can easily hold down a lion, but it requires nine men to control a tiger.

In the course of his researches into the habits of insects, it was found by Lubbock that an ant, which has a large number of larvæ to carry from one place to another, goes and fetches several other ants to aid in the work, while, if there are only a small number of larvæ, only a few helpers are called in.

It is stated by Dr. George Maclean, of Princeton, in a communication to the editors of the American Journal of Science, that on one occasion, after some experiments with phosphuretted hydrogen, prepared from phosphorus and solution of potash, on retiring to bed, he found his body to be luminous with a glow like that of phosphorus exposed to the air. Some of the gas, escaping combustion, or the product of its burning, must have been absorbed into the system, and the phosphorus afterward separated at the surface have there undergone eremacausis.

Three instances of extraordinarily rapid growth of plants are recorded in the Gardener's Chronicle. First, a Sequoia gigantea, planted in 1855, in Loire-Inférieure, France, is now more than 72 feet high, and, about a yard from the ground, has a girth of 7 feet. In the same locality, a plant of Bambusa mitis threw up a stem of more than 22 feet in two months, while a Yucca albospica produced an inflorescence 8 feet high.

According to Dumas there are two distinct kinds of ferments: those which, like yeast, are capable of self-reproduction, and those which, like diastase and synaptase, are without this property. It has been observed by Muntz that ferments of the former class are neutralized by chloroform; not so those of the latter class.

Prof. S. P. Sharples, of Boston, has drawn up tables showing the range of difference between different specimens of pure milk as regards the amount of solid mutter they contain. The highest percentage of solid matter is 19.68, the lowest 9.3.

It is stated in a French journal, Le Charbon, that experiments made at Bordeaux with cork, as a substance for developing illuminating gas, have led to such good results that it is proposed to establish a cork gas-house in that city. The waste of cork-cutting shops is distilled in close vessels, and the flame of the resulting gas is more intense and whiter than that of coal-gas. The blue portion of this flame is much less, and the density of the gas much greater than that of common illuminating gas.

It is stated by Galton that in England country boys, of fourteen years, average an inch and a quarter more in height, and seven pounds more in weight, than city boys of the same age, as shown by the examination of a large number of boys in country and city schools.

Dr. Robert Barnes, writing in the Obstetrical Journal, questions the propriety of admitting women to the practice of medicine. The reason he assigns is, that there exists a natural incompatibility between science and the female brain. The church and the law he considers to be the professions most congenial to the "somewhat arbitrary character of the female intellect." Clergymen and lawyers are, as a rule, the enemies of science, says Dr. Barnes, and in the women they find their most useful allies.

From observations made in Colorado by a member of the Academy of Natural Sciences, of Philadelphia, it would appear that grasshoppers can foresee, and provide, some time in advance, against certain changes in the weather. It happened that, while a party of persons were riding in a carriage, the question of the probability of rain was discussed, when suddenly the grasshoppers, which just before had filled the air, descended like a shower to the ground. In two or three minutes, not a grasshopper could be seen in the air, and very soon rain commenced to fall. Immediately after the rain had ceased, the insects took flight again, but in the course of half an hour, without any particular indication of rain, they suddenly plunged to the earth again. Again the rain began to fall. This process was repeated by the grasshoppers three times in one afternoon, and each descent was followed by rain.

Herr Marno, of Gordon's Nile Expedition, has reported to the Vienna Geographical Society the particulars of a journey made by him for a distance of 150 miles to the southwest of Lado. This brought him to the Makraka territory, the natives of which he says resemble the Niam-Niams, in respect of their diminutive stature, their lighter color, and their general habits.

In view of the recent barbarous exhibition at the Tombs, the Scientific American recommends the employment of electricity, as not only sure and instantaneous in its action, but a painless means of killing the criminal.

Dumas sums up as follows the results of numerous experiments made in order to test the efficacy of the sulpho-carbonate of potassium, in destroying the grape-phylloxera: In the first place, the phylloxera is destroyed wherever the solution of the salt or its vapor penetrates. Secondly, the vine itself suffers no injury. Occasionally, a very few living phylloxeræ are seen after treatment; but these come from other neighboring vines which have not been treated with the sulpho-carbonate, or have been hatched from eggs which have in some way been protected from the action of the salt.

Dr. Rudolf von Willemoes-Suhm, naturalist attached to the Challenger expedition, died at sea on the passage from Hawaii to Tahiti, on September 13, 1875, aged twenty-eight years. He was a native of Schleswig-Holstein, and was educated at the Universities of Göttingen and Bonn. He early showed a very strong taste for natural history, and when only a boy published papers on the habits of European birds. After leaving Bonn he was appointed Privat-Docent in Zoölogy in the Munich University. He went to Italy in 1868, making zoölogical observations at Spezzia, and in 1872 visited the Faröe Islands. He then joined the Challenger expedition. He was a man of unusual acquirements and culture.

The biennial prize of 20,000 francs has been awarded by the Institute of France to M. Paul Bert, for his discoveries on the effects of oxygen in the act of respiration. Some of the principal results of Bert's researches have been stated in the pages of the Monthly. According to the eminent physiologist, Claude Bernard, Bert's discoveries are "the most astounding that have been made since the discovery of oxygen by Priestley."

The Royal Society of London has awarded to Mr. Crookes a "Royal Medal," for his various chemical and physical researches, more especially for his discovery of thallium, his investigation of its compounds, and determination of its atomic weight, and for his discovery of the repulsion referable to radiation.

An interesting experiment made by G. Planté, and described by him to the Paris Academy of Sciences, may possibly explain the spiral form of many of the nebulae. The two copper electrodes of a battery of 15 elements being immersed in water containing one-tenth of sulphuric acid, the pole of a magnet is brought near to the end of the positive electrode. Immediately the cloud of metallic particles, borne away from this electrode by the current, assumes in the liquid a gyratory, spiral motion, resembling in appearance a spiral nebula.

It will be gratifying to our readers to learn that the preliminary operations of the expedition sent under the auspices of the Hydrographic Office, United States Navy, to determine telegraphically the relative longitudes of points in the West Indies, have been so far successful. Captain Green, U. S. N., assisted by the officers of the United States ship Gettysburg, and by Mr. Rock, civil assistant, has so arranged his programme that the two temporary observatories at Havana and Key West are in the same circuit, and that the signals made at either station are recorded directly, without the intervention of the observer at the second station, on his chronograph. It is to be presumed that an important element of uncertainty is thus eliminated. All the arrangements for the work are in good order, and Captain Green acknowledges the most cordial assistance from the officials of the Government and of the cable companies.

The production of gum in fruit-trees, M. Prillieux regards as a disease, which he names gummosis. The alimentary substances in the interior tissues, instead of promoting the plant's growth, are diverted to the production of gum, and a portion of them accumulates about gummy centres, which seem to act as centres of irritation. The production of gum at the expense of nutritive matter has no limit short of the complete exhaustion of the plant. The best remedy is scarification. To cure the disease, the materials appropriated to forming gum must be restored to their normal destination. Hence, a more powerful attraction for them must be introduced than that of the gummy centres. Now, the wounds of the bark necessitate the production of new tissues, and, under this strong excitation, the reserve matters are employed in the formation of new cells, and cease to be attracted in the wrong direction.

An instrument for the rapid examination of oils and textures by means of electricity has been invented by Prof. Palmieri. The instrument will—1. Show the quality of olive-oil; 2. Distinguish olive-oil from seed-oil; 3. Indicate whether olive-oil has been mixed with seed-oil; 4. Show the quality of seed-oils; 5. It will indicate the presence of cotton-fibres in silk and woolen textures.

It is stated by Dr. Malherbe that sewing-silk is sometimes impregnated with acetate of lead, and that seamstresses are frequently poisoned by introducing such thread into the mouth.