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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

for measuring furnace temperatures. Scientific discovery, he declared, whether costly or cheap, is, in its results, beyond price, for you never know whether the abstract discovery will not lead to inventions of great industrial importance. He could point to quite small physical discoveries which later received great technical applications. When Huygens investigated the singular double refraction of calcareous spar, no one supposed that so small a point in physics would have a commercial value over the whole world in the sugar industry and in brewing.

 

Agricultural Depression.—A recent editorial in Garden and Forest, under the above title, deserves the careful attention of the farmer. It is based on an address delivered by Prof. Bailey before a horticultural school in this State. Prof. Bailey protested, in the first place, against the prevalent idea that the farmer is suffering more than other members of the community. He is suffering from the general stagnation of business, and is no worse off than his neighbor. There is no special road to renewed prosperity for the farmer unless the condition of the whole country is improved, and any legislation designed to aid farmers as a class would be not only ineffective but pernicious. The farms of New York State average from three thousand to five thousand dollars in value, and with this capital invested prudent farmers are able to support their families, while it is doubtful if the same amount of capital invested in business would average as much. Prof. Bailey added that under the homestead act great areas of free and railroad lands were taken possession of by numbers of immigrants who rushed into the West to make homes for themselves. The area of cultivated land increased at a much more rapid rate than the population grew, and a surplus of breadstuffs soon caused depressed prices. Since the greater part of our arable lands are now occupied, the population is growing more rapidly than the area of cultivated land is expanding, so that we may look for the time in the near future when the demand for food will, in some measure, equal the supply, and then the stringency will cease and the farmer may expect a greater reward for his labor; and not only this, but we may expect a great advance in agricultural and horticultural science and practice in the next few years. "Phosphates from rock and potash from the Stassfurt mines are already cheap, and even now it is announced that German investigators are on the eve of perfecting processes for drawing upon the vast stores of nitrogen in the air, so as to make that most expensive element of plant food as cheap as the others. Prof. Nobbe, of Saxony, the distinguished plant physiologist, claims that he has produced on a commercial scale pure cultures of the different bacteria which are efficient in affixing the free nitrogen of the air in a form available for plant food, and has them for sale in small glass bottles. It is claimed that the soil can be inoculated with these organisms for the modest sum of one dollar and twenty-five cents an acre. Of course, it may be premature to place much confidence in this new method of securing fertility, but it has long been considered probable, and is of enough importance to have been made the subject of several papers read before the Royal Agricultural Society of England."

 

Exploration of Spitzbergen.—The exploring expedition of Sir Martin Conway and Mr. Trevor-Battye to Spitzbergen had among its members a geologist, a naturalist, and an artist—three factors to the production of as complete a picture as possible of what they saw. The object of the journey was to penetrate into the interior of the island, of which the coast was already fairly well known. The spectacle as they entered one of the western fiords was described by Sir Martin Conway in the British Association as having been extraordinarily brilliant. "They thought Spitzbergen must be in heaven." They had anticipated, from what had been written of he country, that they would have to cross either glaciers or a snow sheet, and had therefore provided themselves with Nansen sledges. But as they proceeded it proved that their journey was to be over broken stones and bogs. On the first day, when they had journeyed half a mile, they found that their path lay between a slope on the right and cliffs on the left, while every four or five hundred yards there was a deep gully with practically vertical sides. These gullies were filled with rotten snow. On the first day they covered about three miles, and their progress through the island was a repetition