Popular Science Monthly/Volume 24/December 1883/Popular Miscellany
Tarantula-Bites and the Dancing-Care—The tarantula, that gigantic spider of supposed very poisonous qualities, is native in Italy, and in the neighborhood of Tarento, whence its name is derived. Its bite and sting have been supposed to be extremely painful, and to produce a periodical derangement, manifesting itself in various ways. The affected persons were fabled to be attacked with a kind of compulsion to dance, which was called, after its cause, tarantismus; and real benefit, in the shape of a dilution of the poison, and a weakening of its effects, was supposed to accrue from subjecting the bitten person to a violent exercise of dancing. The doctors regarded the tarantismus as a kind of hypochondria, to which the women of Southern Italy were peculiarly subject, and some had prescriptions of particular kinds of music and special dances for its cure. Some held that different kinds of music should be prescribed to different persons, according to their character and temperament. Possibly, however, a play upon names is connected with these conditions; and the dance called the tarantella, which is in great favor in Italy, may have derived its name in the same way as the great spider, simply from the fact that it is indigenous to the Tarentine province. The tarantula insect will bite, like any spider, when it is trodden upon; but that its bite is more dangerous than the sting of the hornet has not been proved. It is still customary in Apulia to make one dance who thinks he has been bitten by a tarantula. Waldemar Kaden relates that he was disturbed once by the noise of music and dancing, and that looking out he saw a youth, who was supposed to have been bitten while asleep in the field, going through the performance. The poor fellow was in the center of a circle of persons of all ages, held by the collar and arms by a strong peasant, and compelled to make the motions whether he would or not, while the crowd kept him excited with their shouts and clapping. The great point to be gained was to make him sweat, and, when this was brought about, the crowd rejoiced and gave him a glass of wine. The only mark on the youth was a red spot on the forehead that might have been a scratch. He had never seen a tarantula, and felt no pain or uneasiness, and was out at play an hour after the dance. Herr Kaden inquired of the people how many of them had been tarantolati. Not one of them had ever seen a tarantula, but they had all danced!—Die Natur.
The British Association.—The meeting of the British Association for 1883 was held at Southport, beginning September 19th. The President for the year was Professor Cayley, whose address on the "Obligations of Mathematics to Philosophy, and to Questions of Common Life," though it may have been to minds trained in mathematical modes of thought an admirable presentation of the subject, was far too abstruse to be capable of popular adaptation. Professor Ray Lankester opened the Biological Section with an address, urging greater liberality on the part of the state in encouraging the prosecution of biological studies. He drew a comparison decidedly unfavorable to England with what is done in this line on the Continent, especially in Germany, and, dwelling on the practical utility of such studies, declared that forty new biological institutes, requiring a capital sum of about two millions sterling, were needed in England. The section suggested the foundation of a marine laboratory at some point on the British coast, as a suitable object to which the surplus of funds anticipated from the Fisheries Exhibition could be applied. Dr. Gladstone's address in the Chemical Section was on "The Elements," and covered the history of the theories that have prevailed and the knowledge that has been gained on the subject; and showed that we have much yet to learn upon it. Among the more important papers read in this section was that of Professor A. W. Williamson, "On the Constitution of Matter." Professor W. C. Williamson, as Vice-President, gave in the Geological Section "a clear and concise exposition" of our present knowledge of the carboniferous flora. By the doctrine of evolution, there must have existed prior to the Devonian period, when the cryptogams were flourishing in wonderful grandeur, and distributed all over the earth, a vast succession of forms of vegetable life; yet hardly a vestige of this pre-Devonian flora has been unearthed; and it is clear that we are not yet in a position to construct a genealogical tree of the vegetable kingdom. Colonel Godwin-Austen addressed the Geological Section on the orography and geology of the Himalaya Mountain system; and Mr. Trelawney Saunders explained the scheme for connecting the Mediterranean with the Red Sea by means of a navigable canal through the valley of the Jordan. A communication was received in this section from Mr. Stanley, advising the establishment of a British protectorate over the Congo. Mr. Pengelly, of the Anthropological Section, having the discoveries in Kent's Cavern as his subject, adduced new evidence in favor of the belief in glacial or even pre-glacial man. Professor Henrici, in the Mathematical Section, spoke of the position of the study of geometry in England. In the Mechanical Section, Mr. Brunlees, engineer, traced the growth of mechanical appliances for the construction and working of railways and docks. In his address he referred to the assistance Mrs. Roebling had given her husband during the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge, which he characterizes as "honorable to the individual woman, to the energetic nation to which she belongs, and to the better half of the human race." In the Statistical Section was presented the final report of the Anthropometric Committee, which has been for several years engaged in collecting evidence as to the stature and other physical characteristics of the inhabitants of the British Isles. The evening lectures were on "Recent Researches on the Distance of the Sun," by Professor R. S. Ball; "Galvani and Animal Electricity," by Professor McKendrick, of Glasgow; and "Telephones," by Sir F. Bramwell. The next meeting of the Association will be held in Montreal, and the meeting for 1885 in Aberdeen.
The Study of our Sidereal System.—In his address before the American Association, on "The German Survey of the Northern Heavens," Professor William A. Rogers defined the present condition of knowledge regarding the proper motions of the stars and of the solar system in space. Struve concluded several years ago that the solar system was moving in a direction toward a point in the constellation Hercules, and Mädler has indicated Alcyone in the Pleiades as the probable center of the greater system of which it forms a part; but, "Biot in 1812, Bessel in 1818, and Airy in 1860, reached the conclusion that the certainty of the movement of the solar system toward a given point in the heavens could not be affirmed. . . . It must always be kept in mind that the quantities with which we must deal in this investigation are exceedingly minute, and that the accidental errors of observation are at any time liable to lead to illusory results. . . . It can not be affirmed that there is a sidereal system in the sense in which we speak of the solar system. . . . Admitting that the solar system is moving through space, can we at the present moment even determine whether that motion is rectilinear or curved, to say nothing of the laws which govern it?" The questions connected with these points, if solved at all, must be solved by a critical study of observations of precision accumulated at widely separated epochs of time. The first step in the solution has been taken in the systematic survey of the northern heavens undertaken by the [Astronomische] Gesellschaft, and in the survey of the southern heavens at Cordova by Dr. Gould. "The year 1875 is the epoch about which are grouped the data which, combined with similar data for an epoch not earlier than 1950, will go far toward clearing up the doubts which now rest upon the question of the direction and the amount of the solar motion in space; and it can not be doubted that our knowledge of the laws which connect the sidereal with the solar system will be largely increased through this investigation."
Ideas about Fossils.—Professor August Quenstedt gives in his "Petrefacten Kunde" a review of the hypotheses that have been advanced at different times concerning the nature and origin of fossils, and of the slow processes by which the true theory of the subject has been reached. The views of the ancients were crude enough, but among them were some more intelligent and nearer to the truth than any that were held during the middle ages. The crude speculations of the latter period survived down to an age of greater scientific enlightenment; and the time is not extremely remote when belemnites were regarded as thunderbolts, and other fossils were looked upon as sports of Nature, or as efforts of Nature to prepare in the bosom of the earth the material forms of bodies preliminary to their receiving the breath of life. At a later period the belief arose that the fossils were once actually living creatures, and had been destroyed by the flood; and, as recently as 1828, Buckland supported such a view in his "Reliquae Diluvianæ." This author was one of the earliest cave-hunters, and believed that the bones found in the caves were those which had been washed into them by the Noachian deluge. With such views having held a footing in our own century, we have little right to be amused at those who, in the age of Scheuchzer and Leibnitz, thought the bones of the gigantic salamander (Salamandra gigantea) were the remains of an old human sinner destroyed in the flood. Even Leibnitz had no doubt that the remains of a mammoth which were found near Quedlinburg belonged to the unicorn of the Bible. Because the Bible assigned extremely long terms of life to the antediluvian patriarchs, popular belief ascribed a gigantic size to the ancestors of the present human race; and parts of huge fossil skeletons were occasionally preserved in the churches as relics. Such a belief was already so extensive, even in the time of Empedocles, n. c. 450, that a mass of hippopotamus-bones found in Sicily was declared by the learned of the day to be the remains of the giants who fought against the gods. The Mohammedans believed that Adam was as tall as a palm-tree, or about sixty feet, and found a mound of corresponding size in Syria to answer for his grave. The academician, Henrien, in 1718, described Adam as thirty-eight and a half metres and Eve as thirty-seven metres high, and herein did not greatly disagree with St. Augustine. The former world was long believed to have been constructed on a much more gigantic scale than the present; and the opinion that the old order of things and organisms was vastly different from the existing one, and was subverted by a tremendous revolution, prevailed quite generally, till Lamarck and Cuvier pointed out the way to a more consistent theory.
Defective Hearing in School-Children.—Dr. Gellé, a French physician, has recently published an important paper on defects of hearing among school-children. Dr. Weil, of Stuttgart, a year or two ago expressed the opinion that about thirty per cent of the children in commercial schools, and ten per cent of well-to-do school children, hear but imperfectly. Dr. Gellé, from the examination of fourteen hundred cases of deafness in schools, fixes the proportion of children thus affected at about twenty or twenty-five per cent of the whole number. The deficiency is most obvious in the case of the consonant-sounds, the very ones most essential to the understanding of what is said. Dr. Gellé observes that the range of hearing for a given sound diminishes outside the class-room, or even in a covered yard; that mistakes cease or diminish as the distance of the teacher from the pupil is lessened; and that deafness increases with age. To make the conditions convenient for the hearing of the pupil, the teacher should take pains to place himself in the most favorable position and to articulate distinctly, and the size of the class-room should be adjusted according to the laws which limit the range of the most distinct hearing to about twenty-three or twenty-seven feet. The scholars, having been previously examined with reference to their hearing, should be arranged so as to place those most deficient in this respect nearest to the teacher.
Significance of the Aboriginal Mounds.—In the discussions of the Anthropological Section of the American Association, respecting the mounds, Dr. S. D. Peet divided those structures into five classes, as follows: 1. Emblematic mounds, built by hunters who worshiped animals. 2. Burial-mounds, a class mostly represented in Michigan, Illinois, and Minnesota. 3. Mounds which are probably the remains of the stockades of an agricultural people. 4. Village mounds the remains of villages, and their high places for worship. 5. The peculiar mounds of the Pueblos and Aztecs. The emblematic mounds, having the forms of animals hunted, served a useful as well as a religious purpose, and were used as screens from behind which to shoot the animals that would pass along the game-drives between them. Of their religious significance, Dr. Peet's theory is, that the animals were supposed to be scattered about to guard the central sacrifice or altar mound. He has been led to this belief by observing that the altar-mounds are nearly always situated on high ground, overlooking a river, while the emblematic mounds are so disposed around the altar-mounds as to suggest the notion of guarding the latter.
The Singing-Sands of Manchester, Massachusetts.—A. A. Julien and Dr. H. C. Bolton presented a paper to the American Association, on the sands of the singing-beach, at Manchester, Massachusetts. On the beach, feldspathic rocks are intersected by numerous dikes of igneous rocks. The sonorous phenomenon is confined to particular parts of the sand, and is exhibited in areas to which closely contiguous ones are silent. The sound is produced by pressure, and may be likened to a subdued crushing of low intensity and pitch, not metallic or crackling. It occurs when the sand is pressed by ordinary walking, increases with sudden pressure of the foot upon the sand, and is perceptible upon mere stirring by the hand, or even plunging one finger and removing it suddenly. It can be intensified by dragging wood on the beach. Somewhat similar phenomena have been observed in sands at various other places. The authors explain the phenomena upon the hypothesis that the sand, instead of being, as ordinarily, composed of rounded particles, is made up of grains with flat and angular surfaces. In the present instance, the plane surface of feldspar is apparent in many of the grains. Probably a certain proportion of quartz and feldspar grains is adapted to give the sound, while less or more of either component would fail of the result. It is concluded that the sound is produced either by the intermixture of grains having cleavage-planes, or of grains with minute cavities.
Use and Abuse of Check-Reins.—Bearing-reins, or check-reins, in the harness of horses, are useful and advantageous in their places and when rightly adjusted, but the instances in which they simply torture the animals that have to endure them are more conspicuous. In crowded streets, with high-mettled horses that run freely up to their bits, a well-fitted bearing-rein gives the driver a more thorough control of the animal that is valuable in avoiding collisions. A bolting horse, says the "Pall Mall Gazette," endeavors to get his head well down, so as to extend his neck, and thereby obtain a stronger purchase against the restraint of the reins; and if he is restrained by a bearing-rein, so that he can not lower his head below the level to which he would require to carry it for ordinary equilibrium in draught, his powers of bolting are greatly circumscribed, and if he is not excessively borne up he is not conscious that the rein is restraining him, and his powers of draught are not cramped. The fashion of coachmen is, however, to pull the bearing-rein up so tight that the horse's neck is cramped, and the animal is thrown into an unnatural and painful position, and is deprived of much of his power to draw the load that is intrusted to him. His feeling must be much the same as that of a man would be whose head was pulled back so that he would have to stand for hours looking up at the sky without being able to turn his eyes away, and had while in such a position to draw a baby-carriage. The fact that the adjustment of the rein is painful can be recognized from the unnatural attitude of the horse's neck, and from his fretfully tossing his head every few minutes to relieve himself, and shake off the foam from his jaws. "This tossing of the head and flecking of flanks, brisket, and harness with foam, seem to the coachman and to the upracticed observer to be picturesque, and characteristic of high courage; to the experienced eye they betray that the animal is not only inconvenienced but is also pained by his position." Besides this annoyance, the animal thus tightly checked, being unable to throw the head reasonably forward when feeling his collar, can not utilize his natural powers of draught, and, in default of them, has to draw from the lateral purchase of his limbs instead of from his height, and thereby unduly to tire his muscles and joints and strain them; and, if he stumbles, the danger of his falling is increased. The instinct of a horse in stumbling is to let his head drop to a certain point where it helps to restore equilibrium. A rein adjusted to catch the head at that point would be helpful, but the common tight reins prevent its dropping at all, and thereby augment the insecurity of the horse.
Cultivation of the Date-Palm.—Dates are cultivated profitably in two oases of the Algerian Sahara. At the oasis of Rir, where the conditions are most favorable, an unfailing supply of water is obtained by artesian wells from a depth of about two hundred feet. The use of these wells has been known to the natives from time immemorial, but has been facilitated, and the number of them has consequently increased since the introduction of improved systems of boring by the French. Sixty-four of the wells had been bored by the French in 1878, furnishing an average of more than 1,500 quarts of water each a minute. They vary among themselves greatly in capacity, one of them being rated at 4,800 and another at 20 quarts a minute. At the averaged rate of supply, each of the wells should furnish water enough to sustain 15,000 palm-trees, representing a plantation of 425 acres. Each tree, if thriving, well manured, and cared for, will bear from one hundred to one hundred and twenty-five pounds of dates; raised by the quantity and without manure or particular attention, the average crop per tree is thirty-five or forty pounds, and this is worth about sixty cents. It is not a matter of very great expense to start a plantation of dates. A lot of five or six hundred acres, on which 30,000 trees may be planted, can be bought for about five hundred dollars; the wells will cost eight hundred dollars apiece; the trees cost about thirty cents apiece; and M. Jus estimates the whole expense of stocking an oasis with 10,000 trees at about $4,000. The trees are expected to bear a crop in the fifth year after planting. The cost might be greater and the time of waiting longer than is calculated, as will often probably turn out to be the case, and the enterprise still be a profitable one, especially as the expense of the outlay, it is thought, may be nearly covered by the barley that may be raised with the aid of the winter rains. The care of the young trees is intrusted to tenant farmers, who take half the barley and a sixth of the dates. When the plantation has come into bearing, it will return, if all is prosperous, 375,000 pounds of dates, worth $6,000 gross, of which the proprietor receives $4,800, or a few hundred dollars more than his estimated first outlay. The prospect has proved flattering enough to attract the attention of a few capitalists who have started several plantations near Ourlana, in the center of the oasis.
The Poisonous Principle of Bulbs.—Professor Husemann remarked several years ago that a certain class of poisons was generally diffused in plants of the families Liliaceæ and Amaryllidceæ. His view has been confirmed by the results of later researches. Gerrard has extracted from the tulip a poison called tulipin, the nitrate of which, according to Sydney Ringer, has the power of stopping the contraction of the heart, with many of the properties of veratrin. Professor Warden, of Calcutta, has extracted from a lily of India a very poisonous principle (superbin), which appears to be identical with the scillitoxin of the squill, and a very small dose of which killed a grown cat. The presence of the poisonous principle in bulbs, on which many plants are more dependent for propagation than on the seed, has an important bearing on the perpetuity of species by its agency in preserving them from the attacks of animals which would be likely to destroy them by eating them. "While the poisons are comparatively harmless to men, they are peculiarly deadly to the rodentia; and it is from the depredations of animals of this class that bulbs would be most likely to suffer.
Scope and Value of Anthropological Studies.—Professor Otis A. Mason, in his address before the Anthropological Section of the American Association, on the "Scope and Value of Anthropological Studies," answers the inquiry as to what benefit the world has derived from the cultivation of that science: First, every study is improved by study, and, if "the proper study of mankind is man," it is eminently important that that should be improved and pursued scientifically. Secondly, the value of a study must be estimated by its effects upon human weal; and are not the questions agitated by anthropologists connected with human welfare? "Do they not relate to the body, mind, and speech of man, to the races of mankind, their arts, amusements, social needs, political organizations, religion, and dispersion over the earth? For instance, the French in Africa, the British in India, and our own citizens in malarious and fever-laden regions, have they not learned from loss of treasure, ruined health, and the shadow of death, that there is a law of nature which can not be transgressed with impunity? It is the same with sociology and religion. The pages of history glow with the narratives of crusades against alleged wrongs, which were in reality campaigns against the sacred laws of nature. Social systems, which had required centuries to crystallize, have been shattered in some effort to bend them to some new order of things. Arts and industries planted in uncongenial soil, at great expense, have brought ruin upon their patrons, who had not studied the intricate laws of development. . . . The better knowledge of races and race peculiarities has revolutionized and humanized the theories of aborigines. The doctrine of extermination, formerly thought to be the only legitimate result of colonization, has become as odious as it is illogical. The inductive study of mind has hardly begun; but how much more successfully and rapidly will education and the development of the species progress when the teacher and the legislator can proceed at once from diagnosis to safe prescription, when natural selection and human legislation shall coöperate in the more speedy survival of the fittest"! A third benefit of the study is the opportunity which the science affords for the exercise of every talent, even the highest. It is possible for every craft to prosecute its researches and make its contributions on the subject.
The Big Trees of Turkistan.—According to ancient accounts, the mountains of Turkistan were formerly covered with large and handsome forests. Now, the absence of trees and the savage nudity of the mountain-slopes are what most strike the traveler in that country. The denudation would, perhaps, have been complete by this time if the Russian Government had not interposed to prevent further waste; and the restoration of the forests is at present under consideration by a commission. The growth of plants in as hot a climate as that of Turkistan is very rapid. Trees at Samarcand and Tashkend have been known to make growths by measure in a single year of from fifteen to nearly twenty feet, and a corresponding development in thickness. Nevertheless, fine trees are very rare, though a few exist of extraordinary size. They are generally found near some holy place or overshadowing some mosque or hermit's retreat, where they owe their preservation to the respect in which the natives hold the shrines to which they appertain. The Sartes of Tashkend tell of an arbor-vitæ, in the inclosure of one of the mosques of their town, which is nearly six feet and a half in diameter and five thousand years old. A French traveler has measured mulberry-trees at Oursrout and at Salavad that were more than sixteen feet in circumference at the height of the shoulder, but they did not seem to grow proportionately in height. These trees were all in religious places, and were accompanied by plane-trees of equal size. The latter tree is occasionally found of really wonderful dimensions. Madame O. Fedtchenko made a drawing of one which was six feet four inches in diameter, the interior of which had been converted into a little medresseh. It was growing on a saint's tomb, not far from Samarcand. A plane-tree in the Tajik village of Sairub is twenty-seven feet and a half in circumference at the height of the shoulder. It has been protected from the wash of rains by a barrier of stones, and its hollow trunk has been formed into a square room and fitted up as the village school-house. Near it is another twenty-six paces in circumference at the base. The people say that these trees were planted by Ali. Of a group of old plane-trees at Chojakend, east of Tashkend, the largest is a rotten and hollow old stump, looking like the ruin of a giant wall, from which six vigorous lateral trees have shot up. The whole plant is forty-eight paces in circumference at the base, and the hollow of the principal trunk is nine metres, or more than twenty-seven feet, in diameter. A party of a dozen tourists from Tashkend once had a feast in the inside of this stump, and were not cramped for room.—La Nature.
Anthropology and Philanthropy.—Professor Otis T. Mason, in his American Association address on the "Scope and Value of Anthropological Studies," speaking of their value to philanthropy, says: "With what admiration do we read of the devotion of those missionaries who have suffered the loss of all things in their propagandist zeal! Science has her missionaries as well as religion, and the scientific study of peoples has notably modified the methods of the Christian missionary. The conviction that savage races are in possession of our family records, that they are our elder kindred, wrinkled and weather-beaten, mayhap, but yet worthy of our highest respect, has revolutionized men's thoughts and feelings respecting them. The Bureau of Ethnology has its missionaries among many of the tribes in our domain, no longer bent on their destruction, but treating them with the greatest consideration, in order to win their confidence, to get down to their level, to think their thoughts, to charm from them the sibylline secrets. It sounds something like the old Jesuit relations to hear of Mr. Cushing at Zuñi eating vile food, wearing savage costume, worshiping Nature-gods, subjecting himself to long fastings and vigils, committing to memory dreary rituals, standing between disarmed Indians and their white enemies on every hand, in order to save their contributions to the early history of mankind. You will recall the fact that an honorable senator more than a year ago offered, as an argument against sudden disruption of tribal affinities, an elaborate scheme of the Wyandotte Confederacy."
Farming in Japan.—According to the report of Consul Van Buren, the Japanese farmer holds in public opinion and estimation an exalted position. He is owner of the soil he tills, is generally represented by members of his class as officers in the agricultural villages, and has electoral rights which are in some instances exclusive. His position has been raised, and his privileges have been increased, during the last two years. A considerable percentage of the land-owners are able to employ laborers, and are thus not themselves tied to labor; but the farm-work allows no rest, for in the mild climate the hardier crops may be raised in the winter as well as others in the summer. Almost every farmer can read, write and keep his farm accounts. He sends his sons to school, and his daughters are taught needlework and music at home. The labor on the farm is all mere hand-work; a plow is seldom seen, but a kind of long-toothed harrow is sometimes used to follow the mattock. The laborers are treated with great kindness. Those engaged in the cultivation of tea, silk, and sugar, need more skill than the others, and are paid higher wages. They live almost entirely on vegetable food, refraining from the use of meat by virtue of religion, custom, popular prejudice, and necessity. Their clothing is extremely light, and does not cost more than about four dollars a year. Several holidays are allowed each year for religious festivals and family celebrations, and the laborers generally have small gardens attached to their cottages. Women and children are employed in tea-picking, and in the lighter and in-door operations of silk-culture, and are paid for skill. The labor employed on the cotton plantations is not skilled, and is paid for at low rates. A farming population of 15,500,000 is engaged on 12,000,000 acres of land, giving about three quarters of an acre to each person. The tillage is of the most thorough order. Two crops are raised each year, so that the producing capacity of the land is double what it appears to be.
Animal Plagues.—Mr. George Fleming, in his recent work on "Animal Plagues," remarks that no description of disease, sufficiently exact to be identified with the type of which pleuro pneumonia is an example, is found till about two hundred years ago. Even then, the earliest record suggesting that disease is of a doubtful character. It dates from 1613, when there had been a course of years marked by phenomenal disturbances, mildew, and blight. Oxen and cows died in great numbers from a pulmonary phthisis that appears to have been brought on in part by severe cold after intense heat. Men also were attacked with dysentery and malignant fevers. In 1713, again, a "cattle-plague," distinctly so described, raged over Europe, and wild creatures suffered with the tame. In 1725 a wet and chilly year of blight was followed by an exceedingly dry and hot one; honey-dew and rust were abundant on the crops and foliage; a great mortality prevailed among cattle; while the deer perished in numbers, and even the fish suffered. In 1769, after a rainy year and a bad harvest, a lung-disease, called murie in Franche-Comté, raged among the cattle and horses in the north of France; but it appears to have been less virulent than genuine bovine contagious pleuro-pneumonia. About 1779 the last-named disease, now thoroughly ascertained and distinguished from other cattle-plagues, appeared in Upper Silesia and Istria; then, after holding its ground there for many years, it spread to Bavaria. It was carried into France during the wars of the French Revolution, into Italy in 1815, and into Holland and Belgium in 1827. Having established itself upon the Continent, it was introduced into England in 1841, when Liverpool and other ports at which diseased animals were landed became centers of contagion. The history of this disease is only one example out of many in the list of maladies to which animals are liable. The study of Mr. Fleming's histories induces the conviction that hardly a creature in any way connected with man, or coming under our observation, is free from liability to hosts of plagues, or has not its full share of special or common troubles. Mr. Fleming's work is published in England.
Wind-Sounds in the Desert.—The travelers' tales of sounds like the ringing of bells, which they have heard in deserts and lonely places, are familiar. Some of them are too well substantiated to admit of serious dispute. Among them is that of the noises heard at the Gebel Nakus, in the Sinaitic Peninsula, which the Arabs say proceed from a convent of damned monks; the musical cliffs of the Orinoco, told of by Humboldt; and the sounds which the French savants Jollois and Devilliérs declare they heard at sunrise at Karnak, Egypt, and described as comparable to the ancient fable of the vocal Memnon. The sounds are not always or exactly like the ringing of a bell; sometimes they resemble the music of a string, and may be generally described as of an intermediate character between the two classes. A characteristic of the sounds is, that no one can discern where they come from. M. Émile Sorel, fils, in order to determine their origin, has made some successful experiments in reproducing them artificially. Taking his gun into an open field, he placed it at an angle of 45° against the wind, when it gave forth a sound. Then moving it around, he caused it to utter the exact tone he sought. The sound could not be localized. Addressing a peasant, he asked him, "Do you hear my gun? "Pardon, monsieur, it is the bells of ——." A similar answer was got from every one whose attention was called to the noise. It was believed to come from about two miles and a half to the windward. M. Sorel believes this experiment authorizes the hypothesis that the ringing is the result of the blowing of the wind over a slope at the foot of which is something that may act as a resonator. What is done on a small scale in a gun may be done on a large scale in nature, on the face of a mountain or a rock which is backed by a valley or a ravine, or which is itself elastic enough to give the resonant effect. The sounds are apparently not as readily given when the vibrating surfaces and media are moist.
Artificial Drying of Fodders.—A practical, economical apparatus for artificially drying fodder-crops might be the means of effecting immense savings to farmers in bad seasons for hay-making. Mr. William A. Gibbs has described before the British Society of Arts two such apparatuses which, he claims, accomplish the object at a cost that makes their use profitable. His own apparatus, which he has spent many years in perfecting, is in its primitive and simplest form a stove or furnace for burning coke, to which is attached a fan for blowing the hot air resulting from the combustion—of a temperature that may rise to 520°—through the wet grass. An exposure of from four to six minutes is sufficient to convert each lot of grass the proportion of which is adapted to the force of the blast into hay. This has been developed into a machine of eleven tons weight "which, when in action, eats up a one-horse load of coke, draws off ten to fifteen tons of water, and converts twenty great cart-loads of wet rubbish into good stack-hay in a single day's work." The perfected machine has a system of giant forks and flat iron plates, kept in rapid action, through which the wet grass is shaken down in successive stages while it is permeated through and through with the hot air. Another process, the invention of Mr. Neilson, is for cooling hay in the stack, and uses the heat which is developed in the natural process of "heating," to dry the whole. A hole six inches in diameter is bored through the stack to the point at which the greatest heat is developed, and a fan fixed at the outlet of the hole is made to draw off the heat from that point and promote the ventilation and drying of the whole mass. Mr. Gibbs believes that these processes are about equal in value, and that their value is real. He also described a "sheaf-tube" for drying sheaves of wheat. It is "like a gun-barrel open at both ends, and about eighteen inches long; such tubes as these are stuck into sockets all over a plate-iron floor, at just such a distance apart as will enable a wheat-sheaf to be comfortably spiked upon each tube. The floor, with its small forest of tubes, is laid, air-tight, upon a dwarf foundation wall of about two bricks high, with a partition down its center. The hot-blast is then blown into the closed space thus formed between the ground and the tube floor, and rises through the tubes into the sheaves just where they are wettest, viz., at the band. A simple shunting valve directs the hot air first under one half of the floor, and then under the other, so that, while the sheaves on one half are drying, the others may be lifted off and replaced with more wet sheaves."
Fogginess of Malaysian Ideas.—Mr. D. D. Daly, who has been engaged in surveys of the native states of the Malay Peninsula, says that the natives show an almost total lack of notions of definite points, and have only the vaguest ideas with reference to the determination of boundaries. "The boundary of our state," said one, "extends as far as the meeting of the fresh water, with the salt water of the river"; or, "If you wash your head before starting, it will not be dry before you reach the place"; or, "The boundary may be determined on the river, as far as the sound of a gun may be heard from this hill." The shot might be fired from a smooth-bore or from a twelve-pounder, or a gale of wind might carry the report farther than was contemplated. Such ambiguous phrases were calculated to mislead, but they were essentially Malaysian in their generality.
Electricity from Gas.—A German professor, Dr. Von Marx, has shown that more light can be obtained from a given quantity of gas by burning it in a gas-motor which drives a dynamo-machine, than by burning it in the ordinary burner. His estimate is based on the following calculations: A gas-motor will consume on the average thirty-seven cubic feet of gas per hour for each horse-power. An argand burner, giving a light equal to eighteen candles, will consume five and a half cubic feet per hour, so that the amount of light obtained by burning thirty-seven cubic feet of gas in an argand burner will equal one hundred and twenty candles. In the Swan system of electric lighting, the light obtained from each horse-power (or by burning thirty-seven cubic feet of gas) is stated to be equal to one hundred and fifty candles. The light obtained by the Edison lamp he gives as between one and two hundred candles. Mr. Lungren, in his paper in the September number of "The Popular Science Monthly," estimates that eight lamps can be maintained for each actual horse-power, and if we make each lamp equal eighteen candles, we have a total of one hundred and forty-four candles per horse-power, a gain of twenty per cent over the use of an argand burner. When the. Jablochkoff candle is used, the results are much higher, each horse-power yielding a light equivalent to four hundred and seventy-two candles; while other arc systems run four or five times as high. In showing that more light is obtained by burning thirty-seven feet of gas in a gas-motor than by burning it in an argand burner, Professor Von Marx does not prove that it would be economical to do so, for the margin, taken as twenty per cent, is not sufficient to cover the cost of converting gas into electricity, so to speak. That the latent energy pent up in illuminating gas should produce more light when converted into electricity, notwithstanding the loss at each stage of the operation, than when burned directly, is explained by the fact that the larger part of the energy of burning gas is manifest in the form of heat, the lesser part in the form of light. In electricity we have just the opposite conditions.
Transparent Points in Leaves.—M. Theodore Bokorny has published a prize essay in the University of Munich on the "Transparent Points in Leaves." These points, which are quite common in some plants, mark the places where a group of cells, containing resin or an ethereal oil, has been collected. One of the most familiar instances of this kind is that of the St.-John's-wort (Hypericum perforatum), in which mediæval superstition imagined a connection between the lucid spots and the wounds of Christ, and assigned a healing virtue to the plant. In other cases the points in question are caused by cells with a slimy coating which produce secretions of slime, or by the presence of cells containing crystals of oxalate of lime. The operation of these agencies is associated with the action of secretory organs, or glandular processes, causing a tendency of particular substances to certain points. The cells forming the transparent points probably have some particular significance in connection with the life of the leaf, for their occurrence is so uniform in particular species that they become distinguishing marks by which the species is known. So, also, the presence of raphides-cells (cells containing needle-shaped crystals of oxalate of lime) is constant in some families, as in the Dioscoreas, smilaxes, and Taccaceæ, although the transparent points are rarely observed in their leaves. Cells containing resin or ethereal oil are constant in at least three species of pepper, and in all of the Monimiaceæ. Interior glands, with brown radiating crystals of resinous substance, are characteristic of the Myrsinieæ, and are wanting in only a few species. The anatomical structure which leads to the production of these points evidently has some systematic importance, and should not be overlooked in the determination of the characteristics of the different groups.