Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/736

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
716
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

stances were regarded as volcanoes were merely extensive fires of stone-coal, Muschketoff maintained, in 1876, that there was no recent volcano in the country except, perhaps, Mount Baishan. Two years later General Kolpakoffsky endeavored to solve the question relative to that mountain, but his expedition failed to reach it. Last year he had better success, and a dispatch was read from him at the meeting of the Russian Geographical Society, on October 29th, stating that he had found the apparent volcanic phenomena there also to be caused by a stone-coal fire, that had been burning so long a time that no one could tell when it had begun. Opposite to Baishan is Mount Kiuntag, where the fire has ceased. The slopes of Baishan are marked with holes from which smoke and sulphurous gases stream out, and the fire in the interior is attended with a great noise. The question of the existence of volcanoes in Central Asia appears to be decided in the negative by this report, which also strengthens the theory that the action of volcanoes is chiefly due to water; for the supposed volcanoes in the interior of Asia, now known not to exist, afforded the only exceptions to the rule that all volcanoes arc situated near large masses of water.

 

Reversion of Domesticated Animals to the Wild State.—The Hon. J. D. Caton has been taking some notes, during a sojourn in the Sandwich Islands, on the tendency of domesticated animals, when left to go wild, to revert to the habits, forms, and colors of their wild ancestors. With the exception of the goose and the duck, nearly all the animals which have been introduced into the islands, as well as those which were then held in domestication, have reverted to the wild state. Among them are the ox, the horse, the goat, the sheep, the hog, the dog, the cat, the turkey, the peacock, and the barn-yard fowl. The greatest physical degeneracy was observed in the wild horse and the wild sheep. The latter arc small, gaunt, and long-legged, with a scant and coarse pelage. The ox, in about seventy-five years, while it has not changed much in color and form, has become wild and wary, and very fleet in running over the lava in the mountainous regions which it selects as its home. The wild goats are very numerous, cautious, and difficult to approach, and are mostly white, but some are party-colored. The hog in a single generation "changes in form, color, and habit, from the staid and quiet porker to the fleet and fierce wild boar"; and one imported boar is told of that changed immediately after escaping from a ranch, and became as wild and fleet almost as a deer, with a thin body and arched back, and legs that appeared to be much longer, while he more slowly assumed the dark, sandy color of the wild boar. Turkeys also began quickly to take on the color and shape of the wild turkey. Wild barn-yard fowls fifty years after escaping, occupying an extensive elevated or mountainous wooded country, are the most wild and wary animals in the district, have a faculty of disappearing without noise at daylight, after having made the forest vocal with the crowing of the cocks, and have diminished in size, and become of a uniform buff-color. Judge Caton announces his conclusion in the "American Naturalist," in which his notes are published, that the tendency common to most animals to return to the wild habit, the form, and the coloring of the original species, is possibly strongest in those cases where the animal has been most recently reclaimed from the wild state, or where the change produced by domestication has been most rapid.

 

Safety on Suburban Railroads.—Two recent railway accidents have forcibly directed attention to the necessity of providing more efficient means of protecting passengers who have to travel on lines whose trains run with excessive frequency, as on the suburban railways of large cities. A train on one of the London railways and a train on the Hudson River Railroad were stopped casually—the first in a tunnel, the other at the end of a curved cut. The signals failed to be given to following trains, which came along in less than five minutes. In both cases hind cars were destroyed, and several persons were killed, and others—sixty in the London accident—hurt. The blame in both cases is attached to the signals or the signal-men. No system of signals can be devised that will be infallible, but those we have can be made better and