THE subject of Mr. Darwin’s latest volume is the share which worms have taken in the formation of the layer of vegetable mold that covers the surface of the land in every moderately humid country. It is a real surprise to learn, from the observations which Mr. Darwin has so patiently made for nearly half a century, and which he records in this work, how important a part these unconsidered creatures have played in giving to the surface of the land its generally tine consistency and fertile properties, and how essentially and vastly they have contributed to the comfort and prosperity of mankind.
I HAVE for some years been much interested in trying to introduce improved scientific teaching into girls’ schools; and I propose to tell the result of some experiences in teaching astronomy. Of course, the astronomy taught has been of the most elementary character.
MANY of the discoveries of science which at the time are regarded merely as refinements—very interesting, but without practical value—sooner or later find their special uses in supplying wants before unfelt. It is but one of the evidences of the advance of civilization that exact methods of dividing and measuring time are now in demand, not only by scientists and professional men as formerly, but by persons in the most ordinary pursuits of life.
ABOUT twenty years ago, two fossil animals of great interest were found in the lithographic slates of Bavaria. One was the skeleton of Archœopteryx, now in the British Museum, and the other was the Compsognathus preserved in the Royal Museum at Munich.
THE theory of a fourth dimension of space has lately been brought forward somewhat prominently, under the imposing title of “Transcendental Physics,” by Mr. John Charles Frederick Zöllner, Professor of Physical Astronomy in the University of Leipsic, although the learned professor, it should be said, imputes the suggestion of the theory primarily to Kant, and secondarily to Gauss, the celebrated mathematician of Göttingen, both of whom, he says, struck out the thought.
THAT part of the coast-region of New Guinea extending from Yule Island to its eastern extremity presents a striking contrast to the central part of the island, or that lying to the west of the Gulf of Papua. There all is lowland, not visible at sea a few miles distant.
I AM well aware that I have chosen no new theme when I assume to speak of our soil and its relations to our health. It is, on the contrary, very old—for Hippocrates wrote two thousand years ago on air, water, and earth in their hygienic relations—but there are old subjects that are always awakening a new interest, and always appear fresh when considered in a new light or from a new side.
WHATEVER progress has been made in the law of copyright, during the past year or two, is seen in decisions of courts. In the realm of legislation no positive progress has occurred. A project of a general revision of the English enactments, which has been several years in preparation under parliamentary authority, has been fully completed and submitted for debate and enactment; and a very interesting and important negotiation for an international treaty has been carried far toward successful completion.
THE most abundant of the substances ejected from volcanoes is steam, or the vapor of water, which issues in prodigious quantities during every eruption. With it frequently appear numerous other volatile matters—the acid gases, hydrochloric, sulphurous, carbonic, and boracic acids; sulphuretted hydrogen, hydrogen, nitrogen, ammonia; the volatile metals, arsenic, antimony; and some other substances not usually volatile, but which are nevertheless easily carried away in fine particles when a current of steam is passed over them.
THE vegetation on the southern slopes of the eastern Himalayas, three or four thousand feet above the sea, though by no means luxuriant, is said to be very agreeable and of much interest to the botanist. Among the plants native to these slopes, planted in the course of nature during the preparation of the earth for man, and left wild with the elephant and the leopard, is a shrub growing from twenty to thirty feet high, and well worthy to be selected for pleasant foliage and fine flowers.
IT is a matter of common knowledge that Shakespeare’s story of the bond for a pound of flesh is not of his own invention, but is merely a modern and dramatic version of a very old tale which, with slight but frequently significant variations in form, had already become the common property of many nations, East and West.
THE great convenience of gas as an illuminating agent, due to its cleanliness and immediate availability in any desired quantity, soon led to its use as fuel; and to-day we have apparatus of all degrees of size and complexity, from the simple burner of the chemical laboratory to the gas-stove with which the meals of a large family may be cooked, or the gas-furnace capable of melting iron or satisfying the demands of the gold and silver assayer, all using gas as fuel— not to speak of the numerous applications of the waste gases from blast-furnaces and the like, or of the Siemens gas-furnace, using gas made especially for it, and in which the degree of heat that can be attained is practically limited only by the capacity of the furnace itself to withstand it.
THERE is an old adage which says that Arizona was the last spot on earth to be created; that Yuma is the outpost of the nether regions, and the hottest place in the world. Every one knows the old story of the two soldiers who, while stationed at Fort Yuma, died, and, going straight to Hades, returned in a short time for their blankets!
PROFESSOR JOHN W. POWELL, better known as Major Powell, Ph. D., founder and director of the Bureau of Ethnology of the Smithsonian Institution, and present director of the United States Geological Survey, is a pattern of the American self-made man, and well illustrates in his life and achievements what may be accomplished with honest, steady adherence to a definite purpose.
THE moral responsibility of some animals seems less doubtful than that of “intermittent lunatics.” If it should become the duty of a public attorney of the future to prosecute a homicidal monkey, the following case (quoted in Brehm’s “Thierleben”) would furnish an ugly precedent against the counsel for the defense: A few years ago Dr. Schomburg, the Superintendent of the Botanic Garden of Adelaide, Australia, took charge of a select corps of monkeys and kangaroos, a “happy family,” he might have called them, if it had not been for the depravity of an old babuina, or female Bhunder baboon.
IT is due to the trustees of Mammoth Cave to state that, while guarding their property rights, they have uniformly encouraged scientific investigation. Certain maps may have been modified and others suppressed; but, on the other hand, it should be noted that Manager Klett, with authority from the trustees, let me exhibit before the American Association the results of his own accurate survey of the cave, which it is his intention to publish when it is completed, in a form that can be depended on for all scientific ends.
THE CHARGES AGAINST "THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY."
THE publishers of this magazine, having declined any longer to issue the “North American Review,” because of its recent articles from the pen of Colonel Ingersoll, have been charged with inconsistency on the ground that, in respect to the matter objected to, the periodical they retain is as bad as the one they have dismissed.
ARTIFICIAL ANÆSTHESIA AND ANÆSTHETICS. By HENRY M. LYMAN, A.M., M. D., Professor of Physiology and of Diseases of the Nervous System in Rush Medical College, Chicago, etc. New York: William Wood & Co. 1881. 8vo. Pp. vii-338. “The most ancient record of the race,” says Professor Lyman, “introduces the hero of the flood plunged in a deep and scandalous sleep, under the influence of wine which he had prepared.
Finding the Center of Population.—The computation of the center of population of a country, as explained by Mr. F. D. Y. Carpenter, who has performed the work for the United States, for the census of 1880, is not a simple or an easy process. As defined in the “Statistical Atlas” of 1874, this center is the point at which equilibrium would be reached were the country taken as a plane surface, itself without weight, but capable of sustaining weight, and loaded with its inhabitants, each individual being assumed to be of the same gravity as every other, and consequently to exert pressure on the pivotal point directly proportioned to his distance therefrom.
THE President of the Entomological Section of the American Association stated, in his address at the meeting of the section, that while there were not known to be more than ten or twelve working entomologists in the country forty years ago, four hundred and thirty-six names wore reported in last year’s “Naturalists’ Directory” of persons designated as entomologists.