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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 36.djvu/834

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

body; but it is very irascible, and directly it is frightened it elevates the frill or ruff and makes for a tree, where, if overtaken, it throws itself upon its stern, raising its head and chest as high as it can upon the fore-legs, then, doubling its tail underneath the body, and displaying a very formidable set of teeth from the concavity of its large frill, it boldly faces an opponent, biting furiously whatever is presented to it, and even venturing so far in its rage as to fairly make a charge at its enemy." M. Mocquard says it is quite inoffensive. It is nearly three feet in length, including its very long tail, is of a tawny color, with mottles on the back and blackish rings on the tail. The teeth on its fringe have white ends, and at a distance look like pearls. It belongs to the family of the agamians, and is represented only by a single species, in Australia.—Editor.]

 

ALCHEMIST'S GOLD.
By M. A. DE ROCHAS.

"THE definite and unchangeable existence of sixty-six distinct elements, as we regard them now, would assuredly never have occurred to an ancient philosopher, or rather would have been dismissed by him as ridiculous: it had to be imposed upon us by the incontestable force of the experimental method. Is this, then, the final limit of our conceptions and hopes? Not at all; for really this limit has never been accepted by chemists except as a present fact, which they have always hoped to pass by."

This paragraph, quoted from Berthelot's "Origins of Chemistry," explains why so many distinguished men have spent their days in seeking the transmutation of metals. Did they find it? Excellent minds assure us that they did not, because, in spite of the infinitely more powerful forces we now have at our disposal, we have not been able to decompose any metal. Others maintain that the reasoning is not conclusive; for numerous industrial processes have been lost, and we knew how to convert alcohol into vinegar long before we could analyze either substance; and there is one element—time—which the moderns, with their intensive life, can not use as their predecessors did. Where is the man now who would bind himself down for years to make the projecting powder or the philosopher's stone—representing the hypothetical ferment of inorganic substances—or who could count enough upon the future to bequeath the continuation of his experiments to his heirs, as did the adepts of old?

There have been many alchemists who, notwithstanding the satirical definition of their art—"Ars sine arte; cujus principium mentiri, medium laborare et finis mendicare" ("An art without