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Popular Science Monthly/Volume 53/June 1898/Minor Paragraphs

MINOR PARAGRAPHS.

The debate concerning the presence or absence of considerable bodies of water on Mars has taken a new direction, and observers are now looking for optical evidence. If there is any large body of water on the planet, the image of the sun should be seen, when the proper conditions for the phenomenon exist, reflected from its surface as a fine point of light. No such image has been observed by the astronomers who have busied themselves most with Mars; and the conclusion is drawn that the planet's store of water is derived from the melting of the polar snows. Mr. Taylor, of York, believes that there is enough of this to affect the hue of the vegetation, the existence of which is indicated by dark lines and spots. There does not appear to be anything in this theory to preclude the possibility of Mars having a copious supply of rain.

While admitting that water may be an effective agent in making deposits like loess, M. J. A. Udden adduces reasons in the Bulletin of the Geological Society of America for believing that the loess in the Mississippi Valley was chiefly deposited from the air. It is often found in situations where the agency of water can hardly be predicated, and contains land shells. The universal presence of mineral dust in the atmosphere and its constant settling necessitate its accumulation in places where erosion is at a standstill or does not exceed the rate of atmospheric sedimentation; and the conditions now nearly correspond with this. In mechanical composition fine wind sediments and loess are largely identical. The loess beds are more uniform in structure than deposits from water can well be; and other features of the loess appear easier to explain if it be regarded as a land deposit.

The law of wills and inheritance is cited by Isaac F. Russell, in a paper on the Vendetta, as perhaps exhibiting more than any other body of justice doctrine the influence of kinship in legal evolution. "In point of historical development intestate inheritance precedes testamentary succession. The conception of a will as a means of disinheriting children and devolving an estate in accordance with the excessive partiality, fleeting caprice, or malignant temper of the testator, is a conception of our modern times, and was not familiar to the jurisprudence of primitive antiquity. In fact, ancient law regarded a will as a means of perpetuating the family in a succeeding generation by nominating a new chief on whom the headship was to be devolved. Little power of free testamentary alienation was recognized. The patriarch was more like a trustee or steward of common possessions belonging to the family than an original proprietor. He could not do as he saw fit with what seemed to be his. Often a son, on coming of age, could compel his father to make a partition of the family holdings, as suggested by Jesus's parable of the prodigal son.

The ninth of the series of annual abstracts of the Linnæan Society of New York contains a paper on the Fishes of the Fresh and Brackish Waters in the Vicinity of New York City, by Eugene Smith. Mr. Smith has found fifty native, eleven introduced, and twelve probably occurring native species, belonging to fifty-four genera and twenty-four families, showing that while the number of species is not large, the families are well represented. None of the species are limited to a small area of near-by country. "The fresh-water species of New England and of the Maritime Provinces as far as the Gulf of St. Lawrence are nearly all found with us, the exceptions being mostly the absence here of the more northern salmonids. Our vicinity represents a sort of border land between the very restricted fish fauna of the New England 'Zoölogical Island,' as Agassiz called it, and the far richer fauna encountered in the Delaware basin immediately to the west of us," with a few fishes that properly belong to the eastern Carolina basin.

A singular lithological formation is described by Prof. Persifor Frazer as exhibited by the ore in the Coletta mines of the Northern Black Hills of South Dakota. Uneven lenticular masses of ore have been deposited on the upper surface of the quartzite, suggesting a resemblance to sausages strung together by slender strings. The masses lie approximately in the same plane at intervals of thirty or forty feet, parallel with each other, and are intersected by other similar masses at right angles, the richness and quantity of the ore being increased at the junction. These corrugations, as they are called, are broad and shallow masses from five to twelve feet wide and from eight inches to three feet thick. Where they are united end to end, or at the parts analogous to the connecting string of the sausages, the rock becomes sandy and free gold is found. The strange formation is supposed to be caused by the existence of furrows or troughs in the surface of the quartzite in which the contents of the metalliferous solutions were deposited, but what caused the depressions is not clear.