Popular Science Monthly/Volume 56/November 1899/Minor Paragraphs


In a brood of five nestling sparrow-hawks, which he had the opportunity of studying alive and dead, Dr. R. W. Shufeldt remarked that the largest and therefore oldest bird was nearly double the size of the youngest or smallest one, while the three others were graduated down from the largest to the smallest in almost exact proportions. "It was evident, then, that the female had laid the eggs at regular intervals, and very likely three or four days apart, and that incubation commenced immediately after the first egg was deposited. What is more worthy of note, however, is the fact that the sexes of these nestlings alternated, the oldest bird being a male, the next a female, followed by another male, and so on, the last or youngest one of all five being a male. This last had a plumage of pure white down, with the pin feathers of the primaries and secondaries of the wings, as well as the rectrices of the tail, just beginning to open at their extremities. From this stage gradual development of the plumage is exhibited throughout the series, the entire plumage of the males and females being very different and distinctive." If it be true, as is possibly indicated, that the sexes alternate in broods of young sparrow-hawks as a regular thing, the author has no explanation for the fact, and has never heard of any being offered.

Architecture and Building gives the following interesting facts regarding the building trades in Chicago: "Reports from Chicago are that labor in building lines is scarce. The scarcity of men is giving the building trades council trouble to meet the requirements of contractors. It is said that half a dozen jobs that are ready to go ahead are at a standstill because men can not be had, particularly iron workers and laborers—the employees first to be employed in the construction of the modern building. It is also said that wages have never been better in the building line. The following is the schedule of wages, based on an eight-hour day: Carpenters, $3.40; electricians, $3.75; bridge and structural iron workers, $3.00; tin and sheet-iron workers, $3.20; plumbers, $4; steam fitters, $3.75; elevator constructors, $3; hoisting engineers, $4; derrick men, $2; gas-fitters, $3.75; plasterers, $4; marble cutters, $3.50; gravel roofers, $2.80; boilermakers, $2.40; stone sawyers and rubbers, $3; marble enamel glassworkers' helpers, $2.25; slate and tile roofers, $3.80; marble setters' helpers, $2; steam fitters' helpers, $2; stone cutters, $4; stone carvers, $5; bricklayers, .$4; painters, $3; hod carriers and building laborers, $2; plasterers' hod carriers, $2.40; mosaic and encaustic tile layers, $4; helpers, $2.40."

In presenting the fourth part of his memoir on The Tertiary Fauna of Florida (Transactions of the Wagner Free Institute of Science, Philadelphia), Mr. William Healey Dall observes that the interest aroused in the explorations of Florida by the Wagner Institute and its friends and by the United States Geological Survey has resulted in bringing in a constantly increasing mass of material. The existence of Upper Oligocene beds in western Florida containing hundreds of species, many of which were new, added two populous faunas to the Tertiary series. It having been found that a number of the species belonging to these beds had been described from the Antillean tertiaries, it became necessary, in order to put the work on a sound foundation, besides the review of the species known to occur in the United States, to extend the revision to the tertiaries of the West Indies. It is believed that the results will be beneficial in clearing the way for subsequent students and putting the nomenclature on a more permanent and reliable basis.

The numerical system of the natives of Murray Island, Torres Strait, is described by the Rev. A. E. Hunt, in the Journal of the Anthropological Society, as based on two numbers—netat, one, and neis, two. The numbers above two are expressed by composition—neis-netat, three; neis i neis, or two and two, four. Numbers above four are associated with parts of the body, beginning with the little and other fingers of the left hand, and going on to the wrist, elbow, armpit, shoulder, etc., on the left side and going down on the right side, to 21; and the toes give ten numbers more, to 31. Larger numbers are simply "many."

President William Orton, of the American Association, in his address at the welcoming meeting, showed, in the light of the facts recorded in Alfred R. Wallace's book on The Wonderful Century, that the scientific achievements of the present century exceed all those of the past combined. He then turned to the purpose of the American Association to labor for the discovery of new truth, and said: "It is possible that we could make ourselves more interesting to the general public if we occasionally foreswore our loyalty to our name and spent a portion of our time in restating established truths. Our contributions to the advancement of science are often fragmentary and devoid of special interest to the outside world. But every one of them has a place in the great temple of knowledge, and the wise master builders, some of whom appear in every generation, will find them all and use them all at last, and then only will their true value come to light."