Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/256

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242
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

day are fortunate birthdays, and a dream on a Thursday night will come true. To dream of a dog or a flood is unlucky. To stumble when starting on a journey is a bad sign, and before setting out on a pilgrimage to Mecca certain formulas are muttered and signs followed.

The Malay hates to tear down a house, and so the old one is left standing when a new one is built. The ladder of a house must be built just so, or disaster comes to the owner or builder; and to knock one's head on the lintel is regarded as unfavorable. One rises quickly from a meal; otherwise, if he is single, he may be regarded with disfavor by his prospective father-in-law.

As one travels over the archipelago he finds that superstitions vary, and what may be regarded by the Malays of the peninsula as particularly ominous may have no meaning at all with the Malays of the south or east. The Dyaks of Borneo are probably the most uncivilized of all the Malay tribes, for Mohammedanism has taken but little hold upon them, and their natural paganism remains as yet unshaken. Of their folklore we know but little. It awaits the conquest of the West, like the island itself.

 
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ELECTRICITY FROM THALES TO FARADAY.
By ERNEST A. LESUEUR.

IT is so common a notion nowadays that electricity had its birth and rise in the nineteenth century that it gives one a strange mental sensation to contemplate the fact that all the myriads of commercial applications that have of late years been developed in this field might have been made by the Chinese or the ancient Egyptians, so far as the potentiality of Nature for developing electrical phenomena is concerned. The writer used to know a delightful old gentleman in Vermont who once referred, as to a well-known fact, to Edison's having invented electricity. It is astonishing how closely his state of mind typifies that of a great many people.

In the form of the lightning, the aurora, and the shock of the electric eel or torpedo, electrical manifestations have been known ever since man commenced to observe those phenomena, but the fossil resin amber was the substance which eventually gave its name to the now tremendous agency. This material was observed, many centuries before our era, to possess the property of attracting light bodies to itself when rubbed with wool, and, being called ᾒλεκτρον (electron) by the Greeks, transmitted its name to the property or force which it thus brought into evidence. The fact is mentioned as