Popular Science Monthly/Volume 38/November 1890/Popular Miscellany

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POPULAR MISCELLANY.

Folk-Lore.—The American Folk-Lore Society will hold its annual meeting in New York city, on November 28th and 29th, these dates being the Friday and Saturday following Thanksgiving-day. The sessions will be held at Columbia College, Madison Avenue and Forty-ninth Street. The Philadelphia meeting held last year was signalized by large attendance and the formation of a local chapter of the national society which has held meetings monthly throughout the winter. Folk-lore has been defined as the collective sum of the knowledge, beliefs, stories, customs, manners, dialects, expressions, and usages of a community which arc peculiar to itself, and which, taken together, constitute its individuality when compared with other communities. Folk-lore has been placed on a scientific basis as a recognized department of anthropology. A growing interest in its study is manifested especially since it is regarded as an important adjunct to history, often indeed preserving the only records of a race. The officers of the society for 1890 are as follows: President, Dr. Daniel G. Brinton, Philadelphia, Pa.; Council, Hubert Howe Bancroft, San Francisco, Cal.; Franz Boas, Worcester, Mass.; H. Carrington Bolton, New York, N. Y.; Thomas Frederick Crane, Ithaca, N. Y.; Alice Fletcher, Nez Percés Agency, Idaho; Victor Guillou, Philadelphia, Pa.; Horatio Hale, Clinton, Out.; Mary Hemenway, Boston, Mass.; Henry W. Henshaw, Washington, D. C.; Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Cambridge, Mass.; William Preston Johnson, New Orleans, La.; Charles G. Leland, London, England; Otis T. Mason, Washington, D. C.; Secretary, W. W. Newell, Cambridge, Mass.; Treasurer, Henry Phillips, Jr., Philadelphia, Pa. The society publishes a quarterly, entitled The Journal of American Folk-Lore, a handsome octavo, bearing the imprint of Houghton, Mifflin & Co. It is sent free to members. The membership fee is three dollars per annum. The society numbers at present about three hundred and fifty, but an increase in membership, especially in New York and Brooklyn, is desirable. Persons wishing to join the society, or to receive the circular anaouncing the meeting, should address Dr. H. Carrington Bolton, University Club, New York city.

 

Distribution of North American Plants.—A sitting of the Biological Section of the American Association was given, by appointment from the Toronto meeting, to the discussion of the geographical distribution of North American plants. The first paper was by Mr. Sereno Watson, on the relation of the Mexican flora to that of the United States. It showed that the Mexican flora is more nearly related to the flora of our Eastern than of our Western border. Prof. J. M. Coulter, in a paper on the Distribution of the Umbelliferæ, said that the study of the subject was difficult, because of the imperfect definition of the genera. The order and species were, however, better defined. The order is essentially one of the north temperate zone; and, so far as North America is concerned, it is an order of the United States. Of the fifty-three genera of the United States twenty-five are also found in Asia. The chief home of the order is in the region of the Sierra Nevada, where fifty-four per cent of our known species are found. Special areas exist in the Great Basin and in Arkansas. The Distribution of the Hepaticæ was described in a paper by Prof. L. M. Underwood, who spoke of the defective condition of our knowledge of the subject. The order is represented by about 2,500 species, most of which are found in the south tropical regions, in the moist forest areas, and along the borders of waters. Prof. B. D. Halsted traced the origin of some American weeds and the manner of their spread over the country, and described the lines along which they have run and are still advancing. The distribution of North American grasses was described by W. J. Beal, who showed the areas marked by special varieties, the lines along which they are extending, and the modifications that follow the change from wild to cultivated land. The Cornaccæ, or order of dogwoods, was the subject of a second paper by Dr. J. M. Coulter. It includes, he said, three genera, which find their most congenial home in Mexico and along the Mexican border. They are found farthest north in the Pacific States. The last paper was by Prof. N. L. Britton, who presented the general subject. Temperature, he said, is the most important factor in distribution, and it depends on elevation and latitude. The most abundant flora is the temperate, which extends along various lines to a considerable distance north. The northern floras are characteristic, but also extend south, chiefly along the mountain-chains. Tracing the paleontological evidences on the subject, the author thought that all plant-life north of the fortieth degree of latitude was probably destroyed during the Glacial period. Below that line existed the circumboreal flora, which subsequently followed the retreating ice north. Some suppose that it thus simply returned to its former habitat. The sub-tropical flora of the Tertiary age must have been almost destroyed during the Ice age, yet it has certain boreal characters. There is a marked correspondence between the boreal and tropical flora of America and Europe, which can hardly be explained by migration. Probably similar environment has given rise to similar lines of development, starting from types having more or less in common. The discussion was so satisfactory to the section that a committee was appointed to consider upon the selection of a subject for a similar series of papers at the next meeting.

 

Insect Aid for our Orange-growers.—Bulletin No. 21 of the Division of Entomology is entitled Report of a Trip to Australia, made under Direction of the Entomologist to investigate the Natural Enemies of the Fluted Scale. Mr. Koebele, the divisional agent who makes the report, acting under instructions from Prof. Riley, and aided by funds through the State Department, and the courtesy of Hon. Frank McCoffin, Commissioner-General to the Melbourne Exposition of 1888-89, sailed for Australia in August, 1888, where he remained until March of the succeeding year, collecting and making shipments to California of the parasites of the fluted scale. No little difficulty was experienced in finding sufficiently large colonies of the scale to obtain enough specimens infested with parasites, as the latter, aided by other enemies, have reduced and nearly exterminated the scerya in Australia. A large number of a small dipterous parasite were shipped, but, as this is a slow breeder, its work has been eclipsed by a small lady-bird which was afterward discovered and comprised the major part of the later shipments. This ladybird, called the Vedalia, has done such good service that the fluted scale is now practically overcome in California, and orange growers have again taken heart. The report deals besides with injurious insects observed during Mr. Koebele's stay in the country, among the most notable being the orange and olive scales, and a scale known as Monophlæbus, remarkable for its immense size, being larger than any heretofore known. All of these scales are highly injurious, and figures accompany the descriptions of them, besides which is mentioned and figured a snout beetle imported from the Mediterranean region, which is very injurious to the young shoots and leaves of the olive. In addition to the dipterous parasite (Lestophonus) and the Vedalia before mentioned, as forming the bulk of the shipments for California, there were also included a number of other beneficial predatory insects. These were several small coccinellids of the genera Scymnus, Coccinella, Rodolia, and Zeis, all of which are more or less important as scale-destroyers. As a rival of the last there were brought over about a hundred larvæ of a noctuid moth (Thalpochares cocciphaga), which is a most efficient scale-eater in its larva state and promises to become a valuable adjunct to our other introduced scale enemies. The work, however, of the lady-bird (Vedalia cardinalis) has been so very effective that the other species have been kept in the background and probably driven to the wall. Within a year after its introduction the Vedalia had practically exterminated the Icerya and given a renewed impulse to orange culture in California. Great credit is due to Prof. Riley for the scientific work that has secured this important result.

 

The Tarantula.—The tarantula, says A. J. Field, in Knowledge, is one of the largest but not the most venomous species of spiders found in Europe. It is one of the Lycosidæ, or wolf-spiders, is about three quarters of an inch long, and is covered all over its body with an olive, dusky-brown down. During the summer months, while creeping among the corn, it bites people employed in the fields, but the bite, though painful, is seldom dangerous. According to Dr. Zangrilli, the part bitten becomes deadened soon afterward, and in a few hours there are slight convulsive shiverings, cramps of the muscles, and spasm of the throat, followed by vomiting and a three days' fever. Recovery generally follows after a copious perspiration, but in one case there was tetanus and death on the fourth day. The tarantula is common in Spain, southern France, and Italy, where it occurs in great numbers in Apulia round the town of Taranto. It has been found in Asia and in northern Africa. It lives in dry places, partly overgrown with grass and fully exposed to the sun, in an underground passage which it digs for itself and lines with its web. These passages are round, sometimes an inch in diameter, and extend to the depth of a foot or more below the surface. This spider is very quick in its movements, and eager in the pursuit of its prey. It has been known to allow itself to be carried into the air by a large fly that it has attacked rather than relinquish its hold. The female tarantula lays from nine hundred to a thousand eggs in a season, and shows considerable maternal care. She has never been known to abandon her offspring until they are able to take care of themselves. She hatches two broods in the year, in spring and autumn, and has been known to hatch three. The eggs are deposited after they are hatched within a bag or cocoon almost as thick as paper, which the mother makes for them, and then fastens to the end of her body. When the young ones are excluded from their shells within the cocoon they remain in confinement until the female, instinctively knowing their maturity, bites open the bag and sets them free. The young of web-making spiders, after leaving the egg, immediately commence weaving, but the young tarantulas (leading a vagrant life and having no web), being incapable of protecting themselves, remain for about a fortnight with the mother. This formerly gave rise to a belief that they derived their nourishment from her body.

 

Poisonous Spiders—. It does not seem to be generally known that spiders secrete a poison of a very active nature, the effects of which are similar to those produced by snake poisons. The bite of the common house-spider is quickly fatal to flies and other insects on which it preys; when a fly is bitten by a spider its whole body seems seized by violent convulsive twitchings, and death generally occurs after a few minutes. The spider's poison issues from a sac and duct at the base of its mandibles; it closely resembles the venomous matter secreted by scorpions, and is a transparent fluid, containing traces of formic acid and albumin. The spider is provided with a most effective apparatus for injecting its poison, consisting of modified mandibles called falces, the last joint of which has a hard curved fang, with a fissure near the point. The muscles used in closing the mandibles also press upon the poison-gland, causing the poison to be expelled through the fissure into the wound, and thence into the circulation of the victim. The most venomous spider known is a little fellow confined to New Zealand, called by the native inhabitants "Katipo," its bite not infrequently causing chronic illness or death. Mr. W. H. Wright describes the case of a person bitten by the katipo on the shoulder. "The part bitten rapidly became swollen and looked like a large nettlerash wheal. About an hour afterward the patient, could hardly walk; the respiration and circulation were both affected, followed by prolonged muscular prostration. The patient, however, recovered in two or three days."

 

African Jumpers.—Dr. Bennett, of Griqualand, writes an account of a peculiar nervous affection which is met with among the Griquas and other natives and individuals of mixed descent living in Griqualand. He suggests that perhaps the affection is similar to that prevalent among the French Canadians and known by the name of "Jumpers," which was described by Dr. G. M. Beard in The Popular Science Monthly for December, 1880. Dr. Bennett says: "The affection is entirely confined to the male sex, and I have never seen or heard of a case in the female. The victims of this strange form of neurosis go through the most extraordinary and grotesque antics on the slightest provocation. A whistle, a touch, a shout—anything, in fact, suddenand unexpected—will 'set them going.' Some will stiffen their limbs, make hideous grimaces, and waltz about as if they had no joints in their body. Others will jump wildly about like dancing dervishes, imitating the particular sound that had acted as an exciting cause. Some, again, will make use of the most obscene expressions on a transient impulse, correcting themselves immediately afterward and expressing their regret for having used such language; while others, on the spur of the moment, will do anything they are told to do. If they should happen to have a piece of tobacco in their hand and one should suddenly shout ' Throw it away! ' they will do so at once, running away for a short distance and trembling all over their body. I remember one case in particular. It was that of a young man, a mason by trade. He had been handed a piece of tobacco, and the person who handed it to him shouted out suddenly, ' Throw it away; it is a snake! ' He first danced about wildly for a short time, and then ran away as fast as he was able; but he had not gone far when he fell down in a 'fit,' and it was some time before he recovered." As to the probable cause of this affection, Dr. Bennett is disposed to ascribe it to the indiscriminate intermingling of the blood of different racial types and the intermarriage of those standing in close relationship to one another.

 

Poisonous Mussels.—An unusual case of poisoning recently happened in Seapoint, County Dublin, Ireland, and was described in the London Lancet. A lady, her five children, and a servant partook of a meal of stewed mussels obtained from a small sheet of water to which the sea had access, but which received fresh water and some sewage. In about twenty minutes after the ingestion of the mussels some of the children complained of a prickly sensation in their hands; graver symptoms rapidly supervened, and in less than an hour one of the children died, the mother and three other children succumbing within two hours after eating the mussels. One of the children and the maid (the latter had eaten but few of the mussels) suffered very much, but recovered. The chief symptoms were vomiting, difficulty in breathing, swelling of the face, want of co-ordinaticn in movement, and spasms, principally in the arms. It was thought that the poisonous nature of the mussels was due to their feeding on sewage. Some mussels obtained from the same place were found to have abnormally large livers and a much more brittle shell than common. Leucomaine, an alkaloid poison, was found in the vomited matter.

 

Resources of Nyassa-Land.—Nyassa-land, which extends from the southern shores of Tanganyika Lake to the Zambezi River and from the Congo free state to the Shire River, one of the centers of the African slave trade, has been brought into prominent attention by the activity of missionary enterprise in and around it. Its suitableness for British colonization has been discussed in the British Association by Captain F. D. Lugard. It is touched by the most eligible route into Central Africa, which lies by the water-way of the Zambezi, Shire, and Nyassa to Tanganyika. The carrying trade to the missions is already sufficient to pay dividends to a small company. Then there grows up rapidly around each mission station a desire for some of the rudimentary necessities of civilization; and these, together with salt, a chronic 6avage want, and metal wire and beads for personal adornment, are essentially the pioneering elements, and indeed constitute the money of the country, for which the natives are willing not only to bring their produce, but to work by the week or month. The country has to offer in return supplies of mineral wealth, the variety and amount of which are as yet unknown, but certainly exist. They include gold, copper, iron, asbestus, and coal, and are probably sufficient to pay the initial cost of exportation. Other products are ivory, which is destined to decrease; coffee, tea, cloves, cinchona bark, and India rubber, which have as yet hardly reached the experimental stage, but promise to be profitable when developed. Several minor products, not sufficient in themselves to sustain trade, will help it along as supplements to the staples. The beans of the miranguti tree are used by the natives for food, and furnish a fat suitable for illuminating purposes and for soap-making. The bark supplies a capital mahogany dye, which is believed to have preservative qualities. Enormous herds of cattle are accompanied by plants endowed with tanning properties. There are oil-seeds and dyes, several fiber plants, and in the lowlands several kinds of timber trees of some value, although this article is worth less than some of the others. Many kinds of imported trees, however, thrive excellently. As to salubrity, the Shire Highlands have proved by the test of many years to be well adapted to the conditions of European life. But the malarious coast country has to be passed through, and the first requisite to settlement is therefore a means of rapid conveyance from the coast, with better facilities for accommodation and comfort.

 

The Tradition of Mount Kasbek.—The ascent of Mount Kasbek, of the Caucasus system, was accomplished by the Russian topographer Pastuchoff on the 29th of July, 1889. From the summit, 16,246 feet above the sea, a view was had that "surpasses description." The peak itself is concealed from view from below by the projection of a spur which appears from the foot of the mountain to be the highest point. The rim of a crater, the south side of which has been broken in, occupies a part of the summit. The explorers came down in a violent rain-storm which flooded the valleys and did much damage to the corn and destroyed some of the natives' huts. This was regarded by the people as a penalty for the sacrilege which the party had committed in intruding upon the holy summit. According to an Ossete tradition, when God had determined to send Jesus Christ down to the earth he could find no place except this peak which had not been defiled by the sinful feet of men. He therefore placed the child in this spot in a golden cradle, and by the side of it a dove, and a sheep with golden horns. The dove was to rock the cradle and coo, and the sheep to amuse the child with its bleating. The animals were fed from a pile of wheat which the Lord provided for them. When Jesus had grown up he came down to the earth, performed his divine acts, and went back to heaven; but he left the cradle, the dove, and the sheep on the mountain as memorials of his abode there. The dove is still rocking the cradle, and the bleating of the sheep can sometimes be plainly heard in the evening; and they are still fed on the wheat, which has never failed. The belief prevails among the Ossetes that God will never permit any one to go up to the top of the Kasbek. Many have tried it without succeeding. Some have been made blind, others have been cast into the gorges, and others have been buried under the snow. Now the Russian has gone up and taken away the golden cradle; for which God manifested his anger in a terrible storm.

 

Gas Cooking-Stoves.—Gas cooking-apparatus have the advantages over coal stoves that they produce no dust or cinders, and are more cleanly in every way. The oven can be heated to a desired temperature in only a few minutes after the gas is lighted, while the degree of heat can be regulated according to the nature of the articles to be cooked by simply adjusting the valves that control the supply of gas and the ventilation. While gas may be somewhat more expensive than coal, by careful regulation of the supply and attention to turning off the gas the instant it is out of use, the difference can be reduced till it is hardly perceptible. Gas-ovens may be heated by burning the gas directly within them, or by applying the flame to the walls. In the former case the products of combustion are present with the meat, with effects on taste and odor that are not always agreeable. In the other case the meat is not distinguishable from a joint roasted before the open fire. The stove should be supplied with an escape flue to the open air. Boilers—for the kitchen only—may be attached to the larger stoves and heated from below by atmospheric burners. The average consumption of gas in a range for a family of ten persons is estimated to be twenty feet an hour for six hours a day.

 

Geology as an Educational Instrument.—Prof. A. H. Green spoke in the Geological Section of the British Association over which he presided, on the value of geology as an educational instrument, and certain attendant risks that need to be guarded against. Geologists, he said, are in continual danger of becoming loose reasoners. They are too ready to accept conclusions upon insufficient evidence. The reason is not far to seek. The imperfection of the geological record is a phrase as true as it is hackneyed. Then, how many of the geological facts gathered from observation admit of diverse explanations as in the theories of the nature of Eozoon canadense! That, after all, is only one of the countless uncertainties that crowd the whole subject of invertebrate palæontology. In what a feeble light have we constantly to grope when we attempt the naming of fossil conchifers, for instance! It is from data scrappy to the last degree, or from facts capable of being interpreted in more than one way, or from determinations shrouded in mist and obscurity, that geologists have in a large number of cases to draw conclusions. Inferences based on such incomplete and shaking foundations must necessarily be largely hypothetical. That that is the character of a great portion of the conclusions of geology all are ready enough to allow. The living day by day face to face with approximation and conjecture must tend to breed an indifference to accuracy and certainty, and to abate that caution and wholesome suspicion which make the wary reasoner look to his foundations and refuse to sanction superstructures not firmly and securely based. The author did not infer that geology could find no place in the educational curriculum. There are many ways of neutralizing whatever there may be potentially hurtful in the use of geology for educational ends. One way to make a geologist is not to teach him any geology at all to begin with—to send him first into a laboratory, give him a good long spell of observations and measurements requiring the minutest accuracy, and so saturate his mind with the conception of exactness that nothing shall ever afterward drive it out. The uncertainties with which the road of the geologist is strewn have an immense educational value if we are on our guard against taking them for anything better than they really are. A man who is ever dealing with geological evidence and geological conclusions, and has learned to estimate these at their real value, will carry with him, when he comes to handle the complex problems of morals, politics, and religion, the wariness with which his geological experience has imbued him. There are immense advantages which the science may claim as an educational instrument. In its power of cultivating keenness of eye it is unrivaled, for it demands both microscopic accuracy and comprehensive vision. Its calls upon the chastened imagination are no less urgent, for imagination alone is competent to devise a scheme that shall link together the mass of isolated observations which field-work supplies; and its pursuit is inseparably bound up with a love of nature, and the healthy tone which that love brings alike to body and mind. Geology should be taught in schools also for its relation to geography and to the history of nations and the distribution and migrations of peoples.

 

Transitions of Fauna in the Mississippi Delta.—In a paper read in the American Association, in his absence, by W J McGee, Mr. L. C. Johnson said that he had made use of the Nita crevasse of 1890 of the Mississippi River to illustrate the manner in which the abrupt changes of fresh-water to salt-water fauna, and vice versa, of which frequent evidences appear in the delta, have been brought about. The crevasse was the most extensive that has been formed for many years; and through it flowed a volume of fresh water sufficient to transform the previously brackish lakes and saline bays on the left of the river into fresh-water lakes and estuaries. One of the prominent results of the flood was the destruction of the salt-water fauna and the substitution of a fresh-water and mud-loving fauna over an immense area. The oyster-beds along the coast, which were the basis of an important industry, were injured, and in many cases destroyed. The sea-fishing region was also ruined, and the pickerel and other characteristic fishes of the Mississippi may now be taken where four months ago only salt-water forms were found. Hitherto the geologist employed in the lower Mississippi region has been puzzled to account for the sudden transitions of fauna; but here we have a case where one of them was effected in a single week, over as wide an extent as all of those which have so embarrassed the student.

 

The Mediterranean.—The presidential address in the Geographical Section of the British Association, by Sir R. Lambert Playfair, was on the Mediterranean Sea. Its shores, the author said, include about three million square miles of the richest country on the earth's surface. They are a well-defined region of many parts, all intimately connected by geographical character, geology, flora, fauna, and the physiognomy of the people. To the general statement there are two exceptions—Palestine and the Sahara. The sea, a mere gulf, now bridged by steam, rather unites than separates the two shores, modifying their climate and forming a junction between three continents. The Atlas range is a mere continuation of the south of Europe. It is a long strip of mountain land, about two hundred miles broad, covered with splendid forests, fertile valleys, and in some places arid steppes, stretching eastward from the ocean which bears its name. In the east of the range the flora and fauna do not essentially differ from those of Italy; in the west they resemble those of Spain. Of the three thousand plants found in Algeria, the greater number are natives of southern Europe, and less than a hundred are peculiar to the Sahara. There are mammalia, fish, reptiles, and insects common to both sides of the sea. Some of the larger animals, such as the lion, panther, jackal, etc., have disappeared before civilization in Europe, but linger through Mohammedan barbarism in Africa. There is abundant evidence of the former existence of these and other large mammals of tropical Africa in France, Germany, and Greece. The original fauna of Africa, of which the lemur is the distinctive type, is still preserved in Madagascar, which once formed part of Africa. The trout is found in all the snow-fed rivers that fall into the sea, but not in Palestine south of the Lebanon, or in Egypt, or the Sahara. The freshwater salmonoid is a European type often found in the Atlas. There are newts and tailed batrachians in every country round the sea, again excepting Palestine, Egypt, and the Sahara.

 

Economic Plants of Colombia.—A report of the British Foreign Office names a large variety of important economical plants as successfully cultivated in Colombia. The principal crop is maize; next to it is sugarcane, which is most used for making sugar, while large quantities of it are employed for making aguardiente and rum in the hot country, and chicha, another drink, in the cold country. The plant ripens in one year in the hot country, and in a year and a half in the cold country. Cacao is largely raised in the hot country on the slopes of the mountains, on newly disforested land, at an elevation of from one thousand to three thousand five hundred feet. It is the most paying crop in the country when once established, but very difficult and expensive to take care of in the earlier years of its growth. For planting the upland rice, the ground is "prepared" by turning cattle into the field after the first rains to tread up the ground and destroy the grasses. They are again turned in and driven round, after the seed has been sown, to tread it into the ground, after which no further attention is paid to the crop till the harvest. The potato forms the chief food of the country. It is very productive, and is cultivated in two principal varieties—the criollas, which are red-skinned, and yellow or orange-colored inside, and the ordinary white potato. It also grows wild in the mountains. The largest and best crops are raised on savannas on the mountain-sides at heights of more than nine thousand feet. The production has greatly decreased since the potato disease attacked the crops in 1865. Tobacco is grown on a large scale in four districts and on a small scale all over the country. Other cultivated plants are plantains, which form an important food and are very productive; manioc, which is used as a vegetable or made into bread; vegetable ivory palm; Carlodovica palmata, from which the Panama hats are made; coca; coffee, the production of which is increasing and which is taking the place of cinchona bark as the chief article of export; American aloe, which grows wild everywhere and is valuable for its fibers; and cinchona. Pineapples, oranges, mangoes, cherimozas, and other native fruits grow very abundantly and spontaneously, and are so cheap that, except in the immediate neighborhood of a market, few people take the trouble to pick them.

 

The Start of a Bird's Flight.—The mechanism of the starting of a bird's flight, as studied by instantaneous photography, is thus described by Professor Marey: When the bird is not yet in motion, the air which is struck by its wings presents, in the first instance, a resistance due to inertia, then enters into motion, and flies below the wing without furnishing to it any support. When the bird is at full speed, on the contrary, its wing is supported each moment upon new columns of air, each one of which offers to it the initial resistance due to its inertia. The sum of these resistances presents to the wing a much firmer basis. One might compare a flying bird to a pedestrian who makes great efforts to walk on a shifting sand, and who, in proportion as he advances, finds a soil by degrees firmer, so that he progresses more swiftly and with less fatigue. The increase of the resistance of the air diminishes the expenditure of labor; the strokes of the bird's wing become, in fact, less frequent and less extended. In calm air, a sea-gull which has reached its swiftest expends scarcely the fifth of the labor which it had to put forth at the beginning of its flight. The bird which flies against the wind finds itself in still more favorable conditions, since the masses of air, continually renewing themselves, bring under his wings their resistance of inertia. It is, then, the start which forms the most laborious phase of the flight. It has long been observed that birds employ all kinds of artifices in order to acquire speed prior to flapping their wings: some run on the ground before darting into the air, or dart rapidly in the direction they wish to take in flying; others let themselves fall from a height with extended wings, and glide in the air with accelerated speed before flapping their wings; all turn their bill to the wind at the moment of starting."

 

Origin of Warts on Forest Trees.—The formation of abnormal growths—knots or warts—on forest trees, which are very common on some species, is thus accounted for by Robert Cowpar in Science Gossip: "They are not due to insects, fungus, or accident, but are perfectly natural. Neither may they be taken as indications of health or disease, nor are they in any way attributable to any particular soil or situation. . . . In the barks of our forest trees are contained a multitude of latent buds which are developed and grow under certain favorable conditions. Some trees possess this property in a remarkable degree, and often, when the other parts are killed down by frost in severe winters, the property of pushing out these latent buds into growth preserves the life of the plant. These buds, having once begun to grow, adhere to the woody layer at their base, and push out their points through the bark toward the light. The buds then unfold and develop leaves, which elaborate the sap carried up the small shoot. Once elaborated, it descends by the bark, when it reaches the base or inner bark. Here it is arrested, so to speak, and deposited between the outside and inner layer of bark, as can be learned on examining specimens on trees in the woods almost anywhere."

 

Value of Phenological Observations.—Phenological observations of plants, or observations of the time of the first appearance in the year of the several stages of growth, have long been recognized as useful in the study of climates. A phenological observer may in five years determine approximative means for judging of the succession of each of the phases of vegetation. When we have ascertained the mean time of the occurrence of the principal changes for five years, as, for instance, when the first apple blossoms open in the immediate vicinity of the station, or the first fields of barley are cut, we are then able to judge how the station comports itself relatively to any other station of which the phenological position is fixed; and how each point of a region comports itself relatively to the principal point—whether it is colder or warmer. This is determined by the stage of vegetation which the same plants have reached here and there. The method is really more exact than that of establishing hundreds of thermometers and pluviometers at as many different places—aside from the trouble and expense of keeping up the observations of so many instruments. Phenology goes on without expense, while meteorology is costly. We are able, every year and every week in the year, to compare observations of vegetation with means that have been established, and assure ourselves whether the vegetation at our station is normal or in advance. Phenology is a kind of thermometry that can also be used to test thermometrical observations and correct erroneous conclusions from them. The plant is a sort of registering thermometer. It, in fact, shows us the present condition, as the thermometer does, and likewise all the conditions of the past time, immediately summed up in a final result, while the thermometer simply gives us the daily oscillations and leaves us to make the summing up. Phenological observations, with figures founded on comparisons, have the advantage of raising the thought of relation in the mind, of representing something tangible to it.

 

Ancient Fireplaces on the Ohio.—The ancient fireplaces at Blue Banks and other places on the Ohio River near Portsmouth are described by Mr. T. H. Lewis as being of three different classes. Those on the lower levels only show a burned streak of clay from five to eight feet in diameter, with but a slight concavity, on which are found ashes, charcoal, burned stones, and bones, with an occasional fragment of pottery, composed of broken stone and clay. Many of them, at the level of twenty feet from the surface, where they are most numerous, are from one to three feet deep, and are lined with flat stones. The clay outside of the stones bears evidence of intense heat. In some instances they are nearly filled with ashes and charcoal. The pottery within them is composed of shell and clay. At a higher level, the fireplaces, while not so numerous, are more interesting, because more or less of fire relics are obtained from them. They are only slightly concave, and mixed with the ashes are stones broken by the action of fire, bones of various kinds, arrow-heads, drills, stone and hematite celts, stone pipes, perforated stones called shuttles, and much broken pottery. These places seem to have been occupied at different times, and also by different tribes or nations. The first occupants used stone in the manufacture of their pottery. They were succeeded by others who used shells, and these in their turn gave way to people using stone. The latter seem to have occupied the ground for only a brief period, and then to have been displaced by others using shell. In the adjoining field, however, both kinds of pottery are found intermingled. It is Mr. Lewis's opinion that the people of these fireplaces antedated the residence of the mound-builders in their neighborhood by many centuries, because the works of that race, themselves very ancient, are found on the surface above them. The fireplaces occur at various levels, from near the top of the bank to thirty feet below. At one point they were visible at seventeen different levels. They are exposed to view by the caving off of the banks at high water. A somewhat similar series of fireplaces or ovens was described in the American Association by Prof. Putnam as observed on the banks of the Little Miami River.

 

Cold Waves.—According to Prof. T. Russell's explanation of the subject, in the American Association, the term cold wave is employed when a fall of temperature occurs in twenty-four hours of 20° or more over an area of at least 50,000 square miles, and the temperature in any part of the area descends to 36°. According to this definition, there were in the United States, between 1880 and 1890, 691 cold waves. In the great cold wave of January 17, 1882, the twenty-degree fall line included an area of 1,101,000 square miles, and the ten-degree fall line an area of 2,929,000 square miles. There have been in ten years six cold waves in which the area of the twenty-degree fall was more than a million square miles. The cold waves seem always to occur over the country covered on the preceding day by an area of low barometric pressure, or the southeast of the country covered by an area of high pressure. Where both occur, the cold waves attain their greatest extent. Only a few cases are recorded in which low pressure areas have not been followed by a fall of temperature at their centers. In twelve instances within ten years there were rises in temperature instead of falls. On the other hand, cold waves do not occur without the presence of an area of high or low pressure. The extent of the cold wave is dependent on the extent of the area of low pressure and the area of high pressure on the day preceding it. The shapes and relative positions of areas of high and low pressure are various, and are described and classified in the author's paper.

 

The Forest.—In a paper read at the American Association Prof. B. E. Fernow said that the forest is both a material resource and a ' cultural condition. While it may and does form the object of individual activity, it also can by its location or position become an element influencing climate, soil, and waterflow. The climatic influence of forest areas is as yet not generally proved, although conditionally accepted, but the influence of forest areas upon the waterflow, and with it upon soil conditions and upon winds, is generally recognized. As a material resource the forest is exhaustible, but restorable within limit. The virgin forest must be reduced to get the agricultural ground that is needed, but when the requirement for food is satisfied it is desirable to treat the forest in such a manner as to secure continued reproduction. This gives rise to forest management and forestry as an industry. Reproduction of the natural forest is inferior in quality and quantity to that which can be produced by national forest management. After mentioning some special considerations and economical peculiarities pertaining to forest growth and forestry which may influence the relation of the state toward them, the author went on to say that, so far as the forest represents a material resource simply, the position of the state toward it need not differ from that which it takes toward other industries and resources, except in so far as the peculiar conditions call for special exercise of the protective and persuasive or educational functions of the state. Being a restorable resource, restriction of private enterprise in regard to it can not be demanded. The restrictive and providential action of the state is only necessary in reference to those forest areas whose existence and proper condition influence other cultural conditions. Since restriction of private rights is always impracticable and unsatisfactory, and compensation of damages difficult to adjust, commercial or state ownership of mountain forests is advocated. The ameliorative function of the state is called into play for the reforestation of the large treeless areas where private energy is powerless to accomplish the desired result.