Popular Science Monthly/Volume 40/February 1892/Literary Notices

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The Cause of an Ice Age. By Sir Robert Ball, LL. D., F. R. S., Royal Astronomer of Ireland, author of Starland. Modern Science Series, Vol. I. New York: D. Appleton & Company. 1891. 16mo. Pp. xii +180. Price, $1.

As a mathematician, Dr. Ball has a high reputation, and he has at the same time rare ability in popularizing his themes. Even those who have little mathematical knowledge will find no difficulty in understanding the main points of this volume, while the abstruse formulas upon which his theory depends are relegated to a short appendix, where they can be examined at leisure by those who are competent to carry on extended mathematical calculations.

In his opinion, the discovery which Dr. Ball has made lends strong support to the theory of Adhémar and Croll, namely, that the great Ice age was produced by the precession of the equinoxes during a period of an extreme ellipticity of the earth's orbit. The sun is now about three million miles nearer us in the winter than in summer, and the winter (that is, the time from the autumnal to the vernal equinox) is seven days shorter than the summer. In about eleven thousand years from now the condition of things will be reversed, and the northern hemisphere will have a summer seven days shorter than the winter, occurring while the earth is three million miles nearer its source of heat. About two hundred and fifty thousand years ago the eccentricity of the earth's orbit was so great that the difference in these seasons was thirty-three days, and the difference between the distance of the earth from the sun at perihelion and that at aphelion was seven or eight million miles.

These facts served as the basis for Mr. Croll's theory, who assumed, on the strength of Herschel's authority, that the absolute amount of heat received by the earth during the season which occurred in perihelion was the same as that received during aphelion. He reasoned, therefore, that when the winters occurred in aphelion both their increased length and the greater distance from the sun would favor the radiation of heat to such an extent that a glacial period would be produced, especially in those periods when the eccentricity of the earth's orbit was greatest. Dr. Ball comes to the aid of Mr. Croll by showing that the distribution of heat between summer and winter is not in equal quantities, as supposed by Mr. Croll, but that sixty-three per cent of the annual heat received by a hemisphere of the earth falls upon it during the summer—that is, from the vernal to the autumnal equinox—and only thirty-seven per cent during the winter. If, therefore, there was any truth in Croll's original theory. Dr. Ball's discovery will greatly increase the efficiency of the cause.

But the accumulating objections urged by geologists against the theory of Mr. Croll must still apply with all their force. For after Dr. Ball's amendment there is even greater demand than before for geological evidence of a long succession of glacial periods, especially during the later geological eras. But it is the universal opinion of geologists that the Tertiary period was throughout one of great mildness of climate, even up to the vicinity of the north pole; yet the Tertiary age doubtless stretched over more than one period of extreme eccentricity of the earth's orbit. Furthermore, the point of glacial radiation in North America is not the north pole, but the region south of Hudson Bay. So clearly is this the case, that President Chamberlin (who has charge of the glacial department of the United States Geological Survey) has adopted the theory that the cause of the glacial phenomena of North America was an actual change of the position of the pole; while others, who can not give their adherence to so improbable a cause, are laying renewed emphasis upon the changes of level in the earth's surface which occurred toward the close of the Tertiary period.

While, however, we are not convinced of the adequacy of Croll's hypothesis, even as amended by Dr. Ball, we can speak most highly of Dr. Ball's work in bringing clearly before our minds a possible astronomical cause for the Glacial period with which all students of this attractive subject must reckon. The defect in the theory lies not in the mathematical calculations, but in our real lack of knowledge concerning the causes which distribute the heat over the surface of the earth. Meteorology is the science to which we look with most expectancy for further light upon the cause of the Glacial period. The astronomical causes suggested by Dr. Ball's discussion may be so readily masked by slight changes in the direction of oceanic and atmospheric currents produced by relatively slight changes of land level as to be almost entirely ruled out of account.

Systematic Mineralogy, bared on a Natural Classification. By Thomas Sterry Hunt, M. A., LL. D. New York: Scientific Publishing Company. Pp. xvii + 391, octavo. Price, $5.

This volume aspires to fill a unique place in the literature of mineralogy. As the author notes in his preface, there is no lack of treatises on the science, both determinative and descriptive. Still, to a naturalist familiar with the methods of nomenclature in the animal and vegetable kingdoms, the names of mineral species are barbarous, trivial, and unmeaning. This state of affairs springs from the absence of a natural and rational system of classification, such as long since was introduced in the organic worlds. Not that attempts at this needed classification have been wanting. Two rival schools for many years have contended for methods diametrically opposed. The so-called natural-history or mineralogical method was advocated by Werner, Mohs, Jameson, Shepard, and Breithaupt; the chemical method, as formulated by Berzelius and developed by Rammelsberg, has been the basis of the text-books of Phillips, Dana, and Naumann. The possibility of reconciling these apparently antagonistic systems has been the aim of our author throughout his long career of study. Labors in this direction, which from time to time have been brought to the attention of the scientific world, are in the present volume connected and completed, forming what he terms a natural system of classification. He approaches his main task by a presentation of those elementary principles of chemistry and physics which underlie alike the two rival methods hitherto in the field. He discusses the nature of chemical combination, of which he holds that solution is a phase; the periodic law; and the important problem of ascertaining the relative degree of chemical condensation, upon which depends the varying hardness and insolubility of species. Between the physical characteristics and the chemical constitution of a mineral subsist necessary relations; on these rest the new classification, in which the seeming contradictions of the two rival schools are brought to accord. In place of the old trivial names we are given a classic Latin nomenclature for classes, orders, genera, and species—that for species being binomial. This system realizes, in a simplified form, that projected by Breithaupt and left unfinished by him. An examination of his nomenclature, as well as of those proposed by Mohs and by Dana, is followed by a synopsis of native species, with both their scientific and trivial names. This is succeeded by a critical discussion of the more important genera and species. In his two concluding chapters Dr. Hunt presents original and striking views of the genesis of carbonaceous minerals—graphite, diamond, petroleum, and coal; and, further, upon the mineral history of natural waters. In his preface our author announces his intention of preparing a descriptive mineralogy based upon this new classification.

Schliemann's Excavations: An Archæological and Historical Study. By Dr. C. Schuchardt. Translated from the German by Eugénie Sellers. New York: Macmillan & Co. Pp. 863, with Plates. Price, $4.

The author of this book is Director of the Kestner Museum in Hanover. His purpose in writing it has been to present the results of Schliemann's Excavations in a concise form, which should make them more accessible to the general public; and the work appears to have been undertaken with the sanction of the discoverer. He has also sought, by careful discussion and comparisons, to find what are the ascertained results, and to present them free from the conjectures and enthusiastic speculations with which Schliemann's first reports, from the nature of the conditions under which they were written, are necessarily encumbered. The author was engaged in Grecian archæological excavation at Pergamos when he was intrusted with the preparation of the work. He improved the opportunity he then had of making personal observations on the spot, and of informing himself by intercourse with the persons concerned. The undertaking was a difficult one, for the questions which Dr. Schliemann's activity had called up are still undecided, and additions to our knowledge on the subject are constantly furnished by further excavations. But it was pleasant, for these objective studies in Greek antiquity have a charm that is surpassed in no other pursuit. In the account of Troy the history is given of the controversy of the two rival sites, the topography is compared with the references in the Iliad, and the reasons are given—all in seventy-five pages—for believing conclusively that Homer's Troy was real and Schliemann's identification of it is correct. Tiryns is described, in forty pages, as affording the most ancient illustrations of the civilization of which Mycenæ has furnished so numerous and so splendid examples. The largest space is given to Mycenæ, with its remarkable tomb-structures and treasurechambers, and its truly astounding richness in work of the goldsmith's art, A brief chapter on minor excavations includes accounts of the researches at Orchomenos and Ithaca. In a Historical Survey of the Heroic Age of Greece, the relations of Mycenæan civilization to that of Greece and Caria are discussed. Among the general conclusions to be drawn from Dr. Schliemann's Excavations are that they invariably confirm the former power and splendor of every city which is mentioned by Homer as conspicuous for its wealth or sovereignty; that the strongly fortified citadels, which do not appear after this (the Mycenæan period) either in Greece or Asia Minor, correspond exactly with those described by Homer; and that the wealth of metals in this "period of youthful display" is distinctly reflected in Homer. "But for the golden treasures of the shaft-graves, Homer's tales of chased goblets like the cup of Nestor, of bossed shoulder-belts, and the golden dogs that kept watch before Alklnoos's door, would still be treated as bold flights of fancy, as was, in fact, the case before the excavations." But the most striking a«d important correspondence between the Mycenaean discoveries and Homer is that shown in the inlaid work on certain dagger-blades found at Mycenæ. "Nowhere else in Greece has work of this sort, complete pictures in inlaid metals, been discovered. Yet Homer had a very clear conception of this kind of workmanship, for he describes in detail how, on Achilles's shield, vineyards were represented with purple grapes on golden stems, surrounded by a hedge of tin, and later on speaks of youths wearing golden swords hung from silver baldries. It is enough to enumerate these leading points of agreement. They are sufficient proof that for certain parts of his descriptions Homer can have had no other models before him but those of Mycenaean art and civilization" The controversy still rages on the question whether there was a single personal Homer, author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, or whether the two books are collections of different sagas, sung by different minstrels, and composed in different ages. The author assumes the latter view, and speaks throughout the book as if it was a settled fact. He is sustained in this by Mr. Walter Leaf, an eminent English Homeric scholar, who furnishes a valuable critical introduction, in which the bearing of Dr. Schliemann's discoveries on this and other questions of Homeric interpretation are referred to rather than discussed, but who differs from the author on one or two points. In the appendices are given a report on the excavations at Troy in 1890, with the welcome announcement that Mrs. Schliemann will continue the work of her husband there; and an illustrated description of the two beautiful golden cups discovered in the tumulus at Vapheio—one of the most remarkable and interesting "finds" recorded as yet in the whole history of Greek archæological research.

The Scientific American Cyclopædia of Receipts, Notes, and Queries. Edited by Albert A. Hopkins. New York: Munn & Co. Pp. 675. Price, $5.

This compilation well illustrates the use of the accumulation of small things. For nearly fifty years the Scientific American has been publishing original contributions of facts, experiences, experiments, and practical observations in nearly every branch of the useful arts. The items have been printed in all departments of the journal, but especially in the columns of "Notes, Queries, and Correspondence," where their modest appearance furnished the careless reader no clew to their real worth, but whence the student seldom turned without having gained some prized acquisition to his knowledge. A considerable proportion of them embodied the fruits of special knowledge, which were made public nowhere else. In the files of the periodical they were as good as lost. Mr. Hopkins has made the vast compendium they afford the basis of his work. He has collected these, carefully digested and condensed them; has added to them the results of laborious researches among the difficult mysteries of Trade Secrets, and has incorporated with them, for the rounding off of his fabric, information from other cyclopædias of similar character. The arrangement of articles is alphabetical, according to their titles, with no other classification, the titles being given in full-faced type, with cross references when they are needed. Illustrations are given, but not frequently. A few cautions are sounded in the preface to those who are to use the receipts, concerning the need of care to obtain the right materials and pure materials, to follow the directions precisely, and observe all precautions in detail. Tables of weights and measures and chemical synonyms are given in the appendix.


In the Land of the Lingering Snow (Houghton, Mifflin & Co., $1.25) a winter outdoor book is given us by Mr. Frank Bolles, of Cambridge, Mass. In twenty-six essays the "Stroller in New England," as the author styles himself, chronicles his weekly visit to points of interest within not too hard reach of his home, from January to June. They were made, in fact, twice a week, for he took both Saturday and Sunday for his excursions. In them he enjoyed the weather, whatever it might be, the exultation of facing the fiercest storms if they came, the scenery, and the birds. No stress of weather seems to have deterred him from taking his short railroad trip and long walks, or to have overcome the enterprise of the birds, which he never failed to find in numbers. On the first Sunday of the year, in the deep snow, he finds traces of a crow, fifteen quail, and a robin; the next week, when everything is covered with ice, twenty chickadees, crows, robins, and a hawk; on the third walk, in a tempest, eighty-five birds, representing nine species. They seem to have been the objects for which he was looking, and he found them. As the spring comes on and advances into summer the pictures gain in freshness and warmth, but the author's mood is always the same. It is that of the lover of Nature who sees beauty and life in all their aspects and knows how to paint them.

The point of view taken by Mrs. Wllen M. Mitchell, in her Study of Greek Philosophy (S. C. Griggs & Co., Chicago, $1.25), is indicated by her dedication of it to the Kant Club of Denver, and her acknowledgment of indebtedness to the Concord School of Phi. losophy, Dr. W. T. Harris, and the histories of Zeller and Hegel. The book grew out of the studies of the author in connection with a woman's club in St. Louis, and afterward in Denver. Her verbal expositions gradually assumed written forms, and eventually came into their present shape; and the whole bears the impress of the thoughts of the other members of the clubs as well as of the author's own. Beginning with the assertion of the identity of philosophy and the history of philosophy, the author analyzes the character of the Greek philosophy, and then considers it from the beginning, in the pre-sophistic philosophy, through all its stages of development, and as expounded by the larger host of teachers whose names have become identified with much of the best of human thought, and whose influence has endured and is still strong. An introduction is furnished by William R. Alger, who glorifies philosophy as the supreme department, the most important and most attractive branch of knowledge, setting it above hterature and science.

In Ben Beor, Story of the Anti-Messiah (Baltimore, Isaac Friedenwald & Co.; Vicksburg. Miss., the author), the supernatural and the allegorical are mingled. The aim of the author, H. M. Bien, a rabbi of Vicksburg, Miss., has been to exhibit the agencies which are assumed to have been working during past ages to suppress the rights and liberties of the people; "upholding serfdom and superstition for the benefit of a few privileged classes." The persecutors and haters of man are called as a unit the Anti-Messiah, whose story is set forth under the name of Ben Beor. This character, called after the biblical Balaam Ben Beorz, who is endowed with an immortality like that of the Wandering Jew, appears in the ancient world as the instigator of the great evils which afflicted its nations? as the concocter and distributer of strong liquors and the stimulator of evil passions » as the chief agent in provoking the siege and destruction of Jerusalem, the Roman persecution of the Christians, the suppression of knowledge and free thought which marked the dark ages, the promoter of priest-craft and the Inquisition, and the upholder of despotism down to modern times. The invention of printing and the Reformation were antagonistic to his plans, and his power and his office ceased with the promulgation of the Declaration of Independence.

The fourth volume of Prof. J. C. Branner's Annual Report of the Geological Survey of Arkansas for 1888 contains the geology of Washington County and the Plant List for the State. While it has been the plan of the survey to study and report upon geologic topics rather than upon geographic areas, an exception has been made in the case of Washington County, because its geology embraces a complete section at the westernmost exposure in the State, across the lower carboniferous rocks from the base of the coal measure to the Silurian; and because the location of the State University at Fayetteville makes it desirable for the geology of the surrounding region to be worked up in detail for purposes of instruction. The economic results of the survey are not of great positive value, and Washington County will have to depend upon its other advantages, which are many and excellent, for its growth and prosperity. The report, which was prepared by Prof. F. W. Simons, is accompanied by a geological map. The Plant List is chiefly the work of Prof. F. V. Coville, with additional contributions by Prof. Branner, who remarks upon the clear distinction between the flora of the limestone and of the sandstone formations, as showing to how large an extent the distribution of plants is governed by the character of the soil.

The fourth part of Mr. Harold Whiting's Course of Experiments in Physical Measurement (D. C. Heath & Co.) consists of Appen,dices and Examples for the use of teachers. In the first appendix are described the laboratory, or room where the experiments are to be performed, which should be well lighted and uniformly heated, and should have good ventilation. The use of iron in construction should be avoided, on account of its magnetic influence, and special precaution should be taken to' avoid vibrations. A basement is not suitable, or an attic. Such a room as is commonly used for lecture purposes is the most suitable—a two or three story room reaching from the first floor to the attic, and lighted on three sides, is the best. The arrangement of the tables, benches, and apparatus is considered, and the apparatus is described in detail, beginning with the most needed articles. In the third appendix, expenses, the most economical methods in dividing the classes and delivering the lectures, so as to get along with the fewest sets of apparatus and the smallest number of teachers practicable, are considered; and in the fourth appendix, the best methods of making the instruction given efficient and of permanent value. The rest of the volume is devoted to models of experiment, demonstrations of rules etc. First are examples of observations and calculations in a hundred experiments, illustrating the details to be regarded in each of the numbers and the manner of treating; there are three lists of experiments, intended to cover the ground required for admission to Harvard College, in both elementary and advanced physics. These are followed by discussion of the principles of finding the average values of variable quantities, the probability of errors, "proofs," and "useful formulæ," with, in conclusion, a full index to the whole series of books.

The Rev. J. C. Atkinson, Canon of York, publishes through Macmillan & Co., a collection of stories in the style of Jack the Giant Killer, and Jack and the Bean Stalk, entitled The Last of the Giant Killers, or the Exploits of Sir Jack of Danby Dale. They were written without any intention of publication, for the amusement of certain children belonging to different families, who were more or less interested in the district of which Danby Dale is a part. In nearly every instance the stories are based upon or connected with some local legend, local fact, or local habitation; and the relations are prefixed by a few remarks on the popular disposition to attach a superstitious significance to peculiar features in the landscape and to curious local incidents.

W. S. Gottsberger & Co. add a humorous book to their series of usually sober or classical romances in the shape of A Little Tour in Ireland, in which a visit to Dublin, Galway, Conncmara, Athlone, Limerick, Killarncy, Glengarrif, Cork, etc., is described by An Oxonian, with a vein of jollity pervading the story and a disposition to look upon the laughable side of everything—which are much heightened by Mr. John Leech's illustrations. The book is one from which the careful reader, by straining the substance from the froth, may get a fair and pleasing view of the country and its sights.

A collection of short stories by Count Leo Tolstoi, published by C. L. Webster & Co. includes Ivan the Fool, or the Old Devil and Three Small Devils, A Lost Opportunity, and Polikushka. The translation is direct from the Russian by Count Norraikov, who thinks that justice is not done to the author in translations through the French or in direct translations by persons who know Russian only imperfectly. The first of the stories, Ivan the Fool, portrays Tolstoi's communistic ideas and the ideal kingdom he would establish in which each and every person should be a worker and a producer. A Lost Opportunity pictures Russian peasant life, with many of its peculiar customs. Polikushka describes the life led by a servant in a nobleman's court household, and marks the difference in the conditions and surroundings of such servants from those of ordinary peasants.

An exhibition of ten years' progress of the "New Learning" is made in Prof. A. F. Chamberlain's pamphlet on Modern Languages and Classics in America and Europe since 1880. It presents the views of numerous teachers and persons interested in education concerning the success with which the scheme for giving more relative attention to the modern languages has met in the United States, Great Britain, France, Italy, Hungary, Germany, and Norway and Sweden. Published at the office of The Week, Toronto.

Mr. Henry George's Open Letter to Pope Leo XIII on The Condition of Labor is a respectful, temperate reply to those parts of his Holiness's Labor Encyclical which bear on the doctrines held by the school of publicists of which the author is the most conspicuous representative. It is of value and interest to us chiefly because it presents a clear, succinct, and precise statement of what the doctrines of that school are, what they are seeking, and of the manner in which they purpose to promote their objects by peaceful agitation.

In a manual on The Sextant and other Reflecting Mathematical Instruments (D. Van Nostrand Company, 50 cents), Mr. F. R. Brainard, of the United States Navy, presents a compilation from various sources on the instruments concerned, and adds a few ideas and suggestions of his own, and of officers who have been associated with him; embodying also practical hints on the errors, adjustments, and use of the instruments.

In a manual of the handy Van Nostrand Science Series, How to become an Engineer, the theoretical and practical training necessary in fitting for the duties of a civil engineer are set forth by Prof. George W. Plympton, who supplements his views by quotations from the opinions of eminent authorities and full lists of the courses of study in the technical schools—including the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute as an example of American schools, and several schools of England and the European continent. Price, 50 cents.

Light, an Elementary Treatise (Macmillan & Co., I0 cents), has been prepared by Sir Henry Trueman Wood with a view of providing such information as an intelligent student unfamiliar with natural science would require. In it are given an explanation of the modern theory of light and of the phenomena which are matters of common observation; descriptions of the nature of color and the manner of its production; accounts of the more important optical instruments and the principles of their action; an exposition of the chemical effects of light and their application in photography; and descriptions of the phenomena produced by polarized light and by fluorescence. The book is one of the numbers of Whittaker's Libraiy of Popular Science.

Information about electric lighting, practical and theoretical, is given in the Practical Treatise on the Incandescent Lamp, prepared by J. E. Randall, Electrician of the Thomson-Houston Company, and published by the Bubier Publishing Company, Lynn, Massachusetts. It contains, in brief, the history of incandescent lighting, the philosophy and construction, with details, of the incandescent lamp, and observations on photometers and their use. The author estimates that 25.000 incandescent lights are made in the United States daily, or 7,500,000 a year, and he believes that the "life" of the lamp is more likely to be abbreviated than increased in the future, because consumers will grow more particular about the quality of their light, and will change their burners when they cease to be efficient instead of using them till they burn out.

Prof. Wesley Mills, believing that a dog is a useful member of the household and especially valuable in the city as a companion and means of instruction for the children, and recognizing the embarrassment city families labor under through not knowing how to manage with the animal in their narrow quarters, has prepared a little book on How to keep a Dog in the City, which is published by William R. Jenkins, New York, for 25 cents. It supplies information respecting the details of the management of the dog from puppyhood up, including lodging, feeding, measures for cleanliness, care of his skin, exercise, training, and treatment of his ailments.

How to make a Trial Balance representing any number of accounts in less time than an hour is explained in a small book written and published at Baltimore, by A. Weinberg. The method is the result of much thought and study, and may, the author claims, be applied to a business of five thousand accounts as easily as to one of fifty accounts, with great saving of time and labor.

Two series of twelve charts each, published by the United States Signal Office, show graphically the probability of rainy days and the average cloudiness for each month in all the regions of the United States within the circle of observations of the several local signal stations. They are based on observations made from 1871 to 1888 inclusive, or for shorter periods at the more recently established stations. The percentages of rainy days (called such when precipitation to the extent of ·01 inch or more occurs) are calculated for each station and month from the average number of such days. The cloudiness charts are made up from eye-observations taken three times a day. They are expected also to show the sunshine by taking as sunshine the complement of the cloudiness. Such data, when well matured, are of great value in the study of climate and its adaptability to different conditions and needs of health.

Three numbers of The Quarterly Register of Current History (Evening News Association, Detroit) have been published. The first number, February, 1891, contained a review of the history of the world during 1890. The second number. May, and the third, August, 1891, are devoted respectively to the history of the first and second quarters of the year. The matter is classified and arranged under the heads of International Affairs; Affairs in Europe, in Asia, in Africa, and in America; Record of Progress, and Necrology. The idea of the publication is an excellent one. The short view we have been able to take of the numbers does not suggest that anything of value is omitted, but shows several things of minor importance which, if they had been left out, would not be missed a year or two hence; and there is room for improvement in pruning and smoothing the articles, the present style of which is more like that of a daily paper than of a record made to last.

To the attempts to teach foreign languages in the way they are learned in Nature must be added the method of Dr. Edward Pick, in which the language itself is employed as the instrument, and is taught by comparison with the English before the grammar is learned. The author holds that remembrance is assisted most efficaciously in the study if we take the known as the starting-point of comparison with the unknown. In the study of foreign languages the known consists of those elements which we find in our own language, or in any other language familiar to us. Thus the knowledge of one foreign language facilitates the study of others. The usual method of studying foreign languages—beginning with grammar—"is contrary to the nature of the mind, because we begin with the unknown—nay, more, we begin with details unknown to us (the grammatical rules) of a thing equally unknown (the language)." In Dr. Pick^s Method applied to acquiring the French Language (C. W. Bardeen, Syracuse, New York), the pupil is introduced to Voltaire's History of Charles XII, for the study of the French text, word for word and form for form, with the English translation.