Popular Science Monthly/Volume 30/April 1887/Popular Miscellany

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Popular Science Monthly Volume 30 April 1887  (1887) 
Popular Miscellany
 

POPULAR MISCELLANY.

The Glass-Snake.—We publish in this number of the "Monthly" two letters respecting the so-called joint-snake, of which the one by Dr. Hammond gives a clear and correct account of the natural history of the reptile, and ought to dissipate all doubts as to the origin and value of the stories that have been told respecting its peculiarities. It appears that the rejoining of the dissevered pieces of the animal is the only part of the stories that does not rest upon a rational foundation. The Ophisaurus of Dr. Hammond is also figured and described in Wood's "Natural History," from which the accompanying illustration is borrowed (Vol. III, p. 51), under the name of "the glass-snake." After speaking of the reptile as a native of North America, Dr. Wood says: "In this creature there is not even a vestige of limbs, so that it is even more snake-like than the preceding species [Scheltopusic, Pseudopus Pallasii of Africa]. The generic title of Ophisaurus is of Greek origin, signifying snake-lizard, and is given to the reptile on account of its serpentine aspect. The reader will remember that on page 48 there is an account of the saurophis [Saurophis tetradactylus of South Africa, which has four insignificant, very weak limbs], a name which is exactly the same as that of the present species, except that the one is called the lizard-snake and the other the snake-lizard, a distinction which, in the present case is without a difference, so that the two reptiles might exchange titles and yet be appropriately named. The glass-snake is indeed so singularly like a serpent that it can only be distinguished from those reptiles by certain anatomical marks, such as the presence of eyelids, which are wanting in true serpents, the tongue not sheathed at the base, and the solid jaw-bones, which in the serpents are so loosely put together that the parts become widely separated when the mouth of the creature is dilated in the act of swallowing its prey. The glass-snake

PSM V30 D878 Glass snake ophisaurus ventralis.jpg

Glass-Snake (Ophisaurus ventralis).

is one of the earliest of the reptile tribe to make its appearance in the spring. ... It is generally found in spots where vegetation is abundant. ... It is fond of frequenting the plantations of sweet-potato, and during harvest-time is often dug up together with that vegetable. The home of this reptile is made in some dry locality, and it generally chooses some spot where it can be sheltered by the roots of an old tree, or a crevice in a convenient bank. It moves with tolerable rapidity, and its pursuer must exercise considerable quickness before he can secure it.

"To catch a perfect specimen of the glass-snake is a very difficult business, for when alarmed it has a remarkable habit of contracting the muscles of its tail with such exceeding force that the member snaps off from the body at a slight touch, and sometimes will break into two or more pieces if struck slightly with a switch, thus earning for itself the appropriate title of glasssnake. Our common blind-worm . . . possesses a similar capacity, and often uses it in rather a perplexing fashion. Catesby remarks that this separation of the tail into fragments is caused by the construction of the joints, the muscles being articulated in a singular manner quite through the vertebrae. The tail is more than twice the length of the body, from which it can only be distinguished by a rather close inspection. The head of the glass-snake is small in proportion to the body, rather pyramidal in shape. Along each side of the body runs a rather deep double groove. The coloring of this creature is extremely variable."


Antiquity of Speaking Man.—In considering the question of the antiquity of speaking man, Mr. Horatio Hale avails himself of the theory which was suggested to Professor de Mortillet by the structure of a jaw-bone found in the cave of La Naulette in Belgium, that palæolithic man, who in this case could with more propriety be styled the precursor of man, was speechless. The jaw-bone in question is destitute of what is called the "mental tubercle," or the "genial tubercle," an appendage peculiar to man, which is indispensable to that freedom of the movements of the tongue that is essential to the possession of articulate language. Such a speechless man as this one may have been would be, as Professor Whitney remarks, "a being of undeveloped capacities, having within him the seeds of everything great and good, but seeds which only language can fertilize and bring to fruit; he is potentially the lord of Nature, the image of his Creator, but in present reality he is only a more cunning brute among brutes." Having reached a certain level, it is impossible for him to go above it. Hence, the dead uniformity in the character of the relics of man of this race. The next race, the race of Crô-Magnon, offered in some respects the strongest possible contrast to this one. It possessed the genial tubercle, with good cranial development and intellectual powers, the refinement of which is attested by the pictures it has left engraved on pieces of stone, ivory, and bone, and sculptures on bone and ivory, the spirit of which would be creditable to any artist. It is impossible to suppose that people possessing such faculties and speech would remain long in an uncivilized state if they were once placed in a country where the climate and other surroundings were favorable to the increase of population and to improvement in the arts of life. Various calculations of the age at which this race flourished place it at from four to eight thousand years ago, which is fairly consistent with the accepted chronology of the prehistoric life of the oldest historical nations, and we thus have the early origin and sudden outburst of civilization in ancient Egypt and Chaldea accounted for. If a pair of human beings, possessing the gifts supposed, appeared in some region where the climate and natural productions were favorable, what time would be required for their descendants to become numerous enough to found the early communities of Egypt and Mesopotamia, and to spread into Europe and Eastern Asia? "The question is easily answered. Suppose the population to double only once in fifty years, which is a very low estimate, it would amount in twelve hundred years to about forty million, and in fourteen hundred years would be over six hundred million, or nearly half the present population of the globe. That less than a thousand years will suffice to create a high civilization, the examples on our own continent, presented by the Mexicans, the Mayas, the Muyscas, and the Peruvians, amply prove. And that the same space of time would be sufficient for the development of the physical peculiarities which characterize the various races of men, by climatic and other influences, is made clear by the evidence accumulated by Prichard, De Quatrefages, Huxley, and other careful and trustworthy investigators."

The Canadian Climate.—In a paper on "The Influence of the Canadian Climate on Europeans," which he read at the British Association, Professor W. H. Hingston said that the heat of the summer in Canada was more easily endured than the humid summer weather often experienced in Europe. The skin was called into greater activity, and the heat of the summer weather acted very strongly on the liver; but if European residents adopted the indigenous customs of the country, lived moderately and temperately, and led an active existence, their livers would give them no trouble. The cold weather in winter stimulated people to activity. The mortality in early life was large, because in no country in the world were there so many children, but the mortality in adult life was not large. With the exception of Malta, the Canadian stations used to be considered the healthiest posts of the British army; and there were really no diseases peculiar to the country, while many which prevailed in England and on the Continent of Europe had no existence there.


The Carpet-Beetle.— The carpet-beetle, which is commonly, but with no good reason, called the buffalo-moth, is a dermestoid beetle whose scientific name is Anthrenus scrophulariœ. It is a foreigner, and was introduced into this country from Europe in 1872. It has since made itself at home in every part of the United States. It is about one twelfth of an inch long, and is prettily marked with regular patches of white and red upon a prevailing black ground. It feeds upon the pollen of flowers, of which it gives the preference to spiræa. It is destructive to carpets, and to nearly all animal substances, in the larval state. Carpet-linings give protection against the pest to all of the carpet they underlie, but the part of the carpet near the base-board is unprotected, and is liable to be infested and eaten by them. It is there that defensive measures should be applied. The beetles are nearly proof against ordinary moth-ex-terminators, and call for stronger remedies. Benzene is one of the best of them; it is efficient, simple, not dangerous, and easily applied. It can be poured on from a tin can having a slender spout, with a nozzle that will let out a stream as large as a knitting-needle. Naphtha, kerosene-oil, and gasolene are remedies of similar character and likewise easily used. Kerosene and naphtha are a little objectionable on account of their odor; kerosene also on account of its greasiness, and gasolene on account of its inflammability. Ironing wet cloths applied over the edges of the carpet is recommended; the beetles are killed by the steam that is generated. Painting with corrosive sublimate bed-bug poison is a sovereign remedy for all vermin. The beetle does its worst work in June, July, and August. The larvæ live in the cracks of the floor during the winter; and it is feared that, under the present methods of heating, the habit of producing a second brood in the colder months is likely to be induced.


The Ruins of Quirigua, Central America.—The ruins of Quirigua, in Central America, according to the account of Mr. A. P. Maudsley, are completely hidden in a thick tropical forest, on the left bank of the river Montagua. They consist of numerous square or oblong mounds and terraces, varying from six to forty feet in height, some standing by themselves, and others clustered in irregular groups. Most of these mounds were faced with marked stone, and were ascended by flights of stone steps. "The interest centers in the thirteen large carved monoliths which are arranged irregularly round what were probably the most important plazas of the pueblo. Six of these monuments are tall stones measuring from three to five feet square, and standing from fourteen to twenty feet out of the ground; five others are oblong or rounded blocks of stone shaped so as to represent huge turtles or armadillos, or some such animals. All these monuments are covered with elaborate carving; usually on both back and front of the tall monoliths is carved a huge human figure standing full-face, and in a stiff and conventional attitude. The sides of the monuments are covered with tables of hieroglyphics, most of them in fairly good preservation. In addition to these tables of hieroglyphics, there are series of squares or cartouches of what appears to be actual picture-writing, each division measuring about eighteen inches square, and containing usually two or three grotesque figures of men and animals. The design of these picture-writings shows considerable variety and freedom of treatment as compared with the large-sized human figures, in the execution of which the artist seems to have been bound by conventional rules. The largest of the stone animals is perhaps the most remarkable of all the monuments; its measurement is roughly a cube of eight feet, it must weigh nearly twenty tons, and it rests on three large slabs of stone. It is shaped like a turtle, and is covered with the most elaborate and curious ornament, and with tables of hieroglyphics and cartouches of picture-writing. The greater part of the ornament throughout these carvings is formed from the grotesque representations of the human face or the faces of animals, the features frequently so greatly exaggerated that it is most difficult to recognize them; but a careful examination enables one almost invariably to trace back to this facial origin what, at first sight, appears to be merely conventional scroll-work. Forms derived from leaves or flowers are altogether absent; occasional use is made of a plaited ribbon, and a very free use of plumes of feathers, which are often most gracefully arranged and beautifully carved. The fifteen monuments are divided into two groups; in one the human figures arc all of men; in the other, of women. It might be rash to argue from this that women had attained a high place in the social arrangement of the people who raised these monuments; but there is one other feature that certainly may be admitted as showing an advanced and peaceful condition of existence, and that is the entire absence of any representation of weapons of war." Casts of the largest of the monoliths, of the turtle, and of all the tablets of hieroglyphics, are on exhibition in the Archaeological Museum at Cambridge, England.


Petroleum in Egypt.—Oil has been "struck" in Egypt by boring in the Jebel Zeit (Oil Mountain), on the shore of the Red Sea, one hundred and eighty miles from Suez. Petroleum has long been supposed to exist in the country, for the ancient mummy-cloths were soaked in it, and the exudations from the fissures of this very mountain have been used by the natives, from time immemorial, as a specific for rheumatism and skin-diseases. Oil was definitely mentioned as a production of the Red Sea country, and an analysis of a sample of it was given in a book published by Mr. Norman Tate, in 1864, but nothing more precise is known concerning the statements he makes. Some two years ago, M. Debay, a Belgian engineer, proposed to exploit for petroleum, and finally obtained a concession to do so, which was to expire on the first day of March, 1886. He started his borings after a long delay, and at last, on the last day of the life of his privilege, got at the depth of thirty-five metres signs of oil sufficient to satisfy the conditions of his contract. With continued borings an outflow of five hundred tons of mixed water and petroleum has been obtained, of which the pure petroleum constituent was estimated at at least one hundred and fifty tons. The Egyptian Government is looking out for companies to work its oil. It intends to avoid a monopoly, and will divide the land into portions, which will be ceded for a sum in cash and a royalty on all production.


The Theory of Earthquakes.—Professor J. S. Newberry defines an earthquake, so far as present knowledge permits it to be defined, as a movement caused by a shrinking, from the loss of heat, of the heated interior of the earth, and the crushing together and displacement of the rigid exterior as it accommodates itself to the contracting nucleus. As the nucleus contracts, the solid crust can not accommodate itself, moment by moment, to the loss of volume, for it resists by its rigidity and is brought into a state of strain. This is relieved from time to time, whenever it passes the resistance of the materials composing the crust, by a crushing together and displacement of the surface rocks. These are faulted or folded; that is, are either thrown into great waves by lateral pressure, or the arches are broken and fissures are produced at right angles to the line of thrust. The rocks forming the sides of these fissures slide on each other, forming what geologists call faults, in which the "throw" or displacement sometimes amounts to many thousand feet. Earthquakes, mountain-chains, and volcanic eruptions may all be considered as consequences of this readjustment. It is evident that the folds and fractures seen in every mountain-belt could not have taken place without great disturbance of the surrounding country; and as they have been formed, not all at once, but each by itself, and each one by many paroxysms, an almost infinite series of earthquakes is recorded in the structure of every mountain-chain. The lines of fracture which are marked by mountain-chains are ever, after the first disruption, lines of weakness, where the resistance to lateral pressure is diminished, and where the strain of large unbroken areas is relieved from time to time by displacements, necessarily attended by earthquakes. So along up the Atlantic slope of the Alleghanies there have been many earthquakes since the country was occupied by the whites. Not a year passes that we do not hear of several in New England, the Middle, or Southern States. As the population increases, the number of observers is multiplied and the number of structures liable to damage constantly added to; so that such phenomena now attract more attention and cause greater destruction than formerly. When the data already collected in regard to the Charleston earthquake shall have been tabulated, it will doubtless be found that the displacements which occasioned the vibrations were located along a line parallel with the Alleghanies and at a depth of from ten to twenty thousand feet, not under but westward of the city.


The Ornithorhyncus.—Dr. Pfuhl, in his lecture on "Animal-Plants and Plant-Animals," published in our last number, spoke of the ornithorhyncus as being a true mammal, and bringing forth its young alive. Such was believed to be the case till very recently. Mr. W. H. Caldwell, who has resided for some two or three years in Australia engaged in special investigations of the mysteries connected with the mammals of that country, has recorded the discovery that the monotremata, or animals of the order of which the ornithorhyncus is a member, are oviparous, and lay eggs, the development of which bears a close resemblance to the development of the eggs of the reptilia. He has read several papers relative to his investigations before the scientific societies of New South Wales, in one of which, before the Linnæan Society, he exhibited specimens that he had obtained in Queensland, showing the stages in the development of the animals from the laying of the eggs to the hatching.


Some Inherited Phenomena of Alcoholism.—Dr. T. D. Crothers, of Walnut Lodge, Hartford, Connecticut, has made a study of a class of phenomena which have not been previously described specifically, in which a liability to exhibit the outward signs of intoxication upon excitement appears to have been inherited from inebriate parents. He has found two classes of the cases: one, in which the symptoms of intoxication are present all the time; the others in which those symptoms only appear from some peculiar circumstances or exciting causes. In the first class, some prominent defect, such as idiocy, imbecility, or congenital deformity, is present to give the case a distinctness irrespective of the signs of intoxication. The symptoms may appear after birth, or be slowly evolved with the growth of the child, and come into prominence at or before puberty. Of course, all the varied phases of idiocy, imbecility, progressive degeneration, and malformation go on. The presence of a special class of symptoms resembling intoxication so clearly, suggests a distinct alcoholic causation. In the second class of cases noted, the alcoholic symptoms are not present, unless from some exciting cause (non-alcoholic), such as anger, fear, or sudden excitement. In this class are idiots, imbeciles, and defectives of all degrees, who at times display distinct signs of intoxication, that subside after a period. Often in these cases appear the common delusions and deliriums of intoxication; also, the semi-paralysis and stupor. Teachers and superintendents of asylums and schools for this class realize clearly the danger of excitement on these dements and defectives, throwing them into various states of mania, as well as intoxication. Several remarkable incidents illustrative of these principles are cited, the grouping of which makes it evident to the author that symptoms of alcoholic poisoning can not be trusted as evidence of the immediate use of alcohol; and that the excessive use of alcohol leaves a permanent defect or impress on the brain, which will go down into the future with great certainty. It may be concealed for a lifetime in the child of a drinking parent, but may come to the surface at any moment, from the application of its special exciting cause; or it may appear in some other form of defect, which can be traced back to the injury from the toxic action of alcohol.


Potable Water.—The unsatisfactory character of all purely chemical examinations to determine the wholesome potabibity of water has long been tacitly admitted. It has more recently been demonstrated that such examinations do not go to the root of the matter, for the quality of water is dependent on the presence or absence of certain bacterial growths. Frankland's combustion process, Wanklyn's ammonia process, and Schützenberger's permanganate of potash method, were all attempts to estimate the organic matter, and, to some extent, its qualities; but they, and all chemical processes, deal with dead matter only, or, rather, fail to draw any distinction between the living and the dead; and, judged by these standards, the water in which vegetables have been boiled, or a cup of meat-broth, or of coffee, would rank far worse than water containing a small quantity of enteric or choleraic stools, or even than the anthrax-bearing waste from a mohair-factory. Bacterioscopic examination of water, the object of which is to determine the bacterial life, or the disease-germs and their activity, has been employed for some years in Germany, and is making headway in England. By this method we are enabled to ascertain the number of living bacteria in a cubic centimetre of water. Koch's results showed the relation between this number and the purity of waters, as well as the effect of filtration, when he was able to announce that the numbers were, for Berlin sewage, 38,000,000; for the waters of the Spree, 118,000; for the effluent from sewage-farms, 18,000; from the Rummelsberger See, 32,000; from the Stralau water-works, before filtration, 125,000, and after filtration, 120. In the best well-waters it is from 30 to 60, and in boiled distilled water from 4 to 6. From this it appears that any number under 100 indicates an irreproachable water, and under 200 a potable one; while polluted rivers count their thousands and sewage its millions. Still, this method fails to distinguish between innocent and pathogenic organisms. Some of them can be identified by their mode of growth in tubes of nutrient gelatin, by their behavior with coloring reagents, and by other methods, even when in themselves morphologically alike and indistinguishable under the microscope. Dr. Dupre suggests an easier and speedier plan, dependent on the fact that some microbes can and others can not survive exposure to certain degrees of heat, and that while dead matter rapidly absorbs oxygen from permanganate of potash, it does so to a very slight extent, if at all, from the water itself, at least within a limited space of time. He is directing his attention to the points that the amount of oxygen taken from the water in its natural condition may be contrasted with that taken from the permanganate; that it may be contrasted with that taken up after any living organisms in the water have been killed by the application of heat; that a degree of heat may be applied sufficient to kill developed organisms or certain germs and spores, but insufficient to kill other kinds of germs and spores, and if this degree of heat be known for the several kinds of germs and spores, a judgment may be formed as to the nature of the germs and spores present; and that some substances, sterile in themselves, but capable of nourishing any living organisms contained in the water, may be added, and the increase in the amount of oxygen absorbed may be noted. Among the practical results to which Dr. Dupre has come, are: A water which does not diminish in its degree of aëration, or, in other words, which does not consume any oxygen from the dissolved air, may or may not contain organic matter, but presumably does not contain growing organisms. Such organic matter, therefore, as on analysis it may be found to contain, need not be considered as "dangerous organic impurity"; a water which, by itself, or after the addition of gelatin or other appropriate cultivating matter, consumes oxygen from the dissolved air at lower temperatures, but does not consume any after heating to 60° C. for three hours, may be regarded as having contained living organisms, but not of a kind able to survive exposures to that temperature; and a water which, by itself or after the addition of gelatin or the like, continues to consume oxygen from its contained air after the water has been heated to 60° C, is to be regarded as containing spores or germs of organisms that can survive that temperature. Whether the power of resisting a given temperature affords any clew to the innocence or malignity of an organism is a question for future biologists, and must be decided by separate observations on each known species.


Amianthus—Amianthus is a mineral consisting of a double silicate of hydrate of lime and magnesia with a little oxide of iron or alumina. It generally occurs in the form of silky fibers, sometimes nacreous and having a greasy feeling, qualities that give it a kind of organic aspect. It is incombustible and infusible. It appears to burn in the fire, but when it is withdrawn from the flames it immediately returns to its natural condition without having undergone any alteration. This property seems to have been known from very early times. The ancients are said to have used it for winding-sheets for the bodies they placed upon the funeral-pyres, the cloths made of it holding the ashes of the dead separate from those of the fuel. Whether this be so or not, the secret was lost, and amianthus was, till quite recently, nothing but a natural curiosity. The art is now practiced of introducing amianthus into woven goods and of making with it a considerable number of incombustible objects, such as gloves, garments, and safety-ropes. It has also been introduced into paints and protective coverings for wood. As it is a poor conductor of heat, is not attacked by acids, and does not act on metals, it makes a good envelope, and has been found excellently adapted to application at the joints of steam-pipes. The manufacture of amianthus is carried on by an English company formed by the amalgamation of three rival Anglo-Italian companies, which has control of the most important beds of asbestus known, particularly of those in England, Italy, Corsica, and Canada. The Italian asbestus is most sought after, on account of the length, fineness, softness, and flexibility of its fibers. The fibers of the mineral of other countries are shorter, harsher, and less easily separated, and, therefore, inferior. The fibers, the mineral having been passed through a rolling-mill, are stirred in a bath of hot water till they become very supple. The longer fibers are then taken out, washed, and sorted into packages of uniform length, to be spun into threads and woven into cloths, for garments of various kinds, or into cords. The shorter fibers are beaten into a powder, and then mixed with linseed-oil into a pulp very like paper-pulp, to which India-rubber is added to give elasticity; and this makes an excellent paint for protection against heat, particularly suitable for application to steam-conductors, boilers, joints, furnishing of every kind, and wood.


A River made a Nuisance.—The "Lancet" records the failure of the system which has been applied, with great expense, for disposing of the sewage of London by turning it into the lower part of the Thames. It declares it the greatest nuisance of England, and charges it with having made the Thames a cesspool throughout its tidal region. "Of the existence of a tremendous nuisance," it says, "and of the urgent danger to which it exposes the metropolis, there is no longer any room for doubt. Hard as the Metropolitan Board of Works fought, they were utterly crushed by the evidence brought before the late Royal Commission, and by he stinging words of the commissioners in their reports. They have, indeed, practically admitted the whole case against them by adopting a costly system of disinfection which could only be justified by urgent necessity. The disinfection, it is true, is a sham, utterly useless, and a gigantic waste of the money of the rate-payers; but it is none the less a confession of the existence of a nuisance created by the board, and for many years defended by them as a public blessing."

The Blue Grotto of Busi.— The "Blue Grotto" of the Island of Busi, in the Dalmatian Archipelago, which is illuminated by submarine light, was discovered in 1884, and has become one of the most noteworthy sights of that interesting quarter of the Adriatic. The Island of Busi, which is inhabited and well cultivated, takes its name from the Venetian busi (Italian buchi) caves, on account of the dozen, more or less, of grottoes that exist upon it. It lies southwest of the Island of Lissa, and being only about five miles from the port of Cornise on that island, can be reached from it after about seventy or eighty minutes of rowing. It is rich in subterranean and submarine caverns, which have been only partly explored. Count von Ransounet is acquainted with ten of these, all accessible only by boat. The largest of them, which is called Medvedina, or the Bear's Cave, is about five hundred feet long, and presents a spacious interior with imposing rock-effects. The most remarkable of the caves so far explored, is the Blue Grotto, which is called by the inhabitants the ballon-cave, from the name of the rock promontory Ballon, on the northeastern coast of the island under which it lies. The entrance to the cave is in the farthest recess of a bay on the northeast side of the island, and is about seven feet wide and five feet high, with sixteen feet depth of water, and spacious enough to admit, when the sea is still, a boat carrying ten or twelve persons. This entrance forms a thread-like canal, inclosed between steep walls, which is shrouded in its first half in deep darkness; but the farther one presses in, the more evident and clear becomes a peculiar twilight effect, by which one can soon discern the breadth and height of the interior, illuminated by a surprising play of colors. At first the water under the keel of the boat appears of a dark blue-green; then the color gradually changes to a clear blue, and at last to an azure, which grows lighter and brighter. Soon the visitor finds himself set, as if by enchantment, into a broad, high space, the ground of which is filled with a brilliant, shimmering, blue flood, whence streams out a soft light, covering everything visible with a strange glamour. The illumination appears to come from under the sea. The oars appear silver-white in the transparent blue flood, and the stones under the water like semi-lustrous silver, while the waves themselves exhibit the various changes of the shades of blue. The hollow of the grotto is thirty-one metres long, from fifteen to seventeen metres wide, and between sixteen and eighteen metres deep. The water, which appears to extend still farther under the rocks, receives its light through a submarine door of ten and a half by eighteen metres; and the silvery shimmer with which the submerged rocks are lighted is an effect of the sunlight reflected from the water. This effect is particularly charming on a rock-bridge under the water, extending clear across the cave. Beyond this bridge may be seen, through a cleft in the rock, a second blue cave of smaller dimensions and different light-effects.


British Health Resorts.—The health resorts of Great Britain have the advantages—to Englishmen—of being convenient of access and of being conducted according to British ideas of comfort. Their disadvantages are those of a cool and humid climate, and the long, dreary, sunless winter. The sea-side resorts are probably the most important. Of them, those of the east coasts—Ramsgate, Cromer, Redcar, and Whitby—are stimulating; those of the west, especially of the southwest—Bournemouth, Torquay, Penzance, and Ilfracombe—sedative; and those upon the southeastern littoral—Eastbourne, Folke-stone, and Hastings—hold an intermediate position. The selection must depend upon the physician's appreciation of the finer points in his patient's case, but it is far from being a matter of indifference, and the indiscriminate recommendation of sea-air, without regard to the different watering-places, is an inexcusable error. If the invalid is intolerant of marine influence, he may make a selection from a variety of inland resorts. Tunbridge Wells is mild and sheltered, Malvern is more tonic, and Buxton, Ilkley, Harrogate, Weymouth, and Crieff are bracing and stimulant. The gouty and rheumatic may find benefit at the mineral springs of Bath, Cheltenham, Droitwich, Matlock, Leamington, Woodhall, and Harrogate in England, Moffat and Strathpeffer in Scotland, and Ballynahinch and Lisdoonvarna in Ireland. But these places are now not so much in fashion or so attractive as the Continental resorts, and afford, as Dr. Yeo has pointed out, an inferior variety of advantages. The great variableness of English seasons is, however, very embarrassing in the case of consumptive patients, although there are places among the milder resorts where benefit is derived in favorable seasons. Great Britain is, however, wholly without places where the rarefied air of great altitudes can be applied to cures, as at Davos Platz, and will probably never have them, for the British winter presents meteorological conditions diametrically opposed to the brilliant sunshine and intense dryness to which the climate of the upper Alps owes a large part of its efficacy.


The Inconveniences of Law-Codes.—Mr. E. T. Merrick, in a letter to David Dudley Field and others, committee on the delay and uncertainty of judicial administration, objects to the formation of codes, as tending to give laws too rigid a character. According to his reading and observation, "the transition from the elastic system of principles, resting on pure reason, to a system of positive law, is marked at first by a liberal interpretation corresponding more to the equity of the older system. But, little by little, from veneration or some other motive or cause, the words of the statute law are considered of more sanctity and come to be more rigorously executed, until at last it is thought that it is of more importance that the law should be strictly observed than that equity should be done. How often have the judges felt constramed to enforce statutory laws, against which their sense of justice revolted! "It would be much better, in Mr. Merrick's view, to leave it to wise judges "to select from the great storehouse of principles, which admit of an infinitude of exceptions, such as are fitting the new subjects brought for their determination, than to leave it to less experienced men who happen to have the power as legislators to freeze principles into rigidity." Codes may be a matter of necessity under some circumstances, but room should be left in every system of laws for adaptation of judicial construction to special conditions and contingencies, "for it seems presumptuous in any body of men to attempt to regulate, by absolute terms, future affairs and rights respecting things the existence and relations of which they can not possibly foresee." Provision for giving flexibility to the English common law is afforded by chancery; and in the United States, the opinions of the courts of every State are exerting more or less of influence on the courts of every other State, on all questions arising under the common law, whereby the judges of all the States are building up one homogeneous system.


Meerschaum.—Meerschaum ranks among the most important mineral products of the Turkish Empire. It is a magnesite or hydro-silicate of magnesia, and is found in extensive masses in the lower transition beds, in the Crimea and the Island of Negropont, but most abundantly in Asia Minor. The center of the principal district where it is mined is at Eski-Sheir, the ancient Dorylaion, a town of nine thousand inhabitants, situated in a valley watered by the Thymbres River, in a district famous for its thermal waters. Most of the meerschaum mined here is exported by way of Brusa to Vienna, while the waste is bought by the North-German manufacturers of pipe-bowls and mouth-pieces, whose chief center is at Rubla, in the Grand-duchy of Saxe-Weimar. Some twenty beds of the magnesite are worked near Eski-Sheir, They belong to the Turkish Government, but are farmed out to European companies, some of which have been on the ground for more than twenty years. The companies employ some four thousand workmen, who come chiefly from Germany and Italy, Magnesite earths are also found at Yallecas, near Madrid, in Spain, under saliferous clays, at Salinelle, in the department of the Garo, and at Saint-Ouen and Coulommiers, France, where they occur in fresh-water beds under the gypsum.


A Fruit-Evaporator for the Public.—The Fruit and Vegetable Growers' Association of the United States, at its meeting in Columbus, Ohio, gave especial consideration to the question of the best methods of preparing fruit for the market and preserving it for family use. The method by evaporation was especially commended. Mr. Ezra Arnold, of Illinois, presented drawings and specifications of a cheap evaporator made and used by himself, with which he had had better success than with the more expensive dry-houses and evaporators. It is very simple in construction, and with it the inventor could dry apples in two hours; straw-berries in three hours; peaches, cherries, and com in two hours, etc. He did not intend to make or sell evaporators, but would consign to the Association his right and title in the invention, provided that body would procure cuts to illustrate the different parts, and would distribute gratuitously complete illustrated directions for making and using the evaporator. His proposition was accepted by the Association. (W, Orlando Smith, secretary, Alliance, Ohio.)


The Mexican Luminous Beetle.—Carl Heinemann, of Vera Cruz, has published observations of the Mexican cucuyo [Pyrophorus), or luminous beetle. Each beetle has three lamps—a pair of small lamps on the prothorax, near the margin, and a large lamp in its abdomen, all developments of the hypodermis, and largest in the male. Though the light is usually nocturnal, yet, if the animal is disturbed by day, it will shine, but less brilliantly, and a sleeping cucuyo will show in a dark chamber a mild light; and if at such time it is awakened, and breathing begins, the light will appear in its splendor. There are two degrees of luminosity—one soft and the other bright—which may be termed, respectively, the cell-light and the tracheal light, and one may change into the other by stimulation. In a dark room the light appears clear green, inclining to blue; in daylight it is yellowish. The spectrum analysis has not been satisfactorily effected, but the light seems to produce a spectrum wanting in half the blue and deficient in the red. An extracted luminous organ will continue to give red light for some hours. No light-nerves were found, and so far there was no evidence of the luminosity being under control of the will. The abdominal light, at least, depends only on the respiratory center. The expiration only of the abdomen is active, and the inspiration is the passive act of the abdominal muscles returning to their place of rest. On every such inspiration the air brought by the tracheæ causes the luminous organ to give its bright, steady light. It is manifest that the light depends on a process of chemical oxidation. Mechanical irritation chemicals, and electrical stimulus never succeeded in exciting more than the mild cell-light. But a stream of atmospheric air, or of oxygen, brought out the brilliant tracheal light. For the continuance of the light, both oxygen and moisture are favorable. The luminous process goes along with the production of a greenish-yellow substance which is found diffused in the luminous cells; and this yellow can be fixed. The author believes that a substance is produced in the luminous organ which, on contact with oxygen, burns and gives out light. The ashes produced are rich in phosphoric acid, and from this he concludes that there is a burning of some phosphorous body.


Isochromatic Photography.—Mr. Frederic E. Ives, by washing his plates with a chlorophyl solution in addition to the ordinary preparation, takes photographic pictures in which all the colors and tones of color—including those which the ordinary plates do not return—are represented in their proper gradations of light and shade. A chlorophyl solution made from blue-myrtle leaves has been found to be the best, although that from a few other leaves may be equal to it. The quality of the plates, when they are to be used immediately, is improved if the solution contains a trace of eosine. But the chlorophyl solution without the eosine may, by adding a little zinc in the preparation, be kept for a considerable time without losing its efficacy.