Popular Science Monthly/Volume 17/September 1880/Correspondence



Messrs. Editors.

IN an article published in the July number of your magazine, I said, in speaking of the red-bellied nuthatch, "The author of 'Land and Game Birds of New England' notes that a nest was found in Roxbury in 1866."

This reference should have been to the "Birds of New England," by Samuels.

I can not comprehend how I made this error, for my notes from which I wrote referred distinctly to Samuels's work.

To-day I have learned that Mr. Samuels was wrong in stating that the nest he referred to was found in Roxbury, as it was taken in the Adirondacks by Mr. Minot, a brother of the author of "Land and Game Birds of New England."

I might add that by typographical errors the scientific names of the Loggerhead and Great Northern Shrikes were slightly changed: the former should have been Collurio ludovicianus, and the latter, C. borealis.

Respectfully yours,
Harry Merrill.
Bangor, Maine, July 7, 1880.


Messrs. Editors.

I have read Dr. Oswald's "Zoölogical Enigma" in the July number with great interest. One step toward determining by what means animals accomplish such feats must be to find what animals possess the power. The following, which came under my own observation, shows that it exists in the hog:

Some six years since, in one of the New England States, a pig five weeks old was carried in a close box about four miles. The route was very circuitous, with several sharp turns, and the pig was removed from the box to the sty after dark. The following day, near noon, he disappeared, and about three hours later was found at his former home. Curiosity led to the examination of the route taken by the pig, and his tracks could be followed nearly all the way. He had started on a straight line for the place from which he was brought the day before, and had followed that line. At one point an impassable fence turned him from the course, but he had moved along the fence on one side until he found an opening, and then had retraced his steps on the other back to the original line!

La Roy F. Griffin.
Lake Forest, Illinois, June 25, 1880.


Messrs. Editors.

An old acquaintance relates that for several months past his nerves of smell have been singularly and strangely acted upon. For instance, in early spring the air would seem loaded with the odors of fresh, ripe strawberries; at other times of peaches and other fruits—the odors were distinct and pungent, while the season and circumstances precluded the possibility of any such fruits being in the vicinity. At other times offensive odors (occasionally very offensive) would seem to indicate the immediate presence of well-known offensive substances, where it was known they were not present. Sometimes, however, odors either pleasant or unpleasant would seem to pervade the air which were unrecognized or new.

In all these cases locality was entirely disconnected with the odor; as, although the subject often changed his locality, to the extent of miles, it produced no diminution of odor. These attacks continue from hours to days.

If we assume the undulatory theory in the sense of smell, and that particles from all odorous substances, each through their own peculiar vibration or motion, impinge upon the nerves of the nasal cavity, and thus from the peculiarity of movement rather than of substance produce the sense of smell, may we not assume that the nerve is thrown into a peculiar condition, by the motion of the odorous particle, and this condition, repeated through the nerve to the brain, produces the idea of that peculiar smell? Again, may not diseased or unnatural action of itself, or through the aid of other agents, set up conditions usually and naturally obtained from what we term odorous substances, and thus induce false reports and ideas? Diseased action alone, or in connection with other than the natural substance, might produce the peculiar condition.

Have we not a like exhibition of perverted function in the nerves of taste under the action of disease? As also to the nerves of feeling in the sensations of heat and cold, in agues, chills, etc.? And may not this same condition of the optic nerves explain the various enigmas of optical illusions? Indeed, may not the nerves of each and all of our senses be subject to abnormal conditions, and thus become unreliable?

These queries, affirmatively answered, would enable us, in the mass of contradictory testimony of different individuals as to facts, to transfer the charge of much moral to physical obliquity.

A. L. Child.
Plattsmouth, Nebraska, August 5, 1880.