Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 40.djvu/588

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570
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

And in this repayment his relatives were expected to aid him; they were deemed, in fact, his sureties. Thus a thrifty and aspiring burgher who, at one of these gift-feasts, had emptied all his chests of their accumulated stores, and had left himself and his family apparently destitute, could comfortably reflect, as he saw his visitors depart in their well-laden canoes, that he had not only greatly increased his reputation, but had at the same time invested all his means at high interest, on excellent security, and was now, in fact, one of the wealthiest as well as most esteemed members of the community.

 

An Overlooked Mode of Iceberg Formation.—To the familiar explanation of the formation of icebergs must be added another. Mr. Israel C. Russell, in recounting his expedition to Mount St. Elias, says that the foot of a glacier extends out under the muddy water, sometimes for a thousand feet or more, in front of the visible part of the ice-cliffs. When this extension of the icefoot has reached the point where the buoyancy of the ice at the bottom exceeds its strength, huge pieces break off and rise to the surface. The sudden appearance of these masses of ice is always startling. "At first it seems," says Mr. Russell, "as if some huge sea-monster had risen from the deep and was lashing the waters into foam." Soon it can be seen that a blue island has appeared above the surface, carrying up hundreds of tons of water, which flows down its sides in cataracts of foam. The fragments which rise from the bottom in this manner are usually larger than those broken from the faces of the ice-cliffs, sometimes measuring two hundred or three hundred feet in diameter. Their size and the suddenness with which they rise would insure certain destruction of a vessel venturing too near the treacherous ice-walls.

 

Artificial Globular Lightning.—M. Planté has used his secondary batteries to reproduce on a small scale the phenomenon of globular lightning. M. von Lepel has shown that it can be obtained also by means of static electricity given by an induction machine. When two small copper wires from the poles of a strong machine are held at a certain distance from the opposite faces of a plate of mica, ebonite, or glass, small luminous red balls will be seen moving here and there, at times slowly, at others rapidly, and sometimes in a stationary position. The most remarkable effects are got with a plate of glass or disk of paper rubbed with paraffine. M. von Lepel believes that the vehicles of the luminous phenomena are small particles of liquid or dust. A slight current of air will remove the spherules, which "will disappear faintly whistling. The experimenter remarks, further, that the phenomena are of weak tension. When this is increased, the luminous balls arc no longer obtained, but instead of them the ordinary spark-discharge.

 

Contamination of Graveyard Soil.—As a part of the inquiry as to whether the soil of graveyards is liable to become infectious and dangerous. Dr. Justin Karlinski, of Konjica, Herzegovina, has undertaken to determine whether the organs of the body undergo any change in temperature during the natural process of decomposition after burial in the earth, and especially whether any difference appears in the case of infected subjects. His results show that the putrefactive process is invariably accompanied by a rise of temperature above that of the soil around, and that the rise is higher when the parts examined have been taken from bodies that have succumbed to infectious diseases than from other bodies. He found that typhoid bacilli may retain their vitality in the decomposing spleen for three months, and are annihilated only by rapid putrefaction. The author says that he had previously shown that typhoid bacilli could retain their vitality for five months in soil, but that if the earth were thoroughly saturated with rain-water they are destroyed in from seven to fourteen days. The part played by the soil in the origin of epidemics should not, he thinks, be underestimated, since typhoid bacilli can exist in water only for a comparatively short time.

 

Melanesian Ghosts.—According to Dr. R. H. Codington, in his studies of their Anthropology and Folk Lore, the Melanesians have no conception of the devil as an evil spirit, but are possessed by the belief in a