Popular Science Monthly/Volume 43/August 1893/Popular Miscellany

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The Scientific Meetings at Madison, Wis.—The coming meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science will be held in Madison, Wis., August 16th to 23d inclusive. Previous to the former date, the American Microscopical Society will meet August 14th, 15th, and 16th, under the presidency of the Hon. Jacob D. Cox; the Geological Society of America, August 15th and 16th, Sir J. William Dawson, president; and on the same days the Association for the Promotion of Agricultural Science, Prof. J. P. Roberts, president; the Association of Economic Entomologists, Dr. S. A. Forbes, president; and the Association of State Weather Service, Major H. II. C. Dunwoody, president; and after the adjournment, the International Botanical Congress. The meetings of the Botanical and Entomological Clubs will be sandwiched between those of the association. Free excursions will be given on the Saturday to Devil's Lake, about forty miles from Madison, and the Dells of the Wisconsin River, about eighty miles distant; besides three excursions of sections. The International Botanical Congress will consider questions of botanical interest, but papers embodying the results of research will be excluded, and the International Standing Committee upon Nomenclature is expected to make its report. Mr. William Harkness will be president of this meeting of the American Association; and the sectional vice-presidents will be: (A) Mathematics and Astronomy, C. L. Doolittle; (B) Physics, E. L. Nichols; (C) Chemistry, Edward Hart; (D) Mechanical Science and Engineering, S. W. Robinson; (E) Geology and Geography, Charles D. Walcott; (F) Zoölogy, Henry F. Osborn; (G) Botany, Charles E. Bessey; (H) Anthropology, J. Owen Dorsey; (I) Economic Science and Statistics, William H. Brewer.


Large Game.—Among the animals described in Mr. Rowland Ward's Measurements and Weights of the Great Game of the World, precedence is given to the hippopotamus of Africa. Not unlike him is the manatee, now extinct in the West Indies, but surviving in the upper Amazon. Both kinds of marine cattle, observes the Saturday Review, graze upon water-weeds at the bottoms of the streams; but the manatee is harmless under all circumstances, while the hippopotamus sometimes plays the part of an assailant. A very formidable enemy he can be, for his massive tusks—all tusks are measured at the root—are sometimes more than nine inches in circumference. Still more dangerous are the razor-like tushes of the boar, and they are none the less dangerous that they are short. The greatest length of the outside curve is given at ten inches, and yet the boar has been known to come off victorious in a battle with the Bengal tiger. In contrast with one another stand the muntjac, a deer of India and the warm countries of the southern Pacific, with a "sweep" of horns of only six inches and a half, and the sambur, which weighs six hundred pounds and has a "magnificent" spread of antlers of two feet and a half from tip to tip. The best of the American wapiti is more than half as large again as the Scottish red deer, and the grand Carpathian species yields in size to the extinct Irish elk. Generally speaking, we find that the weight of deer depends partly on the climate, but chiefly on the food. The caribou, or reindeer, is an exception. The farther north you find him, the better he seems to thrive, and, like the musk ox, he fattens on the arctic lichens; and the moose, which haunts more southerly forests and swamps, is decidedly smaller. There are some remarkably graceful dwarfs of the deer tribe. Kirk's antelope of East Africa wears Lilliputian horns three inches long; and Salt's antelope from Somali Land is still more minute. The beautiful little gazelles of Oriental poetry seem to do well anywhere; apparently they can dispense with water and lay on flesh in a wilderness of sand and stones. Naturally, they are always in high condition, and it is no easy business to ride them down. A very remarkable group are the wild sheep and goats which have been attracting so many adventurous rifles to the Rocky Mountains and Sierra Nevada, to the Himalayas and the plateaus of Kashmir and Thibet. The horns of the finest Himalayan ibex which was killed by Mr. Kennard had a span of four feet and a quarter. Those of a wild goat from southeastern Europe, which fell to Colonel Marston's rifle, were a trifle longer. These, again, are surpassed by the curve of the best markhor, a denizen of the higher Himalayas, resembling the goat. When you cross the Indus into Afghanistan, the curved horns of the markhor are curiously straightened and fall away in length by a fourth. The length of the longest tiger skin after drying is said to be thirteen feet six inches; but it must be noted that skins expand considerably in the curing. The greatest length of a skin undressed is given as ten feet two inches and a half.


The Company of the Dead.—In Mr. Charles Hose's journeys in North Borneo, he found one morning after his night's rest that the remains of his host's last wife also occupied the room, where they were kept in a large box serving as a coffin. It is the custom of these people to keep a corpse in the house for three months before burying it. The body is then removed from the house and conveyed with much ceremony to the tomb. Every one present sends one or more cigarettes made of tobacco, wrapped in the dry leaves of the wild banana, to his dead relatives in "Apo Leggan" (hades). These cigarettes are placed on the top of and around the coffin; and, should the body be that of a man, his weapons, tools, and a small quantity of rice, with his priok (cooking pot), are deposited in the tomb with him that he may be able to continue his daily pursuits in the other world. But if of a woman, her large sun-hat, her little hoe—used for weeding in the paddy fields—her beads, earrings, and other finery are placed with her body, that she may not be found wanting on her arrival the other side of the grave. Mr. Hose was once present when the corpse of a boy was being placed in the coffin, and he watched the proceedings from a short distance. As the lid of the coffin was being closed an old man came out on the veranda of the house with a large gong and solemnly beat it for several seconds. The chief, who was sitting near, informed him that this was always done before closing the lid, that the relations of the deceased who had already passed out of this world might know that the spirit was coming to join them. There was another strange ceremony at which he was once present, called "Dayong Janoi," in which the dead are supposed to send messages to the living, and which proved that "spiritualism" was of very ancient practice among the Kayans.


Heat Phenomena of the Diamond.—In his experiments with the diamond Mr. Moissan has found that, in his thermo-electric apparatus for burning in oxygen, when the temperature was slowly raised the combustion proceeded gradually without the production of light; but if the temperature was raised 40° or 50° C. above the point at which this slow combustion begins, a sudden incandescence occurs, and the diamond becomes surrounded by a brilliant flame. Various deeply colored specimens of diamonds burned with production of incandescence and flame at temperatures of from 690° to 720º C, but transparent Brazilian diamonds did not attain the stage of slow combustion without incandescence till the temperature of from 760° to 770° C. was reached. A Cape diamond suffered gradual combustion at from 780° to 790° C. Specimens of exceedingly hard boort began to combine with oxygen at 790°, and burned brilliantly at from 840° to 875° C. When Cape diamonds were heated with hydrogen to a temperature of 1,200° C, they remained unchanged; but if the stones had previously been cut, they frequently lost their brilliance and transparency. Dry chlorine gas was found incapable of reacting with the diamond until a temperature of from 1,100º to 1,200º C. was attained. Hydrofluoric-acid vapor likewise only reacted at about the same high temperature. Vapor of sulphur also requires to be heated to 1,000° C. before reacting, but in the case of black diamonds bisulphide of carbon is produced at about 900º C. Metallic iron, at its melting point, combines with the diamond in the most energetic manner; and it is a point of considerable interest that crystals of graphite are deposited as the fused mass cools; hence the experiment forms a striking method of converting the allotropic form of carbon that crystallizes in the cubic system into that which crystallizes in the hexagonal system. Melted platinum likewise combines with the diamond with great energy.


Hurry, and the Chance of Life.—In a paper on The Duration of Life of the Nervous American, Dr. Julius Pohlman asks, "Is this so often quoted 'fearful nervousness' and 'early death' a fact or merely an assertion? What proofs have we for it? It seems very plausible, indeed, and apparently correct physiological reasoning to say that the individual's longevity is in inverse proportion to his daily hurry, all other things being equal. But not many years ago the equally misleading but equally plausible statement was accepted that the human race was growing smaller with the advance of civilization. "First of all," the author continues, "the assumption that increased activity and greater hurry mean more rapid wearing away of the body ignores the fact that the human body is a wonderful piece of machinery, which not only renews itself constantly, but whose strength and power of endurance and capacity for more work increase with increased use up to the point at which use becomes abuse. At what time and under what pressure this danger line is reached depends upon the individual." The testimony of the executive officers of four of our largest insurance companies is quoted to show that "from the material standpoint of dollars and cents the life of the American is at least as good as, if not better than, that of the European, all other conditions being the same. And if we remember that probably the majority of the holders of policies of life insurances in this country is made up from those same active, pushing, and rushing men, a class among which death from overwork would naturally occur most frequently, then the figures mentioned acquire additional force. A compilation drawn from every available source regarding the estimated duration of life at different years of age in America and in Europe gives figures that show that the chances of the American, from early manhood to a good old age, are, all through, a little better than those of his English brother, and a good deal better than those of the Germans.


Funeral Customs of the Haida Indians (Queen Charlotte Islands).—According to the Rev. C. Harrison, all men, and particularly the chiefs among these Indians, are greatly honored on their departure from this world. When the man dies, the next to succeed him (generally his nephew) is presented with blankets, dishes, beads, guns, canoes, prints, pottery, dogs, axes, and furniture. They are not, however, for his own benefit, but for the benefit of the deceased, and those who take part in the burial ceremony. In fact, nothing seems to be too valuable for the funeral. Christians are afraid to break the news of a friend's death to his wife, father, and mother. Not so, however, with the Haidas. The author has seen them make the coffin and decorate it in the presence of the sick person when they have come to the conclusion that he is about to die. They also tell the sick man that he will not recover, and urge him not to attempt to do so. The members of his tribe and all the chiefs of the other tribes come in to see him, and talk of nothing else but of others who have had the same sickness and died. When he hears what they have determined that he should do, he then refuses to eat and drink, and so hastens the demise. When gasping for breath, he is washed, and his shroud, made of white cotton, is then put on; white stockings are put on his feet; he is clad in a pair of white woolen drawers, and a white handkerchief is tied around his head. His neck is encircled with beads, a spot of red paint is put on either cheek, and a black spot on his forehead. When thus arrayed, all his friends enter the house and wait until he dies. They think very little of each other when in health and strength, but as soon as they are dead they become valuable and are called good Indians. When a person dies, they arrange a bed in the corner of the house and cover it with white cotton and place the deceased thereon, and then they cover him with a sheet of the same material. In twenty-four hours' time the body is placed in the coffin and arranged in the position in which it is to be buried. Then the time of mourning comes. All the old women of the tribe and the friends and relatives of the deceased begin to groan and sigh and cry. After they have wept for one or two hours, the greatest chief present calls for silence. Then the smoking feast begins. During the smoking entertainment the chiefs and friends of the deceased, according to rank, will begin to extol his virtues, and try to console his relatives by reference to his disposition toward the poor, his love for his friends, and his kindness toward his wife and children; and they also are very careful to refer to his liberality when making a free distribution of his goods—namely, a potlatch. Everything done in his past life passes under review, and they then conclude by saying that his time had come, and that the gods wanted him, and he, being a good and wise man, had obeyed their summons. When any one of importance dies, the news is carried to all the villages, and they at once come to see the dead man and also consult with the relatives regarding the funeral arrangements. If the deceased person belonged to the Bears, the funeral preparations are made and conducted by the Eagle Crest, and vice versa. After the funeral is over, all the people are feasted by the deceased man's nephew, who then assumes his uncle's title and property.


Self-purification.—The results of recent discussions in Europe, in which Prausnitz, Prof. Pettenkofer, Prof. Buchner, and Prof. Frankland have taken part, indicate that "self-purification" of rivers by oxygenation and sunlight, while it may be sufficient for water applied to ordinary uses, can not be relied upon for the perfect sanitation of water intended for drinking. This conclusion is confirmed by the recent experience of some towns in Massachusetts. Continued outbreaks of typhoid fever in Lowell and Lawrence were ascribed by the State Board of Health in 1890-'91 to the admission of typhoid-fever excreta into the river from towns higher up the stream, where it was known to have existed. Newburyport has for the past ten years, or since the introduction of a public water supply, been comparatively exempt from typhoid fever; but recently, in consequence of a scarcity of water, the water company began pumping a part of its supply from the river and distributing it to the inhabitants in the face of expert warning against doing so. In January, 1893, the cases of typhoid fever, following closely after a similar prevalence in Lowell, suddenly rose from an average of less than one a month to thirty-four in January, with five deaths.


East African Superstitions.—Mrs. French-Sheldon, who traveled in Africa from Teita to Kilimegalia and secured a propinquity to the natives under natural conditions rarely enjoyed by white travelers, became acquainted with some very curious superstitions among them. The people of Taveta have an idea that the preservation of the skull preserves the spirit of the dead, and that the congregation of the skulls of a family or tribe guarantees a future reunion. They avoid letting any stranger know of the death of one of their tribe. If a familiar face is missed, and an inquiry is made, some one promptly says, "He has gone on a journey." They have a horror of having their pictures or photographs taken. They wear certain beads and bits of wood or iron as charms to ward off evil, and as dama for various complaints. They are loath to part with these beads, beans, or bones. They will lend them to one another when suffering, but always reclaim them when their friend has been cured. The fires in the village were never allowed to go out; a special family fire might go out, but this could be resupplied or reignited by getting a blazing fagot from some friend's fire. But in the history of the tribe they had always preserved the fire, as doubtless did their prehistoric ancestors. When the Wasombo learned that Mrs. French-Sheldon intended to descend to Devil's Water, as Lake Chala was called by them, they speedily retreated to their villages, with a feeling of horror that the white woman would dare to venture into the very mouth of the devil. She therefore made her visit free from annoyance. It is believed that the Masai had a village where the crater lake now swells and gurgles, and that during a volcanic eruption of Kilimanjaro the people and their herds and poultry were blown into mid-air, and that their spirits still hang in space, without home above or below, and that the moaning and soughing of the wind through the trees and the strange rustling and mysterious noises caused by the reverberation of the rocky cliffs surrounding the lake proceed from the spirits of these poor people, their cattle and poultry. Although fish are abundant in this lake, the natives could not be induced to taste them. The same people believe that their ancestors inhabit the bodies of the Colobus monkeys, and will not under any circumstances knowingly kill or permit to be killed one of those animals; and on approaching the forest where the monkeys abide in great numbers, they preserve an odd silence, with furtive glances, and pick their steps with a precaution and almost hesitation that indicate an honest belief in their superstition.


Prehistoric Jeweled Teeth.—Among the interesting objects brought from Copan last year by Messrs. Saville and Owens, of the Peabody Museum of American Archæology and Ethnology, are several incisor teeth, each of which contains a small piece of green stone, presumably jadeite, set in a cavity drilled on the front surface of the teeth. The museum had before received from Yucatan human teeth filled in a peculiar manner, and now it has teeth from Copan filled in the same way. This is of particular interest in adding one more to the several facts pointing to Asiatic arts and customs as the origin of those of the early peoples of Central America. A most striking resemblance to Asiatic art is noticed in several of the heads carved in stone; one in particular, if seen in any collection and not labeled as to its origin, would probably pass almost unchallenged as from southern Asia. These may prove to be simply coincidences of expression of peoples of corresponding mental development brought about by corresponding natural surroundings and conditions.


Photographing Savages.—A lively use of the camera is recommended by Mr. E. F. Im Thurn as a means of getting representations of savages in their real life. The usual illustrations in works of anthropology and travel, when they are not merely physiological pictures, are pronounced by him almost universally bad. "Of old, the book illustrator, if, as was usual, he was not himself the traveler, drew as pictures of primitive folk merely the men and women that surrounded him, figures of men and women of his own stage of civilization, and merely added to these such salient features as he was able, from the traveler's tales, to fancy that his supposed primitive subject had. . . . The modern anthropological illustrator does indeed generally draw from photographs, but almost always from photographs taken under non-natural conditions." They are either taken in town, where the savage is away from his usual haunts and in unaccustomed surroundings; or the mere thought that he is being photographed puts him under constraint. "That to gain the confidence of uncivilized folk whom you wish to photograph is one of quite the most essential matters you will easily understand. The first time I tried to photograph a red man was among the mangrove trees at the mouth of the Barima River. My red-skinned subject was poised high up on a mangrove root. He sat quite still while focused and drew the shutter. Then, as I took off the cap, with a moan he fell backward off his perch on to the soft sand below him. Nor could he by any means be persuaded to prepare himself once more to face the unknown terrors of the camera. A very common thing to happen, and to foil the efforts of the photographer at the very moment when he has but to withdraw and to replace the cap, is for the timid subject suddenly to put up his hand to conceal his face, a proceeding most annoying to the photographer, but interesting to the anthropologist, as illustrating the very widespread dread of primitive folk of having their features put on paper, and thus being submitted spiritually to the power of any possessing the picture. . . . A curious instance may be mentioned of the discovery, thanks to the camera, of that rather rare thing—a personal idiosyncrasy among red men. Some time last year in photographing a number of Carib lads I noticed that one of them at the moment of the taking of the picture suddenly put up his hands and put them, not over his face, but one on each shoulder. The attitude struck me at once as an unusual one, but yet it seemed to me in some way familiar. Some time after, in looking through my old stock of negatives, I found one which showed a much younger Carib lad in the same unusual attitude, and it was only after some inquiry that I realized that this last-named negative was one which I had taken some years before of the same boy." There is a field here for the use of some of the "snap" instruments.


The Reasons of Conventionalities.—Conventionalities are treated by the London Spectator as things which must grow up with the growth of civilization, yet which, while they are not to be despised, are no more to be exalted into absolute and universal obligations. Even on matters affecting merely the external order and harmony of life, there are conventions which, though not intended to repress and exclude all overflow of individual genius, are still of great value in controlling the arbitrary eccentricities of individual nature, and in reducing men's manners and modes of expression to terms which one might speak of as commensurable with the manners and modes of expression of those who live with them in the same moral atmosphere. The mere beauty of any social life depends on the conformity of all—within variable but definite limits—to conventions, which, though by no means of supreme obligation, yet render the give-and-take of life much more natural and gentle and easy than if each man or woman were to blurt out the feeling uppermost in the individual mind, without any of that toning-down and softening which exclude abrupt and noisy explosions of individual self-will. Not all social conventions are beautiful. Sometimes the artificiality of them exceeds whatever is either necessary or advantageous for the purpose of mutual understanding and mutual forbearance; yet some of them are in their essence beautiful, because they are founded on the principle of charity as well as truth. They control jealousy and rivalry; they repress vulgar competition; they express disinterested sympathy. In fact, they transform a selfish mob into an orderly society. Still, though without these etiquettes and courtesies of civilization social life could hardly exist, yet it would be impossible to speak of any of the conventions which render it possible as if they were laws of intrinsic and moral obligation to which there are no exceptions. They are but principles which govern the average or ordinary usages of men, but none the less principles which give way, and rightly give way, before any urgent individual need, or even any moderate pressure of clear utility.


Chinese Newspapers.—The Chinese Government instituted an official journal at a very early date, the Pekin Gazette having existed since b. c. 740. It was at first printed upon engraved wooden blocks, but now movable characters cut in wood are used. There are three editions of the paper, of which only the official edition is printed in this manner. The second edition is printed with waxen plates on which the characters are cut, and, the work being done in haste, is not very legible. The third edition is in manuscript. The official edition is printed on one side of ten or twelve very thin doubled leaves, is eighteen centimetres high and ten broad, and is divided by lines of violet ink into seven columns, each containing fourteen ordinary characters. It appears every morning. The manuscript edition is a little smaller than the official edition, and appears several days before it. Its price is many times higher, and it is largely used by foreigners. The journal furnishes a real panorama of the official and social life of the Chinese. The reading of it is very entertaining; for we may find in it, among other documents, the day which the emperor has decided upon for changing from the winter hut to the summer hut; that six of the candidates for the license were more_ than ninety, and thirteen more than eighty years old, illustrating the fact that one is never too old to be examined in China. This Pekin Gazette was the only journal published in China till about twenty years ago. Since then some five journals have arisen at Shanghai, Tien-Tsin, at Canton, at the instance of the English, with the co-operation of Chinese literati. The Chen Pai, of Shanghai, which was started in 1885, is an illustrated weekly journal, with eight doubled leaves and a red cover, the engravings in which are done in Chinese style in outline. In one of the numbers of this journal the last conflict between the French and the Chinese is represented, with the French commander Fournier in the costume of an English admiral. All the journals together publish not more than fifteen thousand copies. The attempts made in them to transcribe European words phonetically are sometimes amusing, thus ultimatum becomes "ou-ti-ma-toung"; statu quo, "sseu-ta-tou-ko"; telephone, "to-li-foung," etc.


The Fire of Incandescent Lamps.—An active incandescent lamp may be broken in the midst of cool combustibles, even of gun-cotton, without setting them on fire, so rapid is the destruction of the carbon filaments in the open air. But a long continuance of the lamp in immediate contact with a combustible envelope may determine ignition, the more readily the more slowly heat and air pass through the envelope. Thus gummed cotton or other goods will take fire more rapidly than similar goods ungummed or loose. Some interesting experiments in this property have been made by an Austrian engineer. Captain Exler. Having determined the temperature produced by certain measured lamps in paraffin in which they were plunged, he washed them with pulverin, ecrasite, and powdered gun-cotton; no change took place in their condition. In thicker coatings ecrasite fused, and the powder slowly lost its sulphur, but neither took fire. The effects were more marked when the substance was spread upon a surface capable of wholly arresting calorific radiation. It is therefore prudent to guard against bringing naked lamps too close to a combustible surface. When the lamp was surrounded with an envelope, the temperature between the two surfaces rose. In fifty minutes it became sufficient to decompose fulmicotton and carbonize wood. Black powder lost all its sulphur, but did not take fire. With a lamp inclosed in a bell glass the three explosive substances were decomposed in twenty minutes. Water, with which the interval was filled, came to the boiling point in fifteen minutes. It was observed even when the beginning of an ignition of the explosives was determined, the flame was not sure to be propagated, unless the substance had been previously warmed. On the other hand, a derivation of weak resistance, produced between the two conductors of a lamp, determines a strong flame, capable of igniting all combustible substances. A lamp may be broken by a shock, by overheating, or by some unknown cause. If only a crack is formed, the air getting within causes the filament of incandescent carbon to burn up in a very short time. If the lamp bursts or has a hole made in it, the danger is greater, and may cause the ignition of explosive gases, but not of fulmicotton or dry powder. It is not safe, therefore, to conclude that an accident is absolutely impossible.


The Whirlpools of Charybdis and Scylla.—Charybdis and Scylla, the whirlpools of which much was fabled in classical antiquity, are situated in the strait of Messina, between Sicily and Italian Apulia. Although they were a great terror to ancient navigators, they are in reality rather small affairs, and it is difficult to determine their exact positions. The whirlpool of Scylla is situated at the foot of the cliffs on which is the little city of that name, which are hollowed out into caverns. The circulation of the waves in these grottoes produces, in times of heavy seas, a sound like the barking of a dog. Charybdis is near the port of Messina, nine marine miles from Scylla. Although it was reported unfathomable, it is, according to Spallanzani's measurements, not more than five hundred feet deep, and is therefore far from being the deepest spot in the Mediterranean. It is difficult to comprehend why the ancients should have had such a terror of sailing between these two eddies so far apart, but the task of explaining the riddle has been undertaken by the engineer, M. Keller. Observations made by him at Messina show that the currents of the strait depend, first, on the tide, and, secondly, on the wind. The currents are very strong, because the tide is low in the Ionian Sea when it is high in the Tyrrhenian Sea, and vice versa. Hence, also, the formation of whirlpools at different points in the strait. These whirlpools are energetic in proportion to the strength of the current, and when at their strongest may offer a serious danger to navigation. At the syzygies, with the wind from the southeast, the waters tumble from the Ionian Sea into the strait and form whirlpools north of the port of Messina; they are likewise formed near Faro, where ships at anchor are sometimes carried out to sea and borne by the current upon the rocks of Calabria, toward the point of Pezzo, a little farther away than Scylla. We may therefore suppose that the ancients meant by Charybdis these casual whirlpools near the port of Messina, and by Scylla those of Point Pezzo. Between these two points the currents are extremely rapid and strong and variable besides. Under such circumstances an inexperienced sailor might therefore have difficulty in passing the strait of Messina without falling from Charybdis into Scylla. The danger is really serious for sailing vessels, which were the best the ancients knew of.


Consumption at Davos Platz.—A case is recorded by Dr. A. T. T. Wise, of Davos Platz, Switzerland, of a consumptive manifesting serious symptoms ordered to that place for the mountain air, who began to regain lost ground in two weeks after his arrival, near the end of October, 1891. Progression toward recovery, with gradual expansion of the chest and gain in weight, was uninterrupted till February, 1892, when the physician's examination showed improvement near to recovery in every affected part. In October, 1892, the patient, having gained twenty-eight pounds in Davos, had resumed his practice of medicine, was in robust health, and presented no sign of disease except a faint, hardly perceptible expiratory harshness over the left apex. The climatic advantages at high altitudes in pulmonary disease, as summarized by Dr. Wise, are: Dryness of the air and its comparative freedom from micro-organisms and atmospheric dust, entailing a lessened liability to catarrh and irritation of the bronchial tract and drying the lungs; profusion of sunlight; with the low temperature, the heat of the sun is easily borne, and the violet rays of the spectrum act chemically on the blood, increasing the hæmoglobin; diminished barometric pressure, which facilitates chemical action in the blood and tissues, favors vaporization of moist secretions in the lungs, and aids pulmonary circulation and expansion; and the general stimulus of high levels, producing exhilaration and an increase of nutrition.


Facts about the Growth of Boys and Girls.—A summary of the results of an investigation of the laws governing the growth of various parts of the body, instituted in the schools of Worcester, Mass., in 1891, is pubUshed in Science. Some three thousand two hundred and fifty individuals were examined, of ages ranging from five to twenty-one years, and comparisons were made in the growth of boys and girls. The length of the head in girls is shown to be less than that of boys throughout the whole period of growth, and consequently through life; but the difference in length, instead of remaining the same from year to year, varies considerably, and the annual increment is irregular in both sexes. In girls the greatest length of head is reached about the eighteenth year; in boys, not before the age of twenty-one. The girls' heads are narrower than those of the boys, while the phenomena of breadth of head, in periods of alternate growth and cessation of growth, are similar to those of length of head. The faces of the girls are broadest at seventeen, those of the boys after the eighteenth year; while the faces of the boys are usually broader than those of the girls. In stature, the boys, starting out at five years of age, are apparently taller than the girls, but the girls appear to catch them in the seventh year, and continue at an even stature up to and including the ninth year, after which the boys again rise above the girls for two years. About the twelfth year the girls suddenly become taller than the boys, and continue taller until the fifteenth year, when the boys again and finally regain their superiority in stature. After the age of seventeen there seems to be very little if any increase in the stature of girls, while the boys are still growing vigorously at eighteen, and probably continue to grow for several years after that age. The curves of the sitting height present the same characteristics, somewhat more accentuated, as the curves of stature. The curves of weight, while presenting the general characteristics of the curves of stature and sitting height, show minor differences. The superiority of the girls in respect to weight is for a much shorter period than in respect to total height or sitting height. In weight also the girls seem to reach their maximum average at seventeen, while the boys continue to increase in average weight until a much later period in life. The movements of the curves of the index of sitting height indicate that the greater part of the growth in stature up to the twelfth year in girls and to the fifteenth year in boys is made in the lower limbs, while after these respective ages it is made in the trunk. The results of the whole series of measurements afford evidence, deemed conclusive, that women reach maturity before men, and that, for all the measurements except the weight, girls have completed their growth by their eighteenth year.


Paradoxes of the Witch-hazel.—The witch-hazel, according to a correspondent of Garden and Forest, is a true witch among shrubs. It has a wild way of growth, several crooked, branching trunks growing from the root; smooth leaves; four very long, linear petals, yellow and twisted or curled. So far it is not unlike other shrubs. The name "hamamelis" indicates its most striking peculiarity, "flowers and fruit together on the tree." It blossoms in October and November, and the flowers of this fall will be the fruit of next fall, which' hangs on the bare boughs when it next blossoms. The flowers, though small, are made noticeable by blossoming in clusters on the stem. The fruit is a woody capsule, nut-like, two-celled, and the seeds, almost black and shining, are the prettiest seeds in the world. Another peculiarity of this curious shrub is its explosive seed-scattering. "Many years ago, wishing to secure a quantity of these seeds to make a necklace like one I had seen, it became a question how to get them. Before the nut was ripe enough to open, it was almost impossible to get at the seeds, and when the capsule opened they were shot out suddenly, scattered far and near, and lost. A quantity of the almost ripe seed-pods were gathered, put in paper bags, and hung up to wait and see, or rather to wait and hear, what would happen. For days these pods, as they dried, kept popping in the bags, and the seeds, small and polished, very like rice in shape, were secured. . . . But when the seeds were gathered there was another problem to be solved—how to thread them. The finest, sharpest needle would split them every time. The friend who had threaded them told me how it could be done. The seed was to be cut off at each end with a very fine file. This was a labor of love, and the necklace was pretty enough to pay for the trouble."


Crystallization of Metallic Oxides.—M. Moissan has succeeded, with the high temperature obtained in a newly devised electrical furnace, in fusing and crystallizing many of the metallic oxides. At temperatures ranging from 2,000° to 3,000° C, magnesia, lime, and strontia crystallize and then quickly melt; boric acid, protoxide of titanium, and alumina are volatilized; and the oxides of the iron family, stable at high temperatures, furnish melted masses bristling with little crystals. These important results were only the prelude to still more remarkable experiments intended to lead up to the preparation of carbon under high pressure, and the artificial production of the diamond. Having studied the solubility of carbon in a certain number of metals in fusion—such as aluminum, iron, manganese, chromium, uranium, silver, and platinum—and in a metalloid, silicon, he succeeded in obtaining by fusion in one of these metals new varieties of graphite; but he was able to produce crystallized carbon, or diamond, only by performing his experiments under high pressure. When iron in fusion is saturated with carbon, different results are obtained according to the temperature to which the mass is raised. Between 1,100° and 1,200° C, a mixture of amorphous carbon and graphite is obtained, and at 3,000° C. graphite exclusively in beautiful crystals. If a high pressure is introduced, the conditions of crystallization are completely changed. The process employed by the author resulted in the production of three kinds of carbon—graphite in small quantity when the cooling was quickly done, a carbon of a chestnut color in very thin flakes, and a small quantity of a dense carbon which was isolated by treatment with the strongest acids. The very minute fragments scratched rubies and burned in oxygen at 1,000° C. They seem, therefore, to be incontestably diamond. Some of the fragments are black and others transparent. M. Moissan's reporter speaks of his having, in the production of these diamonds, surprised one of the secrets of Nature—ignoring the diamonds obtained several years ago, under a similar high pressure, from hydrocarbons by Mr. Hannay, of Edinburgh.


East African Finery.—Among the presents which Mrs. French-Sheldon received from the Masai when passing through the East African country called Kilimegalia, were the characteristic articles, a vulture-feather pannier, vulture-feather shoulder capes, dancing masks of various kinds, shields, swords, and a collarette made of cropped ostrich feathers stuck through leather, so that the quills make a rough surface on the inner side. "This is worn only by the warrior who has killed twelve persons, and resembles in theory the robe of Janus, as the roughness on the inner side produced by the quills excoriates the surface of the neck of the wearer. The warrior who gave me this collar had the blood streaming from his throat to his waist. One warrior presented me with a wooden case filled with ostrich feathers, which he carried with him to replace the feathers in his warrior mask and for other decorations. I bought several of the cow skins worn by the women as clothing and for bedding at night, for the cold is extreme. They presented me also with a dancing wand, and one of their nebana, or cloths made of strips of white cotton and embellished with red, of various designs, which they sling from their shoulders; also a colobus monkey tail, which they wear under their knees, over the long oval bells, and a hyena tail decorated with a lion mane and colobus monkey tails, which they suspend from their shoulders as an emblem of war."


The Masais of East Africa.—The Masais of East Africa, according to Mrs. French-Sheldon, are true warriors and raiders. They keep a subject tribe, the Wa-sombutta, who do their hunting and what meager agriculture they indulge in. The people of this tribe are insignificant in appearance, and, although servile and subject to the Masai, are not slaves. They present almost the appearance of dwarfs. "I saw no man among them," she says, "who attained a height of over four feet and a few inches; most of them were very much smaller. The Masai know no law but that of capture, and attack the Taveta with much animosity. Their custom of forbidding passage through their territory is enforced by placing in the middle of the path, over which an individual or a caravan must pass, a bullet over which they cross two twigs stripped of foliage, with the exception of a tufted top; the first person crossing this barrier is usually speared or shot. Not knowing of this custom, I inadvertently came to such a barrier and kicked it aside, when I was seized by one of my headmen, who held me back, informing me that if I crossed that point I should most likely be assassinated; and in a moment about thirty young Masai warriors made their appearance in a great state of agitation, with frantic gesticulations, announcing that I must pay a certain amount of hongo for the depredation I had committed." The author had great difficulty in getting even instantaneous photographs of any of the tribes. They regarded the camera as a species of witchcraft, and were put to flight the moment they saw a square box held up before them. But they were greatly entertained by the music-box; and the principal men of the tribe would sit by the hour round the tent while it was playing, waving themselves backward and forward, and repeating "God! god! god! give us rain! god, give us clothes!" until Mrs. French-Sheldon began to feel that her resources in the way of exerting influence with the supreme power were very much overtaxed.


Platinum and its Sonrces.—Platinum is used in the manufacture of incandescent electric lamps, in the construction of stills for the concentration of sulphuric acid, as material for the wires by which artificial teeth are fastened to plates, and in smaller quantities for chemists' crucibles, jewelry, etc. For all these purposes about 215,000 ounces are consumed every year. The Ural region of Russia has for many years supplied all the platinum used in the world. Other mines of far less productiveness are in the United States of Colombia, British Columbia, and the United States. Colombia produces about a hundred and twenty-five kilogrammes of the metal, all from native washings. The platiniferous area, although of low grade, is very extensive, and in part suitable for hydraulic mining. A considerable quantity of American capital, it is said, has been invested there, and Colombia is expected to become an important producer of the metal The only platinum deposits of importance in British Columbia are on the Talameen River. The total production of this province is about sixty-five kilogrammes. Much prospecting for platinum has been done in the United States, but so far without success in finding paying quantities, and to the present time all the platinum produced has been incidental to the production of gold from various auriferous gravels in California and Oregon.