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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/148

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

equal to 1/42000 of an inch. The thickness of ordinary gold leaf is given as 1/282000 of an inch, from which it becomes evident that the wave length of sodium light, which is an average wave length for the visible spectrum, is six and a half times as great as the thickness of gold leaf. Such a dimension as 1/42000 of an inch could readily be measured by a suitable micrometer; but of course the waves of light, as well as the ether particles by which they are transmitted, are entirely invisible, and even were this otherwise the frequency of the undulations is so inconceivably great that the actual phenomena of the movements could never become perceptible. In measuring the absolute wave length, therefore, we are forced to take the indirect method of observing the results of undulations in cases where, by a suitable arrangement of the experiment, equal and opposite phases of vibration are made to arrive simultaneously at the same spot, so producing phenomena of interference.

 

The "Causses" of Southern France.—It is surprising to find existing, in a country so old and supposedly so familiar as France, a region similar to our Colorado plateau, full of cañons, caves, and cliff dwellings, until recently almost unknown and wholly unexplored. Yet such is the region of the Causses, described and illustrated with a striking series of lantern views, before the American Association for the Advancement of Science, by the well-known cave explorer, Dr. H. C. Hovey, of Newburyport, Mass. The local name Causse, derived from the Latin calx, lime, is applied to a limestone area, and here to a limestone plateau. Along the western slope of the Cévennes Mountains lies an elevated table-land, chiefly of Jurassic limestones, which had been cut and carved by the streams, especially the Tarn and its affluents, into a group of high plateaus separated by deep cañons. The cliffs of the Tarn Valley are from one to two thousand feet and even more in height, and with their precipitous sides and the brilliant and varied coloring of their strata are not unworthy of comparison with our own great cañon regions of the West. At some points, where the beds are markedly unequal in hardness, the weathering process has resulted in structures as remarkable as Monument Park or the Garden of the Gods. Such is the "rock city" known as Montpellier-le-Vieux, at the junction of the Jonté and the Durbais, on the Causse Noir. This strange area of natural ruins covers some two thousand acres with a fantastic similitude of castles, palaces, streets, and temples. It seems surprising that a country so picturesque for the tourist and so interesting for the geologist should have remained almost unknown till the present time. Fine roads pass over and around it, but they avoid the wild and rugged portions that possess such scenic interest, and leave the Causses—as they have been for ages—barren solitudes, occupied only by shepherds with their huts and flocks. The people, also, as is so often the case in such regions, have a superstitious dread of the deeper caverns and the seeming ruins, and do not lend themselves readily to exploration. The cliffs are full of caves, some of which—the more accessible and simple—are used as sheepfolds, and even in some cases inhabited, but the wilder ones are held in dread. It seems that cliff dwellings are actually still in use to some extent in this region. The French Société de Spéléologie has now for some years been investigating the Causses with great interest. Ere long this will become a favorite region for tourists; but at present one must leave all ordinary facilities of travel and take to canoes and mules. This was done by Dr. Hovey and his party, under the leadership of M. Edouard A. Martel, of Paris, who has been one of the most active explorers. They entered and traversed many remarkable caves, some never before visited, and some that have been previously explored by M. Martel and others of the société. One of these, known as the Baumes Chaudes, is a great triple cavern, one of the main branches of which had yielded a large number of prehistoric skeletons to Dr. Prunières, of Marvejol. In the third division are a number of deep pits, locally called "wells," from forty to a hundred and thirty feet deep; these communicate with lower passages and subterranean streams. They are death-traps to animals, the remains of which, of many kinds and in all stages of decomposition, accumulate at the bottom, and are gradually covered by stalagmitic deposits. Another remarkable cave was discovered and named after its daring and en-