D. S. (David Samuel) Margoliouth.

The Popular science monthly (Volume 19) online

. (page 72 of 110)
Online LibraryD. S. (David Samuel) MargoliouthThe Popular science monthly (Volume 19) → online text (page 72 of 110)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

comes united, and a tactile corpuscle is
formed. Sometimes the corpuscle remains
unilobar, but more frequently other lobes
are formed in the same manner as the first
one, and are joined to it. Hence it is that,
in young children, the nerve-fibers which
enter into the composition of the tactile
corpuscles are separated by layers of cells,
which, in the course of development, be-
come pushed to the periphery of each lobe,
and the most of them undergo a consider-
able atrophy. This fact suggests that they
are not nervous in their nature, for the
nerve-cells, so far from undergoing atrophy
during growth, gradually increase in size to
their full development. M. Ranvier has
not perceived any communication between
the nerve fibers and the cells in the tactile
corpuscle ; the ramifying branches of the
nerve-fibers, after a tortuous and usually
complicated course, end in free, flattened

Inflncnce of Physical Strnftnre on Pro-
fesses of Dyeing. — 51. Gustave Engel has
been engaged for several years in studying
the influence which the physical structure
of substances exercises upon the operations
of dyeing, and has remarked that certain
sands, composed of silica, a substance chem-
ically inert, behave, in the presence of dif-
ferent coloring-matters and dyes, exactly in
the same manner as cotton apd wool. On
examining with a microscope siliceous sands



having this property, they are found to be
composed of the carapaces of tubuhxr dia-
toms, formed of rings placed one upon the
other. Each grain of the sand is, in fact,
a minute tube of exceedingly fine silica,
forming a mineral fiber which, by virtue of
capillarity, retains coloring - matters with
the same force as do vegetable or animal
fibers dyed under the same conditions, and
that without any chemical combination hav-
ing taken place. M. Engel has exhibited to
the Industrial Society of Mulhouse speci-
mens of silica colored with alizarine rose,
with indigo blue, and with a deep green pro-
duced by dyeing in logwood silica colored
with iron, in all of which cases the siliceous
sand had been treated as if it were cotton.
Other specimens showed that the same sand
behaved like wool in the presence of certain
coloring-matters, especially of those derived
from aniline. The experiments then make
known a mineral substance which has prop-
erties of physical structure analogous to
those of animal and vegetable fibers that
are susceptible of being dyed, the likeness
being given by the minute central canal,
which cnibles each of the microscopic tubes
to absorb the coloring-matter through cap-
illary attraction, and to fix it so that it will
resist chemical agents in the same manner as
do organic fibers similarly colored. " These
examples," says M. Engel, " tend to prove
the new fact which I have been trying to
establish, that the physical structure of
substances submitted to the process of dye-
ing is of much more importance than their
cliemical composition, even if it is not the
only factor in the process, as my experi-
ments make it seem probable that it is."

M. Soleillet on the Sahara.— M. Soleil-
Ict lately made a communication to a society
of civil engineers on his recent journey in
the Sahara. This journey, the fourth which
he has made since 1872, was undertaken
chiefly for the purpose of finding what prod-
ucts of the soil could be made to contribute
to the traffic of the proposed trans-Saharan
railroad. He discovered coal in the Djebel
Aroun, saltpeter in the region of Ain-Sala;
ill his journey to the Soodan, he found the
butter-tree, which has been known since the
days of Park, and sent specimens of the
vegetable butter to M. Thennrd. This prod-

uct furnishes a stcarine which melts at a
high temperature, and can be made to give
a clear white light, and has already been
employed by the English in tempering cer-
tain steels, and in oiling steam-engines. In
his last journey, he discovered a plant, the
Fernan, a kind of Fucus, the white juice of
which takes the place of pitch with the
Moors; incorporated into the wood with a
hot iron, it makes an excellent calking for
boats. Hoping to find in it a substitute for
India-rubber, he gave some of the juice to
M. Thenard, who extracted from it a sub-
stance having properties similar to those of
India-rubber, except that it was not elastic.
It could be perfectly vulcanized, and in that
state was much like gutta-percha. An oil
was extracted from it, and a resin which
could be converted by heat into a beautiful
and brilliant lacquer. M. Soleillet was pre-
vented by robbers from reaching Timbuctoo,
but beyond Ain-Sala he discovered a large
extent of country marked by dunes running
north and south, which were crossed by
others running from east to west. Between
these dunes were ponds of both fresh and
salt water, which left, when they were dried
up, rich, natural meadows. The country,
having an area equal to about a quarter of
that of France, possesses a healthy climate,
and is inhabited by ten thousand people.
Farther on is the mountainous district of
Adrar, inhabited by an agricultural and
commercial Berber population, with whom
the Portuguese carried on an important com-
merce in the fifteenth century.

The nnman Fossil of Sfhipka Care.—

A human jawbone, found in the Schipka
Cave of Moravia, along with bones of the
mammoth and a number of rude stone im-
plements, exhibits, according to a descrip-
tion given by Professor Schaflfhausen, of
Bonn, some remarkable and suggestive pe-
culiarities. It is a fragment, consisting
of a fore part of the lower jaw, contain-
ing the cutting -teeth, the eye-tooth, and
the two premolars of the right side. The
last three teeth are still undeveloped in
the jaw, but have been brought into sight
by the breaking away of a part of the bone.
The remarkable feature of the bone is its
size. The development of the teeth is that
of a child in its eighth year, whili' it is cut-



ting its second teetb, but the proportions of
the bone and of the teeth are those of a
fully-grown person. The measurements of
every part largely exceed those of similar
parts in any child, and equal, in some points
surpass, those of adults. Peculiarities were
remarked in the shape of the fragment, as
a retrocession of the lower part of the jaw,
indicating the absence of a chin, and a very
oblique slope of the hinder surface of the
symphysis, as is observed in a higher de-
gree in the anthropoids and in a lower de-
gree in savage races and other fossils of
men, such as the jaw of Xanettc, with which
this one has considerable similarity.

An Inpablished Letter of Sir Isaac New-
ton's. — At the conversazione given to Pro-
fessor Ilelmholtz at University College, Mr.
Latimer Clark exhibited the accompanying
interesting unpublished letter from Sir Isaac
Newton to Dr. Law :

" London, December 15, 1716.

" Dear Doctor : He that in ye mine of knowl-
edge deepest dijcgeth, hath like every other
miner ye U^ast breathiup; time, and must gome-
times at least come to lerr ; alt for air.

" In one of these respiratory intervals 1 now
sit doune to write to you, my friend.

"You ask me how, with go much etndy, I
manage to retene my healih. Ah, my dear doc-
tor, you have a better opinion of your lazy friend
than he hath of himself. Morpheous is my best
companion ; without 8 or 9 hours of him yr cor-
respondent is not worth one scavenger's peruke.
My practizes did at ye first hurt my stomach, hnt
now I eat heartily enow as y' will see when I
come down beside yon.

"I have been much amused by ye finjmlar
^ivofjieva resultina from brin','ingof a needle into
contact with a piece of amber or resin fricated
on silke clothe. Ye flime putteth me in mind of
sheet lightning on a small — how very small —
scale. But I shall in my epistles abjure Philoso-
phy whereof when I come down to Sakly I'll give
you enow. I began to scrawl at 5 mins frm 9 of
ye elk, and have in writing consmd 10 mins.
My Ld. Somerset is announced.

'• Farewell, Gd bless you and help yr sincere
friend (Signed) Isaac Xewton.

"To Dr. Law, Suffolk."


The Endowment of Research. — A meet-
ing of the Fellows of the Royal Astro-
nomical Society was lately held to consid-
er the question of the endowment of re-
search, when resolutions were offered by
the Ep.rl of Crawford, Sir Edmund Beclc-
ett, the Astronomer Royal, Captain Noble,

and others, expressing opinions adverse to
the granting of public money for scientific
research where it does not appear that re-
sults useful to the public will be cbtained,
or where the researches proposed are likely
to be undertaken by private individuals or
public bodies, as not tending to the real
advancement of science ; disapproving the
foundation of a physical observatory at the
national expense; recommending the dis-
continuance of the Government grant to the
Committee on Solar Physics ; and calling for
the publication of full accounts of all money
expended by the Government for scien-
tific purposes, and clear definitions of the
nature of the work to be undertaken. The
resolutions gave way to an amendment,
which was adopted, declaring that no sulH-
cient reason existed at present why the So-
ciety, in its corporate capacity, should ex-
press an opinion on the subject.

Frost - formed Earth -Beds.— Professor
W. C. Kerr contributes to the "American
Journal of Science " some observations on
the superficial earths which cover the rocks
of the Middle and South Atlantic States for
a depth of from a few feet to twenty or
thirty feet, and sometimes twice as much.
The earths are easily discovered to be for
the most part the result of the decomposi-
tion in situ of the exposed edges of the un-
derlying strata, the vertical and highly in-
clined bedding lines of which are distinctly
traceable by the eye through the earth-cov-
ering, and are seen to pass by insensible
gradations into the undecayed rock beneath.
The question is discussed, by what agency,
and when, was this decomposition effected.
The beds present, generally, unstratified
masses of earth, interspersed with pebbles
and coarser stones, with a general tendency
of the heavier fragments to seek the bot-
tom, or to descend, like a stream, to the
lower levels of the formation. Indications
of a proper stratification by the action of
water are seldom present; and such action
is excluded by the most obvious features of
the deposits. The appearances point rather
to a settling by some kind of movement of
the mass. A clew to the origin of the beds
is given by the mineral veins which rise to
the level of their floors. Fragments of the
mineral arc thickly scattered around them,


573 prove to be identical with the pebbles
>\ ith which the earth is interspersed. The
pebbles, then, originate from the veins,
which have been broken up by the same
agency that has caused the decomposition
of the stratified rock. This agency Pro-
fessor Kerr believes to have been the action
of the frost of the glacial period, which, as
we inffer from observations made in north-
em latitudes, may readily have penetrated
the rocks to the depth indicated by the char-
acter of the beds, and, constituting what
might be called an earth - glacier, would
have produced the same movements of the
mass and of the particles among themselves
as are seen to occur in the true glacier, dif-
fering only in amount. The deposits might
then be called frost - drift, as distinguished
from proper glacial drift. Instances of
veins in course of actual disintegration are
mentioned in the paper. In cutting a hill
for the extension of Market Street in Phila-
delphia, in 1876, bands of hornblende and
chlorite were found decomposed, drawn out,
and bent over, as if in course of being car-
ried down the slope, and a similar appear-
ance is observable in a mica-mine in Yancey
County, North Carolina. The gold-bearing
gravels or placers of North Carolina belong
to this class of frost-drifts, the gold and
q ' ■ ' ^ being derived from the veins

^^ n broken down in the course

BsrylBg the S«bIs of the Drowned.—
^Vhenever an Abchasian is drowned, his
i.iends search carefully for the body; but,
it this is not found, they proceed to capture
the soul of the deceased, a measure which
has then become a matter of importance.
A goat-skin bag is sprinkled with water and
place<i with its mouth, which is stretched
open over a hoop, looking toward the river,
near to the place where the man is supposed
vneil. Two cords are
- It across the river, as
. , ._. ... ...... : lie soul can come over.

^"essel3 containing food and drink are set
'.round the skin, and the friends of the de-
I eased come and eat quietly, while a song
i? sung with instrumental accompaniments.
T': -.■:'. it ;> b.'!cv.- 1, ■- atrri.^:ed by the
•.■ ~, -' •: ■ - •• ■'. ; i;^e that is
;.:: : f . ::. ; j > ::.. ■^.. ;iai\ As soon

as it has entered — that is, when the bag
is inflated by the breeze — the opening is
quickly closed, and the bag is taken to the
burial-place, where a grave has already been
prepared. The bag is held with the open-
ing to the grave, the strings are untied, and
the soul — that is, the wind in the bag — is
squeezed into the grave, and the burial is
afterward completed. This rite is consid-
ered of equivalent value with the burial of
the body, and the grave is treated with the
same honor as if the bodv were rcallv with-

Alkaline Deposits from Waters of Irri-
gation.— Professor E. W. Hilgard, in his re-
port as Professor of Agriculture in the Uni-
versity of California, observing that ordinary
surface irrigation on alkaline lands tends to
concentrate the alkali at the surface, pro-
poses as a remedy underdraining, " which
may so far lower the water-table from which
the saline matters are derived, and may so
far favor the washing out of the salts during
the rainy season, that the latter will there-
after fail to reach the surface so as to ac-
cumulate to an injurious extent with rea-
' sonable tillasre." The waters of Kern and
Tulare Lakes contain an excess of solid
I matter, the quantity in the former lake be-
I ing twenty-six times as much as in average
river-water, and consisting mostly of car-
! bonate of soda, common and Glauber's salts.
, The evaporation from such water when it
is used in irrigation adds annually to the
' deposit of alkali in the soil, the effect of
, which must be counteracted by the cultiva-
' vation of deep-rooted crops, the use of gyp-
; sum, sub-irrigition, and the leaching oat of
the alkali from time to time by long-con-
tinued flooding and underdrainage. Pro-
fessor Hilinird concludes, after an examina-
; tion of the facts, that " there are, probably,

few river-waters in the world of such com-
position or natural purity th

; irrigation withotit correlative
can be practiced without in th

' an injurious accumulation of
in the soil." The Indian Gov.

I having spent enormous sums to biiug water
upon the fields, now has to face the problem
of- • • • • • • ,

tc •



The New Eddystonc Lighthonse.— The

last coping-stone of the new Eddystone
Lighthouse was laid on the 1st of June by
the Duke of Edinburgh. The foundation-
stone was laid by the same prince as Master
of the Trinity Boardion August 19, 1879.
It is expected that the tower will be ready
for the exhibition of the light next March.
The new tower is double the height of the
old one, and is made of uniform granite.
The light, instead of being fixed as at pres-
ent, will be oscillating, and will consist of
a powerful white, double-flashing half-min-
ute light, showing two successive flashes
of about two and a half seconds' duration,
divided by an eclipse of about four seconds,
the second flash being followed by an eclipse
of about twenty-one second:?. The light
will be visible all around the horizon, for
seventeen and a half miles, and will over-
lap the light of the Lizard, where there are
now eight miles of darkness. A subsidiary
white light is to be mounted in an upper
room, to cover the reef of rocks known as
the Hand Deeps, which will be adjusted so
as to be seen only within the area of danger
occasioned by those rocks.

Salphnr Formation ia the Soil of Paris.

— M. Daubree has called attention to a for-
mation of native sulphur which is now going
on in the soil of Paris. The mineral has
been found in considerable quantities among
the rubbish dug up from the Place de la R6-
publique, presenting a crystalline appear-
ance to the naked eye, and showing under
the glass the octahedral forms which are
most characteristic of the natural crystals.
The origin of this substance, which is found
in situations that preclude the supposition
of emanations of illuminating gas having
anything to do with it, is evidently to be as-
cribed to the presence of sulphate of lime,
old plaster, and various organic matters
which have been brought together during
the last two centuries in the filling up of
the ditch that formerly encircled the city.
The sulphur occurs at a depth of from eight
or ten inches to ten feet below the surface,
and over an area of one hundred and sixty
by fifty or sixty feet, forming in reality a
kind of bed or deposit of the mineral. Spe-
cimens have been obtained from it of work-
able sulphur, analogous to that of Sicily and

other countries, consisting of a breccia of
small fragments incrusted with crystals of
sulphur, cementing them one to another.

A Vegetable Digestive Agent.— M.Wurtz,
in a paper read before the French Academy
of Sciences, has drawn general attention to
the great chemical and therapeutical value
of papaine, a vegetable substance which
excites the digestive faculty, as opium pro-
duces sleep. Both these substances are ob-
tained in the same manner, by cutting into
the epidermis of plants whose lactiferous
vessels are charged with medical juices.
The Carica papaya, or common papaw-tree,
belongs to the family of the Cueurbitacece, or
gourds ; its straight, cylindrical trunk, from
ten to sixteen feet high, is terminated at the
top by a cluster of large palmate leaves,
which give it the appearance of a palm-
tree. The fruits, hanging in clusters under
the leaves, have the shape of roundish cu-
cumbers, and are much esteemed when ripe.
The papaw appears to have originated in
the Moluccas, but has been acclimated in
India, Mauritius, the Island of Reunion, the
Antilles, and a considerable part of South
America. The milky juice which contains
the papaine is white, slightly bitter, and
styptic, free from tartness, has an acid re-
action, and is so highly charged with albu-
men that Vauquelin compared it to blood
deprived of its coloring-matter. It flows
from incisions made in the bark and the
green fruits, and is immediately bottled and
sent to market either pure or with the ad-
dition of ten or twelve per cent, of alcohol
to prevent fermentation. If pure, it comes
coagulated; if mixed with alcohol, it re-
mains liquid, and, after standing, separates
into a clear liquid and a white precipitate,
composed in great part of albumen, tibrine,
and a considerable quantity of precipitated
papaine. Alcohol precipitates from it crude
papaine ; this, after being washed in alcohol
and ether, to remove fatty matters, is again
dissolved in water. The precipitate from
this solution is pure papaine, which, when
purified by dyalise, has the composition of
an albuminoid substance. Papaine, refined
with the sub-acetate of lead, offers several
distinctive characteristics, among which are :
1. It is very soluble in water, dissolving
like a gum ; 2. The solution makes a lather



with water ; 3. The solution becomes turbid
in boiling, without coagulating; when it
is curdy it sometimes leaves an insoluble
residue in water ; left to stand, the solution
becomes turbid after some days, and a mi-
croscopic examination shows it to be filled
with vibriones ; 4. In the presence of a sac-
charine liquid, papaine acts as an alcoholic
ferment, with an extraordinary energy and
promptitude, but the digestive property may
be arrested by the application of benzoic or
salicylic acid. The most important property
of papaine, and one which puts it in the
rank of the most powerful digestive fer-
ments, is its action on meats. One part of
papaine will digest and transform into sol-
uble peptone from two hundred and fifty to
three hundred parts of meat. Its solubility
in different fluids allows it to be used in a
great many pharmaceutical forms ; and,
being a vegetable juice, it can be preserved
with more stability than animal ferments,
and can be kept indefinitely when dry.


Mr. E. F. Uortox gives an account, in
the " Kansas City Review," of the opening
of a mound thirty or forty feet in diameter,
near Trenton, Missouri, June 9th, in which
at least twenty-five human skeletons, but no
relics or implements, were found. lie esti-
mates that the mound has contained from
one hundred and fifty to two hundred skele-
tons, and says : " There appears to have
been a stone floor on which the bodies have
been placed ; over them a stone covering,
supported, probably, by stones set edge-
wise, upon which were other bodies; this
continuing until there were four layers of
coi-pses and five layers of stone."

Mr. Gerard Kuefft, a naturalist distin-
guished for his work in the natural history
of Australia, died in February last. He was
born in Brunswick, Germany, in 1830, early
conceived a taste for nattiral history, and
went to Melbourne in 1852, after having
spent some time in the United States. lie
went out in the collecting expedition which
was dispatched by the Victorian Govern-
ment in 1858, became its leader, and sup-
plemented the collection of specimens which
he brought back with a full report concern-
ing the animals he obtained, and the man-
ners and habits of the aborigines. Having
spent a short time in Europe, he returned
to Sydney, and became connected with the
Australian Museum, and eventually its cu-
rator, till 1874.

The International Geological Congress,
which held its first session in Paris, in 1878,
will meet at Bologna, Italy, September 26th,
under the honorary presidency of Signor
Sella. The King of Italy has taken a warm
interest in the meeting, and has made con-
siderable efforts to assure its success. A
geological exposition will be held during the
sessions, and excursions will be made to
various points of interest. The reports of
the International Committee appointed in
1878, on the unification of geological no-
menclature and the conventional signs (fig-
ures and colors) used for charts, will soon
be mailed to subscribers to the Congress.
This question has been made a subject for
competitive essays, for which prizes given
by King Humbert are to be distributed by a

M. FiEVEZ, of the Brussels Observatory,
has produced a new argument against Mr.
Lockyer's theory that the spectrum furnish-
es evidence that some of the terrestrial ele-
ments are resolved into simpler constituents
by the solar heat. Mr. Lockyer's view is
based on the fact that some of the spectral
lines of elements are shortened, disappear,
or are unequally reversed in solar observa-
tion. M. Fievez has found that he can cause
two of the lines of hydrogen to disappear,
without any change iu temperature taking
place, by simply reducing the intensity of
the light, as when he diminishes the aper-
ture of his instrument during the observa-
tion. The lines shorten and go out as the
aperture is drawn up ; appear and lengthen
when it is opened again. Similar results
were obtained with the spectra of nitrogen
and magnesium ; and the phenomena of re-
versal noticed by Mr. Lockyer were also
produced by changing the intensity of the

3Ir. C. Shaler Smith has applied the
results of the observations of several years
to the estimation of the amount of press-
ure that has been exerci<?ed by the wind in
gusts of extraordinary violence. The most
violent storm of which he has a record oc-
curred at East St. Louis, 111., iu 1871, when a
locomotive was blown over by a wind-press-
ure of 93 pounds per square foot. The jail
at St. Charles, Mo., was destroyed in 1877, by
a pressure of 843 ; a brick dwelling at Marsh-
field, Mo., in 1880, by a force of 58 pounds
per square foot. Railway-trains may be
blown from the track, and bridges prostrated

Online LibraryD. S. (David Samuel) MargoliouthThe Popular science monthly (Volume 19) → online text (page 72 of 110)