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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/290

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

bly, however, a play upon names is connected with these conditions; and the dance called the tarantella, which is in great favor in Italy, may have derived its name in the same way as the great spider, simply from the fact that it is indigenous to the Tarentine province. The tarantula insect will bite, like any spider, when it is trodden upon; but that its bite is more dangerous than the sting of the hornet has not been proved. It is still customary in Apulia to make one dance who thinks he has been bitten by a tarantula. Waldemar Kaden relates that he was disturbed once by the noise of music and dancing, and that looking out he saw a youth, who was supposed to have been bitten while asleep in the field, going through the performance. The poor fellow was in the center of a circle of persons of all ages, held by the collar and arms by a strong peasant, and compelled to make the motions whether he would or not, while the crowd kept him excited with their shouts and clapping. The great point to be gained was to make him sweat, and, when this was brought about, the crowd rejoiced and gave him a glass of wine. The only mark on the youth was a red spot on the forehead that might have been a scratch. He had never seen a tarantula, and felt no pain or uneasiness, and was out at play an hour after the dance. Herr Kaden inquired of the people how many of them had been tarantolati. Not one of them had ever seen a tarantula, but they had all danced!—Die Natur.

 

The British Association.—The meeting of the British Association for 1883 was held at Southport, beginning September 19th. The President for the year was Professor Cayley, whose address on the "Obligations of Mathematics to Philosophy, and to Questions of Common Life," though it may have been to minds trained in mathematical modes of thought an admirable presentation of the subject, was far too abstruse to be capable of popular adaptation. Professor Ray Lankester opened the Biological Section with an address, urging greater liberality on the part of the state in encouraging the prosecution of biological studies. He drew a comparison decidedly unfavorable to England with what is done in this line on the Continent, especially in Germany, and, dwelling on the practical utility of such studies, declared that forty new biological institutes, requiring a capital sum of about two millions sterling, were needed in England. The section suggested the foundation of a marine laboratory at some point on the British coast, as a suitable object to which the surplus of funds anticipated from the Fisheries Exhibition could be applied. Dr. Gladstone's address in the Chemical Section was on "The Elements," and covered the history of the theories that have prevailed and the knowledge that has been gained on the subject; and showed that we have much yet to learn upon it. Among the more important papers read in this section was that of Professor A. W. Williamson, "On the Constitution of Matter." Professor W. C. Williamson, as Vice-President, gave in the Geological Section "a clear and concise exposition" of our present knowledge of the carboniferous flora. By the doctrine of evolution, there must have existed prior to the Devonian period, when the cryptogams were flourishing in wonderful grandeur, and distributed all over the earth, a vast succession of forms of vegetable life; yet hardly a vestige of this pre-Devonian flora has been unearthed; and it is clear that we are not yet in a position to construct a genealogical tree of the vegetable kingdom. Colonel Godwin-Austen addressed the Geological Section on the orography and geology of the Himalaya Mountain system; and Mr. Trelawney Saunders explained the scheme for connecting the Mediterranean with the Red Sea by means of a navigable canal through the valley of the Jordan. A communication was received in this section from Mr. Stanley, advising the establishment of a British protectorate over the Congo. Mr. Pengelly, of the Anthropological Section, having the discoveries in Kent's Cavern as his subject, adduced new evidence in favor of the belief in glacial or even pre-glacial man. Professor Henrici, in the Mathematical Section, spoke of the position of the study of geometry in England. In the Mechanical Section, Mr. Brunlees, engineer, traced the growth of mechanical appliances for the construction and working of railways and docks. In his address he referred to the assistance Mrs.