Popular Science Monthly/Volume 47/May 1895/Popular Miscellany

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POPULAR MISCELLANY.

Doggish Sympathy.—A correspondent of the London Spectator writes that he owned a large dog Rose, and a smaller and less beautiful dog Fan, of different breeds, but both passionately attached to a member of the household who was commonly called their best friend. A shawl of this friend's was especially sacred to Fan, and jealously watched, especially as against Rose; and when the best friend was in bed Fan would lie in her arms, opposing with growls the approach of all intruders. One day Rose in jumping over a gate spiked herself badly and was committed to surgical treatment for ten days. "On her return she was cordially welcomed by Fan and myself; but when she rushed upstairs to the room of her best friend (then confined to her bed), my mind foreboded mischief. We followed, and I opened the door. With one bound Rose rushed into her best friend's arms, taking Fan's very own place, and was lost in a rapture of licking and being caressed. Fan flew after her, but, to my amazement, instead of the fury I expected, it was to join in heart and tongue with the licking and caressing. She licked Rose as if she had been a long-lost puppy instead of an intruder; and then, of her own accord, turned away, leaving Rose in possession, and took up a distant place on the foot of the bed, appealing to me with almost a human expression of mingled feelings—the heroic self-abnegation of newborn sympathy struggling with natural jealousy. The better feelings triumphed (not, of course, unsupported by human recognition and applause) till both dogs fell asleep in their strangely reversed positions. After this, there was a slight temporary failure in Fan's perhaps overstrained self-conquest; but on the next day but one she actually, for the first (and last) time in her life, made Rose welcome to a place beside her on the sacred shawl, where again they slept side by side like sisters. This, however, was the last gleam of the special sympathy called forth by Rose's troubles. From that day Fan decidedly and finally resumed her jealous occupation and guardianship of all sacred places and thiugs, and maintained it energetically to her life's end."

Protoplasm for Hot Stars.—A new subject for speculation has been suggested by Sir Robert Ball's observation that life on the heavenly bodies materially hotter or colder than the earth, or differing in other important respects, is exceedingly improbable if not impossible for beings of the forms and composition which we associate with life. But is protoplasm composed of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, and a little sulphur the only physical basis on which life can exist? May there not be protoplasms of other compositions adapted to hot stars or to cold stars, upon which life as vigorous as that upon the earth may exist on such bodies? Prof. Emerson remarked two or three years ago that silicon, when the earth was in an intensely hot stage, played much the same part that carbon does now; and that under the conditions then prevailing the silicon compounds, now immobile, may have been active. In those days, when the temperatures were above the point of decomposition of many of the carbon-nitrogen compounds, a silicon-aluminum series may have presented cycles of complicated syntheses, decompositions, and oxidations essentially parallel to those that underlie our own vital phenomena. The case is at least fascinatingly plausible. If we are to admit the possibility that the chemical accompaniments of life were rehearsed long ago and at far higher temperatures by elements now inert, it is not such a very long step from this, an English essayist suggests, to the supposition that vital, subconscious, and conscious developments may have accompanied such a rehearsal. One is startled toward fantastic imaginings by such a suggestion: Why not silicon-aluminum men at once—wandering through an atmosphere of gaseous sulphur, let us say, by the shores of a sea of liquid iron some thousand degrees or so above the temperature of a blast furnace? But that, of course, is merely a dream. Who will discover a silicon-aluminum fossil?

 

A Study of Maya Hieroglyphics.—American students have not made as much progress in Central American archæology as those of Europe; and it is only recently that the Peabody Museum of Harvard University has undertaken to carry on extensive and exhaustive researches in what Mr. Marshall H. Saville styles the most prolific source of hieroglyphic inscriptions of which we have knowledge. The ancient inhabitants of Copan, Honduras, Mr. Saville says, in his his paper read before the American Association, appear to have been more literary in character than even those of Palenque. There have been found there twenty-four stelæ, all of which have inscriptions, besides altars, slabs, and hieroglyphic steps in large numbers. Pottery vessels and potsherds have been found bearing glyphs, either painted or engraved. These potsherds have been found in such quantities as to show that thousands of their vessels had hieroglyphic inscriptions. The inscriptions are intimately connected with the symbolism almost invariably found with them, and an understanding of the symbolic marks and ornaments will largely aid in deciphering the glyphs. One glyph is found so often repeated on the potsherds as to become significant, and this is the special subject of the author's present study. It is at the head of most of the graven inscriptions of Copan, Palenque, Quirigua, Jikul, and Menche, and of the three tablets of Palenque, and is named by the author the Pax glyph. The heading indicated by this glyph is found on analysis to represent the month Pax, surmounted either by a serpent's head, a mask, or a human face, associated with a vegetal form, or rarely a fish, above the whole of which is a scroll. Having in view the ideas and the nature of the festivals associated with this month, the author concludes that the inscriptions beginning with this heading relate to ceremonies taking place at that time to the god Kukulcan. The occurrence of the Pax glyph in the text, with the hand sowing seed, and again with a flower with seeds, also bears out this conclusion, and it may be inferred that the inscriptions, so far as these single glyphs are concerned, relate to the ceremonies of planting.

 

Chinese Ideas of War.—M. Léon de Remy has made a curious communication respecting the ideas of the Chinese concerning war. Although it has often been necessary for the Chinese to engage in war, the military art has never been in good repute among them. In their view, every war is a misfortune, if not a sin. They avoid talking to their children of laurels, crowns, and triumphs won in war, but teach in their schools that the most glorious battles are at bottom simply homicides, abominable disasters to both parties. An emperor who decides to sacrifice numerous existences on a field of slaughter is reputed an unwise and unjust prince. A general who has won a battle ought to wear mourning for the quantity of blood his success has cost. These doctrines are not gross or immoral, but in the existing conditions of society generous thoughts are not without some inconveniences; and it is easy to understand how, with such ideas concerning war, the Middle Kingdom has been conquered sometimes by peoples of no great importance and not very well armed. Nevertheless, it is a curious ethnographical fact that whenever the Chinese people have been conquered they have absorbed their conquerors to their almost entire disappearance. The successors of the Manchu conquerors are now reigning in China, and it can hardly be said that any Manchus exist in Asia. Those who serve are treated at the court like slaves, while the powers are very careful not to show any lack of respect to the Chinese. The Manchu language, in spite of efforts to give it some literary and political importance, has been thrown into the background, and is hardly more than one of the rude jargons of central Asia.

 

The Baskets of Lichtenfels.—One of the largest basket markets in the world is situated in the little town of Lichtenfels, in the mountains of upper Franconia, Bavaria. The industry was introduced there toward the close of the last century by a citizen who, desiring to take advantage of the fine growth of willow trees in the neighboring valley of the chain, began weaving baskets on a small scale corresponding with his means. The business gradually developed in extent and in variety and artistic character of the designs; the products were sent to the larger markets, and even France was almost exclusively supplied from Lichtenfels till the war of 1870, and is still supplied thence to a considerable extent. The gradually increasing demands soon made it necessary to procure foreign raw material. The finer varieties of willow reeds had to be imported from Hungary and France and from countries beyond the sea. Straw for the finer woven articles was ordered from Spain and Italy, and the palm leaves used for ornamenting the better class of wares from the tropics. In this manner the evolution of the house industry, as it is called, of Lichtenfels proceeded, and has resulted in the employment at this time of about sixteen thousand men, women, and children, who produce every variety of basket from the simplest to the most elegant. Factories, as usually spoken of, are few. The manufacturer delivers the raw material to the people who are to make the baskets at their own home—that is, he weighs out for them the willow reeds, colored straw, palm leaves, etc., and gives them the designs according to which they are to be made, and at a stated time the workers—who mostly live in neighboring villages—bring their work to the manufacturer and receive their pay. The industry is encouraged through the schools of design that have been established and are supported by the state, in which the young people of the neighborhood are educated in all branches of it.

 

Fjords, Fjörds, and Fohrden.—Fjords according to a memoir by Herr P. Dinse, of Berlin, are long, narrow bays or sea inlets, penetrating an elevated or mountainous coast; their sides slope steeply both above and below water, giving a troughlike cross-section, while the longitudinal section shows an irregular relief of gentle ridges and shallow troughs. In all true fjords the depth inside is greater than that of the stretch of sea immediately beyond the mouth. There are several varieties of this type. Thus, two fjords entering the coast at an angle may meet/forming a sound separating an island. Again, the bar of the mouth may be slightly elevated so as to become dry land, and a fjord lake or loch results. Minor subdivisions include the fjärd and schären types by the Gulf of Bothnia, differing only in the relative frequency of islands and continuous coast and the föhrden type of the low coasts of Denmark. These are entirely different from the inlets of the ria type, which occur on the coasts of Spain, northwestern Ireland, and elsewhere. A ria is a more or less wedge-shaped inlet, gradually widening and uniformly deepening from its head to the sea, showing no trace of an included basin. It is noted, however, that prolonged sedimentation might ultimately convert a fjord into a ria. The distribution of fjords as distinguished from rias is subject to the general statement that there are no fjords except on the coasts of lands which show signs of recent glacial action. The coasts where they occur are those of Scandinavia, the west of Scotland, northwest of Ireland, Iceland, Greenland, Labrador, and the coast of Maine, the west coast of North America from Alaska to Vancouver Island, the west coast of South America from Chiloe to Cape Horn, Kerguelen, the antarctic lands, and the southern part of the west coast of the South Island in New Zealand.

 

Cave Exploration.—Spelæology is the name given by M. E. A. Martel to the study of caves—a study which he regards as of much greater significance than has hitherto been attached to it. He believes that it may be made to throw light on all the branches of science that deal with the structure of the earth—on geography, geology, paleontology, mineralogy, zoölogy, anthropology, the physics of the globe, agriculture, public works, and hygiene. In his explorations of caves M. Martel has devoted much attention to those openings which form a peculiar feature in the limestone regions of France and eastern Europe, called gouffres or pits, which have been regarded hitherto chiefly as curiosities or feeders of superstitious fears, but are almost virgin to scientific exploration. During six years, from 1888 to 1893, he explored two hundred and thirty of these gouffres and other cavities, one hundred and sixty-five of which had never been examined before, and made a large number of plans. In this work he had special regard to the hydrology, the origin, location, etc., of subterranean waters, with a view to utilize the lessons of his observations in agriculture, but did not neglect to examine carefully all the other bearings, not letting the most minute features pass unobserved. The results of his investigations have been published in a book, Les Abîmes.

 

Forests and Climate.—Considering the Relation of Forests to Climate and Health, Cleveland Abbe finds that while the forest does not cause increase of rainfall, its tendency is to conserve it. The forest shields the moisture from evaporation and uses less of it for its own growth than would be used for the growth of grasses or herbs, and it also conserves what is left in the soil so as to diminish, or at least regulate, the drainage into the river basins, thereby reducing the danger of destructive floods. The influence of forests extends outside of their boundaries under varying conditions. The effect of forest-covered mountains is to diminish the cold night winds and the hot day breezes in the valleys below, and to favor the formation of local cloud and rain in them. As the air that flows down the mountain side during the night from a forest has a higher dew point and a lower temperature than that which flows down from an unforested surface, therefore a less amount of cooling will cause it to form fog; hence the crops in the valley are more likely to be sheltered by the fog from dangerous frosts. The most interesting influence of the forest on the leeward side is that which it exerts by virtue of its action as a wind-break. A diminished wind means that the sluggish moving air shall be warmed up in the daytime by contact with the ground much more than would be the swift-moving air when the wind-break is absent. This reacts upon the ground, so that as a consequence both soil and air are warmer. The evaporation from the surface of the soil is also greatly diminished, in consequence of which the soil retains more moisture, and is warmer than it would be under the influence of a strong wind. At the same time, the air above the soil acquires a higher percentage of relative humidity. Thus the plant has more water at its disposal stored in the earth, while the leaves, apparently, are in less need of water, and transpire less.

 

Biological Laboratory at Cold Spring.—The Biological Laboratory of the Brooklyn Institute at Cold Spring Harbor, L. I., aims first at instruction. Each year a course has been given there in elementary systematic zoölogy, adapted both to teachers whose knowledge of elementary zoology is not great, and to students of higher institutes who seek a practical study of marine forms. A botanical department was organized in 1893. More advanced courses have been established, and lessons were given last summer on comparative embryology. A course in bacteriology is given by the director. Original investigation is provided for in private rooms for research, and most of the Board of Instruction and others who have been present from time to time have been engaged in personal work in that line. In addition to the regular work of the school, evening semi-popular lectures are given to the students and to attendants from the neighborhood. During the last year a department was started for supplying specimens of the common types of marine life to colleges and schools.

 

Lord Rayleigh on Waves.—In a lecture at the Royal Institution, on waves of water, Lord Rayleigh said that in such waves the velocity is not independent of the wave length (or distance from crest to crest) as it is in the case of sound waves, but the long waves travel more speedily than the short ones. Waves at sea are mostly generated by wind, though other causes, such as earthquakes, occasionally operate. By blowing the surface of a long trough with a fan, the lecturer showed that the waves produced close to the source of the wind are shorter than those set up farther away. Oil has no effect upon big rollers, but the broken water on which it acts is just what is dangerous to boats in a tempest. A storm in mid-ocean generates waves of all lengths, but a kind of regularity is reached at a distance, where the long waves arrive first. The height of waves at sea has often been exaggerated, owing to the difficulty of measuring them, but the highest authentic observation is about forty feet. Stationary waves, as opposed to the progressive waves of which the lecturer had been speaking, were described as the results of the meeting of two equal sets of progressive waves. In illustration of the effects of waves upon ships, Lord Rayleigh showed a small model boat so weighted as to have the same rolling period as the waves in the tank in which it floated. Its rolling was exceedingly violent, but became comparatively slight when the heights were altered so as to change the rolling period. Warships, in which stability is very essential, are designed so as to have a longer period of roll than any waves they are likely to encounter.

 

Plymouth School of Applied Ethics.—The School of Applied Ethics at Plymouth, Mass, has had three profitable sessions—in 1891, 1892, and 1894; the session of 1893 having been omitted on account of the congresses at Chicago. At the first session, 1891, H. C. Adams, dean, the faculty numbered twenty-nine, and one hundred and sixteen lectures were given in the three departments of Economics, Ethics, and History of Religions. At the second session, Prof. C. H. Toy, dean, there were twenty-two lecturers and ninety-six lectures, in the three departments as before. At this session the Wednesdays were set apart for conferences and other special meetings—an experiment which was regarded favorably, but was not repeated during the next year. At the third session, 1894, Prof. Felix Adler, dean, there were thirty lecturers and one hundred and one lectures. The general subject in each of the three departments was the labor question, which was treated from various points of view, some of the lecturers being among the foremost political economists of our leading colleges and universities. The fourth session will begin in the second week in July, 1895, and will continue five weeks. An "Auxiliary Society of the School of Applied Ethics" has been formed, for the purpose, among others, of making the school and its work more widely known. Membership is open to all, for five dollars a year, and applications for it may be sent to the Rev. Paul R. Frothingham, New Bedford, Mass.

 

Indian Bows, Arrows, and Quivers.—In an interesting study of North American Bows, Arrows, and Quivers, published in the Smithsonian Report for 1893, Prof. Otis T. Mason shows how, in respect to either and all these appurtenances of the savage warrior and hunter, the form and material of the instrument and the manner of making n vary with and are dependent upon the kind of material which the local manufacturer had at his disposal. The bow is of hard wood, and simple, but of various forms according to fancy, in those regions where strong, elastic woods are abundant; compound, built up of buffalo or other horns in several pieces skillfully joined, where wood is scarce and the other material plenty; sinew-lined—finely shredded sinew mixed with glue being laid upon it so as to resemble bark—in the regions of the Sierras and as far north as the headwaters of the Mackenzie; sinew-corded, or having a long string or braid of sinew passing to and fro along the back, of which several types are found in the arctic and subarctic regions. The material of bows^varies geographically, and the list shows that in some regions some of the apparently most unpromising woods are used in their construction. The strings are of rawhide, the best vegetable fibers of the country, the intestines of animals cut into strings and twisted, or, most frequently, of sinew. The study is continued, with even more minutenes corresponding with the varieties of detail involved—concerning the head, the shaft, nocking, notching, and feathering—with the arrow. The quiver is difficult of study, because collectors have paid little attention to it. Among all the Plains tribes the quivers are objects of beauty. The quiver is largely of the region. The material out of which each example is made must be furnished by Nature: hence it is of sealskin in one place, of cedar wood in another, of soft pelt in another, and in the south land is frequently made of some kind of soft basketry. "Among several of the mountain tribes the squaw lavished all her skill upon her husband's quiver. The costliest beaver, marten, otter, and mountain-lion pelt was invoked. It was lined with soft buckskin, or in after times with red strouding. Beads of every imaginable color were worked upon the border of the arrow case and upon the lining of the long pendant therefrom. Strips of fur, daintily cut in fringes, were sewed about the bottom of the bow case, and every spot capable of rich decoration received it. Between this and the plain salmon-skin capsules into which the Eskimo thrust his arrows there are many gradations of quivers."

 

Prof. Sergi's Human Classifications.—In studying the varieties of the human species, Prof. Giuseppe Sergi, as he is quoted in a paper by Dr. D. G. Brinton, finds that hybridism is a syncretism or propinquity of characteristics belonging to many varieties; that these do not modify the skeletal forms as do individual variations; and that hybridism may affect different parts of the skeleton, constituting characteristics in themselves distinct. The stature, the thoracic form, the proportion of the long bones may be united with external characteristics differing from each other, as well as from different cranial structures. The cranial form may be associated with different facial forms, and inversely. It happens, however, that the structures taken separately remain in part unvaried in the hybrid constitution. The face preserves its own characteristics in spite of the union of different cranial forms; so also the cranium preserves its structures, associating them with different facial forms. The stature preserves its own proportions in spite of its association with different cranial and facial types, and in spite of the different coloration of the skin and form and color of the hair. All this may be affirmed, particularly of much larger human groups which, according to external characteristics, may be considered much nearer than they really are in geographical position, as the so-called white races in Europe, the negroes in Africa, in Melanesia, and so on. Seeking a criterion of classification, the author finds that external characteristics can not be relied upon. Regarding the internal or skeletal characteristics as presenting greater stability, he chooses the cranium, as at the same time the most important and most useful. He thus impliedly accepts the brain in its various forms. He finds sixteen varieties of the human species, without considering that he has exhausted the number, and fifty-one sub-varieties.

 

A Monkey's Caprices.—The last of the famous group of pets which Frank Buckland collected at his house died January 17th. It was the monkey, Tiny the second, of the species Cercopithecus mona. She was a beautiful and graceful creature, covered with a thick coat of handsomely shaded hair, and had been under Mrs. Buckland's care seventeen years and a half. She had the lifelong reputation of being exceedingly mischievous, and was an accomplished thief. She led a gray parrot, which had been an inhabitant of the house for twenty-five years, a terrible life; and when she was let out of her cage she played havoc with her master's papers and manuscripts. She would dash about the room, make a clean sweep of the table, and fill her pouches with anything that appeared especially nice. Her two later companions were a gray parrot and a thoroughbred dachshund, Olga. Every morning Tiny and the dog had a game of romps that invariably ended in the discomfiture of Olga. The dog would run round the monkey's cage, barking loudly; Tiny, inside the wires, would run round also, and when opportunity occurred would seize the dog's ears and keep pulling at them till Olga released herself. Notwithstanding these little disagreements, the dachshund appeared to miss Tiny, and went about the house as if seeking her. The parrot, too, seemed to regret the loss of the monkey, and efforts were made to cheer her drooping spirits, if possible.

 

Qualities of the Acetylene Light.—The method of producing acetylene, one of the most brilliant constituents of illuminating gas, by the simple action of water on calcium carbide has been mentioned in the Monthly. Great possibilities from the use of this method are foreshadowed by Prof. Vivian B. Lewes. The property possessed by calcic carbide of forming acetylene with water was accidentally discovered while working with the electric furnace to form an alloy of calcium. A mixture containing lime and powdered anthracite was fused down to a semi-metallic mass, which, proving not to be desired, was thrown into a bucket containing water, when a rapid effervescence took place, and the escaping gas burned, on the application of a light, with a smoky but luminous flame. This source of light can be produced by the exposure to the electric furnace of finely ground chalk or lime mixed with powdered carbon in any form. When the calcic carbide is placed in a glass flask and water is allowed slowly to drip upon it from a dropping tube, the decomposition begins at once with considerable rapidity, and the acetylene pours off in a continuous stream; as the decomposition continues, the solid mass in the flask swells up and is eventually converted into a mass of slacked lime. The value of this useful product may be deducted in computing the cost of the acetylene. For commercial purposes the carbide may be cast direct from the electric furnace into rods or cylindrical cartridges, which, when twelve inches long and an inch and a quarter in diameter, will weigh one pound and will give five cubic feet of gas. Acetylene is a clear, colorless gas, with an intensely penetrating odor which somewhat resembles garlic. The strong smell is a great safeguard in its use, and, when the quantity of the gas is dangerous, can not be endured. Hence, while poisonous like carbon monoxide, its use, on account of its odor, is much more safe. When burned it emits a light greater than that given by any known gas, its illuminating power, calculated to a consumption of five cubic feet an hour, being two hundred and forty candles. It being liquefiable with comparative ease, enormous volumes of it may be compressed in small wrought-iron or steel cylinders, in which it may be stored and from them burned as wanted. It should not be used with silver or copper, as it forms explosive compounds with their ammoniacal solutions. Advantage may be taken of the calcic carbide method of forming acetylene by putting sticks of the carbide coated with a slowly soluble glaze into cylinders containing water and attached to portable lamps. As the glaze dissolves from the surface of the stick of carbide, acetylene is generated, and the five cubic feet furnished by the stick are compressed by their own pressure, so as to supply through a suitable burner a light of more than twenty candles for about ten hours. The most immediate use contemplated by Prof. Lewes for acetylene is for enriching ordinary illuminating gas.

 

Cycling and the Heart.—Dr. B. W. Richardson represents cycling as differing from other exercises in that it tells primarily and most distinctly upon the heart. It produces at once a quickened circulation, though the riders may not be conscious of it; and this accounts for the astonishing journeys a cyclist can undertake, and his endurance as against sleep. Although the heart increases in action and sometimes undergoes enlargement, the author has never seen a rider embarrassed by overstrain of it, faintness, breathlessness, angina, or vertigo, so as to oblige him to dismount. Indeed, he had known a practiced rider who could climb a hill on his machine, but could not mount a flight of stairs on his feet without breathlessness and a slight palpitation; he had never seen a sudden death from cycling. He had met with instances in which, after several years of cycling, there was evidence of heart disease, with general languor and inability to sustain fatigue if exercise were again tried on the machine; and, on the other hand, he had known examples in which even an octogenarian had kept up the exercise in a moderate degree apparently with benefit to the circulation. He had seen in some cases apparent benefit arising from cycling even where there was an indication of some disease affecting the circulation, and had known good to arise from it in cases of varicose veins and of fatty degeneration, and in conditions of anæmia. In other cases excessive cycling had been a definite cause of injury to the circulation. The author believes that cycling in moderation may be permitted and even recommended to persons with healthy hearts; that it is not necessary to exclude it in all cases of heart disease, while it may be even useful where the action of the heart is feeble and signs of fatty degeneration are found; that, as the action of cycling tells directly upon the motion of the heart, the effect it produces on that organ is phenomenally and unexpectedly great compared with the work it gets out of it; that the ultimate action of severe cycling is to increase the size of the heart, to render it irritable and hypersensitive to motion; that the overdevelopment of the heart affects in turn the arterial resilience, modifies the natural blood pressure, and favors degenerative structural changes in the organs of the body generally; that in persons of timid and nervous natures the fear incidental to cycling is often creative of disturbance and palpitation of the heart, and should be taken account of; that, in giving advice, it is often more important to consider the peripheral conditions of the circulation than the central; that venous enlargement is often rather benefited than injured by cycling; and that straining to climb hills and meet head winds, excessive fatigue, and alcoholic stimulants should be avoided, and the proper number of meals of light, suitably selected food should not be neglected.