Popular Science Monthly/Volume 44/April 1894/Notes


An interesting study is published by J. Walter Fewkes of the legend of the destruction of the Tusayan pueblo of Awatobi current among the Hopi Indians, and of his researches on the site of the pueblo for the illustration and verification of the story. The destruction was effected by the Hopis about the beginning of the eighteenth century. The investigation was carried on in connection with the Hemenney Southwestern Archæological Expedition.

Vertical writing, which was described and illustrated in the November Popular Science Monthly, has already gained a foothold in Canada, and is attracting considerable attention in the United States. The Educational Review (St. John, N. B.) states that Mr. A. F. Newlands, supervisor of penmanship in the public schools of Kingston, Ontario, introduced it into the schools of that town a year ago. It is also taught and favored in many schools of Montreal and Toronto. It has been given the preference in the public-school system of Nova Scotia, having entirely displaced sloping writing in Halifax. It is also taught in the Halifax Ladies' College. Among the librarians of the United States it is no new thing, having been adopted several years ago by many of them for writing catalogue cards on account of its superior legibility.

Darwin appears, from a communication in Nature by Mr. Kumusagu Minakata, to have been anticipated more than a thousand years in announcing the theory of the adaptation of the color of animals to that of their surroundings, by Twang-Chiug-Shih, a Chinese philosopher of the ninth century, who, having described the habits of the trap-door spider (or "tumbling defender") and observed that the lid of its nest is colored like the ground, adds: "In general, birds and animals necessarily conceal forms and shadows by their assimilation with various objects. Consequently, a snake's color is similar to that of the ground, the hare in the imperator grass is unavoidably overlooked, and the hawk's hue agrees with that of the trees."

An ingenious device has been contrived by Dr. A. Cancani, of Italy, for registering the precise time when an earthquake shock occurs. The seismograph is so arranged as to take an instantaneous photograph of the face of a chronometer at the instant of the shock. An adjustment of levers and batteries and magnet is thrown into gear by the shock, so that an incandescent electric lamp is lighted automatically for about a quarter of a second, while the image of the clock is established upon the photographic plate.

An investigation has been made by H. M. Bernard of the comparative morphology of spiders, the results of which he hopes shortly to have ready for publication. These results, he represents, "go far to establish that classification which ranks the arachnids as an independent group of the tracheate arthropods, as distinguished from that which would deduce them from the specialized crustacean Limulus through the specialized arachnid Scorpio."

The disappearance is reported of the voles or field mice which infested the farms of Scotland a year or two ago to such an extent that the evil they wrought and threatened became a serious economical problem. They were first observed a few years before 1890; Multiplied rapidly till the summer of 1892, when they began to decrease, and ceased to be formidable in the summer of 1893. On some farms the normal numbers remain, but on others hardly one is to be seen. The disappearance appears to be general over the whole country. Various causes have been suggested for their vanishing, among the chief of which the farmers and shepherds name the work of such natural enemies as the owl, kestrel, rook, blackhead gull, buzzard, stoat, and weasel—animals which foolish man is industriously trying to exterminate.

According to Meehan's Monthly, the large majority of plants are scentless, and probably not one tenth of the hundred thousand flowering plants known to botanists are odorous. Of the fifty known species of the mignonette family, only the one so highly prized in our gardens is fragrant, and only about a dozen of the one hundred species of violet are scented. In many large genera the scentless varieties are as one hundred to one, and sweet-smelling varieties are comparatively rare among our wild flowers.

It was observed by the late Mr. Wollaston that most insects inhabiting the Atlantic islands are either strongly winged or incapable of flight. The explanation of the phenomenon is found in the fact that insects exposed to gales are very liable to be blown out to sea. Hence it is almost equally to their advantage either to be gifted with strong enough powers of flight to be able to make their way back when they have been blown away, or never to fly at all, and thus escape the risk of being blown away.