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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/154

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

the topmost twig of the tree as he squatted on the ground. But the partridge said: "Friends, there used to be another banyan tree. One day, after eating of its fruit, I voided a seed here. Hence this tree." So they agreed, the story continued, to honor and reverence the partridge, as he was the oldest, and he trained the others in obedience to the Five Precepts. Thenceforward they lived together in so beautiful a harmony that it became a proverb, and was known as "the beautiful life of the partridge." And they all three went, after death, to heaven. The story accords with the general idea among the ancients that the birds were of very old lineage.

 

Asphalt and Petroleum in Venezuela.—A part of the department of Colon, in Venezuela, is very rich in asphalt and petroleum. At one place a thick bitumen is ejected from the mouth of a cave, in globules which explode with considerable noise. The place called the infernito, or little hell, is a mound of sand, from twenty-five to thirty feet high, on the surface of which are numerous holes of different sizes, whence petroleum and hot water are ejected with a noise equal to that caused by two or three steamers blowing off at once. Considering the immense amount of inflammable gases that accompany such flows of petroleum, it is suggested that something of the kind may be connected with the Taro of Maracaybo—a constant lightning without thunder, which is observed from the foot of the bar at the entrance to the lake. Croppings of asphalt and coal appear at the foot of the mountains in the department of Sucre; and near the mountains is a flow of a black liquid, distinct from asphalt or petroleum, and apparently identical with a substance which occurs among anthracite deposits.

 

Habits of Turtles.—Turtles are described as sleepy creatures that rest at intervals throughout the day and become abnormally active at night. When asleep they lie upon the bottom of their habitat, with their heads downward and eyes closed, and are not easily disturbed. Their weight is considerable, and precludes theta from moving constantly in the water; and, as a rule, when swimming they keep near the surface, and stretch their heads out, in order to gulp in air readily. Upon land they are helpless, almost as powerless as the seal in a similar situation. They capture their prey with great agility, for, with their long necks, they can thrust their heads forward very rapidly. The head, fin, and tail are independent of the shell, and move freely, but can not be drawn wholly under the shell, like those of the tortoise. Turtles, especially young ones, are very pugnacious, and fight by striking their adversary's head with their fins and biting. Mr. Carter, of the British National Fish-Culture Association, thinks it practicable to propagate them artificially. The eggs should be placed in sand, heated from beneath by water-pipes to a constant temperature of 70° F., which could be raised in the daytime to 100° by concentrating the temperature from without. The young turtles will seek for water at once, and this should be provided, warmed to 100°. While propagation in this way might be profitable, it would not be easy to domesticate the animals to our cool latitudes.

 

Influence of Antiseptics on Foods.—It has become common in trade to apply antiseptics to perishable foods, in order to preserve them, salicylic acid being probably the most used. It is important to ascertain what the effect of the addition is upon the quality of the food, and upon the digestive functions. Lehmann has shown that salicylic acid does not usually contribute any injurious quality to food, but apprehends that the indiscriminate use of such substances may be dangerous. Experiments have been made in our Department of Agriculture to determine what effect in retarding digestion may be possessed by such substances as salicylic acid, boric acid, sodium acid sulphite, saccharine, beta-naphthol, and alcohol. It was found that salicylic acid prevents the conversion of starch into sugar under the influence of either diastase or pancreatic extract, but does not very seriously interfere with peptic or pancreatic digestion of albumen. Saccharine holds about the same relation as salicylic acid. Sodium acid sulphite and boric acid arc practically without retarding effect. Beta-naphthaline interferes decidedly with the formation of sugar by diastase, but not with the action of pancreatic extract