Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 53.djvu/155

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143
FRAGMENTS OF SCIENCE.

School has always stood for the idea of a liberal education in which scientific studies should predominate, but in which a moderate amount of Latin and of modem languages is required; history and economics are also taught. It is memorable that for a long period the greatest of American philologists was the daily instructor in French and German, that the most learned study ever made of 'Dan Chaucer and his well of English undefyled' proceeded from a Sheffield chair, and that no American professorship of economics or statistics has been more prolific or stimulating than that which was held for many years by one but lately brought to the end of his career."

The custom of trepanning, or taking small pieces of bone from the living head, was much practiced in prehistoric times, as the skulls prove to us, and is still in vogue among some peoples. Among these are the people of the Berber stock in the Djebel Aurès and the Djebel Chechar of the edges of the Algerian plateau. The method of performing the operation is carefully described by Drs. H. Malbot and R. Verneau, of whom Dr. Malbot was shown by a native doctor a skull with more than a dozen circular holes, two slits, and a large irregular orifice, all of which had been pierced when the man was alive. The skull was kept hidden, and was evidently used as an example by the local doctors. The natives have recourse to trepanning for blows or wounds on the head; and it does not matter how long before the blow may have been given, if only the sick person can remember that he has had one. The operation is not severe. A woman, tired of her husband, is said to have called in the service of a trepanner in order to get a divorce from him by producing a piece of her skull and affirming that he had broken it in some of his cruel acts.

The chief fire warden of Minnesota, C. C. Andrews, says in his report for 1896 that the main work under the fire-warden law of the State is to make people more careful about causing fires and more thoughtful of the benefit to the public and to individuals of forest resources. There are several million acres in the State, in detached areas, fit only for growing timber. It is computed that trees take from the soil only one twelfth part of the mineral substances required for field crops; and it is therefore profitable for the non-agricultural lands to be retained in timber or planted with it. Properly taken care of and protected the forests might afford a sustained, permanent, and growing industry for many thousand more laborers than are now employed. A bill passed one house of the Minnesota Legislature in 1896 providing a way by which the State could receive and administer, on forestry principles, donations from individuals of cut-over and waste lands unsuited for agriculture. The measure has been discussed and approved by the Forestry Association and the State Horticultural Society; and as it seems to be all meritorious, it is to be hoped that it may become a law.


NOTES.

Ebeonite, a new material invented by M. Panchon, a French paper maker, is named from the resemblance of many of its properties to the hardest woods. It is made by treating fine chips of resinous woods with lyes of sulphates or sulphites, as if to obtain wood cellulose. The softened chips are then pounded to a pulp, which is treated during refining with such chemical or coloring substances as will impart desired special qualities. The pulp is then transformed into boards of leaves of paper, is piled up to whatever thickness may be wanted, pressed in a hydraulic press, and dried slowly. The resulting crude ebeonite can be worked into any shape; or the pulp can be molded, before drying, into articles which will be proof against atmospheric changes, heat, and moisture, and can be rendered incombustible.

A curious instance of instinctive fear is related by R. L. Pocock, in Nature, of a baby orang, with which the writer and his wife were playing. When the lady gently extended her muff, made of the skin of the Indian flying squirrel and ornamented with the unstuffed head and tail, toward the animal, it showed signs of terror. "Upon repeating the experiment, the ape promptly rolled over backward as the quickest way of removing himself from the immediate vicinity of the object; then, getting himself together, climbed up the branches of his tree and retired to the back of the cage, keeping all the while a wary and frightened eye upon the muff, as if in fear of an attack from behind. During all this, the orang made no sound.

A Proposal was made some time ago in a Belgian journal for the celebration of the seven hundredth anniversary of the discovery of stone coal, which was made in 1197 by a blacksmith of Liege. He found a kind of black earth, and, wood and charcoal being