Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 41.djvu/150

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140
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

each profession, and taking the general average of each country observed, the author has found that the same professions give nearly the same results in the three countries. When, however, we compare these results with the tables of morbidity or liability to disease by professions, drawn up by M. Bodio, from the observations of the Italian societies of mutual aid, we find them at times apparently contradictory. This confirms the principle that in the existing condition of things a table of morbidity is not of as much value as a table of mortality as a means of determining the sanitary condition of a population. This arises from the fact that it is a very delicate matter to distinguish a disease from a simple indisposition, as well as to distinguish an acute from a chronic disease, and the latter, again, from an infirmity.

 

Meteoric Iron.—Native meteoric nickel iron, according to Prof. Ledebur, of Freiberg, is too costly to be available for practical use. The market prices are about 6c?. per gramme for ordinary qualities, and from 1s. 6d. to 2s. 6d. per gramme for the rarer qualities, and from 17s. to 26s. per gramme for iron the fall of which has been observed. Still it is not extremely rare, at least not in museums. The museum at Vienna has 1,033 kilogrammes of it, of specimens that were found in 145 different places; the collection of the University of Berlin is rich in specimens; the Natural History Museum at Paris has a considerable quantity of it; and the British Museum has 3,600 kilogrammes in a single block. The largest piece in any collection is one weighing 5,000 kilogrammes, from Bemdego, Bahia, in the museum at Rio de Janeiro. It is believed to be a fragment of a meteor of 9,000 kilogrammes which was discovered in 1784. A mass described by Humboldt was estimated to weigh from 15,000 to 20,000 kilogrammes. Evidence is adduced by Herr Otto Vogel, of Dusseldorf, to show that meteoric or nickel iron is found over most of the world, and has been worked to the most recent times; and that it was also worked and used in the middle ages and in a remote antiquity. The negroes on the Senegal River were found working it by Buchner; the Namaquas of South Africa made weapons from it; and the Indians of Islahuaca manufactured agricultural implements and other tools from it as early as 1784. Captain Ross, in 1819, found the Eskimos of Greenland using meteoric iron in making lines and other tools; and there is a knife-blade of this iron in the Natural History Museum at Vienna, where is also preserved an arrow-head of it from Madagascar. The author suggests that it may easily be assumed that the first iron that was ever wrought was cosmic iron—that is to say, an iron derived from another world. "On such foundlings," says Mehrtens, "the uncultured inhabitants of our earth may first have tried their skill out of curiosity, and perhaps by chance have discovered the properties of iron."

 

The Power of Assertion.—A political article in a recent number of The Spectator is prefaced by some general remarks on the power that mere assertion exerts. The majority of persons, whether of high or low degree, have little inclination or opportunity for verifying statements. Hence an assertion that is made strongly and circumstantially enough passes with these persons for solid fact. The task of exposing and rebutting a misstatement is almost a waste of labor. In political affairs, especially, there is very little to lose and a great deal to gain in making reckless statements. Even if clearly disproved, no damaging blame attaches to the politician who makes them. He, if adroit (and the politician who is not has missed his calling), will not be found to have perpetrated an absolute falsehood. There are always plenty of political rumors afloat, and one of these can be easily dressed up and given out as "a matter of common knowledge," or "what everybody is saying, you know." The success of such devices shows that mankind has not yet outgrown its pristine credulity.

 

Instinctive Criminality.—In a paper on instinctive criminality, Dr. S. A. K. Strahan holds that the criminal belongs to a decaying race, and is only found in families whose other members show signs of degradation; in fact, it is only one of the many signs of family decay. Besides being hereditary, criminality is interchangeable with other degenerate conditions, such as idiocy, epilepsy, suicide, insanity, scrofula, etc.; and it