Popular Science Monthly/Volume 34/November 1888/Popular Miscellany
Death of Richard A. Proctor.—Mr. Richard Anthony Proctor, the distinguished writer and lecturer on astronomy and other subjects, died in this city, September 12th, of yellow fever. He had left his home at Oak Lawn, Florida, to go to England and fulfill some lecture engagements, and had engaged passage on one of the steamers appointed to sail on the following Saturday. He was apparently in good health, and there had been no yellow fever at Oak Lawn; but very soon after reaching his hotel he complained of being ill. A doctor was sent for. His disease rapidly developed. He was transferred to the Willard Parker Hospital, and died there, in less than sixty hours after he was first taken. A portrait of Mr. Proctor and a sketch of his life up to that time were given in the "Monthly" for February, 1874. His life has been a very busy one since then. He has written incessantly, contributing to journals of every kind, on a great variety of subjects, but always with the most interest on those relating to astronomy. A few years ago he started a periodical, first weekly, afterward monthly, called " Knowledge," which was devoted principally to the popularization of science, and to which he was himself a voluminous contributor, writing on all sorts of subjects, from "Americanisms" and "Whist" to the purposes for which the Pyramids were built. He also wrote under a variety of signatures; in his own name, in astronomy; as "Edward Clodd," on dreams and evolution; as "Thomas Foster," on morals and other abstruse subjects; as "Mephisto," on chess; and as the editor of several departments. In his earlier life he accomplished something in original research, at which he would have gladly continued, but financial embarrassments compelled him to do that which would bring money at once—and hence the prolific fruits of his pen. In 1884 Mr. Proctor married, as his second wife, Mrs. Robert C. Mallery, of St. Joseph, Mo., where he lived till he removed to Florida in 1886. He had erected at Oak Lawn an observatory, where he was accustomed to spend much of his time, reviving the original work of his earlier days, and had been engaged in later years upon a book which he had intended to make the crowning work of his life and his most solid title to fame, "The Old and New Astronomy." It was to be published in twelve monthly parts, by Longmans, Green, and Longmans, London and New York. We are not informed whether the manuscript of this work has been completed; but we understand that the sixth part is now ready for delivery. One of the last articles he wrote was that in "Harper's Weekly" for September 22d, on the "Moon a Dead World (but not like our Earth)," in which he held that the differences in the character of the lunar and terrestrial surfaces are owing to differences in the extent to which denudation has worked on the respective bodies. He also left several manuscripts in the hands of one of the newspaper "syndicates."
The Teaching of Physics in Schools.—The Committee of the American Association on the Teaching of Physics expresses the opinion in its report that the teaching may begin with profit in the "grammar-school," but decidedly opposes any general recommendation that it must begin there or in the primary school. "Here, perhaps more than anywhere else, nearly everything depends upon the teacher." When taught in the gram-mar-school and by a competent teacher, it should be done mainly by and through illustrative experiments, which may be of the simplest character, involving and exhibiting some of the fundamental principles of the science; and these should generally be made by the teacher, the pupils being encouraged to repeat, vary, and extend. The course of study in the high-schools should be in harmony with the fact that the large majority of the young people who are educated in the public schools receive their final scholastic training there. It is important that the student should be made acquainted, if only to a limited extent, with the methods of physical investigation, and that he should be able himself to plan and carry out an attack upon some of the simpler problems of the science. In a high-school course of four years of three terms each, the study should not begin before the third year, and should be continued, with three hours a week of class-teaching, for one year—text-book work with illustrative experiments by the instructor during the first two terms, and simple laboratory exercises in the third term. A course like this should be required as preliminary to admission to all courses in college.
Ancient Egyptian Medicine.—The ancient Egyptians had abundant opportunities in performing the preparatory processes for embalming to become acquainted with the structure and some of the functions of man's physical system. Hence medicine flourished among them from an early date. Medical colleges existed in the priestly schools of Memphis, Heliopolis, Sais, and Thebes. Two nearly complete medical treatises of very great antiquity are still extant, and fragments of others. The Ebers papyrus, which is written in hieratic characters resembling those of the earlier writings of the eighteenth dynasty (b.c. about 1550), begins, after the conventional prefatory adjuration, with a section on hygienic measures and simple remedies. This is followed by a section on the parasite Bilharzia hæmatobia, which is still common in the Nile Valley. Other diseases are then treated of, including those of the eye, which have always been among the most serious afflictions of Egyptian life. Twenty-four prescriptions for hair-washes, oils, depilatories, and dyes are given. Among them is one "to stimulate the growth of hair, prepared for Sesh, the mother of his Majesty King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Teta the blessed," which carries us back to the beginning of historic time, for Teta was the second king of the first dynasty, and his mother, Sesh, may have been the queen of Menes, the founder of the empire. Under the heading of "The Beginning of the Mystery of Medicine, Knowledge of the Motions of the Heart, and Knowledge of the Heart," are described the vessels "from it [the heart] to all parts"; "and it is the beginning of the vessels to each organ." Concerning the animal spirits, we are told that these vital spirits "enter one nostril, and penetrate to the heart through the tube which carries them into the body-cavity"; and "there are four vessels going to the two ears together, two on the right side, two on the left side, carrying the vital spirit into the one right ear, the breath of death into the left ear; that is, it enters on the right side, the breath of death enters on the left side."
Preglacial Cave-Men in Wales.—Dr. H. Hicks read in the British Association accounts of some explorations which he had carried on in certain Welsh caves as affording evidence of occupation by pleistocene men and animals before the glacial beds which occur in the area had been deposited. It was found that, although the caverns are now four hundred feet above the level of the sea, the materials within them had been disturbed by marine action since the pleistocene animals and man had occupied them. At Stet Cave a small, well-worked flint flake had been discovered beneath twenty feet of glacial beds. It seemed clear that the contents of the cavern must have been washed out by marine action during the great submergence in mid-glacial times, and then covered by marine sand and an upper bowlder-clay. The author believed that the flint implements, lance-heads, and scrapers found in the caverns were also of the same age as the flint flake; hence they must all have been the work of preglacial man. Prof. Boyd Dawkins accepted the evidence of the antiquity of man, and fully agreed with Dr. Hicks's conclusions. To Mr. W. Pengelly this was a "delicious discovery," inasmuch as he had long stood to a great extent alone in the opinion that the nodule flint tools in Kent's cavern were of preglacial make. The explorations are to be continued.
Subjects for Industrial Training.—Mrs. Laura Osborne Talbot thus described to the American Association her experiences of the effects of a little industrial teaching upon thirty vagrant boys whom she, with some other ladies, had induced to attend for three years an industrial class at Howard University one morning in the week: We were limited in every way, but we found these children of the lowest kind were delighted to work with tools, and some of them have set up little carpenter-shops of their own, and support themselves in that way. The moral uplifting was the best result of all, and it is not likely that these boys will become members of our criminal class. Each boy as he entered the class was taught in the tailor-shop to mend his clothes, and in the shoe-shop to mend his shoes. One lame colored boy from the orphan asylum became so skillful in shoemaking that he could not only make his own shoes, but could cut up the larger, half-worn shoes and make them over for baby feet. All of this I term the best kind of economy, especially in a city like Washington.
Contents of a North Carolina Mound.—Mr. J. M. Spainhour has described, in the Elisha Mitchel Scientific Society, some relics that were discovered in the excavation of a mound in Caldwell County, N. C. Within the mound was found a skeleton lying upon its face, with the head resting in a large seashell, the inner surface of which was carved with hieroglyphics. Around the neck were large beads made of sea-shells. The arms were extended and bent at the elbows, so as to bring the hands within about a foot of the head. Around each wrist was a bracelet, composed of copper and shell beads, alternating. The copper beads appeared to have been hammered into thin sheets and rolled around the string, a part of which was preserved. Near the right hand was an iron implement like a chisel or punch, not sharp-pointed, but smaller at the end away from the handle. The left hand was resting on the convex surface of a sea-shell, the concave surface of which contained about a hundred small beads. The shell was carved with hieroglyphics. Two other skeletons, on either side of this one, also had their heads resting in the concave surfaces of shells, which were marked with hieroglyphics. Several other skeletons were found around and above the principal one, which was thought to be the remains of a chief. In another part of the cemetery were found skeletons of persons who had evidently been buried alive, their limbs having been held down by large stones placed upon them.
Sanitary Plumbing.—Dr. Sinclair White, recently medical officer of health at Sheffield, England, in a late sanitary report, recommends, for use among the poorer and less intelligent inhabitants of towns, the form of multiple water-closet known as the trough-closet or water latrine. The trough is composed of strong glazed earthenware, in sections, with a seat to each section. The seats are separated by partitions. The trough may comprise any number of sections. A pipe from a flush-tank enters one end, and it has a connection with the sewer at the other, a trap and inspection hole intervening. Water stands in the trough to the depth of three or four inches, and it may be flushed automatically or by hand.
Important Archæological Monuments.—The American Association's Committee on the Preservation of Archæological Remains recommended that measures be taken for the preservation of the following works; Chaco Cañon, from the forks of Escavada Cañon for a distance of eight miles up; Cañon de Chelly, Cañon del Muerto, and Walnut Cañon; the ruin of Fossil Creek, on the east branch of the Rio Verde, and about fifteen miles south of Camp Verde military reservation; ruins in Mancas Cañon, the Round Towers situated on the flat valleys of the Lower Mancas, and the Cavate Lodges in the cinder-cone, about eight miles east of Flagstaff, Arizona Territory. The report continues: "Besides these groups of ruins and dwellings, there are isolated remains in the Territories of New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah, numbering over forty, which demand preservation. The Pueblos, which are not on treaty reservations or grants, and the old Mandan and Arickaree village on the Port Berthold Indian reservation in Dakota, to be preserved when they cease to be inhabited by the Indians. Also certain burial and village sites in Alaska." The committee—Alice C. Fletcher and T. E. Stevenson—have caused a bill to be introduced in Congress providing for a reservation in New Mexico for the purpose of archæological study.
Uses of Photography in Science.—In describing some of the applications of photography to scientific purposes, Mr. H. Trueman Wood mentions, as among the advantages of the art for such uses, that it is an absolutely unprejudiced observer. The sensitive plate records, with absolute fidelity, the image thrown upon it. The sensitive surface further has the power of storing up feeble impressions of light, so that an image is produced by the long-continued impact of vibrations too feeble to have any effect until they have been allowed to impinge upon the plate for a considerable time; while, on the other hand, the light-rays, if of sufficient energy, can produce their due effect in a time which, to human appreciation, seems infinitely small. Again, the photographic plate is affected by rays to which the eye is quite insensitive, and thus by its aid we can take cognizance of, and observe, rays beyond the limits of the visible spectrum, of the highest and of the lowest refrangibility. Thus, the photographic lens will record the impression of an infinite amount of detail, to reproduce which by any other method would require immense time and labor. The most important services which have been rendered by photography to science are in astronomy; in photographs of the moon, of the sun, and of eclipses, in which possibly evanescent phenomena are put on permanent record for the study of after-years. The work of cataloguing and charting the stars, and accurately locating them, has been greatly aided; has been, in fact, set in a new aspect by means of photography. Then we have the photographs of the nebulæ, one of which, Mr. Common's view of the nebula in Orion, Mr. Lockyer has declared to be one of the greatest achievements in astronomy, of a value greater than that of all the eye-observations made during the past two and a half centuries. In astronomical spectroscopy, by which great discoveries have been made respecting the constitution of the heavenly bodies, photography has had it all its own way. Meteorologists have made use of photography in various ways, as in application to self-recording instruments of various kinds, and in observations of cloud-forms and distances, and of lightning. In chemistry and physics, the best photographic work has been done by the camera when allied with the spectroscope. In the biological sciences and in medicine the applications of photography have been many and various. Anthropology finds a valuable aid in photography, which reproduces and perpetuates the types and peculiarities of races and of individuals. In the study of natural history, probably the most important work done by photography lies in the direction of photo-micrography; and in such researches as those of Mr. Muybridge and M. Marey on animal locomotion. The value of photography in geographical science is now so well admitted that an explorer would almost as soon think of starting without a rifle as without a camera.
Time-Reckoning of Puget-Sound Indians.—According to Mr. M. Eells's account of "The Indians of Puget Sound," in the "American Antiquarian," the Nisquallies divide the year into thirteen moons, for each of which they have separate names; also for the waxing and waning of the moon. The daytime is divided into dawn, sunrise, forenoon, noon, afternoon, sunset, and dusk, while the night has the single division of midnight. These Indians obtained the idea of Sunday from another tribe, before the English came, and after that met on Sunday, sang, danced, prayed, and tried to purify themselves, and throw away their bad and make their hearts good. They also married wives on that day. Among the Twanas Sunday means holy day, and the other days are day past, two days past, etc., except Saturday, which means "alongside," that is, of Sunday. March is "getting warm"; August, "the deer sheds its horns"; October, "the grass dies"; and November, "the grass goes into the ground." The people are generally in debt to one another, with obligations of many years' standing. The debts are seldom heard of except when trouble arises about something else, and then there is a general turning up of old scores for ten or fifteen years back, and of the debts of relatives and wife's relatives. At one time, says Mr. Eells, an old Indian living at Seabeck was invited to a potlatch at Skokomish; he accepted the invitation, but while attending the feast his house was broken into and robbed of property of considerable value. As he could not find the trespasser, he claimed that the man who invited him to the potlatch ought to pay him; because, if the giver of the potlatch had not induced him to leave home, he would not have lost the articles."
An Evil of Civilization.—A curious account of the Yakutal Indians was given by Prof. William Libbey, Jr., in the American Association. The author mentioned the strength of the men as contrasted with the bent, labor-wasted bodies of the women, their aptness in mechanical arts, their strict idea of property, their superstitions, which are valuable as influencing fortune. A whole tribe got baptized to change their luck, and, when their luck did not change, the missionary had to. Their rapid decrease in numbers was due to changes in diet and clothing. In their climate the canned beef and cotton overalls of the white man proved poor substitutes for seal-fat on the inside and sealskin without.
Lucigen.—By the "lucigen" apparatus, according to Mr. J. B. Hannay, a light is obtained from the burning of crude oil which exceeds in effective illuminating power any artificial light yet invented. The working of it depends upon the action on a powerful jet of mixed spray, hot air, and hydrocarbon vapor, driven by compressed air, of an aspirated sheet of hot air derived from the atmosphere. The flame takes the shape of a cylinder, tapering at both ends, about three feet long by nine inches in diameter, is intensely white, and is without smoke or smell. In this form it is available for open spaces and workshops, where a lateral diffusion of light is wanted. Modifications are imposed upon the apparatus to adapt it to almost every kind of building and work where it is desired to cast a large illumination over an irregular space. In one form, a light of from nine to eleven thousand candle-power, "actual," is obtained, which can only be compared with a conflagration. The size of the flame is so large that the shadows it casts are nebulous at the edges, and the volume of light so great that the shadows are partially illuminated by the reflections from surrounding objects, and the sharp contrasts and black shadows of the electric light are avoided. The same principle is adapted for heating purposes in the pyrigen, which gives a furnace free from sulphur, dust, and free oxygen, and of an absolutely steady temperature. The advantages are claimed for lucigen of low cost—it being one tenth that of gas-light of corresponding power—and extreme simplicity.
Fifty Tears of Sanitary Work.—The progress of sanitation in England during the fifty years of the Queen's reign has been reviewed by Captain Douglas Galton. Affairs were in a bad condition at the beginning of the history, in the absence of systematic methods of counteracting the natural accumulation and operation of propagating conditions of disease. Parochial administrations operated mischievously, in degrading the habitations of the working-classes and checking tendencies to improvement. The window-tax had been in operation one hundred and fifty years, to foster darkness and bar out ventilation. Water-supplies and the disposal of sewage had hardly been thought of, except in the larger towns. The first complete registration of vital statistics was made in 1838. A report of the Poor-Law Commissioners on sanitary conditions embodied many recommendations and principles that have since been recognized in legislation. It is now computed that by means of the measures that have been made effective, the annual saving of lives, over the previously prevailing death-rate, was, during 1860-'70, 4,064; during 1870-'80, 13,929; and from 1880 to 1884, 21,847. The whole death-rate for England and Wales has been reduced from 22·07 to 19·62 per 1,000; of deaths by zymotic diseases, from 4·52 to 2·71 per 1,000. The improvement in the last point in urban districts does not, however, appear to have kept pace with that in rural districts. The present social condition of the people affords other evidence of general improvement. The main feature of the legislation of the past half-century is the recognition of the principle that when large numbers are congregated in communities the duty of preventing injury from this aggregation rests on the community.
The Relation of Roots to Moisture.—Variations in plants are often produced by differences in conditions of the environment which are imperceptible to the observer; so that different plants, proceeding from seeds of the same pod and growing close together, are hardly ever precisely alike. Mr. H. Marshall Ward has shown how variations may be occasioned by conditions affecting the root. The active roots are furnished with fine hairs, which go out and draw in the moisture. The drier the soil and the more difficult to get moisture from it, the more thickly set generally are the hairs. The soil consists of innumerable fine particles, of different shapes, sizes, and composition, and each of these particles is covered with a thin layer of water, a water-blanket, which adheres to it tenaciously; although, when the moisture-coating exceeds a certain thickness, they will yield the surplus up quite readily. There are spaces between these particles, each enveloped in its water-blanket, and these interspaces influence the quantity of water which can be held back by the soil. If we can suppose a soil to be perfectly dry, the interspaces will be filled with air; when the soil is made moist, some of this air is driven out as the water comes in to take its place. If the soil is made excessively wet, all or nearly all the air may be driven out, though this seldom happens. The functions of the root-hairs are chiefly to apply themselves in the closest manner to the surfaces of the particles of the soil, so that the water attached to them can pass from the soil to the plant, and, with it, whatever dissolved matter it may contain. Some of this matter is oxygen dissolved from the air-bubbles, and this oxygen is essential to the life of the root-hairs. The effect of the deprival of oxygen is then gradually to cause the death of the root-hairs, then of the rootlets, the larger roots, and so on, till the whole plant perishes. This may take considerable time in large plants, but the process is continually going on; and it is what occurs in plants growing in an overwet soil. In an open, well-aërated soil, on the other hand, even though it be apparently very dry, the root-hairs multiply and develop an astonishing power to find and absorb water; and a healthy, well-rooted plant can take up water from a soil which is to all appearance air-dry; whereas a plant which has not had time to develop its root-hairs in sufficient numbers to take in the firmly adherent water-films from numerous particles of soil would droop and wither. Soils are suitable for particular plants or not, according as they can or not, under the circumstances, afford the air at the roots that the plants need. Many plants flourish in an open soil with plenty of sand in it, but will not grow in a stiff, wet soil. The heavier soil is unfavorable, not necessarily because it does not contain the right food-materials, but because its particles are so small, so closely packed, and so retentive of moisture, that the root-hairs do not obtain sufficient oxygen. Root-hairs and roots can not grow or act unless the temperature is favorable; and a close, wet soil may be too cold for the roots at a time when an open, drier soil (exposed to similar conditions as regards sunshine, etc.) would have a degree of warmth favorable to their growth. The opening up of stiffer soils by the various processes in use is to be regarded as a means of letting in air, and therefore oxygen, to the roots.
The Cost of wasting Coal.—Prof. Chandler Roberts estimates the weight of the smoke-cloud which daily hangs over London at about fifty tons of solid carbon, and two hundred and fifty tons of carbon in the form of hydrocarbon and carbonic-oxide gases. Calculated from the average result of tests made by the Smoke Abatement Committee, the value of coal wasted from domestic grates reaches, upon the annual consumption of five millions of people, to £2,257,500. The cost of cartage on this wasted coal is calculated to be £268,750; while the unnecessary passage of about 1,500,000 horses through the streets in drawing it adds very seriously to the cost of street cleaning and repairing. Then there is the cost of taking away the extra ashes, £43,000 a year. Summing it all up, the direct and indirect cost of the wasted coal may be set down at £2,600,000, plus the additional loss from the damage done to property caused by the smoky atmosphere, estimated by Mr. Chadwick at £2,000,000—the whole amounting to £4,600,000, or $23,000,000.
Wolf-nursed Children.—In "An Account of Wolves nurturing Children in their Dens," published in 1852, by Colonel Sleeman, an experienced officer of the Indian army, are recorded a number of such cases as are indicated in the title. In one instance, near Sultanpoor, in 1847, a wolf was seen to leave her den, followed by three whelps and a little boy. The boy went on all fours, and ran as fast as the whelps could. He was caught with difficulty, and had to be tied to keep him from rushing into holes and dens. He was alarmed when grown-up persons came near him, and tried to steal away. But if it was a child, he would rush at it with a fierce snarl, like a dog's, and try to bite it. He rejected cooked meat, but seized raw meat greedily, put it on the ground under his hands, like a dog, and ate it with evident pleasure. He would not let any one come near him while he was eating, but made no objection to a dog coming and sharing his food with him. He died in August, 1850, and after his death it was remembered that he had never been known to laugh or smile. He used signs when he wanted anything, but very few of them except when hungry, and then pointed to his mouth. When his food was placed at some distance from him, he would run to it on all-fours, but at other times he would occasionally walk upright. He shunned human beings, and seemed to care for nothing but eating.
Consanguineous Marriages.—Dr. Shuttleworth some time ago communicated to the British Medical Association the results of the inquiries which he had made into the influence of consanguineous marriages on offspring. For want of a uniform basis for comparison, positively accurate conclusions are hard to reach. His opinion on the subject, generally expressed, is that "first-cousin marriages are to some extent favorable to the production of idiot children." Extending his inquiries to the life-histories of the parents, he found that in the greater number of cases causes of idiocy could be discovered in addition to or independently of consanguinity. This is in harmony with the conclusion published by Dr. C. F. Withington, that morbid inheritance rather than specific degenerative tendency will account for all the infirmities met with in the offspring of cousins. We may therefore assume that "the great danger in the intermarriage of cousins lies in the circumstance that when there is a neurotic inheritance, there are two certain morbid factors to contend with rather than a possible one." On the whole, "the balance of evidence would appear to be in favor of the conclusion that where a close scrutiny fails to discover any heritable weakness, neurotic or otherwise, consanguineous marriage per se is not necessarily a thing to be prohibited."
The Senses of Animals.—In a lecture on "The Sense and Senses of Animals," Sir John Lubbock, after relating his experiments in teaching his dog to read, and another experiment from which he concluded that the dog could not distinguish color, said that he had always felt a great longing to know how the world appeared to the lower animals. It was still a doubtful point whether ants were able to hear. He had concluded, from his experiments, that they had not the power of addressing each other. His impression, on the whole, was that bees and ants were not deaf, but that they heard sounds so shrill as to be beyond our hearing. There was no doubt about insects seeing. The colors of objects must present a very different impression upon insects from that on human beings. The world to them might be full of music which we could not hear, colors we could not see, and sensations which we could not feel.
The History of a New Britain Papuan.—The Rev. George Brown, a missionary, gave in the British Association an account of the life-history of a native of the island of New Britain. When a child is born to the Papuan people of the country, a warm banana-leaf is wrapped around his body, and he is fed with the expressed juice of the cocoanut; ever after which he is left to be "dressed in pure sunshine." On the occasion of the marriage of the youth, there is an interchange of goods and a distinct payment for the wife. Presents are also given by the women to the bride, and by the men to the husband—a broom to the former and a spear to the latter—after which a stick is given to the man. The spear means that the husband must protect his wife, the broom that with it she must do her household work, and the stick is the symbol of the man's authority. In case of a death, the dead person is appealed to to come back, and is expostulated with for having left his friends, and entreated to say how his friends have offended him. The people have a definite idea of a future state, and of the punishment of one offender, the niggardly man. When an old man is about to die, he is placed upon a litter and carried round to see the scenes among which he has passed his life, and is then taken back to wait his time. After death the body is placed in a sitting posture and taken into the public square, with the man's weapons by his side, and the people place offerings of goods and money before it.
The Brazilian Barrancas.—Some of the upland regions of Brazil, especially near the city of Barbacena, are marked by the appearance of great rugged hollows in the sides and slopes of many of the rolling, grass-covered hills. They are land-slips, caused by the existence of springs, and present an appearance picturesque in the extreme. Their sides are worn into every imaginable shape, of pinnacles, domes, pointed towers, buttresses, and cavities, with ravines narrow, deep, and precipitous, or wide, open spaces, surrounded by lofty perpendicular walls, riven by creeks, and ready to fall. But their great charm lies in their color. The prevailing tint is a deep Indian red, which, combined with the green hills and the blue sky, bearing its glistening white clouds, constitutes a charming combination of tones. Any one of these barrancas, as they are called, offers excellent opportunities to the geologist. In many of them are found lying upon beds of sandstone, near the floor of the hollow, extensive deposits of fine laminated clays, varying in thickness, but frequently divided into layers like sheets of paper, with varieties of colors, pink, blue, white, black, gray, orange, crimson, purple, and yellow, lying side by side. Prof. Agassiz described precisely similar formations in the valley of the Amazon. Many of these barrancas show an upper stratum of white or yellow quartz conglomerate exceedingly rich in gold; and gold can often be got out of the surrounding earth from the top to the bottom of the sides, the hill being, as it were, literally "peppered" with the precious metal.
Mingrelian Rituals.—The people of Mingrelia, in the Caucasus, although professedly Christians, are, according to Freiherr von Guttner, addicted to practices and sacrifices that smack of heathenism. Offerings are established for all kinds of occasions, which every countryman can tale off on his fingers at will. Days are set for services to insure the protection of live-stock against disease. The most imposing of these is in behalf of the horse. Cakes are baked, on which is impressed the image of a horse or horseshoe, and are cast into a hollow tree, drenched with wine and blessed by the priest, while the participants in the sacrifice hop around the tree and imitate the capering and neighing of horses. In case a person has the measles, he and his attendants are dressed in red and the room is hung with the same color and adorned with red flowers, while care is taken not to irritate the demon by using a cutting instrument or admitting a dog. For diseases of the eye, little round cakes are made furnished with inserted pupils to resemble an eye, and then swung before the eyes of the patient. The priests are cognizant of these offerings, and are said, in fact, to get the best part of the gifts.
Melting away of the Mongolian Loess.—The process by which caves, sink-holes, and ravines are slowly formed in limestone has been observed by M. Potanin as going on rapidly in the loess of Mongolia. The loess is moved by water, and transported from higher to lower regions with about the same facility and steadiness as the shifting sands are moved by the wind. The underground water which filtrates through it begins by making in it a kind of cavern; then a circular crevice appears on the surface over the cavern, and a cylindrical vertical hollow, which soon becomes a deep well, is formed through the thickness of the upper layers of the formation. The whole surface of the loess deposits is dotted with such wells, which are very dangerous to cattle. By and by the formerly cylindrical well begins to extend in the direction in which the underground water flows, and a narrow ravine grows until it joins the main valley. The ravine continually increases in width by falls of new masses of loess, and the whole is steadily carried "down-stream" by the water.
How a Desert was made Productive.—Dr. G. V. Poore has told the way in which the Landes of France have been reclaimed and made habitable by carrying out the plans first applied by Bremontier at about the beginning of this century. By reason of the light character of the sands of the region, and its exposure to the powerful winds of the Bay of Biscay, its drainage presented special difficulties, which could not be overcome by the ordinary resources of engineering. Recognizing that it was useless to contend against the forces of nature, Bremontier determined to try to make use of them for the accomplishment of his purpose. Knowing the virtues of planting and promoting the growth of a network of roots, he planted a tract of the dunes with peas, which would grow in the sand and send their roots to a considerable depth; and, for more permanent effect, with the maritime pine. The pine-seeds were sown mixed with seeds of the common broom, whose shrubs might serve as nurse-plants to the infant pines, and the sowings were made in a direction at right angles to the prevailing wind. A screen of hurdles made of gorse or of planks deeply driven into the sand was placed on the windward side of the seed-ground, and the seed-ground itself was thatched with pine-branches and other suitable material. In the course of time the brooms reached their full growth, while the pines continued to grow, overtopped them, and crowded them out. The maritime pines have grown well and have proved a very profitable tree, yielding moderately good timber and much turpentine; in addition to which a good business is done in charcoal. Thus the waste moorlands on the shores of the Bay of Biscay have become of great commercial value. The railway journey of four or five hours from Bordeaux to Bayonne is now made through a long, monotonous pine-forest. The cultivation of the pine improves the soil, which is gradually enriched and altered in quality by the dead leaves and other vegetable débris which fall upon it. In some places clearings have been made in the forests and vineyards planted.
The Colorado Oil-Field.—According to Prof. Newberry's description in the American Association, the oil-field recently discovered in Colorado is situated in the valley of the Arkansas, above Pueblo, about the town of Florence. The geological formation is middle cretaceous, the Laramie coal series (upper cretaceous) forming the table-land on either side of the valley, the oil-wells being bored in the Colorado shales (middle cretaceous). These shales are highly carbonaceous, and have a thickness of about three thousand feet. About twenty wells have been bored, mostly to the depth of from eleven to sixteen hundred feet; some fourteen are now pumping, and yield from eight hundred to a thousand barrels per day. The oil is of excellent quality, has a green color, and an agreeable odor. It yields on distillation forty per cent of excellent burning-fluid, and nearly sixty per cent of superior lubricating oil, which contains much more paraffine than the oil of Pennsylvania. The average yield of the wells is nearly sixty barrels. This is larger than the average yield of the Pennsylvania wells, but there are no great "gushers" or fountain-wells. The oil-field of the Arkansas Valley is extensive, and the yield of oil may apparently be increased indefinitely. At present there is no sale for the lubricating oil, but, when an outlet is opened to that by way of the Gulf of Mexico, the oil industry may be expected to become very important and remunerative. The source of the oil is undoubtedly the carbonaceous matter of the Colorado black shale, from which it is being spontaneously distilled.
Deaths by Wild Beasts in India.—Conditions of peril from wild beasts and snakes exist in India of which it is hard to form an adequate conception in a country like ours. The death-list from these causes has, during the last four years, averaged more than 22,500. Of 22,817 deaths in one of these years, 20,142 were caused by shakes, leaving 2,675 to be ascribed to wild beasts. Last year's returns also mention 60,000 head of cattle as killed by these agencies, of which snakes were, however, responsible for only 2,000, while 20,000 each were ascribed to leopards and tigers. The apathy of the natives in the face of this destruction would be astonishing to a Westerner, as would also their remissness in clearing out places where these nuisances abound.