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Popular Science Monthly/Volume 47/July 1895/Popular Miscellany

POPULAR MISCELLANY.

Meeting of the American Association.—The forty-fourth meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science will be held in Springfield, Mass., August 28th to September 7th. Ample provisions have been made by the local committee for the accommodation of the association and its sections and for the entertainment of those who will attend. The meetings will be held in the Young Men's Christian Association building, where the offices will be and the general meetings will be held; the Art Museum, the high-school building, Christ Church Parish House, Unity Church Chapel, State Street Baptist Church lecture rooms, South Church Chapel, and Evangelist Hall. A large list of excursions has been arranged, to places in the vicinity of Springfield and some longer ones, adapted to almost every taste, a large proportion of them being to factories or laboratories where manufacturing processes and scientific methods are practically illustrated, and a considerable number to interesting geological fields. Meetings of affiliated societies will be held as follows: Geological Society of America, August 27th and 28th; Society for Promotion of Agricultural Science, August 26th; Association of Economic Entomologists, date not given; Association of State Weather Service, date not given; American Chemical Society, August 27th and 28th; American Forestry Association, September 3d; Botanical and Entomological Club of America, during the week. The president for the year is E. W. Morley, of Cleveland, O.; permanent secretary, F. W. Putnam, Cambridge, Mass.; general secretary, James Lewis Howe, Lexington, Va.; treasurer, R. S. Woodward, New York.

 

Lu Chu Islands Politics.—The history of the Lu Chu Islands for several centuries has consisted, according to Prof. Basil Hall Chamberlain, of "an attempt to sit on both sides of the fence." With China on the one hand and Japan on the other, "the kinglet of Lu Chu was driven into being a sort of Mr. Facing-both-ways; and the whole nation more or less, or at any rate the higher official class, came to have a double set of manners—one for use vis-à-vis the first of its inconveniently big neighbors, the other vis-à-vis the second. Thus the Japanese copper 'cash,' with which of late some of the commercial transactions of life had been carried on in the absence of any native money, were always carefully kept out of sight when the Chinese officials were by to see. On the other hand, the Chinese year names commonly current in Lu Chu were ignored as far as possible in diplomatic intercourse with Japan. Even in matters of food the poor little Lu Chuans tried to make themselves all things to all men." Of the two patrons China was the favorite, notwithstanding that Japan was more nearly allied by race. The Chinese overlordship was rather nominal than real, and the tribute-ships despatched annually to Fu Chau did such good strokes of business under the rose that the Lu Chuans actually requested to be allowed to send more tribute to China than the amount originally stipulated.

 

Undisturbed Nature.—M. de Conferon relates in La Nature that a fox, which had established itself on his place, made nightly excursions for several months into his garden and yard. He was rather pleased with the visits than otherwise, being a lover of animals, and interested in the study of the habits of this one. The marks the fox left behind him indicated that, while he might be fond of grapes, he could eat a great number of rats and mice, and of beetles and other insects too. The many little excavations found everywhere pointed likewise to fondness for crickets and worms. It seems from his observations that foxes are not so mischievous as they are reported to be, and that while they may have their faults, these are to a large extent compensated for by services they render. Yet they are fond of fowls and hares and rabbits; but M. de Conferon remarks that there are not so many hares in the whole region around as in the neighborhood of his estate. Squirrels, jays, magpies, and the like, which are regarded as before everything else destructive, are allowed to build their nests and eat nuts at will on his premises, but-he has never found that they prevented his having an abundance of little birds of all sorts, and his shrubbery is filled with the nests of singing birds that are scarce in other places. He ascribes his blessing to the fact that no guns are ever fired on his place. Birds are not destroyed there, or frightened or disturbed, and the children never take a nest. Nature is allowed to take its course without interference, and there is no trouble. That is the secret of the whole matter.

 

Electricity and Plant-growing.—Experiments in the application of electricity to plant-growing are recorded by Prof. L. H. Bailey in the Transactions of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society. Deherain had found that the electric light contained rays harmful to vegetation, and that the greater part of the injurious rays were modified by a transparent glass. Exposing different kinds of plants to the light, Prof. Bailey found that they were differently affected. He then tried the effect of the light screened with glass and also of the naked light running half the night. The influence of the naked light upon the productiveness and color of flowers was found to vary with the different species, and different colors within the same species. Tulips were of deeper and richer color, but the colors lost their intensity after four or five days. Petunias were much taller and more slender in the light. But all flowers, of whatever species, which stood within five or six feet of the naked arc were injured. It was apparent, in general, that the light hastened blooming and caused the production of larger stems; but this effect was much obscured by the injuries resulting from the unscreened arc. It was afterward found that the use of a globe or pane of glass will avert the injuries to flowers as well as to foliage, and the long stems and open inflorescence, together with the increase in earliness in some cases, may be obtained without fear of injury. But Prof. Bailey is not ready to recommend the electric arc lamp for the growing of flowers. Lettuce, however, was greatly benefited by the electric light, and filled its heads much earlier than under normal conditions. The injury done to the plants by exposure to the naked light was found to be due to the fact that their vital activity was so hastened by it that the plant could not supply material quickly enough, and it was forced to death; but by removing it to greater distances from the lamp a point will be found where water can be supplied with sufficient rapidity to meet the demands of the quickened activities, and the plant will grow more rapidly, or at least mature earlier, than in normal conditions. The application of electric currents to plant-growing may be made to the plant directly, to the soil, or to the atmosphere. Concerning the first condition, little of an exact nature can be said. A mild electrical discharge will often seriously injure plants; but application to germinating seeds and ripening fruits sometimes hastens the processes. The results in application to the soil are various, and it so far promises little in the way of commercial returns. The effect of atmospheric electricity has been studied by several observers, with the general results, from which only Naudin dissents, that normal atmospheric electricity is in some way beneficial to vegetation. Lemstrom has suggested that the modifications produced by it are not the direct results of the electrification of the plants or the atmosphere, but rather follow some change in the atmosphere which is engendered by the current—and this, Prof. Bailey thinks, is highly probable.

 

The Vision of Spiders.—Uncertainty seems to exist among arachnidists concerning the extent and quality of the spider's visionary power, and methodical experiments have been made by Mr. and Mrs. Peckham to determine the fact. Twenty species of Attidce and others of other families were studied. The authors find that "the power of expression through different attitudes and movements is of great assistance in determining not only how far the spider can see, but how much it recognizes of what it sees—or, in other words, its power of distinct vision—since it acts in one way when it catches sight of its prey, in another at the appearance of a male of its own species, and in still another when it sees a female. Dr. McCook says 'their rapid and marked change of manner when prey is sighted, the mode of approach, like the action of a cat creeping upon a bird, the peculiar behavior displayed when the final spring is made, are not to be accounted for on any theory other than a keen sense of sight.'" Among many incidents very much alike related by the authors we cite the case in which eight gnats and four small flies were put into a box containing one of the spiders. "They all settled and became quiet. The spider, neglecting several gnats and flies which were close to him, fixed his eyes upon a gnat five inches away, and, approaching it by short jerks from in front, pounced upon it, holding it tightly a moment and then letting it go. One of its legs was broken. It fluttered off to a distance of seven inches. After a moment the spider followed it and caught it again, still paying no attention to several nearer ones. This he repeated six times, letting it go each time. He then began to catch other gnats and flies at distances of from one to four inches. He made in all twenty-five captures, jumping always when about an inch away. His actions were exactly like those of a cat playing with a mouse. It seems remarkable that he could see clearly enough to follow the gnat which he had at first singled out among a number of others which were almost identical in appearance." Experiments on Attidæ at their mating season prove that spiders can see at a considerable distance. A male was put into a box containing a female of the same species. The female was standing motionless twelve inches away, and three inches and a half higher than the male. "He perceived her at once, lifting his head with an alert and excited expression, and went bounding toward her. This he would not have done if he had not recognized her as a spider of his own species. When four inches and a half from her he began the regular display of the species, which consists of a peculiar dance. This he would not have done had he not recognized her sex. A male of this species on the floor of the box caught sight of a motionless female on the glass nine inches away and four inches and a half above him. He raised his body almost vertically, and gazed alternately at her and at a male which was five inches away in another direction. At other times the males recognized the females at eight, nine, and eleven inches, and the females recognized the males at six, seven, nine and a half, and eleven inches." A spider can not recognize its egg sac by sight, because in its natural position it never sees it, and therefore does not know how it looks. Experiments on the color sense of spiders were not conclusive.

 

British New Guinea.—The colony now called British New Guinea has been formally annexed to the British Empire. The natives, who probably number between 300,000 and 400,000, are described by Sir William Macgregor, administrator, as mostly of a rich, dark bronze color, varying from a brown that might be called black to a yellowish brown. In temper they are cheerful, lively, and full of fun, and are generally very contented; not quarrelsome or violently passionate. Suicide is comparatively rare among them; when it does take place, it is, as a rule, the outcome of affection, one of the strongest and best characteristics of the race. Occasionally a woman would climb a tall cocoanut tree and kill herself by jumping down, because she had become convinced that she could never meet again among men with a husband so good as the one she had lost. This family affection is so strong as to be often an impediment to the employment of men away from their own districts. It is not often that a man cares to remain longer than one year in the constabulary, because he is separated there from his family and friends. The London Missionary Society finds it difficult, for the same reason, to get wives of native teachers to live in strange villages. Yet the strong feeling of affection that the Papuan has for his relatives and neighbors does not prevent him from doing to others what appear terribly cruel things. It must be recollected, however, that cruel murder is, according to their code of ethics, a conspicuous virtue, a moral duty. They all apparently believe that man is compounded of a body and spirit. The spirit leaves its tenement during sleep, and at death does not return. Hence, in waking up a sleeper, they proceed to rouse him by degrees, so that the spirit may have time to return and take its place.

 

Korean Marriages.—Korean girls, according to Mr. H. S. Saunderson, after enjoying freedom till they are eight years old, are consigned to the women's quarters, where they live in seclusion till they are married, at sixteen or seventeen years. After marriage the woman is allowed to see no man but her husband. The boys, on the other hand, are taught that it is undignified for them to enter the women's part of the house. They never see their brides till the wedding day, all having been arranged for them, often when both bride and groom are infants. The marriage ceremony is very simple. The bride and bridegroom invite their most intimate friends to assist them in dressing their hair in the manner befitting their new estate. Then the bridegroom mounts a white pony, which is led by two servants, while two others on either side support the rider in his saddle. Thus he proceeds to the bride's house, accompanied by his relatives. At their destination they find a pavilion erected in the courtyard of the house, in which the bride and her relatives are awaiting their arrival. A goose (the Korean symbol of fidelity), which the bridegroom brings with him, is then produced. The bride (who has to cover her face with her long sleeves) and the bridegroom then bow to each other until their heads almost touch the ground. This they do three or four times, and are then man and wife. A loving-cup is passed round, and then the bride is taken off to the woman's apartments of her husband's home, where she is looked after by her mother and mother-in-law, while the groom entertains his friends. Fidelity is imposed on the wife, but the husband is under no such obligation. He can marry but one wife, it is true, but he is allowed as many concubines as he can afford. These, however, never inhabit the same house as his principal wife. The husband is forced to maintain his wife properly and treat her with respect. Marriage is the great event in a Korean's life, for he then attains man's estate. Before marriage, no matter how old he may be, he is treated as a boy, and has to maintain a deferential attitude toward the married men, even though they be only half his age.

 

Rapid Transmission of Earthquake Motion.—Attention is called by Prof. John Milne to the apparently high velocity with which motion is transmitted from an earthquake center to places far distant from it—a quarter of the earth's circumference—and to the importance of instituting an extended systematic observation of these movements. During the last few years European observers have recorded earth movements that had their origin in Japan or in other distant countries. Beyond a radius of a few hundred miles from their origin these disturbances are often too feeble to be sensible or to be recorded by ordinary seismographs. Their presence is, however, made known by the use of specially contrived nearly horizontal pendulums, and it is found that they have a duration of from ten to thirty minutes, and sometimes last for one or two hours. Observations made at Tokyo of the earthquake of March 22, 1894, the distance from the epicentrum being about six hundred miles, indicated that the rate of propagation of the motion of the waves was from 2·3 kilometres per second for the more pronounced superficial waves, to 11·5 kilometres per second for the lighter shocks, and they passed to Italy at the rate of nine or ten kilometres per second. An investigation is especially wanted of the velocities of propagation of the elastic movements which apparently go from Japan to Europe in fifteen or twenty minutes. Prof. Milne has devised some delicate instruments expressly to be used in these investigations.

 

American Nickel Mines.—The nickel mine at Lancaster Gap, Pa., belongs to the class of ores described by Prof. J. H. L. Vogt, of Christiania, Norway, as typical deposits of nickeliferous sulphides, formed by a process of magnetic differentiation in basic igneous rocks. It is situated about three miles south of the main line of the Pennsylvania Railroad, a little more than fifty miles west of Philadelphia, and fifteen miles north of the Maryland border. It lies in the midst of mica schists, presumably Archæan, in what was called the middle gneissic belt by H. D. Rogers, and the Georgetown series by Persifor Frazer. This formation is quite narrow in the vicinity of the mine, and pinches out to the westward, from the coming in of the limestone on the north and south sides. The dark, basic rock with which the ore is associated forms a lenticular mass of rock, which consists most largely of green secondary hornblende, and often shows almost nothing else than this mineral. It is called hornblende at the mine, and is best described by the word amphibolite as a rock name. The pyrrhotite lens on Anthony's Nose, near Peekskill, on the Hudson, is quite different in its geological relations from the Gap mine. It is situated on the northern side of the mountain, about seven hundred feet above tide water, and three miles from Highlands Station. The general geology consists of the usual gneisses of these old formations. Several well-known iron mines lie about twenty miles northeast. The ore bed was opened shortly after the war, when it was known as the Phillips Mine, and was operated for ten or fifteen years, but for sulphur fumes, and not for its metallic contents, which proved too low for profit. Other minor nickel-bearing beds have been noticed along the Hudson. Openings for nickel in gneiss have also been made at Litchfield, Conn.; at Dracut, near Lowell, Mass.; and perhaps at other points. The geological relations seem to be practically the same as those along the Hudson. These ores and the formations in which they occur have been fully described in a paper of the Geological Department of Columbia College, by J. F. Kemp, in the light of Prof. Vogt's views of the igneous origin of the ores.

 

The Former Antillean Continent.—The theory of a former kind of continental extension—the Antillean continent—which united the West Indies to the mainland, excluding the Atlantic waters and admitting the Pacific waters into the Mexican Gulf and the Caribbean Sea, has been examined in the light of the geographical and geological evidences by J. W. Spencer, who has attempted to restore the topography of the submerged continent and to set forth the geomorphic evidence that the drowned valleys of the Atlantic coasts are the valleys of former lands now depressed beneath the sea. These valleys or fiords are very numerous, and many of them are traceable to depths of more than two miles along the Atlantic, Gulf, and Caribbean coasts. The measurements of them give data for calculating the late elevation of the region. From the application of the continental movements it becomes apparent that the mainland stood as high as the fiords are deep, less some correction for unequal subsidence of the continental region. Accordingly, it is concluded that the Antillean bridge stood at from one and a half to two and a half miles above the present altitudes of the plains that now form the islands, with their mountains relatively somewhat lower than at present. The formations out of which the valleys are excavated belong mostly to the more recent geological periods, and are generally but little disturbed. From the determination of their age and that of the materials filling the buried valleys, it has been found that there were two epochs of great elevation, namely, in the Pleiocence and in the Pleistocene periods. Between these there was a subsidence of such depth as to drown the continental coastal plains, and reduce the West Indian region to very small islands, with (probably) a shallow connection between the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

 

The Gothenburg System.—What is called the Gothenburg system of regulating the sale of intoxicating liquors is undergoing fierce criticism in England, where its adoption is favored by the Public-House Reform Association, founded by the Bishop of Chester. Under this system the traffic is made a concern of the community, and is carried on in its behalf by a company to which it is committed under conditions. The principles of the theory of popular control of the liquor traffic are summarized by the Rev. F. S. McC. Bennett, Honorary Secretary of the Public-House Reform Association, as being that licenses, though they have been granted for years to private persons and have been renewed with such regularity as to give them a marketable value, are essentially local public property, and the community, while bound to recognize the equitable claims of those whom it has allowed to hold them, is entitled to deal with its own in whatever way seems best calculated to promote the public weal; that those communities which, though unprepared to veto the liquor traffic, desire to reduce the consumption of alcohol, should be granted the option of local management. The "company" feature of the Gothenburg system is sharply attacked by W. S. Caine, M. P., who, while admitting that there has been a sweeping reduction in the intemperance of Scandinavia, in consequence of the Swedish law of 1855, asserts that this is not in consequence but in spite of the company system, "the ingrafting of which upon the law of 1855 has been followed by an increase of drunkenness in every large city in which it has been adopted. Undoubtedly," Mr. Caine continues, "the drunkenness of Norway and Sweden is very greatly reduced from that prevailing thirty years ago; but it is due entirely to other causes than the company system, was realized before the company system came into operation at all, and has reverted to a steady increase since the company system prevailed." The most important evidence adduced in favor of this proposition is derived from the statistics of convictions for drunkenness, which appear to have increased since the company system went into operation. Mr. Bennett replies that the small increase remarked in the number of convictions indicates increased vigilance, activity, and efficiency in enforcing the law quite as much as increased violation of it, and he quotes strong counter-evidence against other allegations that drunkenness has increased.

 

Flowers and their Unwelcome Visitors.—Having, in a lecture on the pollenization of flowers, considered the means by which the plants secure the aid of insects in that work, Prof. L. H. Pammel mentions a few of the methods by which flowers are protected from the invasions of unwelcome insects. Aquatic plants are protected by their isolation in water. Land plants have occasionally secured the same advantages for themselves by certain leaves forming cups around the stem; some have a leaf-cup at each joint; in others there is a single basin formed of the rosette of leaves at the base, in which rain and dew collect, and are retained for a considerable time. Some plants have slippery leaves, with often a curved surface, over which it is impossible for ants to climb; others are covered with hairs and spines, especially in the parts near the corolla, which often point downward. Some plants are distinguished by viscid and gelatinous secretions. Kerner believes that the milky juices of such plants as lettuce, asclepias, euphorbia, apocynum, chelidonium, etc., serve to keep ants away. Relative to hybridization, Prof. Pammel finds that hybrids between widely separated species are usually tender, especially in their early life, so that it is hard to grow such seedlings. Hybrids of species of closer relationship on crosses of races are usually strong and productive. Such plants are characterized by their greater size, rapid growth, early maturation of the flowers, longer life, greater productiveness, and unusual size of the separate organs.

 

Abrasive Substances.—The growing importance of abrasives is such as to suggest inquiry concerning our future supply, and that is one of the topics considered by T. Dunkin-Paret in his paper on Emery and other Abrasives. At present we depend for the larger part on Turkey and Greece. Emery occurs also in Sweden, Spain, Saxony, and Greenland, but the lands named are apparently the only foreign countries that afford a commercial supply. Our supply of native emery has come thus far from New York and Massachusetts, while the corundum has come from Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Georgia. While small specimens of corundum, in the form of imperfect sapphires, have come from Montana, where the existence of this mineral has long been known, no other locality has yielded corundum except the belt which reaches from Massachusetts to Georgia, and seems to have its center in the corner where North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee come together. In this belt the localities where the mineral occurs are innumerable, but its prevalence is a poor indication of its quality. Corundum occurs in pockets, seams, sand veins, narrow streaks, and detached crystals, seldom in large mass. Chester County, Pennsylvania, is apparently the only locality where large, solid masses have been found. The largest annual product of American corundum was six hundred and forty-five tons. Unlike corundum, emery consolidates in large masses. It does not, indeed, form continuous beds of great extent, but its discontinuous masses and.veins sometimes contain hundreds of tons. The emery-bearing locality in Westchester County, New York, is a strip from one half to three fourths of a mile in width and from five to six miles in length. The place in which the largest openings have been made, and which has excited the most interest, is on a part of a summit about three miles from Peekskill and seven hundred or eight hundred feet above tide level. It overlooks, on the one side, the valley of the Croton, whose stream is invisible, and, on the other side, the Hudson. On the north and northeast of the emery belt are outcrops of granite. South of it lies the common marble of Sing Sing; still farther south, at Spuyten Duyvil, occur the oldest of the Laurentian gneisses; and still farther south, on Manhattan Island, the mica schist. The emery is, however, all immediately associated with a hornblende rock. Large masses of emery are seen projecting above the surface. These are delusive, and those which hold out a large promise are sometimes found to extend only one or two feet underground and to yield only from five to twenty tons. Such masses are usually surrounded by soft, reddish earth.

 

Substitutes for White Lead.—Only two substances at present manufactured are regarded by Mr. A. P. Laurie as satisfactory substitutes for white lead in painting—sulphate of lead and oxide of zinc. Sulphate of barium has hardly any covering power, and sulphide of zinc, though remarkable for covering power, has not proved, as at present manufactured, a durable pigment. Oxide of zinc, though deficient in covering power, is remarkably white, and preserves its color in impure air. Sulphate of lead is in the market in two forms—sublimed sulphate, which is prepared directly from galena; and precipitated sulphate, ground by Freeman's patent with oxide of zinc, and sold as Freeman's white. Sulphate of lead prepared by sublimation has much more covering power and is much denser than precipitated sulphate. Another pigment sold as a harmless white lead is prepared in a similar way by grinding together oxide of zinc and sulphate of barium. In quantity of oil required the substitutes named compare well with white lead, some taking a little more and some a little less, except oxide of zinc, which takes a very large quantity. In the matter of susceptibility to impure air, they all have a distinct advantage over white lead. Zinc oxide is not at all affected, and the sulphate is very slightly affected unless the gas is in very large quantities and the paint is wet. In durability under outdoor exposure they are not better than white lead, except that oxide of zinc remains white. In their appearance in oil they differ considerably from white lead, being thin and stringy instead of stiff and firm, and this is against them. But Mr. Laurie does not find that when thinned down they seem to differ appreciably from lead carbonate in ease of working. In their effects on health, oxide of zinc is harmless. Sulphate of lead is not absolutely insoluble in very weak hydrochloric acid, and may therefore be slightly soluble in the stomach and to some extent poisonous; but the author does not believe that under ordinary conditions of manufacture or use it would produce lead poisoning.

 

The Dangerous Proportion of Carbonic Acid.—Of the power of carbonic acid to smother, Prof. F. Clowes, of Nottingham, England, ascertained that the flames of candles, oil, paraffin, and alcohol are extinguished by air containing from thirteen to sixteen per cent of carbonic acid. The flame of coal gas requires the presence of at least thirty-three per cent of the extinguishing gas, while the flame of hydrogen requires fifty-eight per cent. Concerning the proportion of carbonic acid mixed with water that can be breathed with impunity, the statements of different observers are conflicting. Prof. Clowes finds ten per cent more than is required to extinguish a candle flame respirable, while Dr. Haldane, of Oxford, estimates that air containing twenty per cent of carbonic acid can not be breathed, even for a minute, without serious consequences; even five per cent, he claims, caused serious distress of body and mind, while any proportion higher than ten per cent produced distinct poisonous effects. The vitality of the hydrogen flame in foul air, Prof. Clowes points out, makes it useful for maintaining the flame of a miner's safety lamp in an impure atmosphere. The author's testing lamp, which burns either oil or hydrogen, or both together, can be carried into foul air with both substances burning. The oil flame is extinguished as soon as the proportion of carbonic acid reaches a certain limit, while the hydrogen continues to bum. As soon as the miner goes back into a somewhat purer atmosphere, the still burning hydrogen relights the oil flame, and the miner is not left in complete darkness, as he otherwise would be.

 

The Earth's School of Enterprise.—In his study of the Relation of the Earth to the Industries of Mankind, Prof. O. T. Mason infers that the earth was in the beginning and is now the teacher of the activities through which commodities are conducted through the progress of industries. "There were quarriers, miners, lumberers, gleaners, and some say planters; there were fishermen, fowlers, trappers, and hunters before there was a genus homo. There were also manufacturers in clay, in textiles, and in animal substances before there were potters, weavers, and furriers; there were all sorts of moving material and carrying passengers and engineering of the simplest sort. It might be presumption to hint that there existed a sort of barter, but the exchange of care and food for the honeyed secretions of the body going on between the ants and the Aphidæ looks very much like it. The world is so full of technological processes brought about among her lower kingdoms that I should weary you in enumerating them. Stone-breaking, flaking, clipping, boring, and abrading have been going on always, by sand-blast, by water, by fire, by frost, by gravitation. Archæologists tell us that savages are very shrewd in selecting bowlders and other pieces of stone that have been blocked out and nearly finished by Nature for their axes, hammers, and other tools. In tropical regions of both hemispheres where scanty clothing is needed, certain species of trees weave their inner bark into an excellent cloth, the climax of which is the celebrated tapa of Polynesia. Furthermore, the fruits of vines and trees offer their hard outer shells for vessels and for other domestic purposes, and as motives in art and handicraft. Among the animals there is hardly one that has not obtruded itself into the imaginations of men and stimulated the inventive faculty. The bears were the first cave dwellers; the beavers are old-time lumberers; the foxes excavated earth before there were men; the squirrels hid away food for the future, and so did many birds; and these were also excellent architects and nest-builders; the hawks taught men to catch fish; the spiders and caterpillars to spin! the hornet to make paper, and the crayfish to work in clay."

 

A Generation of French Science.—The Revue Scientifique, of Paris, last November entered upon its thirty-third year. Noticing the event, it recalled the fact that when it was begun, in 1863, the Darwinian theory was only timidly sustained by a few, while it was contested by most men of science—in France at least. The Revue fought actively for it from the first, and for ten years gave it the most prominent place among subjects discussed. After that it gave other questions, including the new ones as they sprang up, a larger share of attention. The purpose which the Revue has constantly pursued has been to keep scientific readers acquainted with the work accomplished by other students in related or neighboring fields, and thereby serve as a kind of bond of connection between the scattered members of the scientific body. The collected volumes, according to the Revue's own expression, constitute a kind of gigantic scientific encyclopædia, in which may be found the traces of great scientific contests mingled with dogmatic expositions of the most glorious contemporary discoveries.

 

Sewer-fed Oysters.—Concerning the possible contamination of oysters by sewage, which seems to be demonstrated by experiences at Middletown, Conn., Nature says: "It has been alleged, on the evidence of certain recent bacteriological investigations as regards the contents of London sewers, that the organism producing typhoid fever can not live and multiply in sewers. But the organism has been found in sewers; it also lives in sea-water; and the fact remains that sewage bathes our oysters during cultivation to an extent that is essentially disagreeable and that ought not to take place; and also that typhoid fever follows the use of oysters so cultivated. It may also be alleged, as is done by certain oyster-growers, that sewage is fatal to the oyster itself. In answer to this we can only say that such evidence as we have obtained as to some of our oyster beds is absolutely opposed to this statement; and not only so, but we know of more than one instance where the oysters are deliberately brought from the beds to fatten in still nearer proximity to outfall sewers for a week or more preliminary to their sale. In brief, if sewage and noxious micro-organisms can be retained in the beard and other portions of the oyster, or in the 'juice,' which is so much relished, everything seems contrived to secure such retention of filth at some of our oyster fisheries."

 

Japanese Bronze Casting.—The casting of bronze has been carried on in Japan from very early times, reaching nearly, if not quite, back to the settlement of the country by its present inhabitants, seven or eight centuries before Christ. It appears to have been developed since then with the course of the centuries, each successive period having its peculiar styles and being distinguished by its more remarkable works. Among the great works of the bronze founders of the early seventeenth century were a colossal figure of the Buddhist divinity Rochana in Kioto, built to replace the wooden image that was destroyed by an earthquake in the previous century, and a huge bell for the temple. The image was nearly sixty feet high, and was cast where it stood, in segments, the mold being built upon the parts already finished. It was completed in 1614, but was destroyed forty-eight years afterward by an earthquake. The bell is the largest in Japan, and is about fourteen feet high, nine feet in external diameter at the mouth, and ten and three quarters inches thick at the rim, which is swelled internally so as to constrict the mouth. It is this constriction that causes the gentle rising and falling tones that characterize the boom of all Japanese bells. Two other similar bells were cast during the first half of the seventeenth century. Mr. W. Gowland, late of the Japanese Imperial Mint, says that the casting of a large bell in old times in Japan was an important event, and was accompanied by religious ceremonies and popular rejoicings. On the day appointed for running the metal into the mold a grand festival was held, which people of all ranks came from far and near to attend, with contributions, many with offerings of mirrors, hairpins, and metal ornaments, to be added to the bronze. On one occasion the Shogun himself was present and took part in the direction of operations.

 

Revival of Ramie Cultivation.—The cultivation and treatment of the ramie plant as an industrial product are again attracting attention as a field for the profitable employment of capital. It was apprehended at one time that the returns from cultivation had so far fallen short of expectation as to discourage further effort with it. The plant has, however, been closely studied in all its phases for three or four years past, and the processes of decorticating and degumming the stalks have been established upon a scientific basis. As the ramie gives an exceedingly small quantity of raw fiber—about three and a half to three per cent of the weight of the green stalks—the only way of making it a commercial success has been to treat it in enormous quantities at the lowest possible limit of cost. This necessitated the designing of machines upon the simplest lines. Many of the machines have recently been greatly improved, and their mechanism has been simplified to the apparent limit. Hence the ramie problem seems to have been definitely solved.

 

Overhead Wires and Lightning.—Concerning the influence of overhead electric wires in reference to safety from lightning, it is to be remembered, the Lancet says, that an overhead telephone wire becomes in point of fact a lightning conductor, and in this capacity may act in two ways: by equalizing differences of potential it may prevent the occurrence of the disruptive discharge; or, by receiving a lightning charge, it may carry the current to the earth. There can be little doubt that overhead conductors if connected with the earth play an important part in the distribution of atmospheric electricity. Lord Kelvin, in a recent paper, said that the difference of potential he obtained between the earth and an insulated burning match placed nine feet above the ground was from two hundred to four thousand volts. What, then, is the result of permanently connecting by a good conductor the earth and the atmosphere directly above it, a condition that exists in the case of single-wire circuits? Such an arrangement must tend to equalize potential and prevent the accumulation of those charged masses which no doubt form the nucleus of the storm cloud. This equalization will continue to take place in all conditions of weather. But when a storm occurs it is obvious that if struck by lightning the wire carries the current to the point of greatest range—viz., to the instrument and to any one in its vicinity. Therefore, unless the strictest structural precautions be taken, such a wire becomes a source of danger rather than of safety. To obviate this danger, every post or support for overhead wires ought to be fitted with a lightning guard, and every instrument, whether using the earth as a return or not, should be furnished with a lightning arrester.

 

Conditions of Sleep.—Some interesting experiments on sleep have been made by Prof. I. Tarchanoff, of St. Petersburg, upon puppies from three weeks to three months old. The animals at this age have a strong disposition to sleep, and are not awakened even when physiological experiments are made upon them—a few minutes' stroking of the head and back assuring the persistence of their slumbers or their return to sleep if they are aroused. Adult dogs will not sleep under such circumstances, except with the aid of a narcotic. Position of the body exerts a distinct influence on the sleeping. Puppies lightly strapped were placed, some in a horizontal and others in a vertical position, and of the latter some were held with the head downward and others with the tail down. Stroking and caressing failed to induce sleep only when the head was kept down. Other experiments demonstrated that the arterial pressure falls during sleep, and that when the animal wakes it returns to its former height. These facts agree with the statements and observations of Mr. Darben that the brain is anaemic during sleep. Further experiments were made by Prof. Tarchanoff on animals in which the spinal cord had been divided between the dorsal and lumbar regions, and the animals had recovered from the immediate effects of the injury. The result was expressed in the observation that the spinal cord never sleeps. The author thinks, further, that the brain is not during sleep inactive in all its parts, but is a source of depressed action propagating itself to all parts of the cord which are in perfect continuity with the brain.

 

Physiological Influence of Music.—In the investigation of the influence of music on man and animals, Prof. Tarchanoff, of St. Petersburg, used the ergograph of Mosso, and found that, if the fingers were completely fatigued, music had the power of making the fatigue disappear. It appeared that music of a sad and lugubrious character had the opposite effect, and could check or inhibit the contractions. The author is inclined to suppose that the voluntary muscles, being furnished with excito-motor and depressant fibers, act in reference to the music similarly to the heart that is, that joyful music resounds along the excito-motor fibers and sad music along the depressant or inhibitory fibers. Experiments on dogs showed that music was capable of increasing the elimination of carbonic acid by 16·7 per cent, and of increasing the consumption of oxygen by 20·1 per cent. It was also found that music increases the functional activity of the skin. The author claims as the result of his experiments that music may fairly be regarded as a serious therapeutic agent, and that it exercises a genuine and considerable influence over the functions of the body.