From the December 4, 1937, issue


Frost silvers the commonest things into beauty, once in a while in early winter. We awake to find that instead of the thin, hard, blighting film of white there has been deposited during the night a thick rime of furry frost that transforms even the most commonplace garden plants and wayside weeds into Christmas trees of fairyland.

But like the magic of the fairies, there must be an exact balance of correct conditions before this can occur. The night must be still. There must be abundant moisture in the air—even to the point of fogginess. Finally, the ground and objects near it must be enough colder than the moisture-laden atmosphere to cause a precipitation of the water, not as dew, but as fine splinters of ice.

Some garden plants, transfigured by such a delicately achieved meteorological miracle, were photographed for the cover of this issue of the Science News Letter by the late Cornelia Clarke.


Did you know that the best vintage wines are from crops that grow in those years when sunspots are at a maximum? And that trees show their greatest growth in periods when the surface of the sun shows the greatest numbers of spots? Or that the Dow-Jones stock market averages follow a curve which is very similar to curves based on sunspot numbers?

These are only a few of the many remarkable, but unexplained, coincidences between the activities of plant and animal life on Earth and the appearance of those gigantic electromagnetic disturbances on the sun which man calls sunspots.

More and more scientists, and others, are probing sunspots and seeking to learn the relationship between their appearance and the multitudinous activities of Earth-bound man. In his newest book “Sunspots and Their Effects from the Human Point of View,” (McGraw Hill) Dr. Harlan True Stetson, astronomer and research associate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, summarizes the knowledge which science now has in its possession to analyze, for truth or falseness, the speculation on this intriguing matter.


Dog-chases-cat isn’t ordinarily news. But when it happened 5,000 years ago in India, and when footprints of the dog and cat are discovered by archaeologists—that’s news.

Pussy is more important than Fido in this case: for, until this discovery, no one associated pussycats with ancient India. Tigers, yes; but the household cat supposedly came to India far later than 3000 B.C. Yet here is the mysterious print of a very ancient cat’s paw, and right on her heels is the paw print of a dog, about the same size.

The prints are on a clay brick, from ruins of Chanhu-daro in the Indus Valley of northern India. These are the ruins that have attracted wide interest because of great quantities of toys found in the old city. Quite evidently, Chanhu-daro was a toy manufacturing center, certainly the oldest ever found. The site has been explored by a Joint Expedition of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and the American School of Indic and Iranian Studies.

The paw prints at Chanhu-daro have been preserved all these centuries, because the animals happened to scamper over a brick that was moist and fresh. No one smoothed off the paw marks, and they hardened into a permanent record.

How does this cat fit into cat history?

Egypt is accepted, almost without question, as the first home of the domestic cat. Early Egyptians, risking scratches, tamed a wild cat of northwest Africa. They venerated it, among other animals reverenced for special qualities, and many a cat was mummified when it died.

From Egypt, cats were carried to other regions, in a rather gradual spread, and some local wild cat tribes became blended in the cat race. Etruscans acquired these cats centuries before the Christian era; China about the beginning of the Christian era; England not until about 900 A.D.

And now India’s most ancient civilization turns up with a cat, and a new mystery for archaeologists to explain by further digging.

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