Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/149

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139
POPULAR MISCELLANY.

in large plants, but the process is continually going on; and it is what occurs in plants growing in an overwet soil. In an open, well-aërated soil, on the other hand, even though it be apparently very dry, the root-hairs multiply and develop an astonishing power to find and absorb water; and a healthy, well-rooted plant can take up water from a soil which is to all appearance air-dry; whereas a plant which has not had time to develop its root-hairs in sufficient numbers to take in the firmly adherent water-films from numerous particles of soil would droop and wither. Soils are suitable for particular plants or not, according as they can or not, under the circumstances, afford the air at the roots that the plants need. Many plants flourish in an open soil with plenty of sand in it, but will not grow in a stiff, wet soil. The heavier soil is unfavorable, not necessarily because it does not contain the right food-materials, but because its particles are so small, so closely packed, and so retentive of moisture, that the root-hairs do not obtain sufficient oxygen. Root-hairs and roots can not grow or act unless the temperature is favorable; and a close, wet soil may be too cold for the roots at a time when an open, drier soil (exposed to similar conditions as regards sunshine, etc.) would have a degree of warmth favorable to their growth. The opening up of stiffer soils by the various processes in use is to be regarded as a means of letting in air, and therefore oxygen, to the roots.

 

The Cost of wasting Coal.—Prof. Chandler Roberts estimates the weight of the smoke-cloud which daily hangs over London at about fifty tons of solid carbon, and two hundred and fifty tons of carbon in the form of hydrocarbon and carbonic-oxide gases. Calculated from the average result of tests made by the Smoke Abatement Committee, the value of coal wasted from domestic grates reaches, upon the annual consumption of five millions of people, to £2,257,500. The cost of cartage on this wasted coal is calculated to be £268,750; while the unnecessary passage of about 1,500,000 horses through the streets in drawing it adds very seriously to the cost of street cleaning and repairing. Then there is the cost of taking away the extra ashes, £43,000 a year. Summing it all up, the direct and indirect cost of the wasted coal may be set down at £2,600,000, plus the additional loss from the damage done to property caused by the smoky atmosphere, estimated by Mr. Chadwick at £2,000,000—the whole amounting to £4,600,000, or $23,000,000.

 

Wolf-nursed Children.—In "An Account of Wolves nurturing Children in their Dens," published in 1852, by Colonel Sleeman, an experienced officer of the Indian army, are recorded a number of such cases as are indicated in the title. In one instance, near Sultanpoor, in 1847, a wolf was seen to leave her den, followed by three whelps and a little boy. The boy went on all fours, and ran as fast as the whelps could. He was caught with difficulty, and had to be tied to keep him from rushing into holes and dens. He was alarmed when grown-up persons came near him, and tried to steal away. But if it was a child, he would rush at it with a fierce snarl, like a dog's, and try to bite it. He rejected cooked meat, but seized raw meat greedily, put it on the ground under his hands, like a dog, and ate it with evident pleasure. He would not let any one come near him while he was eating, but made no objection to a dog coming and sharing his food with him. He died in August, 1850, and after his death it was remembered that he had never been known to laugh or smile. He used signs when he wanted anything, but very few of them except when hungry, and then pointed to his mouth. When his food was placed at some distance from him, he would run to it on all-fours, but at other times he would occasionally walk upright. He shunned human beings, and seemed to care for nothing but eating.

 

Consanguineous Marriages.—Dr. Shuttleworth some time ago communicated to the British Medical Association the results of the inquiries which he had made into the influence of consanguineous marriages on offspring. For want of a uniform basis for comparison, positively accurate conclusions are hard to reach. His opinion on the subject, generally expressed, is that "first-cousin marriages are to some extent favorable to the production of idiot children." Extending his inquiries to the life-histories of the