Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/296

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annual rainfall, about two thirds, or eighteen inches, are evaporated from the surface, while of the remaining third, four inches serve to maintain the river systems, and five inches pass away as floods and freshets. As the amount of evaporation is nearly a constant figure, and the quantity required to maintain effectually the river system necessarily remains the same under all conditions, the amount of flood or excess of water greatly varies. To make good the loss of this surplus water, the author proposes that whenever the water in the river rises above a certain datum height recognized as the gauge of its full service, the excess shall be diverted out of the river-course on to filter-beds formed near at hand. The outlet from these filter-beds would be steined shafts or sumps sunk down to the water-level beneath, and into them the filtered water would pass after it was freed from flocculent matter. The steined shafts would be made water-tight and sealed against all surface contamination.


Monopolies.—In a British Association paper on "The Growth of Monopoly, and its Bearing on the Functions of the State," Prof. H. S. Fox well pointed out that, whereas the general expectations of Adam Smith and his contemporaries were that the reforms they advocated would introduce an era of free competition and abolish monopoly, a century's experience had shown us that they had merely shifted the basis on which monopoly rested, and given it a secure seat. Liberty had not led to equality. Competition was a transitional, not a permanent stage. It merely substituted for monopoly based on privilege monopoly based on natural selection. All the most characteristic tendencies of the age favor the growth of monopoly. Monopolies thus arising were free from many of the defects of the old monopolies, and presented advantages over a state of unmitigated competition. But they had their special dangers, and required appropriate forms of state control. There need be an extension of the objects and principles of state control as generally indicated by Adam Smith and Mill. Whatever might be the case under a competitive system, monopolies could not be wholly self-regulating. The modern question was no longer between laissez faire and legislation, but between regulation and collecticism.


The Telephone Two Hundred Years ago.—How rare it is to discover anything that is entirely new is freshly exemplified to us in what Robert Hooke wrote about what has become the telephone, as far back as 1664, or two hundred and twenty-four years ago. He said: "And as glasses have highly promoted our seeing, so it is not improbable but that there may be found many mechanical inventions to improve our other senses, of hearing, smelling, tasting, touching. 'Tis not impossible to hear a whisper a furlong's distance, it having been already done; and perhaps the nature of the thing would not make it more impossible, though that furlong should be ten times multiplied. And though some famous authors have affirmed it impossible to hear through the thinnest plate of Muscovy glass, yet I know a way by which it is easy enough to hear one speak through a wall a yard thick. It has not yet been examined how far octocoustics may be improved, nor what other ways there may be of quickening our hearing, or conveying sound through other bodies than the air; for that is not the only medium. I can assure the reader that I have, by the help of a distended wire, propagated the sound to a very considerable distance in an instant, or with as seemingly quick a motion as that of light; at least, incomparably swifter than that which at the same time was propagated through the air; and this not only in a straight line, or direct, but in one bended in many angles."


The Destructive White Ant.—There is something terrible in the destruction which the white ant, or termite, is capable of inflicting on whatever articles of wood it attacks. There is, at the South Kensington Museum, what is left of a heavy, square door-lintel of teak-wood, after the ants had operated on it at St. Helena. It was reduced to a mere skeleton of the heart-wood, looking like a gnarled and knotty smaller limb. Mr. John R. Coryell relates, in the "Scientific American," that he once, in southern China, attempted to have a large hard-wood chest filled with books removed. When the men tried to lift it by the iron handles, it all crumbled and fell to the floor, a heap of dust and splinters; and the books were in the same condition. The ants are