WHEN, eight years ago, I undertook to address a public sitting of the Association of German Naturalists and Physicians, I hesitated for a long time before deciding to choose the “Limits of our Knowledge of Nature” ɫ as my subject. The impossibility, on the one hand, of comprehending the existence of matter and force, and, on the other hand, of explaining consciousness, even in its lowest degree, on a mechanical theory, seemed to me a truism.
ANIMAL COMBUSTION.—Within every living organism there are two opposing forces. The “vital force,” which produces all the phenomena of life, holds the material elements in unstable relations—against their will, so to speak—and it is antagonized by the natural chemical affinities of the elements, which tend to break down the organic compounds and rearrange the elements in more stable form.
DREAMS are night-thoughts, unchecked by the judgment and uncontrolled by the will. It is not true that we do not reason in dreams, that the exercise of the judgment is wholly suspended, and that the will is entirely powerless or ceases to act.
WATER plays quite as important a part in the soil as air. Obviously, no organic life, no organic change, can be conceived of without water; and we ourselves consist three parts in four of water. Therefore it may be inferred that change in the moisture of the soil must have a certain influence on its organic and organized constituents, and on the organic life within it.
IT is proposed to give an account of an interesting determination of the extreme age of a pair of venerable oysters which have just come into my possession. They were given me by a professional oyster-grower, Captain T. S. R. Brown, of Keyport, New Jersey, and belong to a planting in which he was concerned thirty years ago.
YOUR committee has done me much honor by inviting me to deliver the first lecture in this large and very beautiful hall. In accepting the task I was aware that it involved a great responsibility, but I had various grounds of encouragement. I remembered that I was not coming among you as a stranger, and I knew that I had a subject worthy of a memorable occasion.
EXTRAORDINARY interest was excited in the popular mind of Kentucky, at an early day, by a form of convulsive disease, which, though it had been witnessed elsewhere in the world, had never before assumed a shape so decidedly epidemic. Among the Camisards, or French prophets, who appeared in the mountains of the Cevennes toward the close of the seventeenth century, the subjects, when about to receive the gift of prophecy, were often affected with trembling and fell down in swoons.
THE Signal Service of the United States performs a great service to science by inculcating the value of scientific investigations. Observations in meteorology were formerly buried in the proceedings of learned societies, and met the eyes only of a few scientific men: now they are discussed at the breakfast-tables of a million people.
THE FUNDAMENTAL PROBLEMS OF PHYSIOLOGICAL CHEMISTRY.
DR. EDMUND DRECHSEL
WHEN the science which endeavors to determine the phenomena of life and their connection was enabled to employ more exact expedients for its observations, the influence which the chemical process exerts on that of life became known. The physical apparatus of the body are preserved in the aggregate state and form, which are necessary for the performance of their functions by a definite chemical composition of the organs and the fluids which saturate them; and the source of the power required by the living body for its movements is to be sought for in the destruction of the compounds of which it is composed.
THE contemplation of the progress of science in our days shows us a whole host of zealous investigators bringing stone after stone to raise to a prouder height the structure of knowledge whose richly diversified pillars and towers, seemingly disposed without order, all contribute to the common design.
IT would be a curious study to ascertain at what time certain wild animals came to be associated with man. We do not mean those which have become domesticated, though many of these run back far beyond the historical epoch. By wild animals we mean those Which, still continuing in a wild state, build their nests or construct their burrows near, or within, the habitations of man.
IN a Canadian journal devoted to science there appeared, not long ago, an article entitled “The First and most Profound of Savants,” and old Father Adam was intended by this superlative title, for did he not give to every animal a name? What a pity it is that these Adamitic appellatives have not descended to our day, since for years naturalists have been inflicting long Latin cognomens on all animals and plants coming under their observation, and it would almost seem as if the supply of names would be exhausted long before the things to be named!
THE original investigator in Nature’s domains may not inaptly be likened to a pioneer who penetrates the primeval forest, and by the aid of his keen hatchet hews down the obstructions, marking out first a narrow path in the wilderness until he reaches a favorable camping-ground.
THE valley of the Patapsco River, through which the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad passes, presents many interesting subjects to the student of physics and of geology. After passing the junction of the Washington branch at the Relay House, eight miles west of Baltimore, the alluvial plain gives place to a narrow valley with steep and wooded hills on either side, and walled with conglomerate or metamorphic rocks.
HENRI-ÉTIENNE SAINTE-CLAIRE DEVILLE, one of the most distinguished of French chemists, was born at St. Thomas, in the Antilles, of French parents, March 11, 1818, and died at Boulogne-sur-Seine on the first day of July last. He went to France while still a boy, with his brother, Charles Deville, the meteorologist, and had his attention drawn early in his career in school to chemical studies, which were then enjoying high credit under the brilliant results of the investigations of Thénard, Gay-Lussac, Chevreul, Dumas, Balard, and Pelouse.
—Four-footed Outlaus.—“France must elevate her soul to the height of the situation,” wrote Louis Napoleon after the battle of Gravelotte. She didn’t; but the instincts, as we are pleased to call the talents of our dumb fellow-creatures, seem really able to adapt themselves to any possible emergency.
I HAVE read with great interest an article having the above title, by M. De Solaville, in the November issue of “the Popular Science Monthly.” As the article is so conclusive as to the average age of man, with one singular exception in relation to the patriarchs, living before the flood, it has taxed the ingenuity of many able as well as serious minds to account for the wonderful discrepancy in this case.
THE MOUNTAINS OF THE MOON; OR, TRAVELS AND ADVENTURES OF HAKIM BEN SHEYTAN.
THE progress of knowledge and inquiry is every day bringing into clearer practical contrast the two methods of studying mind: that which regards it as an abstraction, known only in consciousness, or the metaphysical method; and that which regards it as the endowment of an organic structure by which mental phenomena are determined, or the physiological method.
WE last month called attention to this work as one of the ablest in the series to which it has been contributed. It is not devoted to the extension of any branch of science, but is an inquiry into the validity of some of the conceptions which are commonly accepted as at the foundation of all science.
Value of Soil Analysis.—Professor E. W. Hilgard, in a paper in the “American Journal of Science,” on “The Objects and Interpretation of Soil Analyses,” accepts as correct the principle that, other things being equal, productiveness is, or should be, sensibly proportional to the amount of available plant-food within reach of the roots during the period of the plant’s development, provided that such supply does not exceed the maximum of that which the plant can utilize, when the surplus simply remains inert.
PROFESSOR W. J. BEAL, of the Michigan Agricultural College, in a lecture on “The New Botany,” gives a description of the old method of teaching that science that reads much like a burlesque—but which we know is too sadly accurate, for persons living have not forgotten how they “studied botany” when they were young—and then sketches the new way in a most attractive style.