Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 28.djvu/731

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POPULAR MISCELLANY.

Before Tilsit. By Count Leon Tolstoy. New York: W. B. Gottsberger. Two Vols. Pp. 322 and 357. $1.75

History of Alaska. By Hubert Howe Bancroft. (Works, Vol. XXXIII.) San Francisco: A. L. Bancroft & Co. Pp. 775.

Marlborough. By George Saintsbury New York: D. Appleton & Co. Pp. 219. 75 cents.

A History of German Literature. By W. Scherer. Translated by Mrs. F. C. Conybeare. Edited by F. Max Müller. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. Two Vols. Pp. 401 and 425. $3.50.

Easy lessons in German. By Adolphe Dreyspring. New York: D. Appleton & Co. Pp. 108. 70 cents.

Problems In Philosophy. By John Bascom. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons. Pp. 222.

Popular Government. By Sir Henry Sumner Maine. New York: Henry Holt &. Co. Pp. 261. $2.75.

Delsarte System of Dramatic Expression. By Genevieve Stibbins. New York: Edgar S. Werner. Pp. 271. $2.

The Determination of Rock-forming Minerals. By Dr. Eugen Hussak. Translated by Erastus G. Smith. New York: John Wiley & Sons. Pp. 233. $3.

Elements of Psychology, with Special Applications to the Art of Teaching. By James Sully. New York: D. Appleton &. Co. Part I. Pp. 130. 25 cents.

Outlines of Psychology. With Special Reference to the Theory of Education. By James Sully, M.A., Examiner in the University of Cambridge, etc. Reading Club edition. Abridged and edited, with Appendices, Suggestive Questions, and References to Pedagogical Works, by J. A. Reinhart, Principal of the Normal Training-School, Paterson, N.J. C. W. Bardeen: Syracuse, N.Y. Pp. 372. $1.50.

 


POPULAR MISCELLANY.

The Real Nature of "Prodigies."—Mr. C. F. Cox has published, in the "Journal" of the New York Microscopical Society, a most interesting paper on "The So-called Prodigies of Earlier Ages." He believes that the stories of wonderful phenomena and portents with which the old books abound have a certain interest and value to the student and philosopher of to-day, "because they furnish landmarks in the progress of observation, and give us clews to that credulous state of the human mind which seems to have necessarily preceded: the foundation of inductive reasoning." Themere historian of scientific discovery will also find in them what he must believe to be truthful statements of facts, mingled with distorted and erroneous interpretations and many unintentional misstatements of what were thought to be facts; and he may employ himself with some profit in separating the true from the false. Mr. Cox cites from a variety of books, particularly from Wolffhart's illustrated "Chronicle," a large list of wonderful appearances, which he divides into thirteen classes, for each of which he finds a particular way of accounting with an approach to satisfactoriness. Thus, the sweating and weeping of images, altars, etc., may be regarded as exaggerated cases of the condensation of vapor upon them. The bleeding of stones, shields, etc., was most probably the growth of the red lichen upon them, though it may in some cases have been rust. Showers of earth, chalk, ashes, etc., hardly need accounting for; and rains of brimstone may have been clouds of pollen, spores, or other yellow vegetable products. Showers of oil were probably not showers at all, but marks of supposed showers in the shape of greasy spots on the earth or stones or plants, or iridescent films on water; the appearance is sometimes produced by the growth of gelatinous protophytes, like the nostocs. The flowing of oil in brooks, etc., is also accounted for, as it would always be now, as a case of iridescence. Stories of showers of milk may have originated in the appearance of white spots, generally caused by growths of fungus, on leaves. The flowing of milk from the earth, in streams, etc., might be in most cases the superstitious interpretation of so simple a fact as the mixture of calcareous earth with ordinary running water; or, under favorable conditions, some of the lower forms of life might multiply so enormously as to give a milky hue to considerable bodies of water, as they do constantly under our own observation in a smaller way. The spotting of bread, grain, leaves, stones, etc., with blood, is a phenomenon easily accounted for by a very slight knowledge of the various forms and habits of the red and orange-yellow fungi. The flowing of blood in the ocean, rivers, springs, etc., is to be accounted for in some instances by the presence, in unusual quantities, of red algæ. "Showers of blood" may be referred to similar algæ; or deposits referable to such showers may be produced, as was known to be the case at Aix-la-Chapelle in July, 1608, by butterfly-chrysalides undergoing transformation, when large drops of a blood-colored liquid exude from them. Red snow is known to be a protococcus. "Showers of flesh"—one occurred in Kentucky in