Popular Science Monthly/Volume 33/October 1888/Popular Miscellany

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The Value of Scientific Teaching.—The chief value of scientific study, in Sir James Paget's view, is not merely in teaching facts, but in teaching the methods by which facts and principles may be obtained. Four great truths are taught by scientific education: those of the power of observation; of accuracy; of the difficulty of getting a knowledge of real truth; and of methods by which we can pass from that which is proved to the thinking of that which is possible. How difficult it is really to observe, is proved by every scientific discovery that is made; for each such discovery rests upon the clear observation of facts that have been within the range of sight of many, but previously overlooked. Science is essentially founded on accurate observation and accurate record and arrangement; and these are made more feasible by cultivating the habit of recording the facts while they are in sight—as an artist secures a correct portrait by looking at the object time and again, and painting accurately each time what he has seen. Science ought to be as accurate as art. Scientific education has the very rare value of demonstrating the utility of the most careful investigation, and of repeated observation, test, and examination; and it may fairly claim—which is its common boast—that it engenders a love of truth. The name of Sir John Lubbock should be a sufficient answer to the belief that scientific pursuits are not compatible with ordinary business occupations. The habits induced by such occupations may even aid science, by discerning some practical utility at the end of certain lines of work, and thereby sharpening the interest with which they will be pursued.


Officers of the American Association.—The following are the officers of the American Association for the ensuing year: President—T. E. Mendenhall, of Torre Haute, Ind. Vice-Presidents—A. Mathematics and Astronomy, R. S. Woodward, of Washington, D. C.; B. Physics, H. S. Carhart, of Ann Arbor, Mich.; C. Chemistry, William L. Dudley, of Nashville, Tenn.; D. Mechanical Science and Engineering, Arthur Beardsley, of Swarthmore, Pa.; E. Geology and Geography, Charles A. White, of Washington; F. Biology, George L. Goodale, of Cambridge, Mass.; H. Anthropology, Garrick Mallery, of Washington; I. Economic Science and Statistics, Charles S. Hill, of Washington. Permanent Secretary—F. W. Putnam, of Cambridge, Mass. (office, Salem, Mass.)—Holds over. General Secretary—C. Leo Mees, of Terre Haute, Ind. Secretary of the Council—Frank Baker, of Washington. Secretaries of the Sections—A. Mathematics and Astronomy, G. C. Comstock, of Madison, Wis.; B. Physics, E. L. Nichols, of Ithaca, N. Y.; C. Chemistry, Edward Hart, of Easton. Pa.; D. Mechanical Science and Engineering, James E. Denton, of Hoboken, N. J.; E. Geology and Geography, John C. Branner, of Little Rock, Ark.; F. Biology, Amos W. Butler, of Brookville, Ind.; H. Anthropology, W. M. Beauchamp, of Baldwinville, N. J.; I. Economic Science and Statistics, J. R. Dodge, of Washington, D. C. Treasurer—William Lilly, of Mauch Chunk, Pa. Auditors—Henry Wheatland, of Salem, Mass.; Thomas Meehan, of Germantown, Pa. The Secretary announced the selection of the following committees, and their election followed: On Chemistry Teaching—W. H. Seaman, William L. Dudley, W. H. Wiley, W. O. Atwater, and W. A. Noyes. On Water Analysis—G. C. Caldwell, J. W. Langley, J. A. Myers, W. P. Mason, R. B. Warder, and W. H. Seaman. On Organization of a National Chemical Society—A. B. Prescott, Alfred Springer, and Edward Hart. Dr. A. B. Prescott was appointed substitute for Dr. Scudder on the Committee on Indexing Chemical Literature. The next meeting was appointed to be held in Toronto, on the last Wednesday of August, 1889.


Metamorphosis of Caddis-Flies.—Mr. J. H. Comstock has had the opportunity of observing a caddis-fly—in his aquarium—leave the water and take its first flight. "It swam to the surface of the water repeatedly," he says, in the "American Naturalist," "using its long mesothoracic legs. When swimming, these legs were extended at right angles to the body, like a pair of oars. The insect was unable to crawl up the vertical side of the aquarium, and, after clinging to it for a short time, it would lose its hold and sink back to the bottom. After watching it for a time, I lifted it from the water by means of a stick. At this time its wings were in the form of pads, which were but little, if any, larger than the wing-pads of the pupa, as shown by the cast pupa-skin found floating on the water. The instant the creature was free from the water, its wings expanded to their full size, and immediately it flew away several feet. In my efforts to catch the insect, I found that it had perfect use of its wings, although they were so recently expanded. The time required for the insect to expand its wings and take its first flight was scarcely more than one second; it was certainly less than two. As these insects normally emerge from rapidly flowing streams which dart over rocks, it is evident that if much time were required for the wings to become fit for use—as is the case with most other insects—the wave succeeding that which swept them from the water would sweep them back again and destroy them."


Some Laws of Heredity.—In a course of anthropological lectures at the South Kensington Institution, Mr. Francis Galton laid down, as a measurement of the influence of heredity, that each child inherits, on an average, one fourth of the personal peculiarities of each parent; one sixteenth of those of each grandparent, etc.; and that, if the previous ancestry are left out of account, the influence of each parent is raised to one third. From these laws, schemes of children, grandchildren, nephews, etc., can be constructed, though the particular place of any individual in any such scheme can not be predicted. Family likenesses and family differences; the stability of type in a population; the silent transmision of ancestral characteristics, and blended and mutually exclusive heritage, were illustrated by the metaphor of vegetation on two islands spreading over adjacent islets. The lecturer spoke approvingly of the measures adopted to promote higher physical culture by the establishment of special departments at Amherst and Harvard Colleges, and of the attention paid to the subject elsewhere. The purpose of the lectures was to discuss the influences that tend to produce the aggregate of the most favorable conditions for healthy and happy existences.


Hispaniolan Smokers.—The aborigines of Hispaniola, or Hayti, had a powder, cohoba, the smoke of which they inhaled through their noses. It was probably a preparation of tobacco. Oviedo (1526) describes the smoking of it through the nose, thus: "The instrument with which they inhaled the smoke was a forked hollow tube about a palm in length, and of the thickness of a little finger, well polished, well made, all of one piece. They inhaled the smoke as long as they could, in fact until they fell down drunk. Those who could not afford such tubes made use of reeds." These tubes or reeds, Oviedo says, were called tobacco. Benzoni gives the following account of cigar smoking: "When these leaves are in season, they pick them, tie them up in bundles, and suspend them near their fireplace till they are very dry; and when they wish to use them they take a leaf of their grain (maize) and, putting one of the others into it, they roll them round tight together; then they set fire to one end, and putting the other end into the mouth, they draw their breath up through it; wherefore the smoke goes into the mouth, the throat, the head, and they retain it as long as they can, for they find a pleasure in it, and so much do they fill themselves with this cruel smoke that they lose their reason. And some there are who take so much of it, that they fall down as if they were dead, and remain the greater part of the day or night stupefied."


Stellar Atmospheres.—Orray T. Sherman, in studying the stellar spectra comprising bright lines, has observed that, while persistent in place, the bright line is not persistent in intensity. This peculiarity affords a distinction between bright-line light, bright-background space, and any accidental disturbance the spectrum light may suffer. Collating his own observations, particularly those which he applied to β Lyræ, with Lockyer's results in the study of the solar atmosphere, we may, he says, "picture to ourselves the condition of the stellar atmosphere and the action therein somewhat as follows: An outer layer of hydrogen positively electrified, an inner layer of oxygen negatively electrified, and between them a layer of carbon mingling on its edge with hydrogen. The electric spark passing through the mixture forms the hydrocarbon compound, whose molecular weight carries it into the oxygen region, when combustion ensues with the formation of carbonic acid and aqueous vapor, both of which, descending under the influence of their molecular weight, are again dissociated by internal heat, and return to their original positions. Under the insight which this result gives we have found the spectra of the nebulæ referable to low excitation hydrogen, the spectra of the bright-line stars referable to high excitation oxygen, and hydrogen of higher or lower excitation according as the central star is of high or low magnitude, and, as far as the accuracy of the observations permits, τ Coronæ, Nova Andromeda, Nova Cygni, and the star near χ Orionis, itself a variable, likewise referable to the same spectra similarly conditioned. There is also reason for thinking that a similar atmosphere in similar physical conditions lies between us and the sun, and it seems as if we might consider that from the faintest nebula to the most highly finished star we have but progressive stages of the phenomenon here presented."


Across Greenland.—Mr. M. Nansen is engaged in an attempt to cross Greenland from east to west, with the aid of the Norwegian ski, or snow-skates. The experience of past expeditions has shown that the most successful and farthest advances over the glacial tracts have been made by the scouts provided with these useful furnishings; and he hopes that with their aid a party accompanied by a sledge-load of provisions may cross the country in about a month. He confidently expects to find a snowless tract in the interior; and hopes, by the observations he will be able to take (only rough ones, of course), to add something to our climatological and meteorological knowledge. He will give special attention to the question of the slam, or dust deposit in the snow—which Nordenskiöld regards as cosmic, but he as telluric and derived from the snowless region—to the curious snow plants, and to the fauna and flora, of which casual appearances near the sea-coast indicate that the country is probably not destitute. The party, consisting of Dr. Nansen and six companions, landed July 18th in lat. 65° 30', or nearly two degrees south of the Arctic Circle, implying a journey of some three hundred miles across to the west coast. The two Laplanders, who accompanied Nordenskiöld in his second unsuccessful attempt to cross Greenland (in a higher latitude and from the west side), managed to advance eastward some hundred and forty miles, and attained a height of over five thousand five hundred feet, whence they got a view of what appeared to be an endless snowfield.

Hygienic Living.—Some independent opinions on health and disease are expressed in Dr. Allinson's book, "Hygienic Medicine." Our civilization is held to be the cause of many of our diseases; thus, the close confinement of our homes is chargeable for diseases of the breathing apparatus; the artificial warmth produced by fires, clothes, and hot foods and fluids is injurious. Many suffer from want of exercise, others from not keeping their skins clean. Reasoning from their structure, men should live on fruit, grain, and vegetable products, especially fruit; food and fluids should be taken lukewarm and not hot. All diseases being regarded as but one, with different names according to the locality where they manifest themselves, the author prescribes as the one remedy for all, hygienic living—consisting of proper food at proper intervals, pure air always, regular exercise, and clean skins. Drugs are good only to kill parasites on the skin or expel them from the intestines, and to produce anæsthesia during surgical operations and insensibility to unbearable pains; otherwise they do harm rather than good.


Profits of Forest Cultivation.—The history of forestry in India shows, according to the presentment of Mr. George Cadell, in "Macmillan's Magazine," how a revenue which, in the year 1886-'87, returned a surplus of 41,017,000 Rupees, was built up, under systematic management, "from not only an entire absence of income, but from a rapidly diminishing capital." The means by which this gain was drawn in were, "restraining the destruction of the forests by the wood-merchants, who felled for the sake only of personal aggrandizement,. . . by guiding, without checking, the cutting of trees by the peasantry for their agricultural and building necessities," and by steering "an arduous course " between the necessity for restraining reckless waste, and the obligation for meeting legitimate demand. The returns of three years' forest administration in the canton of Vaud, Switzerland—1884, 188.'^, and 1886—show that the 24,500 acres of forest-land gave an average revenue of more than five shillings per acre. The French forest budget for 1886-'87 shows a surplus of 13,400,000 francs, or 5'25 francs per acre.

The Prussian forests return a surplus of 23,900,000 marks, which is equivalent to a net income of 3·6 marks per acre. Lands in Great Britain are told of, the agricultural value of which is no more than twelve or fourteen shillings per acre, that bear larches which, when sold, realize from one shilling to one shilling and threepence for each cubic foot. A certain crop of Scotch fir seventy-five years old, standing on ground the annual value of which does not exceed ten shillings, is valued for transfer at £132 per acre. Generally, a crop of larch standing within reasonable distance of a railroad station ought to be worth £50 or $250 an acre when fifty years of age. It should be remembered, too, that while ordinary agricultural operations exhaust the soil, trees enrich it.


Walloon Superstitions.—The "Walloons of Belgium believe in all kinds of omens, including most of those which are common in other countries. Among their superstitions is one that to meet a priest, when about to undertake anything unusual, is a certain sign of failure, and puts a stop to further proceedings. Few will throw reeds into the fire, because they are of service to oxen; and an ox having been present at the Saviour's birth, it ought to be regarded as sacred. The bed of a dying person must be placed in such a position that the rafters can not run in a contrary direction to it; for, unless they are parallel, the agonies of death would inevitably be protracted. When linen is washed, the water is never said "to boil," but "to play"; otherwise, the clothes would be destroyed. Precious stones are supposed to possess virtues more valuable than their intrinsic worth. An aërolite is said to be unsurpassed as a means for discovering a thief. The metal must be ground to powder, then mixed with flour and made into bread, of which no genuine thief can swallow the smallest portion. On Easter-Sunday it was the custom to breakfast off of two eggs that had been laid on Good-Friday, in order to render the eater proof against fever. To abstain from meat after Lent was a cure for toothache. In taking a dead body to the church-yard, if they come to four cross-roads, the bearers put down the coffin, and all kneel to repeat a short prayer. The idea la that those who have left the world are sure to return to it, and that, as there are four ways, the traveler might wander aimlessly about, not knowing in which direction his home lay; therefore his friends pray for him at one of the roads, so that he may choose the right path, and not be misled by evil spirits. The mock court of Coucou was held at Palleur every year in August, at the nearest inn, and then, by adjournment, on the bridge. All the henpecked husbands and those who possessed any peculiarity were summoned before it, when the most ridiculous pleadings were had, nonsensical questions were asked, and appeals on mooted points were made to strangers present. The accused were always found guilty, sentenced to pay a fine, which must be spent at the inn, and then put into a cart, which was backed to a suitable mud-hole or pool, where they were shot out. The proceedings ended with the trial and ducking of the last man married in the village.


Types of Cliffs.—Dr. Archibald Geikie, in his book on "The Scenery of Scotland viewed in Connection with its Physical Geography," describes how the configuration of the coast is affected by the action of the sea. This work is traced around the cliffs, and the overhanging rocks which skirt the coast of parts of Caithness and Orkney are consequences of the direction of the great joints which run at right angles to the dip of the beds, so that wherever the strata descend with their planes of bedding toward the sea, the cliffs overhang. The joints are often pierced, so that the sea penetrates inward. The encroachments of tidal waters are recorded all along the coast. There are three types of sea-cliff which owe their characters to the rock forming them. First, the crystalline schists and old gneiss, which form a range of precipices running northward on the west coast of Scotland to Cape Wrath; crumpled, folded, and irregularly jointed, it is strikingly rugged, full of deep recesses and tunnels, and buttresses which extend into the sea. A second type of cliff ia formed by the Cambrian sandstones of the west coast. They rise a few miles to the east of Cape Wrath in vertical cliffs six hundred feet in height. The perpendicular joints separate masses from the main cliff, and everywhere present a red or brown tinge. A third form of cliff is produced by basalt, well seen on the west of Skye, where it rises in precipices reaching to one thousand feet above the sea. But owing to the varying durability of the basaltic rock, it weathers so as often to form steep descents, which characterize these ancient lava-streams.


Private Lunatic Asylums in Great Britain.—The fortieth report of the British Commissioners of Lunacy shows an increase both in the general number of insane patients and in the number of those confined in private asylums over the numbers reported in the previous year. The general increase is less and the increase in the number confined in private asylums is relatively still less than was the increase returned in the previous year over the year preceding it. The patronage of the private institutions seems to have been materially affected by the agitation that has been made respecting them. Medical men are averse to running the risk of being involved in actions, and decline to sign lunacy certificates. The friends of persons of unsound mind have learned to look upon the private asylums with distrust. The effect of some recent judicial decisions has been to permit many weak-minded but not dangerous persons, who would previously have been put under supervision, to go at large. But the commissioners profess to be satisfied that the impression that patients are unduly detained in these establishments is wholly unfounded, and say that the houses were generally conducted during the year to their satisfaction.


Bees as Weather Indicators.—Prof. Emmerig, of the Royal Seminary in Lauingen, Germany, recommends bees as the surest prognosticators of the weather for the day. These insects are usually among the most docile and good-humored of animals, and show no disposition to sting unless they are provoked. But, if a storm is impending, they become restless and irritable, and are dangerous to approach. Sometimes the barometers will give the most emphatic indications of a storm, while the bees will continue quiet. The storm may break somewhere else, but not where the bees have omitted to give warning of it, or, if it breaks there, it will be light. Then the bees in ay predict a storm when the instruments indicate fair weather, and the bees will prove the truer prophets. Prof. Eramerig cites eight or nine incidents that have occurred under his own observation within three years, where the bees and the weatherglasses failed to agree as to what the day's weather should be, and the bees carried their point.


Capacity of Native Siberians.—N. Jadrinzen, who has recently published a book about Siberia, expresses in it favorable opinions respecting the capacity of the natives of that land to receive civilization and of their promise of talent. The Samoyeds, according to School-Inspector Abramov, are a quite capable people, and their children show themselves proficient in mathematics. The remarkable natural talents and wonderful vital energy of the Tunguses are set forth by MiddendorfF. The Yakuts have been distinguished from the olden time for their cleverness, and take readily to civilization. The Kirghis have furnished a considerable number of able men, and are distinguished for their strong wit and rich fancy. The Altaians are not less gifted in religious intuitions and mental faculties; and missionaries have given accounts of very intelligent persons among them. The Tilents and black Tartars show decided inclinations toward civilization and a settled life. The Sarts and Tartars are sharper traders than even the Russians. M. Jadrinzen hopes that the newly established University of Tomsk, as its activity and sphere of usefulness extend, will awaken these people out of the torpor and hopelessness into which they have fallen, to a new life of enterprise and advancing knowledge.


Running Amok.—One of the most curious and unaccountable manifestations of human aberrations is in the Malay custom of running "amok." It breaks out, apparently, under the impulse of a momentary passion, but appears to depend, in the Malay's mind, upon a kind of belief that the act is the proper thing to do. In other words it is a convention. An instance of the frenzy recently occurred at Singapore. A Malay hadji, a "personal conductor" of pilgrimages, received a message from Mecca announcing the death of his daughter. He instantly decided, to appearance, that it was not worth while under the circumstances for any one to live longer, and, drawing his creese, stabbed the owner of the house. A boy who was present ran away and bolted the door outside. The frenzied Malay escaped by the roof, went into another house, stabbed two women, returned to the street, killed a Chinaman, attacked some other persons, and was finally knocked down with a pole by a native policeman, after having wounded six persons and killed three in a very few minutes. lie soon calmed down, and, when asked why he had acted thus, answered that he did not know. Mr. Frederick Boyle, in one of his books on savage life, describes his emotions when he saw amok coming upon a Malay servant who was in the woods with him, and the frantic passion stealing over his eyes, apparently without any occasion whatever.


The Matrix of the Diamond.—The rock—a porphyritic peridotite—in which the diamonds of South Africa are contained, has been microscopically examined by H. Carvill Lewis, and found to be one of the most basic rocks known, having a composition of equal parts of olivine and sei'pentine impregnated by calcite. In this structure and in some other points it presents some analogies with meteorites. It constitutes a new rock-type, for which the name Kimberlite is proposed. It probably occurs in several places in Europe, and is known in Elliott County, Ky., and at Syracuse, N. Y., in the United States, at both of which places it is eruptive and post-carboniferous, and similar in structure and composition to the Kimberly rock. In most other diamond localities, where the gems are found in diluvial gravels and conglomerates of secondary origin, the original matrix is hard to discover; but in Borneo, diamonds and platinum occur only in those rivers which drain a serpentine district, and in Timor Laut they also lie in serpentine districts. In New South Wales, serpentine occurs near each locality where there are diamonds, and the same is the case in the Urals. Diamonds have been found in the Carolinas, where peridotite occurs in great beds and serpentine is abundant. All the facts thus far collected indicate serpentine, in the form of a decomposed eruptive peridotite, as the original matrix of the diamond.

The Dullness of Anglo-Saxon Cities.—Mr. Frederic Harrison has made a complaint that English cities all over the world—with which American cities are classed—are dull and unattractive. The brightness of the life—at least among the better-endowed classes—which is recorded of the ancient cities of Greece and Rome, is not to be found in them; and the exhilarating vitality of Continental cities is likewise absent from them. They are healthy and rich beyond comparison with all other places, except, perhaps, ancient Rome, of corresponding importance, but, according to the summary of Mr. Harrison's lecture, they are dull abodes, usually wanting in beauty, seldom adorned with really admirable public buildings, filled with homes that give no pleasure to the eye, and over a great part of their area squalid, monotonous, and dingy. There are few festivals, and little real civic common life; the best classes withdraw their interest and declare the cities intolerable; the masses, except in their personal security, derive but little benefit from the organizations amid which they live. Life for the majority is deprived of the pleasantness which attaches to life in the country, and gives no compensations except those which are derived from the presence of great numbers. Mr. Harrison thinks that the size of the great cities is a drawback to their pleasantness, and this may be, to some extent, true; but a more satisfactory way of accounting for the condition may probably be found in the spirit of speculation which seeks to make money out of everything, preferring it to enjoyment, and plants noisome factories, with steam-engines and vapors, and racket, as near to all large centers of population as it can get them.


Effects of Petroleum Emanations on Health.—The influence of petroleum emanations upon health have been investigated by M. Wiecyk in the Carpathian region, where the workmen have to breathe an atmosphere that is tainted with carbureted hydrogen, carbonic acid, ethylene, various hydrocarbons, carbonic oxide, and sulphureted hydrogen. Cases of asphyxia are not rare. The affections ordinarily incident to long continued work are tinglings in the ears, dazzling, beating of the arteries of the head, syncopes, and hallucinations, usually of pleasant character. The first feeling on breathing the vapors is one of lightness in the breast and greater freedom in respiratory movements; but this is soon succeeded by palpitations and general weakness. Diseases of the chest, particularly tuberculosis and epidemic and infectious disorders, are rare; a consequence, probably, of the antiseptic qualities of the vapors.


Andaman Island Myths.—The Andaman Islanders, according to Mr. J. A. Farrer, in the "Gentleman's Magazine," believe the rat, crow, fish, eagle, heron, jungle-fowl, shark, porpoise, and various other animals, to be transformed ancestors, and have a definite legend to account for the transformation in each case. A certain fish, armed with a row of poisonous barbs on its back, is a man who committed murder in a fit of jealousy; and a tree-lizard retains the very name by which the victim was known as a man. The first human being of all fell into a creek and was drowned, when he was transformed into a whale and became the father of cetaceans. He capsized and drowned his wife and grandchildren while they were in a boat looking for him, and she was transformed into a crab, and his grandchildren into iguanas.


The White Mountain of Manchuria.—Mr. H. E. M. James, of the Indian Civil Service, and two companions, have made a journey through the Chang-pei-shan Mountains of Manchuria, and visited the sources of the river Sungari, thus penetrating to a district which had not previously been reached by Europeans. At Maoerh-shan, on the Yaloo, they found their progress up the river barred by impracticable precipices, while the few colonists of the upper valley had to depend upon the river when frozen in winter for intercommunication. They, therefore, changed their course to the valley of another stream. The Pei-shan, or White Mountain, from which the region they visited derives its name, proved to be an extinct volcano, with a blue pellucid lake filling the bottom of the crater, and surmounted by a serrated circle of peaks rising about 650 feet above the surface of the water. The sides of the mountain, which are steep, are composed entirely of disintegrated pumice-stone, to which the peak owes its conspicuously white aspect when seen from afar. It can be reached only during the summer months, for snow prevents access to it at other times. The lake, whose name signifies the Dragon Prince's Pool, is six or seven miles in circumference, and is believed by the hunters to be under the special protection of the god of the sea. The inner sides of the crater looking down upon it are very precipitous. From its northern end a small stream issues, which becomes the eastern or smaller branch of the Sungari, while the main or western branch owes its origin to several streams rising on the southeast face of the mountain, two of which flow out in handsome cataracts. From the number and character of the rivers that rise in the vicinity, the Pei-shan Mountain is shown to be the very core and center of the river system of Manchuria.