Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 36.djvu/883

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heart-beat, and increases the arterial tension. In times of exertion and fasting it wards off the sense of mental and physical depression and exhaustion. The author has not gained positive results respecting its therapeutic qualities. Its action in purifying water is mechanical, and not more effective than that of other mucilaginous seeds.

Raining Spiders' Webs.—Falls or showers of gossamer spiders' webs have been recorded in different parts of the world. White describes several in his "Natural History of Selborne." Darwin mentions a shower which he observed from the deck of the Beagle off the mouth of the Rio Plata, when the vessel was sixty miles from land. A general fall of spiders' webs is said to have been noticed a few years ago in some of the towns of Wisconsin, which seemed to come from over the lake. The webs were strong in texture, very white, varied from sixty feet in length to mere specks, and were seen as far up in the air as the power of the eye could reach. The shower may have been due to an unusual excursion of the familiar geometric spider, a species which has the same power as the gossamer of shooting webs that float upon the air, and sometimes serve aa an air-raft for the producer.


The scientific courses at Indiana University, of which our contributor, David Starr Jordan, is president, include departments of physics, with classes in physics proper, physical measurements, and meteorology; chemistry, with qualitative and quantitative analysis, special work, and water analysis; geology, with mineralogy, topographical geology, and field-work; zoölogy, with many classes, including theories of evolution, the critical study of Darwin's "Origin of Species," and original research; and botany, with six classes and advanced and original work in the senior year on a special subject. Since it was opened 3,816 students have been taught in the college departments of the university.

"Cocoanut day" is celebrated in most parts of India during the full moon in August. On that day numbers of nuts are thrown into the sea as an offering to the Hindoo god. Occasionally one meets with deformed nuts, consisting of the husks with small nuts having no kernel inside. The natives attribute this blighting to the tree-frog, which, by smelling the flower, can prevent the fruit from coming to maturity. A curious survival of customs was illustrated in Lisbon some days after the funeral of the late King Luis of Portugal. A funeral procession, composed of officers, military, and citizens, marched through the streets to places where platforms covered with black cloth had been erected. Four shields, on which were painted the royal arms, were borne aloft on long staves. On arriving at the platforms, the principal persons took their places upon them; one of the shield-bearers, advancing to the front and chanting, "Weep, Portuguese, for your king, Dom Luis I, is dead," dashed his shield to the ground with such violence that it was shattered. This was repeated at each platform, while the bells were tolled during the whole ceremony. The proceedings were closed with a requiem service.

At the recent annual meeting of the Rational Dress Society, Viscountess Harberton, the president, said that during the past year she had hardly met with any expressions of approval from women with regard to their present system of dress. Most of the remarks she had heard had been denunciatory of the weight, discomfort, or dragging, or—particularly from young women—the cold when evening dress was worn. This was cheering, because it marked a growing realization of the uncomfortableness of present costumes. In the speaker's opinion, the only hope of reform lay in a radical change to some kind of dress having the clothing for the legs dual; it should clearly follow the shape of the form it was meant to cover.

According to Mr. R. Andree, our Indians use rising smoke as a means of giving signals, and have a system of alternately smothering the column and letting it rise freely for transmitting different messages. A similar method is used in New Guinea and Australia. The great variety of the messages communicated by drums in the Cameroons and other parts of Africa have been described in the "Monthly." The Gallas, south of Abyssinia, have drums stationed at certain points of the roads leading to the neighboring states, at which watchmen are appointed to sound the alarm in case of threatened invasion. In New Guinea the natives learn from the rapidity and rhythm of the blows on drums what is happening—whether an attack, death, or a festival.

The opinion is expressed by Mr. Elliot, in his last Meteorological Report for India, that the period of minimum sun-spots is associated in that country with the largest and most abnormal variations of meteorological conditions and actions. Thus the snow was exceptionally heavy in the northwest Himalayas in the winters of 1866, 1876, and 1877. The most striking and disastrous famines have also occurred near the minimum sun-spots, as those of Orissa in 1866, Behar in 1874, and Madras in 1876-'77. So,