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Littell's Living Age/Volume 130/Issue 1684/Miscellany

The Physiology of Hearing. — The Berlin Journal of Chemistry is responsible for the following facts, which it gathers from a medical journal. It states that Herr Urbantschitch calls attention to the fact that if a watch be held at a little distance from the ear, the ticking is not heard uniformly, but there is a swelling and diminishing of the sound. If held at such a distance as to be scarcely audible, the ticking will come and go, being at times perceived distinctly, but at times becoming wholly inaudible, as if the watch were being moved to and from the ear. This variation in perception is not always gradual; it is sometimes sudden. The same holds good for other weak sounds, as that of a weak water-jet, or a tuning-fork. Since breathing and pulsation have not the least influence on the phenomenon, the interruptions of the sensation must be attributed to the organ of hearing itself; our ear is unable to feel weak acoustic stimuli uniformly, but has varying times of fatigue. To decide finally where the peculiarity lay, M. Urbantschitch made both ear-passages airtight and applied a tuning-fork and watch to the head. The sounds seemed not continuous, but intermittent. The cause must therefore be in the nerves of hearing.

Mr. Alexander Agassiz, in his recent trip to Peru, found occasion to conclude that the Pacific, within a comparatively recent time, extended through gaps in the Coast Range, and made an internal sea which stood at a height of not less than twenty-nine hundred feet, and probably much above this. This is proved by the fact of the occurrence of coral limestone twenty-nine hundred or three thousand feet above the sea level, about twenty miles in a straight line from the Pacific. The corals are of modern aspect, although the species are undescribed. The fact that there are extensive saline basins at a height of even seven thousand feet on the coast of Peru would seem to indicate that the submergence was at one time still greater than that suggested. Indeed, eight species of Allorchestes, a salt-water genus of amphipod crustaceans found in Lake Titicaca, would seem to indicate that this lake, twelve thousand five hundred feet above the sea, must have been at one time at the sea-level.


Winds of Spitzbergen. — In the Austrian Journal for May 15 we have an abstract of a paper by Dr. Wijkander, published in the Ofversigten of the Swedish Academy. He points out that the most remarkable phenomena of the storms in the Arctic seas is their irregularity, vessels on different sides of a large floe having different winds, all blowing hard, while inside there is calm. The Swedes at Polhem had few storms in spring, the Germans at Pendulum Island had as many as in winter, owing to the proximity of open water. The path of the storms was generally southerly, and one remarkable feature was the warmth and dryness of the southerly winds at Polhem, partly due to the fact that the air must have passed over the high land of Spitzbergen, and warmed itself in descending to the sea-level. The same circumstances are noticed with the warm south-east winds of Greenland.