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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/295

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POPULAR MISCELLANY.

begin? Not even, I think, with the first appearance of gregarious animals. It is found at the point where parents first begin to care for their feeble offspring. . . . We may go back further yet—much further. It is an application of the same principle essentially unchanged when the organic cells, which are in the lower organisms independent beings, first unite in filaments to form an aggregate of the second order, each cell giving up a part of the strength with which it could carry on a rivalry with its comrades, for a power of co-operation which makes the aggregate far better able to sustain itself than as many separate rival cells could ever be."

 

The Biloxi Indians.—The title Biloxi, as applied to the Biloxi Indians of Louisiana, said Mr. J. Owen Dorsey, in a paper read at the American Association, was probably a corruption of the name they gave themselves. Lakes or Lakeau, meaning the first people. They lived in 1669 at Biloxi Bay, Mississippi. In 1763 they moved to Louisiana, where their number has been reduced to seventeen. Descent among them is in the female line. A Biloxi can not marry his wife's brother's daughter or his father's wife's sister, wherein they differ from the Sioux, but a Biloxi man can marry his deceased wife's sister, and a Biloxi woman can marry the brother of a deceased husband. They believed that the spirit of a deer revived and went into another body, and this could be repeated thrice; but when the fourth deer was killed the spirit never revived again. The thunder being is very mysterious and must not be talked about in cloudy weather, but only on a fair day, when thunder stories may be told. When the Biloxi see a humming bird they say that a stranger is coming; and the humming bird, they believe, always tells the truth. The crackling of the fire is supposed to be a sign of snow or rain, and a nuthatch pecking the house a sign of coming death. If a child steps over a grindstone its growth will be stopped. Snipe must not be killed or eaten, because the bird always gathers deer fat, and is the sister of the thunder being.

 

Playing with Electric Eels.—A writer in the London Spectator has described his experiences in handling the electric eels in Regent's Park, the largest of which is about four feet and a half long, and weighs between sixteen and eighteen pounds. "When grasped in the middle of the back, there was just time to realize that it had none of the 'lubricity' of the common eel when the first shock passed up the arm with a 'flicker,' identical with that which a zigzag flash of lightning leaves upon the eye, and, as it seemed, with equal speed. A second and third felt like a blow on the 'funny-bone,' and the hand and arm were involuntarily thrown back with a jerk which flung the water backward on the pavement and over the keeper, who was kindly assisting in the enterprise. This slight mishap recalled a far less agreeable result of a shock inflicted on a previous inquirer, whose recoiling hand had struck the assistant a severe blow in the face. Unwilling to be baffled by a fish less in size than the salmon which form the common stock of a fishmonger's window, the writer once more endeavored to hold the eel at any cost of personal suffering. But the electric powers were too subtle and pervading to be denied. The first muscular quiver of the fish was resisted; but at the second the sense of vibration set up became intolerable, and the enforced release was as rapid and uncontrollable as the first. The smaller eel was neither so vigorous nor so resentful as its fellow; but though the first and second shocks did not compel the grasp to relax, a third was equally intolerable with that given by the large fish. The electrical power seems to increase rapidly in the heavier eels." The writer thinks that the eel controls at will the power of its electrical discharge.

 

The Earliest Man.—In his public lecture at Madison, Wis., during the meeting of the American Association, on The Earliest Man, Prof. D. G. Brinton said that science inclined to the belief that man originated in one spot, and that all others descended from one first pair. Some eminent men of science believed that man was on the earth even in the Tertiary period. What is called the present period was divided many thousand years ago by the Glacial period; and it was probable that in certain parts of the world man lived during the ice period, which would place the antiquity of the race at least 100,000 years. Man could not have first appeared