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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/738

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

Flirtation in Battak-Land.—The Battaks are a people of common origin with the Malays and resembling them in many respects, who live along the western coast and in the interior of the island of Sumatra. The district chiefs form a confederation, the strongest one among them residing near the Toba Lake. They have enjoyed the advantages of civilization, are good agriculturists, have an original system of writing, and take care to have their children instructed in such arts and knowledge as they appreciate; and yet they eat enemies who are taken armed, and criminals of a certain class, and adorn their tombs with obscene figures. As sentimental people in Western countries practice in a "language of flowers," so the young people of either sex among the Battaks correspond by means of a language of leaves. The leaves themselves have no significance, but their names, modified, perhaps, within the bounds of poetic license, indicate or rhyme with the word which the correspondent wishes to suggest. Besides leaves, corals, bells, ants, and the figures of all sorts of objects are employed for the same purpose. Dr. Yan der Tunk, who has studied the Battak language, tells of another method of sentimental communication among them, by means of quatrains, which are called by them endes or umpana. In these the first two lines are suggested by the language of the leaves, which is employed to suggest their catchword. They, however, have no particular significance, but lead up to the second pair of lines, in which is embodied the sentiment that the lover wishes to express. To be expert in the use of these endes, it is necessary to know a considerable number of them by heart. The young maidens are usually better versed in this lore than the young men, and there are often in the Battak villages Bome who make a business of supplying and interpreting them. It is one of the customs of the people that girls, as soon as they reach a marriageable age, shall leave the houses of their parents and go to live with some other unmarried woman (a widow or grass-widow). A strict surveillance is pretended to be kept over them, which is usually more honored in the relaxation than in the exact observance; and they are by no means debarred the society of young men during this period, nor ignorant of the art of flirtation. While occupied here in weaving mats and making tobacco-boxes and sirih-bags, they teach one another the endes which they have learned from their grandmothers and other old women, and for retaining which their memories possess enormous capacities.

 

Atmospheric Tides.—The question of the tides similar to ocean tides that may be created in the atmosphere by the moon has engaged the attention of many physicists since Newton. The longest series of studies on the subject is that of Eisenlohr, which includes thirty-two thousand observations distributed through twenty-three consecutive years. The author concluded that a certain equalization of atmospheric pressure is produced during a revolution of the moon around the earth. According to M. Maurice Guist, a later observer, the equalization is not brought about by the movement of masses of air, but by a kind of expansion of the atmosphere, which only sets in motion distinct particles of the whole mass. Since, in this way, the density of the air at any given point does not change much during a revolution of the moon, the temperature and hygrometric condition are no more influenced; neither the barometer nor other meteorological instruments, therefore, give proof of an atmospheric tide, although, in other points of view, the influence of the moon may be well marked by the instruments. The action of the sun must be still weaker than that of the moon. The equalization of pressure, in this view, takes place the more easily as the difference is less between the augmentation and diminution of density. These conditions exist when the regions of less and of greater density are near one another. Thus the equalization can take place at the quadratures rather than the syzygies; or when the sun and moon are 90° apart their influence is not cumulative as it is at the syzygies. This is fully confirmed by observations. Every culmination of the moon is preceded, for any meridian, by a barometric height inferior to the mean, and is followed by a superior height. The increase of pressure after the culmination is explained by the fact that the atmosphere, not being so much sustained by the moon, bears more heavily upon the mercury in the barometer, while the inverse phenomenon