Popular Science Monthly/Volume 41/September 1892/Popular Miscellany
Moral, Manual, and Science Training in the Boston Public Schools.—The report of Mr. Ellis Peterson, of the Board of Supervisors, on the Revision of the Courses of Study in the Boston Public Schools, begins with a notice of the rules concerning moral teaching. Teachers are expected to give instruction for a few minutes in good manners and good morals at the opening of the school, and at other favorable opportunities, avoiding sectarian subjects. Conversations and written exercises on good manners and good morals are prescribed for the upper classes. Referring to the standard of proficiency in scholarship, the report advises, that instead of considering absolutely what the pupil has accomplished, when the naturally brightest one will easily carry off the reward, the teacher should look to relative ability, and commend those who have done their best. Physical training is given through the Ling system of gymnastics. Manual training appears in the course of study for the first time. The principle on which it is given is represented in the sentence, "All drawing should be the expression of facts which they have been led by their teacher to observe in solid forms." The observation of Nature, plants, and animals by pupils is closely followed by lessons in manual training; while drawing and oral and written language are used to express the results of observation and manual work. The work of observation begun in the primary schools is continued, under the name of elementary science, in the grammar schools. The first line of work in this direction is in physiology and hygiene. Books have to be depended upon for this study, and their statements taken upon trust. "The information thus gained is of little educational value, but is believed to be of great practical use." The second line of science work is in the direction of natural history. The observation of animals, plants, and minerals is continued. Pupils are expected to study plant-life with the help of window gardening, or a school garden; to collect specimens of grains, woods, pressed leaves, and wild flowers, and of some typical animals, plants, and minerals; and to learn the relation of mineral, vegetable, and animal products to arts, industries, and commerce. The third kind of science-work required by the course of study is the observation of physical phenomena. The educational value of these lines of science-work is in proportion to the degree in which the method of work is observational, inductive, and systematic.
Muir Glacier, Alaska.—Muir Glacier, Alaska, as described by Harry Fielding Reid, in his Studies of its features (National Geographic Society, publishers), occupies a depression in the mountain about thirty-five miles long and between six and ten miles wide. It is fed by a great number of tributaries, the largest of which are again made up of many smaller glaciers. A total area of about eight hundred square miles is drained by the system, and the actual surface of the ice is about three hundred and fifty square miles. The area draining into Muir Inlet is about seven hundred square miles. Most of the precipitation which falls on this area flows off as water in the sub-glacial streams; the rest, compressed into ice, is forced through the narrow gateway two miles and a half wide into the inlet, where the glacier terminates in a vertical wall of ice varying from one hundred and thirty to two hundred and ten feet above the water surface, whence large masses are continually separating to become icebergs. The water is in places seven hundred and twenty feet deep, and, as this is not enough to float a mass of ice rising so high above the water as the glacier, the ice must reach to the very bottom and must attain a thickness of nine hundred feet. The actual length of the ice-front facing the water is nine thousand two hundred feet, or a mile and three quarters. On each side the glacier sends forward a wing, which rises in the shape of a wedge over the stratified sands and gravels of the shore. The wings are fringed by treacherous quicksands, which support large stones and look firm; but the tourist who steps on them carelessly will sink in over his ankles. The ice-front has a wonderful coloring. Places from which ice has recently broken off are deep blue, sometimes almost black. This color lightens under exposure to the air and sun, and in a few days becomes pure white. All shades of blue, in striking variety, are represented in the ice-front.
The Action of Fungicides.—The principle involved in the use of fungicides for plant rusts, according to Prof. Byron D. Halsted, in the Report of the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station, consists in the application to the susceptible plant of a fine spray containing the substance that, when in contact with the spores, will either kill them or prevent their development. The whole practice of using fungicides depends upon the fact that these mildews, rusts, blights, and other fungous decays produce minute spores, which are easily disseminated and thereby propagate the trouble far and wide. These spores, either as such or when undergoing germination, are easily injured by various chemicals, notably the compounds of copper. It therefore follows that if these fungicides be placed upon the foliage in a thin film, it will go far toward destroying the spores already there and prevent those subsequently falling upon it from germinating. The ways in which this principle is carried out are many, depending upon the nature of the infected plant. The progress made during the last ten years in the study of fungous diseases is unparalleled. A few workers began collecting and describing some fifty years ago. This was followed a quarter of a century later by a critical study of the injurious species. The first systematic tests of fungicides do not date back more than a decade ago, and since that time, through the Department of Agriculture, experiments were begun which have been continued with well-defined practical results. By means of the experiment stations a new impetus was given to the subject about three years ago, and to-day there is a well-organized crusade against the fungous enemies of crops. The nature of the several blights, molds, and rots has been studied out in the laboratory, while fungicides in large numbers have been tested in the field. The result has been that several of the worst are practically subdued, provided the methods of warfare are followed.
Shuswap Traits.—Among the customs of the Shuswap people of British Columbia recorded by Mr. George M. Dawson is one from primitive times, by which, in the case of a man dying and leaving behind him a widow or widows, his brother next in seniority took the widow to wife. The right of a man to the widow of his deceased brother was considered as incontestable as that to his own wife or wives, and the women had equally a claim to receive from him the duty of a husband. The proper name of a man was changed from time to time during his life, when he would assume the name of some kinsman. Young men on reaching manhood were accustomed to separate themselves and go away alone into some solitary part of the country, where they would often remain for three or four months. They might hunt or trap, but must avoid contact with other people and keep away from habitations. Occasionally a young man thus engaged would clear a course in the woods or arrange bars for running or for jumping, and thus endeavor to increase his strength and endurance. They also meditated and dreamed dreams till each discovered his particular guardian spirit. Young women, at the time of reaching maturity, and thereafter at recurrent periods, were accustomed to wander forth alone after dark for considerable distances, breaking small branches from the trees as they went, and scattering them about or suspending them upon the limbs of other trees. Young fir trees, a few feet in height, were thus often split and torn apart for several feet, or the branches or growing tops were tied in knots. This custom still prevails, and the tokens of it may often be observed near Indian camps. No explanation of its meaning can be offered. An Indian who invited another to go hunting with him, gave to his friend the first deer, if several were killed. If but one was killed, it was divided, but the skin belonged to the friend in any case. If a man was hunting beyond the border of the recognized territory of his people, and one of the men holding claims to the region upon which he had thus trespassed heard him shoot, the owner of the locality would head for the place, and on arriving there expect to be feasted on the game obtained by the hunter.
Origin of the Jardin des Plantes.—According to M. Germain Bapst, in the Revue des Deux Mondes, the Jardin des Plantes, in Paris, was till the middle of the eighteenth century simply a botanical institution which had been created by Louis XIII in favor of his Doctor Herouard, under the name of Jardin des plantes médicinales et polagères. When Buffon was appointed steward of the garden by Louis XV, he augmented its service, founded a course of lectures and a museum of zoology, and continued the collection of miniatures of the Duke of Orleans. On his death, in 1788, the Museum of Natural History was far less important than it is now; the rapid growth which has made it the most complete and extensive establishment of its kind in the world, began during the Revolution: First, the Royal Menagerie, which had been kept in the garden of the Chateau at Versailles, was sent to the members of the Commune in Paris, in 1792. They, not knowing what to do with their new charges, sent them to the Jardin des Plantes, with orders to the steward to accommodate them there. That was the beginning of the menagerie. The other collections originated in the custom of the princes and great lords of the eighteenth century of interesting themselves in natural history and collecting objects of different kinds. Then, when the confiscation of the estates of absconders was decreed during the Revolution, there were found in them various collections of this kind. These were turned over to the state and were deposited in the public storing-places, especially in the Jardin des Plantes. The French conquests throughout Europe gave them possession of numerous museums which their generals removed to Paris and placed in the national establishments. Thus the collections of the Stadtholder of Holland, and that of the Prince of Conde, kept at Chantilly, came to constitute the physical and mineralogical departments of the museum.
Variety of Motions in the Atmosphere.—Espy's convection theory of storms assumes that the latent heat of vapor is the maintaining power, while the original ascent of the moist, warm air is due to conditions of density. Therefore, we could have no cyclonic motion without ascending moisture and clouds. The studies of other investigators have satisfied Prof. Cleveland Abbe that another important cause exists in the slow cooling by radiation and descending of the upper air flowing northward from the equator as a return trade. It eventually reaches the earth here and there in spots which are small areas of clear sky in the tropical regions, but are large areas of cold, dry air and high pressure in northern latitudes. "If the air is cooled by radiation faster than it is warmed up by the compression of its slow descent, then it reaches us as clear, cold, and dry air; and only after reaching the earth's surface does it begin to warm up in the daytime faster than it can cool again at night As this dry cold air underruns the moist warm air at the earth's surface, or as two areas of high pressure flowing toward each other must lift up the lighter air between them and set it into cyclonic rotation, we must, therefore, recognize the general conclusion that Espy's aspiration cyclone as developed by Ferrel is not the only form of cyclone, but that those due to descending cold air, and, therefore, having the general circulation of the atmosphere as their fundamental cause, are equally entitled to consideration. To this last and latest development from the theoretical side, I need only add that the study of the motions of the clouds has enabled me to assert that there is no form of motion known to the student of mechanics of fluids but what is to be found beautifully illustrated in some important phenomena of the atmosphere. The experiments on the motions of water and of air, and the measurements thereon that you may make in a well-appointed physical laboratory, are repeated by Nature on a large scale in the atmosphere."
Antiquity of the Wheelbarrow.—The invention of the wheelbarrow has been generally ascribed to Blaise Pascal, who lived about the middle of the sevententhcentury. M. Littre, in his Dictionary, attributes it to one Sieur Dupin, in 1669, seven years after Pascal's death. M. Gaston Tissandier, however, found in a copy of the Cosmography of Sebastian Munster, 1555, a curious woodcut representing a wheelbarrow pushed by a workman. Another plate in the same book shows a tramway wagon running on rails. Still earlier evidences of the existence of the wheelbarrow have been found by if. Bixio and M. F. Guerrero, who organized the retrospective exposition of the means of transportation, which was held at Paris in 1889. A manuscript history of the sangreal of the thirteenth century contains' a picture of one man shoving another in a wheelbarrow of a style now in general use. A manuscript—Vita et Passio S. Dionysii Areopagi—of the fourteenth century, has a representation of a wheelbarrow of another model, which is used in carrying a bundle. A very artistic picture in a manuscript—La Vie et les Miracles de Notre Dame—of the fourteenth century, represents a hospital where Sisters are taking care of wounded, lame, deformed, or paralytic persons, to which a man is wheeling a new patient. A miniature in an illustrated edition of Quintus Curtius, of the fourteenth century, shows a workman wheeling building material, who is assisted in sustaining his load by a strap over his shoulders. These evidences testify to the use of the wheelbarrow as early as the thirteenth century, and it may have been an old invention then.
Trees and Extreme Temperatures.—The power of trees, says a note in Garden and Forest, to regulate their own temperature to a certain extent is seen in the fact that their twigs are not frozen through in winter; nor does their temperature increase in summer in proportion to the temperature of the surrounding atmosphere. The bark is a bad conductor of heat, and is to a certain extent the clothing in which the plant is wrapped. The surface evaporation of the leaves produces in summer a freshness in them that causes them to feel cool even on hot days. Evaporation, however, does not explain the coolness of many kinds of fruit that are inclosed in a hard envelope, through which it seems almost impossible. Hooker mentions a fruit grown by the Ganges in a soil having a temperature of from 90° to 104°, the temperature of the juice of which had only 72° Fahr.
Liquid Air and Liquid Oxygen.—A lecture was recently delivered at the Royal Institution, London, by Prof. Dewar, embodying the results of his recent investigations into the properties of matter at excessively low temperatures, and in particular of oxygen and atmospheric air in the liquid condition. The lecture was illustrated by experiments such as have never before been attempted in a lecture-room. Liquid oxygen was produced in the presence of the audience literally by pints, and liquid air was handed round in claret glasses. While oxygen boils in air at 182° C. below zero, the researches of Lord Kelvin and Prof. Tait indicate that temperatures below -274° C. will not suspend all the activities of matter. As this is far below even the calculated boiling-point of liquid hydrogen, the absolute zero seems to recede as we advance. The purely chemical relations of oxygen disappear in the liquid condition. Phosphorus or potassium may be plunged into the liquid without any sign of combination. But the magnetic properties of the gas are intensified, and the action of the liquid upon light is identical with that of an equivalent quantity of oxygen in the gaseous condition. But while thus strongly magnetic, liquid oxygen is an extremely bad conductor of electricity. The boiling-point of liquid air is 192° C. below zero, or 10° C. lower than that of oxygen. The doctrine of the text-books that the oxygen liquefies first and the nitrogen afterward is erroneous. Air liquefies as air; but the boiling liquid parts with its nitrogen first, and becomes gradually richer in oxygen. Both in appearance and in spectroscopic behavior liquid air is simply diluted liquid oxygen. The blue tint of the oxygen is lost, and the absorption bands in the red are proportionately faint. Were this globe cooled down to some 200° C. below zero, it would be covered with a sea of liquid air thirty-five feet deep, of which about seven feet would be oxygen.
The Eleventh Census.—In an address delivered before the American Statistical Association Robert P. Porter, Superintendent of the Eleventh Census, stated that sixty thousand persons took part in the work of this census, and that its reports will make not less than twenty-five quarto volumes of one thousand pages each. Of the thirty experts and chiefs of divisions, at least twenty-three held similar or prominent positions in the tenth census. By the use of the electric tabulating machine it has been possible for the first time to aggregate from the schedules all the information which appears in any way desirable. Taking warning from the fate of educational statistics in the tenth census, which largely failed of publication, it was determined to confine the inquiries in the eleventh census to a small number of essential questions most readily answered. The statistics of mortgage indebtedness was a novel feature of this census. Under this head was made only the simple inquiry whether the farm or home was owned or rented, and, if owned, whether free from debt or not. Although these and some other inquiries increased the cost and added to the difficulties of the constitutional enumeration, the superintendent is confident that the work did not thereby suffer to any serious extent. In conclusion, Mr. Porter points out some defects of our census system, and urges a permanent Census Bureau.
The First Cigars in Paris.—Some interesting information has recently been published respecting the time when cigars first came into use. A passage in Hippolyte Auger's Mémoires, now very rare, relates that "our return to Paris (in 1823) was made by way of Orléans. On the road we met quite frequently officers returning from Spain. They swaggeringly had cigars in their mouths—a new habit, which has since become general." Another document carries back the use of the cigar to a somewhat earlier date. The Hermite de la Chaussée d'Antin (vol. iv, 1813), going to call upon his nephew, a young officer on leave in Paris, found him at his hotel in morning costume with a black silk cap on his head, and smoked a Havana cigar with him. The taste for the cigar was so common at that time that grocers, alive to their interests, were accustomed to present them to their customers. A set of complimentary verses, composed by Armand Gouffé for the actor Chapelle, of the Vaudeville, who had added to his professional occupations dealing in colonial produce, included in the nomenclature of articles that might be obtained in his shop—
"Gum, marshmallows, rum and rack.
Barley-sugar, almonds, and cigars."
Natural Selection among Egyptians.—"In spite of what appears to us a meager bill of fare, the Egyptian fellah," says Prof. Robert Wallace, "is very often a man of splendid physique, superior in strength and in endurance to the Indian ryot, whom he strongly resembles in many of his ways of working, his habits, his stolid lack of nervousness, and the absence of fear of sudden danger to his person. It is believed that the fellahin are almost exact reproductions of their predecessors for generations, and that, although the country has been frequently conquered, the new-comers were insignificant in numbers to the mass of the people, and consequently became rapidly absorbed. It is also a common belief that the soil and climate, and possibly the Nile water, exercise an influence in producing a certain type; for example, the nut-brown skin of natives of Lower Egypt. This is so, but the direction in which the influence works is frequently misunderstood. The result is more probably brought about by natural selection than by the modification in a given direction of the individual units of successive generations. Thus the negroes, though coming in numerously and intermarrying with the Egyptians, gain no ground, because the climate of the Delta is unfavorable to them, and they die of pulmonary disease within a few generations. Again, Europeans and strangers to the country generally suffer and die from typhoid fever in vastly greater proportions than the natives."
Magnifying Glasses in Antiquity.—Probably the earliest mention of magnifying glasses is quoted by Mr. Henry G. Hanks, in the Papers of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, from the Vanity of Arts and Sciences of Henry Cornelius Agrippa, of the early part of the sixteenth century, where it is said: "So we read, as Cœlius in his ancient writings relates, that one Hostius, a person of an obscene life, made a sort of glasses that made the object seem far greater than it was; so that one finger should seem to exceed the whole arm, both in bigness and thickness." There is difficulty in fixing the date of Cœlius, but he probably lived before Livy; and Hostius was a still more ancient personage.
Funeral Customs in New Guinea.—The death of a chief recently gave the Rev. S. B. Fellows, one of the Wesleyan missionaries in New Guinea, an opportunity of observing the native funeral ceremonies, which are somewhat similar to those of the Maories. From the time of death until burial, the corpse lies on the floor of the house, with no other covering than it had in life. In the present case a man, a near relative, was seen lying across the corpse, which he hugged and stroked, with loud crying and bitter sobbing. The women kept up an unceasing wailing and crying, signs of a grief which seemed genuine enough. The virtues of this chief were chanted as the mourners repeated again and again the names of the islands he had visited in his canoe, the amount of food he had brought home, the fish and pigs he had caught, etc. Large fires were kept burning underneath and round the house during the night to scare away the "debil debil." On the morning of the second day after death, the body, wrapped in rough mats, was buried soon after sunrise, without any rites; and on that day a feast was made for the friends and mourners. An old cocoanut palm, of great value, is cut down, and the leaves are used for the roof of the small house that is built over the grave. At the funeral of a woman a yam was placed on each side of the head, and a native cooking -pot with the bottom knocked out was put on the head cap-fashion. A dish of cooked food is passed up and down the corpse before it is covered; and an annual offering is made at the grave. The soul of the dead person, called barnaqum, is supposed to linger near the body until it is buried; then it quietly takes its departure, by way of the mountains of Misima, for a place deep down in the earth, called tuma. Souls are permitted to revisit the earth, when their presence is made known by a peculiar low whistle. After remaining in tuma for a long time, they undergo a change similar to the death of the body, and are then transmigrated to the bodies of infants yet unborn.
Development of Exotic Gardening.—Charlemagne is called, according to the Gartenlaube, the first æsthetic gardener in western Europe; for he it was who took pains to transplant into German gardens the useful and ornamental plants that grew wild in the woods and the fields, and to introduce those which flourished beyond the Alps. As men increased in good living and their tastes became refined, they were not satisfied with useful plants alone, and the gardens of the more wealthy were adorned with the choicest ornamental and fancied plants of the East. The proverb, "Gardens are visiting-cards; what they are shows what their owner is," is illustrated in the history of the development of the German garden, which is really a chapter in the history of civilization. With great extension of trade in the beginning of the sixteenth century, rich acquisitions were made to gardens from all foreign countries a process of growth which has not yet ceased, but seems to be going on more actively than ever. Prof. G. Kraus has well said that, if some giant hand should remove at one stroke all the plants which have not grown native among us from time immemorial, our gardens and large spots in our cultivated fields would be reduced to the condition of deserts. From the annals of the botanical gardens, beginning with the establishment of that of the University of Padua, in 1545, an important chapter could be gathered in the history of the migrations of plants. A few American guests appeared there about the middle of the sixteenth century, which were at first called Indian or Spanish plants. Among them was the Papas peruanorum, which was cultivated as an ornamental plant without a suspicion of its coming destiny the potato. There were preferences among the strangers, and the fashions changed; Oriental bulbs were succeeded by Canadian plants, among which the Robinia, or locust, the Virginia creeper, asters, and evening primrose, were high in favor. Then came greenhouse plants from the Cape of Good Hope—scarlet pelargoniums, dracænas, charming heaths, and others, which are still in favor. American trees were then sought for park plantations, with the crab-apples and flowering shrubs of Siberia. After these improved commercial facilities favored the introduction of the curious eucalypti and other plants of Australia; botanists are traveling everywhere with their Wardian cases, collecting and bringing safely home the rarest and most delicate orchids and palms of the tropical forests, and plants of every region where vegetation flourishes. About 1,500 species of plants grow wild in England. In 1891 there were cultivated in the botanical gardens at Kew 19,800 species and varieties; in Berlin, in 1890, 19,000 sorts; and in St. Petersburg, 25,000 varieties with 71,850 specimens.
Chinese Characters and Hieroglyphics.—In a paper on the social and religious ideas of the Chinese, as illustrated in the ideographic characters of the language, Prof. R. K. Douglas shows that the Chinese ideographic characters are picture-writings, and as such supply an interpretation of the meaning of words as they were understood by the inventors of the characters representing them. These characters, developed from the original hieroglyphic forms, were considered illustrative of the ideas of the people on political, social, scientific, and religious subjects. For example, the importance attached to the qualities of the sovereign is exemplified in the choice of the symbol employed to express a supreme ruler, the component parts of which together signify "ruler of himself." By means of the same graphic system a kingdom is shown as "men and arms within a frontier." The domestic life is illustrated by ideograms descriptive of household arrangements and relationships. The speaker in succession traced in the written characters the ideas associated with men and women—their virtues and failings; the notions associated with marriage; and the evidences of pastoral and agricultural habits among the people. The discussion of the popular religious faiths showed how prominent is the belief in the god of the soil, whose presence brings blessings, and whose averted countenance is followed by misfortunes.
Death-week in Rural Russia.—Some very curious ceremonies are observed by the peasants of rural Russia, on the breaking up of the ice toward the end of March. The breaking is supposed to be due to the water spirit, who, waking hungry and angry after his winter's sleep, bursts the ice and sends the floes drifting, drives the fish from their haunts, and causes the streams to overflow. Previous to this the peasants prepare a sacrifice as the beginning of their "death-week" celebration, to be offered to the spirit. They combine to buy a young horse, which must be purchased, not given, each contributing an equal amount. The horse having been sumptuously fed for three days, is taken on the fourth day at midnight, decorated, conducted by all the villagers in a body, tied, weighted, and plunged through a hole in the ice. In some districts fat, in others a horse's head, is thrown in instead of a living horse. A sacrifice is then made to the house spirit. A fat black pig is killed and cut into as many pieces as there are residents of the village, of which each resident receives one and buries it under the doorstep at the entrance to his house. The principal ceremony of the season is that of driving out death. All the villagers bring old clothes, rags, straw, sticks, and other stuff of the kind, from which a dummy figure representing an old woman is made, and painted as hideously as possible, to represent death—death being a woman in Slavic mythology. The figure is perched on a long pole and carried by a peasant dressed in what are left of the rags, etc., who is accompanied by a procession of the people provided with everything with which they can make a noise. The dummy is carried to the nearest river or stream, and cast into the water, or sometimes only ducked, and then thrown upon the nearest piece of vacant ground, or sometimes cast into the territory of a neighboring village, when a quarrel is likely to arise. On returning to the village, more noisy instruments are collected, and the men, women, and children run round to drive out the evil spirits death is supposed to have left behind. The faster the people go, and the more noise they make, the more effectually the place is supposed to be cleared, and the greater will be the blessings of the coming season. To make all sure, the villagers camp out for the night, to wait for the hour when the gates of heaven are supposed to be opened, and special blessings asked for are granted. All the trees are said to bear golden fruits at that instant, and whoever is lucky enough to grasp them just then can keep them as his own. Unhappily, the people are always too wearied with the day's work and drinking to be alert enough to seize the exact moment.
The New Stone Age in Iceland.—According to a lecture before the English Society of Arts on Iceland, by Dr. Tempest Anderson, in the more remote parts of the country, such as the Skaptadals, many articles of bone and stone are still in use which in more accessible districts have been replaced by metal or earthenware. A photograph exhibited showed a wheelbarrow with a stone wheel, a steelyard with a stone weight, a hammer with a stone head, and a net with bone sinkers. At the same farm a quern, or stone hand-mill, was in use, and also horn stirrups, and harness fastenings of bone instead of metallic buckles, bone pins, and rude bone dice. At a neighboring farm was a basin formed of the cup joint of a basalt pillar. Truly we still have a survival of the stone age. Less remote than this is the meeting-place of the county council of the district in a spacious cave in the lava. It would be difficult to find anything more appropriate in such a primitive land. Mr. E. Magnusson, speaking on the author's address, said that in some places the people, though descended from those who had long left the stone age behind, had found it necessary, because it was so difficult to procure iron, to create a new stone age for themselves. They were the creators of a new stone age, not the followers of a tradition.
Oxygen by the Brin Process.—The manufacture of oxygen on a commercial scale is developing into a new and important branch of business enterprise. The process employed, called the Brin process, depends upon the property of barium monoxide of absorbing oxygen from the atmosphere when heated to about 1,000° F., and giving it off again at about 1,700° F. Barium oxide closely resembles lime, and is found combined in nature as heavy spar and witherite. The nitrate, commercially known as baryta, is used. In the preparation of oxygen, air is forced by pumps into retorts containing baryta, where the oxygen is absorbed and the nitrogen is allowed to escape. When sufficient air has been pumped in, and after an interval, the process is reversed, and the oxygen yielded by the baryta is pumped into a holder. It is sent out to consumers compressed to a pressure of eighteen hundred pounds to the square inch, in cylinders of steel, ranging in size from three and a half to five and a half inches in diameter, and from one to eight feet in length. It is used in laboratories, in various manufactures, in medicine, as a disinfectant, and in the calcium light.
A Versatile Animal.—Among the curious animals of the pampas, described by Mr. W. H. Hudson, in his Naturalist in La Plata, is a hairy armadillo, an animal that will live on almost everything, from grass to flesh; that catches mice and kills poisonous snakes, "and having killed them, cuts them in pieces and swallows as much as it needs. ... It is much hunted for its flesh," says Mr. Hudson, "dogs being trained for the purpose; yet it actually becomes more abundant as population increases in any district; and, if versatility in habits or adaptiveness can be taken as a measure of intelligence, this poor armadillo, a survival of the past, so old on the earth as to have existed contemporaneously with the glyptodon, is the superior of the large-brained cats and canines."
Destruction of Quail and the Plague of Locusts.—The great and fearful increase of locusts in Algeria is ascribed by the French journal L'Éleveur to wholesale destruction of quail by sportsmen. It is estimated that a quail consumes daily from fifty to sixty grammes of food, and that twenty tiny locusts of the size of a hemp-seed go to a gramme. Hence one quail may destroy daily 1,000 locusts, or from 20,000 to 25,000 during the period when the insects are small enough to be swallowed by it. The Tunisian sportsmen who on the 8th of May of last year shipped off 50,000 quails to France are, then, in a great measure to blame for 150,000,000 locusts less than usual having been destroyed by those birds during the year.