Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 52.djvu/883

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FRAGMENTS OF SCIENCE.

where subterranean ice occurs in North America, two of which are in Pennsylvania The dimensions of the caves vary greatly, some being great halls, three hundred or four hundred feet long, and some small tunnels in which one can not stand up straight. The forms assumed by underground ice are different from those visible in glaciers or icebergs. There are no séracs or crevasses, but stalactite forms are very common. The ice in the bottoms follows the shape of the floor. Sometimes ice is found in them of the peculiar structure called prismatic—breaking into regular prisms. Holes or runnels are formed in the lowest parts of the ice floors, where they are cut out by the melting water; and lakes and pools sometimes occur in them.

Scientific Palmistry.—The character and direction of the movements of the digits both in hand and foot, Sir William Turner observed in his anthropological address at the British Association, are imprinted on the integument of palm and sole. In the palm of the human hand the oblique direction of the movement of the fingers toward the thumb, when bent in grasping an object, is shown in the obliquity of the two great grooves which cross the palm from the root of the index to the root of the little finger. The deep curved groove, extending to the wrist, which marks off the eminence of the ball of the thumb from the rest of the palm, is associated with the opponent action of the thumb, which is so marked in man that the tip of the thumb can be brought in contact with a large part of the palmar surface of the hand and fingers. Faint longitudinal grooves in the palm, situated in a line with the fingers, express slight folds which indicate where the fingers are approximated to or separated from one another in adduction and abduction. In some hands a longitudinal groove marks off the muscles of the ball of the little finger from the rest of the palm, and is associated with a slight opponent action of that digit, by the combination of which with a partial opposition of the thumb the hand can be hollowed into a cup—the drinking cup of Diogenes. These grooves are present in the infant's hands at the time of birth, and the author has seen them in an embryo. They appear in the palm months before the infant can put its hand to any use. They are not, therefore, acquired after birth. Grooves are also seen in the palm of the hand of the anthropoid apes, differing in various respects from those of man, and respectively characteristic of the group in which they are found.

The Psychology of Humor.—A recent number of the American Journal of Psychology contains an inquiry into the psychology of "tickling laughter and the comic," by Prof. G. Stanley Hall and Arthur Allin. Their material was obtained by means of a widely circulated syllabus, sent with the request that the questions be answered, and the sheet then returned to the authors. About seven hundred answers were received, many of these from school teachers having the supervision of a number of pupils, so that the real number of individuals heard from amounted to probably three thousand. The authors discuss the answers received, and then go on to a consideration of the general subject. The many theories since Aristotle, concerning wit and humor, are shown to be either purely speculative or extremely circumscribed in the range of their induction and hence furnishing no foothold for further research. Among the older conceptions of the essentials of humor mentioned is Hobbes's: "The passion of laughter is the sudden glory arising from some sudden conception of some eminence in ourselves, by comparison with the inferiority of others, or with our own formerly." Dryden defined wit as a "propriety of thoughts and words, or thoughts and words elegantly adapted to the subject." Dr. Johnson thought it "a combination of dissimilar images or discovery of occult resemblances in things apparently unlike. Richard Blackstone conceived it as "a series of high and exalted ferments." Kant defines laughter "as an affection arising from the sudden transformation of a strained expectation into nothing." Mr. J. L. Ford says: "Careful study of the work turned out by professional joke makers reveals the fact that fully nine tenths of their humor is founded on the simple idea of disaster or misfortune. . . . For a great many years nearly all our national humor had for its foundations the mother-in-law, the goat, the stove-pipe inebriety, and the banana peel." The authors