Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/392

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

shape of the jaw and the position and character of the teeth show that the animal was a small marsupial, allied to the existing opossums (Didelphidæ). The tooth preserved has the same general form as the corresponding molar of Chironectes variegatus (Illiger). The angle of the jaw is imperfect, but there are indications that it was inflected. The present specimen indicates an animal about as large as a weasel. It is of special interest, as hitherto no Jurassic mammals have been found in this country.

 

Threatened Outbreak of Vesuvius.—Mount Vesuvius is giving signs of an approaching season of great volcanic activity. A bulletin issued by Prof. Palmieri states that the new mouth, which opened at the bottom of the crater in 1872, and which has been more or less active since December 18, 1875, began on May 2d last to give indications of being still more active. The fire cannot be seen from Naples, as it is at the bottom of the crater, and only its reflection is visible on the smoke which rises from it. This reflection is of course greater when the bellows of Vulcan blow up a stronger flame. The smoke, which abounds in acids, mingled with rain-water, is extremely injurious to vegetation, particularly in the direction of Ottaiano, where the vintage has been destroyed for nearly two years. So long as the eruption continues to be central, a long time must elapse before the lava will roll down the sides of the cone, as the cavity of the crater is far from being full. But, should the cone be opened laterally by some extraordinary eruptive force, then the lava will pour out in a deluge.

 

The Organ-Piano.—Many are the devices that have from time to time been contrived for the purpose of giving to the notes of the piano the "sustained" character possessed by those of the organ. For whatever reason, none of these contrivances have hitherto met with general acceptance, and "organ-pianos" are as yet merely curiosities. But an instrument of this kind is now on exhibition in Paris, which appears to be of practical value, and for which there is already a good demand. There is a brief description of this "organ-piano" in Nature, from which we take the following particulars: In this instrument the "organ" or prolonged sounds are produced by a succession of extremely rapid hammer-blows. Besides the usual piano-hammers, the piano-organ has a series of additional hammers (one to each string), mounted on watch-spring levers, all of which are carried by a bar of brass lying across, but above and clear of, the strings. To this bar is attached a rocking lever which is set in very rapid motion by means of an apparatus worked easily by a pedal. The pianist works the pedal, and thus sets the transverse bar with its series of hammers into excessively rapid vibration. By holding down any key of the instrument, the string belonging to it is brought within range of its corresponding hammer, and is struck with corresponding rapidity, giving out what sounds at a short distance like one prolonged note, lasting as long as the pedal is worked and the key is kept down. In this way the performer can produce either piano or organ notes at will.

 

Sun-Worship among the Moquis.—Traces of sun-worship still exist among the inhabitants of the Moqui villages in Arizona. They have lost the substance of the antique religion, but they retain a portion of the ceremonial—the watching for the emergence of the day-god in the eastern horizon. But it is not the sun they now watch for, but Motecuhzuma (Montezuma), their Messiah, so to speak. Mr. Edwin A. Barber, in the American Naturalist, describes as follows the impressive scene witnessed every morning at dawn in the Moqui villages: "As the faint streak of red lights up the low horizon, tall, dark figures appear on the parapets of the seven Moqui towns "(a description of which was given in Vol. VI. of the Monthly), "and remain facing the dawn until the sun has appeared entirely to view. Then the muffled forms drop away slowly and sadly, one by one, for another morn has brought disappointment to the souls of many that have watched so eagerly and persistently for the coming of the great Montezuma. The routine of another Moqui day has commenced; all is bustle and life, and the subdued hum of household occupation floats out drowsily on the sullen, sultry air, and the sound of the hundred flour mills (metates), grinding steadily on every