Popular Science Monthly/Volume 46/December 1894/Popular Miscellany


Unexplored Geographical Fields.—As among the more important fields where special geographical research may still be profitably carried on, Mr. Clements R. Markham mentions the north polar area, a vast extent of which is unknown; the south polar area, of which this is still more the case; and plenty of interesting work still in our own quarters of the globe. Even in the British islands some of the lakes were unsurveyed, and were not systematically sounded until the work was begun in Cumberland in 1893. The topography of the Alps might be considered fairly complete, but there are still physical inquiries of great interest that commend themselves to scientific Alpine travelers; such as the extent and action of ice, the oscillations of glaciers, the origin of the Föhn wind, and the effects of the destruction of forests. The historical geography of the Alps is also in process of elucidation. At present there are only three regions—in Africa—of considerable area, which offer opportunities for discovery on a large scale; namely, the Sahara, the region adjoining it to the south and extending across Wadai to the watersheds of the Congo and Nile, and the region to the east of the upper Nile, stretching south of Abyssinia, through the lands of the Gallas and Somalis, to the eastern seaboard of the continent. Outside the regions referred to we might be said to have obtained a fair knowledge of the general geographical features of the African continent. Much detail remains to be filled in, and much of the work executed in a hasty and superficial manner requires to be done over again. There are also regions of great interest that have been visited, but which would well repay detailed examination. In the continent of Asia British geographers have been very active during the present century. Perhaps the most interesting and important unknown Asiatic region is the southern part of Arabia, from Yemen on the west to Oman on the east, and between the seacoast and the states of Nejd in the interior. Hadramaut, with its lofty mountains and cultivated ravines, its settled population and historic past, is almost a sealed book to us. The exploration of this district is about to be undertaken. Much work is yet to be done in Asia Minor. The most important unexplored field includes the upper valley of the Euphrates and eastern Cappadocia.

Selection in Seed-growing.—To the seedsman, says Mr. C. L. Allen, in an address before the Horticultural Congress, published by W. Atlee Burpee & Co., Philadelphia, selection is not a cause but an effect. In the development of a type, selection is the principal agent employed, but doubly important is its office in preserving a type after it is secured. There are two separate and distinct principles in selection, and the two are antagonistic; they are both methodical, but for entirely different purposes. In the one instance we select with a view to the greatest possible increase in seed production, and in the other for just the opposite purpose. In our cereals selections are made to produce the greatest amount of seed with the least possible amount of straw. To that end, in the best wheat-growing sections, the longest and best-filled heads are selected, and those, too, in which the grains are the heaviest, for seed purposes. The seed thus saved is given the greatest possible aid to reproduction by growing it on soil best adapted to its development; by giving each plant sufficient room to grow strong, rather than tall; and by furnishing plant food proportionate to its necessities. At the proper time, if the same careful selection is again made and the same care in cultivation given, there will result another marked improvement, both in size and productiveness of the grain. The operation, oft repeated, will establish a type superior to that from which the first selection was made. To preserve that type, the same care must be given that was necessary to produce it. In selection for vegetables, where seeds are only used to reproduce the plant, the opposite course must be pursued, and forms must be chosen that produce as little seed as possible. It has often been demonstrated that when any given type has been developed by selection, either rapidly or slowly, under favorable conditions of soil and climate, it will as rapidly revert when grown under reverse conditions. It is also true that any form that will materially revert when grown under changed conditions for a few years will proportionately change in one year. This will, in a measure, account for the deterioration of varieties where the stock seed has been grown under different conditions from those under which the type originated. In most instances one year's growth will not materially change a type, but in all cases where a type is to be preserved it requires the same care in selection and cultivation and other conditions as those under which it originated.

University Extension.—The American Society for the Extension of University Teaching looks upon the creation of a literature embodying the experience of the movement as a prime condition of its ultimate success. Such literature has been materially enriched during the last twelve months. The number of lecture courses given during 1893 was larger, and the number of people attending the courses was, in the aggregate, greater than in any previous year. An appreciable advance has been made toward bringing home the benefits of university extension to some classes of society who have for the most part thus far stood aloof from it. The society's net receipts for the year were $8,119. The programme for the last year included lecture courses on a variety of subjects in history and literature, and "class courses" on subjects in which civics and physiology and hygiene played a conspicuous part. "It is in these days of newspapers, cheap story papers, labor unions, and similar agencies," says the report, "not a question of culture or no culture; it is a question of culture of the right sort, obtained under the guidance of properly qualified teachers, or culture of the wrong sort, under the guidance of uneducated and interested parties. Which shall it be? The socialist, the anarchist, the fanatic is to-day supplying systematic culture to a large and increasing number of our population. Shall some counteracting agency be kept at work or not? No one can study the extension movement carefully, investigate what it accomplishes for individuals and communities, without becoming convinced that even if it were to go no further than providing isolated courses of lectures upon the various branches of human culture, which should be given now in one place and now in another, occurring one winter and dropping out the next, it would still be eminently worth support and maintenance."

Palæography.—Palæography—the art of identifying, comparing, and deciphering ancient manuscripts—is founded on our knowledge and experience of the development of modern forms of writing. Children at school learning to write from the same copy form hands much alike, which become differentiated according to the individual characters of the several pupils, while they still bear the marks of a common style. "Any one," says Mr. E. M. Thompson, in his Greek and Latin Palæography (published in the International Scientific Series), "will readily distinguish the handwritings of individuals of his own time, and will recognize his friend's writing at a glance, as he recognizes his face; he has more difficulty in discriminating between the individual handwritings of a foreign country. Set before him specimens of the writing of the last century, and he will confuse the hands of different persons. Take him still further, and he will pronounce the writing of a whole school to be the writing of one man; and he will see no difference between the hands, for instance, of an Englishman, a Frenchman, and a Fleming. Still further back the writing of one century is to him the same as the writing of another, and he may fail to name the locality where a manuscript was written by the breadth of a whole continent." In the ancient Greek texts, with which palæography has largely to do, however remote the date of the documents which we are studying, Mr. Thompson observes, the impression is produced that all sorts of men wrote as fluently then as they do now. If, then, we find such evenly distributed facility in writing so far back, we must infer that the art was developed among the Greeks, or picked up by them from some other people very far back. In the earliest Greek inscriptions the writing was in the Semitic style, from right to left. This was superseded by the boustrophedon style, which read from right to left and left to right, in alternate lines; and that gave way to the present style. Many valuable Greek codices have recently been found. The pasteboards of the coffins discovered by Mr. Petrie at Gurob, in the Fayouni, Egypt, have furnished many. They are composed of papyri pasted together, which, being carefully separated, have been found to contain manuscripts of the third century b. c., the oldest specimens of Greek writing we have. Thus have been recovered fragments of Plato's Phædo, the lost play Antiope of Euripides, and Aristotle's Constitution of Athens, which was written on the back of an account roll of a farm bailiff in Hermopolis, a. d. 78-79. These finds are encouraging to a more systematic search of the Egyptian depositories. Of mediæval styles, no school developed the purely ornamental side of calligraphy so thoroughly and rapidly as the Irish. The finest manuscript of the style is the Book of Kells, now at Trinity College, Dublin. England is chiefly indebted to Ireland for its style, while the styles of the Roman school of missionaries were "foreign," and never became fully naturalized. The round hand was chiefly used for books and charters, while the pointed hand, though also employed for books, was most frequent in documents. These hands gradually suffered changes and degeneration, were affected and partly displaced by the French minuscule, and hence gradually became differentiated into the multitude of nondescripts that now pass for English handwriting.

The Grand Falls of Labrador.—An account of his visit to the Grand Falls of Labrador has been-given by Henry G. Bryant, of Philadelphia, in the Century Magazine and in a Bulletin of the Geographical Club of Philadelphia. They are situated on the Grand or Hamilton River, which rises in the lakes of the upland region of the peninsula and flows in a general southeasterly direction into Hamilton Inlet—the great arm of the sea which, under various names, penetrates into the interior a distance of one hundred and fifty miles. No scientific explorer has advanced far into the country, and all that is known of it is derived from vague information furnished by Indians, a few missionaries, and the Hudson Bay Company's men. The first white man to visit and describe the falls was John McLean, of the Hudson Bay Company, in 1839. They were visited twenty years afterward by Joseph McPherson. These are the only white men who are known to have seen the Grand Falls till the summer of 1891, when Mr. Bryant and an expedition from Bowdoin College reached them independently of one another. Mr. Bryant, accompanied by Prof. C. A. Kenaston, of Washington, and a Scotch and an Indian assistant, left Northwest River Post, at the head of Hamilton Bay, on August 3d, to proceed up the stream by canoe. On the 27th they reached the point where the further navigation of the stream is obstructed by rapids, whence they proceeded overland and reached the falls September 2d. "A single glance showed that we had before us one of the greatest waterfalls in the world. . . . A mile above the main leap the river is a noble stream four hundred yards wide, already flowing at an accelerated speed. Four rapids, marking successive depressions in the river bed, intervene between this point and the falls. At the first rapid the width of the stream is not more than one hundred and seventy-five yards, and from thence rapidly contracts until reaching a point above the escarpment proper, where the entire column of fleecy water is compressed within rocky banks not more than fifty yards apart. Here the effect of resistless power is extremely fine. . . . An immense volume of water precipitates itself over the rocky ledge, and under favorable conditions the roar of the cataract can be heard for twenty miles. Below the falls, the river, turning to the southeast, pursues its maddened career for twenty-five miles shut in by vertical cliffs of gneissic rock which rises in places to a height of four hundred feet. The rocky banks above and below the falls are thickly wooded with firs and spruces, among which the graceful form of the white birch appears in places." The height of the falls was found, by as accurate a measurement as could be made with cord, to be three hundred and sixteen feet. The highest elevation reached by the expedition was in the vicinity of the falls, and appeared by aneroid measurement to be somewhat in excess of fifteen hundred feet. From the point where the river leaves the plateau and plunges into the deep pool below the falls, its course for twenty-five miles is through one of the most remarkable cañons in the world. Besides the topographical and meteorological data, valuable botanical collections and ethnological collections illustrating the life and customs of mountaineer (Montagnais) Indians and Eskimos were obtained.

Hair Stimulants.—The best promotive of hair growth is general vigor, which, prevailing where hair should be as well as in the rest of the body, stimulates its development along with that of other functions. For baldness, hair lotions containing cantharides, attracting an increased blood supply to the part, may be useful when the affection is caused by mere sluggishness of the cutaneous circulation; but it fails to reach the cause of disease where the hair is lost through seborrhœa. Such cases are benefited by remedies which kill microbes, such as sulphur, mercurial applications, and antiseptic drugs. The effect of the microbe on the greasy and dry scales in seborrhœa which causes proliferation of the epithelium is such as to lead to atrophy of the hair, and if the disease is not arrested, atrophy of the whole follicle, and consequent permanent alopecia. Where the damage to nutrition is not so great, the hair is without luster and turns more or less gray, and then the hair restorers which color the hair from without and not from within are resorted to. Sulphur and acetate of lead are often ingredients of these applications, and perchloride of mercury is too frequently the leading constituent of many vaunted remedies. It is doubtless of much value as a destroyer of microbes when used in suitable cases, but when applied indiscriminately for long periods is in danger of producing injurious effects. Pilocarpine hypodermically injected, or given internally as tincture of jaborandi, is of value as a promoter of growth of hair, but is too powerful a remedy for indiscriminate use, besides inducing copious perspirations and depression of the heart. Less direct means may be found in tonics of iron, strychnine, quinine, etc.; but more powerful are cod-liver oil and change of air, generally to a bracing climate. Baldness is, however, a symptom of such diverse conditions that there is no routine treatment for it, but the cause should be carefully sought out and intelligently dealt with.

Hygiene of the Teeth.—Writing of the hygiene of the teeth, the Lancet observes that all caries of the teeth begins from without, no such thing as internal caries having ever been demonstrated; hence, if the surfaces could be kept absolutely clean there would be no decay. To the question, "When ought the cleansing of the teeth to begin?" the certain answer is, "As soon as there are teeth." "A small toothbrush, charged with some precipitated chalk flavored with an aromatic drug to make it pleasant, is perhaps the best means—not a towel, which only removes the secretion from the labial and lingual surfaces and not from between the teeth, where decay is most rife." If this habit is acquired early, the very desirable result is likely to follow of immunity, to a greater or less extent, from dental trouble. Later on something more can be done by passing a piece of waxed dental floss silk between the teeth every day. Toothpicks may do-harm if abused, by causing irritation of the gum between the teeth, and its consequent absorption; and if the picks are made of wood, splinters are liable to be left behind, which have in many cases caused even the loss of a tooth; but used judiciously they are of great value in routing the attacking forces in caries—namely, accumulations of food and mucous secretions. It has been urged against them that they might dislodge a filling; but if a filling is so insecure it must be faulty, and the sooner it is replaced the better, for decay, due to the impossibility of keeping the surface clean, must be going on underneath it.

A Foot, Stilt, and Horse Race.—A race between three pedestrians, three stilt walkers, and three horses took place from Bordeaux, France, early in May, over a course, returning to Bordeaux, of four hundred and twenty kilometres. At ninety-one kilometres the horses were ahead, one an hour and a half in advance of the third; the stiltmen were behind them, and the pedestrians were far in the rear, with one of them dropped from the course. At one hundred and fifty kilometres a stiltman had got ahead of one of the horses. At one hundred and sixty-six kilometres one of the horses was taken out ill, and the horse which had been passed by a stilt walker had caught up with him. At two hundred and thirty-five kilometres the pedestrians had given up the struggle. At three hundred and five kilometres the rivals were the leading stilt walker and the horse which he had once passed, the other horse beginning to fail. The rivalry between the stilt walker and horse was kept up till the end of the race, when the horse came into Bordeaux twenty-eight minutes ahead. The time was sixty-two hours and twenty-seven minutes.

Marine Silk.—To the various kinds of silks known in trade must now be added, according to the French journal L'Industrie textile, a marine silk, derived from shells, or from the filaments, technically known as the byssus, which are secreted by some mollusks, including the mussels, which fasten themselves to the rocks. These filaments are very strong, as one may easily find out by trying to pull apart a cluster of mussels attached by them to one another. Though very fine, the filaments of the mussel shells are generally too short to be of much use; but they are long enough in some kinds, among which is a pinna very common in the Mediterranean and known to French fishermen as the jambonneau, or little ham, from its peculiar shape and color. These shells are raked up from a depth of between six and nine metres near the coast of Sicily. The threads are slender but extremely tough, and a considerable effort is required to detach them from the rock. The tuft, having been detached from the shell, is washed in soapsuds and dried in the shade. The useless parts are cut away, and the available threads are rubbed in the hands to give them suppleness, and then sorted and separated by combing—an operation in which a waste of about two thirds of the raw material is incurred. Two or three of the threads are spun with a thread of silk, whereby a very strong cord is obtained. The cord is washed in water acidulated with lime juice, rubbed again with the hand, and smoothed with a hot iron, by which it is finally given a beautiful brownish gilt color.

John Wesley an Evolutionist.—It will probably be a novel idea to our Methodist friends to find in John Wesley a precursor of Spencer and Darwin in outlining the doctrine of evolution. This has, nevertheless, been done by William H. Mills, in a paper read before the Chit Chat Club of San Francisco, entitled "John Wesley an Evolutionist." Mr. Mills exhibits as his authority a work entitled Wesley's Philosophy, in two volumes, which was published by the Methodist Book Concern in New York in 1823. In this work, in which Mr. Wesley expressed himself as believing that he was presenting only such matters as had been established by investigation and research, he says: "The same general design comprises all parts of terrestrial creation. A globule of light, a molecule of earth, a grain of salt, a particle of moldiness, a polypus, a shell-fish, a bird, a quadruped, and man, are only different strokes of this design, and represent all possible modifications of the matter of our globe. My expression falls greatly beneath reality; these various productions are not different strokes of the same design; they are only so many points of a single stroke, that by its infinitely varied circumvolutions traces out to the astonished eyes of the cherubim the forms, proportions, and concatenations of all earthly beings. This single stroke delineates all worlds." Mr. Wesley says again: "All is metamorphosis in the physical world. Forms are continually changing. The quantity of matter alone is unvariable. The same substance passes successively into the three kingdoms. The same composition becomes by turns a mineral, plant, insect, reptile, fish, bird, quadruped, man." Further, Mr. Wesley spoke of the bat and flying squirrel as animals "proper for establishing the gradation that subsists between all the productions of Nature"; of the ostrich as seeming to be "another link which unites birds to quadrupeds"; and of the ape as a rough draught of man. He also considered the most primitive form of organic life as the connecting link between the animal and the vegetable to be the polypus. It did not occur to Mr. Wesley that man as the result of evolution had a debased origin, but he went on to say: "Has God created as many species of souls as of animals? Or is there only one species of soul in animals, differently modified according to the diversity of organization? This question is absolutely impenetrable by us. All we can say concerning it is this: If God, who has always acted by the most simple means, has thought proper to vary the spiritual perfection of animals merely by organization, his wisdom has so ordained it. At the summit of the scale of our globe is placed man, the masterpiece of earthly creation." Further: "Mankind have their gradations as well as the other productions of our globe. There is a prodigious number of continued links between the most perfect man and the ape."

Tropical Animals in Frost.—The animals in the London Zoölogical Gardens were surprised by a hard frost (16º) in the last days of November, 1893, but, according to an observer who was there to see, the animals from warm and tropical regions seemed no more inconvenienced by the cold than were their fellow-residents from far northern regions. With every pond and pool sheeted with ice, and the gravel walks as hard as granite, birds and beasts from such regions as Burmah, Assam, Malacca, and Brazil were abroad and enjoying the keen air; and others, which are usually invisible and curled up in their sleeping apartments until late in the day, were already abroad, sniffing at the frost and icicles, and as Mr. Sam Weller's polar bear 'ven he was a-practicing his skating.' A visit to the Gardens in such weather suggests a modification of too rigid ideas of the limitation of certain types of animals to warm or torrid climates, and illustrates the gradual and reluctant character of the retreat of species before the advance of the glacial cold in remote ages. No creatures are, as a rule, more sensitive to cold than the whole monkey tribe. Yet there is at least one species of monkey which habitually endures the rigors of a northern winter. One of the cleverest antique Chinese drawings at South Kensington represents a troop of monkeys caught in an avalanche of snow. The grotesque discomfiture of these pink-faced monkeys rolling down the hillside, helplessly clutching at each other's bodies and tails, grinning and grimacing as their heads emerge from the powdery snow, is something more than the fancy of a Chinese painter. The incident is probably drawn from an actual scene, and one of the creatures, the Scheli monkey from the mountains of Pekin, was in an open cage in the Gardens, and in far better health and spirits than in the height of summer. Its fur had grown thick and close, and the naked face had assumed the dark madderpink with which it was adorned in the Chinese drawing. When presented with sticks crusted with hard ice, it sucked the chilly damty with great relish, and only showed signs of sensitiveness to cold by putting its fingers to its mouth, then sitting on its hands to warm them. The behavior of this northern monkey is only strange by contrast with the general habits of its kind. But the indifference to cold of the capybara, a gigantic water guinea pig from the warm rivers of Brazil, is not easy to explain. Two of these quaint creatures had left their snug sleeping apartments, and were stepping gayly among pools of half-frozen water and broken ice. One had gained an extra coat by burrowing in its straw and then emerging with a pile upon its back; and when this fell off, retired and shuffled on another pile; but the other seemed quite contented to sit without protection in the sunniest corner of the inclosure. The whole colony of porcupines (six in number). . . were abroad and in the highest spirits, erecting and rattling their quills, and sitting up to inspect their visitors like gigantic rabbits." The demeanor of the semitropical birds was even more interesting than the power of adaptation to climate shown by quadrupeds. The Argus cock-pheasant from Sumatra or Borneo "was displaying its beauties in the open air, among leaves and grass tipped with icicles, and showed plumage so close and perfect that it was impossible to doubt that the colder climate had, if anything, added a luster to its unrivaled wealth of ornament."

Mental Growth through Physical Education.—In a paper on Mental Growth through Physical Education Jakob Bolin begins his argument by showing how muscular work, or physical exercise, serves to keep the metabolism of the body at a proper level. Then it operates on the mind thus: "When you are sitting at your desk for any appreciable length of time, sunk in profound thoughts, these thoughts, however pure and lofty, are actually slowly poisoning your brain, decreasing its aptitude to the work at hand, and you will find, as time passes, that you are not able to keep your attention fixed, your will power has lost its grip, your memory is deteriorated, you can not grasp an idea as before, and there creeps over you a certain feeling of lassitude and dullness; your temples throb, your face is flushed, there is a sensation of fullness, your head aches. And all this because your thoughts—your mental work—have pumped up into your head a quantity of blood giving the necessary fuel for these thoughts, but there has been no agent at work strong enough to remove the ashes and refuse. But rise from your table, take a few deep inhalations, move your arms in rhythm with the respiration, walk for a quarter of an hour, and you will probably find the unpleasant symptoms gone and yourself ready to begin anew; your attention, which was wandering, has become fixed, your will power is stronger, your memory its own self, your ideas from vague have become more clear and your conclusions more logical. And the temporary beneficial effects of occasional muscular work are easily made permanent by applying the remedy steadily and systematically." Another purpose than this is also served in systematic gymnastics, in which a uniformity of movement and a definite rhythm are cultivated. By these "we endeavor to teach our pupils to have, by means of their muscular sense, a due appreciation of the proper order of things and also to do things exactly each at its proper time, to let things follow each other in a previously arranged order, to complete one thing before they undertake a new enterprise; we teach them also by the same means not to feel as if each were a completeness by himself, but try to let them acquire the habit of considering themselves as units of a greater whole, which suffers if not each unit works with the aim in view of gaining the greatest perfection for the whole. In the gymnasium each one must subordinate himself to the welfare of his class; in the baseball field that sensation of identification with the team is created; in the rowboat each works in harmony with everybody else; and thus, through evolving this feeling of belonging together, we hope to react favorably upon the doings of these same individuals as units of a greater whole, the community, the nation, humanity, so as to direct their mental as well as physical capacities toward the common welfare, toward the progress of the race, to make not a better man but better men."

Domestic Birds of the Chinese.—Fowls form a considerable part of the food of the better classes in China, and the breeding and rearing of them constitute an important industry. Four varieties of fowls are described in the report of the United States consul at Ching Kiang, each of which has its peculiar characteristics and qualities. Of the smallest of the breeds, the chow, a white cock, is carried on the coffin at funerals and is sacrificed at the grave; and it is customary on the native boats to kill one on New Year's day and sprinkle the blood on the bow for the propitiation of evil spirits and to insure good luck during the year. Ducks are reared in great numbers, and are largely used as food, both fresh and salted. They are all artificially hatched. After fledging, the birds are driven about in flocks through canals and from pond to pond, where they find their food. The are brought under strict discipline, and obey their keeper's call with extraordinary intelligence. The mandarin duck, a smaller variety, is reared for its beauty, and is prized as an embellishment to the artificial lakes with which the grounds of the wealthy are adorned. By virtue of their repute for conjugal fidelity a pair of them are introduced into wedding processions. The eggs, preserved by a peculiar process, after which they will keep for several years, form an important part of mandarin dinners. Geese, pure white, and of great size and majestic carriage like that of the swan, are bred; turkeys for foreigners and gold and silver pheasants are raised, and the cormorant is domesticated and trained to a wonderful degree of intelligence for fishing. The birds are taken out on the lakes and rivers in a small boat, one man to every ten or twelve cormorants. They stand perched on the sides of the boat, and at a word from the man they scatter on the water and begin to look for their game. They dive for the fish, and then rise to the surface with the catch in their bills, when they are called back to the boat by the fisherman. As docile as dogs, they swim to their master and are taken into the boat, when they lay down their prey and again resume their labor. The use of incubators in hatching eggs has been known and practiced in China for several hundred years, as it was also in ancient Egypt. The apparatus is described as very primitive; but the men engaged in the business know exactly the day when the young ducks or chickens will come forth, and are prepared to receive them.