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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/734

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

taken near enough to the epicentrum to be disturbed, as above assumed, to be equal to 24,000,000,000 foot-pounds. The speed of transmission of this disturbance has been pretty well determined by Newcomb and Sutton to be approximately three miles per second, so that a cubic mile would be disturbed in one third of a second. To do this would require 130,000,000 horse-power. Assuming that an area about the epicentrum 100 miles square was thus disturbed, the energy would be that of 24 10·13 foot pounds, and the rate of its expenditure would be that of 1,300,000,000,000 horse-power."

 

Volcanic Explosion in Japan.—The district of Hibara Mura in Japan was visited on July 15th with a volcanic outburst of most singular character, which may be compared for violence with the recent catastrophes of Krakatoa and the Tarawera district of New Zealand. The whole of Mount Baudai, a peak nearly five thousand feet high, one hundred and fifty miles north of Tokio, was blown up, just as a steam-boiler might be, by the explosion of the vapors accumulated in the recesses beneath it. A number of villages were ingulfed, with all their inhabitants, estimated at about five hundred. The region was inundated by torrents of mud; and showers of dust, which was red at first and afterward turned gray, fell over a wide extent of country. The catastrophe, according to the accounts of witnesses who survived it, was marked with the accompaniments of fearful earth tremors, detonations which were said to sound like the firing off of all the artillery in the world at once, and a total darkening of the air for several hours. At one point a river was dammed up by the flow of mud, so as to form a considerable lake. The scene of the catastrophe was visited soon after the event by a scientific commission appointed by the Government, whose report has been published by Mr. W. K. Burton, of the Imperial University. In the view of this commission, the phenomenon differed from usual volcanic eruptions in that it left no traces of fire or lava. It was simply a violent explosion of steam. That the mountain was underlain by beds of hot water has always been indicated by the existence of hot springs on its slopes. The explosion carried off all the middle part of the mountain, including the central peak; it took a sidewise rather than a vertical direction, and scattered its débris to a depth of from three to thirty metres, and in one or two instances three hundred metres, over an extent of about sixty square kilometres. A remarkable feature of this disbursement is the steepness of the piles of matter in some places.

 

Sacred Trees of Japan.—Not the least engrossing element in researches into the flora of Japan is encountered in the traces of tree-worship here and there to be detected. In Shinti the hi-no-ki, the sun or fire tree (Chamæcyparis obiusa), is the sacred tree of predilection; the temples being constructed exclusively of this wood, even to the tiles and nails, or pegs; and from time immemorial the sacrificial fires have been kindled with drills made of hi-wood—whence perhaps its name. At the great bonzeries of Nikko, or sun-splendor, so named in the ninth century, the shrines of the Shoguns are surrounded by sugi-trees, the Japan cedars (Cryptomeria Japonica), which measure twenty feet in girth, and run to one hundred and twenty feet in height, contributing not a little to the force of the Japanese saying, "If you haven't seen Nikko, you mustn't say marvelous." The shii oak, or Quercus cuspidata, is also chosen for the environs of temples, perhaps because of its dense foliage, and quantities of its acorns are eaten at religious feasts. The beauteous icho, the Gingko biloba or Salisburia adiantifolia—also called the maidenhair-tree, from the resemblance of its leaves to the fern of that name—is also a sacred favorite. One at the foot of the staircase of the great temple at Kamakura measures twenty feet round. The Japanese consumed the almonds of this tree at religious festivals. And in northern Japan, wherever Shinto prevails, there are hallowed trees encircled with a rice-straw rope which bears tassels at intervals. The Japanese are in the habit of driving nails into the rotesu or Cycas revoluta, which yields the Japanese sago. This, they say, at the present day, is to push on vegetation; but your thoroughgoing comparative religionist is bound to detect in this survival the similar piaculum of the early Latins, records of which can be traced to the four hundred