Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 48.djvu/149

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FRAGMENTS OF SCIENCE.

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equally true, and that as a general law large seeds produce stronger plants with a greater capacity for reproduction than small seeds of the same kind. In the economy of Nature, as the food supply is lessened, a greater effort is made on behalf of the parent plants to enhance the chances for perpetuity, but at the same time the largest seeds, having the greatest potentiality, stand the best chance in the future struggle, and, although the best, nourished plants produce the fewest seeds, their greater size gives them decided advantages over seeds from starved plants. The two laws acting together, therefore, aid in maintaining the perpetuity of the species and its full measure of vigor. The two categories of methods for the improvement of crops are the enrichment and cultivation of the soil and the selection of seed, especially of large seed. It is desirable to know that intensive farming will give a better return in all crops grown for fodder, or for the roots, or other portions of the vegetative part of plants, than in those grown for grain and fruit. In either case, but more especially in the latter, the highest vigor and best returns can be obtained only by the use of the best and heaviest seed. When this is done high tillage will increase the yield and make possible the greater improvement of succeeding crops.

Happiness of Animals.—"What makes the happiness of wild animals?" asks a writer in the London Spectator. What the happiness of wild creatures consists in, he continues, "can perhaps be best judged by their daily habits. Within certain limits they are free to choose their life, and presumably they choose what pleases them best' In nearly every case this is one of pure routine. It consists in a daily repetition of a limited series of actions, the greater number of which seem to give them satisfaction rather than pleasure, but make up in the aggregate the sum of animal happiness. Unlike the domestic dog, which welcomes any break in the monotony of life, they never, except in the courting season, seem to seek change, or adventure, or excitement. It may be doubted whether, if the food supply were plentiful and constant, animals or birds would ever care to move beyond the circle in which they can find enough for their daily wants. The probable whereabouts of deer at any time in the twenty-four hours, and their occupation) whether feeding, sleeping, or resting, are known with the utmost certainty by those whose business it is to watch the forest, and could be predicted for any month in the year. . . . The adventurous life, if it is found anywhere among wild creatures, belongs to the carnivorous animals. Yet most of these only wander just so far as is necessary to find their prey, and then prefer to kill some creature that will provide a meal for more than one day. They are naturally indolent, and active only from necessity." Even lack of space is not a serious drawback to the happiness of most animals at the London "Zoo." "The lions and tigers feel the confinement of their inner cages and often strike impatiently at the doors which separate them in winter from their summer palaces, and the wild cattle would enjoy life far more if a roomy paddock could be added to their pens. No hawks or eagles can be happy in cages, because exercise in flight is essential to their health. Parrots, on the other hand, dislike exercise, and consequently live to the great est age of any creatures in the gardens Bears seem to share this dislike for unnecessary movements, and 'my lords the elephants,' and all the camels, with true Oriental indifference, would prefer to stand at day doing nothing, if they were not compelled to earn their living by carrying visitors, All the reptiles lead the life of lotus-eaters, and, so far as their brief day lasts, the tropical butterflies in their cages seem equally happy with those which flit among the flowers that line the garden walks."

Picturesque Arctic Nature.—How small, says Julius von Payer, is the matter for artistic reproduction in the old civilized world compared with the rest of the globe! "Has the desert been depicted in such a manner as it undoubtedly deserves to be? Or the Tundra, the primeval forest of the Dark Continent, the swampy shores of Lake Chad, the bridle-path of the Cordilleras, the Tibetan mountain lake, or the coral islands? What of the animal world, if we except our domestic animals and some wild game: the Indian beasts of prey; the African pachyderms; the troops of monkeys or tortoises of Brazil? And then the scenes of human