Popular Science Monthly/Volume 23/June 1883/Popular Miscellany

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POPULAR MISCELLANY.

How to act in a Tornado.—Sergeant John P. Finley, Signal-Service officer at Kansas City, Missouri, has published, in a pamphlet on tornadoes, some useful directions concerning the course to be taken to escape the dangers of those terrible forces. The inhabitant of a tornado-frequented district must be watchful in the season of visitations, for he can never know when the destruction will come upon him. On the first sign of the approaching vortex, he must run—always to the north, unless by going in that direction he will have to cross the entire path of the storm. If he is nearer to the southern edge than to the center of the probable path, he may go south, bearing slightly east; but in no event should he ever run directly to the east or northeast. It is impossible to save any building that may lie in the path of the tornado, or any property that can not be got out of its way. No material, no method of construction can be competent to resist the raging destruction. Nothing rising above the ground can escape it. The most practicable measure of precaution is to construct a "dug-out" at some suitable point, within easy distance from the house, to serve as a place of refuge or shelter. The retreat should be entirely under-ground, with a roof at least three feet thick, not rising above the surface of the earth, and entered from the northern or eastern side. A "cellar-cave" may be constructed from the cellar, if the house has one, to serve as a substitute for the "dug-out." It should be excavated from the west wall of the cellar, toward the west, and should be made as complete and secure as the "dug-out." If, however, the storm can not be escaped, if no refuge is at hand, or there is not time to get to it, the safest thing to do is to place one's self against the west wall of the cellar, face forward, or against the south wall, as near the southwest corner as possible. The northeast quarter is in any case a fatal position, and should always be avoided. If one is actually overtaken by the tornado, his only resource is to cast himself face downward upon the ground, with his head to the east and his arms thrown over his head to protect it. If a stump or large stone, or anything heavy that the wind will not blow over, is near, he may get a trifle of protection by throwing himself to the east-ward of it. If in a house with no cellar, he should get into the west room, on the ground-floor if possible, and away from all stoves and heavy furniture. The people of towns might find it to their advantage to provide for having a watch, to be on duty on all days when the air bears the premonitory symptoms of a violent wind-storm, to give a signal to the whole population on the appearance of the first real threatening signs. The signs of the formation and approach of a tornado-cloud are distinct and sufficiently suggestive to afford opportunity for timely and concerted action. Sergeant Finley is continuing his investigations of the phenomena of tornadoes, and he has prepared three full schedules of minute inquiries calling for the facts attendant upon the appearance of the storms, which he sends to persons who were within the path of one, who were on the outer edge of the path, and who were from ten to one hundred miles from it.

 

Science and Faith.—"Science and Faith" was the subject of an address delivered some time ago by Professor A. J. DuBois, of the Sheffield Scientific School, before the Scientific Society of Bridgeport, Connecticut. The burden of the address is an attempt to show that the basis of all scientific knowledge is faith; that what we consider our most certain knowledge does not and can not admit of rigid demonstration, but rests at bottom upon assumptions whose truth must be taken simply upon trust. All scientific proof is really based upon the single hypothesis of the uniformity of nature—a doctrine which can never be demonstratively established, but of which the highest and strongest proof is, and always must be, merely cumulative. The evidence for this hypothesis rests upon our experience, and that is of a limited character. Thus, the foundation of our knowledge is an assumption, which, though highly probable, can not be proved. "And yet we believe: our conviction is so perfect that, even if exact and rigid demonstration were possible, it would add not one particle to the positiveness of our conviction. The fact remains, then, that we believe that which we can not prove. The scientist, no less than the theologian, rests his conclusions ultimately upon faith. When reason halts, faith steps in and leads us onward, and upon the basis of faith our most certain conclusions are founded." Reason, indeed, is our guide; but faith—that faith which, resting upon experience, nevertheless transcends experience—must be the rod and staff on which we lean. The greatest debt we owe to Science, Professor DuBois concludes, "apart from all she has done and is doing for our bodily comfort and our mental development, is for the lesson of faith she is thus ever teaching us—the lesson that Reason and Faith must ever go hand in hand. . . that man can never feel sure of attaining absolute knowledge—that pure truth is not for him; that just so surely as he walks by reason and by reason only, just so surely he must reach a point where reason halts and waits on faith."

 

Baron Stjerstedt's Antique Coins.—Baron A. W. Stjerstedt, who died in September, 1880, was one of the most distinguished numismatists in Sweden, and in 1857 received the grand prize of the Royal Academy of Archæology of that country for his work on the copper coinage of Sweden and its foreign possessions. lie was the author of other numismatic works, and formed extensive collections of Swedish and of antique coins. The latter collection is one of unusual interest and value, not less for its completeness than for the length of time and the extent of territory it represents. Its chronological range is from about 800 b. c. to the reigns of Theodore II of Constantinople, and Manuel Comnenus of Trebizond, in the thirteenth century of the Christian era. Its geographical range comprises nearly all of the world with which the Greeks and Romans were in actual contact. Its historical continuity, although, perhaps, not unbroken, is marred by few extensive or important gaps. The department of Grecian medals includes the municipal, popular, or royal coins of cities, provinces, and states in ancient Lusitania (or Portugal), Spain, Gaul, Italy, Sarmatia, Moesia, Thrace, Macedonia, Greece, the states of Asia Minor, Syria, Phoenicia, the Parthian kings, Ptolemaic and Roman Egypt, Numidia and Mauritania, nearly a thousand examples in all. In the Roman department are found four pieces described as "autonomous coins of Rome," consular medals, and imperial medals from Julius Cæsar to Julius Nepos, a. d. 475; while in the Byzantine department are placed the coins of the Eastern emperors, from Arcadius to Manuel—making, with a few Gothic and Vandal coins and odd pieces, 2,467 coins of Rome and its Eastern Empire. Ordinary collections are of value as curiosities or for the illustrative specimens they afford. So comprehensive a collection as that of Baron Stjerstedt may be made useful for instruction in numerous ways. It holds the thread of history with a nearly continuous series of object-lessons, and shows the relations of even the most remote points of Europe in very early times. It illustrates the growth and prevalence of myths, the vicissitudes of dynasties, and changes of religion. Some old Roman coins show Romulus and Remus suckled by the wolf. Emblems of the divine legends of the Greeks and Romans abound in hosts of pieces. Some bear contemporary portraits of men with whose names history is full; a group for Judea shows pieces of silver of the kind with which Judas was paid for his treachery; in the series for imperial Rome are shown the growth of Christianity upon paganism, the attempt to supplant it again by pagan rites, and the final triumph of the Christian emblems. In another view, the coins, for the most part still sharp and bright, illustrate the development and vicissitudes of art, from the rude efforts of archaic and provincial stampers to the finely finished medals of which those bearing the handsome features of Alexander the Great and those of the first Roman emperors may be taken as specimens. The base metal of which the coins of whole epochs were composed attests the antiquity of the dishonesty of "fiat money." The collection, which is offered for sale in this country, will be of great value to the institution that is fortunate enough to secure it.

 

Vegetation of the Catskill MountainTops.—Professor Charles H. Peck, of the Adirondack Survey, has recorded the fact that many swamp-loving plants grow on the higher mountains of the Adirondacks, where they find the conditions of moisture suited to their growth in the frequent rains, the general prevalence of clouds, and the low temperature, all operating as obstacles to evaporation. He has found on the open summit of Mount Marcy, 5,344 feet above the sea, seven species of swamp-plants, growing five hundred feet above the tree line, with no protection from the sun except what the vapors afford. Mr. E. P. Bicknell remarks, in his "Monograph on the Summer Birds of the Catskill Mountains" ("Transactions of the Linnæan Society of New York"), that the same fact is observable in that range, and is most strikingly illustrated by the white hellebore, which was noticed in low, damp woods in the valleys and along the streams, and growing in some profusion near the summit of Slide Mountain. "Close around the summit, too, were found, growing in abundance upon the carpeting of wet moss, plants which, at a less altitude, were rare or altogether absent, owing obviously to the scarcity of suitable swampy land. Thus, Coptis trifolia, which had not been noticed lower, was abundant; Viburnum cassinoides, elsewhere met with only in a small marsh at an elevation of about 1,900 feet, here reappeared, as well as Viola blanda (Willd), Carex intumescens (Rudge), and other plants less distinctly confined to wet and marshy situations." Mr. Bicknell also observes that in passing from the valleys into the mountains it was interesting to observe of plants of general distribution how much less advanced was their seasonal condition as the elevation increased. The extremes of this contrast, as shown by the vegetation at the summit of Slide Mountain and that of the valleys below, were most striking. Some species, which in the valleys had ceased flowering and were bearing green fruit, were still in full bloom at the mountain-tops; while others, in like condition in the valleys and on lower slopes, on the mountains had not advanced beyond their earliest buds.

 

Animal Revenge.—The active existence of a feeling like that of revenge and the possession of powers of memory of considerable definiteness and endurance in animals are illustrated in some anecdotes published in a recent number of "Chambers's Journal." Vixen and Viper were two dogs sent to hunt an otter. Only Vixen was able to attack the animal, and she was killed by him. Viper, who mourned for her intensely, went out in the night to hunt the otter; and the two were found on the next day clinched in death, with all the evidences of a desperate struggle around them. A Newfoundland dog was enraged by a traveler who, passing on horseback through the village, struck at him with his whip. A year afterward the traveler was passing through the same village, when the dog recognized him, and bit him through the leg. A friend of the owner of a dog, Tiger, set a stout bull-dog against him, and Tiger got the worst of the fight. He remembered the event, and watched faithfully at the neighbor's door for his opportunity. It came; the dog seized the man, and avenged his wrong. Afterward he tried to make friends with him, and to restore the relations as they had been before the offense was given. A servant-maid was accustomed to throw water upon a dog chained up during the hot weather, and for the best of motives—to cool him off. The dog, however, took the proceeding as an insult, and the first time he found himself loose sprang upon the girl and killed her. It was the duty of two dogs to take their turns at a turnspit. One of them shirked his task, slunk away, and hid. The other, when called upon to take his companion's turn as well as his own, led the people to where the truant was hid and killed him on the spot. A Newfoundland dog in Cork was annoyed by a cur. He took the animal, threw it over the dock, then plunged in himself and saved its life. Another Newfoundland dog was sent back by its master with a key which was needed at the house. It was attacked on its way by a butcher's dog, but went on about its business, paying no attention to the interruption. The key delivered, it stopped, on its way back to its master, before the butcher's shop, till the dog came out, then attacked it and killed it The story has become an old one of the elephant that cracked a cocoa-nut on the head of a man who had cracked one on its skull, and killed him. Of another elephant—and he was called "the fool"—it is said that a quartermaster threw a tent-pin at him. A few days later, the animal came upon the quartermaster, lifted him up in his trunk, and put him in a large tree, to get down as best he could. Another elephant was treated to some nuts by a visitor who ended by giving him some so hot that they burned him. In his agony, he drank six pails of water, then threw the pail at the visitor. The two met a year afterward, when the joker offered his nuts again. The elephant ate with relish till the hot nuts appeared, then took the joker by the coat-tails and held him up till the cloth gave way and the man fell to the ground. The elephant proceeded to eat the nuts in the coat-pockets, then tore up the coat-tails and threw the pieces after the owner. The last story is of a monkey, which, being caught stealing a friar's grapes, had to wear a weight on its tail. Afterward, while the friar was performing mass at the church, the monkey climbed to the roof of his cell, and with the weight on its tail broke all the tiles.

 

Egyptian Funeral-Wreaths restored.—Dr. Schweinfurth writes that he has examined the wreaths which were deposited within the coffin of Aahmes I, King of Egypt, of the eighteenth dynasty, whose mummy is now in the museum at Boolak, and has found them to be composed of the flowers of the Acacia Nilotica, the Nymphæa cerulea (isolated petals), the Alcea ficifolia, and a Delphinium, or larkspur, which he supposes to be orientale. The wreaths of the other kings, whose mummies were associated with that of Aahmes, contained flowers of Carthamus tinctoria and leaves of the Mimusops kummel. Leaves of the watermelon were found in one of the coffins. A number of the flowers and leaves have been restored to their shape by moistening them, dipping them in alcohol, and spreading and drying them; and by this means has been obtained an herbarium of thirty-five-hundred-years-old specimens. The color of the chlorophyl, violet in the larkspur, green in the watermelon-leaf, is preserved to a remarkable degree. The Egyptian willow, of the twigs of which the framework of the wreath was composed, the Acacia Nilotica, and the Nymphæa cerulea, still grow wild in Egypt as well as in tropical Africa. The Mimusops kummel has been observed in modern times only in Abyssinia, while the larkspur (Delphinium, orientale) is diffused all over the East, but is cultivated in Northern Africa as an ornamental plant. The Carthamus is still cultivated as a dye-plant in the East and in Egypt. Besides the wonderful preservation of delicate flowers and their colors, this "find" affords new examples of species, both wild and cultivated, which have suffered no variation during a long series of ages. Aahmes I, on whose mummy most of these flowers were found, reigned about 1800 b. c.

 

Insect Organs of Smell.—Gustav Hauser, of Erlangen, has made the organs of smell of insects the subject of his studies. That they are related to the antenna is shown quite clearly by several experiments. Glass rods dipped in oil of turpentine or acetic acid, when brought near to insects, caused them to move their antennæ and turn quickly around; but, when the antennas were cut off, the same insects showed no signs of sensation, although the substances were brought close up to them. Flies with their antennæ cut off paid no attention to putrid meat, although they had previously been strongly attracted by it. Varnishing the antennæ with paraffine was followed by a similar insensibility. Herr Hauser's conclusion is that the organs of smell of most insects consist, first, of a stout nerve proceeding from the brain-ganglion, and running along the antennæ; second, of a perceptive terminal apparatus, represented by staff-cells proceeding from the hypodermis, with which those nerves are connected; and, third, of a supplementary apparatus, composed of cavities or cones filled with a serous fluid, which may be regarded as out-foldings of the epidermis. The organs appear to be most highly developed, as would naturally be supposed, in those insects which appear to use the sense of smell in seeking for food. The greatest number of smelling cavities and cones are found among wasps and bees, the honey-bee having fourteen or fifteen thousand cavities and about two hundred cones in each antenna, the leaf-wasp a smaller number. The flesh-and-dirt flies have from sixty to a hundred and fifty organs of smell, while the flies that live on plants have only five or six cavities to each feeler.

 

Photographing the Corona.—Professor Huggins announces that he has succeeded in photographing the solar corona without the assistance of an eclipse. It having been shown by Professor Schuster's observations of the last eclipse that the coronal fight as a whole is very strong in the region of the spectrum extending from about G to H, he conceived that by making exclusive use of this part of the spectrum, while enjoying the best possible conditions of exposure and concentration, it might be possible to take a photograph of the kind sought. He found a commercial violet (pot) glass which effected the separation required, and using this—and a potassic permanganate solution in his later experiments—with a reflecting telescope, and gelatine plates, he obtained twenty successful photographs between June and the 28th of September of last year. Captain Abney, whose experiments during the last eclipse have made him a competent judge, declares the photographs as trustworthy as any that were taken then. Professor Huggins believes that there is little doubt that under the most favorable conditions the corona may by his method be successfully photographed from day to day with a definiteness which would allow of the study of the changes which are doubtless always going on in it. By an adjustment of the times of exposure, the inner or the outer corona could be obtained as might be desired.

 

Cram Examinations.—"Hot-house Education" is the title of a pamphlet recently published in England, on the absurdity of the examinations in vogue there, which are systematically prepared for by cramming. Dr. Crichton Browne is authority for the statement that, by submitting boys of twelve or thirteen to the examinations, "we may be able to select those of the quickest wits, and those most susceptible of cram; but we should certainly not bring to the front those of the greatest grasp of intellect and force of character," and that to institute such examinations at such an age seems to be offering a premium on precocity. In the examinations of older candidates, tests are often exacted of a kind which an examiner who has been quoted by Mr. Froude described as setting a paper "for which Macaulay might possibly get full marks." A case is cited by Mr. Digby, the author of the pamphlet we have referred to, of an examiner who had to appeal to the Geographical Society for the answer to a problem which he had set to candidates, but could not for the time being solve himself. Another instance is that of an examiner for the army who gave out as a subject of composition, "A Visit by Sir Roger de Coverley and the 'Spectator' to Lord's Cricket-Ground." Such cases might, perhaps, be met by fixing the rule that those who make the examinations should be required to pass them.

 

The Right to Rest.—The London "Spectator" calls for the establishment of a new rule of etiquette, that a man who announces that he is seeking rest shall be let alone. In the hurry and strain of modern intellectual life, a necessity has arisen for periodic rest. "Overwork" is now recognized by physicians as a specific cause of disease, and a few of them are making the effects of over-cerebration, under a hundred names, a distinct specialty. The incomes of several first-class doctors in London are derived almost entirely from men whose brains are overworn, and whose nerves are so "overstrung," or "understrung," or "gone to pieces," or are "so excited," that they can neither sleep, nor work, nor remain quiet. These specialists have become abnormally discerning, and "can tell almost at a glance where anxiety has been the cause of disease, and where, as sometimes, though seldom, happens, it must be sought in actual overwork; where alcohol or drugs have assisted the decay of nervous force, and where asceticism, tried as a remedy, has seriously injured the resisting power, diminishing the fuel, till every day threatens to empty the store. They differ considerably, we are told, in their practice, some having a lingering faith in the milder narcotics, which others have lost; and some in sleep by itself, which others think is only perfectly recuperative when it comes unsought, . . . but they all agree in recommending perfect 4 rest.' Their patients, who have instinct to guide them, and some memories of quick recovery during accidental or incidental lulls in life, always agree with them, but always start the question, how the rest is to be obtained." The distinguished patient can not find it anywhere in the land, for he is pursued wherever he goes by telegrams and letters, and callers, and newspaper gossip; and the only remedy, which some have heroically tried, is to go out to sea, where one can not be followed up; but this is often decidedly inconvenient. So, let the profession, and society, and the newspapers establish the rule that, when a distinguished man seeks rest for a period, he shall not be interrupted in it.

 

Room enough in the World yet.—Mr. R. Giffen, an English statist, has taken up the Malthusian cry that the world is filling up too fast, and has uttered his apprehension that all inhabitable countries will soon have all the population they can hold—and then what will mankind do? The "Spectator" answers him with arguments very like those which M. Fouillée has used with so much skill and effect in his articles on "Scientific Philanthropy." The laws of increase of population do not work as the Malthusians fear they will, but have ways of their own that it is hard to calculate upon. There is still, and will be for a long time, room enough in the world for all candidates for the privilege of living upon it. The United States still receives and finds homes for all who come—unless they come from China—and has a little room left. The State of New York, with five millions of population, has capacity, according to the standard that prevails in Suffolk, England, for thirty millions. The Dominion of Canada might hold fifty millions in comfort, without neighbors ever visiting each other on foot; and British Columbia has room "for twenty millions of happy people." Then, when North America is filled up, South America offers vast expanses that are not only not occupied, but are in reality not explored, of which Brazil has room for all Europe. Australia could support forty millions in its habitable belt; and Africa—who yet can begin to guess at its capacity? In the mean time, the population of Ireland is diminishing, and the failure of the French to increase excites more apprehension than any fact which is brought to the notice of their economists.

 

Americanitis.—Sir Charles W. Dilke, in his "Greater Britain," thought he noticed a tendency in the Caucasian native American to acquire the red Indian type of physiognomy. Mr. W. Mattieu Williams echoes this opinion, and has cited several pieces of evidence to show that a change in the direction mentioned is going on, and that it is a process of desiccation produced by the dryness of our climate. Mr. R. A. Proctor asserts that during his three visits to America he lost about thirty pounds in weight, which he recovered on returning home. Mr. Williams's own son, after residing for some time in this country, became thin, lank jawed, and sallow, "displaying all the characteristic symptoms of what I can not refrain from calling acute Americanitis," 1 but began to recover immediately after returning home. On one occasion, at the house of the late George Combe, at Edinburgh, some family portraits were brought out, including those of members who had remained at home, and photographs of members who had emigrated to America a generation before, and with them a portrait of Black Hawk. "We placed the chief on one side, the Edinburgh portraits on the other, and those of the descendants of the American emigrants between, and all agreed that the deviations from the original family type were in a direction toward that of the red Indian. Mr. Combe maintains that this is generally the case, and I agree with him in regarding the typical 'native American'—that is, the descendant of early English settlers—as displaying physically (I do not say intellectually and morally) a notable degree of reversion—or rather deviation—toward the aboriginal type displayed in the best examples of red Indians—i. e., the old fighting chiefs."

 

Publication of Astronomical News.—The supervision of the announcement of astronomical discoveries, which has hitherto rested with the Smithsonian Institution, has been transferred by it to the Harvard University Observatory. The first scheme for publishing news of this class in the United States was started by Professor Peters, who arranged with European astronomers for an exchange of reports with the Smithsonian Institution. The orbits of comets were published only in the German "Astronomische Nachrichten" till 1878, when their publication was begun by the Boston Scientific Society, through Mr. S. C. Chandler, in its "Science Observer." Mr. Chandler devised a new and improved code of signals for the transmission of announcements by the Atlantic cable, and engaged the co-operation of the Harvard Observatory in computing the cometary orbits. His publications in the "Science Observer" attracted attention in Europe, so that when the "Centralstelle für Astronomische Telegramme" was formed at Kiel, Prussia, in 1882, Mr. Chandler and his colleagues were made its agents for the distribution of astronomical intelligence in this country. Wishing to provide for their trust a more solid responsibility than their personalities could give it, they offered it to the Harvard Observatory, which accepted it. This act has now been ratified by the Smithsonian Institution.

 

Influence of Vapor on Radiation.—Professor Tyndall has published an account of some interesting experiments he has made on the variations in the radiation of heat from the earth's surface. On an elevated plateau he hung a thermometer four feet from the ground, and placed another on cotton-wool at the surface. The difference in the registry of the two instruments, that of the surface thermometer being always lowest, varied from four degrees to seventeen degrees, even when no difference was apparent in the clearness of the atmosphere. A careful review of the hygrometric conditions under which the different observations were made established the fact that the variations were dependent upon the existence or withdrawal of the check to radiation which is imposed by the presence of aqueous vapor. As a general conclusion, it may be said that, "with atmospheric conditions sensibly alike, the waste of heat from the earth varies from day to day; a result due to the action of a body which escapes the sense of vision." Similar conclusions, or the basis for forming them, are derived from the observations of Professor Soret, of Geneva, and General Strachey.