Popular Science Monthly/Volume 42/April 1893/Popular Miscellany

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
Popular Science Monthly Volume 42 April 1893  (1893) 
Popular Miscellany
 

POPULAR MISCELLANY.

Meeting of the American Psychological Association.—The first regular meeting of the American Psychological Association was held in Philadelphia, at the University of Pennsylvania, on December 27th and 28th. President G. Stanley Hall, of Clark University, presided at the meetings, and the papers presented gave good evidence of the variety and value of the work in experimental psychology which the laboratories of the various colleges are producing. Among the general papers presented, that of President Hall, giving a synopsis of the history and prospects of experimental psychology in America, was perhaps of widest interest. The important steps in the development of this movement within recent years were carefully traced, and various measures of credit judiciously assigned. The effect of the entire presentation was an extremely satisfactory one, showing that in America perhaps more prominently than elsewhere the laboratory method of instruction in psychology was becoming widely adopted, and that the general outlook for the steady development of psychological study was particularly hopeful.—Another very interesting presentation was that of Prof. Muensterberg, who has recently been called to take charge of the graduate work in psychology at Harvard University, and, upon request of the president, addressed the association in German. While the object of his remarks was to outline the problems upon which his students at Cambridge were at present working, the introduction of this description dwelt upon the general point of view that directs the choice of subjects and the method of investigation. Dr. Muensterberg laid stress upon the necessity, not only of accurate answers to problems already stated, but particularly on the discovery of new problems. The difficulty here is more that of asking significant questions than of answering them. The question of the investigations themselves shows what a wide field was being touched upon in various points by the Harvard men—investigations of the methods of localizing sounds in space, a new method of determining when differences of sensation are to be regarded as equal, an elaborate series of experiments on the nature of the association of ideas, of the daily change in mental condition, of complex forms of reaction in which various subjects take part at the same time, and others.—Prof. Jastrow, of the University of Wisconsin, gave some account of what was to be attempted in the laboratory of experimental psychology which has been founded in connection with the World's Fair. The general plan of this exhibit includes a collection of the various types of apparatus that are employed in psychological research; also those that are used in connection with laboratory courses in psychology. A great variety of apparatus gathered from all portions of Europe and America will here be collected, and will cover such branches of the subject as the tests of the senses, the powers of judgment, the times of mental processes, the nature of the association of ideas, the limits and varieties of memory, the effects of fatigue, the relation of mind and body, and so on. A second important part of the exhibit will consist of a working laboratory, in which tests will be made upon all who choose to subject themselves to them. The tests are necessarily simple in character, and have for their object the determination of normal averages in respect to various forms of vision, of tactile sensation, of times and accuracy of judgment, association and reaction, of the nature of association, and the like. And, thirdly, a department in which results will be exhibited, will attempt to show the practical importance of these investigations and their various applications in the study of child growth, the study of abnormal forms of mental phenomena, and the like.—Dr. Sanford, of Clark University, gave an account of some of the studies in progress there. One of these related to the fluctuation in mental power at different portions of the day, as determined by the capacity to remember a series of arbitrary impressions. Another research gave an account of the frequency and character of the dreams of subjects who at once record their dreams upon awakening from them. The frequency of dreams and their concentration in the early hours of the morning, the large factors that recent events contribute to them, appeared as some of the results of this investigation.—Another interesting paper, presented by Dr. Witmer, of the University of Pennsylvania, gave an account of the research upon the æsthetics of visual form and attempting to answer the question, What are the most pleasing forms and proportions in the great variety of figures and conditions?—A paper by Prof. Bryan, of the University of Indiana, giving an account of the development of motor power in children at different ages, and bringing out many significant and important results, was presented; also papers by Dr. Nichols, of Harvard University, presenting some novel experiments upon illusions of rotation and upon the sense of pain; by Prof. Pace, of the Catholic University of Washington, on the power of judging the thickness of surfaces held between the thumb and forefinger; and papers by Dr. Chamberlain, on the Relation of Psychology and Anthropology, and by Dr. Aikens, on An Analysis of Cause.—The meeting adjourned to next December at Columbia College, New York, the officers of the association being: President, G. Stanley Hall, of Clark University; vice-president, George T. Ladd, of Yale University; and secretary, Joseph Jastrow, of the University of Wisconsin.

 

Arbitration with English Trades Unions.—The English Labor Commission has completed its examination of the conditions, etc., of every branch of labor, except agriculture, in the kingdom. Its results, embodying the testimony of more than four hundred and thirty witnesses, as summarized by Mr. John Rae, in the Contemporary Review, make it clear that there has been during the last twenty years a remarkable growth in all parts of the kingdom of the institutions that make for industrial peace—the Board of Arbitration, the Joint Committee of Conciliation, and the sliding scale. The Board of Conciliation, the essential feature of which was a full interchange of views between the representatives of the parties—employers and hands—face to face, was started in 1866. The original board, formed by Mr. Mundella for the hosiery trade, was short-lived, but the principle was adopted, and still prevails. The first Board of Arbitration, which provides for binding reference to an umpire in case the conference fails, started in the iron trade by Sir Rupert Kettle in 1869, is still efficient; and a second board, started in 1872, has likewise proved its usefulness and its right to live. Since the establishment of these boards in the northern and midland counties of England, respectively, there has been no strike in the northern district, and only one insignificant strike in the middle district. In fact, "strikes, and even the very disposition to strike, seem to be thoroughly stamped out in this [the iron and steel] industry." In many trades there is a great belief in conciliation, but a great dislike to arbitration. Many think the "long jaw" (as the Conciliation Conference is called) "sufficient to remove all difficulties, and make both parties in the end see eye to eye; but the members of the manufactured iron trade are most decided in counting conciliation incomplete and of very uncertain efficacy without the reference to arbitration in case of disagreement. Employers and employed were equally emphatic on this point. They thought the knowledge of an appeal to arbitration being in reserve was absolutely essential to a successful negotiation at the Conciliation Board. The right of appeal might seldom be used, but in their opinion it must always be there, otherwise, though things might not go so far as a strike, there would be constant worrying and keeping up of a contention." Two rules contribute greatly to the smooth working of the system: one, forbidding any suspension of work at any place under the jurisdiction of the board before the cause of dispute has been submitted to the consideration of the board; and the other, making the board's decision retrospective, so as to take effect from the date of the raising of the point. Both these rules have been observed by both sides in good faith. These boards have further exercised a salutary influence in promoting a more reasonable spirit among employers and employed. "There is very much more reason than there used to be formerly; so much so, indeed, that more disputes are now settled at home without going to the board at all than were settled at home before its establishment, and all in consequence of the growth of habits of reasonable consideration and mutual forbearance, which have been bred through the board."

 

Symbolical Communication.—Writing of the language of signs or the symbolism in ceremonial and current use among the lower tribes of Farther India, General A. R. MacMahon says: "The chief's special messenger, carrying his carved and ornamented spear as an emblem of authority—potent as a magistrate's seal in other countries—dumb though he be in presence of people to whom his dialect is a foreign tongue, metaphorically speaks in accents that can not be mistaken when he flings down the gauntlet in the shape of the war-dah with strip of crimson cloth in token of defiance, or produces the cross or dagger-shaped plurvi or wand, made of strips of bamboo, which, simple as it may appear to the uninitiated, under some conditions furnishes the materials for a lengthy dispatch, if reduced to a written medium. If the tips of its cross-pieces be broken, for instance, it signifies a money demand for each fracture. If one cross-piece be charred, it means an urgent summons, directing people to come by torchlight if it arrives at night. A capsicum fixed on the plurvi signifies that disobedience to the order will 'make it hot' for the recipient. If the plurvi be made of cane instead of bamboo, it betokens that this punishment will take the form of flogging. The smooth, round stone which was all that Lieutenant Wilcox received from the Abora, in reply to interminable verbal negotiations suggesting the advisability of their submission to British authority, was utterly meaningless to that very intelligent officer till interpreted by a rude native of the jungle who happened to be present when the mission arrived. The translation ran thus: 'Until this stone crumbles in the dust shall our friendship last, and firm as is its texture, so firm is our present resolution.' . . . Captain Lervin's policeman, when required to explain why he . . . desired a week's leave, said, 'A young maiden has sent me flowers and birnee rice twice as a token, and if I wait any longer they will say I am no man.'"

 

Animals and Music.—A curious account of the effects of various kinds of music on different animals is given by a writer in the Spectator. The general order of the experiments, based upon the supposition that animal nerves are not unlike our own, was so arranged that the attention of the animals should be first arrested by a low and gradually increasing volume of sound, in those melodious minor keys which experience showed them to prefer. The piccolo was then to follow in shrill and high-pitched contrast; after which the flute was to be played to soothe the feelings ruffled by that instrument. Pleasure and dislike were often most strongly shown where least expected; and the last experiment indicated stronger dislikes, if not stronger preferences, in the musical scale, in the tiger than in the most intelligent anthropoid apes. With "Jack," a six-months-old red orang-outang, "As the sounds of the violin began, he suspended himself against the bars, and then, with one hand above his head, dropped the other to his side, and listened with grave attention. He then crept away on all fours, looking back over his shoulder, like a frightened baby," and covered himself with his piece of carpet. Then his fear gave place to pleasure, and he sat down, with smoothed hair, and listened to the music. The piccolo at first frightened him, but he soon held out his hand for the instrument and was allowed to examine it. "The flute did not interest him, but the bagpipes—reproduced on the violin—achieved a triumph." The capuchins were busy eating their breakfast; "but the violin soon attracted an audience. The capuchins dropped their food and clung to the bars, listening, with their heads on one side, with great attention. The keeper drew our notice to the next cage. There, clinging in rows to the front wires, was a silent assembly of a dozen macaques, all listening attentively to the concert which their neighbors were enjoying. At the first sounds of the flute most of these ran away; and the piccolo excited loud and angry screams from all sides. Clearly, in this case, the violin was the favorite." When the flute was played to the elephant, he stood listening with deep attention, one foot raised from the ground, and its whole body still. "But the change to the piccolo was resented. After the first bar, the elephant twisted round, and stood with its back to the performer, whistling and snorting and stamping its feet. The violin was less disliked, but the signs of disapproval were unmistakable." The deer were strongly attracted by the violin, and showed equal pleasure at the tones of the flute. The ostrich seemed to enjoy the violin and flute, though it showed marked dislike at the piccolo. "The ibexes were startled at the piccolo, first rushing forward to listen, and then taking refuge on a pile of rock, from which, however, the softer music of the flute brought them down to listen at the railing. The wild asses and zebras left the hay with which their racks had just been filled; and even the tapir, which lives next door, got up to listen to the violin; while the flute set the Indian wild ass kicking with excitement. But the piccolo had no charms for any of them, and they all returned to their interrupted breakfasts." A sleeping tiger was awakened by the soft playing of the violin near its cage; listened to the music for a time "in a very fine attitude," then "purred," lay down again, and dozed. At the first notes of the piccolo, it "sprang to its feet and rushed up and down the cage, shaking its head and ears, and lashing its tail from side to side. As the notes became still louder and more piercing, the tiger bounded across the den, reared on its hind feet, and exhibited the most ludicrous contrast to the calm dignity and repose with which it had listened to the violin. With the flute, which followed, the tiger became quiet, the leaps subsided to a gentle walk, and coming to the bars and standing still and quiet once more, the animal listened with pleasure to the music."

 

The Observatory at Arequipa, Peru.—Prof. Pickering, of Harvard Observatory, is well satisfied with the advantages of the South American branch observatory near Arequipa, Peru, eight thousand feet above the sea. During a large part of the year, he says, the sky is nearly cloudless. A telescope having an aperture of thirteen inches has been erected there, and has shown a remarkable degree of steadiness in the atmosphere. Night after night atmospheric conditions prevail which occur only at rare intervals, if ever, in Cambridge. Several of the diffraction rings surrounding the brighter stars are visible, close doubles in which the components are much less than a second apart are readily separated, and powers can be constantly employed which are so high as to be almost useless in Cambridge. In many researches the gain is as great as if the aperture of the instrument was doubled. The observatory is also favorably situated with reference to the southern stars, most of which can not be seen at all from the United States.

 

Ashamed, yet Faithful.—We have received from Dr. John S. Flagg, of Boston, a curious incident illustrating the operation of something like a moral sense in a dog. One rainy morning in October, 1891, Dr. Flagg observed a setter dog in front of himself, slinking along with his tail and head depressed, and his whole gait one of dejection. He proved to be following a seedy-looking man in a state of reeling intoxication. Being impressed that the dog's trouble was caused by shame at the intoxication of his master and the attention he was attracting, Dr. Flagg followed the case up. "On reaching the crossing at the head of Hanover Street," he says, "where the traffic is large, the dog lost a little of his dejected air and occupied himself chiefly in getting the man safely across. When his charge was finally over, and meandering down the left-hand side of Hanover Street, then the dog slunk to the opposite side and resumed the shamefaced air I had at first noticed, keeping constant watch with furtive glances on the staggerer opposite. Where Hanover Street crosses New Washington Street, the dog again piloted the man with anxious care. This done, he again declined to be seen on the same sidewalk with him, but slunk along in the shadow of the building opposite. The master turned into Prince Street, when the sense of degradation seeming to be somewhat lessened by familiar surroundings, the faithful animal trotted ahead as pilot to the door. I could not perceive in the dog's attitude any sign of fear of his master, or any evidence of wrong-doing on his own part; everything seemed to show that the one explanation of the dog's behavior lay in his appreciation of the common disgrace caused by the man's condition."

 

The Use of Lightning Rods.—A discussion, by Alexander McAdie, of the question, Shall we erect Lightning Rods? (Ginn & Co., Boston), in which the arguments on both sides are presented, leads the author to an affirmative answer; and he suggests, to those contemplating the erection of a rod, that they get a good iron or copper conductor, weighing six ounces to the foot of copper, or thirty-five ounces if of iron, preferably of tape form. The nature of the locality will determine in a great degree the need of a rod, as some places are more liable to be struck than others. The very best ground that can be got is after all but a very poor one for some flashes, so that the ground can not be too good. If a conductor at any part of its course goes near water or gas mains it is best to connect it with them, but small-bore fusible pipes should be avoided. The tip of the rod should be protected from corrosion or rust. Independent grounds are preferable to water and gas mains. Clusters of points or groups of two or three along the ridge rod are recommended. Chain or link conductors are of very little use. Slight faith is to be placed in what is called the area of protection. Lightning is much more indifferent than has been supposed to the "path of least resistance." Any part of a building, if the flash is of a certain character, may be struck, whether there is a rod or not; but such accidents are rare with the comparatively mild flashes of our latitudes. The widespread notion that lightning never strikes the same place twice is erroneous, and plenty of cases are recorded to show the contrary of it.

 

Irrigation in Australia.—Australia, great as is its extent, has but one river system carrying any really important volume of water to the sea. This is the Murray and its large tributaries, which water portions of the three colonies of New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia, in the southeastern corner of the island-continent. Want of rain and the absence of perennial streams constitute one of the greatest difficulties that settlers on the land, whether pastoralists or agriculturists, have to contend with. Subterranean supplies are, indeed, being found in the form of running rivers from sixty to a hundred feet below the surface, but not hitherto in sufficient quantities to compensate the lack of rainfall and surface water for ordinary purposes in years of drought. Still less is there enough such water to be found to irrigate the arid plains. The only supply at all adequate for purposes of irrigation on any extensive scale is afforded by the surplus water of the Murray system, now carried to the sea, and this surplus is obviously a limited quantity. An attempt to fertilize by irrigation some portion of the land lying within reach of this supply of water has been made in the last four years at what are known as the irrigation colonies or settlements of Renmark in South Australia and Meldrum in Victoria. The scheme was started in 1887 by two brothers, the Messrs. Chaffey, who had had experience of fruit-raising in California, who have obtained the grants and means necessary to enable them to carry out their plans. The properties are subdivided with a view to settlement by individuals on small sections, each cultivator enjoying, upon a co-operative system, the use of the fixed plant of the settlements, not only for irrigation, but for rendering the fruits of the soil marketable, by processes of drying, canning, wine-making, etc.

 

The Love of Nature in America.—The London Spectator has learned from the evidence of books on the subject that there now exists in New England a counterpart to the great and growing appreciation of wild Nature which has left such a mark on recent English literature. Even Fenimore Cooper, it admits, "painted the wild life of the woods with a minuteness of detail and depth of feeling that suggests that the readers for whom he wrote were not less in sympathy with the subject than himself. The works of Thoreau and John Burroughs are now American classics; and to judge by the number of recent works similar in kind and object, the appetite of New England grows by what it feeds on. The coincidence by which people of the same race, and living in the same latitude, but on different sides of the globe, are now eagerly expressing in a common language their pleasure and interest in exactly the same kind of subjects and scenes, though the actual birds and beasts, trees and plants, are often as distinct as the two continents in which they are found, is probably unique. There is no such analogy in taste between England and any of her colonies as this common love of Nature which finds almost identical expression in the prose idylls of Jefferies and of Burroughs, and the engravings of Wolf and of Mr. Hamilton Gibson." The Spectator goes on to cite from the books of two or three of our Nature-loving authors, without giving anything like an adequate exemplification of the list. It might also have extended its studies and brought in other sections than New England. Where, for instance, can we find more faithful portraitures of hill and ravine, forest and field, and the moods of Nature in sunshine and storm, frost and flood, than Charles Egbert Craddock has drawn of her loved Tennessee mountains?

 

The Brooklyn Institute Biological Laboratory.—The last, its third, was the most successful season of the work of the Biological Laboratory of the Brooklyn Institute, at Cold Spring Harbor, N. Y. During its three years of existence more than sixty persons have made use of the advantages afforded by the laboratory, either in study or investigation; and among these have been college professors, public-school teachers, physicians, and students of various grades of schools. Of the three classes of students using the marine laboratories—those seeking a general knowledge of zoölogy and botany, including medical students; college students desiring to do miscellaneous work of a higher character than that of their college, or to study embryology from the practical side; and those who desire to undertake original research—the course of this school has been especially planned for the first two classes. An elementary course in zoölogy is arranged, lasting six weeks; courses of scientific lectures are given by well-known experts; a special line of work in bacteriology methods is offered; and at a certain point students who have taken the elementary course or its equivalent are allowed to plan their work each for himself.

 

Home Landscape.—An editorial article in Garden and Forest aims to show how beauty in landscape and in our home surroundings grows out of our honest attempts to adapt the conditions of Nature to our wants. In our clearings, orchard and garden planting, and building, so long as we are honest and straightforward in our work, Mother Nature "stands ready to adopt it as her own, and to make of it landscape rich in meaning and pathos, such as no primitive wilderness can show." Look for a moment upon a typical valley of the interior of New England. "We are standing upon the eastern wall of upland. The village, with a mill or two and a church or two, lies below us at the mouth of a gap in the northern hills. Southward the valley broadens to contain a fresh green intervale. Opposite us the western wall of the valley is an irregular steep slope of rising woods, with numerous upland farms scattered along the more level heights above. The central intervale, the flanking woods, the village gathered at the valley's head—the whole scene before us possesses unity and beauty to a degree which interests us at once. And how was this delightful general effect produced? Simply by intelligent obedience to the requirements of human life in this valley. The village grew what it is for the sake of nearness to the great water power which rushes from the gap in the hills. The intervale was cleared and smoothed for raising perfect hay. The steep side hills have been maintained in woods because they are too steep for agriculture, and because, if they were cleared of trees, their sands and gravels would wash down upon the fertile land of the intervale. Similarly upon the upland farms the greenery along even the tiniest brooks has been preserved in order to obviate that wasteful washing away of soil which results from carrying plowing to the edges of the water-courses. Throughout the landscape before us it is most interesting to note how beauty has resulted from the exercise of common sense and intelligence. The every-day forces of convenience, use, and true economy have here conspired with Nature to produce beauty, and this beauty is of a very different and much more satisfying kind than that which tries to found itself on mere new caprice or fashion."

 

Perversity conquered.—The story of successful dealing with two cases of idiocy manifesting itself in violence is related by Margaret Bancroft, of Haddonfield, N. J. The first case was a deaf-mute, twenty years of age, "a sickly, wild, destructive, disgusting specimen of humanity," who had to be taken charge of day and night. He would tear or destroy three or four suits a week. An attendant, having noticed that he was fastidious about the color of the things he wore, suggested having fine clothing for him. He was fitted with a suit, and "the success was wonderful. He was perfectly delighted, blew and puffed on his clothes, and from that time, unless some very serious trouble arose with his care-taker, he never destroyed anything unless it was ugly. He was gradually led on from one step in good behavior to another—sitting to witness a play, being photographed, sitting in school during the opening exercises, drawing lines, and mat-weaving, in which, when he threaded his needle and put in one row without help, the whole school set up a hurrah. "There were many ups and downs, but from that time improvement was constant" till boy and teacher were separated in consequence of the burning of the school building. The success is a subject of wonder to all who know of the case. "It has taken unbounded patience, hopefulness, and trust, but the great secret has been love, our love for him and his love for us and trust in us." The other case was a boy who had been hurt mentally by a fall, a destructive, murderous savage, with whom, "for some time after his arrival, we felt that we had a young tiger in our peaceful home. . . . The first attempt to have him in the schoolroom was a tempest." He was tied in a chair and had to be held by two persons; then he had only to be tied; but, "after six months of this work, we could have him in the schoolroom untied for a short time. It was so in everything we attempted to do with him; in teaching him we were obliged to have one person hold him while another directed his hands. So on until we gradually got him to like his work. In marching, calisthenics, games, kindergarten work, chart work, board work, slate work, there were the same battles week after week; but now he leads the marching. . . . He is trying in all his work to use his right hand, but it is a great effort, and requires the exercise of patience on his part. He is loving and neat, takes great pride in his clothes, says his prayers, and tries to please. . . . We are proud of his table manners."

 

Plains in Cold Countries.—In his book on Ancient and Modern Steppes and Tundras, Prof. A. Nehring undertakes to show that such formations are marks of the post-glacial transition period, the analogues of which can be found in the central regions of Europe and North America, and even in the South. The heaths of central Europe, the puszten of Hungary, the African deserts, North American prairies and savannas, and the pampas and llanos of South America, are, according to his view, all of one class with them. Their common characteristic is not the desolation we usually conceive when the steppe or the tundra is mentioned, which is only a topographical incident, but the limitation of vegetation to herbaceous plants with scarcity of trees, and a general flatness or moderately undulating character of the surface. Sometimes island elevations occur in them, which are covered with trees, and whence streams flow. They are not depressions, but often constitute table-lands or cap the tops of mountains or high hills. As described by Prejevalski, some of the Siberian steppes in spring appear like immense flower beds of various colors, with wood-clad hills of dark pines or dwarf birches rising from among them. Our prairies present this floral exuberance through most of the summer, but on the thinner soil of the steppes it usually dies out under the intense heat, while in winter the region is subject to the other extreme of excessive cold. Rain is more abundant in the steppes than in the northern tundras. It falls chiefly in summer, in violent showers, which do little permanent good to vegetation. In the north, the water, prevented by the perpetual ice in the subsoil from percolating through it, forms the marshes characteristic of the tundras. Another feature common to steppes and tundras is that of raging snow-storms or buranes (blizzards?), or high winds with or without snow. These winds, charged with sand, dust, and snow, sweep away or destroy everything they meet, and deposit in curious formations alternate strata of sand and snow. The animal life of the tundras includes animals that live in them constantly, and those that visit them from other regions. Of the former class are the lemming, the arctic fox, and the snow hare in the tundras, while the characteristic animals of the steppes are the arctomys, the jerboa, and the spermophilus. It was the discovery of numerous remains of these animals in central Europe that suggested to Nehring that all the prairie formations may have had a similar origin. The objections which have been brought against this theory, which are not without weight, are ingeniously answered by Prof. Nehring in his book.

 

A River's Work.—Regarding the varying phases of a river's work in its passage from the form of a mountain torrent to that of a broad estuary, Mr. Albert F. Brigham remarks that transportation begins at the head waters, and continues, always important, to the ocean. Corrasion (wearing away) is active in the torrential stage, and passes practically down to zero in the lower course of the stream. Deposition begins at the end of the torrential section, and prevails strongly to the ocean. In the middle or terrace section the forces approximate an equilibrium. The river lays up its waste in its banks, only to load it up again after months or years, and carry it a stage farther toward its destination. Somewhere in descending our stream we pass the critical point between land destruction and land building. Above this point materials are gathered up; below they are strewn down."

 

Surviving Superstitions.—The more sober and matter-of-fact the people, says an essayist in the London Spectator, the more curious are the superstitions that survive among them, in spite of their common sense. It is not only the ignorant sailor before the mast who regards Friday with superstitious dread. His captain and several other well-educated men share in the feeling. The superstition concerning thirteen at the table is perhaps more widespread than any other. A hostess who deliberately made up a party of thirteen would be a bold woman indeed, for two or three of her company would object to dining at her table. Many people will positively assert that they have actually known cases in which one of a party of thirteen at dinner has died in the course of the year—and with perfect truth, probably; for, taking the average age of the assembled guests to be thirty-five or over, the mathematical chances of death occurring among them within a year are rather more than one in thirteen. The chance of a death would be even greater if there were twenty, and would amount to almost a certainty in the case of a hundred—an excellent reason for abstaining from public dinners! The same writer gives as the origin of the superstition against passing under a ladder the circumstance that in the old days the man to be hanged had to pass under the ladder which stood against the gallows for the convenience of the executioner; "and he passed under that ladder with the fair certainty of being immediately hanged." The superstition concerning the spilling of salt dates from the most distant antiquity. "Salt, the incorruptible and the preserver from corruption, the holy substance that was used in sacrifice, could not be rudely spilt or wasted without incurring the anger of all good spirits and giving an opportunity to the evil ones. Now, the evil spirit lurks, as a rule, somewhere behind a man upon the left side, so that it is desirable, if one wishes to avoid the consequence of carelessness, to throw the salt over the left shoulder three mystic times and discomfit the wicked one exceedingly. It is interesting to view the grave solemnity with which the intelligent and well-educated woman of to-day will perform that ceremony."

 

Rock Striation by River Ice.—A study of the striation of rocks by river ice has been made by Mr. J. E. Todd in the Mississippi and other Western rivers. While not much attention has been paid to this agency, the author finds that planation and striation are sometimes the work of river ice armed with erratics; that the situations most favorable for the phenomenon seem to be on the outside of a bend, or near a strong current, near low-water mark, and below a point where siliceous erratics lie near the water-level. The dynamical conditions necessary are probably a sudden breaking up of the ice before it is rotted by thawing and a flood to wield it. The proper conditions do not often occur in our present Western streams. Usually the striæ are parallel, as much so as in glacial action, and commonly on surfaces dipping up stream, but occasionally upon limited areas dipping down stream. While these facts, the author observes, may have no direct significance of practical value, they indirectly throw much light upon the possible origin of the extra-morainic drift and of some ancient striated surfaces outside of the moraines.

 

Animals not Afraid of Man.—Mr. W. H. Hudson's observations of birds in La Plata lead him to different conclusions from those which Darwin and Herbert Spencer have reached respecting their supposed instinctive fear of man or birds of prey antecedent to experience or parental teaching. The one thing that is instinctive, says Mr. Alfred R. Wallace, in his review of the book, "is the alarm caused by the warning note of the parent. This produces an effect even before the chick is hatched, for in three different species belonging to widely separated orders Mr. Hudson has watched the nest while the young bird was chipping its way out of the egg and uttering its feeble peep, when, on hearing the warning cry of the mother bird, both sounds instantly ceased, and the chick remained quiescent in the shell for a long time, or till the parent's changed note showed that the danger was over. Young nestling birds take their food as readily from man as from their parents till they hear the warning cry, when they immediately close their mouths and crouch down frightened in the nest. Parasitical birds, which do not recognize the warning cries of their foster-parents, show no fear. The young parasitical cowbird takes food from man, and exhibits no fear, although the foster-parents are hovering close by, screaming their alarm notes, So a young wild dove, reared from the egg by domestic pigeons, which, never being fed, were half wild in their habits, never acquired the wildness of his foster-parents, but became perfectly tame and showed no more fear of a man than of a horse. He had none of his own kind to learn from, and did not understand either the voices or the actions of the dove-pigeons. Mr. Hudson has also reared plovers, tinamous, coots, and many other wild birds from eggs hatched by fowls, and found them all quite incapable of distinguishing friend from foe, while some, such as the rhea and the crested screamer, are much tamer when young than domestic chickens and ducklings. Mr. Hudson concludes that birds learn to distinguish their enemies, first, from parental warnings, and later by personal experience.

 

The Truffle.—In a book on that vegetable, lately published in France, M. Ad. Chatin defines the truffle as a mushroom, which is not a parasite, though it grows by preference in the immediate vicinity of certain kinds of trees; and like its congeners, the tuberaceous mushrooms, instead of living in the air it is hypogeous. The truffle is first mentioned by Theophrastus, who calls it mizy and mison, and regards it as a rootless plant engendered by the thundershowers of autumn, but capable, according to many observers, of reproducing itself from seeds brought by storms from Tiaris, on the shores of Mitylene. This truffle, that of Lesbos, was an inferior variety to the truffle of Périgord, which is so highly prized by epicures. The truffles of Algeria, called terfas, and those of western Asia, called kamés, although not equal to those of France, are of considerable importance as food to the Arabs. M. Chatin has added several species, previously unknown, to the truffle of all these countries, and a new genus, the Tirmania, to those of Africa. The history of the truffle, as old as that of civilization, begins with the most brilliant days of Greece and Rome, was lost in the darkness of the middle ages, and revived with the Renascence; and at a later period the delicacy spread from the court to the tables of the rich, and is now known in all ranks. Scientific acquaintance with the plant has enjoyed a growth parallel with that of its alimentary use, and with methods of cultivation, which are wholly of modern origin, having been established as the result of the scientific investigations of the present century. According to the latest statistical report of the truffle crop, the total production was valued, for the year 1889, at $500,000.

 

Superstitions about Saturn.—The somewhat dull and heavy appearance of the light of Saturn as compared with that of the other planets and of the stars of the first magnitude may, according to Paul Stroobant, of the Royal Observatory of Belgium, help to account for the baleful influence which the ancients attributed to it. Recognizing it as the most remote of the planets with which they were acquainted, they paid it a special regard. The Assyrians included the sun, the moon, and the five planets known to them among the superior divinities, calling them the interpreting gods; and of these Saturn was the chief interpreter or revealer. They called it Nisroch or Asshur, the god of time or the year. Similar ideas prevailed in ancient Egypt. Julius Firminius, speaking of astral influences over the dispositions of men, says, "if one is born under the influence of Mercury, he will be addicted to astronomy; if under Mars, he will embrace the profession of arms; if under Saturn, he will devote himself to alchemy." This planet was regarded by the Egyptians as a foreign divinity, for its altars were built outside of the cities, among those of the adopted gods. Probably this usage came from the North, for Plutarch, who locates the island of Ogygia in the North, says that its people, every thirty years, when Saturn went into the sign of Taurus, sailed away to sacrifice in another country. The Greeks regarded Saturn as the god of time. Latin texts represent Saturn as a planet dangerous to human life, and say that it brings rains and four-day fevers. This planet likewise played an important part in the astrology of the middle ages. It was certainly known to the Chinese 2500 years b. c, for they then had ephemerides of the five older planets. Egyptian monuments of the fifth and sixth dynasties mention it. The most ancient precise observation of Saturn known was made by the Chaldeans in the year 579 of the era of Nabonassar. Ptolemy fixes this on March 1, b. c. 228. Ptolemy observed an opposition of Saturn a. d. 127, which was the basis for his determination of the elements of its orbit. The sign Saturn symbol.svg, employed to designate Saturn, was not known to the ancients. Laland derives it from the sickle of time. Some persons believe that it stands for the figure 5, answering to the place of the planet in the order of the system, as the sign Jupiter symbol.svg of Jupiter may stand for 4. Alexander von Humboldt says that the signs for the planets are no older than the tenth century. Different opinions prevail as to whether or not the ancients had any knowledge of Saturn's ring. It is hardly probable.

 

Jokes by Animals.—Among the incidents of jokes played by animals upon one another cited by a writer on The Animal Sense of Humor, in the London Spectator, is that of a jackdaw which, whenever it found its setter dog companions asleep, would steal up to them and pull at the little fluffy tassels of hair between their toes—where the animal was more sensitive than in other hairy parts of its body—unpleasantly waking them up. At a certain house, a tame magpie was kept in the stable yard with two kestrels. The kestrels were in the habit of sitting on the sides of the water pails that stood outside of the stable doors. At one time the magpie approached a kestrel from behind, seized its long tail in its beak, jerked it violently, and pushed it over into the pail; but the kestrel afterward caught the magpie and punished it well. A cat expressed its dislike of a peacock by jumping through its spread-out tail when the bird was displaying its beauty and exhibiting its own vanity, to the great discomfiture of the fowl. The writer's dog, which was accustomed to hunting rabbits, showed its displeasure when its master had shot a bullfinch by going into the hedge, finding a rabbit, and bringing it to him. Another dog, which knew tame ducks and that they were not hunted, but had no acquaintance with wild ones, was much disgusted when its master shot a teal, believing he had made a mistake, and would have nothing to do with the game. "He behaved in exactly the same way when we shot a black rabbit; nothing would persuade him that it was not a cat; and he would do no serious work for the rest of the day." The writer tells also of dogs that thought it beneath their dignity to chase rats, except when their masters were engaged in the sport; and he speaks of the very obvious dislike of dogs to be laughed at.

 

Suicidal Ingenuity.—A curious list and description of ingenious methods which insane patients with suicidal tendencies have adopted for disposing of themselves is given by Dr. H. Sutherland in a paper on the prevention of suicide in the insane. Patients with suicidal tendencies should be put under surveillance and constant attendance at once. Care must be taken against all imaginable and even some unimagined things with which they might contrive to kill themselves—medicines, pills, lotions, and plasters, and the patients' taking the prescribed doses, should be looked after, lest they by some craft accumulate a quantity sufficient to kill and take it all at once; keys, razors, knives and forks, fire-irons, even brooms, broken glass, and crockery, should be kept out of their hands; and nails, wires, ropes, sash-lines, bell-pulls, tapes, and string, lest they hang themselves. Even a piece of slate pencil or an old spoon may be used for the purpose of strangulation, by being attached to a string and then pushed through a keyhole and pulled taut. Patients working at their trades require constant watching and daily examination, for their tools and materials may be made to afford facilities for killing themselves. In fact, the ingenuity of these people can be matched only by ingenious vigilance and alertness.

 

Camphor.—The camphor tree, according to the United States consular report from Osaka, Japan, is a tree of the laurel family growing in southern Japan, the wood of which is valuable in ship-building. It grows in mountainous regions far from the sea. It is a well-proportioned, handsome evergreen, its elliptical, slightly dentate leaf turning a lighter color for one or two months in the spring. The berries grow in bunches. The tree is cut down for the collection of the camphor, but the law requires that it be replaced by another. It is then cut up into chips and steamed. The camphor and oil extracted by the steaming are passed through a connecting tube into a second receiver, and thence into a third, which is divided into two compartments, one above the other. These compartments are separated by a perforated partition, which gives passage to the water and the oil, while the camphor is deposited on a layer of straw provided for it. It is then separated from the straw and prepared for sale. The oil which is drawn out from the lower compartment is used for illumination.