ADVERTISEMENT
See Inside February 2010

100 Years Ago: The Flooding of Paris

Innovation and discovery as chronicled in past issues of Scientific American



SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, VOL. CII, NO. 8, FEBRUARY 19, 1910

FEBRUARY 1960
METEOR DUST— “The recent extension of geophysical investigations into nearby space has given emphasis to the fact that life on earth is shielded by the earth’s atmosphere. Death from ‘meteoritic stroke’ might be a not-uncommon coroner’s verdict if the protective canopy of the atmosphere were not spread above our heads. During the past 13 years I have been engaged in efforts to secure direct measurement of the meteoritic fallout. My samples of meteoritic dust and cosmic spherules have come from the tops of high mountains remote from industrial civilization, and from the bottom of the ocean. The data now show that meteoritic material comes down to earth in much larger quantity (about five million tons per year) than earlier estimates. Moreover, it appears that the rate of fall has varied during the past 10 or 15 million years. —Hans Pettersson”

FEBRUARY 1910
BACTERIA FERTILIZERS— “The discovery of the mechanism of nitrification and the fixation of atmospheric nitrogen by the bacteria of root nodules soon led to attempts to aid the process by the addition of nitrogen-fixing bacteria. In 1895 Nobbé and Hiltner patented a process of inoculating peas and beans and the soil in which they grow by soaking the seed with an infusion of a gelatin culture of the bacteria of the root nodules. In 1904 the United States Bureau of Agriculture distributed 12,000 boxes of bacterial cultures, which appear to have produced good results. But the effect of these preparations is uncertain. The soil naturally swarms with nitrifying bacteria, but their growth may be checked by various causes.”

FLOODS— “The inundation of Paris made many of the streets of that metropolis as navigable as the canals of Venice. The highest point reached by the water was 31 feet 4 inches above the normal at the Pont Royal. Not since the historic flood of 1615 has Paris been visited by such an inundation. The banks have been overflowed for up to a mile on either side. The actual cause of the flood has not been fully revealed. Some explain it geologically by arguing that the basin of the Seine had become saturated during a mild winter, characterized by heavy rains and little evaporation. It will be safer to await the investigation of the municipal engineers.”

AGE OF STEAM— “The rapid elimination of the sailing vessel is shown by statistics recently given by a German paper. In the twenty years between 1888 and 1908, the percentage of sailing vessels has declined in the merchant marine of Great Britain from 44.1 to 12.6; of Germany, from 62.1 to 19.1; of the United States, from 80.7 to 30.9. In the merchant marine of France, however, but little change has occurred, the respective percentages being 47.9 to 47.2.”

FEBRUARY 1860
BEST THING SINCE ...— “Within the past 10 years there has been a revolution in making bread. The ancient leaven bread was made by the dough being left in a warm place till it began to ferment. The chemical progress is the starch into sugar, then carbonic acid and alcohol, which forms between the particles of flour and swells them up. But great care was required in the operation lest it be decomposed, and therefore the modern process by yeast is much more preferable. Within the past 10 years, besides yeast in making bread, we have had ‘baking powders’ and ‘self-raising flour,’ and such, and 99 families in 100 use some of these.”

A PRACTICAL MAN— “Out West, they are going beyond anything ever attempted in reckless construction of railways. A western man, who, in his time, had been a merchant, a surveyor, an engineer, a land agent, a railway president and a professional politician (on more sides than one, by way of variety), once remarked to me, concerning a mutual acquaintance who was an engineer, ‘a good theoretical man, sir, but requires millions [of dollars] to carry out his plans; he might do well in England, with an unlimited supply of money, but he is not calculated for our western country; not practical, sir, not practical! We want men that can build railroads of corn cobs, if necessary!’”

This article was originally published with the title "Cosmic Dust Working Bacteria Yeast for Bread."

Rights & Permissions
Share this Article:

Comments

You must sign in or register as a ScientificAmerican.com member to submit a comment.
Scientific American Dinosaurs

Get Total Access to our Digital Anthology

1,200 Articles

Order Now - Just $39! >

X

Email this Article

X