Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/737

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POPULAR MISCELLANY.

the method of using them may be vastly improved. The frequency of trains can not be diminished, but will have to be increased as the number of suburbans who do business in the cities increases. The only certain means of obtaining greater security seems to lie in increasing the number of ways out of the city; and, as there is a limit to the number of new railroads that can be built in such places, the way out may at last have to be sought in introducing steam tramways and steam-carriages on common roads. The London "Spectator" says that the present prohibition of these two forms of locomotion is "so absolute and so unreasoning as to operate as a direct check upon invention."

 

Spontaneous Combustion of Coal.—Seventy cases of spontaneous combustion of coal are recorded as having taken place among 31,116 ships in 1874. The combustion may go on so slowly that the rise of temperature will amount to only a few degrees, and probably always occurs where coal is heaped up in large quantities. Mr. W. Mattieu Williams has been led to the conclusion, by experiments in distilling inflammable hydrocarbon from cannel-slack, that it takes place in some degree in all cases where coal is exposed to the atmosphere. The yield of gas, which was at first good, continuously diminished, and at last became ruinously small, the slack at the bottom of the heaps being little better than coke. Soon after this, the railway to the colliery siding took fire under the rails from the oxidation and heating of the slack with which it was ballasted. The loss from this oxidation is greater in fine coal than when the mineral is in large lumps, because a greater proportion of surface is exposed. The liability to slow combustion varies with the quality of the coal, and is greatest in "brassy" coal, or coal that contains pyrites.

 

Egyptian Marriage and Animal-Worship.—M. Revillout has been struck, in examining some ancient Egyptian marriage settlements, with the predominance which was given to the wife in the family. In a deed of the time of Ptolemy Philadelphus, the groom, describing himself as the son of Pehelkons, "whose mother is Tahret," saith unto the woman Tarreteus, daughter of Relon, whose mother is Tarreteus, "I have accepted thee as my wife," and afterward) "I will establish thee as my wife." The preliminary "acceptance" mentioned here was a marriage for a year of probation, like the "hand-fasting" for a year, with power at the end of the year to break the contract, that used to prevail among the Highlanders of Scotland, and analogies to which may be found among some other people. An important point to be noted in the deed is the naming of the mothers of both contracting parties as a fact which, in itself, demonstrates the importance of the woman in the family, and as a survival of the time when family names were derived, not from the father, but from the mother. After accepting and establishing the woman as his wife, the man, among other things, promised to pay certain damages if he should take another wife, and gave the woman a kind of mortgage on all his property. Thus, in another deed, one Petoupra assigned to his wife, Neshorpehrat, "not only his house and all his landed property, present and future, but likewise his silver and copper money, his title-deeds and documents concerning his property. . . . He leaves himself absolutely nothing"; and the only clause in his favor was, that his wife should provide for him while he lived, and pay for his funeral liturgies, and for embalming his body when he died. This is not a singular instance. The Egyptian bridegroom, moreover, took his wife's name, and the sons, instead of being called after their fathers, were designated by the names of their mothers. A writer in the "Saturday Review" regards this custom, in connection with animal-worship, as originating in the same principle. The worship of animals, while nearly universal as a whole, was local as to each sacred animal. An animal that was worshiped in one place was hunted down in another, all over the country. These animals were probably originally selected and made peculiar to distinguish the families and stocks of the people, like the totems of our Indians, and the corresponding customs among the Australians and some African races. "There is scarcely a quarter of the globe where the tribes of contemporary savages are not divided into stocks, each of which, like the Egyptians, reveres a sacred animal or plant,