Open main menu

Popular Science Monthly/Volume 15/August 1879/Popular Miscellany

< Popular Science Monthly‎ | Volume 15‎ | August 1879


Bodily Injuries from Falling Meteors.—In view of the estimate made by Mr. G. J. Stoney in the paper elsewhere published in the present number of the Monthly, the following observations by Professor H. Karsten, which we take from "Die Natur," can not fail to be interesting.

The accounts recently published, of the falling of sundry small meteorites in the vicinity of men or even upon their persons, have vividly recalled to my mind another instance, as I conceive, of this phenomenon. In this case a man was wounded in such a way as to lead the bystanders to conclude that he had been wounded by a pistol-ball, though the most thorough search failed to discover any evidence confirmatory of that opinion.

The reader will perhaps remember how, according to the "Cologne Zeitung," on August 29th of year before last, at half-past nine in the morning, a certain married couple living in the house No. 32 Neumarkt, in that city, were startled by a small stone falling through the open window into their room. "The wife ran and picked it up—a black-gray, prismatic stone of the size of a small bean; but, as it was red-hot and burned the tips of her fingers, she quickly dropped it again. Some minutes later the husband again took it up and found it to be still so hot that he could hardly hold it in his hand." This stone, which was immediately taken to the editor's office, was by all recognized as a meteorite.

Shortly before this, at Hanau, a boy was hit on the thumb in the open fields by a small, hot, falling stone; this, too, was supposed to be a meteorite. Unfortunately, it was never found.

At Schaffhausen, on the 2d of October, 1875, while a man was trundling a cart from the village of Beringen to Neuhausen, hence while going nearly due east, his right forearm was perforated from front to back as though by a musket-ball. The man was in the company of his brother and an acquaintance. At the moment of receiving the wound he heard a peculiar whirr as of a ball, but his companions say that they heard nothing. They all three searched high and low all around to discover the one who had fired the ball, but in vain, though the way in which they were traveling ran straight through the open, level fields; neither was any one to be seen on the railway lying at no great distance to the right. Shortly after the occurrence the train from Neuhausen passed by. At some distance on the left are vineyards, where a few laborers were seen, but none of them had firearms, and even if they had they could not have sent a ball as far as the highway. It may be added that the wounded man is a peaceable fellow, having no enemies, so far as he knows. Besides, the missile—as is to be seen from the wound—came from the front, where no human being was to be seen on the broad, straight highway. The anterior wound was two inches inside of and two inches above the capitulum radii, and the posterior wound, which was only five millimetres in diameter, was two inches inside of and one and one third inch above the inner condyle of the ulna. The physician who attended to the case asked my opinion about this enigmatical occurrence; and, on my attributing it either to an air-gun or to a meteorite, he rejected both hypotheses. It could not have been an air-gun, he said, because no such instrument had ever been heard of in that locality; and because, even if such an instrument had been used, no one after discharging it could have concealed himself, owing to the nature of the ground, as already described. As for meteorites, no one had ever known of people being wounded by them. I was not prepared to prove my second hypothesis or to strengthen it by citing analogous instances, though authors had often recorded and described the falling of great stones in fields and through the roofs of human habitations, the bursting of falling stones in mid-air, and the scattering of the fragments. Still the hypothesis seemed to me to be not altogether groundless in the present instance, and it was strengthened by the known velocity of meteoric stones, which is on an average twelve times as great as that of a musket-ball. Then, too, the time of year and the direction of the projectile favor the opinion that the wound was inflicted by some small stray meteorite. Everybody attributed the wound to a ball from a revolver, because there was no other way to account for it. Had one of the two fellow travelers or one of the laborers in the distant vineyards been in possession of a revolver or other firearm, it would not have been easy for him to clear himself of the suspicion of having shot the man. On this ground, if not on account of its general interest, it is much to be desired that such occurrences should be investigated and published, to the end that, by bringing together and discussing the facts, light might be thrown on this interesting but as yet obscure subject.


Cold-Water Baths.—In some remarks on cold-water bathing in cold weather, the London "Lancet" points out the true use of such baths—which is to stimulate the organism to increased activity, and then shows how this effect is best obtained. A great mistake is made when any part of the body is immersed in cold water and left to part with its heat without any guarantee that the energy of heat-production so severely taxed can respond to the requirement. It may easily happen that the internal heat-production will be exhausted, and if that occurs harm has been done. The obvious principle of health preservation is to maintain the circulation in its integrity; and while the error of supposing that clothing can do more than keep in the heat generated within is avoided, it is not less needful to guard against the evil of depriving the body of the heat it has produced. The furnace should be supplied with suitable fuel, i. e., nutritious food; the machinery of heat-production, which takes place throughout the organism not in any one spot or center, should be kept in working order, and nothing conduces to this end more directly than the free use of the cold douche and the shower-bath; but the application ought to be restricted to a few seconds of time, and, unless the evidences of stimulation—redness and steaming of the surface—are rapidly produced, the effusion should be laid aside. The use of cold water in cold weather is a practice which must be governed by rules special to each individual case. Whether the practice recommended be that of plunging the feet in cold water before going to bed, to procure sleep—which the "Lancet" denounces as "a reckless prescription founded on a physiological fallacy"—or any other use of cold water, the only safe course is to seek the counsel of a medical man conversant with the patient's peculiarities: particularly in the case of children should this precaution be observed.


Meteorological.—Professor Loomis continues his investigations of the development and phenomena of storms in the United States, in the July number of the "American Journal of Science." In this paper, the eleventh one of the series, it is shown that atmospheric disturbances during storms do not generally extend more than about a mile above the sea-level as they pass over New England. From observations made at the sea-level, as at Portland, simultaneously with observations at the summit of Mount Washington, it is found that during the passage of storms the usual system of circulating winds, does not in a majority of instances extend to a height of six thousand feet. The more violent the movement, however, the greater is the height attained by the disturbance. Another fact of interest is that the disturbance on the approach of a storm is felt at the surface sooner than at considerable elevations. Professor Loomis says that, "when during the progress of an area of low pressure the system of circulating winds reaches to the summit of Mount Washington, the change of wind to the east quarter usually begins at the surface stations eleven hours sooner than it does on the summit of that mountain." It thus appears that only in the lower portions of the atmosphere do the great storm movements occur, and they are first felt at or near the earth's surface.


Why is Music pleasurable?—Darwin, in "The Descent of Man," says of the problem, why musical tones in a certain order and rhythm give man and other animals pleasure, that it is at present insoluble. "We can no more give the reason than for the pleasantness of certain tastes and smells." But Mr. Xenos Clark, in the "American Naturalist," ingeniously essays a solution of this problem, and at the same time offers a theory of the origin of melody. "A musical sound," writes Mr. Clark, "is compound in its structure, being really a group of simple tones heard simultaneously. This group is composed of a ground-tone or fundamental, and a number of overtones, that decrease in intensity as they rise in pitch through a series of harmonic intervals. These intervals, the octave, fifth, fourth, and third, which thus occur in every musical sound we hear, are also at the basis of every human and, I hope to show, extra-human melody. . . . The thought at once arises that the peculiar, compound, harmonic structure of musical sounds has in some way impressed itself upon the auditory mechanism; so that melody, gradually growing under the guidance of the ear thus modified, has been molded into a musical form similar to that possessed by the group of harmonically related tones which we have seen to compose the sounds indicated. This seems very probable. For since each terminal nerve, of the thousands in the cochlea, responds to a given simple tone, the group of such tones forming a musical sound will excite a corresponding group of nerves, which will of course be related among themselves, as are the exciting tones among themselves; that is, they will be serially octaves, fifths, fourths, and thirds apart. Every nerve will therefore have always been stimulated in company with certain others, at harmonic intervals from it; and it is inevitable that the incessant and long-continued repetition of this cooperate activity should have resulted in some anatomical or functional bond; a pathway, as it were, leading from each member of the group to every other. The progress of any melody will be easiest along this harmonic pathway, worn by the physical structure of sound." This would be the origin of melody, and at the same time would explain why musical tones in a certain order give man and other animals pleasure.


The Social Relations of the Future.—The views of Mr. Matthew Arnold on the tendencies of our modern social and political life are very well summed up in a recent number of the "Athenæum" as follows: The inevitable future Mr. Arnold sees to be democracy: the many are continually growing less and less disposed to admire, and the few, that is the aristocracy, are becoming less and less qualified to command and captivate. Now, this is not only a fact, but one we should have foreseen long ago, for it is only an example and assertion of that principle of expansion which is a law of nature: in other words, it is natural that all classes and all persons should strive to be heard in matters of moment to the entire community. This being, then, the course which events must take, and which it is even desirable that they should take, we must prepare for the changes it will unavoidably bring about. This must be done in two practical ways: 1. By making the change easier, and this will be done by certain alterations in the laws of bequest and inheritance; and, 2. By making due provision for the new order of things by reforming middle-class education. The state (of which Mr. Arnold accepts Burke's definition, the nation in its corporate and collective character) is to found schools for the middle classes resembling those French lycées which have made the middle classes in France so superior to the same classes in England, rather than the "classical and commercial academies" whose advertisements crowd the newspaper columns; and the purpose to keep in view in the bestowal of that education is the awakening of a wider sympathy and a greater tolerance than have hitherto marked the English middle classes. They are to be delivered at once from "narrow Biblism" and from "immense ennui." For the rest, Mr. Arnold points out how democracy, instead of being, as it might be, the salvation of the race, may be the end of progress if, in the new conditions, the ideals of life and conduct are less high and less beautiful than of old, and if the arts and other refining influences not bearing immediately on practical life be suffered to fall into disuse and dishonor.


The Argan-Tree of Southwestern Marocco.—Dr. Hooker gives a full and very interesting account of this tree in his "Journal of a Tour in Marocco." It is found on a strip of land about forty miles wide which extends along the coast some two hundred miles. "It is absolutely unknown elsewhere in the world." This tree was first described about the year 1510, by Leo Africanus, who saw it in its native habitat. It is closely allied to the Sideroxylon (iron-wood), a tropical genus. The wood is extremely hard, fine grained, of a yellow color, and apparently indestructible by insects. It is of slow growth, and occurs on sandy soils, and on barren hills, where irrigation is impossible. Not far from Mogador is a large specimen, probably three hundred years old. It measures twenty-six feet in girth. Three immense branches extend from the trunk at only three feet from the ground, one of which rests on the ground and measures eleven feet in circumference. The spread of the branches covers an area seventy feet across. The tree attains only a very moderate height. As the trees throw out branches near the ground, goats frequently climb them to obtain the oily fruit which they bear. Dr. Hooker observes that he had not been accustomed to consider the goat an arboreal quadruped. The oil extracted from the nuts is used by the natives for many domestic purposes, but has a rank and unpleasant flavor, not relished by those unaccustomed to it. About fifty tons is annually consumed. The argan-tree is a striking feature of the plains of Southwestern Marocco. It never forms a dense forest, but is distributed in clumps where few other trees are found.


What Modern Geography includes.—In a memorial addressed by the Council of the London Royal Geographical Society to the Vice-Chancellors of Oxford and Cambridge Universities, the scope and purpose of geographical purposes are defined in the following terms: By geography is meant a compendious treatment of all the prominent conditions of a country, such as its climate, configuration, minerals, plants, and animals, as well as its human inhabitants; the latter in respect not only to their race, but also to their present and past history, so far as it is intimately connected with the peculiarities of the land they inhabit. A scientific geographer does not confine himself to descriptions of separate localities, such as may be found in gazetteers, but he groups similar cases together and draws those generalizations from them to which the name of "Aspects of Nature" has been given. He studies the mutual balance and restraint of the various forms of vegetation and of animal life under different local conditions, and he gathers evidence from the geographical conditions of the present time on the character of those which preceded and gave rise to them. Of the many classes of problems falling under these heads two are specified: The one deals with the reciprocal influence of man and his surroundings, showing on the one hand the influence of external nature on race, commercial development and sociology, and on the other the influence of man on nature, in the clearing of forests, cultivation and drainage of the soil, introduction of new plants and domestic animals, and the like. The other problem deals with the inferences that may be drawn from the present distribution of plants and animals in respect to the configuration of the surface of the earth in ancient times. Thus we see that the mutual relations of the different sciences is the subject of a science in itself, so that scientific geography may be defined as the study of local correlations.


What the Eyes see in reading.—On page 838 of our fourteenth volume we published some remarks by M. Javel on the impairment of eyesight caused by habitual protracted reading. M. Javel has since published some further observations on the mode in which the eye "takes in" the successive letters on a printed page. We are not to suppose, he says, that in reading a line one passes successively from the lower part of a letter to the upper part, then down the next letter, up the next, and so on, the vision describing a wavy line. The fixation takes place with extreme precision along a straight line, traversing the junction of the upper third of the letter with the lower two thirds. Why is this line not in the middle? Because characteristic parts of the letters are more frequently above than below, in the proportion of about seventy-five per cent. That this is so, we can see by applying on a line of typographic characters a sheet of paper covering the line in its lower two thirds, and leaving the upper third exposed. We can then read the letters almost as well as if they had not been concealed in greater part. But the case is very different if we cover the upper two thirds of the line; the lowest third alone does not furnish sufficient for recognition. The characteristic part of the letters, then, is chiefly in their upper portion. M. Javel next compares the ancient typographic characters with those of modern books, and maintains that the latter have too much uniformity, so that, taken in their upper parts alone, many of them may be confounded in reading. The old letters, on the other hand, had each a particular sign by which they could be easily distinguished. The Elzevirian a, for example, has no resemblance to o, the r could not be confounded with the n, as now, nor the c or e with o, the b with h, etc. This too great uniformity in the upper part of typographic characters should be corrected, since it is to that part we chiefly look in reading.


Professor Vaughan on the Origin of the Asteroids.—It is to the general features of the numerous small planets beyond Mars that we must look for a record of their past history. Though most liable to elude the search of the observers, asteroids of great orbital inclination to the ecliptic show already such numbers as to prove a stumbling-block to the usual methods of inquiry respecting the primitive condition of the planetary group. If, as Laplace supposes, they are parts of a ruptured solar ring, they could never deviate far from the plane of Jupiter's orbit by the attractive influence of other planets, and the greatness of the deviation as well as its independence of size excludes the idea of its arising from any mutual action exerted among themselves. The hypothesis of Olbers fails also to meet the difficulty. In the explosion of a single planet moving in the plane of the ecliptic, such an impulse as produced the great inclinations of the paths of Pallas, Euphrosyne, Gallia, Electra, or Artemis, would give cometary orbits to masses launched forth in opposite tangential directions, and cause many asteroids of such an origin to wander far beyond the zone between Mars and Jupiter. Yet the peculiarities in question are precisely such as may be expected in a group of bodies owing their birth to a collision of two planets not very unequal in size or mass. Such an event would be possible when by long disturbance the orbits of both become too eccentric for safety, and when the aphelion of one was in conjunction with the perihelion of the other and near the intersection of their planes. Supposing both orbits to touch at the colliding point, the resulting fragments would be-driven forth in a plane perpendicular to the course of their common center of gravity. If the velocity from the impulse were thirty-two per cent, of that required for describing a circle, they would be constrained to move in ellipses varying in eccentricity between ·32 and ·1024; and about seven eighths of the known asteroids conform to this limitation in the form of their orbits. Had the motion of both planets been merely progressive and coincident with the ecliptic, the orbital inclination for the fragmentary group would vary from to about 19°, yet the range would pass many degrees beyond this limit through the influence of rotation in the great spheres in causing their matter to fly more rapidly into space in a polar direction in the early stage of the collision. Yet this rotational movement would prevent the eccentricities of the numerous orbits from assuming the proportions which might be expected if the line of motion of the colliding orbs did not pass through their centers as in the supposed case.

There is another clew to the cosmical history of the region between Mars and Jupiter. The orbits of Saturn's moons show a near conformity to geometrical progression, and, taking the common rates at 1·30756, the following table gives the empirical as compared with the actual distances in equatorial semi-diameters of the primary:

Mimas 3·3607 3·3607
Encaladus 4·3933 4·3125
Tethys 5·7483 5·3396
Dione 7·5182 6·8398
Rhea 9·8325 9·5528
Titan 21·9972 22·1450
Hyperion 28·7690 26·7834
Japetus 64·3590 64·3590

It appears from this table that two consecutive satellites are missing in each of the chasms in the Saturnian family, and this evidence of their transformation into asteroids seems more reasonable on considering the disturbing influences of Titan and Japetus on their planetary neighbors. The array of the satellites near Saturn would also lead to the belief of more worlds than one near the sun, and the vain search for Vulcan would render more probable the existence of an asteroidal group within the orbit of Mercury.


Listening to the Pulse.—We take from the "Lancet" an account of a new instrument—the sphygmophone—invented by Dr. Richardson, of London, and which transmutes the movements of the arterial pulse into loud telephonic sounds. The needle of a Pond's sphygmograph is made to traverse a metal or carbon plate, which is connected with the zinc pole of a Leclanché cell. To the metal stem of the sphygmograph is then attached one terminal of a telephone, the other terminal being connected with the opposite pole of the battery. When the whole is ready the sphygmograph is brought into use as if a tracing were about to be taken, and when the pulsation of the needle from the pulse-strokes is secured, the needle, which previously was held back, is thrown over, so as to make its point just touch the metal or carbon plate, and to traverse the plate to and fro with each pulsation. In so moving, three sounds, one long and two short, are given out from the telephone, which sounds correspond with the first, second, and third events of sphygmographic reading. In fact, the pulse talks telephonically, and so loudly, that when two cells are used the sounds can be heard by a large audience.


The Audiometer.—"Audimeter," or "audiometer," is the name given to an instrument invented by Professor Hughes, with the aid of which a person's power of hearing sounds can be very accurately measured. It is formed of a small battery of one or two Leclanché cells, a new microphonic key, two fixed primary coils, a graduated insulated bar, to which at each end one of the fixed coils is attached, a secondary induction coil, which moves along the graduated bar, and a telephone, the terminals of which are connected with the terminals of the induction coil. The principle of the audiometer is based on the physical fact that when the battery is in action, and a current is passing through the two primary coils, the secondary coil on the bar becomes charged by induction whenever it is brought near to either of the primary coils; but, when it is brought to the precise center between the primary coils, there is a neutral point or electrical balance, where the electrical phenomena from induction cease to be manifested.

In the "Lancet" we find an account of a meeting of the London Royal Society, at which Dr. Richardson demonstrated the action of the audiometer. He was assisted in this demonstration by Professor Hughes, who, by placing a microphonic key between the battery and one of the primary coils, and by attaching the terminals of the induction coil to the telephone, was able to make the telephone produce sounds whenever he brought the induction coil near to one of the primary coils, and moved the microphonic key so as to make it play on a fine needle suspended in the circuit. "When the induction coil is close to one of the primary coils," says the "Lancet," "the noise is very loud, but as the coil is moved toward the center of the bar the noise diminishes, until it ceases at the center altogether. The scale on the bar is graduated into two hundred degrees, representing units of sound from 200 to zero. At 200 all who can hear at all, can hear the vibration of the drum in the telephone. At zero no one can hear, while between the two points there are two hundred gradations of sound, from the highest down to zero."


A Dog's Affection.—The following narrative is from "Chambers's Journal." Some time ago the late Mr. H—— possessed a collie shepherd-dog, which was very clever at its duty until it had a litter, one of which was spared to it. After this all the poor animal's affections seemed to be centered in her puppy, for she refused, or did most unwillingly, the work she had to do, which so vexed her master that he cruelly drowned the puppy before the mother's eyes, covering the bucket in which he left the body with a sack. He then went round the fields, followed by the old dog, who from that moment resumed her former usefulness. On the master's return in the evening, he bethought himself of the bucket and went to fetch it to empty the contents into a hole which he had made in the manure-heap; he found the bucket covered as he had left it, but on pouring out the contents there was nothing but water. He questioned his wife and other inmates of his house, but they knew nothing about it. The next morning Mrs. H—— was struck with the piteous expression of the poor animal's face, and said to her, "Scottie, tell me where you have taken your puppy." The dog immediately ran off a distance of one hundred yards to the kitchen garden, jumped the fence, and went direct to the farther end of the inclosure to a spot situated between two rows of beans; there, where the earth had apparently been recently moved, she sat, and as it were, wept. Mrs. H—— went again into the house, and without mentioning what had occurred, said to her niece, "Ask Scottie what she has done with her puppy." The question was put, and again the poor creature went through the same performance. These circumstances were mentioned to Mr. H——, who pooh-poohed the idea of there being anything out of the common; but to satisfy his wife he went to the spot and dug down a distance of three feet, and there, sure enough, had the faithful, fond mother buried her little one!


Sympathy in an Ants' Nest.—According to Sir John Lubbock's observations, ants belonging to the same nest never quarrel among themselves; he has never seen any evidence of ill-temper in any of his nests. Again, ants appear to show great kindness to inmates of their own nests which happen to be in straits. In one of Sir John's nests of Formica fusca was a 'poor ant which had come into the world without antennæ. Never having previously met with such a case, he watched her with great interest, but she never appeared to leave the nest. At length one day he found her wandering about in an aimless way, apparently not knowing whither to turn. After a while she fell in with some specimens of Lasius Flavus, who directly attacked her. He rescued her, but she was evidently badly wounded, and lay helpless on the ground. After some time another F. fusca from her nest came that way, examined the poor sufferer carefully, then picked her up and carried her away into the nest. It would have been difficult, Sir John Lubbock thinks, for any one who witnessed this scene to have denied to the ant the possession of humane feelings.


Fossil Rhinoceros in Siberia.—In a communication to "La Nature," A. Hoffmann, of Moscow, announces the discovery, in Siberia, of the head of a rhinoceros (Rhinocerus tichorhinus), which still retains, in a wonderful state of preservation, nearly all its covering of flesh. "This head," he writes, "was found near a small stream, called the Balantaï, a tributary of the Yany, at the distance of some 200 versts from the city of Vorshvianska. M. Gorokoff, to whom we are indebted for this discovery, made haste to communicate with the Imperial Geographical Society of St. Petersburg. A member of that Society, M. Tshersky, to whom the head was submitted for examination, says that it must have belonged to a young animal, for some of the teeth had not as yet quite come out from their alveoli. The entire head is covered with a strong tissue, hardened by time; but one side of it is badly injured. Here the flesh is in part decayed, and crumbles away. A portion of the skull is bare, and we can see the dried muscles and veins; also, a portion of the spinal marrow, the latter having dropped out of the passage through the second cervical vertebra. This curious fossil head retains in perfect preservation the muzzle, the lips, the ears, the hair of half of the left side, a good part of the forehead, and on the right side the upper portion of the neck, and several other parts. Further, we notice the places for two horns."


Drilling Rocks by Electricity.—M. Gaston Planté suggests a novel use for electricity, namely, as a borer of rocks, taking the place of the black diamond. "We have seen," he writes in a volume recently published, "that one of the electrodes which conveys a current of a certain electromotive force, on being put in contact with glass in presence of a saline solution, acts as a graver or diamond in cutting furrows on the surface of the glass, plowing it even deeply. Rock-crystal can also be attacked, despite its hardness, by the same method, and, if it does not yield regularly, it at last bursts into pieces under the action of the electrode, and ends by breaking up. In America black diamonds are employed in rock-drilling for wells and mines. Could these expensive tools not be replaced by the action of the electric current in conditions analogous to those which have been described, and the perforation of rocks be performed by electricity? Electrodes of platinum would not be necessary, for it is not the metal of the electrode which alters, but the silicious matter in presence of the saline solution. Metallic points or studs conveniently distributed at the end of the drill and put in rotation, would direct the electric discharge to the rock, which it would pulverize, as in the case of the diamond drill. The recent advances in the production of electricity by mechanical means would facilitate this application."


Mr. Gladstone on Natural History Studies.—Mr. Gladstone, in addressing the pupils of a Nonconformist school at Finchley, England, advocated a more important place in our systems of education for natural history. "Natural history," he said, "is a continual lesson—a lesson at once easy and profound—of the wisdom and beneficence of Providence; a continual confirmation of belief, when you find the wonderful hand of that Workman descending to the smallest object with the same care with which he mounts to the greatest. The religious use of natural history is one that all must delight in. Again, learning is an admirable thing, but it does not always make itself agreeable at the first introduction. But it certainly is a marked advantage in the study of natural history that it leads you on by the hand—it inveigles you, so to speak, into learning what is good and what is useful. Many a one might have his mind first opened by the attractions of natural history, and, once opened, it might perhaps be capable of applying itself beneficially to harder and more repulsive studies. Natural history, too, is one of the best and most efficient means of educating the senses. It may, perhaps, be suggested that the senses are educated well enough already, and claim quite a large enough portion of our existence. That, of course, is perfectly true so far as the grosser forms of enjoyment are concerned; but so far as the senses are connected with the acquisition of knowledge, they are very indifferently educated indeed. The habit of minute, careful, and accurate observation, which is inseparable from such a study as that of natural history, gives that power of accurate deduction which is invaluable in the pursuit of every branch of knowledge. We all know, I may add, how much has been done in the researches of our time by applying the principle of comparison—comparison, for example, of the structure of living bodies as the basis of modern biology, the comparison of the structures of languages as the basis of philology. Depend upon it, then, that the observation and analogy which natural history is continually suggesting, as it is valuable for the purposes of science, so it has a lighter but a most graceful and civilizing use in supplying those analogies taken from the seen world and applicable to the unseen, assisting in giving to every work of the mind that grace and beauty which is just as appropriate and desirable, though it may not be so indispensable to it, as are the higher qualities of solidity and truth."


How the "Goat-Suckers" came by their Name.—Mr. A. R. Wallace calls attention to an interesting observation made by Charles Waterton, which throws some light on the origin of one of the superstitions of natural history. Ever since the time of Aristotle, at least, the belief has prevailed that the bird known as the "goat-sucker" (Caprimulgus) actually sucks goats or cows. According to Pliny, the goat-sucker "enters the fold and flies to the udders of the goats in order to suck the milk." The fact that the birds "fly to the udders" of the animals is confirmed by Waterton, but at the same time he shows how erroneous is the inference that they suck the milk. "lam fully persuaded," writes that ingenious observer, "that these innocent little birds never suck the herds, for when they approach them, and jump up at their udders, it is to catch the flies and insects there. When the moon shone bright I would frequently go and stand within three yards of a cow, and distinctly see the caprimulgus catch the flies on its udder." In another place he writes: "When the moon shines bright you may have a fair opportunity of examining the goat-sucker. You will see it close by the cows, goats, and sheep, jumping up every now and then under their bellies. Approach a little nearer—see how the nocturnal flies are tormenting the herd, and with what dexterity he springs up and catches them, as fast as they alight on the belly, legs, and udders of the animals. Observe how quiet they stand, and how sensible they seem of his good offices, for they neither strike him nor hit him with their tails, nor tread on him, nor try to drive him away as an uncivil intruder."


Geographical Distribution of Bats.—At a meeting of the "Scientific Societies of the Departments," lately held at Paris, a report of which is given in "La Nature," Dr. Trouessart, under the title of "Geographical Distribution of the Bats" (Cheiroptera), read a paper, of which the following is a summary: There are certain species of bats which pass the winter in a state of torpor in caverns or in abandoned quarries—for example, the horseshoe bat—or in the hollows of trees, under the roof-timbers of houses, or in crannies in the walls—as the Pipistrella, so common in cities, which, awakening during very mild winters, is sometimes seen flitting about in January. But it is an error to suppose that all bats hibernate. Many Cheiroptera migrate after the manner of birds, and this fact accounts for the reduction of the number of species from eight hundred to four hundred, as distinctions of species had been set up merely on the ground of the great distance between localities. Many species of bats seen in France are migratory, and are found there only in the summer months, having come in pursuit of the insects on which they subsist. Of twenty-five species occurring in Europe, at least twenty-two are found also in eastern Asia. Bats possess considerable power of flight. The flying fox (Pteropus rubricollis) of the tropical parts of the Old World can at one flight compass a distance of thirty leagues. This vigorous power of flight explains the presence of Cheiroptera in Australia, where they are the only native Monodelphs, as also in the islands of Polynesia and in New Zealand, a country rich in its avifauna, but which, with the exception of several species of bats, possesses no mammals save those purposely introduced by man, and the rats and mice brought by ships. Of the six families of the order Cheiroptera, the Phyllostomata are exclusively American; the Emballonura have only one representative in Europe—a Molossus found on the shores of the Mediterranean, and which visits Switzerland in summer; two species of Rhinolophus (the great and the less horseshoe bat) are found in Great Britain, and the former of these species is distributed as far eastward as Japan. The Vespertilios constitute a truly cosmopolitan family, extending in latitude from the border of the Arctic region down to the Strait of Magelhaens. The Scrotina occurs throughout Europe, in Asia, and in Africa down to the Gaboon; and one race of this species is found in America as far south as Guatemala. But in those parts of both hemispheres which lie farther south, the Serotina is succeeded by nearly allied species of the same subgenus Vesperus. Of fossil Cheiroptera we have but very few. The gypsum strata of Montmartre have yielded to science Vesperugo parisiensis, which is closely analogous to, if not identical with, the Serotina of France. Again, among the Eocene Cheiroptera of North America described by Marsh occurs a Serotina, resembling the race now existing in the same region. And as the power of flight possessed by the Cheiroptera accounts for their geographical distribution (which is analogous to that of birds), so, too, it affords a probable explanation of the inconsiderable changes which the order has undergone since Tertiary times. Undoubtedly it is through this power of flight that they were enabled to escape amid the geological cataclysms which long ago annihilated the giant land mammals which were their contemporaries in the Eocene.


Ancient American Pottery.—A very remarkable collection of ancient American pottery is now on exhibition at No. 77 Maiden Lane, New York. It consists of about twelve hundred pieces, and is the fruit of explorations conducted by Mr. J. A. McNiel in an ancient cemetery in Chiriqui, Panama. The graves in which these articles of pottery were found lie scattered along the Pacific slope of the foot-hills of Mount Chiriqui, and the "cemetery" covers thousands of square miles. The graves do not appear to have been disposed according to any definite plan, nor do they lie with reference to any one point of the compass. They are found at varying depths, sometimes being as much as fifteen feet below the surface, and sometimes not more than two or three feet. Many of them appear to have been opened again and again for successive interments. They are walled up on the sides and at the ends with large round stones, which are plainly water-worn, and must have been brought from river-beds at a considerable distance. The graves are covered with flat stones, some of them weighing three hundred pounds. These stones do not belong to the local formations, and can only have been procured from situations several miles distant up the mountain-side. As there are no indications on the surface as to where the graves are hid, they are discovered by thrusting an iron rod into the earth till it strikes a stone. The articles of pottery found in these graves are principally jars and tripods, with a few small objects, toys, and whistles, and certain thin, flat disks pierced with a hole in the center, that may have served as wheels of toy carts.


Adulteration of Drugs.—In France all pharmacies are subject to inspection with regard to their general management, and more particularly to their practice in dispensing poisonous substances, and to the purity of the drugs and medicines kept on sale. But even in that country unscrupulous pharmacists are found who palm off upon the public adulterated drugs. Indeed, so common is this practice that careful physicians, whenever they prescribe any medicine that is difficult to prepare or specially costly, are wont to advise their patients to have the prescriptions made up only by pharmacists of approved integrity. At a meeting of one of the medical societies of Paris the following instance was given of the ill effects of using adulterated medicines: A physician having been called to attend a girl suffering from a violent attack of fever, prescribed a strong dose of quinine sulphate, hoping thus to prevent, or at least to mitigate, the second attack. But this second attack was worse than the first, and the patient's condition became very serious. Seeing that the quinine was without effect, the physician procured some of it for analysis, and procured at a reputable pharmacy another dose of the drug. This having been administered to the patient, the third attack of the fever was far less violent than the two preceding. The analysis showed that the suspected quinine sulphate was strongly adulterated with salicine.