Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/882

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

The Pygmies.—Dr. Emin Bey gives in a recent number of Petermann's "Mittheilungen" some later notices of the Akkas, the pygmy race discovered in Africa, and first described by Schweinfurth. They are a hunting people, divided up into numerous tribes that do not mingle with one another. They have no fixed abodes, but wander around in the countries of the Monbutte and the Amadi. When a small society of them sojourns temporarily around the settlement of some chief, they build little huts for the married ones, while the unmarried satisfy themselves with mere shelters from the sun. Usually they live in the groves that line the streams, which afford them game and good hiding-places. The chiefs provide them with grain and roots, and take their pay in the proceeds of the hunt. The Akkas are vengeful and dangerous when offended, and are skilled in the use of the bow and arrow. Emin Bey's measurements gave heights of between four and four and a half feet for full-grown Akkas. The color of their skin varies from a clear yellow to a glistening red. The whole body is covered with a thick, stiff, filthy growth of hair. A disposition of the skin to wrinkle, peculiarly observable in the eyelids, makes them look much older than they are.

Origin of Fires in London.—The statistics of fires in London for the thirteen years, 1870-'82, state the origin and nature of 22,262 fires, of which ten per cent attained serious proportions. The most fires were started in private houses, but they were the least dangerous ones, for only 2·4 per cent of them became serious, while in such establishments as saw-mills, furniture ware-rooms, rag-stores, and builders' shops, more than one fourth of the fires were destructive. No particular influence of seasons in promoting or diminishing the danger of fires appears from the London reports, where the difference in the number of outbreaks in the several months is comparatively small and irregular, but in agricultural districts the most fires seem to take place in July and August. According to the facts presented by Mr. W. G. McMillan, in a lecture before the Society of Arts, the distribution of fires over the hours of the day seems to be governed by a distinct and well-defined law. The curves illustrating the hourly distribution, through several years, show a remarkable symmetry and a wonderful agreement in general form. The most outbreaks occur between eight and nine in the evening, whence the numbers fall somewhat rapidly to a minimum at between six and nine in the morning. Thence the curves rise gradually to the evening maximum. By far the greatest number of the fires recorded originated in the use or abuse of light-and heat-giving apparatus. The most prolific source of danger still appears to be the candle, less dangerous than when the old-fashioned, spark-emitting tallow-candles were in use, but still operative by means of the ease with which it may be set under a shelf or carried within reach of light drapery. Surrounding the candles with tall shades like lamp-chimneys is recommended as a precautionary device. Petroleum is, with due precautions, a safe fluid, but there are other burning-fluids, and some kinds of petroleum, that are highly dangerous. Coal-gas is entirely safe, except from the danger of leaks at the joints of the pipes, which may be guarded against; but all burners should be fixed, else they may be carelessly brought within reach of drapery. Many fires are caused by carelessness in throwing away matches after they have been used. Directly and indirectly, artificial heating is responsible for a large proportion of fires. It operates through sparks shot out from open grates; through defects in flues; through the proximity of wooden beams and planks to flues, steam-pipes, or register-furnaces; and through carelessness in disposing of hot ashes. The red fire used in theatres is very liable to spontaneous combustion; plumbers sometimes allow their portable furnaces to set fires; and the sun shining through a body so shaped as to act as a lens to concentrate its rays, has been known to set papers on fire. Water is still the cheapest and most effective extinguisher; and other agents in use are good in their way. Gypsum, used as a plaster and in concrete, is an excellent fire-proofing material. Wood may be made uninflammable by painting it with asbestus; by impregnating its fibers with such substances as tungstate or silicate of soda, or