Nature's Teachings: Human Invention Anticipated by Nature Nature's Teachings: Human Invention Anticipated by Nature

Nature's Teachings: Human Invention Anticipated by Nature

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Publisher Description

IT has been frequently said that the modern developments of science are gradually destroying many of the poetical elements of our daily lives, and in consequence are reducing us to a dead level of prosaic commonplace, in which existence is scarcely worth having. The first part of this rather sweeping assertion is perfectly true, but, as we shall presently see, the second portion is absolutely untrue.

Science has certainly destroyed, and is destroying, many of the poetic fancies which made a part of daily life. It must have been a considerable shock to the mind of an ancient philosopher when he found himself deprived of the semi-spiritual, semi-human beings with which the earth and water were thought to be peopled. And even in our own time and country there is in many places a still lingering belief in the existence of good and bad fairies inhabiting lake, wood, and glen, the successors of the Naiads and Dryads, the Fauns and Satyrs, of the former time. Many persons will doubtless be surprised, even in these days, to hear that the dreaded Maelström is quite as fabulous as the Symplegades or Scylla and Charybdis, and that the well-known tale of Edgar Poe is absolutely without foundation.

So deeply ingrained is the poetical notion of the sailing powers attributed to the nautilus, that many people are quite incredulous when they are told that there is just as much likelihood of seeing a mermaid curl her hair as of witnessing a nautilus under sail. How the creature in question does propel itself will be described in the course of the present chapter; and the reader will see that although one parallel between Nature and Art in the nautilus does not exist, there are several others which until later days have not even been suspected.

It is, therefore, partially true that science does destroy romance. But, though she destroys, she creates, and she gives infinitely more than she takes away, as is shown in the many late discoveries which have transformed the whole system of civilised life. Sometimes, as in the present instance, she discovers one analogy while destroying another, and though she shatters the legend of the sailing nautilus, she produces a marine animal which really does sail, and does not appear to be able to do anything else. This is theVelella, a figure of which, taken from a specimen in my collection, is given in the illustration, and drawn of the natural size.

It is one of that vast army of marine creatures known familiarly by the name of “jelly-fishes,” just as lobsters, crabs, shrimps, oysters, whelks, periwinkles, and the like, are lumped together under the title of “shell-fish.” As a rule, these creatures are soft, gelatinous, and, in fact, are very little more than sea-water entangled in the finest imaginable mesh-work of animal matter; so fine, indeed, that scarcely any definite organs can be discovered. The Velella, however, is remarkable for having a sort of skeleton, if it may be so called, consisting of two very thin and horny plates, disposed, as shown in the illustration, so as to form an exact imitation (or perhaps I should say a precursor) of a raft propelled by a sail. Indeed, the Latin name Velella signifies a little sail.

GENRE
Science & Nature
RELEASED
2018
December 8
LANGUAGE
EN
English
LENGTH
685
Pages
PUBLISHER
Library of Alexandria
SELLER
The Library of Alexandria
SIZE
12.2
MB

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