Popular Science Monthly/Volume 9/July 1876/Notes


The Royal Society of London has received from Mr. Phillips Jodrell £6,000 to be applied, principal as well as interest, to the encouragement of original research in the physical sciences. Mr. Jodrell's object in making this gift is to ascertain, by practical experiment, to what extent the progress of original research is retarded in England by the want of public support, and in what form an increased measure of support would be most likely to promote its development.

Chlorine was first employed industrially by Robert Hall, at White's bleach-works, near Nottingham. He procured from Germany a vial of chlorine-water, but the first experiment was not successful. The solution, being too strong, destroyed the fabric, but by degrees the new agent became manageable. The use of lime by Tennant, of Glasgow, in 1798, as an absorbent of chlorine, seems to have over-shadowed these early results.

In the Tribune mention is made of a paper recently read before the French Academy of Inscriptions, upon the determination of the age of the third pyramid at Ghizeh. It appears that M. Chabas, an Egyptologist, has succeeded in deciphering in the Ebers papyrus a certain hieroglyph, which he finds to represent the name of Menkeres, the builder of that pyramid. An astronomical note in the manuscript states that the heliacal rising of Sothis (the star Sirius) occurred in the ninth year of the reign of Menkeres. The astronomer Biot now made calculations to fix the time of this heliacal rising of Sirius, and found that it must have taken place between the years 3010 and 3007 b. c.

Dr. W. B. Richardson attributes the high vitality of Jews, as shown in statistics, to their strict observance of certain sanitary laws respecting diet, cleanliness, and abstinence from strong drink.

A Tasmanian correspondent of Nature relates an instance of extraordinary tenacity of life exhibited by an eel. Seven years ago an eel, which had been slightly injured, was placed along with other eels in a tank from which they were taken as required. This tank was fitted with finely-perforated zinc at each end, through which nothing but the most minute organisms could pass; otherwise it was perfectly tight. The injured eel was left after the others had been taken out, and so on again and again, when other lots were put in and removed. "It is still in the tank, perfectly transparent, and quite white, and is to all appearance healthy and lively enough."

Died, March 2, 1876, in Washington, at the early age of twenty-eight years, Archibald R. Marvine. In an obituary notice, published in the American Journal of Science and Arts, it is stated that Mr. Marvine graduated in 1870 from the Hooper Mining School, Harvard University; the same year he accompanied the Santo Domingo Expedition as assistant geologist; in 1871 he served as astronomer to the Wheeler Expedition, at the same time doing work as a geologist; in 1873 he was appointed geologist of the Hayden Survey Expedition. The hardships and privations he endured in the wilderness of Colorado undermined his health, and since the early winter of 1874−'75 he had been incapacitated for field-work.

The decrease in the number of small-pox cases in the Punjab, since the introduction of vaccination, is very striking. In 1869 there were 53,195 deaths; in 1871, 25,534; in 1874, 12,026. That this decrease is due to vaccination is shown from the fact that in the northern districts, where vaccination is in greater favor with the people than in the southern, the rate of small-pox mortality per 1,000 is 1.31, while in Umballa and six other southern districts the rate is 2.05.

The scientific results of the Polaris Expedition are nearly ready for publication. They will form four volumes, the first three of which, edited by Dr. Emil Bessels, will be devoted to hydrography, meteorology, and astronomy. The fourth volume, of which Admiral Davis has charge, will contain a narrative of the expedition and much biographical information.

A new industry has been introduced in France—the breeding of ants for their eggs. These eggs are sold to the breeders of pheasants. As yet the business is in the hands of its originator, a woman, and she already appears to be on the high-road to fortune.

From experiments made by Scolosuboff, it appears that dogs can absorb with impunity about sixteen times as much arsenic (in proportion to their weight) as would kill a human being.

The cinchona-tree has been introduced successfully into the island of Réunion. The cinchona-seeds were first sowed near the coast, and the young trees which grew from them were subsequently conveyed to an altitude of from 2,000 to 2,500 feet. There they thrive so well that in four years' time some of them grew to the height of twenty-one feet.

In the annual report of Prof. Henry it is stated that the Smithsonian Institution fund now amounts to $717,000. It is contemplated to authorize a series of experiments to determine accurately the rate of increase of the earth's temperature at progressive depths. Another project embraces new and careful experiments on the velocity of light. The work of ascertaining the weight of the earth by Cavendish's method will also probably be undertaken anew.

In the milk of cows affected by the foot and mouth disease, there is a marked tendency of the fat-globules to aggregate. The latter are also much larger than in healthy milk, and in advanced stages of the disease rise to the surface, not as cream, but as pure butter-fat. The film enveloping the particles of fat presents a glairy, mucus-like appearance, and is intensely refractive. It is only necessary to agitate a strongly-affected sample of the milk for a few minutes in order to obtain from a pint of milk a lump of butter weighing au ounce or more.

German manufacturers are purchasing the fish-bones gathered along the Norwegian coast at the great fish-curing stations. The bones make a good fertilizer, and when pulverized by suitable machinery at the point of collection are readily transported. It is estimated that the bone-product of the establishments in Newfoundland amount to 20,000,000 pounds a year.

Dr. R. Angus Smith advocates the culture of peat as a fuel. In the Grampian Hills he finds a bog, the annual product of which is ten tons of dry peat—equal to four tons of coal. By proper treatment it is possible to grow the material much faster than this. Indeed, the product of the bog mentioned above is considered to be far below the average.

Explosions of fire-damp in coal-mines are found to occur most numerously in times of low atmospheric pressure. When the pressure is great, the carburetted hydrogen is prevented from issuing from the walls and sides of the coal-seam; but when the pressure is suddenly lessened the gas escapes, and accumulates until sometimes it reaches the proportion sufficient with common air to form an explosive mixture.

Mr. Henry S. Drinker, of Philadelphia, mining engineer, is preparing a work on "American Tunnels and Tunneling," and has sent out a circular in which he requests that data concerning railroad tunnels, mining tunnels, headings, and drifts, be forwarded to him, so as to make the work as complete as possible. Mr. Drinker's address is 1,906 Pine Street, Philadelphia.

Applying to the elephant Flourens's mode of estimating the natural duration of an animal's life, viz., multiplying by five the number of years requisite to perfect its growth and development, Sir J. Emerson Tennent fixes the terra of life for that great pachyderm at (thirty by five) a hundred and fifty years. Maturity is shown by the consolidation of the bones of the animal with the epiphyses, and in the elephant this consolidation is complete at the age of about thirty.

In the seal-fishery an enormous amount of wholesome meat is annually wasted. Only the blubber and skins of the seals are brought away. It is proposed to have the meat put up in tin cans at Disco, and so shipped to Europe for food.

A movement is on foot to bring about a uniformity of measures, instruments, and methods of observation, among physicians in all countries. It is proposed to ask the next International Medical Congress to constitute national commissions for the purpose of deciding upon the most practical means of attaining this object.