Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 50.djvu/152

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140
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

ink drawing could hardly be better reproduced than by the best process, "nothing does or ever can compare with the work done through the sensitive medium of the eye and hand of man. In fact, I consider wood engraving far better than any or all the reproductive arts, as it stands quite alone in its wonderful adaptability, for any variety of texture one likes can be produced on the boxwood block. This can not be said for either etching, mezzotint, steel, or copper, each having its own methods, great as the masters have been who have worked upon one or the other of these materials. . . . The crowning advantage enjoyed by wood engraving, through which it obtains its immense superiority over all other methods, is that the engraver is enabled to work in both black and white line. . . . Nothing is out of the range of imitation possible to wood engraving. The differences of textures of flesh, silk, satin, cloth, wood, steel, glass, the grain of wood, marble, weather-worn stone, furs and skins of animals, atmospheric effects, foliage of all kinds—all these it can represent, and beyond everything it can render the differences between oil and water color, and can accurately transcribe the old master's work with all its cracks and blemishes from damp and shrinkage." The author looks forward to a great future for wood engraving as a fine art.

 

The Mescal Ceremony.—At a recent meeting of the Washington Chemical Society Mr. Mooney read an interesting paper on The Mescal Ceremony among the Indians. The mescal plant is a small variety of cactus native to the lower Rio Grande region and about the Pecos River, in eastern New Mexico. Its botanical name is Lophophora, or Anhalonium williamsii. It is grayish green, club-shaped, and without spines. There is another mescal plant, the maguey of Arizona, with which the New Mexico species should not be confounded. The local Mexican name for the plant is peyote, a corruption of the original Aztec name, from which it would seem that the plant and ceremony were known as far south as the valley of Mexico at a period antedating the Spanish conquest. Several related species are described by Lumholtz as being used with ceremonial rites among the tribes of the Sierra Madre. The dried tops when eaten produce such marked stimulating and medicinal results and such agreeable mental effects, without any injurious reaction, that the tribes of the region regard the plant as the vegetable incarnation of the Deity, and eat it at regular intervals with solemn religious ceremony of song, prayer, and ritual. The juice of the cactus has an intensely bitter taste, due to an alkaloid pellotine, which is present to the extent of 0·75 to 0·89 per cent. This alkaloid has recently been investigated by Dr. A. Heffter, of the University of Leipsic. Its composition is expressed by the following formula: C13H19NO3. It seems as a therapeutic agent to have two distinct actions. The first effect is narcotic in nature, owing to a paralysis of the brain; this stage is shortly followed by a tetanic condition, owing to the heightened irritability of the spinal cord. Thus pellotine falls into the pharmacological group with morphine. Prof. Jolly, of the Charité, in Berlin, has made clinical use of it as a narcotic in doses of 0·04 gramme.

 

Æsthetics in Engineering.—The address of Prof. Frank O. Martin, of the Section of Engineering of the American Association, on The Artistic Element in Engineering, was a plea for consulting beauty as well as utility in engineering construction. The engineer is not so bound by the mathematical traditions of his profession but that he has abundant opportunities to cultivate the æsthetical side. It is not true, as is often supposed at the first thought, that there is a conflict between the utilitarian and the artistic. While the mere application of money will not secure beauty, that feature may often be obtained without additional expenditure, or at most with one that is relatively trifling. As an example in which beauty had considerable influence in matters where it seemed little concerned, Prof. Marvin mentioned an engine room which had been elegantly fitted up, with the result that the engine fell under closer and more minute inspection than it could receive in the ordinary dark room, and was more carefully attended to—and that meant more economy for the owner. Our railroad companies find it advantageous to beautify their stations and cultivate their embankments. The engineer may find a wide field in beauti-