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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 29.djvu/132

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Messrs. Editors:

PROFESSOR MÖBIUS says, in "The Popular Science Monthly" for December, that "flying-fish are incapable of flying, for the simple reason that the muscles of their pectoral fins are not large enough to bear the weight of their body aloft in the air."

If they are incapable of flying, then they do not fly; so there's the end on't. But, if they really do fly, they are capable of flying; and the argument is as good in this case as in that. In both we must look to the facts.

Passing out of the harbor of San Pedro one day, the steamer came into a school of fish. Being the first I had ever seen, I watched thorn with great interest. Their flight was often several hundred feet—farther than a strong man can throw a stone—describing a gentle curve at its highest part only a few feet above the water. The velocity was nearly uniform, gently accelerated for a few seconds after leaving the water, and correspondingly retarded before entering it again..

Now, every one of these facts is inconsistent with the single-impulse hypothesis. It is simply impossible that a fish could acquire under water, or just at leaving it, a velocity that could carry it so far after passing into the air. The resistance of water against a body moving rapidly is so great that a bullet soon spends its force when passing into it. To suppose that a fish could strike the water with its fins with such force as to carry it several hundred feet in the air, is to suppose an unsupposable case; and certainly to refute the charge that "the muscles of their pectoral fins are not large enough" for flight. A stone thrown from the hand describes a parabolic curve. The fish moves nearly horizontally. The initial impulse must be immensely greater that could carry it, without any apparent falling, several hundred feet—so great that no strength of muscle could be equal to it. Again, the resistance of the air can not be inconsiderable, and the velocity of flight, if acquired from a single impulse, should be retarded from the moment of leaving the water; but, as before stated, the contrary is true. It does not always move in a straight line; but this could be true on either hypothesis, the fish using the tail-fin as a rudder. The distance of flight, the nearly horizonal line described, and the nearly uniform velocity, would be simply impossible on the single-impulse hypothesis, but are entirely consistent with the supposition that the fish actually flies.

The pectoral fins of the flying-fish are very large, and shaped like the wings of a bird. Their motion, while in the air, is that of flying, not of mere fluttering.

Possibly the above facts may be of some use in settling the reputation of the flying-fish.Isaac Kinley.

Los Angeles, California.




Messrs. Editors:

Public attention having been largely drawn to Professor Huxley's article on "The Interpreters of Genesis and the Interpreters of Nature" (republished in "The Popular Science Monthly" for February), I ask the privilege of saying a few words, in reply to that portion of his paper which particularly interests believers in the Bible. No doubt but he is right as to the order of life set forth by Mr. Gladstone. I think, too, he is justified, at least to some extent, in his protest against the readiness of "reconcilers" to change their explanations, and to force new meanings on the Hebrew to meet the exigencies of science.

After his protest, Professor Huxley turns from Mr. Gladstone to what he supposes to be the story in Genesis. Of course, we turn to our Bibles to see for ourselves. I think every opponent of revelation will agree that it is fair to try the story, not by what others have said, but by its own words. And I would propose as a sufficiently severe working hypothesis the following rule of interpretation: The story means what it says, We shall not add to it nor take from it, and its words shall be taken each in its ordinary sense as determined by lexicon and grammar. As a corollary, I add, the account is not responsible for what its friends or foes have said it says—unless it be found there; and that omission is not denial. Tins rule seems rigid enough to remove the reproach of Professor Huxley in his New York lecture—"One can but admire the flexibility of the Hebrew language." The third proposition of Professor Huxley's paper, "the central idea of this story, the maintenance of which is vital, and its refutation fatal," that on which they—the theologians—"are surely prepared to make a last stand," is this: "The animal species which compose the water-population, the air-population, and the land-population, originated during three distinct and succes-