« PreviousContinue »
from the moist, warm air which enters over the coils; but all these details appear to have been successfully worked out.
It is evident that the artificial cooling of buildings will find its most important applications in auditoriums and other crowded places in hot weather; but other uses suggest themselves for such a system. Thus, in connection with hospital work, the ability to maintain any desired temperature throughout a building at all seasons must be of value in connection with the treatment of diseases prevalent in hot weather, while the ability to produce special low temperatures at will would be most useful in certain emergencies. Among the sanitary appliances to be employed in the preparation for the work upon the Panama Canal, cooling machinery for the hospital service may well demand consideration.
The subject of rapid-cutting tool steels has already been discussed. in these pages; but the continual interest displayed in the use of the new materials, both in Europe and in America, renders their progress a matter for record and comment. The fact that metal, such as steel, wrought iron, or cast iron, can be cut at rates ranging from three to seven times that formerly considered the maximum has necessarily involved important changes, both in workshop methods and in the design of machine tools. Formerly the pieces to be machined were forged closely to size and form, with the object of saving time and cost in the lathe, planer, or other tool. Now, however, the method is to save as much work as possible in the smith shop and leave much more metal to be removed in machining, since the new tools can do the work readily and effectively. But this heavy machine work is telling on the machinery by which it must be performed; and, although much may be accomplished by speeding up the older machines, it has become apparent that the entire method of proportioning such machine tools must be revised.
In order to aid in the intelligent study of this important problem, there has been devised, by Prof. Nicolson, an ingenious lathe tool dynamometer or device for measuring and recording the various pressures upon a lathe tool when at work. These pressures are determined by causing the tool to bear upon plungers, transmitting hydraulically the forces to pressure gauges, so that the vertical and horizontal pressures between the tool and the work for any speed, feed, or depth of cut may be accurately determined. With this apparatus the strength and stiffness demanded of modern high-speed work upon any material may be found, and the machine may be designed accordingly.
Among the improvements which have been made in the transmission of intelligence, the development of the automatic telephone exchange is of interest at the present time. When the telephone was first made a practical operative device, it was supposed that it might supersede the Morse key and sounder for general telegraph service. This not being found feasible, it became necessary to devise the central exchange in order to enable the new instrument to find its place; and there are those who think that the invention of the telephone exchange was almost as much a work of genius as the production of the telephone itself. We now have a serious attempt to substitute for the central station operator an automatic device, by means of which the user himself, manipulating a lever attached to his transmitter, connects his apparatus with that of the desired number without any outside aid.
The practicability of such a mechanism has been fully demonstrated, and for many places it will doubtless find application; but it is a question whether, for the busy down-town districts, the system will be found superior to the central station. The tendency is increasing to limit the effort of the business man to those things which demand judgment and experience, and to turn over to subordinates everything which can possibly be entrusted to them. To require him, therefore, to suffer the annoyance and distraction of the telephone operator can hardly be called an improvement, and the present system of delegating to others. the entire operation of making the connection will probably continue.
I have referred in these pages to the continual development of systems for underground transport beneath the streets of great cities, but in nearly all cases the aim of such tunnels has been the carrying of passengers. For several years past there has been proceeding, in a quiet and unobtrusive manner, beneath the city of Chicago, the construction of more than twenty miles of subway, originally intended for the reception of telephone cables, but latterly increased in scope to permit its use for the rapid and convenient transport of merchandise. The geological nature of the earth beneath that city, consisting of blue clay below a surface deposit of débris and sand, has rendered it possible to run the tunnels beneath the streets, at a level of about forty feet below the surface, without disturbing the pavements, and, indeed, without making the public aware of the conduct of the work. To many the first indication of the existence of this subway has been the announcement of its rapidly approaching completion.
The tunnels are fitted with an electric railway of two-foot gauge,
and it is intended to haul on these tracks trains of small cars for the transport of merchandise. It is proposed to use the system to carry goods from railway stations to warehouses, to deliver coal, and remove ashes, and, in general, to relieve the streets of much of the heavy hauling which causes so much congestion on the surface. By means of elevators in the basements of the buildings, the cars may be lifted directly from the tunnel to their destination, and the manual labor of handling may thus be reduced to a minimum. In cities in which the nature of the ground permits the excavation of such tunnels, this plan appears to offer a practical solution of the problem of merchandise transport, and the operative results in Chicago will be awaited with much interest.
Among the recent great civil-engineering works, the Nile dams stand in the front rank, and much interested attention has been given to the practical workings of these great regulating structures. It has become evident, however, that the work has only been partially done, and that the great barrages at Assouan and at Assiout must be supplemented by auxiliary storage reservoirs. Many years ago the American scientist and traveller, Mr. Cope Whitehouse, called attention to the curious depression in the Fayoum district, known by the name of the Wady Rayan. He urged the construction of canal and controlling works which should render this natural reservoir available for the purpose of aiding in the important work of Nile regulation. Sir William Willcocks, lately the director-general of reservoirs in Egypt, has recently brought this plan once more to public attention, and has expressed the opinion that an expenditure of about $10,000,000 on the execution of this project would add from $250,000,000 to $300,000,000 to the value of the land of Egypt by maintaining perennial and controllable irrigation. There is no more important application of science than the reclaiming of land for the purpose of subsistence, and it is to be hoped that the plans of Mr. Whitehouse will ultimately be executed with success. HENRY HARRISON SUPLEE.
LITERATURE: THE ART OF LETTER-WRITING.
THE topic of this article, if common opinion is to be trusted, belongs to the domain of archæology. More than forty years ago Walter Bagehot, discussing Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, declared that the art of note-writing might become classical, but letters had perished. Contemporary correspondence was "like a series of telegrams with amplified headings." "Sir Rowland Hill," he continued, "is entitled to the credit not only of introducing stamps, but also of destroying letters."
The invention of the railway system and the democratizing of the post-office have certainly influenced the spiritual as well as the material side of letter-writing. The act itself loses something of its dignity and importance by becoming a daily incident instead of a function carefully discharged at rare intervals. At the time when the mail-coach from London could reach Edinburgh with only one letter in the post-bag, the exchange of thought between distant friends must indeed have been a solemn enterprise. The new volumes of Carlyle letters show what a burden was the high cost of postage even well on in the nineteenth century. Again and again the sending of a letter is dependent upon the securing of a "frank" from some Member of Parliament or other person entitled to this privilege. Usually the Carlyles communicate with one another by sending a newspaper, and indicating the news by a code of strokes underlining part of the address - two strokes, for instance, signifying "All well." When we find Thomas Carlyle learning by a newspaper on Tuesday that his wife had got safe to Manchester, and by another on Thursday that she had reached Liverpool, we are not to suppose that Mrs. Carlyle's movements were being chronicled by the society reporter: the information was symbolically conveyed on the wrapper. On December 5, 1839, Thomas Carlyle writes home to his mother to celebrate "the first day of the cheap post," which we discover means a fourpenny rate. "Were the penny system once come," he adds, "I will expect to hear from you every week; I will write to you every week; we shall have such writing as was never seen before!" On January 11, 1840, he despatches his "first penny letter," and for a month or two his delight at the reform is still keen. To one of his brothers he suggests:
"You will write often; once a week at least; or why not once a day? This Penny-post will by and by introduce a quite new style of letterwriting."
"Such writing as was never seen before." "A quite new style of letter-writing." That is precisely the trouble. "All have got the seed," it is true, but the flower does not bloom with just the same fragrance. The tendency is toward scrappiness as well as brevity. As Bagehot said, we now send one another notes, not letters. Fanny Burney, with her letters of from six to twelve large quarto pages, would to-day be an eccentric and a bore. One might almost say that such messages as do go through the post are scrawled rather than written. Even when the élite typewriter gives them an appearance of neatness, they are defaced by a kind of mental slovenliness and a general air of it-doesn't-mattervery-much. In spite of all this, the art of letter-writing is not extinct, and never will be, as long as men and women live and things happen. We are poorly off for correspondents if we have not some whose letters, apart from the attraction of old association and the intrinsic value or interest of the news communicated, convey something of the charm of the writer's personality. The fact itself we may already have seen in the newspaper; but now we can look at it through the eyes of a friend, not of an unknown reporter. And how can those who accept the pessimistic theory explain the steady output of volumes of letters by all the leading publishing houses? Published letters are certainly bought; if they are bought, we may presume that they are read; and they would not be read if they were dull. We do not, of course, find a classic in every season's list in this branch of literature; but the general level of excellence is not evidently lower than in fiction or history or poetry.
It might, perhaps, have been expected that the most skilful practitioners of this art would be found among the men and women who make writing their profession. Having at their command experience and training in the expression of their ideas, they might naturally be supposed to possess special advantages for success as correspondents. The danger is, however, that this very education in the literary craft may prove in some measure a disqualification, for the style appropriate for most kinds of literary composition is not the ideal epistolary style. A good letter should partake very much of the qualities of good talk, and we know very well that one who in his published work writes like an angel may "talk like Poor Poll." There is, of course, required in a perfect letter a level of phraseology slightly higher than the average of fair conversation; but, at the same time, it should give a sense of ease and freedom