Popular Science Monthly/Volume 23/September 1883/Popular Miscellany


A Cod-Mountain in the Sea.—The "conference" at the Fisheries Exhibition was opened with a lecture by Professor Huxley, in which he said: "Those who have watched the cod-fisheries off the Loffoden Isles, on the coast of Norway, say that the coming in of the cod, in January and February, is one of the most wonderful sights in the world; that the cod form what is called a 'cod-mountain,' which may occupy a vertical height of from twenty to thirty fathoms—that is to say, one hundred and twenty to one hundred and thirty feet in the sea; and that these shoals of enormous extent keep on coming in great numbers from the westward and southward for a period of something like two months. The number of these fish is so prodigious that Professor Sars tells us that when the fishermen let down their loaded nets they feel the weight knocking against the bodies of the codfish for a long time before it gets to the bottom. I have made a computation which leads to this result, that if you allow each fish four feet in length, and let them be a yard apart, there will be in a square mile of such shoals something like one hundred and twenty million fish. I believe I am greatly under-stating the actual number, for I believe the fish lie much closer. These facts about the cod apply also to the herring, for not only Professor Sars, but all observers, who are familiar with the life of the cod when it has attained a considerable size, tell us that the main food of the cod is the herring, so these one hundred and twenty million of cod in the square mile have to be fed with herring, and it is easy to see, if you allow them only one herring a day, that the number of herring which they will want in a week will be something like eight hundred and forty million."

Copyright in China.—A pamphlet on this subject, by Dr. D. J. Macgowan, has been published in Shanghai, and from the copy sent us by the author we extract the following: "One finds not infrequently on the title-pages of Chinese newly-published books a caution against their unauthorized publication, in some instances threatening the forfeiture or destruction of all blocks that may be cut for their printing, showing at once that literary property is liable to be stolen, and that redress is afforded to authors thus wronged. The penal code, however, will be searched in vain for an enactment on the subject of copyright. Chinese law has never conceived it necessary to specify that particular form of robbery which consists in despoiling a scholar of the fruit of his toil, any more than to name the products of husbandmen and artisans as under the protection of law, all alike being regarded as property by natural right. The offending publisher is arraigned and punished under that section of the code which takes cognizance of larcenies of a grave character, the penalty, to which one who prints and sells an author's works without authority is liable, being one hundred blows and three years' deportation. This right of exclusive publication by an author of his works is held in perpetuity by his heirs and assigns. It is not the custom with Chinese authors to make arrangements with publishers, that being undignified. They have their books cut and printed on their own premises, and then sell them to the trade, usually at twice the cost of publication. Manuscript novels and other ephemeral books are sold to publishers, but in such a case neither author nor publisher can prosecute a printer for bringing out a rival edition. Among the subjects which this new era brings to the consideration of Chinese statesmen, that of international copyright may be included. Cheng Ch'engchai, an artist and also a poet, has lately published several hundred of his choice pictures, accompanied by stanzas, the fruit of a life of toil. There is some prospect of his literary harvest being blighted by the appearance of his work at four dollars a set—the author's charge being eight dollars. The pirated copies come from Japan. In Japan the rights of authors are regarded in the same light as in China, but, as a license must first be obtained before a book can be published, the prevention of copyright infringements is more facile there than in China. It is well known that the Japanese Government have long been maturing a copyright law, and the time is favorable, therefore, for these two empires to concert measures for increasing the security of literary property.

Spontaneous Combustion.—Many fires, which appear to be of mysterious origin, can with great plausibility be referred to spontaneous combustion. Such was probably the cause of a fire which destroyed the carriage shops at Forest Hill, Maryland, a year or two ago. This is indicated by the fact that, shortly after the shops were rebuilt, a hole was burned through one of the floors and the establishment narrowly escaped destruction a second time from the spontaneous combustion of a rag saturated with Valentine's patent wood-filling, which had been left in the paint-room overnight. Rags similarly saturated had been carelessly left in the old building just before the fire. To test the liability of this substance to take fire, a cloth was saturated with it and put in a tin bucket. Combustion began within a few hours afterward. Lamp-black is extremely liable to take fire spontaneously, particularly if a small quantity of oil is in contact with it. It can not be safely wrapped up in printed paper on account of the danger from the oil in the ink. A tub of loose lamp-black in a carriage-shop in England was set on fire in consequence of the presence of a palette knife on which a little oil had been left. Even the dry paint which accumulates on the blades of these knives near the handle is sufficient to cause ignition. It is, however, only the small quantities of oil that are dangerous; the peril is greatly reduced if the lampblack is saturated with oil. The danger of the spontaneous combustion of coal in cargoes is generally recognized by shippers and insurance-men.

Chiriqui Funerals.—M. Alphonse Pinart has recently given an account, before the Ethnographical Society of Paris, of the burial-places and funeral customs of the Dorasks, a people of the Isthmus of Darien, whom he regards as of Mexican origin. The burial-places, called huacas, which he claims to have discovered and excavated, are most abundant in the valley of Chiriqui, though they may be found in some other places. They generally lie at the foot of little hills, and are always marked by the presence of stones covered with figures and inscriptions. They are shaped like a well, the entrance to which is marked by a cross of stones, some twenty feet, more or less, in diameter, and are from six to thirty feet deep. At the bottom are excavated niches, corresponding with the four points of the compass, in which are deposited the bones and the articles that are buried with them—garments, vessels of most perfect shape and finish, and ornaments of gold, either solid or mixed with copper, representing animals, and undoubtedly of artistic value. The bones in these tombs are always broken, in accordance with a custom which prescribes the breaking of them as one of the peculiar features of the funeral rites. On the death of one of the Indians, the body is wrapped in a cotton shroud, and, after a short ceremony with a funeral oration, is borne to a solitary place in the forest, where it is laid upon a kind of scaffold covered with branches of trees, and left for a year. At the expiration of this period, the kanuru, a functionary expressly designated for this duty, and who is the only one that can perform it without having to undergo a costly purification, goes to the spot and prepares the corpse for the final ceremonies. Removing the limbs, he collects the bones, cleanses them from all adhering flesh, and breaks them up, together with the skull, and compresses the fragments into a small packet no larger than a new-born child. Having performed this duty, he calls his assistants, who have been waiting in the vicinity, and they bear the packet to a kind of catafalque, around which funeral services are held through parts of three days. At sunset of the third day the kanuru goes alone with the body, the dresses, and the ornaments that have been provided for the sepulchre, to the family tomb. No white man has ever been permitted to witness this part of the ceremonies.

Capacity of Brazilian Indians.—An anthropological collection, illustrative of the life of the savage tribes of South America, particularly of Brazil, is now on exhibition in London. Besides the scientific and artistic value of the cabinet, the collector, Senhor C. Ribeiro, seeks to commend the value of the country for colonization, and to remove prejudices against it. Among other things, he wishes to show that the Botocudos Indians are not the dangerous savages they have been reported, and that the specimens of their handiwork—useful articles of straw and bark, tastefully made head-dresses of feathers, and ingeniously fashioned weapons of war and the chase, decorated in geometrical figures—point to a capacity for civilization. Hitherto these Indians have had the advantages of civilization presented to them too often only with arguments of fire and sword; but Senhor Eibeiro asserts that they may be easily induced to work, and that with kind treatment and proper direction they might be made instrumental in the development of the natural wealth of their land.

John Duncan, the Weaver-Botanist.—John Duncan, the Scotch weaver and botanist, to whose scientific merit attention was drawn about two years ago, just in time for public recognition to make his dying days more comfortable, gained a thorough knowledge of botany and formed a valuable herbarium in the face of formidable difficulties arising from poverty and laborious occupation. He had also some knowledge of astronomy, learned something of Latin, so that he might understand botanical terms, and even tried Greek. In his pursuit of knowledge he bore privation cheerfully, denying himself almost the necessaries of life to buy books, and carrying on his studies in a loft above a stable, lighted only by an unglazed hole in the door, where he lived without fire or candle for fear of burning the thatch. His love for plants began to develop when he was about ten years old, and out on farm-service. "I just took a notion," he used to say, "to ken ae plant by anither when I was rinning aboot the braes. I never saw a plant but I lookit for the marrows o't" (the like of it); "and as I had aye a guid memory when I kent a flower ance, I kent it aye." He read in the "Herbal of Nicholas Culpepper," imbibed that quaint author's doctrine of the effect of astrological influences on plants, and was led from it to study astronomy as far as he could go without mathematics. When forty years old he fell in with a gentleman's gardener of the village who was also a scientific botanist, and was introduced by him to the regular study of the science. Before long he had learned enough to help his friend in the formation of a herbarium. For many years, at the season when weaving was dull, he was accustomed to go about doing harvest-work and studying the flora of Scotland, while he earned a little extra money; and he turned these excursions to such good account that, when in his old age he handed over his collection to a friend to be catalogued, as a preliminary to presenting it to Aberdeen University, it contained 1,131 specimens of the 1,428 species that form the flora of England and Scotland. A selection was made from this collection, and 750 specimens were finally presented to the university. Up to his seventy-third year, Duncan was able to earn his own living by work at the loom. Then work became scarce and his strength feeble, and he was forced to seek parochial relief. Finally attention was called to his case in "Nature," in January, 1881, and a subscription was made for him. The story of his life has been told by Mr. W. Jolly, in a book which has just been published in London.

A Smoke-consuming Furnace.—Mr. P. H. Jackson, of San Francisco, has patented a device for securing the more perfect combustion of coal by, first, securing the removal of the carbonic acid which arises from the fire, and, if allowed to remain mingled with the other products, interferes with their further combustion; and, second, by causing the hydrocarbons and other combustible products to be drawn under the furnace and perfectly mixed with atmospheric air before passing through the fire again. The carbonic acid is eliminated through the action of the affinity of carbonate of soda, which is placed in a chamber above the furnace, whence an outlet is provided for the escape of any surplus of acid. The hydrocarbons are drawn down under the furnace through a pipe at the side of the stove, by the suction of a strong current of atmospheric air, which is made to flow to feed the fire through a chamber into which the lower end of the pipe abuts.

Curves of Mortality in London and New York.—Dr. John W. Tripe, President of the Society of Medical Officers of Health, England, has observed, from a comparison of the mortality returns of London and New York, that the curve representing the prevalence of scarlet fever is for New York entirely opposed to that for London. Thus, the lowest death-rate from this disease happens in New York between the end of July and early in October, when the mortality from it in London is greatest. Again, the curve of lowest mortality in London falls in February, March, and April, reaching its lowest point when the mortality is greatest in New York. "We are therefore," Dr. Tripe remarks, "driven to the conclusion either that the same meteorological changes which appear to increase the disease in London decrease it in New York, or, that the mortality per cent of attack is greater at one period of the year than at another. Similar opposing curves are noticeable as regards whooping-cough. These are by no means satisfactory results to have arrived at after so much labor. On the other hand, the curves of mortality from small-pox, measles, diphtheria, typhoid fever, diarrhœa, phthisis, bronchitis, pneumonia, heart-disease, and apoplexy closely correspond in both these great cities."

Suggestions about Bathing.—When and under what conditions a bath will be most beneficial is an important question. The important point is to secure a speedy and healthful reaction, or return of the blood to the surface, and all the conditions should be arranged with reference to that end. Obviously, says the "Lancet," it is not right to dare the dangers of a chill either when undressing or by immersion in the cold water. In most cases a sweating surface indicates some measure of exhaustion already set in; and it is unwise to bathe when copious perspiration has continued for an hour or more, unless the heat of the weather be excessive or the sweating has been induced by loading with clothes rather than by exertion. When much perspiration has been produced by muscular exercise, it is unsafe to bathe, because the body is so fatigued and exhausted that the reaction can not be insured, and the effect may be to congest the internal organs, and notably the nerve-centers. The last gives cramp. If the weather be chilly, or there be a cold wind, so that the body may be rapidly cooled at the surface while undressing, it is not safe to bathe. Under such conditions, the further chill of immersion in cold water will take place at the precise moment at which the reaction consequent upon the chill of exposure by undressing ought to take place, and this second chill will not only delay or altogether prevent the reaction, but will convert the bath from a mere stimulant to a depressant, ending in the abstraction of a large amount of animal heat and congestion of the internal organs and nerve-centers. The aim must be to avoid two chills, and to make sure that the body is in such a condition as to secure a quick reaction on emerging from the water, without relying too much on the possible effect of friction by rubbing. The actual temperature of the water does not affect the question so much as its relative temperature in comparison with that of the surrounding air. It ought to be much lower than that of the air. These maxims receive a striking re-enforcement from the case of a young soldier who a few days ago plunged into the river near Manchester, England, after having heated himself by rowing. He was immediately taken with cramps, and was drowned. When taken out, his body was found "twisted," and the vessels of his head showed every evidence of congestion. Quintus Curtius relates that Alexander the Great attempted a bath in the Cydnus on a very hot day, when all sweating. "Hardly had he entered, when his limbs became suddenly stiff, the body pale, and vital heat seemed by degrees to abandon him. His officers received him almost expiring in their arms, and carried him almost senseless to his tent.

Satisfying Religious Scruples.—Dr. Francis Day, formerly inspector-general, stated, in a recent lecture on the fisheries of India, that while as Buddhists the Burmans profess a religious horror of taking the lives of the lower animals, they are immoderately fond of fish-diet, and pretend to console their consciences, while indulging in it, that the death of the fish must be laid to the fishermen, and can not be charged against them! The prospects of the fishermen in the next life appear, however, to be most dreadful, for the temples have pictures of terrible and artfully contrived tortures to which they will be condemned. The poongees, or priests, are supposed to be, as is their duty, particularly diligent in teaching the wickedness of eating fish, but they like to eat them; this is illustrated by the story of a fisherman on the Irrawaddy, who built a monastery in the hope of earning the highly prized title of founder of a religious home. Many poongees came to visit him, but none of them staid long, until at last one came who seemed to find the quarters and the fare to his liking. The fisherman one day asked this holy man anxiously the question, "Why, my father, do not the poongees approve my monastery, for none but yourself have remained over the going down of two suns?" The poongee told him it was because he broke the law by depriving fish of life. "True," answered the fisherman) "but, were I not to do so, how could I supply your table with fish, or how could I live were I to give up my employment?" The only reply he could obtain was, "Better to fast while keeping the law than to feast while breaking it!" The disciple took the priest at his word, and refrained from fishing for three days, giving his guest in the mean time only vegetables for his meals. On the fourth morning, when the same fare appeared, the poongee said, "My son, when you fish the river, does your net extend all across, permitting no fish to escape, or is a portion of the river free for those which select to pass to one side?" "Not all across, but only one third of the way," he answered. "Well, then, my son," said the priest, "I have been seriously considering the subject, and have arrived at the conclusion that, if you leave room for the fish to ascend or descend the stream, and they will not avail themselves of it, but rush headlong into the net, the fault is theirs, and not yours. Even Gautama blessed the hunter who met him when he was hungry, and supplied him with venison. This was accounted as a meritorious act, although he must have killed a deer to obtain it. So go, my son, and procure me some fish, for I am hungry." From that day the priest consumed his fish in quietness, and refrained from inquiring whence it had been procured.

Some Newly Remarked Instincts.—Mr. Charles S. Clarke, of Peoria, Illinois, recently related, in a lecture before the Scientific Association of that city, an incident, the key to which, if it is found to be of general application, may disclose a hitherto unnoticed principle of our organization. A child had been lost in the hazel-bushes near its home, and, after all the neighbors had failed to find it in the course of a day's search, an old trapper was called in to assist. He marked out with flags a rough circle of about two miles in diameter, starting from the bushes and bearing to the left toward the house; then set the company he had collected in a line along the radius of the circle, and moved them so as to examine the ground all over. The child was soon found. When asked the reason of his proceeding, he replied: "It was very simple. Probably you know that lost people always go round in a circle, but may be you don't know that they always circle agin the sun (from right to left)." "No," replied the speaker, "I have never heard that." "Well, they do," the hunter said, "and every Indian and trapper from here to the mouth of the Columbia will tell you so. Lost men or women will always make the circle within three miles in diameter, and children in two, unless they are led away by a trail or stopped by a stream." In the course of the same address, Mr. Clark also gave the following example, illustrating how much the senses can be cultivated: "While we were talking, two young dogs had gone to a small eminence, a few rods from the old man's cabin, and, with their noses in the air, would at short intervals utter a low, warning cry. The trapper soon noticed it, and, calling to an old dog in the cabin, he said, 'Dave, go up yonder and see what those youngsters are making a fuss about.' The dog, after reaching the place and standing a moment with outstretched neck and distended nostrils, gave a clear but low warning notice, such as I had never heard from a dog before. 'Is that so, Dave?' said the old man. He immediately went to the same place and began to sniff the air, much after the manner of the dogs. 'Sure enough, Dave,' he said, 'you are right.' 'What is it?' I asked. 'The prairie is on fire,' he said,' some thirty or forty miles northwest from here! I must set a back-fire on the other side of the creek, or my cabin and bees will be in ashes before morning, should the wind raise; and, by-the-way,' he said, 1 you go back by the way you came, and tell the people to set back-fires at once, and have them send word to the settlements below.' Before starting I tried my sense of smell, and, although I imitated the attitude of the trapper and the dog, I could detect nothing but the sweet October air." The warning given by the dogs was justified in the event.