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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 48.djvu/471

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431
FRAGMENTS OF SCIENCE.

serum as a vehicle. In place of using Pasteur's method of protective vaccination for the animals from which the serum is obtained, they, by a process of peptic digestion, attenuate the virus to be used. It is possible by drying to prepare a permanent form of this serum which will, if kept from air and light, remain active for a long period. It is very portable, is readily dissolved, and may be used by any one who is capable of sterilizing a hypodermic needle and syringe. The treatment, therefore, can be commenced almost as soon as the patient has received the bite, and it is not necessary that he should leave his home or his own medical attendant.

 

The Meaning of Race.—Attempting to frame a definition of race, Mr. W. M. Flinders Petrie remarked in the British Association that when only a few thousand years had to be dealt with, nothing seemed easier or more satisfactory than to map out races on the supposition that so many million people were descended from one ancestor and so many from another. Mixed races were glibly separated from pure races, and all humanity was partitioned off into well-defined divisions. But when the long ages of man's history, and the incessant mixtures that have taken place during the brief end of it that is recorded, come to be realized, the meaning of "race" must be wholly revised. The only meaning that a "race" can have is that of a group of persons whose type has become unified by their rate of assimilation and of their subjection by their conditions exceeding the rate of change produced by foreign elements. If the rate of mixture exceeds that of assimilation, then the people are a mixed race, or a mere agglomeration.


MINOR PARAGRAPHS.

The Belgian Astronomical Society, founded a year ago, for the advancement and popularization of that science and of meteorology, has recently become much extended. At the meetings in May, June, and July, 1895, papers were read on the history of astronomy at the time of the Renascence, by M. Doiteau; on the observation of the scintillation of the stars, by M. Vincent; on the application of the spectroscope to the study of the constitution of Saturn's rings, by M. Stroobant; on the theories of atmospheric circulation, by M. Marchal; and on other subjects. A co-operative system of observations of shooting stars, clouds, etc., was decided upon. An annual volume of the year's results is to be published in November, and a periodical bulletin has been arranged for.

A French journal, the Chasseur illustré, tells of a Russian gentleman who, wishing to ascertain where the birds go in winter, caught a number and attached to their tails a tube containing his address and a request in four languages that whoever might find the bird again would write him concerning the place and time of the finding. He waited long for an answer, but only recently received a letter from a European prisoner captured by the Mahdi at the taking of Khartoum, relating that a follower of the Mahdi in Dongola had killed one of the birds in November, 1892, and, not being able to read the paper, had brought it to him. The prisoner, in his glad surprise at receiving a letter from Europe in so strange a way, embraced the first opportunity on regaining his liberty to answer it.

The influence that the bearing of one man or nation may exert upon another is exemplified by what Mr. W. M. Flinders Petrie said in the British Association concerning the condition in the East, where an interminable system of reprisals in defrauding and exacting prevails. "The Egyptians are notorious for their avarice, and are usually accredited with being interminable money-grabbers; yet no sooner do they find that this system of reprisals is abandoned and strict justice maintained than they at once respond to it; and when confidence has been gained, it is almost as common to find a man dispute an account against his own interest as for himself, and scarcely ever is any attempt made at false statements or impositions. Such is the healthy response to straightforward dealing with them."

The purpose of the new division of agrostology in the United States Department of Agriculture is investigation and experiment upon grasses and other forage plants, in