Freaks in Art and Their Scientific Explanation THE grotesque has always had its place in art. Probably the commonest example of the artists ind ulgence in peculiar vagaries of his creative fancy, are the gargoyles which adorn certain portions of Gothic structures. Some logical justification for the introduction of these grotesque figures is derived from the symbolical significance attached to them. Now and again in a work of art is found a similar element of freak, though it is not always easy, in such cases, to divine the authors reasons for resorting to such peculiar eccentricity, Two famous instances of this kind are figured in our illustrations, reproduced from the Illustrated London News. The first of these is a copy of Holbeins Ambassadors in the foreground of which, apparently without relevance of any kind, appears a skull, distorted almost out of recognition, its outline being roughly fish-shaped. There has been a good deal of discussion as to the significance of this picture. The explanation which bears the greatest semblance of probability is one given by Miss Mary F. S. Hervey, according to which the two personages appearing on the painting are identified as Jean de Dinteville, Ambassador from Fran ce to England in 1533, and his friend, Georges de Selve. A recent discovery has placed beyond question the correctness of Miss Hervey conjecture. A companion picture to the one here reproduced has been discovered, on which the same Jean de Dinteville appears, his name being worked into the hem of his garment. The evidence is such as to fully establish the identity of the Ambassador. As regards the mysterious skull in the foreground, Miss Hervey tells us that Dinteville had become acquainted in England with Holbein Dance of Death; series, and had adopted the skull as his personal badge. Our second illustration shows a view of an extraordinary portrait of Edward VI. This portrait is so distorted that it presents a normal appearance only when viewed through an aperture in a screen attached to the side of the frame. The painting is described in the catalogue of the National Portrait Gallery as Edward VI; King 1537-1553; Painting in Perspective, 1546, by a French Artist It is difficult to imagine what motive the painter might have had in choosing this strange method of presentation, unless it was purely a desire to do something unusual. Man Fossil Remains .R. W. D. MATTHEW, Curator of the American Museum of Natural History, has given the following information to the editor of the New York Times in answer to a curious correspondent, who asked: How do scientists account for the fact that so very few fossil human bones are found, while those of animals, that seem to have lived in the same period, are plentiful?" "Human remains ; says Dr. Matthew, are found only in the latest geological formations. No authenticated remains are older than the Pleistocene epoch (ice age). In North America they are all very late Pleistocene, They are not especially rare as compared with the remains of lower animals, but most of the finds are due to interments of one kind or another; "In the older formations (Tertiary; and preceding periods) the bones of extinct animals are found, sometimes in abundance, but no remains certainly attributable to man or to any direct ancestor of man have been found. All reports to the contrary are based on questionable or insufficient evidence. These facts are true of the regions which have been extensively explored for fossil remains, viz., the greater part of Europe, a large part of the United States, and minor areas in other parts of the world. ;The obvious inferences are that man probably did not inhabit these parts of the world until during or after the great ice age; that he did not evolve from lower animals in these regions, and that the practice of interring the dead, instead of leaving them at tne mercy of wild beasts, was a very ancient and universal custom among primitive faces of man. "The regions explored are a small fraction—possibly five per cent—of the area of Tertiary formations of the The “Painting in Perspective” of Edward VI. same nature known or believed to exist in different parts of the world. There are vast areas of promising “badlands” in 'every continent, which have been little or not at all searched by fossil hunters (these specimens are very rarely noticed or recognized by others). Even in the Western States, fifty years of exploration are so far from exhausting the field thr.tt every summer some expedition reports finding extinct animals hitherto unknown to science. Nevertheless, we know enough to make it very improbable that the ancestry of man will be found in the Tertiary of North America. There is a great deal of indirect evidence, in the present distribution of the races of mankind, and what is known of the history of their migration, and from other sources, all pointing toward Asia, and especially Central Asia, as the original home of the race and the theater of its evolution during the Tertiary period. This is unexplored territory to the paleontologist, and too difficult and dangerous fur systematic search even to-day. But if it is opened up to exploration during the next half century as the Western States have been in the past fifty years, we may look to find there the remains of Tertiary ancestors of man along with those of various lower races of animals which are believed to have originated in that region. If, after a thorough search, this belief is not substantiated, explanations will be in order, and it will be necessary for us to modify or reconsider our present views as to where and how man originated." The Influence of Environment on the Composition of Wheat rriHE variation in the composition of I plants of the same species when grown under different conditions has been the subject of so much study during the past half century that a monograph published by the United States Department of Agriculture on the subject will undoubtedly be welcomed by stu dents of physiological chemistry. The monograph in question was prepared by Mr. J. A. Le Clerc, with the collaboration of Sherman Leavitt, and is entitled “Tri-Local Experiments on the Composition of Wheat." The experiments recorded were begun in 1905 with the collaboration of the Office of Grain Investigations of the Bureau of Plant Industry, and consisted in growing wheat from the same original seed continuously in each of the three apices of a triangle, for example, (1) in Kansas, Texas, and California, (2) in South Dakota, Kansas, and California. The crop from each apex was then sent to the other two stations and there grown under the same conditions as the continuously grown seed. There were thus three plots at each apex, or station, all from the same original seed; one plot grown continuously at that point, the seed of the other two plots coming from the other points of the triangle. By this interchange of seed it was possible to determine the influence of climate and soil and of the kind of seed on the composition of the crop. From the data obtained the following conclusions may be drawn: Wheat of the same variety obtained from different sources and possessing widely different chemical and physical • •litirur'-rW;. when grown side by side In one locality, yields crops which are almost the same in appearance and in composition. Wheat of any one variety, from any one source, and absolutely alike in chemical and physical characteristics, when grown in different localities, possessing different climatic conditions, yields crops of very widely different appearance and very different in chemical composition. These differences are due for the most part to climatic conditions prevailing at the time of growth. The results so far obtained would seem to indicate that the soil and seed play a relatively small part in influencing the composition of crops. The practice of trying to improve crops in one locality, which crops are to be grown in another locality of widely different climatic conditions, should be discouraged. Crops should be improved in the locality in which they are intended to be grown, or the seed should be selected from a region which has similar climatic conditions. Rodgers's Flight Across the Continent AVIATOR C. P. Rodgers reached Chicago at noon on Sunday, the 8th inst. He covered the 26 miles from Hammond, Ind., in 24 minutes, after a delay of two days at the latter place on account of inclement weather. His total flying time for the 1,199 miles was 21 hours and 53 minutes. During the next three days Rodgers succeeded in reaching Kansas City, 1,483 miles from New York, and about half-way across the continent
This article was originally published with the title "Abstracts from Current Periodicals"