Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 12.djvu/527
is on a level with the water in the intervals of the strokes; in paddling, the head is well elevated; the individual is able to look about, he can deliberate as to what is best to be done, and he is much less liable to take water into the larynx or glottis. Without prejudice to the art of swimming, children should be exercised from the tenderest age in the act of paddling and treading water, so as to impart confidence to them. Even without any preliminary practice whatever, there is nothing to hinder man, woman, or child, from beating the water with the hands and feet, just as the lower animals do, and so keeping themselves afloat for a protracted period a period that in a multitude of instances would be sufficient to invite rescue, and preserve life. The action of the feet alone will sustain the body; a fortiori, the action of both feet and hands will prove yet more effectual. In this, as in many other things, man is too often unaware of his own immense capacities.
Peppermint-Culture.—We take from the Polytechnic Review the following notes on the cultivation of the peppermint-plant in the United States: Of the entire crop, fully two-thirds is produced in Michigan. The soils best suited for the cultivation of peppermint are the black-ash swamps of Western New York, and river-bottoms. The land must be drained to allow it being worked early in spring. The one-year roots are planted in ploughed land in rows, the space between the rows being from eighteen to thirty-six inches. During the first year the ground must be kept free from weeds. The plant contains most oil at the period of blossoming, or just afterward, and the crop must be gathered on a dry day. Within a day or two after cutting it is carried to the still and the oil extracted. There must be a good supply of water to make distilling successful. If dried too much, there is a loss in leaves falling off, and the yield of oil greatly diminished. The mint-straw, on being dried, is readily eaten by animals in winter. The annual product is about 70,000 pounds, the greater part of it being exported to Europe.
Uses of Castor-Oil in the Arts.—Castor-oil was formerly employed only as a medicinal agent; but now its uses in the arts are manifold, and its manufacture has come to be a considerable industry. St. Louis is the centre of this industry in the United States, and nearly all the castor-beans grown in this country are produced within a circle of about 200 miles south and southwest of that city. The chief uses of castor-oil in the arts are, according to the Shoe and Leather Reporter, as a lubricator for coach and carriage axles, in the manufacture of the best shoe-blacking, as a dressing for calf-skins, for treeing boots, as a substitute for neat's-foot oil, and keeping leather soft, mellow, and pliable. Crude castor-oil is used largely in the manufacture of morocco. It will not "fry" or "gum," and imparts softness and weight, and leather prepared with it remains mellow and pliable. The crop of castor-beans for the year 1875 was 303,498 bushels; in 1876 the crop was only about one-half as large. Last year a firm in St. Louis made, from 125,000 bushels of beans, 7,000 barrels (47 gallons each) of crude castor-oil.
There will be two solar eclipses this year, one on the 1st of February, the other on the 29th of July. The former will be central and annular as observed from high southern latitudes; the latter will be total in the western part of North America. It will be best observed at Denver, Colorado.
The "Copley Medal" for 1877 has been awarded by the London Royal Society to Prof. James Dwight Dana, of Yale College, for his biological, geological, and mineralogical investigations carried on through half a century, and for the valuable works in which his conclusions and discoveries have been published.
A prize of $20,000 is offered by the Council General of Guadeloupe for the best new process for extracting the juice from sugar-cane, the cost not to exceed 40 per cent, of the market value of the product. The prize is open to competition till June 1, 1880.Numerous facts are cited by the Australian explorer, Landsborough, which go to prove that dense forests are on the increase in Australia, that the climate is growing moister, and that even the great central desert may, in course of time, become inhabitable. The frequency of fires, prior to the introduction of sheep-farming, when there was nothing to keep down the grass, was