Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 14.djvu/134

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124
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

ment, ophibolus throws himself suddenly upon him and chokes him to death, pulls his body apart, and devours him. In captivity the king-snake is very gentle, and it requires very severe provocation to induce it to bite. Several specimens which were kept in a large box could not be induced to eat either mice, frogs, or toads; but as several fine specimens of Ophiosaurus ventralis, kept in the same box, quickly disappeared, it was easy to account for the apparent want of appetite.

 

The "Uses" of Pain.—The question is often asked, "What is the use of pain? It is scarcely conceivable that the infliction has no object." There are obviously two aspects of this question: in one Science has an immediate interest; with the other it has a secondary but not unimportant concern. The first is essentially physical. What useful purpose does pain subserve in the animal economy? The answer is thrust upon us by daily observation and experience. There are two sentinels posted, so to say, about the organism to protect it alike from the assaults of enemies without and exacting friends within. The first of these guardians is the sense of fatigue. When this speaks, there is need of rest for repair. If the monitor be unheeded, exhaustion may supervene; or, before that point of injury is reached, the second guardian will perhaps interpose for the vital protection—namely, pain. The sense of pain, however, is more directly significant of injury to structure, active or threatened, than an excessive strain on function, although in the case of the vital organs pain occurs whenever the pressure is great. Speaking generally, it may be set down as an axiom that, whatever collateral uses pain may subserve, its chief and most obvious service to humanity is as a deterrent and warning sensation to ward off danger. It is worthy of note, though sufficiently familiar to medical observers, that the absence of this subjective symptom in cases of severe injury is too often indicative of an injury beyond repair. The extinction of pain is not the highest, although it may be a generous, impulse. If there were no guardian sensibility of this nature, it would be impossible to live long in the world without self-inflicting the most formidable injuries. That pain, in the second place, has an educational value, as regards the mind and temper, no one can doubt. Some forms of pain would seem to be chiefly intended for this purpose; but even in this view pain has a practical interest, because the higher development of the mind which controls the body, and of which the brain is the formative organ, is a process of physico-mental interest governed by natural laws of which Science is perfectly competent to take cognizance. The subject as a whole is one with which the physician and physiologist have much concern.—Lancet.

 

Discovery of a New Salt-Deposit in Central New York.—Mr. James McFarlan announces the discovery of a bed of rock salt in the Onondaga salt-group at a locality thirty-seven miles south of Rochester. The boring which resulted in this discovery passed first through 660 feet of shales, then 110 feet of hard rock—sandstone or limestone—then 80 feet of hard limestone, when salt-water was found. Below this was 380 feet of limestone and shale belonging in part to the limestones and shales of the upper part of the Onondaga salt-group; next, 1,240 feet down, soft shales, 20 or 30 feet thick, were passed through; and, finally, the bed of rock-salt was struck at the depth of 1,279 feet. It had a thickness of 70 feet, of which 40 or 50 was pure salt. The boring was continued to the depth of 1,530 feet, down to the Niagara limestone, which was met at 1,562 feet. Borings are to be made on the south side of the Syracuse Valley, in the expectation of striking the same bed, which there would be found, if at all, at the depth of only a few hundred feet.

 

Distribution of Spiders.—In classifying the collection of spiders in the museum of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, the Rev. H. C. McCook discovered specimens of Sarotes venatorius, a large spider coming from various localities—from Santa Cruz (Virgin Islands) to Cuba, to Florida; across Central America, Yucatan, and Mexico; across the Pacific Ocean by way of the Sandwich Islands, Japan, and the Loo-Choo Islands, and thence across the continents of Asia and Africa to Li-