Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 12.djvu/137

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It has been found by Lechartier and Bellamy that zinc is constantly present in appreciable quantities in the liver of the human subject and of many lower animals. It also occurs in hen's-eggs, in wheat, barley, and other grains. These facts are of interest for forensic medicine.

It is to be hoped that the following lucid "directions for the formation of the letter n" are not a fair sample of the kind of instruction given in public schools throughout the United States: "The letter n is one space in height, three spaces in width; commence on the ruled line with a left curve, ascending one space, joined by an upper turn to a slanting straight line, descending to the ruled line joined angularly to a left curve, ascending one space, joined by an upper turn to a slanting line, descending to the rule joined by a base, turn to a right curve ascending one space."

Land that has been flooded by the sea is generally barren for years afterward. According to a German chemist the cause of this barrenness is the presence of an excess of chlorine salts; such land has a tendency to remain damp, and there is a formation of ferrous sulphate, which is highly injurious to plants. The land should be drained as quickly as possible, sown with grass or clover, and allowed to rest.

La Nature cites the great age of an orange-tree in the gardens of the Versailles Palace as an illustration of the longevity of that species of plants. This ancient tree, known as the "Grand-Connétable de Francois I.," and also as the "Grand-Bourbon," has now stood more than four hundred and fifty years. It is sprung from some seed of the bitter-orange sown in a plant-pot, at the beginning of the fifteenth century by Eleanor of Castile, wife of Charles III., King of Navarre. Several plants were produced from the same lot of seeds, and they were all kept in one box at Pampeluna till 1499. In 1684, more than two hundred years after being first grown from the seed, these orange-trees were taken to Versailles. The "Grand-Connétable" is in all probability the oldest orange-tree in existence; it is still in a very healthy state, and does not appear to suffer from the effects of age.

The coal of the Placer Mountains coal-mines in Arizona Territory possesses, according to Prof. Raymond, the hardness, specific gravity, fixed carbon, and volatile matter, of anthracite; it ignites with difficulty, but burns with intense heat. The supply is declared to be "inexhaustible."

A correspondent of the Bulletin of the Nuttall Ornithological Club narrates in that journal an instance of the persistency of a house-wren in nest-building. The nozzle of a pump in daily use was repeatedly found to be obstructed with sticks, which on investigation proved to be nest-building material taken in by a wren. One morning the bird was allowed to carry on its work for two hours, and then he had filled the pump so full that water could not be obtained until a part of the sticks had been removed. The nest was three times destroyed before the bird abandoned his work.

The belief that fish is specially adapted to feed the brain, and that fish-eaters are therefore more intellectual than the average, does not find much favor with Dr. Beard. He says that this "delusion is so utterly opposed to chemistry, to physiology, to history, and to common observation, that it is very naturally almost universally accepted by the American people. It was started," he adds, "by the late Prof. Agassiz, who impulsively, and without previous consideration, apparently, as was his wont at times, made a statement to that effect before a committee on fisheries of the Massachusetts Legislature. The statement was so novel, so one-sided, and so untrue, that it spread like the blue-glass delusion, and has become the accepted creed of the nation."

On the question whether birds hibernate, we have received from Mr. L. S. Abbott, of Reading, Michigan, a communication in which he states an observation made by himself, which goes to show that at least some birds do hibernate. While living in the backwoods of Ohio, our correspondent often noticed the swallows toward evening circling around the top of a sycamore-tree, in the hollow of which they would soon disappear. To determine whether the birds remained within the tree during the winter, Mr. Abbott had the tree cut down some time after the beginning of the cold season. The swallows were found within, clinging to the shell of the tree, stiff, motionless, and to all appearance in a state of suspended animation. The tree was hollow from the ground up, and the swallows were attached to the shell along its whole length.

A singular instance of heredity is recorded in a note from M. Martinet to the Paris Academy of Sciences. In 1871 several chickens on a farm held by the author were affected with polydactylism, having a supernumerary claw. This had been transmitted to them by a five-clawed cock raised on the same farm a year or two before. The type was propagated rapidly until in 1873 an epidemic ravaged the poultry-yard. At present, without any selection, this variety is very numerous; it has been propagated