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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/878

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

nouncement with a kind of reserve, and remarked that the horny texture of the bill seemed to spread over these vascular papillæ much in the same manner as the enamel over mammals' teeth. Blanchard resumed the investigation in 1860, and found in certain birds, among them some parrots, formations imbedded in the jaws, which when microscopically examined presented considerable similarity in composition with dentine and in structure with teeth; and he concluded that those birds possessed a real dental system. Dr. Fraisse believes that papillæ are frequently present in the horny bill of the parrot, that they are rich in vessels and covered with a veneer of peculiarly adapted horn-cells which Blanchard took to be dentine, and which in microscopic sections have quite a resemblance to that formation; but that real teeth do not exist in birds. "Whether any first rudiments of teeth may have been the origin of the growth of horn-teeth is very doubtful; but in all probability the horn-teeth should be regarded as secondary formations." The teeth of the odontornithes, in which Professor Marsh has found dentine and enamel, are excepted from this conclusion.

 

Alcohol regarded as a Beneficial Agent.—Dr. William Sharpe, an English physician, has published a pamphlet in which he seeks to demonstrate that alcohol is a factor in human progress. Looking into the history of the subject, he finds that the vine and the product of the vine have been in olden times more intimately associated with man's intellectual growth and development than with his purely physical wants. The stimulus of alcohol, when judiciously controlled, "always leads to active and higher mental efforts on the part of individuals," thus producing a contrary effect to that of other stimulants, which tend rather "to bring about a contented state of dreamy inaction" and to repress effort. "To understand fully," he says, "the beneficial action of alcohol as regards mental development, we must first get a clear view of the value of those states of cerebral excitement which most people, though in varying degrees, experience something of, rising as they then do mentally above the level of what may be called their ordinary every-day thoughts. This is not difficult, if we bear in remembrance that it is during such periods of high mental activity, in which the mind, transcending the more circumscribed limits of reason, sweeps intuitively into the veiled and distant regions of universal truth, that all great conceptions arise and have arisen in times past, crudely at first it may be, but which, nevertheless, when reduced to order and embodied in works, have been of inestimable value to mankind. . . . The stimulus produced by alcoholic liquors, if not nearly of so high an order, is more easily called into play, while in a practical sense, the latent ability being present, it is more vigorous and effective as regards actual work. Hence the value of alcohol, as a stimulant, lies in the fact that it produces artificially and sustains temporarily that state of mental excitement or exaltation necessary to the conception and projection, though not to the detailed elaboration, of those enduring works that, whether in the domains of art, architecture, or engineering, are remarkable for boldness of execution, originality, and grandeur of design; and further, that it is the only manageable stimulant which, when used in moderation, and in the form of wine or spirits, is not only not injurious, but conduces to the general health, while it favors both mental and physical development." Dr. Sharpe also assigns to alcohol a beneficial agency in stimulating genial thoughts and feelings.

 

Japanese Lacquers.—The Japanese distinguish in lacquers between crude lacquer, which is obtained from the trunks of live trees and forms the basis of nearly all the mixtures used in making lacquer-ware; branch lacquer; and black lacquer, a preparation. The yield of branch lacquer is only about one per cent in comparison with that of other lacquers, while the proportion of ninety per cent is required in working. Hence a mixture is made of various kinds of lacquers, sea-weed jelly, finely grated sweet-potatoes, and as much soot as is needed to color the mass. Each manufacturer has his own special mixture, but the extraneous additions are believed not to injure the quality of the whole. True branch lacquer becomes extremely hard when dry; but, since when used alone it will not dry under some