Popular Science Monthly/Volume 45/October 1894/Popular Miscellany

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Spermophiles.—The destructive animals that form the subject of Vernon Bailey's Bulletin (Department of Agriculture) on the prairie ground squirrels of the Mississippi Valley, belong to the genus Spermophilus, and are commonly known as spermophiles. The name is derived from the Greek words σπέρμα, seed, and φιλεἳν, to love, in allusion to the fact that seeds form a large proportion of the food of the species. In the Old World the spermophiles are known as sousliks, while in America they are popularly called gophers or ground squirrels. The term gopher, however, belongs properly to a very different group of animals, to which it should be restricted, namely, the pocket gophers, which have external cheek pouches, and resemble the moles in living under ground and throwing up little mounds along the courses of their subterranean tunnels. Ground squirrel is a less objectionable name, because these animals really are ground squirrels; the term is, however, commonly applied to the chipmunks belonging to the related genus Tamius. Spermophilus is a large genus, and is found throughout the greater portion of the north temperate region of both hemispheres from eastern Europe across northern Asia and over the western two thirds of America. About thirty-five species and subspecies are found in the United States, most of which are restricted to the arid and subarid region west of the Rocky Mountains. Throughout their range, wherever the land is under cultivation, they are among the most destructive of mammals, feeding on grain, fruit, and garden vegetables to such an extent that the losses from their depredations must be counted in hundreds of thousands of dollars. Several States have paid large bounties for their destruction, without materially reducing their numbers; and numerous bulletins of agricultural experiment stations have dealt with means of destroying them. Prof. C. P. Gillette has shown, from examination of their stomachs, that the thirteen-striped spermophile is not an unmixed evil, for, besides large quantities of grain, it eats numbers of grasshoppers, wireworms, and other noxious insects, whence he concludes that a large proportion of its food is made up of insects that seem to consist almost exclusively of injurious species, and adds that "the squirrels would be a most valuable adjunct to any cornfield after planting if some method could be devised to prevent them from taking the corn."


Pin Wells and Rag Bushes.—A paper on Pin Wells and Rag Bushes was read in the British Association by Mr. E. Sidney Hartland. Prof. Rhys has lately brought together a number of instances, in Wales and the Isle of Man, in which persons frequenting sacred wells for the cure of disease and other purposes have been in the habit of throwing pins into the water, stuffing rags under stones, or tying rags upon adjacent trees; and he has discussed the reasons for these practices, suggesting that the pins are offerings and the rags are vehicles for the transfer of the disease. These suggestions were discussed in Mr. Hartland's paper, who compared the practices mentioned by Prof. Rhys with ancient and modern observances in Europe and other parts of the world at sacred wells, crosses, trees, temples, and other objects of superstition. He preferred the hypothesis that the object of these usages was to effect unison between the worshiper and the divinity, which was to be effected by the perpetual contact with the god of some article identified with the worshiper. Prof. Sayce mentioned evidences of similar customs in Palestine and Egypt. In the latter country the rags were hung up by the Bedouin and not by the native fellaheen. Colonel Godwin Austen said that throughout the Himalayas, from Cashmere to far in the East, in Bhotau, he had observed the custom of placing rags upon cairns, especially at the passes. Dr. Robert Mensal, president of the section, said that, although the customs mentioned in the paper might seem ridiculous, they all had a meaning, and the science of folklore, as interpreted by men like Mr. Hartland, was enabling us to find out what that meaning was.


Plants and their Seasons.—The philosophy that underlies the association of certain groups and types of plants with certain definite seasons of the year is the subject of a study by Henry L. Clarke, of the University of Chicago, the flora east of the Rocky Mountains alone being considered. The problem is defined: "From March to November, each month brings a new prospect in field and forest, and every careful observer can feel in this succession of forms a harmony into which any decided change would break discordantly. . . . To say that the fall flowers are not the spring flowers or those of summer are neither, merely because they have chosen at random this season or that, is neither science nor common sense. The truth is forced upon us that the various groups of flowering plants are not scattered indiscriminately from one end of the season to the other, but are regulated by definite scientific principles; and that just as relations can be traced between physical geography and geographical distribution, or between plant history and geological periods, so there is a connection between the relations of season to season and the relations of their respective floras." After a careful examination of the phenomena in detail, Mr. Clarke deduces the conclusion that "from early spring to late autumn there is a progression in the general character of the flower groups, from the lower to the higher, successive groups succeeding each other in time, parallel groups coming synchronously. And the later in order may be tvpes of a character of development, or they may be specializations of a group whose normal forms belonged to an earlier season. In their blooming season the more perfect succeed the more simple; the aberrant, the normal; the specialized, the generalized. But with the general observation arise certain modifying conditions"—which are mentioned.


Unsanitary Positions.—In a paper on Some Derangements of the Heart and Stomach produced by the Unusual Position of Children in School, read before the Académie de Médecine of Paris, Dr. Motais pointed out the effects of that attitude in which the pupil seats himself on the ischial tuberosity, supporting himself by leaning on the left elbow and stooping forward, so that the trunk of the body then develops an antero-lateral curvature. The result is, firstly, that by the lateral inclination the border of the false ribs on the left side descends until it is in contact with the iliac crest. The larger curvature of the stomach is thus pressed upon the spleen and general mass of the intestines; secondly, by bending the body so much anteriorly a fold is formed at the upper part of the abdominal wall, and the anterior surface of the stomach follows the curve. These conditions produce a mechanical hindrance to the movements of the cardiac stomach. The function of the thoracic viscera is equally interfered with by means of the anterior curvature owing to the drawing together of the ribs and also by the descent of the left half of the diaphragm toward the upper border of the stomach. The difficulty thus afforded to respiration reacts on the heart, the contractions of which are, moreover, mechanically hindered by the distortion of the thoracic cavity. The neck is necessarily somewhat twisted, and the large vessels at the root, therefore, are submitted to a certain amount of torsion. The effect of the attitude described above is especially marked when an organic affection of the heart exists. Dr. Motais is also of the opinion that this position is a strong pathogenic element protracting the duration of dyspepsia. He has found that if children who suffer from this complaint are made to assume a correct posture while in school the symptoms subside more rapidly than when such a precaution is not taken. The same observations are applicable to adults engaged in sedentary occupations, and Dr. Motais laid great stress on the point that the medical man, when treating cases of chronic heart or gastric disease, should give his patients directions as to the posture to be assumed when much sitting is necessary.


Australian Dingoes.—A colony of dingoes or Australian wild dogs recently bred in the Jardin d'Acclimatation in Paris, and two of the brood of four lived. This animal has very dense hair, which is thicker in winter than in summer, erect and mobile ears, long and pointed muzzle, and tufted tail, which hangs down when the animal is at rest and is carried curled over the back when its attention is attracted by any noise. It has well-developed senses of hearing and smell. Its average height is perhaps about twenty inches, but different specimens vary greatly in size. Its hair is usually red on the back and head, growing lighter and lighter on the inside of the thighs and limbs. Some individuals are of uniform color; others have white on the paws and the end of the tail. The dingo inhabits the forests, heather, and steppes of the whole Australian continent, where it lives upon kangaroos and whatever other animals offer to its greedy appetite; and it plays havoc with the flocks of the colonists, who war upon it without mercy. Dingoes are frequently domesticated, but, according to Bohm, they retain all their wild instincts in that condition, and readily attack any animal that comes within reach of them. The two puppies in the Jardin d'Acclimatation were cared for with much solicitude by their mother, who did not leave them, but permitted the attendants to change their litter and handle them without objection. She refused all food but raw meat, but occasionally drank milk. She played freely with the other dogs around the kennel, some of which were of fine breeds; and when any conflict arose with regard to food, knew perfectly well how to defend herself. When the young were a month old, the mother, finding they did not require her constant attention, gave way to her vagabond habits. She made her way out of the box in which the little ones were confined, and left them to wander around the garden, only returning to give them suck She at length escaped from the garden to Neuilly, but returned of her own accord. For fear of losing her entirely, she was separated from her young and fastened up. The young are very familiar, and play all day long with the other young dogs.


Thrifty Birds.—A curious illustration of the industrial instincts of animals, given in M. Frédéric Houssay's book on that subject, is afforded by the California woodpecker, which, though an insect eater, stores away for its winter supply food of an entirely different character, not so subject to decay. It collects acorns, for which it hollows small holes in a tree—a hole for an acorn—into which the acorn is exactly fitted, ready to be split by the strong beak of its owner, but too tightly held to be stolen by other birds or squirrels. Another woodpecker, in Mexico, stores against droughts, selecting the hollow stem of a species of aloe, the bore of which is just large enough to hold a nut. It drills holes at intervals in the stem and fills it from bottom to top with nuts, the separate holes being probably made for convenience of access to the column of nuts within. The common ants of Italy store oats and other kinds of grain in chambers which they make of about the size of a watch. They have a way of keeping the grains from sprouting with which we are not acquainted; and if they are removed, the seeds sprout. When they wish to use their store, they allow the grains to germinate till the chemical change takes place in the material that makes its fermenting juice suitable for their digestion. They then arrest the process of change by destroying the sprout, and use the stock of glutinous sugar and starch as their main food in winter.


Atmospheric Dust and Air Colors.—Having continued his observations on dust particles in the atmosphere in connection with other meteorological phenomena, Mr. John Aitken has now exceeding fifteen hundred observations, to produce which required the testing of fifteen thousand samples of air. The list includes, besides Great Britain, observations made in the south of France, at Hyères, Cannes, and Mentone, and at the Italian lakes. At none of the places in these districts was pure air ever met with. On the slopes of Monte Motterone, at Baveno, with the wind blowing up the slopes and carrying up the impure air, the amount of dust at two thousand feet was reduced only to 0·64 of the number at low level, while if the wind was from other directions it was reduced to 0·3. The conclusion that the descriptions given by many writers of the beauty of the coloring on earth and sky seen at high level at sunrise and sunset are much exaggerated is confirmed by the observations on the Rigi Kulm. During five years no coloring at sunrise or sunset was witnessed from this point equal to what is frequently seen at low level. The sunset colors are shown to depend very much on the amount of dust in the air. When the atmosphere is comparatively free from dust the coloring is cold, but the lighting is clear and sharp; and when there is much dust, there is more color on the mountains and clouds and in the air itself, and the coloring is warmer and softer. At high level the coloring is more feeble and of shorter duration. A thick veil of haze seemed to hang in the air between the observer and the mountain on all days when the number of particles was great, and it became very faint when the number was small. The condition of the air on the occasions of the different visits to the Rigi varied greatly. The clearest days, with the lowest numbers of particles, were when the wind blew from the Alps. The daily maximum on the Rigi did not appear on all days. Winds from pure directions generally prevented it, either by checking the ascent of the valley air, or by the valley air being pure, or by the pure valley air not being much heated by the sun and therefore having but little tendency to rise. It was very marked when the wind was from the plains. The hour at which the rise in numbers began and the hour of maximum were very irregular. The amount of the daily maximum varied greatly; sometimes it was only two or three times the morning number, while it at other times exceeded it eightfold. In the observations at Kingairloch, in Argyllshire, certain abnormal readings of dust particles were always accompanied by certain conditions of weather. If the sky remained clouded all day, the numbers were always low during the whole of the day; but if breaks formed in the clouds, the numbers began to rise, and the increase was very much in proportion to the amount of clear sky. It also appeared that these abnormal readings came more frequently with anticyclonic than with cyclonic circulation. The fact that during the days of abnormally high readings the air did not become hazed to anything like the extent indicated by the number of particles, seemed to suggest that these nuclei are of molecular dimensions, and it is even possible they may not be nuclei at all while the air is dry, and form nuclei in saturated air. The Kingairloch observations, when arranged in tables, showed that nearly double the number of particles are required to produce the same amount of haze when the air is very dry as when it is damp. The transparency of the air was also noticed to be roughly proportional to the wet bulb depression. It is not the amount of vapor in the air that produces this effect, but the nearness of the vapor to the dew point, which seems to enable the dust particles to condense more vapor by surface attraction and otherwise, whereby, by becoming larger, they have a greater hazing effect. In all densely inhabited areas the air loses its purity, and in all uninhabited areas it tends to regain it; but all uninhabited areas are not equally good purifying ones. Much of the dusty impurity discharged into our atmosphere from artificial sources, by volcanoes, and by the disintegration of meteoric matter, falls to the ground, but much of it is so fine it will hardly settle. The deposition of vapor on these small particles seems to be the method adopted by Nature for cleansing them away; they become centers of cloud particles and ultimately fall with the rain.


The Labors of a Woodpecker.—John B. Smith, of Rutgers College, New Jersey, writes to Garden and Forest that he has received a piece of white oak, thirteen inches in length and three inches in diameter, containing four holes made by a woodpecker. Each of the holes is nearly or quite an inch wide with the grain, and a trifle less across the grain, narrowing to the bottom of the holes; each of them reaches into the center of the tree and into an insect burrow. In order to reach one of the larva which were the object of its researches, the bird was compelled to make two attempts, having missed the point on the first attempt. The larva for which all this work was done measured about three quarters of an inch in length, with a diameter of perhaps one sixteenth of an inch, and would hardly serve to make more than a scant mouthful for even the smallest woodpecker. It must have taken the bird at least half an hour of persistent work to make each hole, or at least an hour to secure this one larva, weighing only a few grains. It seems, Mr. Smith remarks, as if it would be almost impossible to gain from such a larva a fair return in food value for the energy expended in getting at it, especially where it is necessary to make two efforts to recover one mouthful. In the other burrows the bird was more successful, and gained the larva at the first attempt.


A Forest in Nicaragua.—With the exception of a few clearings, the entire region of the San Juan River, Nicaragua, is described by B. Shimek, in his report to the Natural History Society of the State University of Iowa, as covered with typical tropical forests. They are almost impenetrable, except with the aid of the machete, with which the traveler must literally tunnel his way in many places through the walls of vegetation. The trees, many of which are very tall and from eight to fourteen feet in diameter, are not quite so closely placed together as those of our northern forests; but the intervening spaces are covered with shrubs and vines and numerous other plants, so that, particularly in lower places, dense jungles are formed. Moreover, each tree is a veritable garden in itself. The masses of parasites and epiphytes which cover the larger branches of the trees, and often extend down the trunk and along the smaller branches to their very tips, form a perfect canopy overhead through which the sun's rays never penetrate. Ferns, bromelias, orchids, mosses, and many other plants crowd their hosts with a dense mass of multicolored vegetation. In their active struggle for existence with more powerful neighbors of the forests, these plants have probably gradually ascended, in their search for the sun's light, to the upper branches of the very neighbors which sought to crowd them out, thus transferring the struggle from the surface of the soil: to the air above. So firmly is this habit fixed, however, that, even where a tree stands alone, its trunks and branches are almost invariably covered with these plants. Their abundance and variety may be judged from the fact that upon a single jicara tree, not more than twenty feet high, which stood in a clearing near Castillo, the author counted forty species of epiphytes. The vines and underbrush are less abundant on the higher grounds, and moving about is consequently easier. But, whether the place is high or low, the same deep, dark, reeking forest spreads over all. Two facts strike the observer as peculiar, at least during the season which the party spent at Castillo—the comparative scarcity of brilliant flowers, and the failure of the plants of one species to mass together. The comparatively small number of conspicuous flowers is a disappointment to him who expects to find a mass of brilliant bloom in these tropical forests; not so much because these flowers are really wanting as because the flowering period of most of the species is rather long, and for the further, perhaps more important, reason that the flowers which do appear seem insignificant when compared with the sea of green that covers everything. No less striking is the fact that, as a rule, specimens of any one species do not mass together to the exclusion of other species, excepting sometimes along the watercourses. Different kinds of trees are mingled together m endless confusion, and no "groves" of any one species, such as we are familiar with in the North, occur, nor can any species, as a rule, ever be said to be prominent. The same is true of smaller plants; and the collector is not only bewildered by the variety of plants that come in his way, even in a restricted locality, but is also provoked by the scarcity of specimens of most of the species. Along the river banks, however, palms, grasses, etc., often take possession of large tracts.


Origin of Clays.—Clay, says Mr. Robert T. Hill, in his report on that material in the "Mineral Resources of the United States," is the immediate or ultimate product of the decomposition of feldspar. Feldspar is a constituent mineral of all the igneous rocks of the earth, and is especially abundant in the older granites and gneisses. By its decomposition, which occurs principally under the action of water, the soda, lime, potash, and other alkaline constituents of the feldspar are removed in solution, leaving the aluminum silicate and quartz as a residuum, commercially known as rock kaolin—a non-plastic material which, when free from iron, is also known as porcelain clay. Water, in Nature as in pottery, is the chief agent in clay working, and, besides its original action in decomposing the feldspar, it transports and grinds the original kaolin, and deposits it, in various degrees of purity or mixture, in secondary localities as a sediment. Clay material thus produced is known as sedimentary or transported clay, and, with the exception of some of the kaolins which have not been far removed from their place of origin, is more or less plastic. The washing and grinding of clays by clay-workers is a repetition of fundamental geologic processes of erosion, corrosion, and deposition constantly going on in Nature; and the geologist can see in the flumes and settling tanks of the potter a laboratory demonstration of the principal agencies which he studies. The clay material resulting from the decay of feldspar may be broadly classified under the two general heads of residual and sedimentary. The residual material is that which is found in the original place of occurrence of the decomposing feldspar, and may possess many physical aspects, sometimes occurring as a firm or crumbling rock, resembling decomposed granite, or again as a fine, white, non-plastic clay or kaolin. It is usually accompanied by quartz, a material not essentially injurious, which can be removed, if that is desired, by washing. The sedimentary clays are those which have been removed from their place of origin and redeposited in water. They embrace all degrees of mixture and purity, and may be either kaolinitic or plastic.


Value of a Geological Survey.—On the 18th of April, 1894, the geological survey of Alabama attained its majority—twenty-one years—under the present management, with Eugene A. Smith as State Geologist. By way of memorial of the occasion maps are in course of preparation showing the condition of our knowledge of the geology of the State at the beginning and at the end of the period, 1873 to 1894; and besides these, tables showing the relative amounts of raw materials and of finished products from the mineral resources of the State at the same times. A sketch of the history of the surveys in the State has also been prepared by Mr. Smith. They were begun with the appointment of Michael Tuomey as Professor of Geology in the State University in 1847, when he was expected to spend about four months in each year in field observations. The next year he was made State Geologist. An appropriation was first made for the survey in 1854. Prof. Tuomey died in 185*7; his last reports were edited and brought out by Prof. John W. Mallet, chemist to the survey; and the survey was discontinued. The second survey, under Prof. Smith, was begun in 1873. A detailed account of its several stages and departments, with the papers published by it, is given in the memoir. The co-operation of the United States survey with the State survey, begun in 1879, is recognized as having been "very distinctly advantageous." "In retrospect one can, however," says Prof. Smith, "easily see how these benefits might have been materially increased by more frequent conferences and consequently more thorough mutual understandings and adjustments." The survey has cost during the past eleven years $75,847, or an average of about $6,900 a year. For the whole period of twenty-one years during which the survey has been active, the aggregate cost has been $90,597, an average of $4,314 per annum. Since the organization of the survey, the tax rate of the State has been reduced over fifty per cent, without diminishing the revenues. The increase in the value of property in certain sections of the State that has rendered this possible has been due in the main to the development of the mineral wealth, and to this the survey publications have contributed a certain undetermined share. Some of the regions of the State in which the mining of coal and iron had since assumed vast proportions were untouched when the earlier reports directed attention by maps, analyses, and otherwise, to their great resources; and very recently the survey has demonstrated the existence of profitable areas in the coal measures heretofore untried; has pointed out a source of wealth in the phosphatic marls of certain sections; has shown that gold may be mined with I profit at many points; has demonstrated that clays suitable for the manufacture of fine porcelain ware, fire brick, tiles, and other articles occur in. practically limitless quantity in many sections; and has pointed out the places where good marbles and building stones may be had for the quarrying. All these have as yet not been turned to account.


Meanings of Japanese Fans.—The study of Japanese fans is regarded, in Mrs. Charlotte M. Salwey's book on the subject, as substantially the study of the history, religion, etiquette, daily manners and customs, peace and war, trade, games, and literature, in fact, of the whole civilization and art of the country. From the sixth century downward fans were a part of the national costume. Every fan belonging to every rank had its meaning, and was used in its own particular way according to a strict code of etiquette. The flat fan, or uchiwa, was introduced into Japan by the Chinese, and has been made in different shapes and used in many different ways. The cheapest and most usual forms are common objects in the West. One of its most curious varieties is the iron war fan, invented in the eleventh century for the use of military commanders, either for direction and signaling or as a shield for defense. It is made of leather and iron. The water fans are made of bamboo and thinly lacquered, so that they may be dipped in water to secure extra coolness while fanning. Another kind of uchiwa is the revolving white fan, which whirls around its stick and can be rolled up. Another strong, flat paper fan is used as bellows to blow the charcoal fire in the kitchen. The agi are folding fans; among them the hi wood fans are the most beautiful. They are painted with flowers and tied with white silk. Anciently they were hung with artificial flowers made of silk. These were the court fans, and different flowers were appropriated by different great families, so that a fan answered the purpose of armorial bearings. Folding fans also served the purpose of ensigns in war, and an enormous fan, mita agi, giant fan, was carried in processions in honor of the sun goddess. Children and dolls have fans of their own. Dancers and jugglers carry peculiar fans. The tea fan, Rikiu, was used at the ancient tea ceremony for handing little cakes. The agi is now frequently made useful by being covered with engraved maps of the different provinces. Sometimes a fan case holds a dagger. Preachers make points in their speeches by sharply opening or shutting their white fans. Album fans, on which poems are written, are a curious feature in the life of Japan. Many old legends are told again by the arrangements of houses, flowers, figures, and birds painted on the faces of fans. An endless etiquette is involved in the use of fans. With the Japanese, in fact, the fan is an emblem of life. The rivet end is regarded as the starting point, and as the rays of the fan expand, so the road of life widens out toward a prosperous future. The agi is said to have originally taken its shape from the remarkable mountain Fusiyama, which represents to the Japanese all that is beautiful, high, and holy.


Artificial Birds for Women's Hats.—According to a writer in the London Spectator, a change has come over the minds of women in respect to feathers; and while these pretty ornaments continue to be worn, the objections to the wanton sacrifice of birds in order to procure them have so far prevailed that substitutes have been found for those kinds to obtain which birds were killed. While the egret plume—the finest of these feathers—is still unapproachable as an ornament, the milliners say that ladies object to buying the real article, "because it is cruel," and demand artificial substitutes, or are contented with less perfect plumes, and sham "ospreys," as they are called, are made in ways it is difficult to determine. Some are fashioned from split quill feathers of a larger heron. In others even a microscope fails to show the process of manufacture. Besides substitutes for the "osprey," "all kinds of composite feather decoration, perfect for the purposes to which it is applied, are now used for hats and bonnets, and a naturalist in a milliner's shop finds himself confronted with a hundred varieties of plumage never seen in Nature, but excellent in art, for which it would puzzle any one but the plumassier or the taxidermist to find a name. The era of stuffed birds and natural wings adorning headdresses is almost over. Not long ago, for instance, terns were a favorite ornament. The whole bird was used. Large hats were fashionable, and two or three of the 'sea swallows' were grouped on a single head. . . . Now the milliners have discovered a substitute with which no lover of birds can quarrel, and which reflects no little credit on their craft. Poultry feathers, in some cases of natural colors, but more often dyed to tints suited to the material with which they are worn, are made up into plumes, wings, coronets, and pompons, with a grace and variety of outline which harmonize with the modeling of the human head far better than the natural bird forms. Wings of domestic pigeons, often mottled with exquisite shades of gray or roan, are still used; but as the pigeons themselves are destined for food, no one can quarrel with the disposition made of their plumage. The greater part of modern head gear, however, is decorated with dyed cock feathers, or 'coque' feathers—pronounced to rhyme with 'oak'—as the milliners prefer to call them. The use of the cock's feathers has been a gradual development. In John Leech's day they were suggested by the plumes worn by the Sardinian troops in the Crimean War, and were worn in ladies' felt hats, somewhat of the 'field marshal's' pattern. These were only the dark-green tail feathers. But the piles of 'Mercury wings' of all colors—plain or decorated with tinsel or jet—which filled the milliners' shops last summer, and which still hold their own, are an immense advance on the cock-feather plumes. Some of these wings are so well made that, except for want of proportion between the primary and secondary feathers, even a naturalist's eye might be deceived. Regarded purely as an ornament, they are preferable to the natural arrangement, for their construction admits of endless adaptation." Women's fondness for feathers may be credited with being the means of preserving one and that the largest species of living bird from extinction, for it has offered the inducement for which ostrich farms have been established and are maintained.


The Australian Diprotodon.—Interest was excited in the recent meeting of the Australasian Association by an account, by C. W. de Vis, of the diprotodon, fossil bones of which have been found in Lake Mulligan, and its times. The diprotodon was in some respects like a wombat, but seems to have been less capable of rapid motion. The spongy texture of the bones of the skeleton indicates that it frequented lakes and marshes. Two species of the fossil have been found in central Australia—one about six feet high and ten feet long, and the other about five feet high and eight feet long. The arid central plains of the present were occupied ia diprotodon times by vast extents of luxuriant forest and richly vegetated districts, well watered by wide rivers. The marsupials were even then the dominant type of life in Australia; lizards were also numerous, and some were of unusually large proportions; megalania, for example, are extinct "guana," from eighteen to twenty feet in length. Alligators and turtles of forms now extinct infested the waters, and among the fishes was the still existing ceratodus. The remains of a varied bird fauna have been preserved in the same deposits. This fauna included some ancestral forms connecting, on the one hand, the wingless birds of New Zealand with the Australian emus, and on the other hand the Australian birds with the New Zealand apteryx. The author was inclined to attribute the disappearance of so many of these forms of ancient life quite as much to senile decay as to altered climatic influences.


Waters of the Colorado Coal Field.—The water supply of the Colorado coal field of Texas, though not abundant as a whole, is represented in the report of Messrs. N. F. Drake and R. A. Thompson, of the State Geological Survey, as usually ample and sufficient for all demands and purposes. Numerous springs burst forth from the strata and many overflowing rivers and creeks traverse the breadth of the region, which afford water unsurpassed for wholesomeness and purity. When sufficient care is exercised in their location, water for drinking purposes can be obtained from wells in nearly all parts of the area, though when bored to excessive depths the water contained is, as a rule, contaminated with salt, oil, and other impurities that exist in the strata. The Colorado, Concho, and San Saba are the only rivers flowing through the district. The Colorado, having for its origin the great springs flowing out from the eastern slope of the Staked Plains, and being re-enforced at every point of its course, furnishes an unsurpassed supply of water to its riparian inhabitants. Except in times of what is called the "red rises," its water is pure and clear. These red rises are caused by heavy rainfalls in the region of the Red Beds of the Permian and Triassic in which the Colorado heads. The beds consist of conglomerates, fine-grained sandstones, and impervious arenaceous and highly calcareous red clays and shales, which disintegrate rapidly under the action of rainfall, and the disintegrated material is borne down by the rapid current of the river. Owing to the fine-grained and impervious nature, especially of the clays, they do not silt rapidly, and the material is held in suspension by the water long after it has passed the limits of the Red Beds. The Colorado flows over numerous little falls and rapids while pursuing its course across the heavy beds of limestone and sandstone which extend from the western boundary of the Permian to the southern limit of the Upper Cretaceous. This shifting turns its every particle again and again to the purifying action of the atmosphere, and the immense beds of stiff and tenacious clays and shales do not impair its clearness. The water flowing over the limestone becomes highly charged with carbonic dioxide in solution, which oxidizes much of the organic matter that may contaminate it, and thus renders it purer. The water of the Concho River is of the same character as that of the Colorado. The San Saba runs about forty miles through the carboniferous formation. Few of the creeks or smaller streams are ever-running, but the majority of them flow except in the driest seasons. Water is obtained in them from numerous large, deep holes, the majority of which remain fllled through the year, and in which it does not become stagnant.


St. Gregory of Nyssa and the Nebular Hypothesis.—In a study, in the American Ecclesiastical Review, of the exegeses by the early Christian writers, especially those of Alexandria and Cæsarea, the Rev. John A. Zahm, of the University of Notre Dame, sets forth that they were the first to propose or develop a true theory of the origin of the world, and to lay the foundations of cosmoganic doctrines that are usually credited to investigators of a much later epoch. Thus, in the Hexacmeron of St. Gregory of Nyssa, "is developed, in unequivocal terms, the same hypothesis that has so long been regarded as the special glory of the Système du Monde of Laplace." According to this saint, the words, "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth," "do not refer to the creation of the heavens and the earth, as we now behold them, and still less do they signify the creation of the creatures—plants, animals, and man—that inhabit the earth. They refer rather to the creation from nothing of the primitive, cosmic matter—from which all forms of matter, organic and inorganic, were subsequently fashioned. The saint finds a warrant for this interpretation in the words of Genesis itself. For, according to the inspired writer, the earth, after the first creative act, was 'void and empty,' or, as the Septuagint has it, 'invisible and discomposed.' In the beginning, then, all things were created potentially rather than in act. They were contained naturally or in germ in the invisible and unformed matter that came forth from nothing in response to the divine fiat. The first sentence of Gene, sis tells us of creation, properly so called, the opus creationis (or work of creation). That which follows refers to the formation from pre-existing matter of all the bodies of the universe. This is what theologians call the opus formationis (work of formation) and what modern scientists term the development of evolution. In the beginning, therefore, according to St. Gregory of Nyssa, all was in a chaotic or nebulous state. But it did not remain so, because the Almighty put it under the action of certain physical laws by virtue of which it was to go through that long cycle of changes of which science speaks. . . . The manner in which the saint expresses himself when treating of this subject is, considering the scientific knowledge of his time, simply marvelous. He seems to have had an intuitive knowledge of what could then not be demonstrated, and of what could be known only after the revelations of modern geography and astronomy. . . . After the primitive, nebulous matter of the cosmos was created, certain molecules, St. Gregory teaches, began, under the influence of attraction, to unite with other molecules, and to form separate masses of matter. In the course of time, these masses of matter, rotating on their axes, gave off similar masses, which assumed a spherical form. In this wise were produced the sun and moon, stars and planets. . . . In this brilliant conception, in which he could but divine what Laplace and his compeers have rendered all but certain, St. Gregory recognized the existence of laws which he was unable to detect, much less to comprehend. These were the laws made known long ages afterward by the investigations of Kepler, Newton, and Plateau, and the laws of chemical affinity which have thrown such a flood of light on the secret operations of Nature. . . . No exegetist has ever been more happy in the employment of the scientific method; no one has ever had a keener appreciation of the reign of law and order which obtains in the universe. No one has ever realized more thoroughly that the cosmos as we now see it, far from being the work of chance, is the result of a series of divine interventions, is the outcome of a gradual evolution of that primordial matter which God created in the beginning; which he then put under what we call laws of Nature; and which he still conserves by his providence."


A Monument to Lavoisier.—A proposition was published by Gustavus Hinrichs, of St. Louis, on the 8th of May of this year—it being the centenary of the death of that chemist—for the erection by the chemists of the world of a monument to the memory of Lavoisier, "the Copernicus of chemistry." "It is now well understood," Mr. Hinrichs says, "that the claims of Lavoisier to universal recognition depend in no way upon the title to the discovery of any new substance, however important. Both England and Sweden have appropriately honored their discoverers of dephlogisticated air by imposing monuments. The well-known fact that both these eminent chemists remained faithful and aggressive phlogistonists till death is an all-sufficient proof that their discovery is in no way essential to the glory of Lavoisier. The life work of Lavoisier was deeper and broader than the discovery of any new substance, and affected the very foundation of the science of chemistry. He broke through the veil of mere phenomena, and discovered beyond it the reality of chemical processes." Some of the contemporaries of Lavoisier may have been more skilled experimenters in some directions, and no doubt he left much for his followers to do. "Nevertheless, his Traité Élimentaire de Chimie is unquestionably the first rational exposition of the science of chemistry, entirely resting on experimental evidence, largely his own, and admitting to the entities of matter nothing that was not actually produced; and since that day chemistry is the science of the real elements."