Popular Science Monthly/Volume 35/July 1889/Popular Miscellany
An Estray Wreck.—One of the most useful features of the monthly "Pilot Charts," published by the Hydrographic Office of the Navy Department, is the series comprising tracings of the courses of derelict vessels. It is said that between twenty-five and forty-five of these peripatetic dangers to navigation are recorded every month in the North Atlantic alone, and the supply is constantly kept up by the fruits of every great storm. Their wanderings are often very eccentric. Thus the W. L. White, a lumber-laden three-masted schooner, having been abandoned off Delaware Bay during the blizzard of March, 1888, started off to the southward under the influence of the inshore current and the north-west gale. Upon reaching the Gulf Stream she turned away to the eastward and began her long cruise toward Europe, directly in the track of thousands of vessels; drifting blindly about at the mercy of wind and current. During the former part of her wandering she followed a course about east-north-east, at an average rate of about thirty-two miles a day. From the beginning of May till the end of October she pursued an extraordinarily zigzag course, seesawing back and forth, and doubling upon herself, "staggering like a drunken man all over a comparatively small area, a constant menace to navigation in its most frequented ground." After escaping from this snarl, she moved east and northeast, 1,260 miles in eighty-four days, or an average of about fifteen miles a day. Finally, on the 23d of January, 1889, she was stranded on one of the islands of the Hebrides after a cruise of ten months and ten days, in which she traversed a distance of more than five thousand miles, and was reported forty-five times; while many more vessels may have passed dangerously near her at night or during thick weather.
The Canadian Lakes and the Glaciers.—In accounting for the origin of the great lake basins in Canada, Dr. Robert Bell regards Lake Superior as of volcanic origin, and Hudson Bay as having some points in common with it; while Athabasca, the Great Slave Lake, Lake Winnipeg, the Georgian Bay, and Lake Ontario, lie along the line where the limestones and sandstones meet the older Laurentian and Huronian strata, and were probably excavated by post-tertiary glaciers. Dr. Bell also points out that dikes of greenstones, etc., often formed the original lines along which the channels of rivers, arms of lakes, and fiords, were cut by denuding forces. Prof. A. T. Drummond suggests that the glaciers have been called upon to do too much work. There is difficulty in accepting the theory of such colossal glacial systems as geologists invoke. The vast effects of erosion by atmospheric and other agencies in Miocene and Pliocene ages which immediately preceded the Glacial epoch, and the great deposits of decomposed rock which must have accumulated during those ages, have been overlooked. The continental glacier, even if only a mile in thickness, of the extent demanded by the theory, would represent a depth of about five hundred or six hundred feet taken uniformly everywhere from the waters of the ocean and transformed into ice. The withdrawal of such a mass of water from the North Atlantic would have carried our coast-line from seventy-five to one hundred miles seaward, would have rendered the Gulf of St. Lawrence dry land and brought the Great Banks of Newfoundland to the surface, and would have obliterated the German Ocean. Are we prepared to accept these consequences? Prof. Drummond prefers a theory of great northern elevations of land creating mountain-chains and their glaciers, accompanied or followed by a depression farther south, which admitted the arctic currents, or perhaps formed an inland sea and a highway for icebergs bearing débris and bowlders, which they dropped on the bottom.
Orchids.—Orchids are commended by Mr. Frederick Boyle as pleasant room-ornaments, and clean, easily managed plants. "Observe my Oneidium," he says; "it stands in a pot, but this is only for convenience—a receptacle filled with moss. The long stem, feathered with great blossoms, springs from a bare slab of wood. No mold nor peat surrounds it; there is absolutely nothing save the roots that twine round their support, and the wire that sustains it in the air. It asks no attention beyond its daily bath." Sir Trevor Lawrence can see no reason, in the case of most orchids, why they should ever die. "The parts of the Orchideæ are annually reproduced in a great many instances, and there is really no reason why they should not live forever, unless. . . they are killed by errors in cultivation." Another authority says that, "like the domestic animals, they soon find out when there is one about them who is fond of them. With such a guardian they seem to be happy, and to thrive, and to establish an understanding, indicating to him their wants in many important matters as plainly as though they could speak." According to Mr. Boyle, the secret of orchid culture lies in their indifference to detail "Secure the general conditions necessary for their well-doing, and they will gratefully relieve you of further anxiety; neglect those general conditions, and no care for detail will reconcile them." In Mr. Sander's orchid farm, at St. Albans, England, where three acres are occupied by orchids exclusively, growing in the most profuse luxuriance, no great pains are taken to exclude frost from the cool houses. It would be better to keep them at 50°, but the advantage does not equal the expense and inconvenience of warming such enormous buildings to the requisite degree. Mr. Boyle says that the "Indians of tropical America cherish a fine orchid to the degree that, in many cases, no sum, and no offer of valuables, will tempt them to part with it. Ownership is distinctly recognized when the specimen grows near a village." Mr. Roege has left a description of the scene when he first beheld the Flor de Majo. The church was hung with garlands of it, and such emotion seized him at the view that he choked. The natives showed him plots of this species acres in extent, where it was grown for the ornamentation of their church. A fine Cattleya Morsiæ in one of Mr. Sander's houses—the largest orchid of the kind that was ever brought to Europe—had grown upon a high tree beside an Indian's hut, and belonged to him, as it had belonged to his grandfather. He refused to part with it at any price for years, but was overcome at last by a rifle of peculiar fascination, added to the previous offers. "A magic-lantern has great influence in such cases, and the collector provides himself with one or more nowadays as part of his outfit."
Etching on Glass.—The object to be etched is immersed in a bath of melted wax, which on removal forms a thin coating over its surface. On this the designs are carefully scratched out by means of a pointed instrument, which removes the wax along the lines of the pattern. The glass is then immersed in a solution of hydrofluoric acid. The acid, which is very corrosive, attacks all the portions of the glass not protected by the wax, thus eating out the lines of the engraving on the glass. When this is done, all that remains is to clear away the wax. Owing to the destructive nature of hydrofluoric acid, a special room is kept, in which it is applied, the windows of which must be coated with wax, and the vessels used to contain the acid must be made of lead. Monograms and similar designs are printed in a kind of thick ink, on transfer paper, the lines of the monogram being left uncovered by the ink. The pattern is then transferred to the glass, the ink protecting the portions covered from the acid in the subsequent processes. As, however, the monogram only covers a small portion of say, a wine-glass or decanter, the rest is coated with wax. The bath of hydrofluoric acid is then used as before. The pretty zigzag patterns which so frequently adorn many wine-glasses are scratched on the wax by means of several ingenious machines. One of the simplest patterns is produced by the tracing point rapidly revolving in a circle, while the glass slowly turns round on its axis. Another well-known pattern is traced out by a rather complicated mechanism, in which, by means of wheels having cogs along half their circumference, the tracing points are made to move up and down, and the glass to turn round, alternately, in a series of jerks. Although most of the patterns on glass are etched in this way, they lack the sharpness of definition required for the very best engravings. These latter are therefore carefully ground by hand, very small rapidly rotating wheels covered with fine rotten-stone powder being used to cut out the pattern on the glass. A large number of wheels of different shapes and, sizes must be used for the various details of a complicated design, such as a bunch of flowers and fruit, and this method is only resorted to in the case of the most expensive dessert sets, as it involves a considerable amount of skilled workmanship. With regard to the embossed patterns, so common on butter-dishes and similar articles, these, as well as the lenses used in lighthouses, are formed by pressing the molten glass into molds of the desired form. The flutings and ribbings on decanters, and the familiar lozenge or diamond patterns on cruets, are carved on the glass by means of grindstones, whose edges are rounded, angular, or flat, as the case may be. In the preliminary grinding, rotten-stone and water are used, but for the final polish the finest putty powder is required.
Roman Wines.—The increase in late years of the wine production of the province of Rome has been attended with great improvements in the quality of the wine produced. The principal group of wine-making districts is that of the "Castelli Romani," the wines of which are robust and durable. The land is of volcanic origin, and the ancient Roman rules of cultivation are followed. The cultivation of the white grape is giving place to that of the black, with a corresponding change in the color of the wine. The wine is kept in caves that consist of long corridors or galleries hewn out in layers of tufa, and having lateral niches, in each of which a butt is placed holding between eight and twelve hectolitres. The caves are ventilated by means of wells, and even in the height of summer the wine is thus kept at a very low temperature. The Government exercises strict measures against adulteration; and this is held to include the addition of any substances that are not found in pure wine, or the use of which is not in accordance with the rational principles on which wine-making is based. The addition of substances naturally to be found in wine is also considered as adulteration, if the substances are beyond the just proportions existing in pure wines. An exception is made in the case of gypsum, for which the maximum quantity to be permitted is determined by the Superior Board of Health.
Lead-Poisoning.—Several cases of lead-poisoning, caused by the preparation of homemade wine in earthenware dishes coated with litharge glazing (oxide of lead) have recently been noted in the London "Lancet." The symptoms were the appearance of a bluish line around the gums, vomiting of bile in large quantities, obstinate constipation, and constant abdominal pains. On analysis of some cherry-wine, from the use of which one of the cases had arisen, lead, in the form of sulphate, was found in very dangerous proportions.
Getting to Sleep.—Among the many recipes that have been given for overcoming wakefulness is one devised by a Mr. Gardner, and formerly celebrated in England, but now almost forgotten. It is to lie on the right side, with the head so placed on the pillow that the neck shall be straight; keeping the lips closed tightly, a rather full inspiration is to be taken through the nostrils, and the lungs then left to their own action. The person must now imagine that he sees the breath streaming in and out of his nostrils, and confine his attention to this idea. If properly carried out, this method is said to be infallible. Counting and repeating poetry are other means that have been recommended. Combing the hair, brushing the forehead with a soft shaving-brush, or fanning, are all good sleep-inducers, and might well be tried on sleepless children. To these may be added the Spanish practice of getting a baby off to sleep by rubbing its back with the hand. A sensation of dry, burning heat in the soles and palms, which accompanies certain diseases in some people, is a cause of sleeplessness that will give way to sponging the parts with vinegar and water. Wakefulness is sometimes the result of lack of food, and a glass of cold water or pale ale, or the eating of a sandwich, will, by setting up activity in the abdominal organs, divert the superabundant blood from the head, thus removing the cause of the unnatural activity of the brain. One reason why the most gifted minds have frequently been afflicted by sleeplessness is because bodily exercise is too often neglected by people devoted to intellectual pursuits. For such persons there is no better soporific than muscular exertion, carried even, in extreme cases, to a sense of fatigue.
Criminal Responsibility of the Insane.—It is a difficult matter to define with anything like precision the point at which we should cease to regard crime as the result of depravity and begin to treat the wrong-doer as the victim of disease. Prof. C. J. Cullingworth, of Owens College, thinks that certain forms of insanity are not properly regarded in the practice of the English criminal courts. In 1843 the House of Lords obtained from the judges who had acquitted the murderer McNaghten, on the plea of insanity, the opinion that, "to establish a defense on the ground of insanity, it must be clearly proved that at the time of committing the act the party accused was laboring under such a defect of reason from disease of the mind as not to know the nature and quality of the act he was doing, or, if he did know it, that he did not know he was doing what was wrong." Ever since it was put forth, this test has been treated as though it were the law of the land. It is, however, far from satisfactory, in that it restricts mind to the intelligence, and ignores the emotions and the will. Now it is by no means unusual to find the disorder of the emotions and the will far greater than that of the intellect, and especially in the cases of those whom insanity is most likely to impel to criminal acts. It is a common experience in lunatic asylums to find that the very persons who are the most dangerous to themselves and those about them are the most intelligent inmates in the institution. This is not a purely medical view of the question. Sir James Stephen has said: "No doubt there are cases in which madness interferes with the power of self-control, and so leaves the sufferer at the mercy of any temptation to which he may be exposed. . . . I do not think that a person unable to control his conduct should be the subject of legal punishment." Here we are brought face to face with the fiercely disputed question whether there is or is not such a thing as irresistible impulse—that is, whether persons apparently sane, and at any rate free from obvious delusion, may be impelled to insane acts by a force that they can not control. "I can not deny that medical witnesses have sometimes pressed this doctrine of irresistible influence unduly; still, there are undoubtedly cases where the insanity reveals itself chiefly, if not solely, in acts of violence, the consequence of uncontrollable impulse. The popular notions that one man can recognize lunacy as well as another, and that it invariably betrays itself by definite and unmistakable symptoms, are altogether erroneous. In a lunatic asylum the raving maniac is an exception, the majority of the inmates being quiet, orderly persons, who present, so far as their outward appearance goes, little or nothing to distinguish them from other people. Probably no one visits such an institution for the first time without being puzzled to know which are the officials and which the inmates. Like other chronic disorders, insanity is apt to come on insidiously. A certain alteration of manner, a disposition to talk a little more or a little less than usual, an unaccustomed recklessness in expenditure, a tendency to be suspicious of those who have hitherto been implicitly trusted, a slight failure in business capacity—these may be all the symptoms that mark the departure from mental health, until one day the smoldering insanity breaks out in an act of violence. The analogy between epilepsy and those forms of insanity which are accompanied with sudden outbursts is a very close one. The causes that have been at work in each case have been cumulative in their action, and only when the accumulated irritation has reached a certain degree of intensity has there been any, or but the very slightest, outward indication of the gathering storm. The spectacle of an epileptic seizure taking place suddenly in an apparently healthy person is one of such every-day occurrence that it scarcely excites any notice. But if a medical witness stands up in court and suggests that an atrocious and apparently motiveless act of violence was the insane act of the apparently calm prisoner in the dock, he is in danger of being ridiculed as a theorist."
A Practical View of Parks.—Lord Brabazon, at the Sanitary Congress held in York in September, 1886, defended the propriety of maintaining parks in large towns upon the broadest practical grounds. Such establishments, he held, should not be considered luxuries, but public necessities. For health is one of the first of necessities, and no expense should be spared, and no opportunity neglected, to increase the average standard of the nation's health and strength. If a people's average standard of vitality be lowered, that people will assuredly be handicapped in the race of nations by as much as that standard has been lessened. The health of the mind is largely dependent on the health of the body, and a nation can only as have much muscular power and brain force as may be the sum total of those qualities possessed by the men and women of which it is formed. It is an axiom of hygienic science that, other things being equal, the health of a population is in inverse ratio to its density. Hence the density of population in large towns should be offset by providing as much open space as possible in the form of squares, parks, and pleasure-grounds.
Dangers of the Laboratory.—A striking instance of the dangerous quests which enthusiastic chemists undertake are the efforts to investigate the yellow oily substance called chloride of nitrogen. This terrible explosive was discovered in 1811 by Dulong, who lost one eye and three fingers in a vain attempt to ascertain its composition. So powerful is it that when Faraday and Sir Humphry Davy took it in hand they provided themselves with thick glass masks to protect their eyes from flying bits of glass, and to some extent from the irritating vapors of the oil itself. Faraday was on one occasion stunned by a detonation of only a few grains of the compound, and bits of the tube in which it had been contained almost penetrated his mask. On another occasion Sir H. Davy was severely injured by the explosion of a few drops under the receiver of an air-pump. Since their time the precise composition of the oil has been a mystery. At last, however, Dr. Gattermann, of Göttingen, has succeeded in its analysis. He finds that the substance examined hitherto was impure, and that the extreme danger of handling it was partly due to that fact, and partly to the varying action of light. Any bright light, he has found, is enough to produce detonation—a discovery made by the sudden destruction of his apparatus by a stray sunbeam. Chemical research nowadays is apt to stray among the teeming pastures of organic chemistry, to the neglect of the old problems offered by the inorganic world, though the solution of these problems should enlist the highest efforts of experimental science.
Superstitions about Snakes.—Besides certain errors in natural history, imagination has vested snakes with some supernatural or uncanny qualities. Thus, they are in some places believed to know where buried treasures are deposited; to lie upon the gold in winter; and, while too wary to show themselves near their hoard in summer, to come out in the bright, warm days of spring and bask in the neighborhood of their winter quarters. At such times a wise man will not kill them, but will watch where they go, mark the place, and take measures to possess himself of the treasure. But the snake is supposed to fight wildly for his property; and there are feigned to be in the old mines of Italy winged serpents which never come into the open air, but haunt the vaults where anything of value is hidden. They live upon the scent of gold, and violently attack any one who forces his way into their domain. No one, it is added, has ever seen them except by torch-light, when they must have looked rather like bats. The house-snake in Carinthia is supposed to bring good luck to the house he frequents. The fatter he grows the fuller will be the stalls, the granaries and the kitchen. So he is not disturbed, but has a bowl of milk placed every morning and evening in the cellar where he lives. Some of these serpents are fabled to wear a crown—a small circlet of gold set with strange jewels, that brings good luck to any one who finds and knows how to deal with it—otherwise it may bring more harm than good. When it or any other treasure is found, it must not be touched first with the hands, but a part of the clothing should be cast over it. A maiden should use her apron for this purpose, but a man may take his coat or even his pocket-handkerchief. If a bat or any part of the headgear is used, the finder will go mad. These snakes are thought to have a queen who is far more terrible than they. A legend is current at Friedbach that, in the old days when it was vexed with snakes, a stranger, Fridelo, came along, and promised to relieve them, provided, if he should be killed, they would say a mass for his soul every year. He ordered a fire built around an oak-tree, under which he placed himself. As the fire burned, Fridelo began to sing, or whistle, or call, and the snakes rushed into the fire and perished. Finally, a white serpent appeared, passed the fire, and bore Fridelo to the fire on the other side, where both were consumed. The district was ever afterward free from venomous creatures, and in gratitude for the riddance a church was built where the tree stood, in which serpent masses are said.
A Church-going Dog.—A story of almost reasoning intelligence is told of a dog belonging to the Rev. R. Ashton, superintendent of an Indian school and pastor of the church at Brantford, Ontario. He attends the church with the ninety Indian children of the school, and rises and sits down with the congregation. One day when a stranger-clergyman had preached too long for the dog, he bethought himself of a method for closing the service: he would have the collection taken which he had associated with the end of the sermon. He ran to the boy who was accustomed to carry the plate, and gazed steadfastly in his face. Finding that no notice was taken of this, he sat up and "begged" persistently for some time. This also receiving no attention, he put his nose under the lad's knee and tried with all his strength to force him out of his place, continuing this at intervals till the sermon was concluded.
Agricultural Maxims.—In the new edition of Stephens's "Book of the Farm" the student of agricultural science is advised to enter upon his course early in the winter, because most farming operations are begun at that time. Two years are considered necessary for a thorough grasp of the subject, for he "can not understand the object of a single operation in the first year of his pupilage." Those who have not been bred upon a farm and who can afford it, will find it better to spend their time at an agricultural college with a farm attached, than with some "practical" man as a private tutor, who is not gifted with teaching abilities. Of the branches of science applicable to agriculture are named botany, chemistry, germs, zoölogy, entomology, geology, meteorology, mechanics, and engineering. Among practical hygrometric indications is mentioned the vapor issuing from the funnel of a locomotive steam-engine, "for when the air is saturated with vapor, it can not absorb the spare steam as it is ejected from the funnel, and hence a long stream of white steam, sometimes four hundred yards in length, is seen attached to the train. When the air is dry, the steam is absorbed as it issues from the funnel, and little of it is seen." Other signs of weather are drawn from the behavior of animals. According to the calculations given in this book, most plowing, including turning and time spent in occasional stoppages, is done at the rate of about a mile an hour; and "a ridge of no more than seventy-eight yards in length requires five hours and eleven minutes out of every ten hours for turning at the landings, with a ten-inch furrow-slice; whereas a ridge of two hundred and seventy-four yards in length only requires one hour and twenty-two minutes for turning—making a difference of three hours and forty-nine minutes in favor of the long ridge as regards the saving of time" in one day's work.
Distribution of Lakes on the Globe.—The distribution of lakes on the earth has been studied by Dr. Bohm, of Vienna. Assuming that lakes usually exist in groups, and their origin is connected with the glaciers, the author shows that there is a relation between their situation and their altitude. It seems proved that the height of mountain lakes above the level of the sea, in going from the pole to the equator, rises as the snow-line rises. Alpine lakes are classified as valley lakes and mountain lakes. The former are generally of considerable extent. They occupy the bottoms of the valleys and form a horizontal zone among themselves, bounding the circumference of a former glacial region, where the currents of ice, at the moment of maximum congelation, could exercise their greatest action. The others are generally small and lie at great elevations, in the heart of the mountainous region; but they are also frequently present in numbers at a common height in each chain of mountains, whore they indicate the last stage in the retreat of the glaciers. Mountain lakes have only an ephemeral existence, for the amount of detritus which they receive and the depth of their effluents contribute to their speedy disappearance. More than a hundred lakes have gone out in this way in the Tyrol during the last century.
Famines and Irrigation in India.—Mr. H. C. Danvers has summarized the histories of fifty-two famines in India, extending over a period of twenty-three hundred or twenty-four hundred years, of which thirty occurred in the historical period, and twenty-two within the present century. The earliest was between 503 and 443 b. c. Then a period of fifteen hundred years follows without a record, though not, doubtless, without famines. The year a. d. 1033 was remarkable for very extensive drought and famine, succeeded by a pestilence. The earliest famine in the Deccan occurred in the year 1200, and lasted twelve years. The distress of 1345 was caused, in part, by excessive taxation, by reason of which "the poor became beggars, the rich became rebels, and the farmers were forced to fly to the woods, and to maintain themselves by rapine. The lands were left uncultivated, and grain consequently became scarce, famine began to desolate whole provinces, and the sufferings of the people obliterated from their minds every idea of government and subjection to authority." The great Doorga Deeree famine of 1396 arose from a total want of seasonable rain, and lasted twelve years. In the famine of 1811, the Government sanctioned disbursements on account of ceremonies for rain to be performed in the principal pagodas in Cuddapah. In Kattywar, men sold their children for food, and many respectable and well-to-do persons poisoned themselves to secure release from the pangs of hunger; and others died from want of that grain which their riches could not purchase. The great famine in southern India, of 1876-'78, was the worst which has been experienced since the beginning of the century. It is estimated that five and a half millions more, out of one hundred and ninety million people, perished than would have died had the seasons been ordinarily healthy. Mr. Danvers anticipates great results in mitigating the evils of famine from the extension of the railroads, by means of which provisions can be speedily taken into regions of scarcity, and prices kept down. In the discussion in the Society of Arts upon Mr. Danvers's paper. General Rundal laid great stress on the economical advantages of systems of irrigation. The total sum expended on irrigation works throughout India was £24,500,000, while the total loss which the Government had sustained in successive famines was given as £23,500,000. The irrigation works returned more than five per cent net, but the sum hopelessly spent in trying to mitigate famine returned nothing, and ten million lives had been lost during the century. The Godavery works, after thirty-five years, had netted £1,400,000, or double the whole capital outlay; the Kistna works, after twenty-five years, had netted £281,000, which was, perhaps, half what they had actually cost. These two works irrigated 563,700 acres and 303,000 acres respectively. The Tanjore works were still more remunerative. Other works had not given so large visible returns; but they could not be called failures, because they provided security against future famines, and were otherwise economically beneficial.
Identification by Thumb-Marks.—Among other anthropometrical data, Mr. Francis Galton has secured the impressions in printer's ink of the two thumbs of many hundred persons, in order to determine the possibility of using that method in identification. He says that a minute investigation of thumb or finger marks shows an extraordinary difference in small though perfectly distinct peculiarities. Neither is there any room for doubt that these peculiarities are persistent throughout life. This method of testing identity would be valuable in many cases. A writer in the "British North Borneo Herald," commenting on a lecture by Mr. Galton on this subject, has spoken of the great difficulty of identifying coolies either by their photographs or measurements, and said that the question how this could best be done would probably become important in the early future of British North Borneo. Mr. Galton believes also that the difficulty of identifying pensioners and annuitants has led to the loss of large sums of money annually. A method of taking the impressions which he has used with good success is as follows: A copper plate is smoothly covered with a very thin layer of printer's ink, by means of a printer's roller. When the thumb is pressed upon the inked plate, no ink penetrates into the delicate furrows of the skin; the ridges only are inked, and these leave their impression when the thumb is pressed on paper. Turpentine readily removes the ink from the skin. A simpler process is to slightly smoke a piece of smooth metal or glass, press the thumb upon it, and then make the imprint on a bit of gummed paper that is slightly dampened. The impression is a particularly good one, and is durable enough for the purpose.
Judicious Charity.—The giving of money to beggars has been condemned on many sides. To bestow food or clothing upon a certain class of mendicants is also mistaken charity. The former is only an incumbrance, to be thrown away at the first opportunity; and the latter often finds its way to the pawn-shop. To prevent blankets being pawned, a benevolent Scotch lady once suggested buying them in two colors, cutting them down the middle, and sewing a half of one color to a half of the other. The pur-« pose of the gift or loan would be answered, while the blanket would be unavailable as a pledge. The poor who are most deserving of sympathy and aid require much searching out, and often, when face to face with those who fain would relieve, make the most of their miserable surroundings in order to conceal their poverty. Indiscriminate almsgiving should be avoided and organization adopted—not the organization which requires elaborately furnished offices and a staff of heavily paid officials, but that which consists of benevolent individuals who have time at their disposal, and the heart and means to give, co-operating with each other. In all cases the assistance afforded should be adapted to the circumstances of the case, and, wherever possible, assume the form of a loan in preference to that of a gift. Money should demand an equivalent of labor in some form: an out-building whitewashed, a fence mended, wood cut, coal put in, ashes or snow removed, or something else. Organization could provide common material for shirt making at proper prices by starving seamstresses, even if the articles were subsequently sold at a loss or given away. In any case let something, however simple, be required in return, so as not to destroy what self-reliance remains to the recipients of the bounty.
Arrow-Poison.—A letter from Mr. E. M. Stanley, read recently before the Royal Geographical Society of London, contained an extremely interesting reference to the arrow-poison used by the natives on the lower Congo. Mr. Stanley says that several of his party, being hit by the arrows of the natives, died almost immediately in great agony. The poison was found to consist of the bodies of red ants, ground to a fine powder, and then cooked in palm-oil. This mixture was smeared on the arrow-heads; its poisonous effects are due to the formic acid which is known to exist in the free state in red ants. This acid is also found in the stinging-nettle.
Expression in Infants.—It is not probable that infants in their earliest days give expressions of pleasure, for such expressions are largely imitative. There is but little difference during the first days of life between the joyful and the sad, the intelligent and the stupid face The child's feelings have to be called out by his experiences, and his means of expression caught from those around him. He has a few movements of reflex origin, and some that may be intuitive. According to the "Lancet," an agreeable perception or a feeling of satisfaction is necessary to the causation of a smile, while the number of sensations of a pleasurable sort which are possible to a baby a few days old is very small, and a perception in the proper sense is beyond its capacity. "The being bathed or suckled does not cause it to smile, but its countenance expresses simple satisfaction, probably because of the absence for the time being of all uncomfortable feeling. Even sleeping infants a few days old lift the angles of the mouth in an incipient smile, if such it may be named. Very lively faces with dimples in the cheeks, but with closed eyes and other signs of sleep, are matters of common observation. On the twelfth day of life Preyer observed on the face of a waking infant most of the characteristics of a smile, though the mouth movements were imperfect. It was on the twenty-sixth day of life that he first observed all the signs of an intelligent smile in his own child."
The Nest of the Water-Spider.—The ways of the wafer-spider (Agyroneta aquatica) were described in M. Blanchard's article several months ago. A fuller account of the breeding habits of this arachnid is given by Mr. Joseph L. Newton in "Science Gossip." The author had placed several of the spiders in a tank, in which suitable plants were growing. All made themselves at home but one, which appeared restless. "For the first two days it quickly traversed from side to side, making repeated attempts to climb the glass to effect an escape, but eventually it settled down, and was soon busily webbing together in a diverging manner the pectinate leaves of the water crowfoot; then going within its leafy shade,. . . to weave its silken cocoon, or nest, in which, on the fifth day, 10th of June, through a small opening it had left unwebbed. . . could be observed the yellowish mass of eggs, surrounded with a glistening layer of air, distinctly separate from its still unfinished harbor. After a day or so of rest, it further extended the nest downward, in a bell or funnel form, until nearing two inches long; then closed the lower or wider portion, with the exception of two openings, one on each side, just to give leave of its exit or admission. This being completed, the mother could often be seen gracefully wending her way to the surface, and carrying down large successive bubbles of air, then carefully liberating them, one by one, in order to form a sufficient supply, in which it then remained for some days. From the end of the first week the eggs now gradually grew darker, and on July 1st, exactly the third week, the upper portion of the nest or cocoon was completely laden with young; when the large globule of air slowly began to diminish, and, on being exhausted, the mother seemed reluctant to find a further supply—as though she had done her duty. Here the young naturally became troubled, and in the fourth week were quickly parading the interior of the cell, apparently for escape, which they, through the course of nature, effected on July 11th; thus, in about thirty days, over forty young were actively playing their delightful and youthful part, each bearing its silvery bubble."
Annual Rings of Trees.—In regarding the annual ring as it is marked in different kinds and qualities of timber, Prof. Fernow says that there are to be taken into consideration the absolute width of the rings, the regularity in their width from year to year, and the proportion of spring wood to autumn wood. The spring wood is characterized by less substantial elements (vessels of thin walled cells in greater abundance), while the autumn wood is formed by thicker-walled cells, which therefore appear of darker color. In the wood of conifers and in that of deciduous-leaved trees, in which the vessels (appearing as pores on a transverse cut) are most frequent in the spring wood, the annual ring is usually very distinctly visible; while in those woods which, like the birch, linden, maple, etc., have the pores (or vessels) evenly distributed throughout the annual ring growth, the distinction is not so marked. Sometimes the gradual change in appearance of the annual ring from spring to autumn wood, which is due to the difference of its component elements, is interrupted in such a manner that seemingly a more or less pronounced layer of autumn wood can be recognized, which again changes to spring or summer wood, and then finishes with the regular autumn wood. This irregularity may occur even more than once in the same ring. Such double or counterfeit rings, which can be distinguished from the true annual ring by a practiced eye with the aid of a magnifying glass, have led to the notion that the annual rings are not a true indication of age. The cause of such irregularity may be sought in some temporary interruption of the vigorous functions of the tree, induced by defoliation, for instance, or by extreme climatic conditions—such as sudden changes of temperature, cold days followed by sudden warm weather, or droughts followed by rain. The absolute breadth of the ring depends on the length of the period of vegetation, and is affected by the depth and richness of the soil, and the influence of light upon the tree.