Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/652

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.
634
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

the disintegration of several feet in thickness of limestone and dolomite, which have been dissolved out and carried away by the rain.

 

Albertite.—This substance, now largely consumed as an enricher of illuminating gas, is thus described in a recent number of the Iron Age:

"A very curious mineral known as albertite is found in New Brunswick. It occurs in connection with calcareo-bituminous shales, and has been by some regarded as true coal, by others as a variety of jet, and by others again as more nearly related to asphaltum. The true nature of the mineral was made the basis of a lawsuit in Scotland a few years ago, in which the amount involved was something more than a million pounds sterling, as the decision settled the question of the liability to pay a royalty. It resembles asphaltum very closely, being very black, brittle, and lustrous, and, like asphaltum, is destitute of structure, but differs from it in fusibility and in its relation to various solvents. It differs from true coal in being of one quality throughout, in containing no traces of vegetable tissues, and in its mode of occurrence as a vein and not as a bed. The vein occupies an irregular and nearly vertical fissure, and varies from one inch to 17 feet in thickness. It has been mined to the depth of 1,162 feet. The accompanying shales are abundantly filled with the remains of fossil fishes, and it is not improbable that from these, in part at least, the mineral was derived, existing at first in a fluid or semi-fluid state. Vegetable remains are almost entirely wanting in the shales. During twelve years since the discovery there have been shipped 154,800 tons of albertite, chiefly to the United States, where it has been used for the manufacture of oil, and for the admixture with bituminous coal in the manufacture of illuminating gas. It is admirably adapted for either of these purposes, yielding 100-gallons of crude oil, or 14,500 cubic feet of gas of superior illuminating power per ton."
 

Singular Feeding Habits of Wood-Ants.—Mr. McCook, of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, has published in, the "Proceedings" of that body some highly-interesting observations on the habits of Formica rufa, from which it appears that these ants have in their separate communities regular provision made whereby the workers are fed without having to quit the scene of their labors. The foragers of a community, as they come down the tree-paths, their abdomens swollen with honeydew—in which condition they are called by the author repletes—are arrested near the foot by workers from the hill seeking food. The replete rears upon her hind-legs, and places her mouth to the mouth of the hungry worker, or "pensioner," as the author calls him, who assumes the same posture. Often two, sometimes three pensioners are thus fed at once by one replete. The latter commonly yields the honey-dew complacently, but sometimes she is seized and arrested by the pensioner, occasionally with great vigor. The author described a number of experiments leading to the conclusion that there was complete amity between the ants of a district embracing some 1,600 hills and countless millions of creatures. Insects from hills widely separated always fraternized completely when transferred. It was found, however, that ants immersed in water, when replaced upon the hills, are invariably attacked as enemies; the assailants being immersed were themselves in turn assaulted. Experiments indicate that the bath temporarily destroys the peculiar odor or other property by which the insects recognize their fellows.

 

How Meteorites were regarded in Olden Times.—There was a noteworthy fall of meteorites in Berkshire, England, in the year 1628, and devout persons with one accord seem to have looked on the phenomenon as a special act of Divine Providence. The meteorites are "the arrows of God's indignation," and he is entreated "to shoote them some other way, upon the bosomes of those that would confound his Gospell." One Mistress Green had the courage to order one of these heaven-sent "thunder-stones" to be dug out of the ground, and a chronicler of the time gives a description of it. The chronicler himself had little sympathy with the curiosity of Mrs. Green, for he warns his readers against being "so daring as to pry into the closet of God's determinations. His workes are full of wonders, and not to be examined." A letter written by an eye-witness of this fall of meteorites well illustrates the devout credulity of the time. It opens with the following passage: "The cause of my writing to you at this time is by reason of an accident that the Lord sent among us. I have heard of the Lord by the hearing of the ear, as the prophet speaketh, but now mine eyes hath seen him. You