Popular Science Monthly/Volume 33/September 1888/Popular Miscellany

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The Peabody Museum of American Archæology.—The Peabody Museum of American Archæology and Ethnology received, during 1887, more than 6,600 additional specimens, making 3,267 entries. The largest sent was a collection of 5,261 specimens, made in Lewis and Mercer Counties, Ky., and Adams County, Ohio. A small collection from Fort Berthold, Dakota, includes what is probably the best specimen of authentic—that is, free from the influence of the white man—Sioux pottery that can be obtained; and a wand, illustrating the use to which the singular perforated stones, known as "gorgets" and "banner-stones," were applied. By the aid of a committee of ladies of Boston, the famous "Serpent Mound" in Adams County, Ohio, has been bought, with about sixty acres of land, put in order, inclosed, and made the central object of an attractive park. "The example," says Curator Putnam, in his report, "thus set for the preservation of the ancient works of this country, has already aroused others to action, and many individuals and societies, particularly in Ohio, are now urging immediate action to prevent the further destruction of our archæologic monuments in the States."


Origin of Lake Superior Iron-Ore.—R. D. Irving, studying the ferruginous schists and iron-ores of the Lake Superior region, has found both of the theories that have been put forward to account for them—that of an eruptive, and that of a sedimentary origin—inadequate. He proposes a new theory, that the rocks have been derived from original carbonates by a metastomic process, or by replacement of the original dolomitic or calcitic rock by siliceous and ferruginous substances. The various steps by which this process took place may have been as follow: 1. The original form of the beds was that of a series of thinly-bedded carbonates, interstratified with carbonaceous shaly layers, which were also often impregnated by the same carbonate. This carbonate was generally more or less highly ferriferous, though probably there were intermediate forms between it and dolomite. 2. By a process of silicification—which varied in degree—these carbonate-bearing layers were transferred into the various kinds of ferruginous rocks now met with in the region. 3. The iron thus removed from the rock at the time of silicification passed into solution in the percolating waters, to be redeposited in various places as it became further oxidized, thus making ore bodies and various impregnations. 4. In other places, instead of leaching it out more or less completely, the silicifying waters seem to have decomposed the iron carbonate in place, producing a magnesia silicate, or a magnesia iron silicate, the excess of iron oxidizing imperfectly, and separating out as magnetite, and the excess of silica crystallizing finally as a minutely interlocked quartz ground mass. 5. The bodies of rich ore have probably had different origins in different cases. 6. Some of the silicifying process went on before the folding of the formations; but some also afterward. It is not supposed that this theory will not require modification in the future, but it is the one to which the author has been led, without being influenced by any preconceived notions, very gradually, during the growth of his experience with the minerals of the region.


How long one can remain under Water.—The length of the time during which a person can remain under water without choking—a subject on which exaggerated stories have been told—has been studied by M. Lacassagne. The author was favored with an opportunity to examine Captain James, a celebrated diver, whose exploits have excelled those of all his rivals. He pretended to be able to continue four minutes and fourteen seconds under water. He contended once in England for a prize which was offered to any person who could endure five minutes, but was compelled by a hæmorrhage of the nose and ears to rise at the end of four minutes. He had also swum under water during the same time a distance of one hundred and fifty metres. He was accustomed before plunging to expel all the air from his lungs and take a strong inspiration. In the water he swallowed on the average about a litre of the liquid. When he came out of the water he snorted enormously. In one of the experiments to which M. Lacassagne subjected him, the movements of the heart became slow, irregular, and feeble at the end of two minutes; and on his coming out at the end of two minutes and thirty-seven seconds, his face was congested and his eyes flushed. Important facts in the experiments were that in his full inspirations previous to plunging Mr. James swallowed air, and while under the water a considerable quantity of saliva; and that his respiratory movements did not cease during immersion, but continued ample and regular at the rate of twenty a minute, while the thoraco-abdominal cavity diminished at a gradual and regular rate. M. Lacassagne explains these circumstances by supposing that inspiration under water draws into the lung the air contained in the pharynx, which in turn draws from the air which has been swallowed into the stomach. This organ becomes, then, in the diver, a reservoir of air. It is evident from these observations that if persons who have been trained to diving can not remain under water more than four minutes without exposing themselves to great dangers, drowning men who struggle and inspire water can endure so long only under extremely favorable circumstances. The lesson is also taught that divers should not inflate their lungs before plunging, but should swallow air, which then passing from the stomach to the lungs will support respiration during a definite period of immersion.


Exhaustion from Rowing-Contests.—Prof. W. P. Trowbridge has discussed, in a paper read before the New York Academy of Sciences, the question "whether the excessive training for long-distance boat-races and the violent and long-continued muscular and nervous exertions incident to these contests do not in reality result in unnecessary and hurtful exhaustion during a race, and frequently in permanent injury to the contestants." Prof. Trowbridge says: "The boat-race involves the action of all the muscles, those of the legs, arms, and shoulders, as well as of the back; and hence the demands on the heart and lungs are the greatest possible. The work which a rower performs in each minute of a four-mile race is easily calculated. The distance—21,120 feet—is traversed in about twenty-one minutes. The speed is therefore practically about 1,000 feet per minute. At this speed the resistance to the boat in the water is about 75 pounds. This resistance has been determined experimentally as well as theoretically in England, the average result being 75 pounds. The work per minute for eight men is therefore 75,000 foot-pounds, or 9,375 foot-pounds (42 foot-tons) for each man per minute. At the rate of 350 foot-tons in ten hours, the day-laborer performs work at the rate of only six tenths of a foot-ton per minute. The rower in the boat-race, therefore, performs work each minute equivalent to the work of seven strong laborers, or at the rate of nearly one third of a theoretical horse-power each minute during the race. The question now recurs: For how long should these extraordinary efforts be sustained? Four miles in distance and twenty-one minutes in time mark extreme limits of endurance according to all experience in boat-racing; and if races are practically decided at the end of the third mile, or whether they are so decided or not, the fourth mile is a test not of skill and muscular strength, but of the hearts and lungs of the crews. This is rather serious business. Is it quite rational to make the ultimate endurance of these vital organs in a dozen young men a matter of sport and amusement? It is hardly to be expected that any boat-crew will initiate a movement to reduce the length of course from four miles to three; to use an appropriate expression, they 'would die first.' Such a movement might be looked upon as a confession of weakness; but when the suggestion comes from an outsider it is made to all alike, and may at least be discussed with possible profit."


Sanitation among the Negroes.—At a Public Health Conference held in Louisville, Ky., Bishop C. C. Penick read a paper in which he says: "It was startling to the North and the South alike, when the census of 1880 showed the tremendous increase among the colored people, and the cry of alarm ran through the land lest in the near future the black should be the dominant race in this country. The world did not recognize the fact that the great source of Southern wealth had consisted in making the negro prolific. Everything that could be done was done to eradicate all the diseases threatening to interfere with this object. In short, a man's negroes were a man's money, and you may just rest assured that he looked after them." When the race was released from bondage, its momentum carried it up to those startling figures of the 1880 census—figures which Dr. Penick thinks we shall never see again, for there is no longer an intelligent class which has a direct pecuniary interest in the health of the negroes; the latter are leaving the plantations for the less healthful surroundings of the towns, and the enfeebling vices of the town are spreading into the country. In a pamphlet by Dr. G. B. Thornton, of Memphis, it is stated that, although the white population of that city slightly exceeds the black, yet in 1880 a fifth more blacks than whites died, in 1881 a fourth more, and in the first nine months of 1882 a half more. In the back streets and alleys of Southern cities, where the colored people live crowded together, Bishop Penick says that one may see "squalor, degradation, dirt; green scum in the gutters, dammed with decomposing vegetables, and, it may be, interspersed with a stray cat or dog that came to his untimely end at some uncertain period of the distant past. It does not take a man who knows how to read a diploma in Latin to see that here are conditions most favorable for engendering diseases." During four years spent in Africa he observed that "in his native state and scanty clothing the African is the most cleanly person I ever met. As a rule, he bathes twice a day and oftener in warm water. Deformity among them is as rare as among the birds and squirrels here"; but, on the other hand, that "no sooner did I begin to put clothes on these people than their aversion to water as an external application began to manifest itself, and punishment had to be resorted to to compel those who used to be scrupulously clean to keep moderately decent." Besides the charitable motive for improving the sanitary condition of the negroes, there is another side to the matter. "In other words," says the bishop, "it is a matter of deep concern to every thoughtful man, even if he looks no higher than self-preservation, what kind of diseases cling to those who cook our food, nurse our children, make our beds, wash our clothes, and porter our sleeping-cars. We know that in all of these departments the colored race play a prominent part." The diseases arising from the filth of the back streets and alleys may thus be brought through the back door into homes whose sanitary condition gives their inmates a sense of security.


The Salt-Beds of South America.—The salt-beds on the west coast of South America, according to the description of Dr. Carl Ochsenius, occur in a narrow strip along the coast-fine of the rainless district, rarely exceeding twenty-five miles in width. The district is bounded on the east by the Andes, and extends into the coast Cordilleras on the south. The author considers that, before the upheaval of the Andes, salt began to deposit in certain bays, which had been wholly or partially shut off from the sea by the gradual formation of an intercepting bar. Then, while the process of evaporation was still incomplete, the district was raised by volcanic action, and the mother-liquors from the salt-lakes eventually escaped, running down into the valleys, and, where they encountered no obstacle, reaching the sea. The coast Cordilleras acted as a barrier in the southern portion of the district; while in the northern part the liquors doubtless returned to the sea. The volcanoes which produced the upheaval exhaled immense quantities of carbonic-acid gas, by the action of which a portion of the sodium chloride in the mother-liquors was converted into sodium carbonate. The coast in this part of Chili is studded with small islands containing deposits of guano rich in ammonia. The guano-dust is carried by the prevailing west winds far into the country, where, on exposure to the air, at a warm temperature, it would gradually oxidize to nitrate, and, acting on the sodium carbonate, would form sodium nitrate, or Chili saltpeter.


Relics of the Chiriquians.—From the graves of the ancient inhabitants of Chiriqui, on the Isthmus of Darien, great numbers of relics in clay, stone, and metal have been obtained during the past thirty years. A collection of such objects, gathered mostly by Mr. J. A. McNeil, is now deposited in the National Museum. The Chiriquians seem to have been skilled in the working of metals. Gold, silver, copper, and tin—the latter in alloys with copper, forming bronze—are found in the graves. Gold is the most important, and is found associated with all the others in alloys or as a surface coating. The objects consist to a great extent of representations of life-forms, in many cases more fanciful than real, and often extremely grotesque. They include the human figure and a great variety of birds and beasts indigenous to the country, in styles resembling work of the same region in clay and stone. Gold, pure and in the usual alloys, was also used in the manufacture of other articles, such as bells, beads, disks, balls, rings, whistles, thimble-shaped objects, and amulets of varied shapes. Bells are more generally made of bronze, because, perhaps, of its greater degree of resonance. The great majority of objects were formed by easting in molds. Hammering was but little practiced, excepting apparently in the formation of sheet gold, which was probably an indigenous product. Repoussé work is not found, save as represented in the crimping and indenting of gold-leaf. Engraving and carving were not practised. It may be deemed certain that gilding, or at least plating, was understood.


Fish-ponds.—The making and maintenance of fish-ponds is one of the arts in which man—at least until within a dozen years past—has not advanced. It was better and more extensively cultivated in antiquity and the middle ages than now. And there is still no better authority on the subject than Bishop Dubravius, of Olmutz, of the sixteenth century. He advised a regular draining of ponds, and cropping them with vegetables and grain in alternation with the fish. He would have three ponds, with a three years' rotation of vegetable crops, grown and breeding fish, and fry, so that the proprietor would always have a crop of vegetables growing in one pond, yearling fry in another pond, and breeders with the fish fattening for the market in the third. Captain Milton P. Pierce, of the American Carp Cultural Association, recommends draining the ponds every spring as early as the weather will permit, to promote the growth of aquatic vegetation, and another draining in October for the purpose of assorting the carp. He uses three ponds, all at the same time for fish, but does not advocate the rotation and planting system of Dubravius. Opinions differ as to the expediency of allowing trees to grow along the margins of fish-ponds. They harbor insects and so contribute to the supply of food, but their falling leaves are litter and make the water unpleasant. Frank Buckland recommended the hanging of a dead cat or rabbit over the pond, to be a nursery for "gentles"—plainly maggots—which would fall into the pond and afford excellent food for the fish. The presence of ducks is of great advantage, for they dig up the mud in the bottom, exposing the organic life it contains, and also increase the insect-breeding capacity of the mud—all helping to furnish the fishes' dinner-tables. A similar effect follows allowing cattle to come and stand in the ponds. The ponds should not be too deep, and large ponds have several drawbacks which are absent from small ones. There are advantages and disadvantages about having a stream run through the pond; hence it may be well to arrange so that the stream can be turned on or carried around at will. A "collector"—a wooden box, four feet deep by five square, sunk flush with the pond, with a perforated inner box that can be drawn up—is a convenient appendage. When the pond sluice is opened, the fish will go into the deepest water, which is in this collector, whence they can be drawn out and sorted. The collectors also may supply the place of the deep retiring holes which fish are fond of resorting to. Some breeders furnish a hedge in the pond as a shelter. A fattening tank affords a convenient means of securing a constant supply of fish ready for the table and easy to be caught. To supply food for the fish, Herr Fruwirth, of Austria, has pools and ditches with stagnant water and aquatic plants, wherein all kinds of insects etc., breed, which he turns into the ponds from time to time. Dr. Kelsen, of Oxford, has discovered that the animalculæ bred in water containing decayed vegetable matter are eagerly devoured by the young fry. Captain Milton Pierce says that nursery ponds in good condition and provision will support from one thousand to fifteen hundred yearling carp per acre area of water. Stock ponds, in like condition, will support five hundred two-year-old carp per acre. Larger stocks should not be permitted. Only one kind of fish should be allowed in the pond at a time. Where there are many varieties, they come to little good, and eat one another up.


Watering the Floors as a Preventive of Coal-Mine Explosions.—Mr. W. Galloway, believing that coal-dust is a very active cause of mine explosions, and usually even a more important factor than gas, recommends watering or simply dampening the floors of mines as an efficient preventive of them. In support of his theory he cites the case of the explosion of the Pochin colliery, in November, 1884, where the flame, which had been very powerful, was found to have been arrested by a slight dampness—such only as was caused by the casual leakage from a water-cask hauled over the spot four times a day—on one of the roadways. Systematic watering; of one of the collieries in the Rhondda Valley has not only made it safer and cleaner, but also cooler and more pleasant to live in. The influence of watering the floor seems also to extend to the timbers and walls of the mine, which cease to give annoyance from the dust lying upon them, without being directly watered. When simple tanks on wheels are difficult or expensive to manipulate in the mines, they may be replaced by a system of pipes bringing water from the surface, or from a reservoir at a convenient height in the shaft, and distributing it at different points in the workings, in the form of a fine spray.


The Botocudos.—The Botocudos of Brazil are famed as one of the most savage tribes on the American continent. Mr. W. J. Steains, who met a number of them during his exploration of the Rio Dôce, describes them as hardly prepossessing in appearance, five feet four inches in average height, having broad chests—which accounts for the facility with which they can bend their bows—small rather than delicate feet and hands, lean but muscular legs and arms, and features bearing "a wonderful resemblance to the Chinese," with skins of all shades of color. The custom of wearing large lip and ear ornaments of wood is fast dying out. "A regular process has to be gone through before a Botocudo can boast of wearing a lip ornament, say three inches in diameter, and what is more, it is a life-long process. When the Indian is about three or four years old its parents pierce a small hole in the center of its under lip and also in the lobes of its ears. Into this hole a small plug of wood is inserted about the size round of a pencil. In the course of a few weeks a larger piece of wood is made to take the place of the first insertion, and so on until the lip (having been thus stretched gradually) is capable of receiving a botoque (plug) of the dimensions mentioned above, viz., three inches in diameter. It generally happens that in course of time the lip, which stretches round the botoque just like an elastic band, splits. This action on the part of the lip, however, does not prevent the further wearing of the botoque. The Indian simply tics the two ends of his broken lip together by means of a small piece of imbira, or stringy bark, and thus mends the breakage in a way that is decidedly more useful than ornamental." The Botocudos live upon the nuts of two or three varieties of palm-trees, which, as they are hard, are chewed for old people and children by the women; and they usually live to a good old age. The men spend their days in hunting, fishing, and seeing to their bows and arrows, while the women look after the children, gather nuts and fruits, and do the hard work. Clothing is entirely unknown among them. Plurality of wives is allowed but not usually indulged in. The people have no form of government except that of a chief who has no real authority. They believe in a Great Spirit who has made the world, but offer no prayers or sacrifices. They think he is angry and are much frightened when there is a thunder-storm, and throw fire-brands into the air to appease his wrath. When a man dies, his ghost wanders about upon the earth, in pursuit of what he may catch, but benefiting those who have done him kindness while he was on the earth. They have a hazy idea of the evil one, and believe that he resides in the body of a certain screeching night-bird.


Life in the Islands of Greece.—According to Mr. J. Theodore Bent, who has visited them, the shepherds and their families of the Greek island of Karpathos "for the greater part of the year dwell in caves high up in the mountains and die in them like their goats, with this difference only, that their friends do not allow their bones to bleach in the sun, though they inter them without any religious ceremony; they wail over them a great deal, and wait for the religious part of the business until a priest chances to pass that way. For the three months of winter they reside in the village, which is composed of small homesteads or mandras, probably like that in which the herd of Ulysses dwelt in Ithaca. Each house is a low cabin, to enter which you have to stoop, and consists of one room only, where cattle and people live together. It is built of large stones without cement, and through the cracks the north wind whistles horribly. Across the roof is a beam the top of which serves as the cupboard. There is a place for fire, but no outlet for smoke; some brushwood laid on stones is the family bed, and the floor in wet weather is inches deep in slush and filth. The summer spent in the caves and in the open air must be a delightful change from this. Sometimes you may see a serpent in these cottages, which is never disturbed, but is deemed the genius loci, just as in ancient days if a serpent was found in a house an altar was erected to it, and it was esteemed a symbol of happiness; and there are invisible serpents, too, they say, which bring good when blessed, but when driven away by neglect cause the destruction of homes; and thus they account for the Greek ruins in their midst. They look upon the green lizards which run over their walls with a very different eye. The idea prevails that it is from eating these that serpents derive their venom; so they kill lizards whenever they can, and it is thought that whoever succeeds in killing forty of them is sure to go to heaven, having saved so many men from poison. I visited many families in their mountain caves, which are deliciously cool in the summer heats, and the mud floors are scarcely ever dry. Stone benches are put along the sides covered with dairy produce; in one corner is the oven, where the new milk is simmering all day. When the family goes out to attend the flocks, a lot of prickly brush-wood is placed at the cave's mouth; no other door is needed."


The Occidental Ant.—As described by J. D. McLaren, in the "Bulletin" of the Washburn College Laboratory of Natural History, the nests of the Occidental ant (Pogonomyrmex occidentalis, or Western bearded ant), seen from the outside, are bare, flat disks of earth, from three to six feet in diameter, with their center marked by a heap of pebbles, lime-modules, sticks, and lumps of dried clay. The insects—who work in the evening, but not in the hottest part of the day or during storms—cut down all plants that spring up on the disk, carry seeds into the nest from the vicinity, and form, with the pellets of clay which they bring up from underground, and other solid lumps, a very hard and compact concrete pavement, which acts as a roof for the nest and sheds the rain. Some loose earth and a heap of sticks and pebbles are left around the holes, which serve as doors to the nest. During rain-storms this loose earth is easily pulled into the holes, so as to close them and keep out the rain. Digging into the nest, one finds a series of galleries, each from one to three inches below the other. In these galleries are some small piles of grass or weed seeds, with here and there a group of yellowish-white larvæ. The ants have a large, broad head, a small chest with two horn-like points projecting backward, and a small abdomen, and are, as a rule, chestnut-brown. They appear to be strict vegetarians. The small black ants build nests on the disks, and work among the Occidental ants in the greatest apparent harmony.