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

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Popular Science Monthly Volume 42 January 1893  (1893) 
Popular Miscellany
 

POPULAR MISCELLANY.

Early Electric Railways. — According to Mr. Edward Trevett's book on Electric Railroad Engineering, the first electric railway was constructed by Thomas Davenport, a blacksmith, of Brandon, Vt., who exhibited in Springfield, Mass., in 1835, a small model electric engine, running upon a circular track, the circuit being furnished by primary batteries carried in the car. The invention was crude and of little practical value, "but the idea was there." Three years later, Robert Davidson, of Aberdeen, Scotland, began experiments in order to supplant the steam railway locomotive by the electric locomotive. He constructed a powerful electric motor which was run successfully on several railways in Scotland, attaining a speed of four miles an hour. In 1849 Moses Farmer exhibited an electric engine which drew a small car containing two persons. In 1851 Dr. C. G. Page, of Salem, Mass., constructed an electric engine of considerable power, which drew a car on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, between Washington and Bladensburg, with a highest speed attained of nineteen miles an hour. In the same year Thomas Hall, of Boston, built an electric locomotive in which the current was conducted from a stationary source through the rails and the wheels to the motor. Dr. Joseph R. Finney, of Pittsburg, about this time devised a trolley apparatus. In 1879 Messrs. Siemens and Halske exhibited their electric railway at Berlin. The car carried about twenty passengers at about eight miles an hour. In 1880 Mr. Edison worked an experimental road at Menlo Park, N. J. The first commercial electric railway was constructed at Lichterfeld, Germany, in 1881. It is operated by the third rail system. Since then the development of the electric railway has been rapid.

 

An Indian Girl's Life.—Prayed over at birth, Dr. Shufeldt says, the pueblo girl of Wolpai (Moquis) must have her delicate baby skin well rubbed with fine wood ashes, or else her bones might become loose as she grows older. Very soon she is strapped in her portable cradle and toted about upon her mother's back, but while in the house must, in the same apparatus, be either stood up against the wall or even hung up, where for an hour or more together, in either situation, her sole amusement consists in peering about the "living-room." As soon as she is able to walk she is permitted to toddle about everywhere, and to ascend and descend the house ladder before the second summer has passed over her head. She has no end of toys and playthings to amuse her. Till about seven years old "her days are spent mostly in romping and playing with the numerous children in the pueblo. Innocent of all clothing, and possessing a wholesome dread of water for any other purpose than to drink, she is at this age as wild as a mountain sheep, and can with almost equal celerity run up and down the steep, rocky crags that so abruptly slope down from the pueblo on all sides save one." After her tenth year she assumes the costume of her elder sisters and her girl companions, and is instructed in the duties that pertain to the kitchen, and in pottery and basket-work; and as she grows stronger, in carding and dyeing wool and weaving blankets, mantles, petticoats, garters, and sashes of cotton or wool. At or a little before fifteen she is considered nubile. "She can bake, sew, dye, card, weave, and spin; her nimble fingers fashion the plastic clays into every shape needed for use or ornament; the tender shoots of the willow or the pliable roots of the grasses respond to her fairy touch and round themselves into beautiful baskets, vivid with coloring and repeating the sacred emblems of the butterfly, deer, or thunder-bird. In the number of stews, ragouts, and broths which she knows how to compound of the flesh of the kid or sheep, and such vegetables as the onion, bean, and the aromatic chile, or in the endless diversity of hominy mush, popcorn, and piki bread, she will hold her own with the most ingenious American housewife."

 

The Eskimo Woman's Knife.—The ulu, or woman's knife of the Eskimo, as described in Mr. Otis T. Masons's paper on the subject, finds its modern representative in the saddler's and shoemaker's knives, the tailor's shears, the butcher's and fishmonger's knives, and the kitchen chopping knife. The last presents a curious survival of form with change of function. There are a great many examples of the ulu in the National Museum, and there are thousands of pieces of slate, shell, quartzite, and other stone which correspond exactly with the blades of the Eskimo woman's knife. They have been gathered in countless numbers from the places where relics are found; for every woman and every girl among the American aborigines had one or more of these indispensable implements. While some of the number are of a very primitive character, the ulu as it now exists is a complex affair, consisting of a blade and a handle, or grip, with or without some form of lashing. The blade is either a thin piece of slate ground to an edge, a bit of cherty or flinty rock chipped to an edge, a scrap of steel or iron from wrecks of whaling vessels, or good blades made and sold to Eskimos by traders who visit their country. The handle of this common implement varies greatly in material, form, and finish. In form alone the specimens from each typical area are unique. Many of the blades are tightly fitted into a socket or groove of the handle. The woman's knife is found throughout the Eskimo region, from Labrador to Kadiak, of materials in the handles and the blades dependent most largely on what are furnished by the locality. Some of the specimens in the National Museum are as coarse as savagery could make them; others are very beautiful. The same locality furnishes both and intervening kinds; but some areas furnish only coarse work, while others supply the most beautiful. The problem is a complex one, and white influence has crept in to embarrass the question.

 

Dirt and Cholera.—"Boil your ice," the pithy counsel given by Dr. Daremberg to the people of Paris, in view of the danger of cholera, is made a text by The Lancet for an exhortation to cleanliness. The saying refers to the ascertained fact that the cholera germ is not destroyed by freezing, and there may therefore be danger in ice, but there are lessons in it of much wider application. We have made great advances in sanitary practice, or cleanliness, which is the same thing, but are still guilty of a great many faults; as The Lancet says, speaking of England, but with apt applicability to our own country: "There are spots in abundance that seem almost to be waiting their opportunity to impress more emphatically the lesson that epidemic cholera and filth go hand in hand. There is the barbarous and revolting midden-stead system of our northern counties, polluting air and soil by its emanations and soakage; there are similar systems in the south and elsewhere under which it has become a custom to dig two holes in every man's garden and then to pour all liquid filth into one which is called a cesspool, while the drinking-water is drawn from the other one which goes by the name of a well. There are houses by the thousand in which the drinking-water is drawn from a cistern which also serves a water-closet, and which is also placed in direct communication with the house-drain by means of its overflow pipe; and there are houses in every town by the score, and even by the hundred, in which there is no such proper disconnection of house-drain and waste-pipes from the public sewer as to free them from risk of the ingress of that sewer air from public culverts, which may at any moment be a means of conveying the contagium of imported cholera. . . . There are communities who deliberately elect opponents of sanitary reform because they prefer a risk which seems somewhat remote to a certainty of increased rates; there are public bodies who leave individual inhabitants to perform works of cleanliness and scavenging which they are aware they can not properly carry out; and there are householders who live on year after year in dwellings into which they know sewer air can make its way by one channel or another—indeed, such people can be everywhere found in abundance."

 

Curious Lightning Phenomena.—A curious story is cited in Chambers's Journal of a specimen of the kind of lightning called the fireball, which came down a tailor's chimney in Paris, showing itself the size of a child's head, and moved slowly about the room, at a small height above the floor, looking, as the tailor described it, "like a good-sized kitten rolled up into a ball and moving without showing its paws." It was bright and shining, yet did not seem to give out any heat. After making several excursions in different directions, it rose vertically to the height of a man's head, steered toward a hole in the chimney above the mantel-piece, and made its way into the flue. Shortly afterward there was a violent explosion, which destroyed the upper part of the chimney and threw the fragments on to the roofs of some adjoining buildings. The phenomenon of lightning prints is one of which little is yet known, but which deserves attention. Prof. Poey mentions twenty-four cases of impressions like photographs made by lightning on the bodies of men and animals. Of these, eight were impressions of trees or parts of trees; one of a bird, and one of a cow; four of crosses; three of circles or of impressions of coins carried about the person; two of horseshoes; one of a nail; one of a metal comb; one of a number or numeral; one of the words of a sentence; one of the back of an arm-chair. Many other instances of similar impressions are recorded.

 

Diseases of Advancing Age.—Dr. J. F. Alleyne Adams, in his Shattuck Lecture on the Prevention of Diseases, considers some of the causes of the increase of the diseases of mature or advancing age. The first is the natural tendency of an advancing but still imperfect civilization. We have arrived at nullifying the law of natural selection in youth by the care we take of our weaklings, but have not yet reached that high moral condition and power of self-restraint which are needed to enable us to carry out the contest to the end, and these weaklings consequently succumb early in the downward course. A second cause is found in the rapid growth of cities, the influence of the life in which is to degeneration. A third cause appears in the influence of the war, which took away our most vigorous men. Other causes acting more directly are, the general prevalence of digestive disturbances, due in part to an improper diet and in part to a weakness of digestion caused by lack of exercise and mental strain; a lack of general vigor due to insufficient exercise; the excitement and anxiety which pervade all occupations at the present day; and—most potent and destructive—the intemperate use of alcoholic stimulants.

 

The People of Mashonaland.—A paper concerning the country in South Africa "which has somehow or another got the name of Mashonaland" was read in the British Association by Mr. Theodore Bent. The inhabitants are an oppressed and impoverished race who, raided upon from both sides by Zulus, take refuge in the mountains. They are obviously a race which has seen better days, retaining traces of a higher civilization in their skill in smelting iron, their ornaments, their musical instruments, and many other kindred points. Though of different tribes, the inhabitants all call themselves by one race name, Makalanga. This is philologically the same as Mocaranga, which a Portuguese writer of the sixteenth century called the people of the country; and in the accounts, given at that time, of the manners and customs of the tribes we recognize certain salient features which connect them with the present race. They describe to us the tribal witch-doctor, the ancestor-worship which is still carried on, their methods of catching game, the filing of their teeth, and numerous other customs indubitably connecting them with the present race. Hence it is very clear to us that the country now called Mashonaland has been inhabited for at least a thousand years by the ancestors of the present barbarous race—a race of men who at one time became powerful and almost civilized, owing to their intercourse doubtless with foreign traders, but who during the later centuries have fallen away into barbarism. Among the traits connecting them with external races and pointing to Semitic influences, are: the assumption of a dynastic or tribal name with the disuse of his old name, by each chief, of whatever degree, on his inheriting his chiefdom. Such names are used just as the name Pharaoh was used in ancient Egypt and continue for centuries. Each of the Makalanga tribes has its totem. In M'Topo's country it is the lion into which the spirits of their ancestors are supposed to go, and this animal is believed to fight for them in battle. To the lion they sacrifice annually, and the chief priest of the tribe is called the lion priest, the Mondoro. Other tribes have the crocodile, the leopard, and so forth. Totems of similar nature are found, as Prof. Glover demonstrates, among the tribes of southern Arabia in remote antiquity. In religion the present inhabitants of Mashonaland are distinctly monotheists. They believe in one god whom they term Muali, a great and mysterious personage unapproachable by mortals; so they have elected as their intercessors Mozimos, or spirits of their ancestors, to whom they sacrifice annually, and offer prayers for their well-being. The existence among the Makalangas of a day of rest during the plowing season is very curious. They call it "Muali's" or "God's day." In Mangwendi's country the chief ordains it and orders that his tribe abstain from work on every sixth day during the periods of industry. This day is invariably employed by the men in drinking beer and lying about idle on the rocks. The wooden pillows are the same as the ancient Egyptian pillows. The favorite game of the country, called Tsufuba, is closely akin to a game played in India. The common drink, a millet beer, is called doora, as in Abyssinia, and is the same as an ancient Egyptian and Asiatic drink. The so-called Mashona piano, consisting of over twenty iron notes fixed to a scale on a square piece of wood and played on a calabash to bring out the sound, has its parallel to-day in Nubia and Lower Egypt. The Makalangas are decidedly a musical race, and easily pick up tunes to play on this instrument. Every chief has his private musician, who plays at all the public entertainments and dances. As to type of countenance, the Makalanga is far the most refined of any of the Kaffir races Mr. Bent has seen.

 

The First Transatlantic Steamer.—A publication of curious interest is that of the Log of the Savannah, the first steamship that crossed the ocean, which J. Elfreth Watkins has contributed to the report of the United States National Museum. The Savannah was built for a sailing vessel, but attracted the attention, while upon the stocks, of Captain Moses Rogers, who had been associated with Fulton and Stevens in commanding several of the early steamboats. At his instance it was fitted up with engines by a business firm in Savannah, who wished to give that city the credit of starting the first transatlantic steamship line. Her first voyage was made from New York to Savannah, and on the second day occurs the entry: "Got steam up and it came on to blow fresh; we took the wheels in on deck in thirty minutes." This taking in the wheels during a storm through fear of having them washed away or damaged is not mentioned in connection with any other vessel. The ship reached Savannah in eight days and fifteen hours from Sandy Hook. After a voyage to Charleston and return, the vessel was visited by President Monroe, who was greatly pleased with it, and wished it to go to Washington after its Atlantic voyages, to be examined and possibly purchased for the Government service. The voyage to Liverpool began May 22, 1819. On the 24th, at 5 a. m., the Savannah "got under way of Tybee light, and put to sea with steam and sails. At 6 a. m. left the pilot. At 8 a. m. took off the wheels in twenty minutes." This was to insure the wheels getting safely to Liverpool. The Savannah reached Liverpool, steaming up the Mersey, in twenty-nine days eleven hours from Savannah, having run eighty hours under steam. Marwade's English Commercial Report described her steaming, "without the assistance of a single sheet," as being in a style "which displayed the power and advantage of the application of steam to vessels of the largest size." Vessels which saw her steaming on the passage took her to be on fire. The Savannah visited Stockholm, St. Petersburg, and Copenhagen; and returning home, reached Savannah on November 30th, the fortieth day after leaving Arendale, Norway, not using steam till she got inside of the bar. She visited Washington in December. Her owners became embarrassed in consequence of the great fire in Savannah in 1820, and were obliged to sell her. She was stripped of her machinery, and served as a sailing packet till 1822, when she ran ashore on Long Island and went to pieces.

 

The Two Schools of Psychology.— At the second session of the International Congress of Experimental Physiology, held in London in August, the president, Prof. H. Sidgwick, spoke of the subsidence of the antagonism that prevailed a few years ago between one-sided extreme views on the neurological side and the psychological side respectively. On the one hand, the crude materialism or positivism which pushed contemptuously aside all results of introspective observation had now mostly given way before the general recognition that psychical processes are objects of experience, altogether distinct from the nervous processes which invariably accompany them; and, though we might regard them as "two faces of the same fact," they must admit that they were "incapable of seeing, or even imagining," how the two were connected; and that, in order to know what could be known of the double fact, they must give systematic and careful attention to both its sides. On the other hand, the attempt of some students of mind to mark off a department of mental phenomena elevated above the condition of being accompanied by nervous change, was now, he thought, generally abandoned, even by the psychologists who were most strongly opposed to materialism; they found, as Shakespeare's Troilus said, that "we can not fight upon that argument."

 

Insects Injurious to Fruit.—In his paper read at the late meeting of the American Pomological Society on Recent Advances in dealing with Insects affecting Fruits, Prof. C. V. Riley discusses the methods of combating the plum curculio, codling moth, red scale, fluted scale, and other injurious insects, giving the results of recent experiments on those insects. He questions whether more injury is done to-day to our fruits than was done fifty or one hundred years ago. In fact, it is patent that with the advances made of late years in our methods of warfare against these fruit pests less injury relatively is done, but, as the area of fruit culture increases, so does the aggregate of injury and also the number of species that we have to contend with. He warned pomologists to be on their guard against two foreign insects likely soon to appear in this country—the peach ceratitis, a subtropical insect resembling the apple maggot, which is extremely destructive to the peach crop of Bermuda and likely to be troublesome if it once becomes established in Florida and Georgia; and the Japanese peach fruit-worm, which is allied to our codling moth, and in some seasons damages ninety per cent of the peach crop of Japan. He suggested that provision be made for the inspection, at ports of entry, of fruits and plants received from any part of the world from which we know danger threatens.

 

Leaves of the Water Lily.—Prof. Miall read a paper in the British Association on the leaves of the giant water lily (Victoria regia). He exhibited a photograph of a leaf with a child standing on it to illustrate its flotative power. The leaf differed from that of the English water lilies in that the stalk was affixed almost to the center of it, while the deep slit at the base of the leaf was reduced to a mere notch, and in the presence of a raised rim. This latter feature was probably not useful for preventing waves breaking over the leaf, as had been supposed, but for preventing one leaf from sliding over another. This was proved by the fact that if a leaf was allowed to grow apart from others the rim bent down and the whole leaf lay flat upon the water. Any solid object touching the young growing leaf would cause the rim to be retained all round. It had been shown, furthermore, that when one leaf slid over another, the portion which was covered degenerated and lost its power of repelling water. The notch at the base of the leaf was formerly supposed, by Prof. Miall himself, to be of service in getting rid of water from the surface, but further experiments had convinced him that this was an error. He believed that submergence, the means by which he had previously tested them, was not likely to occur in nature, so he resorted to the use of a garden syringe in order to imitate the effect of rain in filling the leaves. He then found that after fifteen minutes' watering the leaf was no fuller than before and that no water had run out through the notch. On holding the leaf up to the light it was found to be as full of pores as a sieve. The spines with which the leaf was covered were probably a protection against the attacks of the apple snail (ampullaria), one of the chief enemies of the plant. When the young leaves were unrolling the spines were so close that no animal could possibly get between them to eat the leaf, and in the full-grown specimens it was only the margins of the rim which were accessible.

 

The Future of Water Powers.—In his address before the Section of Mechanical Science of the British Association, Mr. H. Cawthorne Unwin said that in 1878 Mr. Easton expressed the opinion that the question of water power was one deserving more consideration than it had lately received, and he pointed to the variation of volume of flow of streams as the principal objection to their larger utilization. Since that time the progress made in systems of transporting and distributing power has given quite a new importance to the question of the utilization of water power. There seems to be a probability that in many localities water power will, before long, be used on a quite unprecedented scale, and under conditions involving so great convenience and economy that it may incite a quite sensible movement of the manufacturers toward districts where water power is available. When textile manufactures began to pass from the condition of purely domestic industries to that of a factory system, the principal mills were erected near river falls, no other power than water power having been found practically useful. "About 1790," says Mr. Kennedy, "Mr. Watt's steam engine began to be understood, and waterfalls became of less value. Instead of carrying the work-people to the power, it was found preferable to place the power among the people." The whole tendency of the conditions created by the use of steam power has been to concentrate the industrial population in large communities, and to restrict manufacturing operations to large factories. Economy in the production of power, economy in superintendence, the convenience of the subdivision of labor, and the costliness of the machines employed, all favored the growth of large factories. The whole social conditions of manufacturing centers have been profoundly influenced by these two conditions—that coal for raising steam can be easily brought to any place where it is wanted, and that steam power is more cheaply produced on a large scale than on a small scale. It looks rather, just now, as if facilities for distributing power will to some extent reverse this tendency. Water power, where it is available, is so much cheaper and more convenient than steam power that it has never been quite vanquished by steam power.

 

Electric Units.—The committee of the British Association on electrical standards have proposed the following resolutions, with a view to their adoption internationally: "(1) That the resistance of a specified column of mercury be adopted as the practical unit of resistance. (2) That 14·4521 grammes of mercury in the form of a column of mercury 106·3 centimetres long at 0° C. be the specified column. (3) That standards in mercury or solid metal having the same resistance as this column be made and deposited as standards of resistance for industrial purposes. (4) That such standards be periodically compared with each other, and also that their values be redetermined at intervals in terms of a freshly set up column of mercury." With regard to the units of current and electromotive force, it was agreed that the number ·001118 should be adopted as the number of grammes of silver deposited per second from a neutral solution of nitrate of silver by a current of one ampere, and the value l·434 as the electromotive force in volts of a Clark cell. Prof. Ton Helmholtz expressed his full concurrence in these decisions.

 

Power of Hypnotic and Vernal Suggestion.—Some most remarkable instances, taxing credulity, of the power of hypnotic suggestion were related at the recent International Congress of Experimental Psychology in London. A communication from Dr. Liebault told of a case of suicidal monomania cured by suggestion, the effect of which he hoped would be, with a few renewals, durable. In such cases the practitioner insists on making repeated affirmations of cure and multiplying the séances. Prof. Delbœuf had removed pain by causing the patient to exercise his will, and had cured a woman possessed with the idea of killing her husband and children—charming away the morbid thought by degrees for two hours, then for a day, and then for a week. Dr. Bramwell, of Goole, presented four of his patients in proof of his claim that he could command pain away by the mere spoken word, without inducing the hypnotic trance. He had recently painlessly extracted seven teeth from the woman of the group by merely ordering her not to feel pain; but failed in the eighth tooth, because she had previously formed the conviction that she would feel pain, so that her self-suggestion overbore his suggestion. The same patient had suffered from myopia, being able to read only the third line in the ordinary table of test letters. On his suggestion she had been able to read all the lines; and he could put her into the myopic state or relieve her from it by the word of command. He had been able to produce the same satisfactory results with all his patients by the mere command in a waking state that he had previously produced in a trance. The mere fact of his giving a written order to a patient to sleep enabled the patient to take that order, read it, and go to sleep whenever he needed to do so. He had repeatedly sent patients to a dentist carrying with them a written order not to feel pain, which they read when they sat down in the dentist's chair. He had now patients who go to sleep by reading the order to do so; the orders would retain their power when he had not seen the patients for weeks; in fact, he had been repeatedly called upon to give them new pieces of paper when the original talisman had worn out. A captain's wife, in the habit of taking sea voyages and being sick, was now regularly relieved by the author's suggestion.

 

Useful Bacteria.—It is true, says Dr. H. W. Conn, in a paper on Some Uses of Bacteria, that bacteria are occasionally injurious to us, but it is equally true that they are of direct benefit to us; particularly useful are many of them to the farmer. There are the yeasts, for instance—not bacteria, but microscopic plants closely related to them—the fermenting agents by the aid of which we make bread, wine, and beer. Cider having been fermented by yeast into an alcoholic liquid—hard cider—is further changed in time by the agency of bacteria into vinegar. These bacteria grow on the surface of the hard cider, forming a sort of scum which is the "mother" of vinegar. In the ensilage management of silos, the whole process of procuring proper and sweet ensilage is one of properly managing bacteria growth. During the ripening of cream and the development of the aroma that gives its flavor to butter, bacteria are growing within it "with absolutely inconceivable rapidity" to produce the precious changes. But, "if the butter-maker owes something to bacteria, the cheese-maker owes everything to them. The butter-maker can not get the proper aroma without the agency of bacteria, but the cheese-maker can not get anything. By them unpalatable fresh cheese is converted into ripened, strong, pungent, well-flavored cheese. The quality of the cheese depends on the kind of bacteria that are planted in it, and the selection of these bacteria or the method of introducing them constitutes one of the arts of cheese-making, in which much is yet to be learned; and there is another art in keeping out the noxious bacterium, tyrotoxicon, which poisons the cheese. Bacteria are the powerful agents through which dead animal and vegetable matter is removed by decay. Bacteria also have an important agency in plant life, by promoting the decomposition of compounds from which plants are fed. Of special importance is one particular kind of organism known as "the nitrifying organism," which produces nitric acid. But this is not the end of the agency of bacteria in plant life. They are not only of value in ripening your fertilizers and in keeping up this constant growth of Nature, but we have learned . . . that at the very foundation the growth of plants is absolutely dependent upon these organisms, and similarly in the future the continuance of the vegetable world must be also dependent upon them."

 

Prehistoric Fish Weirs.—The stone implements, potsherds, and other objects found by Dr. H. T. Cresson in the mud near the mouth of Naaman's Creek, Claymont, Delaware, form the subject of a special paper in the records of the Peabody Museum. The objects were found in close association with the decayed remains of stakes or piles, indicating an aboriginal structure of an unknown character. This structure (or structures) Dr. Cresson conjectures to have been originally fish weirs. Herein he agrees with Prof. H. W. Haynes, who deems it safe to consider them fish weirs rather than the remains of a pile-dwelling people. This confirms the words of the fisherman who first brought the stone implements to notice, when he suggested that "the Indians in old times used to hitch their canoes to them and spear fish, and that was the reason why their darts, axes, etc., were found there." Fish weirs have been mentioned by certain early explorers on this continent, and remains resembling such structures have been referred to by more modern writers.

 

The Ribs of the Gorilla and of Man.—Describing the articular processes of the gorilla as compared with those of man, Prof. Struthers said, in the British Association, that in the gorilla the chest was planted a vertebra lower than in man. The seventh presented all the characters of the normal sixth, the eighth all the characters of the seventh. In man he had seen the whole chest a vertebra too high. He had met with three cases of a rib more than usual. It was common enough in the human body; instead of the ordinary twelve you had one more at the neck much more commonly than below. In the cases of three out of fourteen gorillas the extra rib was in the lower part of the chest. The gorilla had one more rib than man, but he had never met with the cervical rib in the gorilla in the upper part of the chest. The tendency in the human chest was to move upward; the tendency in the gorilla's chest was to move downward. President Archibald Geikie said that in man the last rib was a diminishing element, that nothing was more striking than the excessive variations in the length of it. Every organ in the body had a marvelous power of persistency, but it seemed as if the last rib was passing out of existence.

 

Ancient Peruvian Vegetables.—According to Prof. Wittmack, the ancient Peruvians did not suffer from lack of variety of vegetable foods in their bill of fare. The examination of the ancient cemetery at Aricon has brought to light a large number of plant products which were useful to them for various purposes. Among cereals they had several kinds of Indian corn from which they prepared a kind of beer and a brandy. The quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa) was also much valued as a breadstuff, and is still cultivated. They had two kinds of phaseolus beans (Phaseolus pallar and P. vulgaris), and the beans of the mezquite (Prosopis glandulosa), which were eaten as a St. John's bread, or ground were much enjoyed with water. Only a few seeds of lupins have been recovered, but the peanut (Arachis hypogœa) has been found abundantly. The bulbous foods included manioc, potatoes, which were cultivated on the mountains, and the sweet potato. Of fruits they had bananas and the lucuma (Lucuma obovata) of the present Peruvians; the guava, the sapota, peaches, the passion-flower, the anone, and the anana. The large seeds of the Inga feuilli, called pacay, were much liked. For greens they had the tender leaves of the quinoa, cucumbers, and tomatoes. Their narcotics included the coca, which was chewed with pulverized bones or lime, but which in the time of the Incas common men were not permitted to enjoy without permission of the king. Tobacco was used only in snuff or as a medicine, but was not smoked. One of the most important drinks was chica, a kind of corn beer. Spanish pepper was in general use. Of plants useful in the arts, they had white and brown cotton, hemp from the agave, and fourcroya and ananas leaves, for fibers. The pith of the agave furnished tinder. For dyestuffs, they had indigo for blue, Bixa orellania, the fruit of Coulteria tinctoria, the bark of Rhopala ferruginea, for black and brown, Bignonia chica and Rubia nitida. The seeds of the soap tree (Nectandra or Mucuna inflexa) were worn as beads. Weaving implements and canes were made from the soft wood of the Porliera hygrometrica; and idols, spoons, and other carved articles from the likewise soft wood of Pavonia paniculata, while hard woods were fashioned into lance-shafts, etc.

 

Ethics in Engineer's Work.—Some Moral Factors in the Engineer's Career, as outlined by Mr. Alfred R. Wolff, of the Stevens Institute of Technology, include in the beginning the subordination of the money consideration to the improvement of opportunities for acquiring further knowledge and the right kind of experience in judgment; an impartial estimate of one's own capabilities and the following as a specialty of that in which he can best excel; self-respect; strenuous effort to gain wide culture and foster broad interests outside of his special profession; and good citizenship, with active interests in movements which tend to humanitarian, social, and political advance. Under the maxim "Be honest," the author describes a kind of bribery which is insinuating but powerful. It is when a special machine or device has been recommended or some contract awarded with sole reference to its merits, and the proprietor then offers a commission or gift. All appears harmless; but an inducement has been offered silently for taking, if not on this occasion, then on the next, a more favorable or a biased view to the donor's interest.

 

Origin of Color Blindness.—After describing the phenomena of color blindness in his address at the British Association, Prof. William Rutherford said: "It must be admitted that the production of nerve-impulses within the terminals of the retina is almost as obscure as ever. It is still the old question, Does light stimulate the optic terminals by inducing vibration or by setting up chemical change? Whichever view we adopt, it seems to me necessary to suppose that all the processes for the production of nerve-impulses can take place in one and the same terminal, and can be transmitted to the brain through the same nerve-fiber. From Lippmann's recent researches on The Photography of Color it appears that all parts of the spectrum can now be photographed on films of albumino-bromide of silver to which two aniline substances, azaline and cyanine, have been added. It seems, therefore, reasonable to suppose that a relatively small number of substances could enable all rays of the visible spectrum to affect the retina. It seems to me that the question becomes narrowed down to this, Do the nerve-impulses arise from mere vibration or from chemical change in the molecules of the nerve terminal? The photo-chemical hypothesis has much in its favor. We know how rapidly light can induce chemical change in photographic films, and we know that light induces chemical change in the vision purple in the outer segments of the rod-cells of the retina. The fatigue of the retina produced by bright light is best explained on a chemical theory, but it could also be explained on a mechanical theory; for we must remember that even if the nerve-impulses produced in the visual cells were merely a translation of the energy of light into vibration of nerve-molecules, the nerve-impulse has to pass through layers of ganglionic cells before reaching the fibers of the optic nerve, and in these cells it probably always induces chemical change. I have endeavored to place before you a subject that involves physical and physiological considerations of extreme difficulty. I have not attempted to solve the difficulties, but rather to show their nature."

 

Work of the Forestry Division.—The year 1891, according to chief Fernow's report, witnessed greater activity and interest in forestry than any previous year. A bulletin, What is Forestry? issued by the division, showed that the forestry interests of this country rank second, if not first, in the value of our annual products reaching the market. The largest share of the expenditure of funds as well as of attention was bestowed upon investigations into the character of our timber trees, or "timber tests." These relate to a judgment of mechanical properties from a simple microscopic or macroscopic examination, and to the determination of the relation in which structure, physical conditions, and mechanical properties stand to the conditions under which the tree is grown. A wide and deep interest is manifested in this work throughout the country. In connection with it a study has been made of the lumber pines of the Southern States, the results of which are given in the present report of the chief of the division. The revision of the botanical and the common names of our arborescent flora is nearly completed and will soon be ready for publication. Distributions have been made of packages of seeds of nine important conifers to State agricultural experiment stations, and twenty species of important conifers and deciduous trees to general applicants, besides seeds of the Australian tan-bark wattle to applicants in the Gulf States, the arid Southwest, and the southern part of the Pacific coast region.

 

The Forerunners of Matches.—Besides the primitive devices for fire-making, Mr. Walter Hough, in a paper on that subject, describes several that were used in civilized countries before matches became universal. The brimstone match is found in Japan as a broad, thin shaving tipped with sulphur; in Mexico it is a cotton wick dipped in sulphur. These are used to catch the sparks from flints or steels. The "spunk," or splint tipped with sulphur, was in common use in this country prior to 1825, and lingered in out-of-the-way places long after the introduction of matches. In parts of France it is still in use with the briquet or tinder box. A variation of the spunk match was curled shavings tipped with sulphur. Attempts to supersede the clumsy briquets produced the tinder piston, the tinder wheel, and later the first chemical match. The first employment of phosphorus was by dipping the match into a bottle full of phosphorous mastic mixed with oxide of phosphorus. The next was the "instantaneous light box," "eupyrion," "dip splint," or, in the United States, "match-light box"—a tin box or wooden receptacle, containing a glass bottle filled with asbestus soaked with sulphuric acid, and wood splints tipped with sulphur and then dipped in a paste made of chlorate of potash, powdered sugar, and gum arabic, with water. The "prometheans" were tubes of glass filled with sulphuric acid, surrounded with an inflammable mixture made chiefly of alum and sugar, which, on being broken, gave an instantaneous light. Another "promethean" was composed of equal parts of chlorate of potash and sugar mixed with a solution of gum, while the sulphuric acid was contained in a glass bead imbedded in the paste and rolled up in gummed paper. Chemical contact and flame were produced by crushing with a pair of pliers. The "Döbereiner," named after the German inventor, was an apparatus of some complexity for bringing hydrogen to impinge upon spongy platinum. It was extensively used in Germany and other countries, and is still found in laboratories and can be purchased from instrument-makers. The invention of friction matches is variously assigned to an Englishman and to a German, and to the years 1829, 1830, and 1832. The first United States patent for a friction match was issued in 1832 for a chlorate match.

 

Silicified Wood in Arkansas.—The occurrence of silicified wood in the sands and gravels of the Tertiary of the lower Mississippi Valley has long been known, but the mentions and studies of it have for the most part been only incidental. No attempt has hitherto been made, according to Mr. R. Ellsworth Call, to recognize the species and fix their value for classification. The fossil woods occur throughout the area covered by Tertiary sands and gravels in Arkansas. When in large masses, they are apparently rarely far removed from beds of Tertiary lignite; if in small masses or in small fragments, they occur in the gravels of nearly all the region and in the beds of the streams and brooks of the area covered by the Tertiary. Occasionally, whole trunks of trees are found, often partially buried in the sands or deeply imbedded in the gravels which cover the flood plains of the creeks and ravines. The microscopic studies of Prof. F. H. Knowlton have shown that the woods belong to both dicotyledonous and coniferous types, the former constituting the first known dicotyledonous wood found in this country in rocks older than Pleistocene, and the first dicotyledonous forms determined by internal structure. The forms described by Prof. Knowlton are new, and therefore of no use for purposes of classification, but otherwise valuable results have been reached by the studies. The specimens found indicate comparatively few species, but these few must have existed in great numbers. Mr. Call's attention has been directed to tracing the connection between these silicified woods and the lignite beds; and he concludes that they are silicified lignite, the silicification of which occurred either while they were still in the clays, or, most often, after they were removed and buried in the sands and gravels.