Popular Science Monthly/Volume 51/June 1897/General Notices

GENERAL NOTICES.

In order to judge fairly of the key to the problems of the universe furnished by Mr. Silberstein,[1] it is not only necessary for one with scientific habit of thought to subdue this mental temperament, but to place himself in that receptive frame of mind with which he should attend a séance or view an impressionist picture. However easy this may be for the metaphysician, it is almost impossible for the physicist or chemist, who, without his rule of verification, is more helpless than a rudderless ship at sea.

This comprehensive work is well divided into four chapters: The Idea of God, The Creation, Matter and Force, and Universal Mechanism.

As the conception of a machine precedes its manufacture by the mechanic, so the universe in its potential being antedates the physical universe which is individualized from it. The abstract concept of the universe as a whole is absolute intellectuality or God. This conclusion is reached by the a priori method of pure reason. The cognition of man, which concerns itself only with the perception of things manifest to the senses, is no knowledge at all. It teaches us nothing of true entities. We observe bread and man as two different things, and also that they are mutually convertible. If they were real existences, "how could they merge one into the other?" Hence "we are forced to assume that the entity of any compound object as it appears within the limits of time is not real. . . . Thus the science of experience and experiments alone, of which our naturalists are so proud, and which they call 'exact knowledge,' is a delusion." All the causes which exist in the universe are bound up together in the knowledge of the causes. If man knows one cause, he knows all causes of eternal existence. Man, however, knows that he does not know, and in this comprehends the whole knowledge of the entire universe. He thus arises to Divinity itself, and human intelligence is identically the same with the one absolute knowledge.

In regard to the Creation, we learn that the universe consists of two kinds of existence, sensual and intellectual. "The existence of any Creator before the creation in time, or behind it in space, is an impossibility." Matter can not contain in itself the absoluteness of existence. Man as a material being is an accident of changeable matter. The creation of the universe is an eternal emanation of the Absolute Intellectuality. The essence of the universe vibrates in spiritual waves. Physical waves, which appear in various forms of energy, magnetism, electricity, heat, and light, are contained in these.

In Matter and Force we are given a resume of the theories of various philosophers from Thales to Spinoza. Many modern philosophies are considered. They differ from that of Spinoza only in their names. "One calls his system Positivism, the other Materialism, the third Skepticism, the fourth Evolution, but they are all one in the Spinoza fanaticism." Among others Newton came, and through his mistaken theory of gravitation "reduced mankind to a still lower degree of pure wisdom." Chemists have also led the world astray with their inductions. The law of the union of gases is extremely repugnant to the author; "even if proved by ten thousand mathematical calculations, it is yet a natural impossibility, because these calculations are based upon false axioms."

Under the head of the Universal Mechanism the laws of motion are discussed. The property of inertia in matter and the first law of motion are said to be "absolutely false," while the author promises to "entirely annihilate" the force of gravitation. Instead of these, he gives us centrality, "a power of conservation whose impulse is to keep an atom or a body in its peculiar state or form." Inertia is accordingly "nothing else than centrality holding each physical object in its chemical bond. . . . Centrality is an active force, while the force of motion is passive." Another argument is furnished to show that "chemical combination has only to do with the qualities of objects." Even if the laws of gravitation were correct, "it would be a natural impossibility that the moon should have an elliptical motion around the earth."

Those who prefer the idealistic to the scientific method of explaining the mysteries of the universe will find the book of interest.

 

The results of over two hundred experiments on phenomena connected with the X rays have been collected in a volume by Edward P. Thompson.[2] The book is designed for students and workers in electricity, hence no attempt has been made to render it attractive to the general reader. Many of the experiments were made before Röntgen's famous discovery was announced, some dating back to the time of Faraday, so that those who made them of course had no idea of their connection with the X rays. Among the special points that the experiments bear upon are the action of a magnet on the cathode light, photo-electric dust figures, mutual repulsion of cathode rays in the discharge tube, behavior of cathode rays outside the discharge tube, effect of the X rays on various chemicals, and penetrating power of the X rays. We note the following well-known names among the investigators whose work appears in the volume: Faraday, Davy, J. J. Thomson, Crookes, Lenard, Röntgen, Edison, Tesla, and Lodge. The text is illustrated with a large number of reproductions of skiagraphs and other pictures.

 

The authors of Curiosities of Medicine have been working a very fruitful field, and doubtless could have gathered an even larger harvest.[3] Although medical journals are constantly reporting curious cases of abnormal formation or of recovery after injury, the present volume appears to be the first systematic collection of such material. To the physician a knowledge of such cases may often be of service in indicating what hope there may be for ameliorating similar abnormal conditions that may occur in his practice. To the layman the collection is one of startling and often rather painful interest. Instances of children born joined together, of which the Siamese twins have long been the traditional type, are well represented. With these are classed persons with supernumerary limbs, heads, and other organs. Minor abnormities present a wonderful variety, including albinism, excessive hairiness and hairlessness, elastic skin, horny growths, large or small heads, harelip, congenital absence of limbs, deficient or supernumerary fingers and toes, tails, extra breasts, and malformations of the internal organs. Abnormal forms and functions in the generative organs afford a large volume of curious material. Celebrated giants and dwarfs and other anomalies of size furnish material for a chapter, and there is a group of records of extraordinary longevity. Idiosyncrasies with regard to sound, vision, smell, taste, touch, foods, drugs, etc., endurance of fasting, power of contorting the body, endurance of pain, supernormal strength, etc., make up a long list. Many cases of recovery from unusual forms of injury to various parts of the body are recorded here, and there is much interesting material under the head of anomalous types of disease. The concluding chapter is a record of historic epidemics. A full general index and a bibliographic index are appended. The volume is illustrated with nearly three hundred figures and a considerable number of plates.

 

An address on The Railroad as an Element in Education, delivered at the World's Fair in New Orleans in 1885, by Prof. Alexander Hogg, was widely circulated at the time, attracted much attention, and was noticed in the Monthly. It was an honest and forcible attempt to present the benefits the railroads have conferred upon society and the nation, and to antagonize the unreasoning populistic prejudice against them. It showed in a few words appealing directly to public intelligence that railroads have cheapened communication and transportation, have opened remote parts of the country, making them near and accessible, have removed the dangers of local famine, have contributed vastly to the national defense while removing the necessity of keeping large standing armies; and that in view of the services they render and of what is charged for like work abroad, their rates are extremely low. Further, the men who have acquired the most wealth through railroad management have also distinguished themselves by their benefactions to education and other contributions to public welfare. This address is now republished in a revised and enlarged form,[4] with additional chapters reviewing the development of the ten years subsequent to its original publication. Of these chapters one of the most important is the one on The Inception and History of Strikes, the methods of which are shown to be "wrong in principle and ruinous in practice."

 

The first volume of Prof. W.J. Beal's Grasses of North America[5] was published ten years ago, and was noticed by us in November, 1887. It was designed more particularly for farmers and students, and comprised chapters on the physiology, composition, selection, improving, and cultivation of grasses and clovers. The present volume supplements the former one to a certain extent, but in most respects it is an independent work. In it the grasses are classified and described, and each species is illustrated; and chapters are added on their geographical distribution, and also a bibliography. In most cases the generic characters closely follow those given by Bentham and Hooker in Genera Plantarum. Extracts are given regarding the writings of prominent authorities on the grasses; and also notes regarding the tribes and some of the genera. The author has been permitted to examine, during his studies for this work, the herbarium of Michigan Agricultural College, all the grasses in the herbaria of the University of Michigan and Harvard University (including the grasses of the late Dr. George Thurber), those of the Department of Agriculture at Washington, and those of Prof. F. L. Scribner; and, himself one of our leading botanists, has been assisted by Prof. L. H. Bailey and Prof. S. M. Tracy in the matter of geographical distribution, L. H. Dewey and A. A. Crozier. The work is a real addition to our botanical literature, filling as it does a department that has not before been completely occupied.

 

Mr. Thomas D. Hawley, of the Chicago bar, has prepared and published a new system of logic,[6] by which, he claims, reasoning can be carried on by an infallible process, even as the interest can be calculated upon a promissory note. The method consists in the repeated use of a few processes which are performed in a mechanical manner, and the results appear automatically. "Its tools are a few simple signs—namely, the capital letters of the alphabet to represent positive terms, the small letters to represent negative terms; the mathematical sign of equality, ≈ for ‘is’; a short prependicular mark, / for ‘or,’ and a square for the ‘universe of discourse.’ When a square is divided into a proper number of sections it is called a Reasoning Frame. By the use of the Reasoning Frame every proposition which can possibly be made with the letters used is set before us. We then eliminate every proposition which is inconsistent with the given proposition or state of facts. The uneliminated propositions which automatically remain in the Reasoning Frame will then give us every iota of truth which our data will yield." Aside from the signs and the device of the Reasoning Frame, the treatise does not appear to differ materially from other good treatises on the subject. The author's explanations are fairly clear. A complete index is an excellent feature.

 

An unusual and fascinating biography is that of Sir Richard Burton,[7] the explorer and linguist, written by his niece. One does not know whether to wonder more at the extent of his travels or at his indefatigable industry in language study. The titles of sixty odd books are included in the list of his works, among them being an entire volume of the Royal Geographical Society, translations of Portuguese and Arabic, and several grammars of Hindu dialect. His journeyings were equally varied. We find him dwelling in the far East, in India and Arabia; later, crossing the Andes and pampas, in Brazil and Paraguay; now discovering the lakes in Central Africa, then investigating Utah, or exploring the mines of Iceland. Patient, persistent, undaunted by difficulties, he was admirably fitted by nature for the task of exploration. Had he been equally keen to read humankind, his local success among men might have been greater. Yet he may not have lacked discernment, but the will to be politic. Society is the rather to be arraigned, if, as we are told, "the habit of veracity sadly hindered him at times in his struggle with the world."

 

There is reason to believe that intellectual American women have somewhat surfeited themselves on the long-forbidden fruit of an education "just like the men's." They seem now to realize that the idea of a "woman's sphere" can have its dignity as well as its limitations, and that the possession of acute perception, clear reasoning ability, and high power of application can be shown in the wholesome and economical provisioning of a family and the efficient management of children and servants no less than in struggles with Greek roots and mathematical operations. The household arts are getting an increased share of attention both in women's clubs and in women's and coeducational colleges. A book now before us embodies a course of lectures on home management delivered in the University of Wisconsin.[8] These lectures give a general view of the field, presenting what might be called the theory of their subject, and using practical details merely by way of illustration or to give definiteness to the views set forth. After a preliminary chapter on the Statics and Dynamics of Household Economy, Mrs. Campbell considers first the house. These are some of the principles that she lays down as regards building:

The plan of the house includes beforehand not only all that has been said as to location and its bearings, but also the settling of the cost and an intelligent idea of the special family needs. Here a woman's judgment is absolutely essential. It is the woman who lives chiefly in the house, and who, if common sense were brought to bear, would soon put an end to the type of thing the average builder offers her. Why should we perpetually go up and down when going sideways is so much easier? Why should we accept stupidly planned and inadequate closets or no closets at all, and kitchens in which everything is calculated to bring the greatest unhappiness to the greatest number? The utmost convenience in every inch of working space should be the law. The difference between a pantry opening close to the sink and one at the opposite end of the room may seem a small matter; but when it comes to walking across the room with every dish that is washed, the steps soon count as miles.

With regard to decoration, she urges the claims of the simple and elegant as against the flashy and trashy, and insists that the adornment of a useful article should never interfere with its use. Thus she says: "The pitcher that does not pour well can not be beautiful, though of gold. . . . The spider-legged table and its insect family of chairs—the things that creak when we sit down and tip over when we get up—these are not beautiful." Her treatment of domestic industries in general, the nutrition of the household, cleaning, and household service is in the same line. An excellent list of books for further study is added to each chapter. Lists of subjects for the use of women's clubs in studying household economy and information about clubs that have given some attention to this field are appended.

 

This monograph[9] gives, in some eighty pages, a list of the published maps of Virginia. The first map, made in manuscript about the year 1585, bears the name of John With, a painter who was sent into the colonies by Walter Raleigh to paint the red-skins and the other curiosities of the new-found country. Captain John Smith drew up his famous map in 1608. "In the boundary dispute between Virginia and Maryland in 1873 Smith's map was used as an authority, and prior to that it was the foundation upon which all the maps of Virginia were constructed." From 1608 onward the maps multiply, down to the last one, a railroad pocket guide published in 1893. Specimen reproductions, especially of the quaint older maps, would have enlivened this catalogue.

 

The greater part of the Twelfth Annual Report of the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the State of Connecticut is devoted to the practices prevailing in the various towns and cities of the State with regard to assessments for the purpose of taxation. The bureau has evidently investigated the matter thoroughly, and has discovered considerable foundation for the always current rumors as to inequalities. The information gathered, including suggestions from local assessors, is conveniently arranged, and besides its value within the State may well serve as a guide and model to officials of other States. The bureau has also collected the appraised values of over seven hundred probated estates, finding them to confirm closely the figures given by assessors. For purposes of comparison the tax laws of Connecticut, New York, and Massachusetts are here printed. Other investigations whose results are given in this volume are on the taxation of corporations, the condition of bakeshops, and the wages of factory hands.

 

A wonderful quantity of information concerning the various materials, processes, and applications of the photographic art is contained in the eleventh American Annual of Photography (Scovill & Adams Co., New York; paper 75, cents; cloth, $1). The aid that photography can give in surgery, mining, detecting forgery, etc, is told in special articles. Directions from which the amateur can use his prints to make a number of tasty and pleasing objects are another feature. Work with the X rays and color photography are two important recent developments that find place in the volume. There are also standard formulas, useful recipes, tables of chemicals, of capacities of lenses, of conjugate foci, of enlargement and reduction, of comparative exposures, etc., lists of photographic books and patents of the preceding year, and of American and foreign photographic societies. There are also a full almanac for 1897, postal and patent information, etc., while the large number of advertisements add no little value to the book. The volume contains over three hundred illustrations from photographs of pleasing and interesting subjects.

 

In his First Year in German, Mr. I Keller has sought to avoid the defects and combine the advantages of the grammatical and "natural" methods of teaching the language. His method is simple, and includes practical exercises in which the grammatical features are explained as they occur. They consist of progressive reading lessons, translating from German to English and from English to German, with explanatory notes, oral and written exercises, and conversation exercises, with grammatical paradigms in the appendix. (American Book Company, $1.)

 

The Report of the United States Commissioner of Fish and Fisheries for 1892–'93 is accompanied by three special reports of assistants in charge of especial inquiries. One of these deals with food fishes and the fishing grounds, and reports investigations into. the physical and other conditions of the inland and coast waters of the United States. Another is occupied with the statistics and methods of the commercial fisheries, and the third details the operations of the commission in propagating and distributing food fishes. Following these is an extended account by William A. Wilcox of the Fisheries of the Pacific Coast, which have recently grown to importance, especially the catching of salmon for canning. The whaling and sealing of the Pacific are also important. The volume includes also a report on the work of the steamer Albatross and a descriptive catalogue of the collections of the Albatross made in 1890 and 1891. A number of views and other plates illustrate the several papers. The volume for 1893–’94 contains reports on the same general inquiries as its predecessor, and among its special papers are a description of the exhibit of the commission at the World's Columbian Exposition, The Whitefishes of North America, The Fishes of the Missouri River Basin, A Review of the Foreign Fishery Trade of the United States, and a List of Publications of the Commission from its establishment.

 

Volume XXX, Part IV, of the Annals of the Harvard Observatory is devoted to a Discussion of the Cloud Observations made at the Blue Hill Meteorological Observatory, by H. Helm Clayton. Mr. Clayton begins with a historical sketch of cloud nomenclature which introduces his statement of the new systematic nomenclature adopted for the Blue Hill Observatory. The names devised at Blue Hill are designed to specify the form, altitude, and origin of the clouds. After considering briefly the methods of cloud formation and the relations of clouds to rainfall and to cyclones, Mr. Clayton gives an account of the annual and diurnal periods in the wind and the cloud movements that have been found from the Blue Hill observations. Other topics treated are the movements of the wind and clouds at different heights in cyclones and anticyclones, cirrus motions, and the velocity of storms. Some notes on the use of cloud observations in weather forecasting are added, and there is an appendix of tables and diagrams.

 

G. P. Putnam's Sons are now presenting to the public Volume II of Books and their Makers during the Middle Ages, by George Haven Putnam. In this new volume Mr. Putnam recounts the vicissitudes of two centuries' books and bookmakers—the trials and triumphs of those first ambitious, determined little companies of printer-publishers who, confronted ofttimes by the mighty odds of church and state, yet wielded so bravely and untiringly their new-found weapon that echoes of their resounding blows for truth and liberty still ring in the ears of men. Mr. Putnam dwells with emphasis and at some length on certain of the early printer-publishers of the Reformation period, selecting as representatives of that class the Kobergers in Nuremberg, Froben in Basel, the house of Plantin in Antwerp, Caxton in Bruges and in London, the Elzevirs in Leyden and Amsterdam, "and the famous families of the Estiennes or Stephani." The author modestly disclaims attempts at dramatic arrangement or presentation of his subjects, saying, as with regard to Luther, that he is "not concerned with Luther as a Reformer, as a fighter, or as a Christian hero, but simply with his work and his relations as an author"; nevertheless, there is much that is of deepest historic and dramatic interest to be found throughout the book. The volume is beautifully put together. With its plain, rich binding of dark red, its uncut linen pages, and clear type, it is a fitting specimen of what books and bookmakers have attained to in this day and age. (Price, $2.50.)

 

German Scientific Reading, compiled by H. C. G. Brandt and W. C. Day (Holt), embodies an excellent idea. Students of science taking up German, without caring to linger long over its literature, but wishing to acquire rapidly the facility of reading German scientific prose, will find here an adequate answer to their wants. The extracts, mostly by well-known German scientists, have been chosen for the simplicity of their diction and the value of the information they impart. Covering a wide range of sciences, they might prove as interesting reading to a class of general students as to specialists. Some twenty pages of descriptive prose, by those masters of style, Goethe and Humboldt, enliven the book by their literary quality. The notes are adequate, and the vocabulary "is intended to contain every word in the text, simple or compound, literary or technical." This collaboration of two specialists, professors respectively of German and of chemistry, has produced a Reader that should recommend itself to German teachers and classes in general.

 

Another portion of Weisbach's great work on mechanics, as revised by Hermann, dealing with The Mechanics of Pumping Machinery has been translated (Macmillans, $3.75). It is designed for the use of engineers and students of engineering; hence, while it gives some historical information about early forms of water elevators, it presents the mechanical side of even the simple bucket and sweep and the Dutch scoop. It is, of course, chiefly occupied with a technical presentation of the theory of reciprocating and rotary pumps, but gives a chapter to such additional water-raising machines as the hydraulic ram, ejectors, injectors, spiral pumps, and the pulsometer. The machines described are depicted in nearly two hundred engravings.

Miss Sadie F. Price's Fern Collector's Handbook and Herbarium (Holt, $2.25) is intended as an aid in the study and preservation of the ferns of the northern United States, including the district east of the Mississippi and north of North Carolina and Tennessee. It is a quarto volume, on the right-hand side of each page of which is given a full-size representation of some species of fern (seventy-two species being included), while the opposite page is left blank for the insertion of a pressed and dried specimen of the species. The letterpress consists of directions for preparing and fixing the specimens, the technical description of the order of ferns, and the list of illustrations or of species illustrated.

  1. The Disclosures of the Universal Mysteries. By Solomon J. Silberstein. New York: Philip Cowen, 1896. Pp. 298. Price, $2.
  2. Röntgen Rays and Phenomena of the Anode and Cathode. By Edward P. Thompson and William A. Anthony. New York: D. Van Nostrand Co. Pp.190, 8vo. Price, $1.50.
  3. Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine. By George M. Gould, M.D., and Walter L. Pyle, M.D. Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders. Pp. 968, imperial 8vo. Price, cloth, $6, half morocco, $7.
  4. The Railroad as an Element in Education. Revised and enlarged, with New Illustrations. (Special edition). By Prof. Alexander Hoff, Superintendent of Schools, Fort Worth, Texas. Louisville, Ky.: J. Morton & Co. Pp. 112.
  5. Grasses of North America. By W.J. Beal, Professor of Botany and Forestry in Michigan Agricultural College. In two volumes. Vol. II. New York: Henry Holt & Co. Pp. 706. Price, $5.
  6. Infallible Logic: A Visible and Automatic System of Reasoning. By Thomas D. Hawly, of the Chicago Bar. Lansing, Mich.: Robert Smith Printing Company. Pp 659.
  7. The True Life of Captain Sir Richard F. Burton. By Georgiana M. Stisted. New York: D. Appleton & Co. Pp. 419. Price, $2.
  8. Household Economics. By Helen Campbell. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons. Pp. 286, 12mo. Price, $1.50.
  9. Virginia Cartography. A Bibliographical Description. By P. Lee Phillips. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections.