Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/442

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

their own classics and literary style, while all they learn of foreign subjects is through the medium of a new and difficult language, these youths must be made of the finest material to make any progress at all. The learning capacity and memory of a good Chinese student are almost beyond credibility. It is only in the invention or originating of new ideas or in making deductions that they are weak. Those subjects which depend chiefly on the use of mathematics have received the most particular care and attention.

 

Sound Economies.—Judging from the summary in the London Spectator, some sound economics are embodied in the utterances in a recent speech by Mr. Balfour touching upon questions of labor and social relations. The speaker animadverted on the unhappy consequences that might ensue from admitting that every one who wants work has a right to get it from the municipality or the state if he can not find a private employer. The admission of such a principle means municipal or state bankruptcy as the not distant consequence of works begun only in order to find employment for the unemployed without any guarantee that they will pay those who set them on foot. When private employment becomes hard to obtain, it is generally because the conditions of the time are unfavorable for effective labor. Now, if just at this crisis the public employer comes in, does it not mean that either the municipality or the state will pay as much for ineffective and ill-supervised labor as private employers have been paying for effective and well-supervised labor? That is only saying, in other words, that they will be paying high for bad labor. Mr. Balfour also gave a warning against attempting so to improve the distribution of wealth as to prevent its production where it is now successfully accumulated. The worst of the new combinations against the present rate of wages is that the rate of profits, already low, must fall lower if higher wages are to be paid, and the consequence of that must be the retirement of a good deal of capital from productive enterprises altogether. The rich manufacturers say to themselves: "We are as rich now as we really care to be. We would go on if we could secure our former profits; but as we can not, we may as well wind up business and retire." The consequence, of course, is that a great deal of wealth which was lately employed in reproductive operations is no longer so employed, and the raising of the general rate of wages becomes more and more impossible.

 

Solid Air.—At the meeting of the Royal Society, March 9th, Prof. Dewar communicated the results of his experiments upon air at very low temperatures. Having liquefied air at ordinary atmospheric pressure, the author has since succeeded in freezing it into a clear, transparent solid. The precise nature of this solid is at present doubtful, and it can be settled only by further research. It may be a jelly of solid nitrogen containing liquid oxygen, much as calves'-foot jelly contains water diffused in solid gelatin. Or it may be a true ice of liquid air in which both oxygen and nitrogen exist in the solid form. The doubt arises from the fact that Prof. Dewar has not yet been able by his utmost efforts to solidify pure oxygen, which, unlike other gases, resists the cold produced by its own evaporation under the air-pump. Nitrogen, on the other hand, can be frozen with comparative ease. It has already been proved that in the evaporation of liquid air nitrogen boils off first. Consequently the liquid is continually becoming richer in that constituent which has hitherto resisted solidification. It thus becomes a question whether the cold produced is sufficiently great to solidify oxygen, or whether its mixture with nitrogen raises its freezing point, or whether it is not really frozen at all, but merely entangled among the particles of solid nitrogen, like the rose-water in cold cream.

 

Psychology of some Words.—In his essay on The Language of the Mississaga Indians of Skūgog (a tribe remnant of less than fifty members living on Skugog Lake, opposite Port Perry, Ontario), Mr. A. F. Chamberlain touches upon some questions connected with what may be called the psychology of language. Only a few of the words appear to have an onomatopoetic origin. Neither the theory of Dr. Carl Abel of the designation by primitive man of the "A" and the "not A" by the same word—no trace of this combinatory process being perceived—nor that of