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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/149

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139
POPULAR MISCELLANY.

tion of morality, health, and culture; (3) interference, not with a view to the economic production of wealth, but with a view to its more equitable distribution (this is often spoken of as "socialistic" or "semisocialistic"); (4) interference on the ground that certain industrial classes are found by experience not to take sufficient care of their private economic interests (this is sometimes spoken of as "paternal legislation"), e. g., restrictions on freedom of contract between landlord and tenant. The same phrase is also applied to (2). As leading cases of class (6) may be noted—(1) where for the production of a certain utility or avoidance of detriment, a combination is required of which the value largely depends on its universality—e. g., protection of lands against floods, protection of useful animals against certain diseases; (2) especially where the combination of a large majority increases the interest which the minority have in standing aloof—e. g., abstinence from certain times, places, or instruments in fishing or hunting for the sake of future supply; (3) where a branch of industry, for technical or other reasons, has a tendency to fall under the conditions of monopoly, total or partial—e. g., provision of gas in towns; (4) where, from the nature of the required utility, its producers could not be remunerated adequately in the ordinary way by free exchange of their commodity—e. g., utility of forests in relation to climate or scientific discoveries; (5) where the process of exchange which would be required to remunerate a certain social service, would seriously detract from its utility, from waste of time or otherwise—e. g., provision of roads and bridges; (6) where government is peculiarly adapted to produce the kind of utility required—e. g., if what is required is security, as in the case of savings-banks, or uniformity, or stability of value, as in the case of currency. It is not argued that government necessarily ought to interfere in all cases that come under these headings; only that the general economic argument for laissez-faire falls away in such cases, wholly or to a great extent, or is balanced by strictly economic considerations on the other side; and that it is important to bear this in mind in discussing any particular practical case.

 

The Luminous Organs of an Insect.—Dr. Dubois has investigated the light-emitting organs of the cucuyo, or Pyrophorus noctilucus. They are three in number—two prothoracic and one ventral. The prothoracic plates give a good illumination in front, laterally, and above, and serve when the insect walks in the dark; when it flies or swims, its fine abdominal lantern is unmasked, throwing downward an intense light with much greater range. The insect seems to be guided by its own light. If the prothoracic apparatus is quenched on one side with a little black wax, the cucuyo walks in a curve, turning toward the side of the light. If both sides are quenched, it walks hesitatingly and irregularly, feeling the ground with its antennæ, and soon stops. The light gives a pretty long spectrum from the red to the first blue rays; is more green than the light of Lampyris noctiluca, and is capable of photography, but does not develop chlorophyl. No distinct electric action could be traced to the organs. The luminosity does not depend upon oxygen, for it is the same in pure oxygen, in air, in pressures under one atmosphere, and in compound oxygen. The organs are still brilliant when separated from the body, but the power of emission appears to depend upon a supply of water, and it is recoverable, after thorough drying, upon putting the organs again in water. Dr. Dubois found that the photogenic substance is an albuminoid, soluble in water and coagulable with heat, it entering into contact with another substance of the diastase group; part of the energy liberated appears as light.

 

The Drying up of Siberian Lakes.—Mr. Yadrintseff has furnished the St. Petersburg Geographical Society with evidence, consisting of notes of surveys, and maps made at four different periods, that the lakes in the Aral-Caspian depression have dried up within the last hundred years "at a speed which will surely appear astonishing to geographers." Lake Chany, the largest of the three principal lakes, has much diminished in size. Whole villages have grown on the site formerly occupied by Lake Moloki. Of Lake Abyshkan, which had a length of forty miles from north to south, and a width of seventeen miles, in