Why is the Flesh of the Watermelon Red? IN a recent number of the Rundschau, Prof. O. N. Witt makes some very interesting reflections on the colors of living objects of nature. We reproduce here in abridged form some of the essential points: Modern science teaches us that everything in nature has its definite purpose. The naive point of view of past ages, according to which a well meaning Providence has adorned the world about us in order to minister to our pleasure, has had to give way to the inquisitive gaze of modern scientific investigation. We now know that the refreshing green of the woods and meadows is not provided for our enjoyment, but for the serious and practical purpose of plant nutrition; the flowers display their bright colors to attract the insect that carries the pollen from stamen to sigma; the Alpine hare is snow colored so as to be hidden from the sight of his enemy, while the lion is tawny and the tiger striped, in order that he may be undis-tinguisha'ble from the natural background as he lies in wait for his prey. All these facts are plain enough and we admire the perfection of these adaptations, and this feeling of intelligent appreciation we now feel to be of greater worth than the ignorant worship of yore. True it is that Darwin's brilliant hypothesis of the “survival of the fittest” does not satisfactorily explain just how the different organisms set about acquiring the various characteristics and colors which are now so useful to them. Here and there an instance may be found where the process of adaptation is explicable enough, but there are many cases which baffle the ingenuity of biologists of to-day. What is still more unintelligible, and has apparently never been explained, is that nature is often lavish in dispensing brilliant colors where, in the natural course of events, they seemingly can never be of any account whatever. The number of instances of this kind are innumerable; just a few may be picked out for illustration here. Why, for instance, is the blood of all warm blooded, and of many cold blooded, animals, red? It is not intended, under normal circumstances, to be visible, its principal function being fulfilled in the lungs, hidden away from sight. Attention has been drawn to the remarkable analogy between the red blood pigment and the green pigment of plant leaves, but whatever may be the chemical analogy, there is no analogy whatever in the 'functions, for the color of chlorophyl is plainly connected with its function in absorbing light for the purpose of building up starch from atmospheric carbon dioxide. In the case of hemoglobin there is no such analogous function whatever. Furthermore, it is known that there must be colorless substances capable of performing the functions of the blood, for many animals of the lower type actually have colorless blood. Again, we may ask, why is the flesh of many animals colored? For instance, why is the salmon colored with the hue which has taken its name from this fish? No one can tell. Exactly similar conditions are met with in the vegetable kingdom. Why is the red beet deeply colored, while its close congeners have a white juice? After all, neither, under normal circumstances, see the light of day, so that it is problematical what useful function the color can possibly serve. Then again, why does the madder root contain quantities of alizarine and allied dye stuffs that in the past have been of such great value, while in modern times we have learned to manufacture them by artificial means? Of what possible use can such dye stuffs be to the plants? Consider the watermelon, covered by a thick, opaque, dark green skin. We may make some sort of conjecture as to the purpose of this; it perhaps serves in keeping off some of the large animals which would devour the fruit, skin and all, and thus leaving the melon to be burrowed by worms, who leave the seeds untouched. But why that appetizing pink color of the flesh of the melon? It cannot serve as a charm to attract visitors, for the guest that has eaten its way through the skin needs no further attraction, after he has reached the interior. The 'black color of the seeds may perhaps be put down as a preventive measure, protecting them from sharing the fate of the rest of the fruit. The attractive and appetizing outward appearance of most fruits is generally explained by supposing that its function is to attract animals, which eat the fleshy portion and carry the seed away from the parent plant, thus aiding the distribution of the species. The red cheeks of a peach are so enticing that this explanation will probably be readily accepted. But why that brilliant red color where the flesh meets the kernel? The bird that picks at the flesh of the fruit does not strike this colored layer until the work is practically accomplished. Certain trees which furnish the so-called dye woods deposit pigment by the hundredweight within their stems. The woad or indigo plant and several others contain a substance known as indican, which is normally colorless but is transformed by a fermentation and oxidation process into deep blue indigo. This case is particularly puzzling, since the color of the dye stuff is not even developed in the living plant. Perhaps no science is more replete with problems for the future to solve than biology and physiology. The Toughness of the Chinese Physique INa recent number of the Popular Science Monthly, Prof. E. A. Ross discusses some peculiar characteristics of the Chinese race in its resistance to disease. That there must be a marked difference in the character of this race as compared with ours is obvious enough, when we consider that out of ten children born among us, three, normally the weakest three, will fail to grow up; out of ten children born in China about eight are doomed to die in infancy. The difference is due to the hardships that infant life meets with among the Chinese, and it need hardly be pointed out that with such rigorous selection there will necessarily result a stock displaying a peculiar hardihood. Just' what kind of a hardihood depends on the particular conditions of selection, as Prof. Ross brings out clearly in his article. To anticipate hi.s conclusion, the fact is that while the Chinese resist certain diseases with remarkable' power, other diseases are more fatal to them than to us. Prof. Rood collected his data by questioning a number of physicians who had practiced for a number of years in China. One or two among these gave an opinion differing from the others, but by far the great majority agreed in their verdict. Where the constitution of the Chinaman excels is in his extraordinary power to resist septic infection. Some of the instances cited to illustrate this fact are almost incredible and are too gruesome to invite repetition. Amazing, also, is their response to the treatment of neglected wounds. A boy whose severed fingers had been hastily stuck on any how and bound up with dirty rags came to the hospital after a week with a horrible hand and showing clear symptoms of lockjaw. They washed his hand and sent him home to die. In three days he was about without a sign of lockjaw. A man whose fingers had been crushed under a cart some days before came in with blood poisoning all up his arm and in the glands under the arm. The trouble vanished under simple treatment. A patient will be brought in with a high fever from 'a wound of several days' standing full of maggots; yet after the wound is cleaned the fever quickly subsides. A woman who had undergone a serious operation for cancer of the breast suffered infection and had a fever of 106 degrees;, during which her husband fed her with hard water chestnuts. Nevertheless, she recovered. Living in the super-saturated, man-stifled land, profoundly ignorant of the principles of hygiene, the masses have developed an immunity to noxious microbes which excites the wonder and envy of the foreigner. They are not affected by a mosquito bite that will raise a large lump on the lately-come foreigner. They can use contaminated water from canals without incurring dysentery. There is very little typhoid, and what there is, is so attenuated it was long doubted to be typhoid. AH physicians agree that among the Chinese smallpox is a mild disease. The chief of thearmy medical staff points out that during the autumn maneuvers the soldiers sleep on damp ground with a little straw under them without any ill effects. Coolies, after two hours of burden-bearing at a dog trot, will shovel themselves full of hot rice with scarcely any mastication, and hurry on for another two hours. A white man would have writhed with indigestion. The Chinese seem ruble to sleep in any position. I have seen them sleeping on piles of bricks, or stones, or poles, with a block or a brick for a pillow and with the hot sun shining full into the face. They stand a cramped position longer than we can and can keep on longer at monotonous toil unrelieved by change or break. But there is another side to the comparison. There is little pneumonia among the Chinese but they stand it no better than we do, some say not so well. There is much, malarial fever and it goes hard with them. In Hong Kong they seem to succumb to the plague more readily than the foreigners. Among children there is heavy mortality from measles and scarlet fever. In withstanding tuberculosis they have no advantage over us. While they make wonderful recoveries from high fevers they are not enduring of long fevers. Some think this is because the flame of their vitality has been turned low by unsanitary living. They have a horror of fresh air and shut it out of the sleeping apartment, even on a warm night. In the mission schools, if the teachers insist on open windows in the dormitory, the pupils stifle under the covers lest the evil spirits flying about at night should get at them: The Chinese grant that hygiene may be all very well for these weakly foreigners, but see no use in it for themselves. From the testimony it is safe to conclude that at least a part of the observed toughness of the Chinese is attributable to a special race, vitalitywhich they have acquired in the course of a longer and severer elimination of the less fit than our North-European ancestors ever experienced in their civilized state. Such selection has tended to foster not so much bodily strength or energy as recuperative power, resistance' to infection and tolerance of unwholesom > conditions of living. For many centuries the people of south and central China, crowded together in their villages or walled cities, have used water from contaminated canals or from the drainings of the rice fields, eaten of the scavenging pig or of vegetables stimulated by the contents of the cess-pool, huddled under low roofs, on dirt floors, in filthy lanes, and slept in fetid dens and stifling cubicles. Myriads succumb to the poisons generated 'by overcrowding and hardly a quarter of those born live to transmit their immunity to their children. The surviving fittest has been the type able to withstand foul air, stench, fatigue toxin, dampness, bad food and noxious germs. I have no doubt that if an American population of equal size lived in Amoy or Soochow as the Chinese there live, a quarter would be dead by the end of the first summer. But the toughening takes place to the detriment of bodily growth and strength. To the west the toughness of the Chinese physique may have a sinister military significance. Nobody fears lest in a stand-up fight Chinese troops could whip an equal number of well-conditioned white troops. But few battles are fought by men fresh from tent and mess. In the course of a prolonged campaign involving irregular provisioning, bad drinking water, lying out, loss of sleep, exhausting marches, exposure, excitement and anxiety, it may be that the white soldiers would be worn down worse than the yellow soldiers. In that case the hardier men with less of the martial spirit might in the closing grapple beat the better fighters with the less endurance. In view of what has been shown the competition of white laborers and yellow is not so simple a test of human worth as some may imagine. Under good con-' ditions the white man can best the yellow man in turning off work. But under bad conditions the yellow man can best the white man, because he can better endure spoiled food, poor clothing, foul air, noise, heat, dirt, discomfort and microbes. Reilly's endeavor to exclude Ah San from his labor market is not the case of a man dreading to pit himself on equal terms against a better man. Indeed, it is not quite so simple and selfish and narrow-minded as all that. It is a case of a man fitted to get the most out of good conditions refusing to yield his place to a weaker man able to withstand bad conditions. A Revival in the Whaling Industry IT is reported in the London Financial Times that a Tyne firm is about to dispatch a fleet of five vessels—three whalers, a factory ship, and an oil carrier—to engage in whaling in the vicinity of Kergue-len Island, where Norwegian stations are already established. From many parts of the world comes the news of an active revival in the whaling industry, which had been at a low ebb for many years. Norwegian companies are said to be reaping enormous dividends in southwest African waters, and a German company, just formed with a capital of $250,000, is about to begin operations in the same region. About twenty Norwegian expeditions, with crews aggregating 700 men, are in the field. The Norwegian companies, as a rule, buy second-hand British steamers, and fit them out with all the most modern appliances for whale catching and trying out. The whole process of recovering the marketable products from the carcass is carried on at sea. Upward of a dozen whalers hail from Dundee. One of these, the “Balffina,” has recently declarec. a dividend of 34% per cent. Abstracts from Current Periodicals Phases of Science as Other Editors See Them November 4, 1911 407 Engineering Quick Work on Panama Locks. —Over sixty-seven per cent of the concrete for all the locks of the Panama Canal is in place. At Gatun 81.5 per cent of the concrete has been laid; at Pedro Miguel over 87 per cent; while the two twin locks at Mira Flores have about one-third of the concrete in place. Tunnel and Terminus at Montreal.—A subsidiary company of the Canadian Northern Railway has completed plans for effecting an entrance' into the heart of the city of Montreal by building a three-mile tunnel under Mount Royal. A new terminal will also be constructed, in which the latest improvements in “terminal facilities will be embodied. The total cost of the tunnel and terminal together will be $25,000,000. September Progress on the Panama Canal. —The total amount of excavation on the Panama Canal for September was 2,538,764 cubic yards, as compared with 2,687,088 cubic yards in September, 1910, and 2,8136,365 cubic yards in September, 1909. The grand total of canal excavation to October 1st was 150,723,962 cubic yards. There yet remains to be excavated 44,599,417 cubic yards, which is less than one-fourth the entire excavation for the compteted canal. Evidence of a Mine Beneath the “Maine.” —According to a dispatch from Washington, the former chief constructor of the navy, Rear-Admiral Washington L. Capps, who recently inspected the operations in uncovering the “Maine,” will confirm the report of the Naval Court of Inquiry of 1898, which stated that the condition of the wreckage led to the conclusion that the primary explosion took place beneath the hull of the “Maine” in the neighborhood of Frame No. 18. Cape Cod Canal Open in 1913. —In a recent address before the Atlantic Deep Waterways Convention in Richmond, Commodore J. W. Miller stated that the Cape Cod Canal will be open in 1913. This important work will enable shipping to avoid the stormy passage around Cape Cod and to pass from Buzzards Bay into Cape Cod Bay by a short connection of eight miles. The channel will be 30 feet detp at high water, which is more than the depth of the Manchester and the Kiel canals. The Lathe as a Chip Producer.—Mr. Joseph Chilton, in a paper read before the North East Coast Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders, states that as a chip producer, the lathe is the most economical of machine tools. He finds that a well-designed lathe, under favorable conditions, produces half a pound of chips per horse-power per minute when cutting mild steel, the pressure on the tool being approximately 100 tons per square inch “area of cut"—this last meaning the depth of cut multiplied by the feed; a cut half inch deep with a one-eighth-inch feed having an area of one-sixteenth of a square inch. Great Steaming Radius of British Submarines.— The most notable fact in the development of submarines is their increase in size and in steaming radius. This means that the submarine is approaching the day when it will accompany the fleet on the high seas, and play a most important part in the general action of the future. The British are building two new classes of submarints, one of 600 tons, and the other of 800 to 1,000 tons displacement. Sixty-six of their latest submarines have a surface radius of 2,000 miles, which is being raised to 4,000 and 5,000 miles in what is known as the new “B” and “E” classts. Deep Submersion of Submarines.—The submarine “Salmon” has established a record for deep diving, wbich exceeds anything that has been hitherto accomplished in our own navy. It will be remembered that during the early summer months, the “Octopus” attained a depth of 125 feet. This has been exceeded by 19 feet by the “Salmon,” which was submerged to a depth of 144 feet off Prudence Island, and remained at that depth for 20 minutes. The submarine is ct r-tainly coming into its own, as will be shown in an article by Lieut. Bingham, Commander of the Third Submarine Division, which will be published in our Naval Number of December 9th, 1911. German Naval Activity.—A recent government paper issued in Great Britain, giving the total naval expenditures for the last ten years proves how keen is the competition in naval construction among the great powers of the world. In Great Britain exptnded $50,000,000 on new construction, and in 1911 the amount is $85,000,000. Germany, which in 1901 spent $23,000,000, in 1911 is spending $C8,000,000 on new construction. The United States spent $26,000,000 in 1905 on new construction, and she is spending about tht same amount this year. The outlay for nt w construction in France was about the same in both years as that of the United States. The most significant feature of this comparison is the fact that in the decade under consideration, German expenditures for new construction have nearly trebled. Science The Stettin-Berlin Water!' Route.—The new canal connecting Berlin with the River Oder (and hence with Stettin, the nearest seaport to Berlin) will, it is expected, be completed by the autumn of 1912. It will accommodate vessels up to 660 tons. Undoubtedly the commercial importance of Stettin will be much enhanced at the expense of Hamburg by this new and short water route from Berlin to the sea. Postponement of Scientific Congresses. —Owing to the disturbed state of public affairs in Italy, several international scientific meetings that were to have been held in Rome this autumn have been postponed. According to information received by the State Department in Washington, the International Congress of Tuberculosis and the International Congress of Archre-ology are now expected to be held next April. The International Geographical Congress has also been postponed until next spring, but the date appears not to have been settled. The Geophysical Journal.—Under this title the British Meteorological Office is about to add to its long list of valuable periodical publications a monthly section of the British Meteorological Year Book, which will include daily data for meteorology, terrestrial magnetism, atmospheric electricity, etc., based upon observations at the Meteorological Office observatories and anemograph stations. An annual supplement will also be published, giving hourly values. This departure is in line with the advanced policy of providing material for synoptic studies in meteorology and related sciences for the benefit of students of dynamic rather than static problems. Canadian Asbestos. —About 82 per cent of the world's supply of asbestos comes from Canada, according to an account of this industry published in the Chamber of Commerce Journal. The Canadian output has increased from 380 tons in 1880 to 63,300 tons in 1909. The quarries and factories are capitalized to the amount of $24,290,000. In the Black Lake quarries, Province of Quebec, there are 45,000,000 tons of asbestos in sight. The asbestos slate or shingle industry, a development of the last five years, has grown to such an exttnt that it is predicted that within a short time 75 per cent of all the asbestos produced in Canada will be ustd in making this roofing material. The Jesuit Seismological Service. —In the absence of a government seismological service in the United States, it is fortunate that a number of Jesuit observatories have organized a service, which includes stations at the following points: Buffalo, N. Y.; Cleveland, 0.; St. Louis, Mo., New Orleans, La.; Spring Hill, Ala.; Denver, Colo.; St. Boniface, Manitoba; Santa Clara, Cal.; Spokane, Wash.; Brooklyn, N. Y.; Worcester, Mass.; Fordham, N. Y.; Chicago, 1ll.; Milwaukee, Wis.; St. Mary's, Kan. The first nine of these art in full action, st nding in rt gular reports to the central station, St. Ignatius College Observatory, Cltveland; whence they are transmitted to tht international seismological headquarters at Strass burg, Germany. Ozone and Ball Lightning.—W. M. Thornton, writing on “thunder-bolts” in the Philosophical Magazine, applies this term to ball lightning—though authority for such an application is not to tie found in the dictionaries. The disappearance of one of these mysterious balls is said to be always followed by a strong smell of ozone. The writer believes that the principal. though perhaps not the only constituent of a ball of lightning is an aggregation of ozone and partially dissociated oxygen, thrown off from a negatively-charged cloud by an electric surge after a heavy lightning discharge. The explosion in which the phenomenon so often terminates is explained as dut to the energy liberated on the transition of ozone to oxygen. Powdered Milk for Polar Expeditions. —The announcement that two tons of powdered milk have been ordered for the use of Dr. Mawson's forthcoming antarctic expedition has helped to bring into prominence an industry which is assuming largt proportions in Australasia, especially in New Zealand. The same product was ustd txtensivtly by Shackleton's exptdi-tion, and was the principal food of Prof. David's party, which reached the south magnetic pole. New Zealand powdered milk is a serious rival to condensed milk, on account of its nutritive value and especially its keeping .qualities. It is said to be much superior to condensed milk for infants' food, as it is thoroughly sterilized, contains no cane or beet sugar, and, in the process of drying the milk, the casein is divided into fine particles, as in human milk. One kind of powdered milk, made entirely from skim milk, is used largely in biscuit factories and in the manufacture of milk chocolate. Aeronautics Aeronautics in Italy. —The American consul at Venice reports that the first Italian school for the instruction of aerial pilots has been established and subsidized by the royal government at Pordenone, a town in the province “of Udine. Italy's third military airship has been under construction during the past year. An Aeroplane Service in the Congo.—According to the London Times a government subsidy of $80,000 has been voted for the initial steps in the establishment of communication by at roplanes over regions of the Belgian Congo that are still unprovided with railways and roads. It is proposed to traverse a desert 750 miles across, and to establish landing stations 250 miles apart fitted with wireless telegraphy. Each aeroplane is to carry three passengers and a rt latively heavy load of food, water, tools, etc. Carrying Mail by Aeroplane.—According to the report of the post office inspectors to the Postmaster-General, no less than 43,247 pieces of mail matter were despatched by aeroplane from the Nassau Boulevard Aerodrome between September 23rd and October 1st. So enthusiastic has the Postmaster-General become as to the possibility of saving time and money in delivering mail in certain districts by aeroplanes, that he has asked for an appropriation of $50,000 to enable the Post Office Department to experiment thoroughly along these lines. Just as the automobile is at the present day rapidly replacing the horse in city mail delivery, so tht aeroplane will no doubt displace the fast express before many years have passed. Results of ' the International Balloon Race.—The international balloon race, which started about a month ago from Kansas City, was won by Hans Ger-icke, the German aeronaut, who covered 471 miles. Lieut. F. P. Lahm, was second, with 408 miles, and Lieut. Vogt, of Germany, third, with 350 miles. Fourth and fifth places went to John Berry and W. F. Ass-man, with 293 and 275 miles, respectively, to their credit, while Emile Dubonnet was sixth, with 200 miles. The French aeronaut remained in the air longer than any of his competitors but was blown back 400 miles. He has offered to wager $2,000 that tie will beat any American who will come to France and fly against him between now and the first of the year. Successful Use of Aeroplanes in Actual Warfare.— Cognizant of the excellent showing made by the aeroplanes in reconnaissance in the French and German maneuvers, King Victor Emmanuel sent to Tripoli with the armada, eight monoplanes and two biplanes. After flying over the fleet on October 23rd, Capt. Piazza made a 45-minute flight in a Bleriot monoplane about the neighboring country. The Arabs were awe struck when the machine .swooped over them, and the theory that an aeroplane can be used for the purpose of creating panic was shown to be a correct one. The flight mentioned extended as far as the Zanzor oasis, some fifteen miles from Tripoli. Valuable information was obtained as to the disposition and numbers of the Turkish infantry. The Trans-continental Flight.—Aviator Rodgers wrecked his machine in starting on a narrow road at Spofford, Texas, on October 25th. The day before he had covered the 132 miles from San Antonio, Texas, in 5 hours and 22 minutes, including stops of about 2 hours for repairs and the making of exhibition flights. This is the first bad smash lie has had since leaving Huntington, Ind., but he remains undaunted and expects to eventually reach the Pacific Coast. Meantime, on October 24th, Robert G. Fowler has made another start in the opposite direction. He arrived at Mecca, Cal., at noon of the 24th ult., after having covered 61 miles in 68 minutes. A New Hydro-aeroplane Record by Naval Officers.— On October 9th, Lieuts. Ellyson and Towers, of the Navy Aviation Corps, started on a flight from Annapolis tp Hampton Roads with a Curtiss hydro-aeroplane. After flying five miles they were obliged to descend on account of motor trouble. Another start was made two days later, and this time the officers covered 65 miles and landed at Smith's Point, Virginia. A motor break-down terminated this second attempt. The third attempt was completely successful and was made on the 25th ult. The officers covered about 140 miles from Annapolis to within two miles of Fortress Monroe in 2 hours and 27 minutes, at the rate of nearly 60 miles an hour. The flight was made entirely above the waters of Chesapeake Bay, and most of the way an elevation of 1,000 feet was maintained. The officers often shifted the control wheel from one to the other, and they were very enthusiastic over the operation of this new device which was brought out a few months ago by Mr. Curtiss. and on which he has applied for a patent
This article was originally published with the title "Abstracts from Current Periodicals"