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

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

POPULAR MISCELLANY.

Methods of Arrow-Release.—Professor E. S. Morse, while shooting the bow and arrow with a Japanese friend, was surprised to find that the Japanese practice in handling the weapon was totally unlike ours. He then began collecting data illustrating the various methods of releasing the arrow from the bow as practiced by different races; and in time became convinced that the subject had importance, and the pursuit of it might lead to interesting results in tracing the affinities of past races. lie has traced out five or six forms of release, which he classifies as the primary release—with the thumb straight and the forefinger bent, as children practice the world over; secondary release, in which the ends of the second and third fingers are also brought to bear on the string to assist in drawing; tertiary release, in which the forefinger, nearly straightened, is also brought to bear by its tip; Mediterranean release, the oldest historical method and the one prevailing in Europe, in which the arrow is lightly held between the first and second fingers, with the thumb straight and inactive, while the string is drawn back with the tips of the first, second, and third fingers; the Mongolian release, in which the arrow is held at the junction of the thumb and forefinger, the base of the finger pressing it against the bow, and the thumb is protected by a ring; the "irregular release" of the Temiangs of Sumatra; and the "archaic release" of the ancient Greeks. All of these releases have been practiced from the earliest historic times; and each of them, except the primary release, which admits of no variation, has one or more .varieties. The two strongest and perhaps equally powerful methods are the Mediterranean and Mongolian; "and it is interesting to note the fact that the two great divisions of the human family who can claim a history, and who have been all dominant in the affairs of mankind, are the Mediterranean races and the Mongolians. For three or four thousand years, at least, each stock has had its peculiar arrow-release, and this has persisted though all the mutations of time to the present day." Prof. Morse remarks, upon the importance of a more systematic study of the methods of archery and the paraphernalia of the archers than has yet been done, that "the remarkable persistence of certain forms of arrow-release among various nations leads me to believe that, in identifying the affinities of past races, the method of using the bow may form another point in establishing or disproving relationships. By knowing with more certainty the character and limitation of the forms of arrow-release, another clew may be got as to the date and nature of fragments of sculpture representing the hand. The peculiar attitude of the archer might lead to the interpretation of armless statues."

 

Workingmen's Co-operation Organizations.— Mr. A. H. Dyke Acland, M. P., made some statements in the British Association concerning the operation of workingmen's co-operative organizations. After describing the plans on which the organizations are formed, he said that the result of their operation has been a gradual saving of capital, till there is often more than can be employed in the business; indeed, the difficulty with many societies is too much capital, not too little. The increase in the business of the societies between 1865 and 1885 was from about £3,000,000 per annum to more than £20,000,000 per annum. At the present time productive or manufacturing business of £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 a year, on a large or small scale, is carried on, the capital of which comes mainly from the distributive or retail societies. The two wholesale societies are the property of the retail stores, which have created them for their own convenience for the supply of articles direct to their shops from England and abroad. The English wholesale society like the retail societies has had to refuse capital which its members (that is, the retail stores) would willingly have deposited with it. It has adhered mainly to the work of the merchant, and has done comparatively little in the way of manufacturing. Some of the large stores have erected cornmills and batteries, and many societies employ tailors, dress-makers, and the like, and some are now begining to rent farms. In the large stores there is a great demand for milk, butter, and agricultural produce. These facts throw light on the questions of the possibility of the accumulation of large sums of capital by workingmen; of the successful utilization of such capital by workingmen in industrial enterprise; and of the improvement of the position of the worker or the lessening of the assumed antagonism of employer and employed in consequence of such successful utilization of capital. In the discussion on Mr. Acland's paper, Mr. Evans, representing the Co-operative Congress Board, said it was remarkable to how great an extent the progress of co-operation coincided with the decline of the influence of socialistic teaching.

 

The Preservation of Water-Colors.—In a paper "On the Fading of Water-Colors," read in the British Association, Professor W. N. Hartley pointed out that colors consist of mineral substances, for the most part of a stable character, or of organic substances comprising stable colors and unstable and changeable colors. Excepting ultramarine, bodies of the former class may be considered unalterable unless they contain lead or mercury; those of the second class may be considered alterable under certain conditions. The action of light on these two classes of substances, when it is capable of affecting them, is different. On mineral substances the red rays cause oxidation; the oxidizing power decreases as the rays extend more toward the yellow; becomes null in the yellowish-green; is reversed and becomes a reducing power in the blue, and this is intensified in the violet and ultra-violet. On organic substances the action of light is an oxidizing one throughout, continuously increasing in power (except in the green, where it is diminished) through the red and yellow into the violet. The action is not confined to oxidation, for bodies of complex and unstable character may be changed in composition, and, being resolved into more stable compounds, changed in color or rendered colorless. In order to preserve water-color drawings in which delicate yellow and red tints arc largely used, they should be kept in a very subdued light, preferably of a yellow tint, such as is yielded by daylight passing through blinds of unbleached linen. The action of the violet rays is from two to three times as powerful as that of the red and yellow, and the difference between the action of diffused daylight sufficient to view pictures and of direct sunlight is at least forty times as great, and in summer probably four hundred times. Hence a picture which would fade in ten years in sunlight might be preserved for something like twelve hundred years in a yellow light. The acidity of drawing-paper should be corrected by a wash of a dilute solution of borax; and in no case ought any paste, gum, or glue, to be placed at the back of a drawing for the purpose of mounting it.

 

The Mineral Springs of Europe.—Dr. J. Burney Yeo has made a classification of the mineral springs of Europe into groups according to the composition of their waters. The first group includes the simple thermal waters, or "indifferent" springs, the temperature of which is above 80° Fahr. The waters are chiefly used in baths, and, when administered internally, it is simply for getting the purifying solvent influence that might be obtained from drinking pure hot water. They are efficacious in chronic rheumatism, chronic gouty inflammation of the joints, sciatica and other forms of neuralgia; hysterical and hyperæsthetic states of the nervous system; old, painful wounds and cicatrices, and cases of loss of muscular power when not dependent on diseases of the nervous centers. Some of the most popular springs fall under the head of "common salt waters." Their strength varies, and it is customary to fortify them or dilute them, artificially, according as they may need. Used in baths, they stimulate the peripheral vessels and nerves, and promote capillary circulation. They improve the tone and nutrition of the skin, and indirectly stimulate tissue-change. Internally they act as stimulants and indirectly as tonics to the organs of digestion and assimilation; but in persons with highly sensitive mucous membranes they may cause irritation and discomfort, especially if given in too large doses. They are employed in baths in cases of hypersensitivencss of the skin; in some forms of retarded convalescence from acute disease; in scrofulous and inflammatory enlargement of joints; and in chronic hypertrophies of certain organs. Internally they are beneficial in cases of atonic dyspepsia and chronic gastric catarrh, and in those low states of health which are often contracted by prolonged residence in tropical climates. The alkaline waters are characterized by the presence of considerable proportions of carbonate of soda and free carbonic acid in varying amounts, and are exemplified at Vichy. Some of them also contain common salt, when they are classed as muriated alkaline waters, and some, of both simple and muriated springs, are hot and some cold. Many of the springs of this class are found to be most valuable curative agents. The waters are all taken internally, and are used in baths, but not very largely. They are applicable to the treatment of a great number of chronic maladies. In moderate doses they are solvent and purifying, correct acidity, promote tissue-change, and possess active diuretic properties. If taken too largely, they depress the heart's action and cause emaciation. They are given in cases of acid dyspepsia; in gouty constitutions; in cases of renal calculous disorders and gravel; in diabetes; and in cases of torpid liver, with tendency to gall-stones, in constitutions which would not bear the stronger aperient waters. They are of service in the treatment of chronic catarrh of the bronchial and other mucous membranes. The waters containing common salt are more tonic and stimulating than the simple alkaline waters. The group of the sulphated waters includes all the best-known aperient waters, which owe their peculiar qualities to the presence of soda and magnesia, singly or combined. Some of the springs contain also carbonate of soda and chloride of sodium, which add greatly to their remedial value. This has led to the subdivision of the group into the simple sulphated or bitter waters—Friedrichshall, Pullna, and Hunyadi—and alkaline sulphated waters—ex-emplified in Carlsbad, Marienbad, Franzensbad, and Tarasp. The iron or chalybeate waters are the tonic waters. They are valuable in proportion to their purity—that is, to the absence of other solid ingredients—and in proportion, usually, to the amount of free carbonic acid that they contain. A sixth group comprises the numerous and well-known sulphur-springs, both hot and cold, which are freely used for baths. The celebrated Pyrenean spas are nearly all hot sulphur-springs, and the most famous of them all are those at Luchon, the hottest of which has a temperature of 154º, and requires cooling before it can be used. The seventh and last group consists of the earthy and calcareous waters, which are marked by a preponderance of the earthy salts of lime and magnesia. In baths, their action is much like that of the simple thermal waters. At Contrexéville, they are administered internally for dyspepsia, and in calculous and vesical complaints; but the precise mode of their action is not well understood. Probably much of their efficacy is due to the large quantity of an active solvent, such as hot water, which the patient is induced to consume; and this, Dr. Yeo hints more than once, may be a chief element in the virtue of all the springs.

 

Land-Waves.—Professor "W. Mattieu Williams maintains that the tidal waves, rushes of the sea, and other phenomena of the kind observable in connection with earthquakes, are not affections of the sea, but of the land. It is the land that undergoes the upheaval and depression that are remarked, but which, as observed by land-dwellers and made known to them by changes in the relative level of land and sea, are attributed to the latter. The great Krakatoa wave "swept half-way round the earth without being felt by any vessel out at sea. It was felt badly enough on land, and on land only. The great wave that made such havoc at the earthquake of Lisbon was evidently a land-wave. It was the rising and falling of the land, not of the sea, that buried the solid marble quay of Lisbon. As Lyell says, 'The quay sank down with all the people on it, and not one of the dead bodies ever floated to the surface.' In its place the water is now one hundred fathoms deep." An account is given in "Nature" of June 3, 1886, of a phenomenon witnessed at Stonehaven, where, at intervals, just before and after high tide, without any apparent cause, the water along the coast rose and fell from ten to eighteen inches at a time, the subsidence leaving as much as from fifteen to eighteen feet of the beach dry. The disturbance continued for three hours, during which "there was no wind, and the sea was quite smooth, but the water advanced and retired with a speed equal to the run of a large river during a soate." It was surmised that the phenomenon was due to some eruption or subsidence in the sea-bottom; but, to Professor Williams, "it appears far more probable that an undulation of the coast itself was the cause, the rising of the land causing the recession of the sea, and vice versa. A sea-wave, however caused, on advancing over a shallow, sloping bottom with a fall of from ten to eighteen inches in from fifteen to eighteen feet, would break and form a 'roller,' and distinctly show itself as a 'ground-swell.' "Many other mysterious rushings of the sea on the coast may be similarly explained. They demand more careful study than they have received.

 

The Rocky Mountains.—Describing the British Columbian Rocky Mountains, before the British Association, George M. Dawson remarked that the term "Rocky Mountains" is frequently applied in a loose way to the whole mountainous belt which borders the west side of the North American Continent. The mountainous belt is, however, preferably called the Cordillera region, and includes a great number of mountain systems or ranges, which on the fortieth parallel have a breadth of not less than seven hundred miles. Nearly coincident with the forty-ninth parallel, however, a change in the general character of the Cordillera region occurs. It becomes comparatively strict and narrow, and runs to the fifty-sixth parallel, or beyond, with an average width of about four hundred miles only. This portion of the western mountain-region comprises the greater part of the province of British Columbia. It consists of four main ranges, or systems of mountains, each including a number of component ranges. These mountains are, from east to west, the Rocky Mountains proper, mountains which may be classed together as the gold ranges, the system of the Coast Ranges of British Columbia (sometimes improperly named the Cascade Range), and a mountain system, the unsubmerged portions of which constitute Vancouver and the Queen Charlotte Islands. The system of the Rocky Mountains proper, between the forty-ninth and fifty-third parallels, has an average width of about sixty miles, which, in the vicinity of the Peace River, on the fifty-sixth parallel, decreases to about forty miles. It is bounded on the east by the Great Plains, which break into a series of foot-hills along its bases, and on the west by a remarkably straight and definite valley occupied by the Columbia, Kootenay, and other rivers. Since the early part of the century the trade of the fur companies has traversed this range, chiefly by the Athabasca and Peace River Passes; but, till the explorations effected by the expedition under Captain Palliser in l858-'59, nothing was known in detail of the structure of the range. During the progress of the railway explorations a number of passes were examined, and in 1883 and 1884 that part of the range between the forty-ninth parallel and latitude 51° 30' was explored and mapped in some detail in connection with the work of the Canadian Geological Survey by the author and his assistants. Access to this, the southern portion of the Rocky Mountains within Canadian territory, being now readily obtained by the railway, its mineral and other resources are receiving attention, while the magnificent Alpine scenery that it affords is beginning to attract the notice of tourists and other travelers.

 

Dr. Le Plongeon's Researches in Yucatan.—Mrs. Alice D. Le Plongeon, who, with Dr. Le Plongeon, has been zealously engaged in exploring the ancient ruins of Yucatan, read a paper at one of the meetings of the New York Academy of Sciences, in 1886, on some of the results of their joint observations. It related principally to the cities of Uxmal and Chichen-Itza. The "Governor's House" at Uxmal is three hundred and eighteen feet long, and is divided into twenty rooms, the two largest of which are sixty feet long, with ceilings in the form of triangular arches. Outside, the cornice above the doorways supports a magnificent entablature, with designs which, according to the author's interpretation, represent the face of the mastodon, and embody facts concerning the foundation of the city, with statues of the founders. North of this building is a palace of one hundred and two rooms, the arching entrance to the court of which bears traces of paint, and various red hands. "Similar imprints are seen in several buildings, because it was customary for those who used or owned the edifice to dip their hands in red liquid and press the palm against the wall to invoke a divine blessing for the house and inmates, and also to denote ownership." All the facades of this building are elaborately ornamented, and each is different from the others. The prevalent ornament is that of the feathered serpent in different attitudes and designs. On one side, at each end of the façade, was a serpent's head, the tail of the other one drooping over it. They had seven rattles, and just above them was an urn-ornament, with a long plume dependent from it. The heads were crowned, and in the distended jaws of the one yet in place there is a bat's head, and in the bat's mouth the face of a woman. A distinction is made between these serpents and the Maya serpent-emblem of the spirit of the universe, which had not rattles, but a dart at the end of the tail, and not feathers, but wings, and here and there something like fins. In what is called a grand castle at Chichen-Itza are many sculptured pillars, and among the figures represented several men with faces in profile, having long beards. One of them was so like Dr. Le Plongeon that the Indians said it was himself who had lived in that place in ages long gone by! It seems that they believe in reincarnation. In another building is a series of mural paintings representing religious ceremonies, domestic scenes, and battles, the figures of which are said to "show a far more skillful hand than those portrayed in the paintings found in the tombs of Egypt." Near here was found what was regarded as a mausoleum, elaborately ornamented with sculptured macaws and leopards and a leopard-sphinx, in the interior of which, at twenty feet below the surface, were discovered a large statue and two urns containing the cremated remains of the prince, to whom the whole was a monument, with articles in jade, chalcedony, and greenstone. The statue was drawn out, but was afterward seized by the Mexicans and taken to the museum at the capital. In another mausoleum, besides the funerary urn, with the manes and talismans and the statue, were found one hundred and eighty-two conoidal pillars, some painted blue and others red, and twelve serpentheads, "exquisitely sculptured and painted in bright colors." The decorations on the outside of the building are chiefly representations of the face of the mastodon, and between the eyes of twelve of those faces is a human face surrounded by an aureole, or halo, of life-size. Dr. Le Plongeon claims to have discovered the key to the Maya hieroglyphics, and assumes to interpret all these figures, carvings, and inscriptions, to which he gives definite historical significance. We are not aware that the validity of his theory and interpretations has been critically passed upon.

 

A "Nearly Perfect" Civil-Servics System.—Mr. Gordon Gray has attempted, in the "Fortnightly Review," to estimate the value of the competitive examinations which prevail in the British official service, as it is shown by their workings. His general conclusion is that "we have no sufficient evidence as to the working of open competition in the Home Civil Service, but that in the Indian Civil Service and the army we have a balance of testimony, official and independent, to the effect that the officers selected under it have shown themselves not unworthy of their positions. But as much as this could surely be said for their predecessors. There is no evidence that the new men are superior to the old, no positive evidence even that they are altogether their equals, for their opportunities have been fewer; and it yet remains to be seen whether when the opportunities do come the men will rise to the occasion." Earl Salisbury said in 1874, writing to the Indian Government: "With respect to the principle of competition itself, the evidence you have collected sufficiently shows that it can not be disturbed without injury to the public service. The expressions of opinion which I have received from competent judges in England lead me to the same conclusion. Of its success as a mode of selecting persons fit to serve in the Indian Civil Service there seems to be no reasonable doubt. The ability which it collects is not the same in kind as that which distinguished the servants appointed under the previous system, and there may be truth in the allegation for which some of your officers contend, that under it instances of conspicuous ability are rare. ... On the other hand, it is generally admitted that if exceptional powers are rarer than in olden times, exceptions of an opposite kind have almost entirely disappeared." Since this was said, wholesome improvements have been introduced into the examinations. Mr. Gray sees defects in the British system, and objects to it that it does not profess to discover the best men "all round," but "only professes to discover those who can pass the best literary examination in a limited number of subjects. Whether these men are inferior or superior to their competitors, in physical and moral qualifications, it neither knows nor inquires. It indeed inquires rigorously into those qualifications to the extent of discovering absolute unfitness, and occasionally a successful competitor at the literary examination is rejected for unfitness under one of these heads, but the test is only one of minimum qualifications. The authorities have only a right of excluding a candidate who fails to satisfy them that he just reaches the minimum; they have no power to give preference to conspicuous merit over mediocrity." Mr. Gray adds that a system of selection which should bring all the three elements—the mental, the moral, and the physical—that compose the human individual into competition, "would indeed be perfect." The civil-service examinations conducted under our Civil-Service Commission are intended to satisfy this requisition. They are not literary, but comprehensive and practical; and they are varied for each position to which they are applied, for the purpose of bringing out the evidence of fitness in the peculiar qualities which it demands; they are, therefore, wisely directed to approach what the author characterizes as a "nearly perfect" system.

 

Increase of Temperature in Lake Superior Mines.—H. A. Wheeler has made observations of the differences of temperature in the copper-mines of Keweenaw Point, Lake Superior, which, being now among the deepest mines in the United States, present an excellent opportunity for obtaining data as to the rate of thermal increase with descent into the earth. While the usual thermic gradient is from fifty to fifty-five feet for an increase of temperature of 1° Fahr., exceptional gradients, both higher and lower than this, have been obtained in some places. Measurements were computed in five mines having depths running from six hundred and seventeen feet to nineteen hundred and fifty feet, with distances between rating stations in each about one hundred feet less than the total depth of the mines. The results obtained show that the thermic gradient in this region—the average of the five mines giving ninety-nine feet to the degree—is one of the lowest that has ever been noted. A view to the cause of the low gradient is indicated by the variations between the different mines. Keweenaw Point is a tapering peninsula extending some seventy miles toward the middle of the lake. None of the mines are, consequently, very far from the water; and those nearest to the lake-shore have the lowest gradient, while those farther away have the higher or more rapid rate of increase. Considering the magnitude of Lake Superior, and the fact that only its surface waters change in temperature, while the great body of its deep waters remains at the temperature of maximum density, or about 39' Fahr., the lake appears to act "as a great cold blanket," giving the general coolness to the rocks which has been observed in the region, and preventing the rapid rise of temperature within the depths to which the mines have penetrated, which occurs under normal conditions.

 

The Mounds of the Canadian Northwest.—In a paper read before the British Association, Mr. F. N. Bell, of Winnipeg, described the sepulchral mounds of the Canadian Northwest. He pointed out that a continuous line of mounds may be traced from the mound-centers of the Mississippi River to Lake Winnipeg. Human remains, much decayed, were found in them, all buried by being placed on the surface under heaps of earth, in which patches of charcoal and ashes frequently occur. One mound had a burned-clay and bowlder floor, similar to the "sacrificial mounds and altars" of Ohio. Ornaments of sea-shells, which must have been fully twelve hundred miles from their native waters, had been found in these mounds. In addition, the author had discovered an ancient camp on the bank of Red River, near a group of mounds. The mounds from Lake Winnipeg down to the Gulf of Mexico were of the same character, and were probably made by one race. Though whites had found great diversity of mortuary customs prevailing among Indian tribes inhabiting that great tract of country, little exploration had yet been made in the Canadian Northwest, which offered a wide and productive field to archæologists. The mounds were very ancient, and were situated in what were the best game districts.

 

Some Parrot-Stories.—An English paper publishes a number of interesting and some amusing parrot stories. One of them might help to illustrate the proverb, "When the cat's away, the mice will play." A young couple went away from home for some weeks, leaving the house in charge of the servants and a parrot. After their return, the parrot would repeat, from time to time, "Let's have another bottle—there's no one here to know!" accompanying its words with the sound of the appropriate "plop!" Another story is not unlike it. A Yorkshire gentleman had a fever, and his parrot was taken from the dining-room to the kitchen. During its abode there, of several weeks, it stole the raisins intended for a plum-pudding. The cook in anger threw some hot grease at it and scalded its head. When the master got better, the parrot's cage was taken upstairs again, and the bird, seeing the gentleman's newly shaven head, said, slowly, "You bald-headed ruffian, so you stole the cook's plums! " Some of the stories may throw light on the question whether or not the parrot adapts its remarks to the circumstances. There was a cockatoo that never asked for potatoes except when dinner was on the table, and never said, "Oh, you are a beauty!" except to a child. Dean Stanley, when Canon of Canterbury, had a parrot which, one morning at breakfast-time, got up into a tree and attracted the attention of all the servants, who gathered around it. The canon then came out, when the parrot looked down at him and said in a low but distinct voice, exactly like Stanley's, "Let us pray." It was evidently reminded of the assembling of the servants at morning prayers. A gray parrot was stationed in a nursery, where his greatest delight was to see the baby bathed. The child becoming sick, the parrot was sent to the kitchen. There, after a time, he set up a terrible cry, "The baby, the dear baby!" All the family rushed down, to find the parrot, in the wildest excitement, watching the roasting of a sucking-pig. A parrot, which was a slow learner, was taught till it could repeat verses, when, if it made a mistake, it would say angrily, "You are no good"; but, if it went on without error, it praised itself. There is considerable difference in the capability of parrots to learn, and in the way they learn. One is taught with difficulty, but remembers. Another picks up everything that is going on, and remembers nothing for more than a few days. Some few learn easily and also remember well. There are parrots which have a better ear for music than for words, and some which will whistle and sing, and not speak. Moreover, the best acclimatized parrot is easily upset by a change of food or attendance, but especially of surroundings.