« PreviousContinue »
expenditure of effort a by-product investigation of the relation between solar and terrestrial magnetism can be prosecuted. It has already been found that an increase in solar activity is apparently associated with an effect on the earth's magnetism equivalent to a decrease in the mean intensity of magnetism. To reduce this discovery to every-day terms it means that having learned how the activity of sun-spots, which are great electric vortices sweeping across the face of the sun. affect the earth's atmosphere, present theories may be so revised as to make weather predictions an exact science.
Two separate departments are studying the heavens. One of these, the Department of Meridian Astrometry, is established in observatories at Albany, N. Y., and San Luis, Argentina, on the eastern plateau of the Andes. The observers at San Luis are hard at work making accurate measurements of the position of the fixed stars visible in the southern hemisphere to be compared with corresponding measurements in the northern hemisphere, in the preparation of a complete catalogue of precision of all stars from the highest down to those of the seventh magnitude, inclusive, for the entire celestial sphere. The San Luis observatory is breaking all records in
stellar studies, having attained a score of fifty-six thousand observations in a year.
The solar observatory on the summit of Mount Wilson, near Pasadena, Cali fornia, has a most elaborate equipment for studying the sun. This includes the Snow horizontal reflecting telescope purchased from the Yerkes observatory, a tower vertical telescope one hundred and fifty feet high, and another sixty feet high, and a reflecting telescope sixty inches in diameter mounted equatorially. These telescopes are supplied with various spectographic, photographic and other devices for studying the sun and stars. In Dr. George Ellery Hale, Director of the Observatory, the Institution has found one of the geniuses it was created to discover. By introducing entirely new processes in photography and in other details Dr. Hale has been able to reveal sixty thousand new worlds, never before seen by man, some of which are ten times as large as our sun. Most of the work, though, consists in studying the sun, photos of which are made every clear day, and the spectra of the stars, the results being added to those accomplished by other observatories in working out various problems.
But to get back to earth again; the Geophysical Laboratory, which is locatecl in the outskirts of Washington, has undertaken a novel line of research, for it is trying to find out how the world was made by manufacturing' rocks experimentally out of the raw material by imitating the processes of Nature as closely as possible in everything except length of time required. While at the present writing there seems little hope that the information thus obtained can be utilized in the creation of a new earth in case we should all be driven off the present one by the ever-increasing cost of living, the investigation is, nevertheless, interesting.
Experiments in the creation of rocks are conducted by placing the raw materials in steel bombs capable of withstanding pressures of seventeen thousand atmospheres, which are then placed in *electric furnaces where they can be subjected to the action of intense heat for weeks and even months. Temperatures as high as two thousand one hundred degrees, centigrade, or more than three hundred degrees above the melting point of platinum, have been attained in these furnaces.
It seems to be generally agreed that diamonds are produced by extreme heat at enormous pressure in the earth. The Carnegie Institution is be'tter equipped for experimenting in the manufacture of diamonds than any one else ever has been; but instead of undertaking to find a way to place diamond necklaces within the reach of all it has elected to devote its time to such commonplace things as calcium oxide and silica, two constituents most frequently found in rock, which also happen to be the essential materials in Portland cement. The Geophysical Laboratory has demonstrated that these two things could combine only in certain ways and in certain proportions, and not in the way assumed by cement manufacturers. This being understood, the cement maker now has a scientific basis upon which to prepare his product instead of following a rule of thumb. Now that the formula has been discovered it is possible to produce cement anywhere that the necessary elements are to be found instead of in
certain rare spots where deposits of materials in the right proportions exist. As enormous quantities of cement are used annually this discovery is- of great importance.
The Geophysical Laboratory is also engaged in the study of ore deposits. Once the fundamental conditions under which ores are formed are understood, the range of practical geology will be widely extended and the quantity of ores available will be increased.
Some strange things are being learned about animals, birds, fish, insects, and plants by the Department of Experimental Evolution, all of which are to be applied for the practical benefit of mankind. Since Darwin's day the problem of the origin of species has taken on an entirely new form. It is now recognized that the whole problem of evolution lies in the origin, nature, and relations of characteristics. The production of a new "species" is the development of a new characteristic not necessarily new to nature, but in a new combination. Since the Department got its hand in, it has been able to produce some curious variations on stock of well known pedigree, such as poultry with short mandibles, with no comb, with one toe missing on each foot, with an extra toenail to each toe, with one wing missing, and with both wings missing. It is hard for an unscientific mind to understand why the Institution should fritter away its time on wingless chickens when any boardinghouse landlady cpuld have told it that if it really desired to fill a want long felt at economical tables it should try to produce a chicken composed exclusively of wings. Professor Tower, an associate of the Department, has been very successful in controlling new characteristics in the Colorado potato beetle, varying the colors and increasing the number of generations in the reproduction cycle. No farmer's boy who has had to break his back throughout a long, hot summer day "huggin" pertaters" will thank Professor Tower for that, though. Colorado potato beetles came along quite fast enough under the old schedule.
THE American ostrich farmer, like his neighbor the alligator farmer, is distinctly a new species. A few years ago he coaxed an exotic business into his back yard and set about quietly to acquaint it with its new environments. The young industry took readily to its alien home, which resembled its native habitat, flourished from the outset, and—■ as they say in Arizona, referring to the time when hut and edifice alike were of earth construction—soon outgrew the cramped quarters of its adobe days. Less than fifteen summers old, it now ranges freely over thousands of the Lord's fenced acres.
The ostrich, taken at a commercial rating, is the biggest dividend-producer in the kingdom of birds. Appraised from any angle, he yields to none save the emblematic stork. His earning capacity, aided and abetted by feminine inclination to self-adornment, has become so marked that today, after having been persecuted for his plumage from the dawn of history, he finds himself pampered, made much of, and scientifically propagated— still for his plumage.
The crux of the movement to make the ostrich over is that her every wish must be gratified,
without thought of cost or reckoning. And she, ably attended by the handmaid of fashion, reigns in every clime and zone. So it has come about that because her imperious tastes have decreed ostrich plumes a prime necessity rather than a rare luxury in her millinery wardrobe, she has stimulated a drooping occupation in the Eastern hemisphere and founded a new industry in the Western.
Ostriches have been captured for their feathers since earliest antiquity. The fleet bird, which "scorneth the horse and his rider," was lured into snare or pitfall. This mode of obtaining, plumes was in vogue for centuries, and until ostrich farming was started. After the bird was captured, the feathers were either plucked or the skin and feathers were removed together and used in making robes.
Ranking close to the first sartorial incident of Eden is the theory of philosophers that modern dress had its genesis in the habit of certain ancient gentlemen, who lived, laughed, .and loved before the sphinxes were built, of dazzling pretty maidens by sticking ostrich plumes in their hair and parading themselves before their admirers. Scientists hold to the belief that these capering persons, in their affaires d'amour, were simply carrying out the natural law which says the male shall be more showily equipped for his life bluff than his mate.
However that may be, certain it is that the whims of civilization recognize no such rule. Instance is witnessed in the change modern enlightenment has wrought in the primitive custom of the ancient peoples. The twentieth century citizen, whose tastes are simple, not only neglects to adorn his locks with feathers, but what is quite the opposite, leads chivalrous chase after ostrich plumes to the end that her newest headgear may be ornately decorated a la mode.
In response to his thought—and hers —for her attractiveness, ostrich farming has been established in the United States. The industry is carried on to a limited extent in Florida and Arkansas, more extensively in Southern California, and on a still broader scale in the Salt River Valley, in Arizona.
As regards size and scientific propagation, the flower of the industry are the farms of Arizona; and, unlike those of Florida, Arkansas, and some of the California aviaries, they are conducted rather, for the revenues from the sale of feathers than for show purposes. There are twelve farms in the Salt River Valley. The Pan-American ranch, located thir
teen miles west of Phoenix, is the largest ostrich farm in the world under an inclosure, not excepting the farms of Cape Colony. It is now stocked with 3,200 birds, or three-fifths of the ostriches raised in the valley, and has an area of 1,100 acres.
This part of the Southwest, though one of the oldest sections of the United States, having been trod by the Spanish padres from Mexico as early as the middle of the sixteenth century, has been slow of development owing to its aridity and isolation; and while ostriches have been raised with indifferent success in the United . States for nearly forty years, the industry was not established in Arizona until the late nineties.
The climatic conditions here are very similar to those of Southern Asia and Africa—the native home of the ostrich. It is claimed, for instance, that the crucifixion flower is found nowhere outside of the Holy Land except in Arizona. On account of the dryness of the atmosphere, the scant rainfall, and the absence of fog, this is believed to be the best adapted region in the Western hemisphere for the propagation of the majestic birds of the desert.
The importance of the industry to the world's wealth and commerce is reflected in the jealous way in which England guards her ostrich possessions in South Africa. Ostriches have been tamed for centuries, yet it is only since the early sixties that an organized effort has been made to domesticate them with the idea of supplying the world's demand for feathers. In 1900 it was estimated there were between 350.000 and 400.000 ostriches in captivity in Cape Colony. England, foreseeing the golden future of ostrich breeding and desiring to corral the industry in her own possessions, saw to it that laws were passed absolutely prohibiting the exportation of either birds or eggs and imposing drastic punishment, in the form of fine and imprisonment, upon any person convicted of violating the statute. The prohibition now applies to all British colonies in Africa.
Rut far-sighted Yankees had stolen a march on the British government before its fences were completed. As early as 1882 a shipment of ostriches to the United States from South Africa had been made. Four years ^ later the shipment from which fully SO per cent V9Mp of the birds in America ^^r'' are descended, consist- ^ ing of about fifty os- \ \
triches, was negotiated \
of which was the opposition manifested by the South African government. The last ostriches imported came from Nubia for the Pan-American exposition at Buffalo in 1901. The Nubians of today have come largely from this shipment.
The progenitors of most of the ostriches in America are still to be seen at the Cawston Ostrich farm, at South Pasadena, near Los Angeles. This is the best equipped farm in the United States, with its rare plants, cobblestone ditches and paths, and beautiful terraces, and is visited annually by thousands of tourists, who delight in observing the interesting habits of the ostriches. The climatic conditions here are congenial, but it is claimed that the drier climate of Arizona is better suited to the raising of these alien birds.
The American farmer has approached the ostrich from the angle of science, and therein lies the basis of the revolutionized industry. Though scientific methods of hatching, feeding and breeding have been in use only three or four years, the results have been little short of astonishing. Evidence of this is seen in the fact that Arizona culturists are able to raise .to maturity 75 per cent of their hatch, as against an average of 15 per cent which stands to the credit of African ostrich raisers.
The problem of feeding at first gave them no little concern. Originally the ostriches were allowed to bring forth in their own sweet way. Of recent years, however, incubation on the most progressive farms has been done by artificial means. The eggs, each weighing between three and four pounds, and of sufficient size to afford a meal for six hungry men, are turned in the incubators twice a day until at the end of six weeks the young chicks are hatched. The PanAmerican farm alone has incubation facilities for 1,800 eggs—a sizable "clutch" indeed—and could hatch 7,000 or 8,000 birds a year.
After the chicks are released from the shells they receive the fostering care of experienced ostrich, men until they are large enough to fend for themselves. A prominent Arizona farmer explained that they "require as much attention as babes." Men unfold their cots in the fields and spend the nights with the