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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/734

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

Berlin, by means of which the interior of the head and chest may be directly examined by means of the fluorescent screen, even the action of the heart and lungs being discernible. A demonstration was recently given by Dr. Oscar Levy at the Lancet offices, and was reported as very successful. The vacuum tube employed contained two concave electrodes, midway between which was situated a platinum disk in a plane of 45°. One or other of the electrodes, according to which gives the best results, is connected up, by means of a wire, to this disk, the wires of the coil being attached to the concave electrodes, so that the anode is duplicated. The screen employed measured about ten by eighteen inches, and consisted of small crystals of platinocyanide of barium.

 

The Present Business Depression.—An article in the July Engineering Magazine, by Edward Atkinson, attributes the present business depression to the Bland and Sherman acts, "under which the demand debt of the United States was increased by an issue of notes or promises to pay by nearly five hundred million dollars for the purchase of silver bullion, which, when coined into dollars at 16 to 1, is bad money. We may easily trace the cause of our present bad conditions to the enforced use of bad money." He presents the conditions under the free coinage of silver in a somewhat new light, and makes it obvious that, instead of giving the poor man an undue advantage, it will increase the opportunities of the rich, and instead of benefiting the United States it will place her at a disadvantage and make her mints common dumping ground for all the depreciated silver of the world. He says: "The advocates of the free coinage of silver dollars of full legal tender propose to enable the bankers of Europe to gather in the silver bullion of the world, of which the market value is now sixty-eight cents per ounce, to send it to our mints to be coined without charge, and then to force it upon our farmers, wage-earners, and other persons at $1.291/2 an ounce, thus cheating them out of about half their dues for the benefit of two privileged classes—the silver miners of the West and the foreign bankers and their agents of the East." This tendency on the part of politicians to attempt by legislation to counter the result of natural forces is always eventually quite futile, and, as in the present case, is usually fruitful of much suffering and anxiety in the business world. The secondary place which silver now occupies as a money metal is entirely a natural growth due to causes over which statesmen and governments have no control, and the United States, even if she succeeds in legalizing an unlimited coinage of fifty-cent silver dollars, will simply, by purely artificial means, be substituting an unnatural, unwieldy, and limited silver unit of value for the compact, convenient, and widely used gold unit. Not only would the resulting currency be much less satisfactory than our present one, but the change from one to the other would almost surely involve serious business troubles.

 

The Expert Witness.—Considerable attention is being given by the more thoughtful newspapers and some scientific journals to the disreputable episodes which almost invariably occur when experts are called on for testimony before the courts. The present custom, which permits each side to call in its own expert and pay him for his testimony, is calculated to produce anything but expert testimony, unless the term expert applies to manipulation of facts to suit his client's case. It would be about as conducive to justice if each side were allowed to retain and pay a judge and jury of its own. In fact, the practice is so obviously calculated to defeat instead of aid the ends of justice that it is difficult to see how it ever originated. The mere fact that a witness is employed and paid by the defendant or plaintiff unconsciously enrolls him on that side, and there are few experts whose testimony is not modified by such an arrangement. This custom has led so often to a flat contradiction regarding facts between opposing authorities that the general public has lost confidence in such testimony. This is, of course, very unfortunate, as it is beyond question that a man who has devoted his life to a study, for instance, of poisons and their effects on the body, is in a better position to judge of the probabilities in a given case than the ordinary layman or physician. Under a system where the expert is called by the court no question of bias could be