Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 53.djvu/297

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FRAGMENTS OF SCIENCE.

edge. To himself it had never seemed at all intelligible how geology could cease to be scientific when it touched upon human history. The fact that there was a poet or historian to narrate the history of a period did not take away this scientific character. We must never forget that geology, going to the earliest period of time when life first appeared upon the earth, brought us down to the present day. Volcanic changes of the earth such as are taking place now, remains of ancient action such as the marvelous lake of lava in Hawaii, are just as much subjects of geological research as if no reporter or narrator existed to record their history. The archæologist of mediæval history and the archæologist who has gone before human history and has helped the geologist to bring into definite connection the epochs of the world's existence, must all be welcomed as scientific geologists.

 

Adalteration with Antiseptics.—Special attention is given in the second report on Food Products of the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station to adulteration by antiseptics. These substances are for the most part, when taken in sufficient quantities and degrees of concentration, poisonous; and whether any one of them shall operate as a harmless preventive or remedy, or as an unhealthful or even fatal poison, to the consumer of food and drink containing it, depends upon the quantity and frequency of the dose. A number of successful food preservatives—such as sugar, alcohol, vinegar, lactic acid, salt, smoke, spices, and "sweet herbs"—are at once recognizable and known by their taste or odor. They are all commonly reckoned harmless to sound digestion and good health when taken in moderation, and are reputed to be unhealthful to certain classes of invalids, or when taken in excess. Within about twenty years several powerful antiseptics have come into very extensive and more or less surreptitious use, that are not recognizable in food or drinks by either taste or odor. These are salicylic acid, benzoic acid, and borax or boric acid. Salicylic acid, the essential ingredient of wintergreen and oil of birch, and benzoic acid, which exists in various balsams and gum resins, in the oils of marjoram, cassia, cinnamon, and cloves, in vanilla, sweet flag, plums, and cranberries, are efficacious only in the free state. Borax and boric acid are effective, cheap, odorless, and tasteless when mixed with food, and are much used. The testimony is conflicting as to the effect of the continued and frequent use of these preservatives upon the health of consumers. There are some falsifications which the public have long tolerated and people are careless of, as those of mustard, which is now sometimes hard to find strong enough to make a plaster of. "This kind of adulteration and the lying statements by which it is forced on the public have so habituated people to poor articles and low prices that purchasers of the recent generations probably do not know, in many cases, what genuine goods are, and do not realize what waste of money as well as loss of satisfaction there is in buying so-called 'cheap' wares, for which, considering the real value of the articles, they actually pay an exorbitant price."

 

Variety in Tobacco Pipes.—The pipe is treated by the Baron de Watteville as on the point of vanishing from use, being about to be superseded by the cigarette; even the Dutch, our author says, are abandoning their pipes and smoking paper-wrapped stems instead. There is evidently great exaggeration in this assertion, for we meet evidence daily in groups of fashionable smokers that the pipe has not disappeared, and is in no danger of going out of use. M. de Watteville's study of pipes nevertheless presents many features of interest. Consider the materials of which they are made, and the variety in their shapes. White clay is the predominant material for the bowls in England and the adjacent continental countries, red clay in the Mediterranean basin, black clay in Africa, porcelain and elm root in the Germanic countries, stone among some savage tribes, and wood almost everywhere; but where wood is not to be obtained, as in the arctic regions, fossil ivory, whales' bones, or walrus tusks are used. The stems are of wood or horn, of more or less artistic shapes among Europeans; rough ox horn in South Africa, antelope horn along the sources of the Nile, cherry in Hungary and Armenia, jasmine in Persia, bamboo in hot countries, gold, silver, or wood or leather trimmed with precious materials for the lips of wealthy Orientals,