IN taking “toadstools” as the text of a little botanical discourse, we start with a familiar notion if not a scientific one ; but all science begins with common ideas which it corrects, extends, and develops. Everybody knows what toadstools are, odd-looking things that grow up in the fields and are often kicked aside in rural rambles, of no use to man or beast, and “pizen” to eat.
WHILE the present century has witnessed a truly wonderful advance in the study of languages, it has not yet yielded equal results for the science of language. Comparative philology has thus far borne off the palm over linguistics. The classifications of human speech, the historical development and divarication of languages, the processes of phonetic change, are understood to a degree of which our fathers had no conception ; but the coördination and explanation of all these facts, the recognition of the forces whose workings underlie and produce them, and of the ways in which those forces act—on such subjects there is far from being that general agreement of opinion which ought to mark a matured branch of study.
IF we should say that diseases prolong life, that without them man would be more liable than he is to sudden death, the announcement would be received by most medical thinkers, and by all those who have never studied pathology at all, as a transcendental idea, quite insusceptible of logical proof.
THE old adage that “seeing is believing” has long been exploded, and folks nowadays receive with caution the impressions conveyed by their eyesight. There is still, however, a fixed idea with many people that, when the human sight is aided by powerful and correctly-constructed optical instruments, full reliance can be placed upon such united powers, and that the investigator may record that which he believes he sees, as veritable and established facts.
AS understood by us, the migration of a bird is simply the desertion of a given locality by that species for a certain, and always the same, portion of each year. As an example, the common housewren ( Troglodytes ædon) is migratory, in that it remains in New Jersey1 only from late in April until late in September, having left its Southern home for six months.
THE terms savage and civilized, as applied to races of men, are relative and not absolute terms. At best these words mark onlybroad shifting stages in human progress ; the one near the point of departure, the other farther on toward the unattainable end.
THE question of the influence of forests on the hydrology of a region is one that has been warmly discussed. Some men of science, Becquerel for example, hold that forests increase the amount of water received by the soil ; while others, Marshal Vaillant among them, assert that forests diminish the quantity.
THE science of meteorology is but of yesterday, and yet it has already developed results which throw light upon the genesis of the universe. It has revealed to us the true nature of atmospheric disturbances throughout time and space. The winds no longer blow where they list, and we hear the sound of them and can tell whence they come and whither they go.
SYLVIUS said that man had formerly an intermaxillary bone. If he has it no longer, he ought to have it. In this he was right. The same Sylvius, in his answer to Vesalius, said that Galen was not wrong when he described man as having seven bones in his sternum, “for,” said he, “in ancient times the robust chests of heroes might very well have had more bones than our degenerate day can boast.”
AT the meeting of the American Geographical Society, held February 25, 1875, the annual address was delivered by Chief-Justice Daly, the President of the Society. Beginning with a brief survey of the remarkable physical phenomena of the year, including great falls of rain and snow, extreme and widely-distributed cold, earthquakes, volcanic disturbances, floods, cyclones, etc., he alluded, in passing, to the geography of the sea-bottom as made known by the recent examinations of the Challenger Expedition, and then took up the geographical work in our own country, as carried on by the United States Engineer Corps, and other explorers.
EPHESUS, one of the twelve Ionian cities of Asia Minor, was famous in antiquity as containing one of the seven wonders of the world, the great temple of Artemis, or Diana. From very early times Ephesus was a sacred city ; the fable ascribed its foundation to the Amazons, and the Amazonian legend is connected with Artemis.
To the Editor of the Popular Science Monthly : WILL you allow me to call the attention of scientists to some facts (suggested by me in the MONTHLY for February) inconsistent with the most important recent theory in physical science—the Conservation or Persistence of Force.
DR. DRAPER has reason for gratitude to his friends, and doubly so to his enemies. He wrote a bold book upon a subject never before separately treated, and by a large portion of the press it has been received with favor as a valuable and important contribution to the serious thought of the time.
ENGLISH MEN OF SCIENCE ; their Nature and Nurture. By FRANCIS GALTON, F. R. S., etc. New York: D. Appleton & Co. London : Macmillan & Co. THE author of this book is quite widely known by his former publication, “Hereditary Genius,” and by various statistical works.
Disastrous Balloon Ascent.—On the 18th of April the balloon Zenith made an ascension from Paris, carrying three aëronauts, Messrs. Gaston Tissandier, Sivel, and CrocéSpinelli. All three were aëronauts of long experience, and qualified in every way for making accurate scientific observations on the meteorological phenomena of the upper strata of the atmosphere.
A. MCDOUGALL recently exhibited to the Manchester Philosophical Society a specimen of carbon which had formed upon the roof of a gas-retort, by the decomposition of the hydrocarbon gas by heat. This carbon resembles graphite, and its mode of formation might possibly explain that of graphite.