Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 41.djvu/882

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the Spaniards entered the country; while in Yucatan, where the Spaniards first came in contact with Indians who used stone as a building material, some of the ruined structures now to be seen were inhabited by the natives at the time of the conquest. The author believes that the civilized portion of the Maya race have at some time occupied all the country lying between the Isthmus of Tehuantepec and the western frontiers of Honduras and Salvador, excepting perhaps a strip of country along the Pacific seaboard; that this people spoke the same or nearly allied languages, which they wrote or carved in the same script; that they were followers of the same religion; and that they built stone-roofed temples and houses decorated with the same class of design and ornament. At the time of the Spanish conquest they had abandoned their towns and religious centers south of Yucatan, though from the present condition of the mines it could not have been many years before; while in Yucatan, where they probably still occupied some of the buildings, they were in a state of decadence, and many of the larger centers of population had been abandoned, although the more important religious edifices may still have been reverenced and kept in repair. The early Spanish writers speak of large numbers of books written and preserved by the natives of Yucatan. They were written in the Maya language, and in characters called hieroglyphical. The Spaniards destroyed all of these books they could, thinking them the work of the devil, but copies of three of them escaped, and are preserved in European museums. The characters in which they are written are similar to those of the inscriptions on the monuments; and both are believed to be in a language that is still living and spoken in the region, although it has probably been much changed in the course of years.


The Sargasso Sea.—A theory of the Sargasso Sea is proposed by M. Krümmel, different from that of Humboldt, which was based, he avers, on less complete observations than we have now. This sea is in the form of an ellipse with the major axis nearly following the tropic of cancer. Around the principal ellipse are other larger ones, in which the vegetation is not so thick, and the forms of which are affected by prevailing winds. M. Krummel believes that the sea-weeds come from the shore regions of the Gulf of Mexico, the Antilles, Florida, and the Bahamas, and not from the bottom of the sea, as was formerly supposed, and is in this supported by recent observations of the Gulf Stream. This current is now believed to be the resultant of numerous currents coming from the Antilles, and therefore to carry a much larger quantity of seaweed than was formerly supposed. These sea-weeds reach the Sargasso region in about fifteen days after they enter the Gulf Stream. They are carried slowly onward toward the Azores till they become water-logged and sink, to give place to others.


Secular and Periodic Changes in Latitude.—A committee appointed by the American Association to secure data with regard to secular and periodical changes in latitude, reported that the investigation could best be made in a method suggested by Prof. S. Newcomb, of observations at three stations somewhere near the same parallel of latitude, but in widely different longitudes; the observations to be extended over a sufficient interval of time to secure the elimination of any effect arising from the recently discovered short-period variations in the latitude. Such a series of observations, followed after an interval of from ten to twenty years by another similar series, would furnish suitable evidence on the subject. It seems advisable also to utilize as far as possible some of the older determinations of latitude at American stations, particularly the Bond-Peirce determination at Cambridge in 1845 and the earlier Coast Survey determinations. New observations are already promised at Cambridge and Washington. The more detailed recommendations of the committee, in harmony with these views, were approved by the Association.


Remedies for Defective Color-vision.—A committee of the Royal Society appointed to consider the question of testing for defective color-vision has made a report recommending that a schedule be made of employments in the mercantile marine and on railways, the filling of which by persons whose vision is defective, or who are igno-