Popular Science Monthly/Volume 6/April 1875/Miscellany
Capture of a Herd of Elephants.—A correspondent of Land and Water tells of the capture, in the Mysore district, India, of a herd of elephants, numbering forty-nine head. An irrigating canal winds through a dense jungle, at some points approaching a small river, at others stretching away from it into the jungle. In one place a bend of the canal forms, with the river, an inclosure in the shape of a horseshoe, containing about fifteen acres of wooded ground. To this place elephants resort during the monsoon, crossing the canal at three or four points where the banks have become trodden down by constant use. In order to trap the entire herd, two lines of chains were stretched across the river at the ends of the horseshoe, and a trench was dug on the river-bank to cut off escape on that side. The elephants having crossed into the inclosure, the fords were barricaded with cocoa-nut trees, the canal deepened at those places, and two deep trenches cut from the canal to the river. Fires were kept up at night on the banks of the canal Meanwhile a deep, circular trench was dug, inclosing about an acre of ground, and two parallel trenches were also dug, leading from the horseshoe to this small inclosure. Drop-gates were made to prevent the animals leaving this keddah when once they had entered it.
A large force of men were now directed to drive the herd into the keddah. The first attempt failed, the elephants stampeding back into the horseshoe after a few of them had entered the inclosure. A second effort was crowned with success. First came a female with her calf; then seven other females, and after a while on came the entire herd with a rush, males, females, and calves, of all sizes, "like a herd of rather large pigs, jostling and pushing one another through the gateway." When the last was in, down went the gate, and they were all secured. The catching of the elephants one by one was the work of several days. "The men ride in among them on tame beasts, and put ropes round their legs and necks, after which the tame elephants drag them out in spite of all resistance, and they are chained one by one to trees to be trained at leisure. They do not mind the tame elephants mixing with them at all, even with men on their backs, but they object strongly to the men on the ground, who have to put on the ropes. The clever way in which the tame elephants help is wonderful: they move close up to the wild ones, and understand how to put their legs so as to shield the men from all kicks; they take hold of the wild ones' legs and trunks with their own trunks, and are invaluable."
Habits of the Cotton-Worm.—According to Mr. Aug. R. Grote, the cotton-worm dies out every year, with its food-plant, and its next appearance is always the result of immigration. He has observed that the appearance of the worm in the cotton-fields is always heralded by flights of the moth. The worm is always heard of to the south-ward at first, and never to the northward of any given locality in the cotton-belt. Mr. Grote never could discover any traces of the insect in any stage during the months preceding the appearance of the first brood heralded by the moth, and after the cotton was above the ground. Hence he concludes that while the cotton-plant is not indigenous to the Southern States (where it becomes an annual) the cotton-worm moth may be esteemed not a denizen but a visitant, brought by various causes to breed in a strange region, and that it naturally dies out in the cotton-belt, unable to suit itself as yet to the altered economy of its food-plant and to contend with the changes of our seasons. Possibly in the southern portions of Texas, or in the Floridian peninsula, the cotton-worm may be able to sustain itself during the entire year. Its true home, however, appears to be the West Indies, Mexico, and Brazil, where the cotton-plant is perennial.
Coal in California.—Dr. J. C. Cooper, formerly connected with the State Geological Survey of California, made some interesting remarks at a late meeting of the California Academy of Sciences on the subject of California coal. The frequent reports in the newspapers of discoveries of valuable coal deposits in different parts of the State he characterized as misleading, not more than one in a hundred of such so-called coal-beds having any value whatever. Unlike the true coal of the carboniferous rocks formed from tree-ferns, algæ, and other plants of low organization, that of the Pacific coast contains the remains of coniferous and dicotyledonous trees, and belongs to the cretaceous rocks, or is of even later origin. It is the lignite of geologists. Many of the beds of this material are too thin to work, a thickness of two feet being the minimum that can be economically taken out. For all practical purposes this lignite in many localities is as good as the older coal, but the thinness of most of the beds makes them useless as sources of supply.
How the Amœba takes its Food.—Prof. Leidy has observed an amœba in the act of taking in its food, and, at a recent meeting of the Philadelphia Academy of Sciences, showed that these curious animals, at least in some instances, employ their pseudopods as instruments for capturing the minute creatures on which they prey. It has commonly been supposed that the amœba's food simply sticks to its body and "falls through" into the stomach-sac. Prof. Leidy saw the two pseudopods of an Amœba princeps gradually approach, come in contact, and then actually become fused—thus securing between them a flagellate infusorium. The infusorium continued to move back and forth, endeavoring to escape. "At the next moment a delicate film of the entosarc proceeded from the body of the amœba, and gradually extended outwardly, so as to convert the circle of the pseudopods into a complete sac, inclosing the infusorium."
A Fresh-water Sponge.—At a recent meeting of the New Jersey Microscopical Society, at New Brunswick, its Secretary, Prof. Lockwood, exhibited specimens of a fresh-water sponge, discovered by himself in a pond at Port Republic, New Jersey. The sponge grew in masses, covering several square yards of surface, with a thickness varying from an inch to two inches. It has a dichotomous habit of growth, and the sarcode, or sponge-flesh, was of an intensely dark-green color. It seemed quite closely related to the Spongilla fluviatilis. Some slides were shown with the spicules cleaned by treatment with boiling nitric acid. With a new lens of low power (seventy-five diameter), just made by George Wale, and of most excellent definition, the silica-spicules were finely brought out. They are cylindrical, curved, and pointed at both ends. They are limited to one form, and are arranged in little fascicles of about twelve spicules in each bundle.
A. Crum Brown on Chemical Theory.—In his address, as President of the Chemical Section of the British Association, Dr. A. Crum Brown defined chemical constitution as the order in which the constituents are united in the compound, and pointed out that the study of chemical changes (composition and decomposition) cannot lead us to a knowledge of the relative position of the atoms. But such a knowledge is required before a real theory of chemistry can be attained, and a knowledge of the intimate structure of matter may be looked for from an examination of the physical properties of substances, and a comparison of these with their chemical constitution. This, he maintained, is truly a branch of chemistry, and the greatest progress in it had been made by chemists, as might be proved by reference to the works of Faraday, Graham, and Andrews. By pursuing this branch, discoveries might be made which would lead to an hypothesis directly connecting chemistry with dynamics, and enabling us to apply mathematics directly to chemistry. The theory of chemistry would then be a particular case of the theory of dynamics. Such a result must be expected by all who believe in the progress of human knowledge and in the consistency of Nature.
Changes attending the Process of Germination.—In the course of their researches on germination, Messrs. Dehérain and Landrin have discovered that, when moist seeds are kept for two or three days in a closed tube above a column of mercury, the volume of air decreases even before carbonic acid has made its appearance. Moist seeds have, therefore, the property of condensing gases after the manner of porous bodies. But no gas can lose the aëriform state without at the same time giving up some of its latent heat; and it is precisely this disengaged heat which raises the temperature of the oxygen to such a degree that it begins to attack the tissues of the seed, and to awaken the life which lay dormant in it. The authors hold the mechanism of germination to be as follows: 1. Softening of the seed-envelopes by water; 2. Penetration of gases and disengagement of heat; 3. Alteration of the principles contained in the seeds by the heated oxygen. A memoir, giving full details on this subject, will shortly appear in the "French Annals of the Natural Sciences."
Marvine's Survey of Western Colorado.—From a letter of a New York Times correspondent, we take the following notes of the survey of Western Colorado, by Marvine's division of Hayden's exploring party: The most interesting section visited was the high mesa lying near the head of the White River. This mesa is nearly 1,000 miles in extent, and has an average altitude of about 12,000 feet. A large portion of it is a lava-bed, with innumerable lakes scattered over its whole extent. The influence of these lava-beds on the climate of this section is very marked. The party reached the mesa about the middle of September; it was almost enveloped in clouds; there were about four inches of snow, and the thermometer was down to 6°. The clouds lay on the mesa for weeks, though in the valley it was clear. On the east the mesa descends in precipitous slopes to the flats in Egeria Park; on the west the great lava plateau gradually falls and becomes well timbered, chiefly with spruce; the lava-top ceases, and is replaced by the sedimentary rocks rising from beneath it. The White River country, lying north of the mesa, constitutes the Ute Indian Reservation, and is described by Marvine's party as a grand hunting-ground, with game in abundance, plenty of water and timber, and large areas of fertile soil. It is the best portion of Colorado west of the Parks. The country in Egeria Park, east of the mesa, abounded in a great variety of beautiful wild-flowers, and raspberries of rich flavor. Mr. Barber, the botanist of the party, secured a large and rare collection. Toward the western limit of the region explored, excellent coal began to appear, with the promise of much beyond.
Voelcker on the Quality of Milk.—Dr. Voelcker, who holds high rank in England as an agricultural chemist, asserts that, owing to the natural variations in the quality of milk, it is utterly impossible, in all cases, to ascertain whether a small quantity of cream has been removed from milk, or an inconsiderable proportion pf water added to it. As the result of his own experience, he states that milk may be considered rich when it contains 12 per cent, of solid matter, of which 3 or 31⁄2 are pure butter. If it contains over 121⁄2 per cent, of solid matter, and has 4 per cent, or more of fat, it is of extra-rich quality. Good milk, of fair average quality, contains from 101⁄2 to 11 per cent, of dry matter, including about 21⁄2 per cent, of pure fat. Poor milk contains 90 per cent, or more of water. If milk is both skimmed and watered, it yields less than 4 per cent, of cream, and its specific gravity is about 1.025. A great many experiments have led the author to the conclusion that, within certain limits, the specific gravity is the most trustworthy indicator of quality. Some of the objections to the use of hydrometers are based on the mistaken opinion that cream is lighter than water. It is lighter than milk, but, compared with water, it is as 1.012, or even 1.019 to 1.000. A low specific gravity thus always indicates a large proportion of water. From sundry observations, it appears that good, pure milk has a specific gravity of 1.030, skimmed milk being a little lighter; and, further, that milk with a specific gravity below 1.025 is either mixed with water, or is naturally very poor. A useful instrument for approximately determining the percentage of cream is a graduated glass tube, at the top of which the cream may be allowed to collect, and its quantity may be read off.
The Royal Society of Great Britain.—The origin of the English Royal Society is related as follows in the "Memoirs of the French Academy." We give the passage as translated in Nature: "Full fifty years had elapsed (in 1666) since the learned men who lived in Paris began to meet at the abode of Father Mersenne, who was the friend of the most learned men in Europe, and was pleased to be the centre of their mutual visits. Messieurs Gassendi, Descartes, Hobbes, Roberval, Pascal (father and son), Blondel, and some others, met at this place. The assemblies were more regularly held at M. de Montmort's, Master of Request in Parliament, and afterward at M. Thevenot's. A few foreign visitors to Paris were present at these meetings.... It is possible that these Paris assemblies have given birth to several academies in the rest of Europe. However, it is certain that the English gentlemen who created the Royal Society had traveled in France, and had visited at Montmort's and Thevenot's. When they were again in England they held meetings at Oxford, and kept on practising the exercises to which they had been accustomed in France. The rule of Cromwell was beneficial to these meetings. These English gentlemen, secretly attached to their legitimate lord, and unwilling to take any part in public affairs, were very glad to find an occupation which would give them an opportunity of living far from London without being suspected by the Protector. The Society remained in this state up to the time when Charles II., having resumed the kingly office, brought it to London, confirmed it by his royal power, and gave it privileges. So Charles II. rewarded the sciences which had lent an easy pretext for keeping the faith toward him."
Vitality of Seeds.—Two years ago a few peas, in a very dry and hard state, were found in a sarcophagus containing a mummy, in the course of certain excavations going on in Egypt. The idea was conceived of testing the vitality of these peas, buried as they had been for thousands of years. Three of them were planted, which grew and produced enough to cover, in the year following, a considerable field. Some of the stalks reached a height of more than six feet, and attained a size which was altogether extraordinary, and a strength which rendered them self-supporting. The flowers were white and rose-colored, and of delicious freshness. The pods were grouped on either side of the stalk, in a sort of circular zone toward the top, and not regularly distributed throughout the plant, as in the common pea. It is believed by those who have examined this ancient pea and tested its edible qualities that it belongs to the family of the ordinary pea of our gardens, but that it is a special variety distinguished by the characteristics above mentioned in regard to the form of the stalk and the disposition of the pods.
In corroboration of the fact that seeds will retain their vitality for an indefinite period when embedded deep in the earth, Prof, von Heldreich, of Athens, Greece, states that on the removal of the mass of slag accumulated in working the Laurium silvermines, some fifteen hundred years ago, a quantity of a species of glaucium, or horn-poppy, has made its appearance; and, what is remarkable, it proves to be a new and undescribed species to which the name Glaucium serpieri has been given. Prof. Niven, of the Hull Botanic Garden, England, in further corroboration of the same fact, mentions several instances of extraordinary vitality of seeds, from his own observation, and remarks that, "Doubtless the absence of air, an equable and unvarying condition as regards moisture and temperature, and above all the complete neutralization of the physical influence of the sunlight, constitute the means by which Nature exercises a preservative power in seeds as astounding as it is interesting."
To the above might be added the fact so well known to the farmers of Monmouth County, New Jersey, that the green-sand marl sown upon lands almost sterile "brings in white clover" (Trifolium repens) where it was not known before.
Recent Observations of the Planet Venus.—Some eight years ago Prof. C. S. Lyman communicated to the American Journal of Science a brief notice of some observations made on Venus when near her inferior conjunction in 1866. So far as appears, the planet was then for the first time seen as a very delicate luminous ring. An opportunity of repeating these observations presented itself on the occasion of the recent transit, and Prof. Lyman has another communication upon the subject in the same journal. "On Tuesday, December 8th," he writes, "Venus was again in close proximity to the sun, and the writer had the satisfaction of watching the delicate, silvery ring inclosing her disk, even when the planet was only the sun's semi-diameter from his limb. This was at 4 p. m., or less than five hours before the beginning of the transit. The ring was brightest on the side toward the sun—the crescent proper. On the side the thread of light was duller and of a slightly yellowish tinge. On the northern limb of the planet, some 60° or 80° from the point opposite the sun, the ring for a small space was fainter and apparently narrower than elsewhere. A similar appearance was observed on the same limb in 1866. The morning after the transit the sky was slightly hazy, and the planet could not be found. On the day following (the 10th) the crescent, extending to more than three-quarters of a circle, was seen with beautiful distinctness in the 9-inch equatorial, and on this and two subsequent days measurements were taken with the filar micrometer for the purpose of determining the extent of the cusps, and consequently the horizontal refraction of the atmosphere of the planet. These observations give a mean of 44'.5 as the horizontal refraction of Venus's atmosphere, or about one-quarter greater than that of the earth's. Six measurements of the diameter of the planet on the 10th give 63".1. Twenty-four on the 11th give 63".'75."
Blondeau on the Causes of Disease.—In the Moniteur Scientifique for November there is a very ingenious essay, by Dr. C. Blondeau, on the causes of disease, in which the author endeavors to show that morbid states are always the result of disordered cellular function. His argument is substantially as follows: The cell exists before the organized being, virtually includes it, and survives it after the play of its organs has been arrested. Hence, in order to understand the phenomena of the organization, we must study the cell which, when its functions are not disordered, is the primary cause of life and motion, but, when they are interfered with, of death. During life, every thing depends on the cell—when the animal respires, the cell acts the chief part in that function; when a muscle contracts, it is the muscular element, the cell, that feels the action of heat and causes the muscle to move. The same is to be said of nervous and glandular action. In a word, the life of the organism is simply the resultant of the life of the cells, their individual existence being coördinated to subserve a perfectly definite object. When this coördination is interfered with, we have disease. And hence, if we would reestablish the equilibrium, we must remove the obstacles which hinder the cell in the discharge of its functions; but to this end we must understand the nature of the agents which so interfere with its functions. These agents are all the poisons, whether organic or inorganic—whether viruses or mineral substances. The remedies to be employed, therefore, are counter-poisons, also derived from these two kingdoms. Innocuous viruses introduced into the animal economy may neutralize the dangerous effects of those which are toxic, just as certain mineral salts may destroy the disease-germ without endangering the life of the patient. Thus the germ of small-pox is neutralized by vaccine virus, and the syphilitic virus by the salts of mercury.
When it has been demonstrated that disease is the result of disordered cell-secretion, then medicine will rest upon a scientific basis. But, so long as we persist in regarding the human body as a mechanism set in motion by the same forces which act upon inorganic substances, we shall never be able, says the author, to explain the action of poisons on the organism. Until it is admitted that the blood is, for the most part, composed of organized living cells, that these cells act the principal part in forming and maintaining all our organs, and that they may undergo modifications which lead to serious maladies, we shall never be able to trace the disturbances occurring in the economy to any certain and definite cause, or to discover the proper remedies.
Tree-Planting in Towns.—The American Garden makes an earnest plea for the planting of trees in the streets of cities, as a sanitary measure. Growing plants assimilate the carbon of carbonic acid, discharging its oxygen into the atmosphere. The respiration of men and animals and the consumption of fuel load the atmosphere with carbonic acid, and the only means of destroying that poisonous gas is found in plant-agency. Hence, if the atmosphere of a city were to be inclosed within impermeable walls, and there were no growing plants within the inclosure, the air would quickly become irrespirable. But of course the air is nowhere thus walled about, and hence the deleterious gases it contains are dissipated and carried away by the unceasing movement of the atmosphere to other regions where an abundant vegetation may deprive it of its carbonic acid. Still, there is no doubt that this purification of the air is accelerated by the presence of vegetation in the cities themselves. The writer in the Garden asserts that "Paris has now so large a number of parks, and its streets and boulevards are so profusely planted with trees, that the death-rate has been thereby reduced from one in thirty-four as it formerly was, to one in thirty-nine as it now is."
But trees are further of service in shading gutters and road-ways, thus materially retarding and preventing the action of the sun in producing noxious fermentation. Then, too, the roots of the trees take up large quantities of such matters as are washed by the rains into the interstices of the pavements. Besides these direct sanitary benefits, we must also take note of the comfort derived from the shade of the sidewalks. Last, though not least, the beauty of our cities would be greatly enhanced by the planting of trees in the streets. The author recommends the planting of the sunflower on the Harlem flats of this city. By this means the poisonous gases arising from the decaying garbage used for filling these flats would be neutralized far more effectually than by the application of either "injunctions or disinfectants."
Magnetism and the Imagination.—Dr. Volpicelli, in a communication to the French Academy of Sciences, describes certain experiments made by him to determine whether a magnet can have any influence upon persons of nervous constitution. The first person experimented on was a patient of the hospital Santo Espirito, in Rome, whom the sight of a magnet was sufficient to throw into convulsions. Volpicelli brought with him a simple piece of unmagnetized iron; this, however, produced all the effects attributed to the magnet. The second experiment was made on a person similarly affected with nervous disorder. Volpicelli placed a magnet in this person's hand, and soon the super-excitation was such that it had to be taken away. A few days later the subject of this experiment presided at a meeting of scientific men. All unknown to him, magnets had been introduced into his chair, into the drawer of his table, under his feet—in short, all around him. The meeting lasted for two hours, and, at its close, on being asked how he felt, he declared that he was perfectly well. "It appears to me," continues Dr. Volpicelli, "that these two experiments are sufficient to prove that magnetism has no effect upon the nervous system, and that the cause of the effects produced by the presence of a magnet is to be attributed only to the imagination. As I have shown, if we bring one or more powerful magnets near to a patient without his suspecting their presence, no appreciable effect is produced. For the physiologist, the most interesting circumstance connected with these experiments is the diversity of effects produced by the imagination in nervous subjects when they see a magnet, or suppose the presence of one. The diversity of these effects will, perhaps, lead to the discovery of some new truths."
A Lost Species rediscovered.—How sad the idea of the loss of a species! Suppose our robins were reduced to a single living specimen? When inevitable death should come, the going out of that one individual life would be the extinction of its race forever. There is the typical fact of the disappearance of the dodo. And at home we have the equally remarkable fact of the extinction of that noble shore-bird, the great auk. It is now fifty-five years since Major Long's expedition returned from the Rocky Mountains, bringing many unknown forms of life. Of this expedition Thomas Say was chief zoologist. Among the many new species was one especially of the Cicindela, or tiger-beetles, those beautiful insects which have always been favorites with the entomologists. Say described, and named it Cicindela limbata. At that time the Rocky mountains were almost the ultima Thule of Western adventure. The same region now is wellnigh the geographical centre of the West, and has been the field of much good work by naturalists. However, that insect, although most assiduously looked for, was never found, and belief had nearly settled down that Say was in error about his new species, or that the species had become extinct. Unfortunately, Say's collections were all long ago destroyed, and only his published description of the species remained.
In the current number of Psyche, E. P. Austin says: "Last summer, while engaged on the survey of the north boundary of Nebraska, I visited one of the numerous hills of drifting sands with which a large part of that section is covered, when I saw a cicindela fly up, which was evidently quite different from any thing I had ever seen before; on following it, it lighted on a steep slope of bare sand, where, after some exertion, I succeeded in capturing it. By going over the sand, I saw others, and during the time that I remained in that vicinity—about an hour—they increased in frequency, a circumstance which I thought due to disturbing them in their hiding-places by trampling the sand."
On his return East, Austin worked the insect out; and lo! it was the long-lost species, Cicindela limbata of Say.
The rediscoverer says: "It may appear singular that the species should have remained undetected so long; but owing to its small size and great activity, as well as because it probably is confined to the barren sand-hills, which are not promising regions to collect in, it is evident that, but for its accidental discovery, it might have remained undetected much longer."
Economizing the Heat of Waste Steam.—Mr. Spence lately exhibited in London his plan for the employment of waste steam as a substitute for fuel. This method is founded on a discovery made by the father of the inventor, and announced by him to the British Association in 1869, viz., that steam liberated at atmospheric pressure, and passed into a saline solution having a boiling temperature higher than that of water, raises the solution to its own boiling-point. Thus, as Mr. Spence showed experimentally, if we take a nitrate-of-soda solution, which boils at 250°, and blow into it steam at 212°, the temperature of the solution will be raised to 250°, the steam condensing and yielding its heat. Mr. Spence uses the solution of caustic soda, both on account of its high boiling-point, and because it does not act injuriously upon iron. The exhaust steam will raise this solution to a temperature of 375°, and the heated solution is then circulated through pipes in an ordinary boiler, and its heat is radiated, for the purpose of generating steam in the place of heat derived from fresh fuel. If the boiler is at a pressure of 30 pounds, the solution will leave it at a temperature of 250°, so that 125 degrees of heat would have been yielded to the water. The solution having been to some extent diluted by the condensation of the exhaust steam, its capacity for heat will be correspondingly reduced; and, if steam at 212° were again blown through it, it would not reach the same temperature as before. It is therefore passed into another boiler of ordinary construction, where it takes the place of water, and is concentrated by steam being generated from it; and in this way its capacity for receiving heat is restored.
Mr. Spence maintained that, if, by taking advantage of his father's discovery, a mode of utilizing the large amount of latent heat contained in the steam now thrown into the atmosphere could be brought into practical operation, so that this latent heat could be made to do actual work, the discovery would be one of enormous value, and he announced his intention of speedily trying the experiment on a manufacturing scale.
Reproduction of Burnt Records.—M. Rathelot, an officer of the Paris law-courts, has succeeded, in an ingenious manner, in transcribing a number of the registers which were burnt during the Commune. These registers had remained so long in the fire that each of them seemed to have become an homogeneous block, more like a slab of charcoal than any thing else, and, when an attempt was made to detach a leaf, it fell away into powder. Many scientific men had examined these unpromising black blocks, when M. Rathelot hit upon the following method of operation: In the first place, he cut off the back of the book so as to leave nothing but a mass of leaves, which the fire had caused to adhere to each other. He then steeped the book in water, and afterward exposed it, all wet as it was, to the heat at the mouth of a calorifère; the water, as it evaporated, raised the leaves, one by one, and they could be separated, but with extraordinary precautions. Each sheet was then deciphered, and the copy certified by a legal officer. In this way the records of nearly 70,000 official acts have been saved. The appearance of the pages was very curious—the writing appeared of a dull black, while the paper was of a lustrous black, something like velvet decorations on a black-satin ground, so that the entries were not difficult to read.
Sonorous Sand.—There was recently presented to the California Academy of Sciences, by W. R. Frink, of Honolulu, a specimen of "sonorous sand" from the island of Kauai, one of the Hawaiian group. In a letter accompanying the specimen, Mr. Frink states that the bank from which this sand was taken commences at a perpendicular bluff at the southwest end of the island, and extends a mile and a half almost due south, parallel with the beach, which is about 100 yards distant from the sandbank. The latter is about sixty feet high, and is constantly extending to the south. At the extreme south end, and for half a mile north, if you slap two handfuls of the sand together, a sound is produced like the hooting of an owl. If a person kneels on the steep incline, and then, with the two hands extended and grasping as much sand as possible, slides rapidly down, carrying all the sand he can, the sound accumulates till it is like distant thunder. "But the greatest sound we produced," says Mr. Frink, "was by having one native lie upon his belly, and another take him by the feet and drag him rapidly down the incline. With this experiment the sound was terrific, and could have been heard many hundred yards away."
The sand of Jebel Nagus, a hill lying to the west of the mountain usually called Sinai, in Arabia, possesses similar properties. According to Captain H. S. Palmer, an English traveler, it gives out musical sounds whenever it is set in motion. The sound produced "is neither metallic nor vibratory. It might be compared to the sharpest notes of the Æolian harp, or to the sound caused by forcibly drawing a cork over wet glass. When at the maximum intensity it may be heard at a considerable distance."
Dr. James Blake, of the California Academy of Sciences, has investigated with the microscope the structure of the Kauai sand, and states that the grains are chiefly composed of small portions of coral, and apparently calcareous sponges. They are all more or less perforated with small holes, mostly terminating in blind cavities, which are frequently enlarged in the interior, communicating with the surface by a small opening. The structure of the grains, Dr. Blake thinks, fully explains the reason why sounds are emitted when they are set in motion. The mutual friction causes vibrations in their substance, and consequently in the sides of the cavities; and, these vibrations being communicated to the air in the cavities, the result is sound. There are, in fact, millions upon millions of resonant cavities, each giving out a sound which may well acquire a great volume, and even resemble a peal of thunder. The sand must be dry, however, in order to produce sound; for, when the cavities are filled with water, the grains are incapable of originating vibrations.
Prof. Wurtz on the Order of Nature.—Prof. Ad. Wurtz, in his address as President of the French Association, referred as follows to the ultimate questions of science: "With regard to matter, it is ever and everywhere the same, and the hydrogen of our earth's water we trace in our sun, in Sirius, and in those nebulae which are still unformed worlds. Everywhere is motion, too; and motion, which appears inseparable from atoms which constitute matter, is the origin of all physical and chemical force. Such is the order of Nature; and the deeper Science searches into her mysteries, the more clearly it evolves the simplicity of the means used, and the infinite diversity of results. Thus, from under the edge of the veil which we are enabled to lift, a glimpse is revealed to us of the harmonious plan of the universe. As for primary causes, they remain beyond the ken of man's mind; they lie within another domain which man's intellect will ever strive to enter and search. So is man constituted, and such he will forever continue. In vain does science reveal to him the physical structure of the universe and the order of its phenomena: he will Strive onward and upward in his innate instinctive conviction that things have not within themselves their sufficient cause, their foundation and origin; he is gradually led to subordinate them to a primary cause, a unique and universal God."
Reported Discovery of Living Moas.—A report is published in an Auckland newspaper, of October 3d, of the finding of two live moas at Browning Pass, New Zealand. The story runs that one R. K. M. Smyth, on September 26th, while hunting, saw his dog set off suddenly at a great pace, barking furiously. He followed, and soon saw two large birds, one of gigantic height, the other smaller. Seeing the dog getting the worst of the fight, Smyth ran back and called his mate to assist him. They got a leather rope, and, under shelter of a small patch of bush, got behind the larger bird and roped it at the first cast. He then took a turn round a birch tree with the rope. The large bird did not show fight to any great extent, and the smaller one remained quietly by it. After this they had very little trouble to secure the legs of the large bird, and they left it fastened to the tree two days, the young one making no effort to leave its mother. With the assistance of some shepherds the old bird was taken to the camp, the young one following. The old bird is eight feet high, and the young one five feet. The story needs confirmation: it is almost too good to be true.
How Migration changes Man.—We are indebted to Rev. I. T. Beman for a copy of an address delivered by him on the "Moulding Influences of Migration upon the Human Family," particularly as exhibited in certain Yankee settlements in Southern New Jersey. The author points out the physical differences existing between these Jerseymen and New-Englanders, as follows: "The complexion of the Yankee is blond, that of the Jerseyman dark. The Jerseyman's face is more reposeful than the Yankee's, less variable in expression, and presents a heavier physiognomy. His hair is more abundant, darker, and coarser. The Yankee has smaller jaws, more slender neck, rounder chest and limbs, more arching instep, etc. As regards mental traits, the Jerseyman is slow of thought, the Yankee quick, inventive. Yet these two populations are sprung from one original stock; circumstances have made them unlike. And the same results will be produced again in the descendants of the Vineland immigrants." "Within three generations," says the author, "the essentially Yankee character of Vinelanders will disappear, and many peculiarities of our New-Jersey neighbors, somewhat remodeled, will be grafted upon our descendants."
Prof. Marsh on the Lake-Basins of the West.—In a memoir by Prof. O. C. Marsh, on "The Ancient Lake-Basins of the Rocky Mountain Region," published in the American Journal of Science, the formation of these basins is traced back to different epochs of Tertiary time on the evidence afforded by the fauna peculiar to each. The oldest of these Tertiary lake-basins are of Eocene age. The first discovered and best known of these Eocene lake-beds is the Green River basin, lying between the Rocky Mountains and the Wasatch range, in the depression now drained by the Green River. The fauna entombed in this Eocene lake indicates a tropical climate—tapiroid mammals, monkeys, crocodiles, lizards, serpents. The author cites, as an example of the Miocene basins, an ancient lake-bed lying north of the Black Hills. The fauna here discovered indicates a climate much less tropical than that of the Eocene lakes, as is seen in the absence of monkeys, and scarcity of reptilian life. At the close of the Miocene a subsidence took place east of the Rocky Mountains. A great Pliocene lake was thus formed directly over the Miocene basin just mentioned, having nearly the same boundaries on the north and west (Black Hills and Rocky Mountains), but extending much farther east, and stretching south nearly to the Gulf of Mexico. The fauna of this lake-basin indicates a warm temperate climate. The more common mammals are a mastodon, rhinoceros, camels, and horses, the latter being especially abundant.
Insect-catching Plants.—Mr. William M. Canby communicates to the American Naturalist some observations on the Drosera filiformis, or thread-leaved sundew, which confirm and supplement the observations of other naturalists on the manner in which the leaves of that plant capture insects. At 7 a. m. he placed bits of the common house-fly on sundry leaves of the drosera, near their apices, and, twelve hours later, not only had the glandular hairs around bent toward and touched the atoms of fly, but also in every case the leaves themselves had bent over them, the inflection being about 17°. There were other leaves in the vicinity which had themselves captured flies: many of these were much more bent, undoubtedly from having held the prey a longer time. In one case the leaf had curled round the prey so as completely to encircle it.
Extermination of the Thistle.—The Berlin correspondent of Land and Water publishes a piece of information that will be welcome to many a farmer. "Who ever knew," says he, "of two plants being so inimical to one another as one to kill the other by a mere touch? This, however, seems to be the case when rape grows near the thistle. If a field is infested by thistles, give it a turn of rapeseed, and this plant will altogether starve, suffocate, and chill the thistle out of existence. A trial was being made with different varieties of rapeseed in square plots, when it was found that the whole ground was full of thistles, and nobody believed in the rape having a fair run. But it had, and as it grew the thistle vanished, faded, turned gray, and dried up as soon as the rape-leaves began to touch it. Other trials were then made in flower-pots and garden-beds, and the thistle always had to give in, and was altogether annihilated, whether old and fully developed, or young and tender."
Food of the Bongos.—The Bongos, a negro tribe on the Upper Nile, are represented by Schweinfurth as being very indiscriminate feeders. Among them rats and field-mice are esteemed delicacies. The pursuit of these animals is a favorite occupation of the children, who tie them together by the tails in dozens, and carry on a lively barter in them among themselves. But a still greater delicacy is cat-flesh. The children place, in the narrow paths through the tall grass of that region, traps of bamboo, with living field-mice for bait. In these they catch cats. The Bongos, indeed, eat meat of all kinds, except human flesh and the flesh of dogs. They make no objection to meat that is in an advanced state of decomposition; it is then more tender, and, besides, is more nourishing, more strengthening than fresh meat. "Whenever I had cattle slaughtered," says Schweinfurth, "I saw my bearers eagerly contending for the half-digested contents of the stomach, after the manner of Esquimaux, whose only supply of vegetable food seems to come from the contents of the reindeer's paunch. They would even strip off the amphistomous worms which literally live in the stomachs of all cattle in this region, and, without more ado, put them raw into their mouths by the handful. After this, it could no longer surprise me to find that the Bongo reckons as game every thing that creeps or crawls, from rats and mice to snakes, from the carrion vulture to the mangy hyena, from the great fat earth-scorpion to the caterpillar, or the winged termite with its oily, mealworm-like body."