Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 14.djvu/491

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mosphere. The visits of shooting-stars to the earth have been lately brought within the province of astronomy, and numbers of these bright objects, which take part in extraordinary showers, have been found to come from the tracks of certain comets. It would, accordingly, seem that cometary bodies have portions of their matter separated from them, and occasionally sent as meteors into the atmospheres of the planets. The dismemberment which, in such cases, is occasioned by the heat, and more rarely by the attraction of the sun, is analogous to that which planets would suffer in very narrow orbits; but it occurs on a scale infinitely smaller, and can never be productive of any very conspicuous results. The greatest exhibition of shooting-stars in our atmosphere could never be observed from any of the neighboring planets; and, if armies of meteors were sent from many systems to invade a single one, and had their orbits and positions, best arranged for a simultaneous charge on the atmosphere of one of its larger orbs, the light which they could produce would fail to exhibit the remarkable features observed in incipient brightness and the gradual decline of temporary stars.



THERE has ever lain a strange fascination, for culture and ignorance alike, in the attempt to diagnose the intellect and character of man from the outward manifestations of his face and skull. The problem of character and its interpretation is as old as Plato, and may probably be shown to be more ancient still. Egyptian soothsayers and Babylonian astrologers were hardly likely to have omitted the indexing of character as a profitable and at the same time legitimate exercise of their art. The forecasting of future events and the casting of nativities were studies likely enough to bear a friendly relationship to the determination of character from face, from fingers, or from skull and brain itself. But the histories of palmistry and soothsaying, with that of physiognomy, are they not all writ in the encyclopædias? We shall not occupy space with an historical résumé of the efforts of philosophy in swaddling-clothes attempting to wrestle with the great problem of mind and matter; nor shall we at present venture to oppose a scientific denial to Shakespeare's dictum that

. . . . there's no art

To find the mind's construction in the face.

Darwin's "Expression of the Emotions," the development of facial contortions, and the interesting study of the genesis of smiles and tears, and of the thousand and one signs which make up the visible and emo-