Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/295

This page has been validated.
281
POPULAR MISCELLANY.

of the cases, and usually affects both feet alike, but appears rather more frequently in women than in men. Pressure of the shoes has been assigned as a cause of it, but it has been observed in children under seven years old, and even in embryos as often as in adults, and in circles where tightly fitting shoes are not worn. Dr. Pfitzner, who has made a special study of the subject, has come to the conclusion that the little toe is in process of degeneration, and that without its being possible to show that it is suffering an adaptation to any external mechanically operating influence. Corresponding to this, certain processes of reduction are going on in the muscular apparatus. The whole phenomenon is of interest, because we are witnessing its beginning, and can certainly predict its outcome in the final reduction of the little toe to two joints.

 

The Exact Point of the Pole.—If any of our arctic explorers ever reach the pole, they will be confronted by a very difficult problem in determining the exact point. Geographical determinations increase in difficulty on approaching the pole, on account of the narrowing of the degrees of longitude, and the compass, sextant (if the weather is cloudy), and chronometer are of little use then. A process for taking the point at the pole has been described by M. E. Durand Gréville, which depends on the properties of the gyroscope. The apparatus consists of two gyroscopes and a plumb-line. To determine the latitude a gyroscope which has been oriented by its axis to the pole of the sky—or a gyroscope-compass—is employed. The angle which its axis makes with the vertical of the place is complementary to the latitude. To determine the longitude, a second gyroscope is needed, which has been adjusted so as to turn in a plane parallel to the meridian of the point of departure. The plane of the gyroscope-compass being necessarily parallel to the equator, if we project the vertical of the place upon it, and measure the angle which that projection makes with the line of intersection of the planes of the two gyroscopes, we shall have the difference in longitude of the point of departure and the point of arrival. A practical arrangement for taking this measure has been devised by M. Trouvé. Before starting, the travelers set in motion the gyroscope-compass and the gyroscope whose plane is the meridian of the point of departure. When the position of a point is to be determined, the axes of the two gyroscopes are conveyed parallel to themselves, and the vertical of the point reached is taken with a plumb-line. If the axis of the gyroscope-compass is parallel to the plumb-line, the balloon is immediately above the pole. The result is not affected by height above the earth's surface, for the directions of the three instruments continue the same at all points of the same vertical.

 

Canadian Names and Places.—Dr. George M. Dawson observes, in his Geography of Canada, that throughout the country many of the original Indian names of places have been adopted and perpetuated by the whites, but in most cases they have suffered abbreviation or other changes in the process. In general the native names are found to be of a descriptive character, and to express some noted feature or product of each locality. Taking instances from different parts of the country and in several dialects, Nictau means "forks of a river"; Shediac, "running far back"; Matapedia, "roughly flowing"; Quebec, "a strait or an obstruction"; Toronto, "a tree in the water"; Winnipeg, "muddy water"; Saskatchewan, "rapid current." It is further noteworthy that in many cases the principal villages or places of resort of the Indians have since become the sites of towns or cities. This depends on the circumstance that the whites first sought such places for purposes of trade, but chiefly on the fact that the Indians selected localities where natural lines of travel, such as rivers, converged, or were interrupted by falls or rapids, necessitating portages; also such places as sheltered havens or harbors on the sea-coast or the shores of the Great Lakes.

 

Vegetation of New Guinea.—So great a wealth of botanical material has been collected in New Guinea that there are now as many of the higher plants of that country known to science as of German plants, or about two thousand. Inasmuch as the component parts of the forest change in extraordinarily short distances, it may be expected that at least three times as many species will