Popular Science Monthly/Volume 26/January 1885/Popular Miscellany

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Popular Science Monthly Volume 26 January 1885  (1885) 
Popular Miscellany
 

POPULAR MISCELLANY.

The International Prime Meridian Conference.— he International Conference, for fixing upon a prime meridian whence longitude should be reckoned, began its sessions in Washington, October 1st. Twenty-five nations were represented by forty delegates. Rear-Admiral C. R. P. Rogers, U.S.N., was chosen President of the Conference, and Lieutenant-General Strachey, of Great Britain, Mr. Janssen, of Meudon, France, and Dr. Cruls, of Rio Janeiro, were elected secretaries. A number of American scientific men and foreign visitors of scientific reputation, not regular delegates, were allowed to attend the meetings, with the understanding that they might participate in the discussions on special invitation. The first resolution adopted by the Conference declared the desirability of adopting a universal meridian. A resolution was then offered recommending the meridian of Greenwich as a standard meridian for longitudes, but it was withdrawn to allow the French delegates to introduce a resolution providing for a neutral meridian, which should cut no great continent. To this, it was objected that no suitable observatory was situated in any place which such a meridian would pass through; and that the selection of a meridian so situated would require a new set of observations and surveys to connect it with existing longitudes, and a readjustment of seventy-five per cent of all the world's charts, at an expense of about ten million dollars. The resolution for a neutral meridian was lost by a large majority. The resolution, "That the Conference proposes to the governments represented the adoption as a standard meridian that passing through the center of the transit instrument at Greenwich," was then adopted, every state represented voting in favor of it except San Domingo, which dissented from it, and France and Brazil, which did not vote. The next resolution, recommending the counting of longitude in two directions from Greenwich, up to 180°, east longitude to be reckoned plus and west longitude minus, was adopted by a small majority over the proposition to count continuously in a single direction to 360°. A fourth resolution proposed "the adoption of a universal day for the purposes for which it may be found convenient, and which shall not interfere with the use of local or other standard times where desirable." The fifth resolution recommends "That the universal day is to be a mean solar day, is to begin for all the world at the moment of mean midnight of the initial meridian coinciding with the beginning of the civil day and date of that meridian, and is to be counted from zero up to twenty-four hours"; the sixth, "That the Conference expresses the hope that as soon as may be practicable the astronomical and nautical days will be arranged everywhere to begin at mean midnight"; the seventh, "That this Conference expresses the hope that the technical studies to regulate and extend the application of the decimal system to the divisions of the circle and of time shall be resumed so as to permit the extension of this application to all cases where it presents real advantages."

 

Characteristics of North American Flora.—In a paper read in the British Association on the characteristic features of North American vegetation, Professor Asa Gray spoke of the resemblances and differences between the flora of North America and that of Europe, and their causes. The trees of the Atlantic border are similar to those of Europe. Many plants—among which are species of rhododendron, cypripedium, and coreopsis—may be found growing wild here, which are cultivated in the gardens of Europe. America is remarkable for its wealth of species of trees and shrubs. Besides the variety of leguminous trees and the wealth in species of Compositæ noticeable in America, there are many tropical plants which extend northward into the United States.

 

The Cotton Production of Alabama.— Some curious facts are brought out in Professor Eugene A. Smith's report on the "Cotton Production of Alabama." This State stands fourth in the United States in the total production of cotton, and also in the product per square mile (13·6 bales). The highest product per acre in the State is reached in Baldwin County in what is agriculturally styled the "long-leaved pine region," and the next highest in Cherokee County, in the "Coosa Valley region." In a larger sense, the highest rate of production is obtained in the central belt, having an area of less than seventy-five miles, which gives from seventeen to forty-three bales per square mile; the next highest, in the "Tennessee Valley region," which gives fifteen; and next, the Coosa Valley and the "oak, hickory, and long-leaved pine" regions, which give thirteen bales each to the square mile. The product of the State as a whole is equivalent to a little more than a bale for every two of its inhabitants. More than fifty-five per cent of the colored population of the State is found in the central cotton belt, where sixty per cent of the cotton is produced; and it is observed that so closely "does this class of the population follow the best lands, that the density of the colored population of any region might almost be taken as an index of the fertility of its soils," while the whites are much more evenly distributed over good and poor lands alike. This, however, is not strange, when we remember that the colored people were introduced as agricultural laborers, and put where they could be most advantageously employed. What should be the best cotton-lands begin to show signs of exhaustion through long and improvident cultivation. This is a logical result of the character of the laborers, who are unintelligent and not interested in keeping up the quality of the land, and of the inability or indisposition of owners to invest in improvements looking beyond the present year's crop. The general custom of depending upon advances of credit on the faith of the next year's crop has its influence in promoting deterioration of the soil. As cotton is the only crop which will always bring ready money, the planting of that staple is usually insisted on by the merchants making the advance, and it is also selected by the farmer as the security to be offered. In this way it comes to be the paramount crop, and little chance is given for rotation with other crops.

 

Economy of Light.—In a paper before the American Association, on the "Economy of the Electric Light," Mr. A. Sterling stated that, for lighting a compact block, the incandescent light could be regarded as not more expensive than gas at $1.69 per thousand. Mr. Preece stated that the same quantity of gas gave more light when used to work an engine than could be got from it by burning it in the best gas-burners. Instances were given during the discussion where the amount of goods manufactured had been increased, or the quality of the goods improved, more than ten per cent, by the introduction of electric lighting. Mr. Preece explained the superiority of the electric light by showing that while in the arc-light a candle-power was obtained by the expenditure of one watt of energy, or in the incandescent light of two and a half watts, gas required the equivalent of sixty-two and candles of ninety-seven watts, for every candle-power produced. The most formidable obstacle to universal electric lighting was shown to be the great cost of the mains for conveying the electricity over long distances.

 

Velocities of the Krakatoa Air-Wave.— Professor Tacchini has found by examination of the Richard barograph that slight abrupt oscillations occurred in the barometric curves at Rome, on the 27th, 28th, and 29th of August, of last year, while the general daily record of the pressure was not essentially changed. Comparing the times at which these oscillations took place with the record of the times of the shocks at Krakatoa, he has deduced from them the conclusion that the wave of the shocks reached Rome from Krakatoa by the west, leaving the volcano at a velocity of 277 metres a second, while the wave moving in the opposite direction left it with a velocity of 296 metres. He further calculated that the complete atmospheric circuit round the globe was effected by the east, leaving Rome at a velocity of 295 metres, and of 318 metres for the wave going by the west.

 

The Wind as a Land-Carver.—A paper by General Prjevalski, on the structure of the plateaus of Central Asia, suggests enlarged views of the effects which atmospheric agencies have had in modifying the forms of mountains and valleys. Winds of excessive violence seem to have caused the fragments of stone to wear one upon another, and to have ground them up into pebbles, gravels, and sand; then to have carried the lighter parts of these materials to the valleys and deposited them there as a loess which has constantly grown thicker with succeeding years and centuries. M. Alluard has remarked upon an accumulation of wind-deposits that seems to have taken place on the Puy-de-Dôme. A temple of Mercury of considerable size formerly existed on the top of that mountain, but it has been covered up in the sand for nearly two thousand years; and, till some twenty or thirty years ago, none of the visitors to the place could have suspected that they were walking over such a structure.

 

Illusory Memories.—A curious question is presented by that experience of memory which nearly every person has probably had, in some form or degree, in which, when introduced to a scene or event really new, we have an impression, more or less distinct, of having met it before. Professor Henry L. Osborn, writing upon the phenomenon in "Science," suggests that it may arise from the dual structure of the brain, as the result of imperfectly correlated action in two images or impressions not absolutely simultaneous. The latter impression, being a repetition of the former one, gives rise to a feeling that it has passed through the mind at some indefinite previous time. Or, the false or illusory memory may have a real basis in some actual past representation which is identical or closely similar to the present one, or in some past images of the waking imagination, or dream-life. Plato conceived that these impressions gave support to the theory of a state of pre-existence in which identical experiences may have occurred. Mr. Sully suggests that the impression may be an inherited recollection of something that occurred to an ancestor. Lewes and Ribot ascribe the illusions to a false placing of a present mental image or idea. Abercrombie tells a story of a lady who in extreme infancy was brought to her dying mother in a strange room to be taken leave of. Long afterward, having grown up with no recollection of her mother, she went into the room again, for the first time afterward, without the fact with which it was associated having been mentioned, when the whole scene of the leave-taking came back to her with force. Had not the connection of events been clearly traced, this instance would have been classed with the curious impressions we are considering.

 

Velocity of Pulse-Waves.—Continental physiologists have determined that the velocity of the pulse-wave is about twenty feet a second, and that the rapidity of its progress is essentially dependent upon the rigidity of the tubes through which it travels. Dr. A. T. Keyt, of Cincinnati, has supplemented their observations by experiments to determine the effect of other conditions in modifying the speed. He first set himself to determine the precise influence of tubes of different degrees of stiffness or elasticity on the velocity of the liquid waves sent along their interior, and selected for this purpose, first a glass tube, then India rubber tubes of varying strength and firmness of pull, then tubes made of chicken gut, and finally the aorta of a calf. The experiments demonstrated that the velocity of liquid waves in elastic tubes is proportional directly to the stiffness and inversely to the elasticity of the tube traversed; and they indicate the important modifying influence which the state of the arterial walls as to stiffness or elasticity must exert upon the rate of pulse-propagation in living arteries. In the series of tubes which he used, the velocity fell gradually from 216 feet per second in a tube of glass to 12·75 feet in a calf's aorta. In further experiments it was found that the rate of pulse propagation is not affected directly by the manner of the heart's action, whether it beats quickly, launching a sharp wave, or slowly, sending a sloping wave; that, other things being equal, the pulse-wave travels more slowly along large, and faster along small, arteries; that mere distance from the heart neither accelerates nor retards the velocity of the beginnings of pulse waves, while the modifying influence of different pressures is small at most; that liquid waves travel along elastic tubes at the same speed, whether the liquid be at rest or freely flowing; and that the consistence of the fluid makes no difference in the velocity of the wave.

 

The Earthquake of September 19th.— A light earthquake-shock was felt in West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan, on the 19th of September, between half-past two and three o'clock in the afternoon. The estimates of its duration vary from five to twenty seconds. No damage was done beyond the displacement of light articles, the throwing down of a chandelier in the insane asylum, and the jarring down of a freshly built arch, at Columbus, Ohio. In some places, schools, a Methodist conference, a woman's missionary society, etc., were temporarily dispersed by the panic. An observer at Indianapolis noticed that the tremor ran from east to west, and another counted seventeen distinct vibrations. At Lawrenceburg, Indiana, and at Toledo, Ohio, the indications were that the wave passed from southwest to northeast; at South Bend, Indiana, the motion appeared to be from north to south. At Wheeling, West Virginia, it was from northeast to southwest. A Signal-Service officer at Covington, Kentucky, who was reading the thermometer at the time, observed no agitation of the mercury. Boat-captains at Detroit say there was a noticeable rise in the river at the time of the shock. The earthquake was also felt at London, Ontario.

 

Hibernation of Snakes.—Mr. Arthur Stradling is investigating the hibernation of serpents, with particular attention to the greater sensitiveness to cold which they show in the spring than in the fall. He had under observation during last winter twenty-six snakes of different species. Some of them fed last in the latter days of September; and then they retired to the hibernating place provided for them at intervals one by one, the first one when the temperature had fallen to 41°, the last one on the 2d of December. Occasionally, some of them came out, under the temptation of warmth or light, when "it was most extraordinary, according to one's preconceived ideas, to behold these creatures, some of them roaming about on the tree and gravel when the snow was lying on the ground outside, and the glass, which they were almost touching, was flaked with ice; even the pseudo-tropical specimens remained out until the temperature was much lower than that which seems to render our English species dormant. Though prepared for a well-marked difference in the temperatures of their retreat and reappearance, I had no idea that it would present so wide a range. Another curious anomaly was exhibited in the fact that daylight rather than warmth seemed to operate in drawing them forth; they all sought the box at dusk, although my reading-lamp raised the temperature of the room from 2° to 4° above that of the chilly morning, when they would issue from the aperture." Mr. Stradling believes that the difference in sensitiveness to cold manifested by his snakes at the seasons of retiring and waking is explainable on the same physiological principles as those which mark the condition of all animals in the fall and spring. In the fall, vital activity is at its highest; the animal has accumulated a coating of fat under its skin, and a store of combustible matter within to last it through the winter, and is able to endure much more cold than in the spring, when its vitality is weakened and its fat coat and surplus aliment are consumed.

 

Krakatan's Present Condition.—MM. Breon and Korthals, having just visited Krakatau and the region devastated by last year's eruption, have made a report upon the present condition of affairs there. The formerly flourishing city of Telok Betong no longer exists. The splendid vegetation of the Island of Seboukou has been destroyed by the joint action of the sea and the storm of hot cinders. The Island of Lebesia is completely covered with cinders and pumice. From the south, the Island of Krakatau presents the ordinary profile of volcanic cones. An appearance, when seen from a distance, as of clouds of vapor playing over the scarp, seems to indicate the existence of fumeroles; but on a nearer approach these clouds prove to be only masses of dust rising from land-slides which are continuously taking place. The travelers tried several times to approach the mountain from this side to obtain specimens, but were always repelled by a terrible bombardment of projectiles of every size.^ They succeeding in landing from the west, where there were no slides. Thence they were able to see distinctly, in the scarp, beds of rocks lying one upon another, separated only by small beds of siliceous tufa, as in all volcanic countries. The rocks apparently belong to the family of basalts, consisting of labradorites containing very little peridote. The recent eruption afforded products of a very different character, very acid pumices, seventy-two per cent of silica with plagioclase, bronzite, and magnetite. The former substance, which has, by emulsion with the gases, formed pumices, is a bottle-green glass, pieces of which may be found in the recent pumice-beds. Evidences were observed of a former acid eruption of the volcano.

 

Major Powell on American Languages. —Major Powell, in his paper at the British Association on the "Classification of American Languages," expressed the opinion that no other method of classifying the Indian tribes than by languages would be found satisfactory. The physical differences arc certainly not sufficient. The arts are no criterion, as they are readily adopted by one race from another. Institutions are more permanent; but still in some cases they are adopted, and they do not sufficiently distinguish the races. Mythologies arc more distinctive; and, indeed, it will generally be found that tribes speaking languages of one stock have similar mythological beliefs. There are in North America about eighty linguistic stocks, and as many mythologies. Major Powell proposed some important reforms, with a view to simplification and uniformity in the nomenclature of American languages.

 

Wanmpum.—In a paper read before the British Association on the "Nature and Origin of Wampum," Mr. II. Hale traced the use of that money across the continent to California; thence to the Micronesian groups in the North Pacific, where it is universal; and thence to China, where the money is said to have been anciently made of tortoise-shell disks, or slips strung on cords. The common copper "cash" is made in imitation of this tortoise-shell currency, and is strung in a similar manner, and is used in ceremonial observances, like the American wampum. This form of money may originally have been introduced from China to the tribes of the western part of the continent, by means of shipwrecked junks. A discussion having risen as to whether wampum was a real currency or measure of value, Mr. Gushing stated that it had a definite value among the Zuñis, Dr. Tylor said that the shell-money is in use among the Melanesians, just as other currency is in the trade of civilized nations, and when lent is expected to be returned, with interest; the borrower of nine strings is expected to pay ten strings at the end of a month.

 

Homologies between North America and Europe.—Herr Valentine Ullrich has drawn a comparison of the morphologies of North America and Europe, for the purpose of showing that these two continents, though widely separated, exhibit, in their horizontal extension and the conditions dependent upon it, such points of agreement as can not be found in a similar degree between any other two parts of the world. He suggests that they may therefore be regarded as like two organic beings of the same species; as alike when regarded in the aggregate, and exhibiting the differences constituting individuality only in the details. North America should be considered as a sixth quarter of the globe, independent of the adjoining continent, the boundary-line from which is easier to draw than that separating Asia from Europe. The line is that marked by the Rio Chicapa or Chimalapa, flowing to the Gulf of Tehuantepec, and the Rio Quetzocoalcos, flowing to the Gulf of Campeachy, the sources of which rivers, only about four miles apart, are connected by the broad depression of the pass Portillo de Tarifa. It is recognized that the degree of civilization and intelligence which Europe has attained has been promoted by its situation between the seas, by its easy accessibility, by the extent of its river systems, by its numerous harbors, and by its freedom from impassable mountain-ranges. Similar conditions in North America tend to bring about a similar inevitable result; and this continent, not only on account of the energy of its inhabitants, but also on account of the advantages of its topographical features and climate, is destined to be the rival of Europe. Its surprisingly quick development in greatness and wealth is the result of no accident, but is the consequence of favoring natural conditions, without which even its most enterprising population would not have been able to accomplish so much. By reason of those conditions, the American States are promised an important future, and Europe is assured against decrepitude and decadence. Europe has strongly in its favor the broken shape of its land masses and the convenience of its seas, which serve as highways to the distant countries they reach in every direction. North America possesses similar advantages, but in a less marked degree. It is vastly more extensive than Europe; but Europe has relatively the larger coast-line, and is much better provided with harbors.

 

Against Over-pressure in Schools.— Commissions have been at work in several of the German states investigating the conditions of over-pressure in the schools, and official action has been taken on their reports to relieve the evil, for which physical exercise has been found not to be a sufficient counteractive. In Hesse, a limit has been fixed to the amount of home-study that may be imposed, and tests of progress that necessitate much reviewing have been forbidden. The Saxon Government has issued decrees against excessive attention to technicalities and the imposition of useless exercises in the classical departments, and particularly against the "extemporalia" or dictation exercises in the foreign languages, which, it is said, are calculated to produce in the student "a feeling of anxiety and vexation instead of an agreeable consciousness of knowledge." In Baden, the teaching-hours and the hours for home-study have been reduced, and the memorization of Latin words is disapproved of. The study-hours have also been reduced in Alsace-Lorraine, and six hours a week of physical exercise imposed. A petition, signed by teachers, physicians, and others, has been addressed to the Prussian Chamber of Deputies, setting forth the mischievous effects of excessive strain upon the nervous system of scholars, and asking that an end be put to an abuse which "threatens, little by little to reduce the cultivated classes of society to a state of moral weakness that shall render them incapable of great and manly resolution."

 

Effects of Tobacco on Youth.—Dr. G. Decaisne has made special observations of the effects of tobacco in thirty-eight youths, from nine to fifteen years old, who were addicted to smoking. With twenty-two of the boys there was a distinct disturbance of the circulation, with palpitation of the heart, deficiencies of digestion, sluggishness of the intellect, and a craving for alcoholic stimulants; in thirteen instances the pulse was intermittent. Analysis of the blood showed, in eight cases, a notable falling off in the normal number of red corpuscles. Twelve boys suffered frequently from bleeding of the nose. Ten complained of agitated sleep and constant nightmare. Four boys had ulcerated mouths, and one of them contracted consumption, the effect. Dr. Decaisne believed, of the great deterioration of the blood, produced by the prolonged and excessive use of tobacco. The younger children showed the more marked symptoms, and the better-fed children were those that suffered least. Eleven of the boys had smoked for six months; eight, for one year; and sixteen, for more than two years. Out of eleven boys who were induced to cease smoking, six were completely restored to normal health after six months, while the others continued to suffer slightly for a year.

 

Danger from Overhead Wires.—Professor Sylvanus P. Thompson mentions as one of the most solid objections to overhead wires, that they are a permanent and absolute source of danger, because every wire of whatever kind deteriorates more or less slowly under atmospheric influences, especially in the smoky, sulphur-laden air of cities. Those best qualified from long experience to speak on the subject agree that the life of every wire is limited, and no one can tell how or when it will snap. The fact has been established by Professor Hughes that every vibration imparted to a wire brings it a stage nearer to a state of internal crystallization, when, its fibrous structure having become completely degenerated, it snaps short. He has measured the number of vibrations which determine the length of life of wires of different kinds, and finds it to be varying according to the material, but limited in every case. "Given at first a wire of ideal perfection, when it has swayed to and fro its allotted number of hundreds of thousands of times in the breezes, it must snap. But no such wire is attainable; all are more or less faulty, and can not be relied on, even with the most diligent inspection, when once set up in the smoky air." Numerous accidents, according to Mr. Preece, have arisen from the falling of wires, and a case is on record where an omnibus-driver was decapitated from such a cause.

 

Atmospheric Action on Sandstone.—M. E. Wadsworth, of Cambridge, records certain observations on St. Peter's and Potsdam sandstones, made several years ago near Mazomanie, Wisconsin. The St. Peter's sandstone is composed almost wholly of a pure quartz sand, and in the outliers of it, found on the hill-tops south of the town, the parts covered by the soil were more or less friable, and the grains distinct; while the exposed portions of the same blocks and slabs were greatly indurated, the grains being almost obliterated, and the rock possessed the conchoidal fracture and other characteristics of a quartzite. In the autumn of 1872 a block of clear white Potsdam sandstone was found, the protected side of which was friable, while the other sides, especially the one most exposed to the prevailing storms, was nearly a quartzite. This block was only about two feet square, and, as a test of the correctness of the above conclusion, the indurated surface was broken off, and a comparatively friable surface exposed. This locality was visited the following spring, when the fresh surface was found much indurated, and approached toward a quartzite.

 

Phosphoric Glass and its Applications. —At a recent meeting of the French Academy of Sciences, a number of articles were presented for inspection that were made of a glass composed simply of phosphate of lime. The new application is the invention. of M. Sidot, who has been carrying on successful experiments with it since 1877, and has made most excellent tubes, bottles, and retorts, of "phosphoric glass." Vessels of this substance are particularly useful in manipulating the fluorides, for phosphate of lime is not acted upon by fluorine. M. Henri de Parville foresees an interesting use to be made of phosphoric glass in connection with cremation. The ordinary part of that process having been completed, our ashes, instead of being deposited in a vase, will be reduced to phosphate of lime; this substance then converted into phosphoric glass; and the glass molded into a vase, a medallion, or a memorial statuette of the person from whom it has been derived.

 

Advantages of Woolen Underclothing.— The advantages of woolen underclothing, besides its warmth, and the closeness of its application, depend upon its better adaptation in respect of temperature to the requirements of climates and to changes of season than any other material for dress. It also has a special faculty for absorbing and distributing moisture that makes it particularly salutary next to a perspiring skin. A linen garment will absorb the products of transudation till it is wet and becomes sticky upon a moist and clammy skin, while flannel will rest upon a skin which it has nearly dried, and be only damp itself. Hence, the body wearing flannel is in the best condition to resist the after-chills that follow great perspiration. The irritation caused by flannel, which is brought up as an objection against it, is an accompaniment only of new flannels and coarse ones, and is generally a merely transient condition.

 

Patagonian Geology, and a Former Southern Continent.—Señor F. P. Moreno has communicated to the Argentine Scientific Society the results of geological explorations which he has made in Patagonia, beginning in 1876. In the ascent of the Santa Cruz, at five degrees above where Darwin had given up a further exploration of that river, he came upon a country roughly cut up by canons, and presenting most of the peculiar features of our "Bad Lands." About halfway between the mouth of this river and the Andes, he discovered a region "forming the base of a high terrace, surmounted by high peaks that gave it the aspect of a half-ruined Gothic cathedral, exceedingly rich in tertiary mammalia. In the upper part of this formation, which was about two hundred and fifty metres high and one hundred and fifty metres broad, were discovered, beneath the superficial layers of glacial détritus, several alternating lacustrine and marine beds indicating successive immersions and emersions. In them the three divisions of the Tertiary period were represented by very distinct mammalian fossils corresponding with ancient forms of marsupials, pachyderms, edentates, rodents, and carnivores. Perhaps one of the most curious features of these fossils was the number of transitional forms among them; an animal combining features of the marsupials, the land carnivores, and the pinnipeds, in such a way "that, if the remains did not exist and we should describe an animal possessing all their characteristics, we should be thought to be imagining some fabulous monster"; animals of an order intermediate between the ungulates and the rodents; and a molar, "which can be attributed only to a gigantic cabiai, or a dwarf elephant." This fauna is more ancient than the Argentine mammalian fauna, and is probably quite as comprehensive. The discoveries have thrown a new light on the geological history of South America; for Patagonia was formerly regarded as of marine origin, but they prove much of it to have been terrestrial and lacustrine. They also lend some weight to the opinion expressed by Señor Moreno that, at the beginning of the Tertiary period, a vast continent, of which Patagonia was a part, extended east and west. The rich fauna and the luxuriant vegetation, evidences of which are also found, could not have come down from regions nearer the equator, as has been supposed, that is, from more favorable to less favorable conditions, but must have originated in this region, and pushed up toward the tropic under the influence of the growing cold that came upon the country. The southern part of the continent still shows signs of oscillation. An elevation of one hundred and fifty metres would consolidate the land with Tierra del Fuego and the Falkland Islands into a continent as wide as Africa at the Orange River An elevation of less than two thousand metres would unite this land with South Georgia, South Sandwich Land, and the Antarctic Continent. The chain of the Andes has not the same continuity in these regions as in the north of the continent. The labyrinth of islands and channels constituting the Straits of Magellan and Le Maire is only a continuation of the isolated moraines and canons, now dry, which so singularly break up the ground of Patagonia. The presence of marsupials and the seventy-seven common species of plants likewise point to the possibility of a former nearer relation to Australia and New Zealand than now exists.

 

Wine-Statistics of the World.—The greatest wine-producing country of the earth is France, which also furnishes the greatest variety and the most-sought-for wines. The total production of the country has fluctuated greatly in late years, on account of the ravages of the phylloxera. It was nearly 2,246,000,000 gallons, wine measure, in 1875, and less than 689,000,000 gallons in 1879. The average is estimated at 1,456,000,000 gallons. The vine is cultivated in all but nine of the eighty-six departments, but most extensively in the southern departments, that of Hérault leading the list. Italy ranks the second among the wine-lands, with an average production about half that of France, or of 715,000,000 gallons, the total value of which is estimated at a milliard of lire. The export trade is growing fast and has become very large. Spain follows as the third greatest wine-producing state, with 583,000,000 gallons. The southern wines are in greatest demand, and the export trade is assuming enormous dimensions. Next in order is Austria-Hungary, with 371,000,000 gallons, a large part, and the choicest, of which is produced in Hungary. Portugal is fifth among European wine-lands, with 132,000,000 gallons, among which are the famous port wines, forming the basis of a large export trade. Germany, with only a small part of its land in cultivation for wine, and an annual return of 95,400,000 gallons, does not produce as much as it consumes, but imports from France and Austria-Hungary. Russia produces 53,000,000 gallons, chiefly in the southern provinces, or those bordering on the Black and Caspian Seas. Of the smaller states, Greece produces about 39,750,000 gallons; Switzerland, 36,320,000; European Turkey, 26,000,500; Roumania, 31,800,000; and Servia, 13,250,000. Belgium makes the smallest showing of all the European states that produce any wine. The total production of the fourteen states enumerated is estimated at 3,577,500 gallons a year. Wine is also a very important staple of Asiatic agriculture, and forms a notable item in the crops of all of Asiatic Turkey, Palestine, Arabia, Persia, Afghanistan, Bokhara, and parts of India, while in Cochin China, China, and Japan, it is of relatively small account. In Africa it is a considerable item in Algeria and the Cape Colony, and is made in only mentionable quantities in Egypt, Abyssinia, Morocco, the Orange Free State, and the Transvaal. The wine culture of the Canary Islands and the Azores has recently suffered greatly from diseases of the vines. The United States produced 23,453,000 gallons of wine in 1880, and it was worth $16,000,000. More than a quarter in value of the product came from California. Wine is produced in a primitive way in Mexico, Brazil, the Argentine Republic, and Chili. The wine industry has been developed to a considerable importance in Australia, and promises to grow.

 

Science and Industrial Development.— One of the demands of the times, according to "Nature," is for the co-operation of scientific investigation in the study of new principles with artisan skill, in immediately applying the new discoveries to practical uses. As among the fields in which such a combination might prove itself valuable, it is suggested: "There is great need of some system of light railways which can be laid down on ordinary roads, and so cheaply that the traffic available on such roads may be sufficient to pay a fair return on the capital. . . . The storage of power, such as that of the tidal-wave, with cheap and ready means for giving it out when and where it is needed, offers a wide field for invention, and may lead to the most fruitful results. The transmission of power to long distances, whether by electricity, compressed air, or otherwise, is a somewhat similar problem, which at present occupies the attention of many engineers and men of science. Lastly, the more homely subject of house-building offers at this moment special inducements to constructive genius." "Nature" fears, however, that the prominent part in speeding progress in this line of invention is destined to fall to other countries than England. The latest and most important movements in the direction of cheapened transportation and the storage and transmission of power have been made in France, Germany, and America, while, in respect to scientific architecture, "England stands far nearer the bottom than the top in the scale of civilized nations." This is because "in America, in France, above all in Germany, the union between science and art is far more close and cordial than with us. Every practical constructor or manufacturer is anxious to know all he can of science; every scientific professor desires to mix practice with his theory. Thus, on the one hand, we find ordinary engineers drawing on all the resources of mathematics for the solution of such problems as the proper section of rails or the resistance of trains; on the other hand, we see Clausius, perhaps the greatest of German physicists, devoting two long papers to investigate the working theory of the dynamo machine."

 

Antiquity of Fossil Human Skeletons.— Mr. T. V. Holmes, of the Essex Field Club, England, discussing the recent "find" of a human skeleton in the alluvial clays of Tilbury, showed that the skeleton was comparatively recent, though undoubtedly prehistoric, and added that geological position furnishes the only absolute test of relative age. The test of association with extinct mammalia is largely dependent on negative evidence. A hint on this point was given by the results of the drainage of Haarlem Lake thirty years ago. Excellent sections were made in all directions across its bed, and carefully examined by skilled geologists. Hundreds of men were known to have perished in its waters three centuries before, and it had always been the center of a considerable population. Yet no human bones were found, though works of art were discovered. Thus hundreds, or even thousands of mammalia, incapable of producing works of art, might be interred in particular strata, and yet leave no signs whatever of their former existence two or three centuries afterward. And, on the other hand, were extinct mammalia present in the Tilbury Dock beds, no additional antiquity would thereby be conferred on the beds themselves, but the period at which the animals became extinct would be shown to be later than had been supposed. Similarly, as regards the rude implements known as palæolithic, their presence could confer no antiquity on recent beds.

 

Gathering Edible Birds'-Nests.—The material from which the famous Chinese bird's-nest soup is made can be obtained in quantities at only one place in the world, and this spot has been visited recently by Mr. Pryer, a naturalist of Yokohama, Japan. It is at Gomanton, some thirty miles up the Sapugaya River, in British North Borneo, in two caves, called by the natives the Black and the White Caves, which are situated in a limestone cliff 900 feet in height. The Black Cave is 100 feet wide, by 250 feet high at the eaves, with a roof rising to 360 feet high in the middle. The interior is well lighted by holes in the roof, and is filled with clusters of the nests of bats and swifts. The White Cave is 400 feet higher up. Mr. Pryer discovered the material from which the nests are made in the shape of a soft, fungoid growth that incrusts the limestone in all damp situations, where it attains the thickness of about an inch, and is dark brown on the outside and white in the inside. The birds make the black nests from the outside layer, and the white nests, which are best esteemed, from the inside. The "moss" is taken by the bird in its mouth and drawn out in a filament backward and forward, like a caterpillar weaving its cocoon. A wonderful sight is witnessed at night, when the bats fly out of the caves in a score of flocks of many thousands each, with a rushing noise, and the birds come in in a similar style, and in the morning when the birds go out and the bats come in. Near the center of the largest cave, the explorer was shown a small beam of light from a funnel at the top of the rock, exactly 696 feet above his head. The nests are gathered from these enormous elevations by means of pendent, flexible rattan ladders and stages. On these two men take their station; one carries a light, four-pronged spear about fifteen feet long, just before the prongs of which a lighted candle is fixed. Holding on with one hand, he manages the spear with the other hand, transfixes the nest, and detaches it from the rock. He then pushes the spear toward the second man, who takes the nest off the prongs and puts it in his "game-bag." The annual crop is estimated to be worth from $25,000 to $30,000, local value, and much more in China. The caves have been worked for seven generations, without any apparent diminution in the product, although three crops are gathered in the year. The floors of the caves are covered with a deposit of guano of unknown but great thickness.