Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 39.djvu/296

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
284
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

essays and the awarding of the prizes. The subjects ere given out quarterly. Three highest prizes and ten smaller ones are awarded; the essays are printed in the native newspapers, and the year's essays receiving the highest prizes, with the criticisms on them, are published in a book. For the essays of 1889, three extra subjects were selected by Li Hung Chang, far beyond the range of the ordinary Chinese scholar. They were a sketch of Western science, including notices of Aristotle, Bacon, Darwin, and Spencer; the breach of international law by one country turning its back on its treaty with another, and refusing to allow the people of the other country to come and go within its boundaries; and the suggestion of a remedy for the damaging competition of Indian tea with Chinese. There were students, however, who did not shrink from undertaking them, and "many English Sinologues were greatly bored by their native friends" for information respecting the Western savants and their scientific teachings, "hardly knowing, perhaps, why an interest in such celebrated characters should have been so suddenly developed among the Chinese."

 

A Whirligig Spider.—The habit of some geometric spiders of gyrating under certain circumstances is known, and even not uncommon, but, according to correspondents of Nature, has not been described in scientific works. A Pholcus, abundant in La Plata, is described by Mr. W. II. Hudson as having the habit strongly marked. It has legs of extraordinary length, and the color and general appearance of a crane-fly, but is double its size. When approached or disturbed, it gathers its feet in the center of its web, "and swings itself round and round with the rapidity of a whirligig, so that it appears like a very slight mist on the web, and offers no point for an enemy to strike at. Here the correspondence between structui'e and habit is nearly perfect; the slimness and great length of the legs causing the creature, at the moment the swift revolutions begin, to seem to disappear from sight; and, owing to the string-like form of the legs, the fatigue experienced is probably very much less than the action would cause in a stout, short-legged spider like the English species. At all events, it can revolve for fifteen or twenty seconds at a stretch; and, if the cause of alarm continues, it will perform the action no less than three times before quitting the web. The English spider exhausts itself in a few seconds."

 

Impediments to Growth of Population.—In speculating upon the causes of the stationary condition of the population of France, the customs of subdividing the land and of providing dowries for girls have been cited as important factors in keeping down the increase. Abnormal mortality from smallpox and from typhoid fever is mentioned in the Lancet as another probable cause. Dr. Brouardel has pointed out that, while Germany loses only 110 persons a year from small-pox, France loses 14,000, and that the deaths by typhoid fever amount to 40,000. These facts carry the matter back to slackness in enforcing vaccination and to faults in water-supply. Dr. Brouardel concludes his paper on this subject by affirming that if vaccination and revaccination were made obligatory in France, and if the towns were everywhere supplied with pure water, the country would save from 25,000 to 30,000 lives annually, and these, for the most part, of young persons of marriageable age.

 

Curiosities of Marriage. The theory of English scholars concerning the evolution of marriage is in a measure confirmed by Prof. Kovalevsky's studies in Russian ethnography. The evidence of a primitive condition of great license is, however, slight, and rests principally on the testimony of prejudiced witnesses. The evidence of a matriarchal and endogamic stage is stronger, and receives some confirmation from customs that survive among Russian peasants. The transition to marriage by capture and exogamy was general. The former practice existed in Servia and Montenegro until recent times. The growth and prevalence of the custom of purchase are shown by the wedding songs in use among Russian peasants. The Mordvins of Russia, according to the Hon. John Abercromby's conclusions, before they came in contact with the Slavs, wooed by proxy and contracted marriage by purchase, but went through the form of