Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 27.djvu/153

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141
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

of the expansion of the river into the gulf, says that this species is the most abundant of all the seals of that locality, and roves up and down the St. Lawrence in its migra- tions iu immense numbers ; and he adds that it is tolerably common as far up as the Saguenay. From the information furnished by Mr. Comeau and from other data, it ap- pears to Dr. Merriam that the harp-seal is a permanent resident in the St. Lawrence ; that it spends the summer wandering about, some- times singly or in small schools, sometimes in larjre herds ; that it ascends the river at least as far as the Saguenay, and is common between Mille Vasches and Manicouagan ; that it frequents with considerable regular- ity particular shores and estuaries to feed on the small fish that congregate there at certain states of the tide ; that it works down the river early in the winter, and is particu- larly abundant about Point des Monts in December, January, and the early part of February ; that it then passes farther down to whelp on the heavy ice in the gulf ; that its young are born during the latter part of February or early March ; that, as soon as the young are able to shift for themselves, the parents at once return, passing Point des Monts in great numbers on their way up the river.

Alleged Nerve-exciting Properties of American Air. A correspondent of the Lon- don " Times " notices as a fact coming within his own personal experience the effect of the American air, particularly in New York, in exciting nervous sensibility. It is partly an effect of dryness, partly elec- trical, as is witnessed by the power some- times observed of lighting a gas-jet with the electric spark developed by shuffling rapidly over the carpet. It is observed also in the greater intensity of the effect of spir- ituous liquors in this country than in Eu- rope. ' It is partly local, for it is more marked in New York than in any ether place. It seems to be evolving a new type of mind, and ultimately possibly a new phys- ical type ; and the American appears to be becoming a more nervous and more spirited man. Hence, we have peculiarities in our statistics of insanity; our army of tramps " individuals of all classes, though mainly of the poorer, who can not endure the drive and strain necessary to keep up with their fellows, and whose inertia triumphs " and our cranks " people who carry eccentricity almost to iusanity, but are recognized as responsible persons." After noticing an increasing development of insanity among our native-born population, the writer men- tions two questions that suggest themselves : " Are we becoming a nation of madmen," or " are we developing a specialized race from those who can endure the pressure, and who by the survival of the fittest will form the future American stock, while the feeble in- tellectual natures will become tramps and lunatics ? "

The Weather and Health. -Dr. J. W.

Tripe read a paper at the Meteorological Con- ference, held in connection with the London Health Exhibition, on "The Relations of Meteorological Phenomena to Health." It is only recently that systematic observations have made the collation of knowledge on this subject possible. Ordinary variations of the barometer at ordinary elevations pro- duce but little effect on health. At consid- erable elevations disagreeable feelings fol- low the diminished pressure. Nevertheless, consumptive and other invalids have experi- enced relief at mountain-stations ; but this was because the reduced temperature, with the total change in the habits of life, more than compensated for the effects of the lessened pressure. In residences a sudden diminution of atmospheric pressure is likely to be attended with an escape of ground-air from the soil, and thereby to cause injury to health. Changes of temperature when rapid are liable to cause derangements in either direction ; otherwise man can with precautions endure a range of about 200 Fahr. without serious injury. Hot climates, however, eventually, unless habits are care- fully adjusted to them, sap the foundations of life among Europeans. The direct influ- ence of rain on man is not very marked in temperate regions, except by giving moist- ure to the air by evaporation from the ground and from vegetable life, and by al- tering the level of ground- water. Consider- able and sudden fluctuations in the level of the ground- water generally cause ill health, and if such water stands at less than five feet below the surface it is dangerous. Vary-