Popular Science Monthly/Volume 53/May 1898/General Notices


By the Sun's Place in Nature[1] Sir Norman Lockyer means the stage of stellar evolution through which the sun is passing. This subject and the constitution of the sun, the source of its light and heat, and the nature and history of meteorites, stars, and nebulae, as they may throw light upon what is going on in the sun, have been the objects of Professor Lockyer's studies for a long period. The results of twenty-five years' investigation of the subject and the conclusions the author had matured have been published in the books The Chemistry of the Sun and The Meteoric Hypothesis. Their most important points were, as regards the general question, that there is the closest possible connection between nebulæ and stars, they representing two stages in an evolutionary series: that the first or nebulous stage in the development of cosmical bodies is not a mass of hot gas, but a swarm of cold meteorites; that some of the heavenly bodies must be increasing their temperature, while others are decreasing; and that therefore a new classification is demanded, based on the varying states of condensation of the meteoric swarms. Great advances have been made in physical astronomy since these books were published. Larger telescopes have been in operation; the system of mountain observations has been established and carried on; spectroscopic observations and astronomical photography have been energetically prosecuted; novæ or new stars have come and gone; and the mysterious element, helium, of the solar spectrum, has been found on the earth. A new discussion seems to be required in view of these recent developments, and is given in the present work. Vogel's classification of stars based upon the supposition that all the stars are cooling is set by the side of the author's view in the face of the new evidence, and the conclusion is reached that the result of the test is in favor of the latter; that some stellar bodies are increasing their temperature, while others are reducing it; that the sun is cooling in a similar stage with that of Arcturus and Capella; that the theory that the primal nebula of the sun was not exclusively gaseous, but only contained gases among its constituents; and also that in general, "along all lines, the fundamental requirements of the meteoric hypothesis have been strengthened by the later work."

Professor Curtis's Text-Book of General Botany[2] is intended as an introduction to the study of the science, and not as a substitute for any of the books designed for persons who would know something of botany and have but little time at their disposal. The text is based upon the laboratory work required of beginners at Columbia University. The book being intended for a single year's work, rigid compression and broad generalization have been compelled. The author emphasizes the importance of guarding the student "against the peril of making him dependent upon directions and so defeating one aim of the work, the making of self-reliant, intelligent observers. The student should see everything, but first and clearly the essentials of each exercise and as many modifications of it as possible. For this reason a variety of species has been used rather than a few types, since, if our experience is not at fault, this assists rather than confuses our comprehension of the subject, and above all prevents those false generalizations and conceptions that must follow a narrow study of forms. The student should collect and prepare his own material. The anatomy of the plant body, plant physiology, systematic botany, and plant morphology are treated in succession.

In his Afloat on the Ohio[3] the Secretary of the Wisconsin State Historical Society has given us a book that may be read with pleasure and profit by every lover of American history and advancement and by persons who enjoy beautiful scenery or are fond of sketches of personal idiosyncrasies as well. The author's primary object in making the pilgrimage was historical; that appears on every page of the narrative as well as in his own avowal that his purpose was to gather "local color" for work in Western history, the Ohio River having been an important factor in the development of the West and in the making of the nation and of its greatness to a much more predominant extent than we are accustomed, in our superficial view, to realize. The party of four, voyaging in a skiff, floated down the stream by day and camped on the shore at night; and they contrived to have some shopping to do at every town so as to get more opportunities to explore. Their very starting place—Redstone, or Brownsville, at the mouth of Redstone Creek—is famous in history, beginning even with its prehistoric foundations, and is memorable for having been the first English agricultural settlement west of the Alleghanies, and for its prominence as a post in the frontier wars; and it was only the portal, as it were, to the succession of historical sites that are distributed along the whole length of the great river. The descriptions of the ever-varying scenery of the river, which are given in a few happy touches here and there, are another element of attractiveness in the narrative. At the beginning of the voyage are the manufacturing establishments, forming an almost continuous line for miles along either shore of the river; farther down it is more rural, with wide bottoms on one side, sharp bluffs and high hills on the other, alternating with one another, broad meadows, cultivated farms, and forests; towns that were prosperous in the days of steamboating, and now falling into decay, and other towns that have brought railroads to themselves and are busy and prosperous; changing below Louisville into broad reaches of meadow, with the hills receding far away; and then the bayous and swamps: truly the Ohio is a stream of many aspects. It is a surprise to learn how the more obscure parts have been left behind by the railroads, which have built up and developed the inland towns at their expense, and how primitive the rural populations still remain. In order to give a clearer idea of the history which is interwoven with the narrative, a historical outline of the settlement of the Ohio is given in the appendix; and this is followed by a bibliography. "It is time" the author says, "that our Western and Southern folk were awakened to an appreciation of the fact that they have a history at their doors quite as significant in the annals of civilization as that which induces pilgrimages to Ticonderoga and Bunker Hill."

The soil of the subconscious forms a fertile ground for the experimental labors of Dr. Sidis,[4] and he harvests there a large crop of new ideas in regard to the laws and conditions that govern suggestibility. This state of mind is one open to suggestion, but the latter term is not given its ordinary significance of an external idea which influences the mental attitude. Neither is it confined to the technical definitions of the psychologists of Salpêtrière and Nancy who employ it mainly in their studies of the neurotic. Our author by definition and illustration furnishes a clear conception of his special use of the word. "By suggestion is meant the intrusion into the mind of an idea, met with more or less opposition by the person, accepted uncritically at last, and realized unreflectively, almost automatically."

To investigate suggestibility in normal individuals, Dr. Sidis conducted over eight thousand experiments. These consisted of letters, figures, or colors displayed for a few seconds and arranged variously so as to demonstrate whether frequency, repetition, coexistence, or last impression influence the greater number in their choice. An exhibition of colored shapes revealed the extent to which strangeness of tint, shape, or position were factors in the decision. Movements and acts were also verbally suggested, and from them all the law of normal suggestibility was deduced; it increases as the suggestion becomes indirect. Examining hysterical, hypnotic, and somnambulistic subjects revealed the law of abnormal suggestibility, which is the reverse of the former. Its strength is in direct suggestion. The conditions under which a suggestion is effective are found to be nearly the same in normal and abnormal instances, fixation of attention, monotony, limitation of movement, inhibition of ideas. These divorce the higher controlling consciousness from the lower reflex consciousness, so that suggestibility is simply "a cleft of mind," a disaggregation of consciousness. By a number of experiments. Dr. Sidis arrives at the conclusion that even in normal subjects the subconscious self possesses a superacute sense-perception. The phenomena of crystal-gazing, shell-hearing, and automatic writing he accepts also as "facts that clearly reveal the presence of this hyper-æsthetic consciousness." Although in several instances the subconscious self is called an ego and endowed with personality, "it must not be regarded as an individual; only as a form of mental life."

According to Dr. Sidis's researches, man may be occasionally social, or even rational, but he is, above all, a suggestible animal. In this characteristic of his nature lies the explanation of the mental epidemics that ravage nations. The crowd swayed by the flattering orator, the mob that lynches defenseless men or sacks Versailles—are exhibitions of the soulless, senseless, secondary self ordinarily dormant. It is shown as well in the uniformity of manner and fashion that is the creed of society, but this manifestation does not excite alarm. The same unreasoning consciousness obtains the mastery in speculative fevers and panics, in revival meetings, witchcraft delusions, and popular crazes of all sorts.

Having unveiled for us this uncanny spirit—"the subconscious self, devoid of all morality"—a clew for its exorcism may be found in a description of the primary self, "which alone possesses true personality, will, and self-control, . . . creates ideals and struggles for them." The outlook, however, for the growth of this better consciousness would be a very gloomy one were it true, as our author states, that "under the crushing pressure of economical, political, and religious regulations there is no possibility for the individual to move, live, and think freely, or determine his own relations in life" This prognosis would deaden all effort; and its faultiness is shown by the fact that, however difficult it may be, a minority do find it possible to live and think freely and to cultivate that personality which is a lasting safeguard against all unreasoning action.

A Manual of Fish Culture[5] has been prepared by the United States Fish Commission under the feeling that a handbook describing its manner of propagating the different fishes was needed, and would be of value to all persons interested in the subject. The material for this book has been furnished by experienced fish culturists connected with the commission, who have treated of the subjects with which they were especially familiar. In order to increase the usefulness of the work to the general reader, a technical description of each important fish is given, together with brief information respecting its geographical distribution, habits, movements, size, growth, food, natural spawning, and other characteristics. While the operations described are essentially those of the National Commission, they are usually the same as those employed by the State commissions and individual fish culturists, while in some instances excellent work is done l)y other methods. Among the fishes coming under review are the salmon, trout, whitefish, shad, basses, and other fresh-water fishes; the cod, mackerel, flatfish, and other salt-water fishes, and lobsters, frogs, oysters, and clams; transportation of fish and fish eggs, spawning seasons, the character of fresh eggs, and periods of incubation are also treated.

Lieutenant Butts's Manual of Physical Drill[6] is a useful book generally, and not in the army alone. Its object is to systematize physical training in the army and to furnish a practical guide that will enable any officer to give regular and beneficial instruction to his command. Illustration is largely used, as being the simplest mode of description. The exercises are supposed to be controlled by music, of which two schedules are furnished, and are arranged in sets of five each—adapted to other music in many of the drills—and are made to follow one another so closely as to compel the attention of the men and demand concentration of mind upon the work in hand. The work is introduced with brief remarks on the method of instruction, dress, hygiene, bathing, general rules, etc., and includes rifle drill, bar and dumb-bell drill, calisthenics, Indian clubs, running, wall scaling, work with the various articles of gymnastic apparatus, athletic games and contests, and related exercises. The directions are very brief, but plain and explicit. The value of the work depends largely upon the illustrations, a considerable proportion of which are from the life, by instantaneous photography.

Mr. Teall recognizes in the beginning of his lessons on Punctuation[7] the difficulties in the art, and the failure of authors to agree upon a reasonable and consistent system. It is, in fact, a matter into which the personal equation enters to a much larger extent than is generally suspected. Each writer has his own moods, his own shades of meaning, and his own emphases to express, of which he alone is conscious, but which he wishes to convey to others; and for this, punctuation is his resource. Hence a punctuation proper for one author might not be suitable to another, even though he may have seemingly the same thoughts, the same words, and the same construction of sentences. There can, therefore, be no hard and-fast rules for the details of punctuation. The effort in Mr. Teall's treatise has been to reduce the number of actual rules to the fewest possible. Principles have been considered as much as possible, and the rules given are, with the exception of a few that it seemed impossible to reduce to that basis, really concise statements of principle. Much detail that other authors have subjected to special rules thus becomes here mere exemplification under general rules.

We have received No. 4 of the second part of Vol. II of the Bulletin of the Geological Institution of the University of Upsala, Sweden, edited by Hj Sjöznen. It contains articles in German on the Cambrian and Silurian phosphorus bearing rocks of Sweden, by John Gunner Anderssen; Graptolites, by Carl Wiman; Peat Bog Investigations, by Rutger Servander and Knut Kjellmark—all accompanied by fine illustrative plates; and in English, Notes on the Structure and Development of the Turfmorr Stormur in Gestrikland, by Gustaf Helsing, and Proceedings of the Geological Section of the Association of Natural Science at the University of Upsala.

The Transactions of the Nineteenth Annual Meeting of the American Microscopical Society, held at Pittsburg in August, 1896, form a volume of upward of 400 pages, and comprise various papers on Histology, Photomicography, Astronomical Photography, the Rotifers of Sandusky Bay, Water Supply, the Bacteriology of Diphtheria, and kindred subjects, chiefly in biology; together with methods of teaching microscopical science. Numerous full-page plate illustrations are given.

The second part of the voluminous report of the United States Commissioner of Education for 1895-'96 contains elaborate summaries of the usual character concerning various educational matters at home and abroad. The first article is on education in Sweden and Iceland. It is followed by brief accounts of upward of fifty institutions characterized as "typical," that offer manual or industrial training. Dr. Gabriel Comparyé's criticism of higher and secondary education in the United States is reproduced from his report as delegate to the Chicago Exposition. A short article is given on mental fatigue in school. The Bertillon system as a means of suppressing the business of living by crime is explained in a chapter entitled Current Discussions. Several of the papers relate to æsthetic cultivation in connection with manual training and to decorative art; another chapter is given to art decorations in schoolrooms; and another treats as "current questions" of teachers' mutual benevolent associations and pension laws, coeducation, compulsory school attendance, transportation of children to school, and temperance instruction; and there are statistical chapters on agricultural and industrial education in the United States and other countries, education in Alaska, city school systems, commercial and business schools, professional schools, education of the colored race, schools for the defective classes, reform schools, and other schools.

The sixteenth annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, besides Mr. Powell's administrative report giving details of the work of the bureau month by month, and by departments, contains papers on Primitive Trepanning in Peru, by M. A. Muñiz and W J McGee; Cliff Ruins of Canyon de Chelly, Arizona, by Cosmos Mendeleff; Day Symbols of the Maya Year, by Cyrus Thomas; and Tusayan Snake Ceremonies, by J. Walter Fewkes. We have also Dr. Thomas's Day Symbols of the Maya Year in a separate publication.

We have the first number, October, 1897, of the American Quarterly Economist, published at 15 East Eleventh Street, New York, a magazine devoted to the interests of economical science. It advances a formula for the conception of the point of equilibrium of the wages of labor which it proposes to demonstrate. This initial number has articles on A New Theory of Value and Price; Labor, its Price; and how affected by the Use of Machinery; Machinery; and Success of Nations. Pp. 31. $1 a year.

Uncle Roberts Visit is the third book in the series Uncle Robert's Geography of Appletons' Home Reading Books. This series is edited by Colonel Francis W. Parker, one of the most eminent and successful teachers in the country. He believes in putting life into the schools, and has done it wherever he has been, and designs the geography series to help teachers put life into their teaching in the primary classes. Uncle Robert comes to the farm and talks to the children, assisting them at the same time to observe and experiment, about the map of the farm, the thermometer, the animals, flowers, sunlight and shadow, barometer, woods, birds, thundershower, railroad, the rainy day, etc., and the things which these suggest and illustrate, always having the geographical bearing well in view. So far as is possible each child is left to discover facts for himself and make original inferences—an example which the teacher may follow to a reasonable extent, taking care that the child's desire for knowledge is in the end satisfied. The name of Nellie Lathrop Helm is associated with that of Dr. Parker in the authorship of the book. New York: D. Appleton & Co.

We have from the Macmillan Company the first four volumes of a series of six Science Readers for the schoolroom or the house, by Vincent T. Murché, revised and adapted by Mrs. L. L. Wilson (price, 25 and 40 cents each). They are intended to be used as reading books or text-books or as the bases of object lessons in the secondary and grammar grades, and the teacher is expected to illustrate them by object exhibitions and experiments before giving them to the children. The lessons are consecutive in groups of which the members depend severally upon the preceding one, and concern tl;e properties of bodies; the nature, growth, and structure of plants; the common types of animals; minerals and metals; the phenomena of the weather; and, generally, the conditions around us.

The Open Court Company, Chicago, publish a second edition of the Popular Scientific Lectures of Dr. Ernst Mach, revised and enlarged. The additions consist of the author's Vienna inaugural lecture on The Part played by Accident in Invention and Discovery, a lecture on the Sensations of Orientation, and two historical articles on Acoustics and Sight. The lectures are of the highest order, as to both matter and manner, thoroughly scientific and adapted to popular understanding. One of the purposes which the author seeks to carry out in them is to show the substantial sameness of Scientific and everyday thought, by perceiving which the public loses its shyness toward scientific questions and acquires an interest

in scientific work that is a great help to the inquirer, and he is brought to understand that his work is only a small part of the universal process of life. Price, $1.

  1. The Sun's Place in Nature. By Sir Norman Lockyer. New York: The Macmillan Company. Pp. 300. Price, $2 75.
  2. A Text-Book of General Botany. By Carlton C. Curtis. New York: Longmans, Green & Co. Pp. 359. Price, $3.
  3. Afloat on the Ohio. An historical Pilgrimage of a Thousand Miles in a Skiff from Redstone to Cairo. Chicago: Way & Williams.
  4. The Psychology of Suggestion. By Boris Sidis, M. A., Ph. D. New York: D. Appleton and Company. Pp. 386. Price, $1.15.
  5. A Manual of Fish Culture. Based on the Methods of the United States Commission of Fish and Fisheries, with Chapters on the Cultivation of Oysters and Frogs. Washington: Government Printing Office. Pp. 340, with 35 plates.
  6. Manual of Physical Drill, United States Army. By First Lieutenant Edmund L. Butts. New York: D. Appleton & Co. Pp. 175. Price, $1.35.
  7. Punctuation, with Chapters on Hyphenization, Capitalization, and Spelling. New York: D. Appleton & Co. Pp. 193. Price, $1.