Lapas attēli
PDF
ePub

warm

Primarily the Cretaceous floras looked

summer nor a winter. And so the difficulties tropical, and it has been difficult to read any- which beset the work on fossil plants must be thing else into them. If it can be done it met serially. will require long and elaborate quantitative Meanwhile as paleobotanists we are pecustudy of the phytologic factors. It would liarly indebted to Dr. Knowlton for his however be early to say there are no cold splendid Philippic on tropic climates. It was scrub forests in the lower Cretaceous, and I well that it should appear in this time of give some attention to this subject in the rapid accumulation of new facts, at least as current April number of the American Jour- a warning against the grave danger of an nal of Botany. Then at the other end of a overburden of inference in the guise of proven long record stood juxtaposed the dank coastal fact. Even that big and valuable word fringes of coal plants; whence the long series diastrophism might suffer. And the aggradof the Permian, Triassic and Jurassic, found ing of the continents, with their reappearance, their more obvious antecedents in

mountain bulwarked as regularly as Chladni climates and seemed to terminate in such. figures, might fail of demonstration. The The ginkgos were long almost the only ele- Knowlton defense has already functioned in ment suggesting interruption to the all-tropic bringing out the two accentuations of the landscape, with the fact that they must be a value of the physical and paleozoologic factors very great phylum, hidden. But with the herein noted. Yet, the lower-most Cretaceous cycads dominant and certainly tropical, there floras of the mid-west are not truly tropic. was no open sesame to a broader vista for the We may doubt if there is a single North paleobotanist.

American dicotyledonous flora, unless it be Now it was at this point that Nathorst and that associated with the Vicksburg Oligocene, Wieland, using the words of the excellent that by any possibility merits the term tropUniversity of Glasgow historian of botany, ical in a strict sense. “ Many of the floras “ began to learn something about the cycads.” indicate warmer

or wetter conditions than It was found that these had flowers with the now prevail in correspondent latitudes; but possibility of all the sex variation seen in most are far from tropical.” dicotyls, and stems with generalized structure. All evidence must eventually be coordinated, A great Cycadophyte leaf series was discerned

and the paleobotanists will lay ears to the resting under more than a suspicion of affinity rocks. To use exactly the witticism of Volto the forerunners of the angiosperms. And taire, let our conchiferous brethren be represently it was found that the cycadeoid assured. types were in great numbers microphyllous,

G. R. WIELAND and that they crossed over into small fernlike leaves called Tæniopteris, etc. Next the HAVE BIRDS AN ACUTE SENSE OF SOUND

LOCATION? paleobotanists seemed as if by common consent to see side by side with the ever length- THERE can be little doubt that the drum ening cycadeoid record a great ginkgoid membrane picks up very minute energies in phylum. Within but a few fortunate years the form of sound vibrations. There can be of investigation types of scrub, for such many no question that a certain amount of the of the cycadeoids surely are, and forest ele

energy impinging on the outer surface of the ments with the capacity to live in varied drum membrane passes through it into the climates, could be pointed out with some air of a cavum tympani. It may also be condegree of safety.

ceded that energies entering the middle ear But as a bare half dozen invertebrates can area are fairly well dampened out in so far as not firmly set the age of the Cannonball a reflection back toward the drum membrane shales," limited series of animals and of is concerned. This is true for the mammals. plants of unfixed affinity, can make neither a The bird, however, has but a single middle ear

[ocr errors]

can

which is flanked on either side by a drum membrane. The energies transmitted to the air of the middle ear from the deep surface of one drum membrane may pass directly to the deep surface of the other membrane.

The ability to locate a sound may be partly due to its intensity. It may also be due to a differential registration of fundamental and overtones on the two sides. A pure tone may not be located. Overtones are less readily dampened out than fundamentals as Mach's experiments seem to indicate. The relation of the position of the sound source to the head-form and diffraction into the two external canals would therefore play an important rôle in relation to the differential registration of fundamental and overtones. This was I believe worked out in part by Fite of Princeton University.

It would seem that the evidence in birds points not only to a great acuteness in hearing but also to a definite ability in determining the direction of the sound source. This in spite of the fact that birds do not possess the functional auricle of the mammal. If it be true that the sense of location for sound is so well developed in owls, woodpeckers and possibly robins, then a special significance may be attached to a confluence of the middle ear cavities. It may be that a more definite analysis of the fundamental and its overtones is due to a greater efficiency of the two drum membranes applied to a single middle ear.

The writer will appreciate and acknowledge any direct observational data on this problem of the acuteness of hearing in birds and in particular the evidence for the definiteness with which a bird may locate a sound source.

A. G. POHLMAN ST. LOUIS UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE

[ocr errors]

phrases. His remarks deserve a wider application, and are very pertinent to ourselves. The current watchword of the elect, he says, the “highbrow” toast of the moment, is organization." Wayward, individual pursuit of knowledge is out of fashion. It is distasteful to the bureaucratic spirit of the age, it tends to overlapping of effort, and it exalts personal reputations, possibly and regrettably those of obscure unofficial people. The committee is the thing. The problem must be set, the parts allotted, the results received, edited, and issued by the authority of men sitting round a table. There must be sub-committees and super-committees, joint committees and special committees. How else shall we control genius, encourage mediocrity, and secure “ team-work” ? How better science present a respectable front to governments or offer responsible hands for grants-in-aid ? A detached individual is an unstable creature ; he may die, neglect to report, get off the lines, or make discoveries of a very upsetting kind. A committee is safe; its existence secures continuity and is a guarantee against the precipitate production of

of uncomfortable truths. But the professor fears that the child product of organization is organizers, and that in elaborating our machinery we forget its purpose. Fortunately, however, mankind is wiser than any of its generations and has a knack of creeping out of the hard shells it continues to secrete. “ Organization” is the fad of to-day, and will be as ephemeral as its predecessors. “Culture” was one of these. But “culture” died, and its corrupt body became decadence when, ceasing to be a mental attitude, it became an intonation and a set of opinions. Progress was another; but that has hardly recovered from the shock of the war, which gave us good reason to distrust some aspects of modern civilization.

Now even popular preachers find it safe to mock at "progress.” The truth is that a conception seldom becomes crystallized in a phrase until it has outgrown its most fertilizing activity. Ideas have their cycle of life; they are born of the great, named by the dull, and killed by common usage.—The London Times.

6

[ocr errors]

QUOTATIONS

SCIENTIFIC ORGANIZATION PROFESSOR W. M. WHEELER, a learned and witty American biologist, has recently addressed a genial remonstrance to his scientific fellow-citizens on their devotion to resounding

In his presidential address (printed in the names of genera and families have been SCIENCE for January 21 last) before the changed, while the number of described speZoological Section of the American Associa- cies has increased from a little over nine tion for the Advancement of Science at its thousand to a little less than nineteen thouChicago meeting Professor W. M. Wheeler sand. discussed the subject of organization in re- As a result of the publication of this catasearch as it appears to a biologist, and pointed logue, the American Coleopterists for the first out some of the dangers attending post-war time in many years know for the moment just efforts in this direction. He mentioned the where they stand. And what a joy it must array of instincts, emotions, and interests on be to them! And what a relief it is to all which the activities of the investigator de general entomologists! I can imagine the pend and the great diversity of mental apti- veteran, Samuel Henshaw, elf, sitting in tude which necessarily accompanies the genius the Director's Office of the M. C. Z. at Camfor different types of research. Professor bridge, heaving a deep sigh of satisfaction Wheeler claims that any organization dealing and saying to himself, “Good! My New with research should refrain carefully from England conscience is at rest. What I looked interfering in any degree with the free ex- forward to years ago is done, and excellently pression of the individual's exceptional apti- done."

” tudes in his own way. In these days when There are catalogues and catalogues. The the amateur in scientific research is passing best ones are more than mere lists, but none we need to beware of fettering in any way by the less are based absolutely on the literature government or other interference the activities and do not reflect too much the individual of the professional scientific man.-Nature. views of the specialist author. Such is the

great synonymical Catalogue of the Coleop

tera of the World by Gemminger & Harold, SCIENTIFIC BOOKS

and such is the present catalogue of which we Catalogue of the Coleoptera of America North

write. Its publication is an event! It is a of Mexico. By CHARLES W. LENG. Pub- great big stepping stone! lished by John D. Sherman, Jr., Mount One like the writer, who knows the ColeopVernon, N. Y., 1920. Pp. 470; large octavo. tera only in a general way, is first of all im

I don't know how many collectors and stu- pressed by the excellent make-up of the catadents of Coleoptera there may be in the logue. It is printed upon excellent paper; United States—certainly not so many as in and it can be obtained from the publishers in several of the European countries, and they a very good binding. The topography is of a are probably not as numerous as the collectors high character. These, however, while worthy of Lepidoptera. But their numbers will surely of especial note, are only adjuncts to the main increase, and the labors of the present stu- appreciation. dents will be greatly facilitated by the appear

One who is not familiar with the enormous ance of Mr. Leng's long-expected and thor- amount of work which has been done by clever oughly admirable catalogue.

men of many countries, will not in the least A good, up-to-date catalogue is a tremen- appreciate the difficulties which Mr. Leng had dous help and stimulus. The Coleoptera of to encounter. Our conception of the general North America have not been comprehen- classification of the Coleoptera has undergone sively listed since the American Entomolog- fundamental changes from the LeConte and ical Society published Henshaw's list in 1885, Horn classification of 1883. Many new charmore than 35 years ago, and in the mean- acters have been used by subsequent writers, time large groups have been comprehensively and advanced schemes of classification, based monographed, the scheme of classification has upon these new elements, have been proposed been modified in important particulars, and by Lameere in Belgium, Kolbe and Gangl

[ocr errors]

bauer in Germany, and Sharp in England, greatly increased interest in the group of and the general result in the Coleopterolog- beetles. It is an order of the greatest interest. ical world has been one of some confusion. The specimens are easily collected and are These systems down to the present time have easily preserved. Their compact form and not been thoroughly adjusted and Mr. Leng durable structure renders them much more had to make a compromise. This difficult available for collections than any other group work he has done in an admirable manner, of insects. They are much less fragile than as I am told by my expert friends and asso- the others, and, while they apparently lack the ciates, and in his introduction he has dis- esthetic qualities that attract people to buttercussed this subject at length. It is an enor- flies and the larger moths, their structure is mous improvement upon previously published beautifully adapted to their methods of life, North American lists from the fact of this and they offer an easy field for the study of painstaking and enlightening discussion which certain aspects of broad biological problems. must have taken an enormous amount of

L. 0. HOWARD work, as well as from the bibliographical references to original descriptions of new species and genera and the further citation of

NOTES ON METEOROLOGY AND synopses of monographs that have appeared.

CLIMATOLOGY The reference system is well handled, and the

METEOROLOGY AND BALLOON RACING bibliography, covering more than eighty pages, I am relieved from my anxiety by hearing that is remarkably complete and well arranged. the adventurers descended well; ... that they had

Of course, as one uses the catalogue from perfect command of the carriage, descending as day to day in his work, points will be brought they pleas'd by letting some of the inflammable air out which might suggest improvements, but

escape. Had the wind blown fresh, they might none have occurred to me in turning the

have gone much farther.-Franklin. pages. Undoubtedly certain useful changes The International Balloon Race of 1920.have occurred to the author and his colleagues These words

written by Benjamin in reading the proofs, but in the conditions Franklin after witnessing one of the first in the printing trade at this time the expense free-balloon flights at Paris, and they are a of alterations is almost prohibitory; and at quaint epitome of the sentiment of freeany rate the defects, if there be any, must be ballooning, both from the standpoint of the relatively unimportant.

public and that of the pilot. When one has I have talked with several of my associates seen the start of a balloon race, with the great who are intimately familiar with this group silk-skinned bubles rising in the glow of the of insects, and all are enthusiastic in their lowering sun, and the ballast streaming down praise of the book. Mr. Leng gives generous from the baskets like slender cascades of gold acknowledgment of assistance from such au- dust, then he may well appreciate the emotions thorities as Messrs. Davis, Mutchler, Schwarz, of Franklin in his anxiety for the safety of Barber, Bequaert, Schaeffer, Lutz and Böving; the balloonists and in his admiration for the and the fact that he has had the assistance of skill and judgment required of them. But these men intensifies the confidence which we it is the pilot who can best appreciate the must have in his work.

significance of the last statement—"had the Although the price of the volume seems wind blown fresh, they might have gone much high ($10), it is one of those absolutely in- farther.” dispensable things. Every entomologist, in- No more convincing proof of this can be cluding the economic entomologist, must be adduced than that which lies in the distribuable to consult it; and all libraries must tion of landing points in the International have it.

Balloon Race for the Gordon-Bennett cup, The reviewer anticipates with assurance a which started from Birmingham, Alabama,

were

late in the afternoon of October 23, 1920. service rendered to the aeronauts and the The balloons which departed from Birming- weather conditions occurring before and at ham within half an hour landed at various the time of the race. One of the most strikpoints along a general line from Mason City, ing points in Mr. Andrus' discussion is the Ill., to North Hero Island, in Lake Cham- agreement between the predicted path of the plain. Why did the Belgian DeMuyter land balloons and the actual paths they followed. his “glorious Belgica” (as he proudly and A figure is given showing the landing points affectionately calls it)1 in Lake Champlain, of the balloons with respect to the predicted while the American, French and Italian en- path, and it appears that a smooth curve tries were struggling with adverse weather far drawn through these points would agree to the west? It was because DeMuyter found almost exactly with the predicted course. the level where the “ winds blew fresh." This is remarkable when it is considered that

Mr. Ralph Upson, the pilot who brought to forecast the probable route of the balloon. the cup from Europe to America in 1913, has it was not only necessary to forecast about this to say relative to the rôle of meteorology two days in advance, but also to take into in balloon-racing?:

consideration the probable behavior of the The history of balloon racing up to the present upper winds at all levels during that time. time shows conclusively that it is taking on more

Concerning the flights in general, Mr. Andrus and more of a meteorological character. In the says: past, races have been occasionally won by mere practical skill in operation of the balloon, but the

The balloonists took off from Birmingham just time when this is possible is rapidly passing, if

before sunset of the 23d, and floated north-northindeed it has not already passed. In the future,

westward the first night at elevations averaging 1 meteorological knowledge instead of being a sec

kilometer. During the following day they made ondary factor in the assets of a team, will be abso

only moderate speed, mostly toward the north, at lutely the controlling factor.

various elevations. The following night was the

crux; at that time those balloonists who had made But the success of DeMuyter did not lie

the least distance westward had entered the freshalone in the fact that he is a meteorologist,

ening winds of the southeast quadrant of a lowand that, as he says, he made a careful and

pressure area and rapidly spread away from those critical study of the prevailing types of pilots who had not gained this advantage. The weather in the United States during the flying during the last 20 hours was for the most months of October and November: it was part made in clouds and occasionally in rain, these also, and largely, because he was able to take conditions finally requiring the balloonists to deadvantage of the splendid analyses of the scend. conditions in the upper-air that were made by

Upon what data were the conclusions of Mr. the United States Weather Bureau observer,

Andrus based ? In part upon the observations Mr. C. G. Andrus, who was detailed to Bir

of the Weather Bureau stations, both aeromingham to make upper-air soundings for the

logical and surface, these data being teleMr. Andrus has written an article in

graphed to Birmingham. He was equipped the Monthly Weather Review for January,

with apparatus for making pilot balloon ob1921,3 in which he discusses the nature of the

servations, also. But what is quite as inter1 DeMuyter, E., “Comment j'ai gagné la coupe esting is that he interpreted these observaGordon-Bennett,L'Aerophile, December 1-15,

tions in the light of the studies of the Nor1920, pp. 366–367.

wegian meteorologist, Bjerknes. The charm 2 Upson, Ralph H., Balloon Racing—a Game of Practical Meteorology,” Monthly Weather Re

of the Bjerknesian interpretation is that it

enables one to get view, January, 1921, pp. 6–7.

more satisfactory three3“Meteorological Aspects of the International dimensional picture of the processes taking Balloon Race of 1920,” pp. 8–10.

place in highs and lows than has been usual.

race.

a

« iepriekšējāTurpināt »