Popular Science Monthly/Volume 19/August 1881/Popular Miscellany

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Popular Science Monthly Volume 19 August 1881  (1881) 
Popular Miscellany
 

POPULAR MISCELLANY.

Salmon of the Pacific Coast.—Messrs, David S. Jordan and Charles H. Gilbert, who have been engaged in the study of the fishes of the Pacific coast, state in the abstract of their report, which is published in the " American Naturalist," that they have observed five species of salmon (Oncorhyncus) in the waters of the North Pacific. These species may be called the quinnat or king-salmon, the blue-black salmon or red-fish, the silver salmon, the dog-salmon, and the hump-back salmon; and they are known by many other and vernacular names. The quinnat and blue-black salmon habitually run in the spring, the others in the fall, the two former species having the greater economic value. The spring-running salmon ascend only those rivers which are fed by the melting snows from the mountains, and which have sufficient volume to send their waters well out to sea, as the Sacramento, Rogue, Klamath, Columbia, and Frazer Rivers. They are chiefly adults, but their milt and spawn are no more developed in them when they go up the rivers than they are at the same time in others of the same species which will not enter the streams until fall. High water in any of these rivers in the spring is always followed by an increased run of fish, and it is believed that the disposition to run is excited by contact with cold water. The average weight of the quinnat in the spring is twenty-two pounds in the Columbia River, and about sixteen pounds in the Sacramento River. Individuals weighing from forty to sixty pounds are frequently found in both rivers, and some as heavy as eighty pounds. Fish that enter the rivers m the spring continue to ascend until death or spawning overtakes them. Probably none of them ever return to the ocean, and a large proportion fail to spawn. They are known to ascend the Sacramento to its extreme head-waters, about four hundred miles, and the Columbia as far as the Spokan Falls, a distance of between six and eight hundred miles. At these distances the bodies of the fish become covered with bruises, in which patches of white fungus are developed; their fins become mutilated, their eyes are often destroyed, parasitic worms gather in their gills, they become emaciated, the flesh becomes white from the loss of the oil, and they all die as soon as the spawning act is accomplished, often before. So far as has been observed, they are not known to feed after entering the rivers. The spawning-season varies in different rivers, and different parts of the same river, but not in the different species, and probably extends from July to December. In the spring the fish are silvery, spotted or not, according to the species, and have the mouth about equally symmetrical in both sexes. As the spawning-season approaches, the female loses her silvery color, and becomes more slimy, the scales on the back partly sink into the skin, and the flesh changes from a salmon-red to a paler color. As the season advances, the differences between the males and females become more marked, in proportion as the milt is developed. The difference in the economic value of the spring and fall salmon, which is vastly in favor of the former, is dependent on the fact that the spring salmon enter the rivers long before the growth of the organs of reproduction has reduced the richness of the flesh, while the fall salmon can not be taken in quantity until their flesh has deteriorated. The quinnat is more valuable, on account of its size and abundance, than all the other fishes on the Pacific coast together; and the blue-back is worth much more than the combined value of the three remaining species. "It is the prevailing impression," say the authors of the report, "that the salmon have some special instinct which leads them to return to spawn in the same spawning-grounds where they were originally hatched. We fail to find any evidence of this in the case of the Pacific coast salmon, and we do not believe it to be true. It seems more probable that the young salmon, hatched in any river, mostly remain in the ocean within a radius of twenty, thirty, or forty miles of its mouth. These, in their movements about in the ocean, may come into contact with the cold waters of their parent rivers, or perhaps of any other river, at a considerable distance from the shore. In the case of the quinnat and the blue-back, their "instinct" leads them to ascend these fresh waters, and, in a majority of cases, these waters will be those in which the fish in question were originally spawned. Later in the season the growth of the reproductive organs leads them to approach the shore and to search for fresh waters, and still the chances are that they may find the original stream. But undoubtedly many fall salmon ascend or try to ascend streams in which no salmon was ever hatched." The evidence is not clear whether salmon are diminishing in numbers or not, except in the Sacramento River, where they are undoubtedly decreasing.

 

Storage of Electricity.—The reproach against electricity that it can not be stored seems now to be in a fair way of being removed by M. Camille Faure's recent improvement of the Planté secondary battery. The cells of this battery, as is well known, consist simply of two lead plates immersed in acidulated water, one of which becomes oxidized by the passage of a current through the cell, and is reconverted into the metallic state when the charging current ceases, yielding a current while undergoing this latter transformation. Once charged, the battery may be kept a considerable length of time without losing its power, and gives out a current steadily in a manner similar to an ordinary voltaic cell. The Planté cell is, however, not of commercial value, as its capacity is small, and it requires a considerable time to charge it. These difficulties M. Faure appears to have largely overcome by simply coating the plates with minium or red-lead, whereby their chemical dissimilarity, and consequently the electrical capacity of the cell, is greatly increased. When the charging takes place, the minium upon one plate is further oxidized to the peroxide, and that upon the other reduced to the metallic state, a current being given out while these plates are assuming their original condition. The cell is stated to give eighty per cent, of the current used to charge it, and to retain its charge for a considerable period. A battery containing four cells, and of the size of a cubic foot, was recently sent from Paris to Sir William Thomson at Glasgow, which was found by him to contain electrical energy equal to something over one million foot-pounds, or one-horse power, for one hour. Though the battery was seventy-two hours reaching him, it was -found to have lost but very little of its original charge, and he has since been able to detect but a slight loss in a period of ten days. The expectations regarding the uses to which this battery can be put are doubtless exaggerated, but it seems safe to predict for it a large field of usefulness. It can probably be employed to advantage, if further experiment bears out present statements regarding it, wherever ordinary batteries are used, as it possesses the convenience of these combined with the cheapness of the dynamo-machine in the matter of the currents furnished. In the electric light it will probably find an important use in equalizing the currents of the machines, and preventing interruption of the light in case of a temporary failure of the generating apparatus. It is, moreover, not impossible that it may dispense with the need for electrical distribution at all, as such batteries placed in houses could be charged each day by small dynamo-machines driven by gas engines, at but small expense and with the minimum amount of trouble.

 

Color-Blindness and Education of the Color-Sense.—The examinations instituted by Dr. B. Joy Jeffries among the pupils in the schools of Boston (including 14,469 boys and young men and 13,458 girls and young women) have shown that about one male person in twenty-five is color-blind, while the defect occurs with extreme rarity in girls and women (only 0·066 per cent, of the female pupils in the schools). The researches that have been made in Europe show that a similar law as to the relative proportion of color-blindness between the sexes prevails there. The subject has been overlooked until within a few years, but the value of the knowledge of it that has been gained can not be disputed. This knowledge can be applied practically on a scale of considerable extent in determining the vocation to which boys should be trained. A person who is color-blind is obviously unfit for any business in which he must know how to distinguish colors. Yet the person himself and those who are around him are seldom aware of his defect. If examinations are regularly made in the schools and records kept of them, as has been done by Professor Jeffries, a sure practical test may be found which can be applied directly to each person, so as to guide him aright on this point. The inquiries of Dr. Jeffries have disclosed a great lack of knowledge of colors, aside from color-blindness, among adults as well as among the boys in the schools. But very few boys of the grammar or higher schools, he says, are familiar with the color names of even the primary colors, and still less can they correctly apply those names they do remember, when shown colored objects. "I have received letters from adults, not color-blind, whose lack of color-names had been a serious drawback to them in their occupations in every-day life; and they have besought me to urge the teaching of color-names and the education of the color sense in our public schools." The teaching of colors and color-names has been partly introduced into our primary schools, but without any system; it has been begun in Europe, especially in Germany, in the lowest schools, in a systematic manner. The exemption of women from color-blindness has been attributed to their familiarity with colored objects and materials; but this holds only of the sex as a whole, not with reference to individuals, for the color-sense can not be changed with practice in colors. The question arises whether generations of color education have caused this sexual difference, and is important; for, if answered in the affirmative, it proves that we may begin to eliminate color-blindness from future generations of boys by teaching and exercising the present generation in the perception and distinction of colors.

 

Climate and Health.—Mr. Alexander William Mitchinson has read an important paper in the Society of Arts on "The Principal Causes of Disease in Tropical Countries." It is usual to trace these causes back to the climate, but Mr. Mitchinson maintains that climate has less to do directly in producing disease than has generally been supposed. Every climate and country has its own appropriate and dietary laws, and exacts obedience to them at the cost of sickness; but, when these laws are obeyed, the difference in the healthiness of climates becomes comparatively insignificant. Europeans going to tropical countries are apt to neglect the precautions with reference to food which the changed conditions of their life would require them to take, and, instead of reducing the quality and varying the nature of what they eat, too often grant themselves the indulgences of rich viands, with high seasonings and wines, which they enjoyed at home. The mistake is even made of increasing the quantity and richness of the food, under the impression that the exhaustion produced by the climate should be met in that way, while a lighter diet is what is really required. The stomach can not bear the burden imposed upon it, and symptoms of disease arise. The loss of memory and mental capacity, which have been remarked as effects of a long residence in the tropics, are partly due to tropical heat, but far more to the solitude, with insufficient variety of incident, and the want of mental exercise, to which residents are exposed by the lack of society and of the distractions which society promotes. "Europeans in Africa do little else than eat and drink, rest and sleep," will seek for nothing to occupy their minds, and will often sit listlessly for hours gazing at vacancy. Consequently the mind is apt, from want of judicious exercise, to sink gradually, and the man to fall into apathy. In such a condition he is far more liable to an attack of fever than one who has preserved his mind in a state of healthy vigor. Other mistakes committed by European residents, which almost surely lead to disease, are the excessive use of spirits—dangerous in the tropics above all other regions—carelessness in regard to exposure, and neglect of exercise. More or less of exposure to the atmospheric changes of the country is inevitable, and the body that is prepared to withstand them is in less danger from them than are the too sensitive organizations of those who take too much care of themselves. This preparation can be gained by judicious exercise at different periods of the day and year. The bad location, and neglect of the sanitary condition of the coast towns, are responsible for much of the unhealthiness which is associated with Africa. Many of them are built near marshes or lagoons, in the very worst places that could be selected, such as would be pestilential spots anywhere, and they have been suffered to grow up and accumulate nuisances without a thought of the application of sanitary science, which seems to be wholly unknown, to their improvement. The natives have an effectual means of warding off malaria by planting groves of trees between the swamps and their villages, or by burning the bush and allowing the soil exposed thereby to acquire a crust, which impedes the rising of the malarious vapors. "In the British possessions such obvious means of protection appear to be either unknown or despised." The rule of life Mr. Mitchinson would lay down for a resident in the tropics is based upon the words "diet, exercise, and energy." These, he says, are the man's climate, his life, the power of the intellect nourished by the normal blood. "The rule of life adopted by most Europeans in the tropics, so far as they can be said to have any rule, appears to be 'feed and rest, rest and feed"; few give any intelligent consideration to the subject of the preservation of health." It is no wonder, then, that European residents die early.

 

Movements and Mixtures of African Races.—Messrs. de Quatrefages and Hamy have presented an important paper on the craniology of the dolichocephalous negro races. These races occupy the most considerable part of the geographical area inhabited by the negro race on the African Continent. Regarded as a whole, they present a considerable homogeneity in the most essential characteristics; but differences of habitat and the mixture of foreign elements Lave caused their secondary characters, both exterior and anatomical, to vary within considerable limits. Consequently, they are divided into a considerable number of groups—groups which are increasing. The Soodanian group, which presents the most complete exemplification of the general type, occupies all the space comprised between the Sahara on the north, Senegambia on the west, Guinea on the south, and the valley of the upper Nile on the east. The Soodanians may be classified as eastern and western. The cranial capacity of the western Soodanians is probably inferior to that of all the other negro races of the same type, and exhibits a most pronounced dolicocephaly. The eastern Soodanians approach this type, but some of its most characteristic marks are-less distinct in them. To them may be attached the negroes living on the banks of the upper Nile and the great lakes. Furthermore, a great variety is apparent among the races, and the ethnic mixtures are considerable. Africa is not, in fact, that stationary land which it is generally figured to be. It has, like the other continents, its grand movements of people and races. A current which is sometimes slow, sometimes more or less rapid, which seems to have existed for several centuries, is drawing the negro populations from the interior. Northeast of the Gulf of Guinea, toward the coast, the nature and importance of this movement, which is pushing the population from east to west, can be appreciated best at the Gaboon. There the Gaboonese first subjugated and absorbed the Negrilles, Akoas, and others; then the Bakales pushed them farther west; and the last are now pressed by the Fans, who are coming down from the interior. The Caffres are not a simple ethnic element, but are a mixture of negro and Bushman elements complicated with Arabian and even Malaysian elements. The Bushmen are the real indigenous race of Southern Africa; the Hottentots, the Koranas, the Gonaquas, and the Namaquas, are only hybrids of this race mixed in different degrees with the negro race.

 

Mr. Whymper's Experiments with "Mountain-Sickness."—Mr. Edward Whymper, in relating the story of his ascent of the mountains Chimborazo and Cotopaxi, has described the efforts which he made to counteract the "mountain-sickness" or sense of exhaustion and feverishness which attacks all persons who venture to great heights. Till his own attempt was made, he had not known of any traveler afflicted with the peculiar feeling who bad deliberately "sat it out, and had a pitched battle with the enemy," or of any one who had suggested the bare possibility of coming out victorious from such an encounter, yet, upon doing so, he felt, depended the chance of pushing explorations into the highest regions of the earth, and he was anxious to test whether his organization could not accommodate itself to the required conditions. Only three well-authenticated instances were known of persons who had reached the height of twenty thousand feet, and their stories gave no light on the subject; but a person who had reached the height of between seventeen and eighteen thousand feet told him that, though he never had suffered from the affection, he could not escape it at such elevations. On the first day of his ascent of Chimborazo, he reached a height of 14,400 feet. On the next day he reached 16,500 feet, and established himself there with great difficulty. "The mules were forced up to the very last yard that they could go, and, staggering under their burdens, which were scarcely more than half the weight they were accustomed to carry, stopped repeatedly, and by their tremblings and falling on their knees, and general behavior, showed that they had been driven to the very verge of exhaustion." Within an hour Mr. Whymper and his Italian mountaineers, the Carrels, were lying on their backs, incapable of making the least exertion, feverish, with intense headaches, and unable to satisfy their desire for air, except by breathing with open mouths. "This naturally parched the throat, and produced a craving for drink which we were unable to satisfy, partly from the difficulty of obtaining it, and partly from the difficulty of swallowing it, for, when we got enough, we were unable to drink, we could only sip; and not to save our lives could we have taken a quarter of a pint at a draught. Before one tenth of it was down, we were obliged to stop for breath, and gasp again, until our throats were as dry as ever. Besides having our normal rate of breathing largely accelerated, we found it impossible to get along without every now and then giving a spasmodic gulp, just like fishes when taken out of the water. Of course, there was no desire to eat; but we wished to smoke; and even our pipes almost refused to burn, for they, like ourselves, wanted more oxygen." He obtained relief by taking chlorate of potash, and in two or three days the party had become accustomed to the situation, and were able to continue their work. The next camp was pitched at a height of 17,400 feet. The more disagreeable symptoms had gone, but the mountaineers still found themselves "comparatively lifeless and feeble, with a strong disposition to sit down when we ought to have been moving." At length, having spent three days in moving their camp, and having passed a night at the highest station, they undertook the ascent to the summit. It was extremely difficult, made in the face of a high wind and through soft snow in which the men sunk to their necks, but it was accomplished, the measurement of the height was taken, and the return safely made to the camp, all in one day. The most notable physical experience of the ascent was the observation, at a height of between 18,400 and 19,500 feet, that "our steps got shorter and shorter, until at last the toe of one foot touched the heel of the previous one." Mr. Whymper's residence on Chimborazo "extended over seventeen days; one night was passed at a height of 13,400 feet, ten nights at a height of 16,500 feet, six at 17,300 feet. During this time, besides the ascent to the summit, I also went three times as high as 18,300 feet. When we quitted the mountain, all traces of mountain-sickness had disappeared, nor did it touch us again until we arrived at the summit of Cotopaxi." The camp on the latter mountain was placed about 130 feet below the loftiest point, or at a height of 19,4'70 feet, "and was the most elevated position at which any of us had ever lived. We remained there twenty-six consecutive hours, feeling slightly at first the effects of the low pressure, having the same symptoms as we noticed on Chimborazo; and we used chlorate of potash, and remarked its good effects. All the signs of mountain-sickness had passed away before we commenced the descent, and they did not recur again during the journey." The member of the party who suffered least from mountain-sickness was Mr. Perrin, the interpreter, who was in bad health from having led a dissipated life, and "could not walk a quarter of a mile on a flat road without desiring to sit down"; but he had lived for a long time at heights of between 9,000 and 10,000 feet, and had several times passed over a height of more than 14,000 feet; so that he was partly inured to the rarefied air. Chimborazo was visited again six months after the first visit, and a second measurement of the height was made. The mean of the two measurements gives 20,517 feet.

 

Structure of the Organs of Touch.—M. Ranvier has been much assisted in his investigation of the structure of the organs of touch by the examinations of the structure of infants. At birth, the nerves of touch may be found to pass into certain papillæ, on the palmar aspect of the fingers, immediately beneath the cells of the mucous layer of Malpighi, where they form a network of ramifications which, though distinct, are closely pressed together. No cellular elements are at this time mixed with the network, but a small collection of round cells exists beneath it. These gradually surround the network and pass in among its branches; the whole soon becomes united, and a tactile corpuscle is formed. Sometimes the corpuscle remains unilobar, but more frequently other lobes are formed in the same manner as the first one, and are joined to it. Hence it is that, in young children, the nerve-fibers which enter into the composition of the tactile corpuscles are separated by layers of cells, which, in the course of development, become pushed to the periphery of each lobe, and the most of them undergo a considerable atrophy. This fact suggests that they are not nervous in their nature, for the nerve-cells, so far from undergoing atrophy during growth, gradually increase in size to their full development. M. Ranvier has not perceived any communication between the nerve-fibers and the cells in the tactile corpuscle; the ramifying branches of the nerve-fibers, after a tortuous and usually complicated course, end in free, flattened knobs.

 

Influence of Physical Structure on Processes of Dyeing.—M. Gustave Engel has been engaged for several years in studying the influence which the physical structure of substances exercises upon the operations of dyeing, and has remarked that certain sands, composed of silica, a substance chemically inert, behave, in the presence of different coloring-matters and dyes, exactly in the same manner as cotton and wool. On examining with a microscope siliceous sands having this property, they are found to be composed of the carapaces of tubular diatoms, formed of rings placed one upon the other. Each grain of the sand is, in fact, a minute tube of exceedingly fine silica, forming a mineral fiber which, by virtue of capillarity, retains coloring-matters with the same force as do vegetable or animal fibers dyed under the same conditions, and that without any chemical combination having taken place, M. Engel has exhibited to the Industrial Society of Mulhouse specimens of silica colored with alizarine rose, with indigo blue, and with a deep green produced by dyeing in logwood silica colored with iron, in all of which cases the siliceous sand had been treated as if it were cotton. Other specimens showed that the same sand behaved like wool in the presence of certain coloring-matters, especially of those derived from aniline. The experiments then make known a mineral substance which has properties of physical structure analogous to those of animal and vegetable fibers that are susceptible of being dyed, the likeness being given by the minute central canal, which enables each of the microscopic tubes to absorb the coloring-matter through capillary attraction, and to fix it so that it will resist chemical agents in the same manner as do organic fibers similarly colored. "These examples," says M. Engel, "tend to prove the new fact which I have been trying to establish, that the physical structure of substances submitted to the process of dyeing is of much more importance than their chemical composition, even if it is not the only factor in the process, as my experiments make it seem probable that it is."

 

M. Soleillet on the Sahara.—M. Soleillet lately made a communication to a society of civil engineers on his recent journey in the Sahara. This journey, the fourth which he has made since 1872, was undertaken chiefly for the purpose of finding what products of the soil could be made to contribute to the traffic of the proposed trans-Saharan railroad. He discovered coal in the Djebel Aroun, saltpeter in the region of Ain-Sala; in his journey to the Soodan, he found the butter-tree, which has been known since the days of Park, and sent specimens of the vegetable butter to M. Thénard. This product furnishes a stearine which melts at a high temperature, and can be made to give a clear white light, and has already been employed by the English in tempering certain steels, and in oiling steam-engines. In his last journey, he discovered a plant, the Fernan, a kind of Fucus, the white juice of which takes the place of pitch with the Moors; incorporated into the wood with a hot iron, it makes an excellent calking for boats. Hoping to find in it a substitute for India-rubber, he gave some of the juice to M. Thénard, who extracted from it a substance having properties similar to those of India-rubber, except that it was not elastic. It could be perfectly vulcanized, and in that state was much like gutta-percha. An oil was extracted from it, and a resin which could be converted by heat into a beautiful and brilliant lacquer. M. Soleillet was prevented by robbers from reaching Timbuctoo, but beyond Ain-Sala he discovered a large extent of country marked by dunes running north and south, which were crossed by others running from east to west. Between these dunes were ponds of both fresh and salt water, which left, when they were dried up, rich, natural meadows. The country, having an area equal to about a quarter of that of France, possesses a healthy climate, and is inhabited by ten thousand people. Farther on is the mountainous district of Adrar, inhabited by an agricultural and commercial Berber population, with whom the Portuguese carried on an important commerce in the fifteenth century.

 

The Human Fossil of Schipka Cave.—A human jawbone, found in the Schipka Cave of Moravia, along with bones of the mammoth and a number of rude stone implements, exhibits, according to a description given by Professor Schaffhausen, of Bonn, some remarkable and suggestive peculiarities. It is a fragment, consisting of a fore part of the lower jaw, containing the cutting-teeth, the eye-tooth, and the two premolars of the right side. The last three teeth are still undeveloped in the jaw, but have been brought into sight by the breaking away of a part of the bone. The remarkable feature of the bone is its size. The development of the teeth is that of a child in its eighth year, while it is cutting its second teeth, but the proportions of the bone and of the teeth are those of a fully-grown person. The measurements of every part largely exceed those of similar parts in any child, and equal, in some points surpass, those of adults. Peculiarities were remarked in the shape of the fragment, as a retrocession of the lower part of the jaw, indicating the absence of a chin, and a very oblique slope of the hinder surface of the symphysis, as is observed in a higher degree in the anthropoids and in a lower degree in savage races and other fossils of men, such as the jaw of Nanette, with which this one has considerable similarity.

 

An Unpublished Letter of Sir Isaac Newton's.—At the conversazione given to Professor Helmholtz at University College, Mr. Latimer Clark exhibited the accompanying interesting unpublished letter from Sir Isaac Newton to Dr. Law:

"London, December 15, 1716.

"Dear Doctor: He that in ye mine of knowledge deepest diggeth, hath like every other miner ye least breathing time, and must sometimes at least come to terr; alt for air.

"In one of these respiratory intervals I now Bit doune to write to you, my friend.

"You ask me how, with so much study, I manage to retene my health. Ah, my dear doctor, you have a better opinion of your lazy friend than he hath of himself. Morpheous is ray best companion; without 8 or 9 hours of him yr correspondent is not worth one scavenger's peruke. My practizes did at ye first hurt my stomach, but now I eat heartily enow as y' will see when I come down beside you.

"I have been much amused by ye singular Φενομενα resulting from bringing of a needle into contact with a piece of amber or resin fricated on silke clothe. Ye flame putteth me in mind of sheet lightning on a small—how very small—scale: But I shall in my epistles abjure Philosophy whereof when 1 come down to Sakly I'll give you enow. I began to scrawl at 5 mins frm 9 of ye elk, and have in writing consmd 10 mins. My Ld. Somerset is announced.

"Farewell, Gd bless you and help yr sincere friend (Signed) Isaac Newton.

"To Dr. Law, Suffolk."

—Nature.

 

The Endowment of Research.—A meeting of the Fellows of the Royal Astronomical Society was lately held to consider the question of the endowment of research, when resolutions were offered by the Earl of Crawford, Sir Edmund Beckett, the Astronomer Royal, Captain Noble, and others, expressing opinions adverse to the granting of public money for scientific research where it does not appear that results useful to the public will be obtained, or where the researches proposed are likely to be undertaken by private individuals or public bodies, as not tending to the real advancement of science; disapproving the foundation of a physical observatory at the national expense; recommending the discontinuance of the Government grant to the Committee on Solar Physics; and calling for the publication of full accounts of all money expended by the Government for scientific purposes, and clear definitions of the nature of the work to be undertaken. The resolutions gave way to an amendment, which was adopted, declaring that no sufficient reason existed at present why the Society, in its corporate capacity, should express an opinion on the subject.

 

Frost-formed Earth-Beds.—Professor W. C. Kerr contributes to the "American Journal of Science" some observations on the superficial earths which cover the rocks of the Middle and South Atlantic States for a depth of from a few feet to twenty or thirty feet, and sometimes twice as much. The earths are easily discovered to be for the most part the result of the decomposition in situ of the exposed edges of the underlying strata, the vertical and highly inclined bedding lines of which are distinctly traceable by the eye through the earth-covering, and are seen to pass by insensible gradations into the undecayed rock beneath. The question is discussed, by what agency, and when, was this decomposition effected. The beds present, generally, unstratified masses of earth, interspersed with pebbles and coarser stones, with a general tendency of the heavier fragments to seek the bottom, or to descend, like a stream, to the lower levels of the formation. Indications of a proper stratification by the action of water are seldom present; and such action is excluded by the most obvious features of the deposits. The appearances point rather to a settling by some kind of movement of the mass. A clew to the origin of the beds is given by the mineral veins which rise to the level of their floors. Fragments of the mineral are thickly scattered around them, and prove to be identical with the pebbles with which the earth is interspersed. The pebbles, then, originate from the veins, which have been broken up by the same agency that has caused the decomposition of the stratified rock. This agency Professor Kerr believes to have been the action of the frost of the glacial period, which, as we infer from observations made in northern latitudes, may readily have penetrated the rocks to the depth indicated by the character of the beds, and, constituting what might be called an earth-glacier, would have produced the same movements of the mass and of the particles among themselves as are seen to occur in the true glacier, differing only in amount. The deposits might then be called frost-drift, as distinguished from proper glacial drift. Instances of veins in course of actual disintegration are mentioned in the paper. In cutting a hill for the extension of Market Street in Philadelphia, in 18*76, bands of hornblende and chlorite were found decomposed, drawn out, and bent over, as if in course of being carried down the slope, and a similar appearance is observable in a mica-mine in Yancey County, North Carolina. The gold-bearing gravels or placers of North Carolina belong to this class of frost-drifts, the gold and quartz pebbles being derived from the veins which have been broken down in the course of their formation.

 

Burying the Souls of the Drowned.—Whenever an Abchasian is drowned, his friends search carefully for the body; but, if this is not found, they proceed to capture the soul of the deceased, a measure which has then become a matter of importance. A goat-skin bag is sprinkled with water and placed with its mouth, which is stretched open over a hoop, looking toward the river, near to the place where the man is supposed to have been drowned. Two cords are stretched from the spot across the river, as a bridge on which the soul can come over. Vessels containing food and drink are set around the skin, and the friends of the deceased come and eat quietly, while a song is sung with instrumental accompaniments. The soul, it is believed, is attracted by the ceremonies, comes over on the bridge that is laid for it, and goes into the trap. As soon as it has entered—that is, when the bag is inflated by the breeze—the opening is quickly closed, and the bag is taken to the burial-place, where a grave has already been prepared. The bag is held with the opening to the grave, the strings are untied, and the soul—that is, the wind in the bag—is squeezed into the grave, and the burial is afterward completed. This rite is considered of equivalent value with the burial of the body, and the grave is treated with the same honor as if the body were really within it.

 

Alkaline Deposits from Waters of Irrigation.—Professor E. W. Hilgard, in his report as Professor of Agriculture in the University of California, observing that ordinary surface irrigation on alkaline lands tends to concentrate the alkali at the surface, proposes as a remedy underdraining, "which may so far lower the water-table from which the saline matters are derived, and may so far favor the washing out of the salts during the rainy season, that the latter will thereafter fail to reach the surface so as to accumulate to an injurious extent with reasonable tillage." The waters of Kern and Tulare Lakes contain an excess of solid matter, the quantity in the former lake being twenty-six times as much as in average river-water, and consisting mostly of carbonate of soda, common and Glauber's salts. The evaporation from such water when it is used in irrigation adds annually to the deposit of alkali in the soil, the effect of which must be counteracted by the cultivavation of deep-rooted crops, the use of gypsum, sub-irrigation, and the leaching out of the alkali from time to time by long-continued flooding and underdrainage. Professor Hilgard concludes, after an examination of the facts, that "there are, probably, few river-waters in the world of such composition or natural purity that continued irrigation without correlative underdrainage can be practiced without in the end causing an injurious accumulation of soluble salts in the soil." The Indian Government, after having spent enormous sums to bring water upon the fields, now has to face the problem of its economical removal by drainage, so as to relieve the soil of the accumulated alkali which has rendered it unfit for cultivation.

The New Eddystone Lighthouse.—The last coping-stone of the new Eddystone Lighthouse was laid on the 1st of June by the Duke of Edinburgh. The foundation stone was laid by the same prince as Master of the Trinity Board on August 19, 1879. It is expected that the tower will be ready for the exhibition of the light next March. The new tower is double the height of the old one, and is made of uniform granite. The light, instead of being fixed as at present, will be oscillating, and will consist of a powerful white, double-flashing half-minute light, showing two successive flashes of about two and a half seconds' duration, divided by an eclipse of about four seconds, the second flash being followed by an eclipse of about twenty-one seconds. The light will be visible all around the horizon, for seventeen and a half miles, and will overlap the light of the Lizard, where there are now eight miles of darkness. A subsidiary white light is to be mounted in an upper room, to cover the reef of rocks known as the Hand Deeps, which will be adjusted so as to be seen only within the area of danger occasioned by those rocks.

 

Sulphur Formation in the Soil of Paris.— M. Daubrée has called attention to a formation of native sulphur which is now going on in the soil of Paris. The mineral has been found in considerable quantities among the rubbish dug up from the Place de la République, presenting a crystalline appearance to the naked eye, and showing under the glass the octahedral forms which arc most characteristic of the natural crystals. The origin of this substance, which is found in situations that preclude the supposition of emanations of illuminating gas having anything to do with it, is evidently to be ascribed to the presence of sulphate of lime, old plaster, and various organic matters which have been brought together during the last two centuries in the filling up of the ditch that formerly encircled the city. The sulphur occurs at a depth of from eight or ten inches to ten feet below the surface, and over an area of one hundred and sixty by fifty or sixty feet, forming in reality a kind of bed or deposit of the mineral. Specimens have been obtained from it of workable sulphur, analogous to that of Sicily and other countries, consisting of a breccia of small fragments incrusted with crystals of sulphur, cementing them one to another.

 

A Vegetable Digestive Agent.—M.Wurtz, in a paper read before the French Academy of Sciences, has drawn general attention to the great chemical and therapeutical value of papaine, a vegetable substance which excites the digestive faculty, as opium produces sleep. Both these substances are obtained in the same manner, by cutting into the epidermis of plants whose lactiferous vessels are charged with medical juices. The Carica papaya, or common papaw-tree, belongs to the family of the Cucurbitaceæ, or gourds; its straight, cylindrical trunk, from ten to sixteen feet high, is terminated at the top by a cluster of large palmate leaves, which give it the appearance of a palm tree. The fruits, hanging in clusters under the leaves, have the shape of roundish cucumbers, and are much esteemed when ripe. The papaw appears to have originated in the Moluccas, but has been acclimated in India, Mauritius, the Island of Réunion, the Antilles, and a considerable part of South America. The milky juice which contains the papaine is white, slightly bitter, and styptic, free from tartness, has an acid reaction, and is so highly charged with albumen that Vauquelin compared it to blood deprived of its coloring-matter. It flows from incisions made in the bark and the green fruits, and is immediately bottled and sent to market either pure or with the addition of ten or twelve per cent, of alcohol to prevent fermentation. If pure, it comes coagulated; if mixed with alcohol, it remains liquid, and, after standing, separates into a clear liquid and a white precipitate, composed in great part of albumen, tibrine, and a considerable quantity of precipitated papaine. Alcohol precipitates from it crude papaine; this, after being washed in alcohol and ether, to remove fatty matters, is again dissolved in water. The precipitate from this solution is pure papaine, which, when purified by dyalise, has the composition of an albuminoid substance. Papaine, refined with the sub-acetate of lead, offers several distinctive characteristics, among which are: 1. It is very soluble in water, dissolving like a gum; 2. The solution makes a lather with water; 3. The solution becomes turbid in boiling, without coagulating; when it is curdy it sometimes leaves an insoluble residue in water; left to stand, the solution becomes turbid after some days, and a microscopic examination shows it to be filled with vibriones; 4. In the presence of a saccharine liquid, papaine acts as an alcoholic ferment, with an extraordinary energy and promptitude, but the digestive property may be arrested by the application of benzoic or salicylic acid. The most important property of papaine, and one which puts it in the rank of the most powerful digestive ferments, is its action on meats. One part of papaine will digest and transform into soluble peptone from two hundred and fifty to three hundred parts of meat. Its solubility in different fluids allows it to be used in a great many pharmaceutical forms; and, being a vegetable juice, it can be preserved with more stability than animal ferments, and can be kept indefinitely when dry.