« PreviousContinue »
Chemical Warfare Service, "The manufacture and use of toxic gases; "Colonel Bradley Dewey, Chemical Warfare Service, manufacture of gas defense apparatus."
DR. ETIENNE BURNET, of the Pasteur Institute, Paris, surgeon in the French army and member of the Mission of French Scholars to the United States, delivered a lecture at the New York Academy of Medicine in cooperation with Columbia University, November 15, on Pasteur as a representative of the French scientific spirit."
A RECENT meeting of the Biological Club of the University of Chicago in memory of Samuel Wendell Williston, former professor of paleontology in the university, Dr. Stuart Weller, of the same department, gave an appreciation of Dr. Williston's work. A Williston memorial meeting will be held in Leon Mandel Assembly Hall on December 8, the speakers being Professor E. C. Case, of the University of Michigan, and Professors Stuart Weller and Frank R. Lillie, of the University of Chicago.
PROFESSOR GEORGE F. ATKINSON, head of the department of botany at Cornell University since 1896, died suddenly on November 14, at the City Hospital in Tacoma, Wash. Professor Atkinson was engaged in a field study of the mushroom flora of the Pacific coast at the time of his death.
DR. PIERRE DE PEYSTER RICKETTS, for thirtytwo years connected with the teaching staff of Columbia University, died on November 20 at his home in New York City. He was born in Brooklyn seventy years ago, was graduated from the School of Mines, Columbia, in 1871, and received his degree of Ph.D. five years later. He was assistant in the School of Mines for a number of years prior to 1885, when he was appointed professor of assaying, and in 1893 was made professor of analytical chemistry and assaying, retiring in 1900 to become the head of the firm of Ricketts, Inc., mineralogical and mining consulting engineers.
A PERMANENT reserve force upon which the Public Health Service can draw in time of emergency such as that presented by the influenza epidemic has been authorized by the Congress. This consists of officers, none holding rank above that of assistant surgeon general, commissioned by the president for a period of five years, subject to call to active duty by the Surgeon General U. S. P. H. S. When in such active duty they receive the same pay and allowances as are now provided by law for the regular commissioned medical officers in the service. By far the larger part of the reserve to be organized under this act will be on active duty only during times of national emergency, though it will probably be necessary to establish periodic terms of training, so as to better fit the officers for such service. With the passing of the emergency these men will automatically go on the inactive list; always however, subject to call to active duty by the surgeon-general. Detailed plans for the organization, training and assignment of the reserve officers are now under consideration.
MEDICAL journals report that the permanent committee which has been appointed to centralize matters connected with the rehabilitation of disabled soldiers, comprises representatives of all the allied governments. They include Dr. Bourrillon (France), who serves as president of the committee; Dr. Mélis (Belgium), Sir Charles Nicholson (Great Britain), General Bradley (United States), L. March (France), Dr. Da Costa Ferreira (Portugal), and Agathonovitch (Serbia) as vice-presidents. All these hold high military rank. An institute for research has been founded at the headquarters of the committee which is already installed at 102 rue de Bac, Paris. A review is to be issued by the committee. The editor in chief is Dr. Jean Camus, of the Paris Medical School, with Dr. Bourrillon, the president of the committee, and Mr. C. Krug, the secretary general, as the board of directors for the publication. The work of the committee is to include the promulgation of the general principles for rehabilitation of the
disabled, which each country can adapt to its own laws and customs; to group and centralize the data and the lessons learned from experience, and to apply them and aid in every way the mutilated and to extend this aid into the future after the war. By this coordination of efforts each one of the allied peoples will be able to profit by the improvements and achievements realized in any one of them.
THE announcement was recently made in the British Parliament by the president of the Board of Agriculture that active steps have been taken with a view to the establishment at Cambridge of an Institute of Agricultural Botany, the primary function of which will be the breeding and distributing of improved varieties of agricultural crops. The plan in question was very fully described by Mr. Lawrence Weaver, of the Board of Agriculture, at a meeting of the Agricultural Seed Association held on July 15. It appears that the new institute will be modelled on the famous Swedish plant-breeding station at Svälof, and that its activities will be to follow two distinct lines, one of which will be purely scientific, while the other will have a commercial outlook. More precisely, the scientific wing will be concerned with the producing of pure cultures of new varieties on the field-plot scale; the economic wing will deal with the growing and distribution on a large scale of these varieties. Presumably, on the Svälof model, the scientific side will oversee the operations of the commercial to the extent of guaranteeing the purity of the stocks distributed by the latter. It is announced that subscriptions towards the establishment of the new institute amounting in the aggregate to upwards of £30,000 have already been received including a sum of £10,000 down and £2,000 a year for five years from a commercial firm and that the Board of Agriculture will provide the necessary buildings and equipment.
THE Association of British Chemical Manufacturers has in preparation a directory of British chemical products, and the manufacturers from whom they can be procured. The directory, which will be printed in English, French, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Rus
sian and Spanish, is expected to be published before the end of the year.
UNIVERSITY AND EDUCATIONAL NEWS
By the will of the late Andrew Dixon White, Cornell University will receive $160,000 on the death of Mrs. White. It receives many paintings and other objects. Dr. White had already given the university his general and architectural libraries, scientific apparatus, funds for extinguishment of debt, illustrative material and other items, and also his house which cost about $75,000. Yale University, Dr. White's alma mater, receives $5,000 for the endowment of the Andrew Dickson White prizes in history and composition, which were established and have since been maintained by Professor Guy Stanton Ford.
DR. A. HOYT TAYLOR, for nine years professor of physics and head of the department, University of North Dakota, having resigned after a year's leave of absence, to continue his war service as lieutenant commander of Naval Radio Communication, in charge of Atlantic Coast Service, Dr. B. J. Spence, associate professor of physics, has been promoted to a full professorship to be head of the department. Dr. Spence has been at North Dakota for the past eight years. Dr. John W. Cox, professor of pathology and director of the State Public Health Laboratory, University of North Dakota, having resigned to enter the United States Public Health Service, he is succeeded by Dr. Alfred G. Long, of Mankato, Minn., as acting director.
PROFESSOR C. L. DAKE, of the Missouri School of Mines, has returned to his regular duties, after spending his year's leave of absence as a petroleum geologist.
ALFRED E. DAY, formerly of the Syrian Protestant College, has been appointed professor of biology in the University of Buffalo.
DR. CHARLES PACKARD, recently instructor in zoology in Columbia University, has arrived in Peking, China, where he will have charge of the work in biology in the Union Medical Col
lege, the maintenance of which is one of the lines of activity of the Rockefeller Foundation.
DISCUSSION AND CORRESPONDENCE CONCERTED FLASHING OF FIREFLIES
ON a hot and dark evening in the summer of 1915, a camping party sought the rocks near the waters edge on the north shore of Sloop Bay, Valcour Island, Lake Champlain. An intermittent flashing of diffused light was soon noticed in the northwestern corner of the bay between 300 and 350 meters distant. This flashing was somewhat similar to that ordinarily called "heat-lightning," but as it appeared against the base of a cliff something over ten meters high an investigation of the phenomenon was decided upon.
On approaching in canoes, a scene of wondrous beauty presented itself. The light was due to the minature lamps of several thousands of fireflies which were holding festival over what appeared to be a breeding ground. The area involved was about 100 meters in length and extended from near the water's surface to a height of about seven meters. At this locality the bare rock faultscarp which formed a portion of the north wall of the bay was covered with a steep sloping bank of glacial and postglacial deposits and these were well supplied with water through seepage. Moving southwesterly one left the bare portions of the cliff and rapidly passed through various plant communities from lichens and mosses to a small grove of white pines. Above this locality there was also a forest clearing used as a meadow.
At no time over the limited area at the base of the bank could one notice an utter absence of illumination but the lighting of a small cluster of lamps seemed to awaken immediate response from a thousand others, and the illuminated area thus spread from one or more centers until the bank was brilliantly ablaze and suggestive of the myriad lights of some city of fairyland. It was these periods of intense illumination that had attracted the attention of the camping party at a distance so great that the lights from a few scattered
lamps seemed to leave the bank in absolute darkness. The same phenomenon was also observed on the following evening.
After reading Dr. Edward S. Morse's "Fireflies Flashing in Unison " the writer determined to make another visit to this locality and observe the phenomena more critically. On the evenings of July 11 and 12, 1916. the display was repeated and observed by several visitors. It was impossible to count the number of lamps which were aglow at one time, but the space involved was about 700 square meters in cross section and some bushcovered places there must have been at least 50 fireflies to the square meter. We should judge that about 10,000 of these insects were present. During these visits we noted that the illumination was never due to a truly synchronous lighting of the lamps of those fireflies engaged in the display but was always of the nature of wave motion spreading out from one or more centers. This spreading moved swiftly from one end of the bank to the other and was particularly beautiful when the light from several centers became confluent, for at that instant the whole bank was very brilliantly illuminated. Strictly speaking there was no measured regularity in this concerted response and therefore no true rhythm, -such as one may note in the concerted music of certain orthoptera. The repititions were hardly more regular than the cloud illuminations of a distant thunderstorm. There was present the influence of suggestion on what may be called a "mob-psychology" but there was no special leader. Any small group could excite a discharge from thousands who were ready to respond. As recovery was rapid, the repititions of the wave-like responses were also rapid.
It is probable that the phenomenon is by no means a rare one and that, in this locality, it is repeated yearly-though the display of 1916 was not quite so brilliant as that of 1915. A display in any place would be compellingly attractive to a passing person only if the festival period occurred during very dark, cloudy or moonless nights. The observer 1 SCIENCE, February 4, 1916.
therefore must happen to be in some lonesome spot without other light, at the proper time of year, under the conditions noted above, and at least after 10 P.M. Even then his observations unless published would not be likely to reach students.
In SCIENCE for July 26, Dr. E. S. Morse gives a brief review of the subject,-with reference to its meager literature. There we find mention of such conditions as 66 very warm and humid" a "profound calm" following a thunderstorm, "a small clearing" and 66 stumps" or "trees."
The excessive abundance of fireflies at any one date is no doubt due to climatic conditions that have at first retarded and then hastened emergence from the pupa state. The fact that so many of these insects should occasionally be crowded into limited areas may be due to favorable ground conditions involving moisture; open spaces (where the light signal may be seen at a distance); favorable places (trees, bushes, or stumps) for rests from flight;-shelter from winds;-and perhaps the antecedent direction and strength of such winds. The Valcour Island locality seems to fulfill these conditions and in addition has a large sheltered area, the waters of the bay, across which the light may be seen but on which there is no resting place.
Whether or not the flashes occur in strict unison and whether or not the sequence of recurring responses is a measured one, and so strictly rhythmic, are questions which must be answered through more careful observation of the phenomena. Mr. Nylander, quoted by Dr. Morse, says The flashes were not so regular as an army officer would like to see in regimental drills but were so rhythmic that any one would take note of their action." In other words, the concerted flashes did not recur with measured regularity but the repetitions were frequent enough to attract attention. How loose a meaning in this discussion do we wish to give the word "rhythm"? Dr. Morse quotes Mr. Purssell as stating "To the best of my recollection the illuminated period lasted about two or three seconds and the dark period perhaps twice that long." A space between
the beginning of one flash and the next which could vary from six to nine seconds would in no sense be rhythmic and even if the repetitions occurred with regularity, once every six seconds (the shortest time Mr. Purssell's “recollection" allows), the rhythm would be in very slow, "largo" tempo. Note however in Mr. Morse's quotation that the "several thousand insects in each" of two trees "perhaps a hundred feet apart," "flashed in synchronism. first one tree lighting up and then the other." Here we have the element of response which was so marked in the Valcour Island display. In the latter locality there were several trees and bushes on which rested groups which responded to each other and, at close range, the intervals between group flashings were usually but fractions of a second. The bril liant blazing of the whole bank occurred at intervals varying from a few to many seconds in length-hence the similarity, when seen from a distance, to heat lighting.
If it is desired to get a body of men to sing or play together in perfect rhythm they not only must have a leader but must be trained to follow such a leader. Imagine the difficulty of keeping together on "Old Hundred” if the notes were started with an interval so long as six or nine seconds between each. Do these insects inherit a sense of rhythm more perfect than our own?
Would not a more critical observation of one of Mr. Purssell's trees have shown him that one or more leaders started the flash and that the others "fell in" as in applause;that the lighting of a tree gained at first in brilliancy and that the light also faded away gradually and not at once. At least this is what was noticed in the four different displays on Valcour Island.
We would ask observers to note the conditions resulting in such local congregations of these insects; to note critically whether the flashings are of the nature of exact unisons, or whether they spread out from small centers, first lighted, and so partake of a rapid but wave-like response to an initial stimulus; and to note also if the sequence of the flashings from the same group is one involving equal
time intervals and so strictly rhythmical in character. GEORGE H. HUDSON PLATTSBURGH, N. Y.
ALLEGED REDISCOVERY OF THE PASSENGER
IN SCIENCE for November 1 is a communication under the caption "Alleged rediscovery of the passenger pigeon," in which the statement is maintained that a flock of this supposedly extinct bird was recently seen in New York state. Among other observations offered in support of the identification, mention is made of "the whistling sound of their wings." During the seventies and early eighties it was my privilege to form an intimate acquaintance with the passenger pigeon, seeing many thousands of them, shooting hundreds of them and finding numerous scattered nests in the vicinity of Minneapolis, Minn. The wings of this bird never whistled," the sound made in taking flight being a flapping or fluttering noise similar to that made by the tame pigeon. A flock in rapid flight made a rustling or swishing sound as it passed through the air. On the other hand it is a well-known fact that the wings of the mourning dove produce a loud characteristic" whistling sound" as it launches itself into the air and until it gets well under way. Among pigeon hunters in the old days, this was a commonly recognized distinguishing feature between the two species when other means were obscured.
In and about a "buckwheat field" is an ideal place for an assemblage of mourning doves. Passenger pigeons also fed on grains of various kinds, chiefly wheat and oats, but their favorite food was thin-shelled nuts, largely acorns here in the north.
In view of the fact that no reports of the passenger pigeon from experienced ornithologists have been received for a considerable number of years, in spite of persistent search, it would seem as though this bird must be regarded as an extinct species.
THOS. S. ROBERTS
UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA,
DEMONSTRATIONS OF VISUAL PHENOMENA PURKINJE EFFECT
IF a color wheel with a reddish and a bluish color be spun in the light of a strong lantern, and then slowly have its plane turned until the incidence of the light is just grazing, the Purkinje effect is at once demonstrated to a class. As the angle of incidence changes from normal to grazing, the intensity of illumination is reduced to zero, and the red becomes invisible. The effect of this is in general to change the apparent color of the disc through a series of very pretty shades.
PERSISTENCE OF VISION
This is easily shown to a class by means of a lantern, with a slide bearing some letters. Instead of imaging the slide on a white surface, the image should be absorbed by black velvet or the image may be formed in an open doorway. Now move a fairly white stick vertically down in the plane of the image. Different portions of the image can then be seen on the stick, and if the stick be moved fast enough, the eye sees the entire image easily.
PAUL F. GAEHR
TO THE EDITOR OF SCIENCE: In connection with the discussion in your columns as to a more specific name for our country than 'America," it may be interesting to note that the advocates of the international language, Esperanto, solved this problem so far as they were concerned quite a while ago, by the adoption of the name (6 Usono." This is the substantive form of the expression US o NA., composed of the initial letters of this nation's full designation. Usona is, in Esperanto, the adjectival form.
In a rather hasty and superficial glance through the back files of Esperanto publications, I find the word used, either in the text or in date lines, titles, etc., in various magazines, books and pamphlets issued in England, France, Germany, Poland, Switzerland,