Popular Science Monthly/Volume 52/December 1897/Minor Paragraphs


In his sectional address on the Labor Question before the British Association, Prof. E. C. K. Gonner drew a parallel between the present age and the Renaissance. Analogies between the present period and that of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries offer themselves in different ways. Then, as now, the time was one of discovery, and the discoveries of either period have had effects both destructive and constructive—destroying opinions resting on certain narrow conceptions of the sphere of life, but giving opportunity for new ideas and vaster conceptions. Each period was a time of a new learning, and in both knowledge has been sought in a return from theories rigid and out of consonance with life to life itself and the facts of life. In the sphere of religion and morals the likeness is strangely evident. In both cases there was failure to distinguish between the fleeting form and the abiding reality, and there were particular tendencies, largely by way of result, affecting morals and conduct. In the fifteenth century, as now, these latter were not so much in the direction of that coarseness which somehow or other is often called immorality, but rather in that of a lack of moral discrimination and will. The mediæval Renaissance found its salvation in the emphasis of individuality, alike in religion, in the state, and in industrial activity. At the present we seem tending in another direction, and seeking a positive moral guidance in an enlarged conception of social duty and solidarity; and the position which employed labor occupies in regard to them is sufficient to insure it sympathetic attention.

Morocco, by reason of its geographical position and the peculiar distribution of its mountains and valleys, enjoys, according to Mr. Charles Rolleston, the varieties of climate between those of the north of Scotland and the plains of India. Its productions are also varied, and under a good administration would be valuable. With extortionate taxation and the insecurity of property industries languish. The sugar cane was introduced by the Arabs during the middle ages, but the profitable nature of the crop exposed the owners to oppression, and the former rich plantations have become things of the past. Most of the country is well adapted to horticulture, but the almost prohibitory export duties prevent a trade which might go far toward supplying the fruit markets of Europe with oranges, lemons, dates, peaches, plums, apricots, grapes, figs, pomegranates, mulberries, and olives. The empire is also rich in minerals and in agricultural products. With all these munificent resources Morocco has fallen into decadence, simply on account of the vice of its political administration, which does not fulfill a single function, duty, or responsibility of the government, but is generally mischievous.

The serpent symbol was described by the Rev. S. D. Peet, in a paper read in the American Association, as prevalent all over this continent. It appears in effigies in Canada, Ohio, Illinois, and Minnesota. Certain myths among the Iroquois and Algonkins represent the serpent as coming out of the water, fascinating men and turning them into serpents, and taking them below the water—thus reminding one of the temptation. While in these and other myths of those nations the serpent is the source of evil, in Nicaragua and Yucatan it is the source of good. It is in reality the symbol of the rain cloud, and the crops and the seasons are dependent on its appearance. Instead of antagonizing the chief divinity, it seems to be sailing through the air, bearing that being on its back, or holding vases in its folds that empty water or rain upon the fields. In Nicaragua the serpent appears in sculpture, highly wrought and carved with great force. The sacred books of the Mayas have many representations of serpents. Even the hieroglyphics of the Mayas have serpents upon them, forming parts of the glyph. Among the Pueblos the serpent figured in a very interesting way in the ceremonies of the initiation of the youth.

In his characterizing of the Arctic Seas, Mr. J. Scott Keltie says that to the north of Europe and Asia we have the scattered groups of islands—Spitzbergen, Franz Josef Land, Novaya Zemlya, and the New Siberian Islands. To the north of America we have an immense archipelago the actual extent of which is unknown. It may be that the islands of this archipelago are continued far to the north; if so, they would form convenient stages for the work of a well-equipped expedition. It may be that they do not go much farther than we find them on our maps. Whatever be the case, it is important to the interests of science that this section of the Polar Sea be examined; that as high a latitude as possible be attained; and that soundings be made to discover whether the deep ocean extends all round the pole.

An ocellated lizard which M. Charles Dreaux kept for thirteen years grew to be nearly eighteen inches long and to weigh almost half a pound. Having come from a mild region, it was supposed not to be in the habit of hibernating, and was kept during the first winter in a warm room. It suffered thereby from the violation of its customs, and, while it continued active, did not eat, and was reduced, when spring came, to a pitiful condition. Kept in a cool room in after winters, it was regularly dormant from the latter part of October till about the middle of March, or between four and five months. Its winter slumbers were not, however, entirely continuous, but it changed its place frequently and sometimes came out to drink. It lost between a ninth and a twelfth of its weight; molted late in May or early in June, sometimes also in July, but rarely twice a year. It is very tame and very curious. It was probably two years old when captured, and was consequently, at the beginning of 1897, about fifteen; and it shows signs of age in its diminishing agility, growth, and appetite.

Of the stations in the international series for cloud observations, Prof. Frank H. Bigelow said in the American Association that the United States has fourteen. The object of observations at all these points is to determine the actual circulation of the atmosphere at different cloud levels. Heretofore indications have been worked out from the surface of the ground, where the circulation is much distorted. The action of storms is usually strongest two or three miles above the surface. The author criticised the conclusions of German meteorologists, who have worked on theories by mathematical processes, as being ideal and not conforming to actual conditions found in Nature. He showed by maps how storms run around rather in the upper isotherms than on the ground. The form of these lines is largely determined by the relation of land and ocean. The result is that the upper currents, which would run smoothly otherwise, become distorted by their passage over the land. Storms are abnormal parts of the general circulation, and have the force of that circulation behind them.

In his experiments in photography from kites at Enlaure, near Labruguière, France, M. Arthur Batut observed that when he flew his kite with a north wind, though it was a strong one, his kite kept its balance in the air without violent jerkings; while with wind from the south or southeast, unless it was extremely light, the kite dodged hither and thither and was extremely irregular in its movements, as if there were eddies in the air stratum. The north wind reached Enlaure after blowing over a plain country, with only gentle undulations; while the south and southeast winds came from over a broken country. Aëronauts who have suffered from caprices of the wind before reaching an area of calm in the atmosphere have sometimes ascribed their trouble to eddies in the lower air strata occasioned by irregularities in the surface of the ground. The irregularities in the flying of the kite may have had a like origin.

Of the physical and mental training gathered—laboriously and somewhat wastefully, it may be—at the joiner's bench, in the fitting and turning shops, and the forge during the old course of mechanical engineering apprenticeship, Mr. G. F. Deacon expresses himself convinced that the kind of knowledge which comes of thoughtful chipping and filing and turning and forging, though only applied to a few of the materials with which in after-life the engineer has to deal, are quite as important to his future sense of rightness in constructive design as tables of density and strength. The use of such work is not merely to teach one the parts and combinations of any particular machine; to a still higher degree it is the insensible mastery of a much more subtle knowledge or mental power—the application of the senses of sight and touch and force, it may be of other senses also, to the determination of the nature of things.

An interesting memoir was recently presented to the Paris Academy of Medicine by Dubousquet Labordaire and Duchesne concerning a group of families at Saiut-Ouen, an industrial district on the outskirts of Paris, which appear to have been immune from tuberculosis for many generations. The families are at present ninety-eight in number, and consist of five hundred and eleven persons. No cases of tuberculosis have occurred among them, as far back as the memory of the oldest inhabitant reaches. They are a farming people of excellent sanitary habits, and rarely or never mix either socially or by marriage with immigrants from other sections.

Ever since aluminum has been used in construction difficulties have arisen in soldering it. The following contribution to Nature by A. T. Stanton is of interest in this connection: If cadmium iodide be fused on an aluminum plate, decomposition of the salt occurs long before the melting point of the aluminum is reached. The result is generally the violent evolution of iodine vapor, and the formation of an alloy of cadmium and aluminum on the surface of the metal. The addition to the cadmium iodide of the two chlorides of zinc and ammonium, previously fused together, results in a flux, which readily enables tin (or other soldering alloy) to unite perfectly with aluminum.