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50 Years Ago

From the October 31, 1931, issue

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CATS WERE WILD IN ANCIENT SOUTHWEST

In ancient America, it was bad luck to meet a cat on a dark night. All the cats that the Indians knew were wildcats. Dogs were tamed and learned to follow Indian hunters and Indian children around, but cats walked by themselves, very wild and alone.

The Indian pottery bowl on the cover is from the collection in the American Museum of Natural History. The bowl is adorned by a fine, big cat such as Pueblo Indians knew. Kittys teeth are set for a me-yowl or a bite. Her eye has the alert look of a Halloween cat, all witching and eerie. The long, upcurving tail is a danger signal, a fitting accompaniment to kittys alert expression. Judging by that tail, this cat was a puma or an ocelot, not a bobcat.

The cat inside the bowl was painted by some unknown Indian woman of the Mimbres Valley, N.M., hundreds of years ago. In most Pueblo tribes, the women were good at shaping clay into dishes and tall containers. In many tribes, it was customary to decorate the outer or inner surfaces of pottery with attractive designs. Our cover-picture cat is not merely a lively portrait, but is artistically posed to make a pleasing design in the bowl.

The hole in the center of the bowl–and the cat–was not made by any irate Indian, expecting to stop some neighbors cats yowling by the sympathetic magic of plugging a painted feline. The hole was knocked in the bowl in order to kill it at the burial of a Mimbres Indian. It was a custom among some Pueblo tribes to lay a painted bowl over the head in a burial, and a hole was made in it so that the spirit of the bowl might escape.

The Mimbres Indians are one of the Pueblo tribes that vanished, mysteriously, before white men came into the Southwest. So nobody knows how the Mimbres Indians would have explained the wanderings of the spirits. But perhaps on frosty autumn nights, the spirit of this painted cat went roaming the Mimbres Valley, hundreds of years ago.

HUGE BURNING GLASS MAY GIVE MAXIMUM SUN HEAT ON EARTH

A huge burning glass made of 19 lenses each 2 feet in diameter, as well as 19 smaller ones, will soon be in operation at Pasadena at the new Astrophysical Laboratory of the California Institute of Technology. With its aid, it is hoped, temperatures as high as those in the sunspots, around 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit, will be attained, and astronomers will be able to study at close range how various substances behave when so heated.

DISCOVERY OF ELEMENT 87 REPORTED BY CORNELL CHEMISTS

The discovery of element 87, one of the two remaining missing or doubtful members of the chemists periodic table, is reported in the mineral samarskite, by Prof. Jacob Papish and Eugene Wainer of the department of chemistry of Cornell University, who used X rays to examine it.

A discovery of element 87, one of the 92 ultimate building blocks of the material world, was announced a year ago in the minerals lepidolite and pollucite by Prof. Fred Allison and Dr. Edgar J. Murphy of the Alabama Polytechnic Institute. The Cornell researchers doubt this claim. They have examined solutions reported by Prof. Allison to contain number 87 but decided that it is present, if at all, in extremely small quantity.

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