Popular Science Monthly/Volume 27/July 1885/Popular Miscellany

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Popular Science Monthly Volume 27 July 1885  (1885) 
Popular Miscellany


The American Association.—The next meeting of the American Association is appointed to be held at Ann Arbor, Michigan, beginning August 20th. The Association at its last or Philadelphia meeting expressed a preference for Bar Harbor, Mount Desert, as the place of its next meeting, if suitable accommodations could be secured there, naming Ann Arbor as an alternative place. It has been ascertained that, while hotel-room is not wanting at Mount Desert in July and the latter part of September, all possible accommodations are taken up at the time the Association would meet, in August. At Ann Arbor, the university buildings and the rooms usually occupied by the students will be at the disposal of the Association.


The British Association.—The arrangements for the coming meeting of the British Association at Aberdeen, Septemoer 9th, are nearly completed. The president-elect for the year is Sir Lyon Playfair. The general secretaries are Captain Gal ton and Mr. A. G. Vernon Harcourt, while Professor Bonny serves for the last time as acting secretary. The presidents of the various sections arc: A, Mathematical and Physical Science, Professor G. Chrystal; B, Chemical Science, Professor H. E. Armstrong; C, Geology, Professor J. W. Judd; D, Biology, Professor W. C. Mcintosh; E, Geography, General J. T. Walker; F, Economic Science and Statistics, Professor Henry Sidgwick; G, Mechanical Science, Mr. Benjamin Baker; II. Anthropology, Mr. Francis Galton. The lecture to working-men will be delivered by Mr. Harold B. Dixon, on "The Nature of Explosives." The other lectures will be by Professor Grylls Adams, subject not announced, and Mr. John Murray, director of the Challenger Expedition Commission, on "The Great Ocean Basins."


How Floras are changing.—Professor C. E. Bessey notices, in the "American Naturalist," on the subject of "Plant Migrations," a few instances in which certain plants have disappeared from the flora of a part of Central Iowa, to have their places taken by other species coming in from abroad. Fifteen years ago the Dysodia chrysanthemoides grew by the road-side in great abundance; now it is scarcely to be found, and is replaced by the introduced "dog-fennel," or "May-weed" of New England (Anthemis cotula). Then, the small flea-bane {Erigeron divaricatum) abounded on dry soils; now it is rapidly disappearing. Mulleins have begun to appear, and the squirrel-tail grass (Hordeum jubatum), which had no place in the flora, is very abundant, and has been for ten years. The low amaranth (Amarantus biitoides), which was rarely found, is now abundant, and has migrated fully one hundred and fifty miles northeastward. Bur grass, also, a most offensive plant, has come in, and appears to be rapidly increasing. Professor Bessey is informed by old settlers that in Nebraska the buffalo-grasses were formerly abundant in the eastern part of the State, but have now retreated for a hundred or a hundred and fifty miles, while they have been followed by the blue-stems {Andropogon and Chrysopogon), which now grow in great luxuriance all over the plains, where twenty years ago the ground was practically bare. The same is taking place in Dakota.


Color of Arctic Animals.—Mr. Wallace's theory that the white color of many Arctic animals is due to protective adaptation or mimicry has been disputed by Mr. Meldola, who speaks of some Arctic animals that are not white, and regards that color as having some relation to the radiation or absorption of heat. 'Mr. Wallace, defending his view, says that, "if the white coloration of the Arctic animals stood alone, it might be thought necessary to supplement the protective theory by some physical explanation, but we have to take account of the parallel cases of the sand-colored desert animals, and the green-colored denizens of the ever verdant tropical forests; and, though in both these regions there are numerous exceptional cases, we can almost always see the reason of these, either in the absence of the need of protection, or in the greater importance of conspicuous covering. In the Arctic regions the exceptions are particularly instructive, because in almost every case the reason of them is obvious." The Arctic wolf does not turn white, because he hunts in packs, and concealment is not necessary; the musk-sheep, yak, moose, caribou, and reindeer are able to take care of themselves, and need no protection or concealment. The glutton and sable are dark colored because they live in trees, and must look like them. The raven, living on carrion, requires no concealment, and continues black. Mr. Wallace is of the opinion that color has very little to do with the absorption or radiation of heat, because those matters are largely determined by the structure and surface-texture of the colored substances.


A Mystery of the Growth of Trees explained.—Mr. John T. Campbell relates in the "American Naturalist" his discovery of one of the causes of the phenomenon of particular tracts of land being covered with a simultaneous, nearly exclusive, growth of trees of a particular species. Some have ascribed the phenomenon to a peculiar fitness of the soil to particular kinds of vegetation, which he does not find to exist. His own explanation is very simple, and is to the effect that the matter lies wholly or mainly in the fact of the ground being in a fit condition to receive the seeds of the various species when they fall upon it. Seeds of different kinds fall at various seasons, and when the ground is in various conditions as to moisture, etc. Those that find the ground in good condition sprout and grow, if no accident occurs to remove the plants when very young. Mr. Campbell has tested this view in his surveys in the occasionally flooded bottom-lands of the Wabash River, and illustrates it by following the futures of the seeds of three species of trees. The balls of the sycamore or button-wood begin falling early in the spring months, and, if a flood is receding at the time, they stick to the soft, moist banks wherever they touch them, and particularly along the highest parts of the sand-bars. Were it not for the subsequent floods in the same spring, no other trees could grow, for these would occupy the ground. But they are easily killed during their infancy by overflows, and this is what happens to most of them. The Cottonwood is the next in order of shedding seed, and, if another flood is receding while this is taking place, it will have killed all the sycamores which it has covered, and sprout the cottonwoods. These in turn may be killed by the next flood. It is the turn of the maples next to shed their seed, and try for the ground. If either of these species succeeds in making wood without a flood, it will hold the ground, and its rivals will not be able to get a place. Last spring the edges of the successive plantations escaped the next floods after the seeds fell upon them, and Mr. Campbell could see along the river-banks three belts of young trees, and distinguish them by their general appearance. The upper belt was of sycamore, the second (downward) of Cottonwood, and the third of soft maple. In June a bigger flood came than any that caused the seeds to sprout, and killed all the young trees.


Water-Melon Sirup.—In response to the inquiry by Dr. H. Carrington Bolton concerning the manufacture of sugar from water-melons (see June number, page 287), Mr. E. A. Gastman, of Decatur, Illinois, writes as follows: "About 1842 the manufacture of molasses was carried on here in Central Illinois from melons. I do not know how extensive nor how successful it was, but I remember very clearly when a boy on the prairies near Bloomington that our neighbors frequently raised large crops of watermelons, from which they made molasses." It will be observed that the extract from Boyle's work communicated by Dr. Bolton mentions a "sirup," not sugar.


Madness and Crime.—In an address on "Madness and Crime," delivered some months ago, Mr. Clark Bell called attention to a condition of insanity under which crime is sometimes committed which is not recognized by the law and is not often taken notice of by the courts. It is the condition that exists when the man is perfectly aware of the nature of the act he commits, and of the fact that it is prohibited by the law and is punishable, but is at the same time inincapacitated by mental disease from controlling his own conduct. The most careful discussion of the question has been made by Sir James Stephen, who has proposed as a solution of it the authorizing of juries to bring in a special form of verdict where the existence of such conditions has been proved. It has also doubtless been the element of the case which has often prompted American juries to bring in some of those singular verdicts which have caused remark as contrary to the law and the facts. In Mr. Bell's opinion, "the time has come when legislators must face this question upon its merits. The able and masterly manner in which Sir James discusses it, the decisions in many of the American States recognizing a different test for responsibility, call for a settled law both in England and America, which would be in accord with the principles of justice and commensurate with the civilization of our age. . . . There is no doubt whatever that the uncertainty of verdicts is largely due to the popular conviction of the injustice of the law as it now exists, and as it is frequently construed by the courts. . . . It is a legislative and not a judicial question, and must receive public attention commensurate with its great importance in the administration of criminal jurisprudence."


Sorghum and Beet Sugar—in the United States. Professor H. W. Wiley, chemist of the Department of Agriculture, in his report on "Northern Sugar Industry," gives the amount of sorghum-sugar manufactured at the principal factories in the United States during the season of 1883 at 726,711 pounds. The factories are at Rio Grande, New Jersey; Champaign, Illinois; Sterling, Hutchinson, and Ottawa, Kansas; and the Department of Agriculture. The largest and most successful factory is at Rio Grande, near Cape May, New Jersey, where the soil and climate appear favorable to the production of the crop. A careful calculation leads the author to estimate that the average amount of sugar which can be obtained in marketable form from sorghum is 4·75 per cent by weight of the expressed juice, or 2·37 per cent, or 46·4 pounds per ton, of the cane. Besides this, two other sugars than the crystallizable sucrose are present in the juice, but they are not separable in solid form, and enter into the molasses. This yield is proportionately very large, and, if the production of sorghum-sugar should be carried on with success enough to make it a staple crop, the product of molasses will be greater than ordinary consumption can dispose of. The only other uses to which the molasses can be put will be as food for animals and for distillation; and the latter will be the more money-making. Each gallon of molasses will give a gallon of commercial alcohol. Happily, this kind of alcohol is said to be only fit for use in the arts. Professor Wiley remarks that the fact must be admitted that the present production of sorghum-sugar is not very encouraging after thirty years of endeavor; but nearly all the progress that has been made in it has taken place during the last three years. The outlook is better for the manufacture of beet sugar, which is pronounced an assured success on the Pacific coast. The five years' experience at the Standard Sugar Refinery, Alvarado, California, is claimed to have proved that beets raised in that State will yield as many tons per acre and are as rich in saccharine matter as any raised in Europe. During the season of 1883-'84 there were produced at this establishment 1,027 y 826 pounds of white refined sugar, while there were still in tanks at the time of making the report, in process of crystallization, 250,000 pounds more.


Corrupt Legislation.—The causes of the defective and corrupt legislation which appears to be one of the crying complaints of the present time have been reviewed in a short pamphlet by Mr. Simon Sterne, who also makes a general suggestion of a remedy for them. The causes lie in the methods of procedure of our legislative bodies, which are unsystematic, hasty, and unconsidered. The public good is often the thing least thought of. On the other hand, the predominant general motive is the desire of the party in power to keep the other party out; and each member of the body has some "axe to grind," either his own, or the axe of his constituents or of some private or corporate interest. The same was the case in England, till the passage in 1848 of the "standing orders," by which a complete separation was effected in the method of treatment of public and of private and local bills. Public bills are now placed under the wing of the Cabinet. Private and local bills are no longer treated as legislation, strictly speaking, but as petitions to Parliament for special immunity or privileges which are conducted by private parties, and are subject to a strict rule of procedure. They are tried as a lawsuit, in which the petition and bill are filed before the beginning of the session, "and opposed at every step, as a whole and in detail, by the Board of Trade and by every private interest which may be menaced or affected thereby. Counter-petitions, attorneys, counsel, and a trial, a standing and a day in court to all parties in interest before the bill can become a law, prevent wrong to individuals; counsel for the ministry for the public bills, and special counsel for the private bills, committees to aid them in the intelligent discharge of their work, prevent the possibility of working, by collusion, a public wrong." The details of these measures, which we have not space to follow, are carefully adjusted to secure their successful working. The prohibition of special legislation, which has been incorporated into some of our State Constitutions, is regarded by Mr. Sterne as unphilosophical; for there must always be exceptional cases which general legislation can not cover, but for which special provisions are necessary; and it is this need which is recognized in the British system. The prohibition, moreover, defeats itself, for it is evaded, and worse measures are passed for special ends, under the pretense of generality, than could succeed if they were presented in their real character. Mr. Sterne has proposed a detailed plan for a system of legislative procedure, modeled after the British "standing orders," which deserves at least to be thought over.


British Hens and Eggs.—By actual count (for a census has been taken), Great Britain and Ireland contain thirty million head of poultry of all kinds, twenty million of which may be classed under the head of "chickens." The laying hens, which may be estimated to constitute one fourth of the chickens, or five million head, may lay from seventy to two hundred eggs a year. It is safe to average the number at from eighty to one hundred for each hen. This would give four or five hundred million eggs a year. Between a third and a half of the whole stock of poultry are consumed every year. Some of the English cottages derive as much as twenty-two pounds, or a hundred and ten dollars a year, from their fowls, half of which is profit. The poultry are bought up lean by "higglers" or "hagglers," and are fattened for the market by "crammers," who make this their special business. The feeding is performed by machinery, by a rapid process, and the trade is a growing one. The home supply being estimated at eight million chickens a year, and the fowls being valued at two shillings each, we have an annual market value for this stock of £800,000, or $4,000,000. This does not include the turkeys, ducks, and geese, of which eight million are returned in Great Britain and Ireland. If the same proportions of these are brought to market as of chickens, rating them at five shillings a head, we may, by adding the proceeds from them, raise our poultry account to £1,000,000, or $5,000,000. It is impossible to calculate the number of eggs that arc consumed in the United Kingdom. If twenty million of the population eat an egg a week, that would be ten hundred and forty millions a year. It is known, however, that during 1883 there were imported nine hundred and forty million four hundred and thirty-six thousand one hundred and sixty eggs, and they were worth £2,732,055, or five times as many dollars; and up to the end of August, 1884, six hundred and eighty-one million six hundred and eighty-three thousand and forty had been received. The home hens are supposed to furnish five hundred million eggs. Adding these to the foreign supply, and valuing the whole at a penny an egg, we have Great Britain's egg bill, £6,250,000, or $31,250,000.


How Yakuts make a Fire.—The process of starting a fire employed by the Yakuts and Tunguses of Northern Siberia is quite elaborate, and is thus described by Commander Mellville in his "The Lena Delta": "To start the fire, a dry piece of wood is procured from the high river-banks, many sticks being cut with the axe and rejected until one entirely free from moisture and fit for kindling is found, which is then carefully split and kept dry. The best of the drift-wood is next selected and also split up and chopped into proper lengths. Thus far, so good: but the natives are ignorant of matches, and with only their flint and steel it would seem a difficult matter to start a fire, since they have no rags, either cotton or flax, or any highly inflammable material like sulphur-sticks. But here is where the Yakut and Tunguse ingenuity asserts itself. The buds of the Arctic willow are forever trying to peep from beneath their thin blanket of snow, and within these buds is a light flossy substance in the nature of thistle-down. Whenever he can, the native gathers a handful of these, and robs them of their down, which he then moistens slightly and mixes with ground charcoal, prepared by cooling a lighted piece of birch-wood in the ashes of his hearth. The dampened floss heavily rolled through the charcoal is next covered up and dried before the fire on the same board whereon it was pounded and the charcoal powdered. It is now an excellent tinder, igniting quickly into a hot and durable point of fire. But, in addition to it, some light match-stuff is necessary, and, to supply this need, a bundle of fine soft sticks, about thirty inches long, is always kept drying over the fireplace. Before the native sets out on a journey, or, indeed, as often as material is required, the old women of the house take down several of these sticks and carefully shape them into sword-blades. They then rest their knives in beveled notches cut in the flat sides of small pieces of wood, about three eighths of an inch broad, one eighth of an inch thick, and one inch and a half long, and the operation proper begins. Along the wooden sword, which is held against the shoulder like a violin, the knife in its gauge is drawn continuously and rapidly, and at each draught a thin coiling shaving drops to the floor or into the lap of the operator. A bag full of these fine curls—which, when matted together, very much resemble the American manufactured material known to upholsterers as 'excelsior'—is always ready for the traveling native, preserved dry in the huts beneath the sleeping skins, and carried in a fish-skin bag on the journey. So, now, with the materials at hand, we will start a fire. The native takes from his skin pouch a bunch of the ' excelsior ' about the size of a robin's nest, rolls it into a ball, punches a hole in it, and then lays it carefully in the snow. Next, taking a pinch of tinder from the bag which always hangs at his hip, he places it on his flint, and with a quick sharp stroke ignites and incloses it in the center of his nest of shavings, which he then lifts up, holding it lightly with his fingers spread apart for the passage of air, and whirls rapidly around his head at arm's length. At first, a faint, pleasing odor of burning birch steals upon the air, then a light streak of smoke follows the revolving arm, and then the heat within his hand notifies the native that a proper degree of ignition has been attained; he suddenly ceases his gyrations, tears open the smoking nest, and with a quick puff blows it into flame. Then depositing the blazing ball on the snow, he soon piles his fagots over and around it, and in few seconds his fire is in full blast."


Religion and Inebriety.—Dr. T. D. Crothers, considering the question whether faith and prayer, or honest intention on the part of the patient, can alone save him from inebriety, expresses his opinion as in the negative, and says: "In a study of ten cases on this point, I found that seven had been, before and after the beginning of inebriety, active church-members, had experienced conversion and led active lives of faith and prayer for longer or shorter intervals, depending on circumstances. Two of these were periodical inebriates, and had, during the free intervals between the attacks, led a most consistent Christian life of faith and prayer. One of the seven exhibited the strange delusion of religious mania when drinking; at all other times he was a quiet skeptic and doubter, but, when once under the influence of alcohol, he was the most ardent religious devotee, exhorting with great enthusiasm, and asking the prayers of every person he met, to save him. His mind seemed troubled with intense fear of failing to get to heaven, and every thought and exertion seemed directed to this end; but secretly he drank constantly, never to be stupid, but just enough to keep up a degree of excitement. This would last two or three weeks, then merge into a low form of nervous fever, from which he would recover and remain sober for an indefinite time. . . . The other three had been good church-members before inebriety came on, but on becoming inebriates left the church." Another case was that of a clergyman whose inebriate fits always began when he was administering the wine at the communion. After quoting a few other cases, pertinent but of not quite so striking a character, Dr. Crothers states his conclusions, which are according to the view he has steadfastly held, that "inebriety is a physical disease which must be reached by both physical and psychical means. All methods of treatment must be along the line of natural laws, and include all means, both physical and spiritual, that can build up and strengthen the entire man. Spiritual means are only valuable as they are used with other means, and where they are effectual alone they are the exception to the rule, and can not indicate any direct line of treatment."


Butcher's-Meat and Headaches.—The prescription of a diet largely vegetarian has long been known to be good for persons subject to attacks of headache. Dr. Alexander Haig relates, in "The Practitioner," a case that came under his treatment which indicates to him that this disease and its attendant phenomena are largely the result of a poison circulating in the blood, which poison is a product of the digestion of certain foods, especially butcher meat; and that a cure is best effected by cutting off entirely the noxious food, and aiding the elimination of the poison by the kidneys. The patient was a chronic sufferer from headache, and the afflictions that usually accompany it. lie was a hard student, and was most troubled in winter. On the adoption of a strict vegetarian diet, the attacks, which had been severe, ceased at once, and for six months of the cold half of the year there were only one or two slight ones, although they had been recurring weekly. A less strict diet was subsequently allowed, and gave practical immunity, provided butcher's-meat was avoided. It was also found that two or three tumblers of hot water taken every night at bed-time gave increased immunity, and enabled the patient to take even a little butcher's-meat occasionally without fear of an attack. The disease was evidently caused by impure blood, and that by imperfection of the digestive process. The connection with butcher's-meat was indicated directly by the facts in the case. It may be accounted for possibly by reference to Dr. Michael Foster's suggestion that the pancreatic digestion of the proteids in excess. is accompanied by the development of bacteria giving rise to fermentative changes; or by the suggestion made in "Le Progres Medical," that alkaloids are formed in the intestines during digestion similar to those that have been found in the cadaver, and, if they are absorbed in excess, or are not excreted by the kidneys, cause disorders.


Another Side to the Clothes Question.—"An Anthropologist" protests, in the "Pall Mall Gazette," that, if an attempt is made to impose European clothing on the natives of New Guinea, they will all be killed off. It is clothes, he asserts, and not liquor or immorality, that has been fatal to so many natives of tropical countries. The Australians and Tasmanians have been clothed, and exterminated, while the North American Indians have been left in their traditional costumes, and thrive. This matter of the natural garb of savages is one "in which Nature can not be safely tampered with. Whether tribes are found clothed only with a loin-cloth, or only with paint, it is the result of a long evolution, an adaptation to environment, and no foreigners should go among such peoples who can not adapt themselves mentally and morally to customs representing that environment. . . . In the day that these natives of New Guinea begin to clothe themselves beyond what has sufficed for their health, ' they will surely die.' The exact reason for this has not been satisfactorily shown, though I have been told in several places that clothing checks some delicate secretions of the dark skin in warm countries. . . . The germs of European vices are carried too often with European clothes. It is a fact significant of more than female conservatism, to which Mr. Herbert Spencer attributes it, that generally the women of a nude tribe are the last to adopt the fashion of putting on clothes. They are always reluctant, and sometimes show such shame in their first dress as a European would feel without clothing. In many parts of India there is a profound suspicion of the irreligiousness of clothing. The fakir is distressed even by the regulation rag upon which the Government modestly insists, and a fully dressed fakir would be scouted. The late Brahmo minister, Keshub Chunder Sen, expressed the belief that India would never accept a Christ in hat and boots. The missionary should remember that clothes-morality is climatic, and that, if a certain degree of covering of the body has gradually become, in the Northwest, associated with morality and piety, the traditions of tropical countries may have equally connected elaborate dress rather with the sensualities of Solomon in his glory than with the purity of the lily as clothed by Nature."


Persian Carpets.—According to a report by Consul-General Benjamin, of Teheran, the Persian carpets, the manufacture of which constitutes one of the most important features of the industries and commerce of the country, are woven chiefly by the women and children of the peasantry in the villages. A countryman will have a rug made in his own house, and will then take it to the nearest town and sell it for what it will bring. The rooms of the peasantry are small, and hence the rugs are commonly small. Of late years, a larger carpet has been manufactured for the foreign market. Four kinds of carpets are made, large ones and small ones or rugs, the ghileems, and the umad, or felt carpets. Most of the carpets intended for the covering of floors, of whatever size, are produced in the central province of Irak and in the districts of Sarravend, Garrouste, and Malahir, and are known by the generic name of pharaghan. They are more solid and massive than other Persian carpets, and arc adapted for rooms of large size. Large Persian carpets, which deviate from the usual shape, are made to order, and for an increased price. There are numerous varieties of Persian rugs. In some classes, such as Turkoman, there is general similarity of design, although no two rugs are altogether identical. In other classes, such as the rugs of Kerwan, Dyochegan, or Kurdistan, there is endless variety in design or texture. The colors formerly used in the rugs of Persia were imperishable, and rugs a hundred years old show no deterioration in tint. The introduction of aniline dyes at one time threatened the ruin of the manufacture of textile fabrics, but the use of those dyes has been forbidden by law. The ghileem, which is largely made in the province of Kurdistan, has a pattern identical on both sides, with firm and brilliant colors, and designs often of extraordinary beauty. Their lightness and flexibility qualify them for portières and table and sofa covers, and render them easy for transportation. The namâds, or felt carpets, are made by forming a frame of the thickness required, or by excavating a space in the ground-floor of a size and depth corresponding with those of the intended fabric. The hair is laid in this and beaten out with mallets, and a design of colored threads is then beaten into the upper surface. Silk rugs are peculiar to Persia, and are rare and expensive, although rugs of the finer types, with silken fringes and sometimes with a woof of silk in the body of the rug, are not uncommon.


Brazilian Oranges.—Oranges flourish and are profitable in all parts of Brazil, and the exportation of them amounts to several millions annually. The Umbigo, the favorite variety at Bahia, is without seeds, large, sweet, and delicious, begins to ripen about May, and lasts till September. The most common and popular kind at Rio Janeiro is the Siletta, which has a sweet and delicate flavor. The Tangerina is a smaller variety than the Siletta, many-seeded and ripening at about the same time, and has a deep orange-colored skin that breaks easily in peeling, with an aromatic odor. The orange orchards are generally situated on low and sandy land, convenient to transportation by water. The trees are planted along from February to May, about fifteen feet apart, and begin to bear in about five or six years, yielding then from twenty to thirty oranges each, and increasing their crop for ten years till in full bearing, when they produce from two to three hundred, and, in most favorable circumstances, one thousand oranges a year. The trees remain fruitful for more than thirty years. The cost of cultivating and attending a thousand orange-trees in Brazil is estimated at about seventy dollars a year.


Climate and Vegetation.—In a paper on the relations of climate and vegetation, M. M. Bergsman, of Flushing, reaches the conclusion that a mixed climate, with relatively mild winters and warm, sunny summers, is the best suited for the vegetation of the temperate zone. Corn can be cultivated only as a green vegetable in England; is profitable in Western Europe only to 46º, and in the valley of the Rhine to 49º, but in certain regions of North America to 51, and even under the Polar Circle in Norway, where it has the sun day and night. Plants much resembling those of Central Europe grow in the Amour region of Siberia, where precipitation occurs only in summer, and that season is warm, in the face of a winter temperature much lower than is observed in the most northern parts of Lapland. Radishes, turnips, rape, and the potato grow as far north as there are settlements, but in the extreme north the potatoes are only as large as walnuts, and the plant never blossoms in Greenland. When comparing extreme continental climates with extreme sea climates, the continental climate has the advantage. The extreme southern limit of phanerogamous plants is in the South Shetland Islands, latitude 60º to 63º south, and the last trace of vegetation, in cryptogams, is found on Cockburn Island, 64º south. At the same latitude in Northern Siberia is a forest of very high coniferous trees. The chief reason that corn can not be cultivated in Siberia beyond 62º, at Yakutsk, is on account of the constantly frozen condition of the ground at a short distance beneath the surface. In Europe, even, the climate of the northern parts of the British Isles is not suited for many vegetables and other cultivated plants. It is in Germany where almost all the plants of the temperate zone and those commonly cultivated can be found. Even in that country the summer temperature in general is only a few degrees above that calculated for the latitude. Germany is crossed in July by the isotherm of 68º, and Britain by that of 59º, but the difference in vegetation is not caused by the difference of 9º in mean temperature, but by the difference in the amount of sunshine.


Denudation of the Continents.—Mr. T. Mellaid Reade, addressing the Liverpool Geological Society on "The Denudation of the Two Americas," showed that one hundred and fifty million tons of matter in solution are annually poured into the Gulf of Mexico by the Mississippi River. This, it was estimated, would reduce the time for the denudation of one foot of land over the whole basin—which time has hitherto been calculated solely from the matter in suspension—from six thousand years to four thousand years. Similar calculations were applied to the La Plata, the Amazon, and the St. Lawrence; and Mr. Reade arrived at the result that an average of one hundred tons per square mile per annum is removed from the whole American Continent. This agrees with results he had previously arrived at for Europe, from which it was inferred that the whole of the land draining into the Atlantic Ocean from America, Africa, Europe, and Asia contributes matter in solution which, if reduced to rock at two tons to the cubic yard, would equal one cubic mile every six years.


Photographing Colors.—Professor H. W. Vogel has made a report of the final results of his researches on the means of photographing colored objects in their natural shades. Sensitive plates are affected only by the more refrangible rays, so that they present totally unnatural and distorted pictures, as to the shading, of colored objects. Believing that the sensitive collodion is affected only by such colors as are absorbed by it, Professor Vogel's efforts have been directed to making his plates sensitive to less refrangible rays by alloying the silver coating with a substance capable of absorbing those rays. His experiment succeeded with the natural colors, but he could not obtain an effect with the duller artificial colors. He then sought for organic substances possessing a power of absorption more intense and lying nearer to the yellow of the spectrum, and obtained in eosine and in various derivatives coloring substances which hardly possess more than a broad absorption band in the yellow, and with which he obtained the desired result. When these bodies were mixed in due proportions with the dry gelatine plates, the yellow of the colored objects appeared quite clear on the photograph, but the blue was still always brighter. Professor Vogel then inserted a yellow glass between the object and the camera, which partly absorbed the blue rays, leaving the yellow unimpaired, and obtained photographs in which the blue, as well as the green and yellow, and partly even the red, parts of the colored objects presented to the observer's eye the same vivid effects as the original.


The Objects of Bathing.—The object of bathing, says a writer in the "Saturday Review," is fourfold: to produce a certain amount of nervous shock, that should be followed by reaction and an increased circulation of the blood on the surface, resulting in a more rapid change of tissues; to lower the temperature of the body; to cleanse the skin; and to produce pleasurable feelings, and, in connection with swimming, the beneficial effects of one of the best forms of physical exercise. The nervous shock and the reaction from it, following the first contact with the water, are important points, and to obtain them the plunge or the douche is preferable to any other form of bath. To wade up to the middle and stand shivering and fearful of the momentary feeling of discomfort is neither healthy nor pleasant, and timid persons who dare not plunge boldly into the water should be content with the douche-bath. A large garden hose, with a high pressure of water, held at a distance of fifteen or twenty feet from the body, will give an idea of this most delightful curative and bracing agent. Sea-bathing differs from out-door fresh-water bathing in the greater specific gravity of sea-water and its consequent greater buoyancy and more uniform temperature, while the pure air, sunshine, and better sanitary surroundings of sea-side places contribute largely to the results. Mineral baths, as such, have no particular superiority over other baths of the same density and temperature. In addition to the greater healthiness and enjoyableness of out-door bathing, it is probable that the simple exposure of the body to the sun and fresh air is of real benefit, and contributes to the sum total of the good results. Cramps are considered one of the great dangers of bathing, but when they are fatal it is probably the result of syncope or fainting, from failure of the heart's action. A good swimmer in vigorous health would hardly be wholly disabled by a cramp of only a part of his limbs.


Structure of the Edible Birds' Nests.—Mr. Pryer, whose account of his visit to the Gomantin Caves, in North Borneo, has furnished a fund of information respecting the edible birds' nests of the Chinese, has published in a Japan paper an article correcting some misapprehensions that he has found to exist on the subject. That the nests are made from the saliva of the bird he regards as a physical impossibility, for a bird could not secrete in a few days a mass of saliva more than equal, when dried, to the entire bulk of its own body, and then do this nine consecutive times a year. He thinks that some saliva is used by the birds, the alga? being worked up in the bird's mouth in the same manner that mud is worked up by the Japanese swallow. Mr. Pryer at first thought that the black nests owed their color to their being made of the brown outsides of the algae, while the white nests are made of the inside. This is not correct, for the birds can use only the inside; the black nests are simply white nests grown old and frequently repaired.


How to sleep well.—In sleeping, much depends on securing a comfortable position. Lying on the back would seem to give the most ease, but general experience and practice prove that it does not, and it is liable to some definite objections. In a weakly state of the heart and blood-vessels, and in certain morbid conditions of the brain, the blood seems to gravitate to the back of the head, and to produce troublesome dreams. Persons who have contracted chests, and who have had pleurisy and retain adhesions of the lungs, do not sleep well on the back. Nearly all who are inclined to snore do so in that position. For these and other reasons, it is therefore better to lie on the side, and in lung-disease to lie on the weak side, so as to leave the healthy lung free to expand. It is well to choose the right side, because, when the body is thus placed, the food gravitates more easily out of the stomach into the intestines. Sleeping with the arm thrown over the head is to be deprecated; but this position is often assumed during sleep, because circulation is then free in the extremities and the head and neck, and the muscles in the chest are drawn up and fixed by the shoulders, and thus expansion of the thorax is easy. The chief objections to this position are that it creates a tendency to cramp and cold in the arms, and sometimes seems to cause headaches and dreams. The best sleep is obtained when the shutters are closed so as to make the room dark, and the windows are adjusted so as to admit plenty of fresh air. Early rising is not a virtue, unless the riser has secured sleep enough; and the best rising is obtained when the sleeper wakes naturally.