Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 40.djvu/446

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

clouded. A maiden throws a wreath of flowers over her bead backward against a tree. If the wreath catches and bangs on a branch at the first throw, the thrower will become a bride in the first succeeding year; if at the second throw, the wedding will be in the second year; and so on.

 

Classification of Glacial Formations.—In the discussion in the International Geological Congress on the Classification of Glacial Formations, Prof. T. C. Chamberlin proposed six classes, namely: Formations produced directly from the action of Pleistocene glaciers; formations produced by the combined action of Pleistocene glaciers and accompanying drainage; formations produced by glacial waters after their issue from Pleistocene glaciers; formations produced by floating ice derived from Pleistocene glaciers; formations produced by shore ice and ice floes, due to low Pleistocene temperature, but independent of glacier action; and formations produced by winds acting on Pleistocene glacial and glacio-fluvial deposits under the peculiar condition of glaciation. In each of these classes subdivisions were proposed. Prof. Albert Gaudry led in the discussion that followed. Dr. Felix Wahnschaffe described the action of glaciers in forming moraines. W J McGee presented a scheme of classification with five general heads: Aqueous, at base-level and above base-level; Glacial, direct and indirect; Aqueo-glacial; Eolic; and Volcanic, direct and indirect.

 

Origin of Folk-lore Tales.—The value of folk lore is regarded by Mr. E. Sidney Harland as lying in the belief that the traditions alike of our fathers and other.nations contain and m:iy be made to yield valuable information concerning the primitive beliefs and practices of mankind, and behind these, concerning the structure and development of the human mind. It is chiefly in tales that the speculative portions of a savage creed take shape. Not a little has been done in this direction since Grimm first showed the remains of ancient heathendom in the stories of his own land. Grimm's method has been more widely applied in recent years by distinguished writers to stories found in every region, and conclusions in regard to the beliefs fundamental to all savage religions have been based in part upon them. Those speculations have not been allowed to pass unchallenged. Literary men have contended that the true origin of folk tales is to be found in India, and that they were originally Buddhist parables sowed broadcast by the Buddhist propaganda. But this theory has been weakened by the discovery of streams of Egyptian and even of Jewish tradition flowing through the tales; and as the area of research widened, it was more and more doubted that folk tales found in the remotest corners of the earth all sprang from one center within a measurable historical period. The anthropological theory attributed the origin of folk tales, as of every other species of tradition, to the constitution of the human mind. A similar environment acting upon the mind would everywhere produce similar results; and it is the variations of the environment which give rise to the stories all presenting perpetual coincidences, and all evolved from a few leading ideas common to the race. The birthplace can not therefore be determined, for no story has any one birthplace. Another theory admits that the foundations of the absurd and impossible tales current all round the globe must be sought in the beliefs of savage tribes about themselves and their surroundings, but denies that the mere fact that a given story is found domesticated among any people is of itself evidence of the beliefs and practices of that people, present or past. Some stories must have been invented once, and once only, and then handed on from man to man, from tribe to tribe, till they had made the circuit of the world. This is the dissemination theory, while the other is the anthropological theory. Mr. Harland sustains the anthropological theory.

 

Nature of the Ether.—Speaking of the theory and function of the ether. Prof. Nipher said in the American Association that the slowing up of light in space occupied by matter shows that the ether within must be either more dense (as Fresnel believed) or less elastic than that existing in free space. It is certainly very difficult to understand what there can be in the molecules of matter that can increase the den-