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Volume 42, 1909

Wellington Philosophical Society.

The following is an abstract of an address given by Mr. R. C. Harding at the second meeting, on 2nd June, 1909, on “The New Toy, the ‘Sex Pendulum’. Mr. Stead's Fallacies and some Remarkable Facts.”

Mr. Harding said that the account of this device was given in an article by Mr. W. T. Stead in a recent number of the Review of Reviews. It was said to have been discovered by an engineer of Catford, named Williams, who had a poultry-farm, and who had the appliance in constant use for determining the sex of eggs. It was simply a steel weight suspended from a thread of wire, held steadily in the hand, so as to be free to swing in any direction. Held over a man or any male animal (or egg), it would move in a circle; over a female, it would oscillate like a pendulum. It was said that Mr. Williams became first aware of its property by noticing that a steel weight suspended over a basket of eggs quivered in a curious way, which led him to experiment. He (Mr. Harding) had made a good many experiments, and did not believe that the pendulum would act unless held in the hand; he also found that it need not be steel—that any metal or vegetable substance would answer as well, but not an animal substance. It seemed to be no more than a toy at present; it might apparently be used as an instrument of divination; but he had endeavoured to ascertain if it had any scientific value. It was not a scientific instrument in the true sense, as in some hands it would not answer at all; when there was actual knowledge, but otherwise could not be relied on. Moreover, it would respond to direct volition, even in the hands of those with whom it would not act in the ordinary way, but not to an idea or mental impression, not did expectation appear to affect it in the slightest degree. The movement was manifestly controlled by an infinitesimal movement of the finger, but it was a nerve-movement, and the pendulum was apparently a kind of index to subconscious action of the brain. Over metals it was perfectly quiescent, but would respond to any animal or vegetable substance, living or dead. Apart from quiescence, he had found six regular indicative movements. Plants or vegetable substances usually gave the same quiver as had been observed over the mixed eggs: it was a very curious perturbation, apparently owing to a conflict between the rotary and oscillatory impulses. It gave the regular indications over male and female flowers, but he was not sure that these indications could be depended upon.

He had tried it with a magnet, and found, that the north pole gave the oscillatory response, and the south the rotary. It would therefore be convenient to describe the three principal movements as “S,” “N,” and “SN,” respectively. Over a closed circuit, the pendulum rotated at the poles, and oscillated transversely to the magnet midway between them Mr. Stead apparently supposed that the impulse proceeded from the living object tested; but any fragment of animal matter, such as a fragment of bone or shell, without the slightest indication of sex, would answer; and the mummy in the hall excited as active a movement as a living subject. Moreover, pictured representations answered equally well, as he illustrated by a book of engravings, and statuettes or models of any living creatures. And there was a remarkable appearance of systematic direction in the movements of the pendulum. He suspected that some kind of radio-activity was discharged, as those over whose hands it was held sometimes felt tinglings and the sensation of cool airs. Moreover, the interposition of a thin plate of metal would immediately stop its action, but a thin piece of wood made no difference. It would not work if the eyes were shut or the attention distracted. It was evident that it was an appliance that lent itself readily to deception; but he thought it might be found to have uses—perhaps important uses—in what was known as “experimental psychology,” and might throw light on such phenomena as those of water-finding. Some of the experiments he had made had given results so unexpected and unaccountable that he would have hesitated to mention them had it not been so easy to verify them; but so far as what were commonly called “occult” phenomena were concerned, he was content to leave investigation to those interested in “psychical research.”

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Third Meeting: 7th July, 1909.

Mr. A. Hamilton, President, in the chair.

Exhibits.—Dr. A. K. Newman exhibited a rare Maori mat and a bone mere, which he briefly described.

The President, Mr. A. Hamilton, exhibited a number of paintings of Maori subjects by Major-General Robley and by Dr. Merritt.

Address.—Mr. Herbert L. James, B.A., gave an address on the subject of “Tolstoi and Others on Shakespeare.”

Fourth Meeting: 4th August, 1909.

Mr. A. Hamilton, President, in the chair.

New Members.—Dr. E. Borghetti, Mr. B. C. Aston, F.C.S., Professor T. H. Laby, Mr. T. S. Lambert, Mr. J. R. Strachan.

Papers.—1. “Notes on the Structure and Habits of a Podura and of an Acarid, with Descriptions thereof,” by J. Bronté Gatenby.

This paper was illustrated by means of a number of large-scale drawings in colour, executed by the author.

Mr. Gatenby was complimented on his paper by Mr. G. V. Hudson, Professor Kirk, and the President, who expressed the hope that it would be followed by other contributions from the author.

2. “An Astronomical Explanation of the Flood of Genesis,” by C. W. Adams.

3. “The Mokoia Aerolite, with a Few Introductory Remarks on New Zealand Meteorites,” by George R. Marriner.

4. “Maori Numeration: being a Reply to Mr. Elsdon Best's Paper on Maori Numeration in the ‘Transactions of the New Zealand Institute,’ Vol. xxxix,” by Hare Hongi.

5. “On Hongi's Armour,” by A. Hamilton.

6. “Botanical Notes made on a Journey across the Tararuas,” by B. C. Aston.

The nearest route to the Tararua Mountains from Wellington City is via Kaitoke. The base of the Quoin is reached either by the track through the Pakuratahi Gorge to the junction of that river with the Hutt River, and thence up the latter to the confluence of it with the Lesser Hutt (nine and a half hours' walk), or preferably along and over the burnt ridge behind Phillips's hut, then down the flank of the spur to the main Hutt River, and thence down-stream to the confluence (four hours' walk).

Making an early start from Kaitoke, the top of the Quoin (3,900ft.) could be reached the same night. A well-blazed track has been cut by Mr. Phillips Turner, Mr. A. Jones, and the writer, to a height of 2,300ft. from Confluence Camp. At 2,200 ft. stagnant water can usually be found, but after this there is none until the summit is reached, where there is shelter, wood, and water. Wild cattle and pigs are abundant.

The second day the range is followed over Mount Alpha (4,466 ft.). After getting well up on Mount Alpha, water is abundant in mountain-tarns until the bush-line on Table Top is reached, after which only temporary ground-water will be found until the Waiotauro River, a tributary of the Otaki, is reached. The characteristic Tararua alpine plants are found from the Quoin upwards. Remarkable “lane formations,” probably due to wind-action, and an interesting “razorback” with two distinct floras on its flanks, either of which is typical to aspect, and alternates from side to side as the ridge zigzags, are met with shortly before reaching the culminating point, Mount Hector (5,016 ft.) The descent into the Otaki watershed lies over Mount Dennan and Table Top. The latter can be reached by the second night.

The third day the descent through the subalpine scrub is rather troublesome, but this negotiated, a good track leads down to the bed of the Waiotauro River, or the junction

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of this with the Otaki River. Great care must be exercised in keeping to the proper track during the latter part of the journey, avoiding tracks on several spurs branching off to the right leading into the Otaki Gorge, which can only be traversed with the greatest toil and difficulty. A spring bridge crosses the Waiotauro a little above its junction at Judd's hut, half an hour's walk along a good road from the Gorge settlement.

Lists are given of the plants and birds met with during the four days' journey from Kaitoke to Otaki.

Fifth Meeting: 1st September, 1909.

Mr. A. Hamilton, President, in the chair.

Exhibit.—Mr. Thomas King exhibited a language-teaching phonograph, which he briefly described. Professor von Zedlitz, of Victoria College, at the invitation of the chairman, addressed the meeting, expressing his views as to the extent to which the apparatus would be found useful by the teacher of foreign languages.

Papers.—The following papers were read:—

1. “A Reply to Mr. Elsdon Best's Paper on ‘Maori Numeration’ in the ‘Transactions of the New Zealand Institute,’ vol. xxxix,” by H. Hongi; communicated by A. Hamilton.

Owing to the lateness of the hour, the reading of a paper (2) “On Hongi's Armour,” by Mr. A. Hamilton, was postponed to next meeting.

The following papers were taken as read:—

3. “Some Additions to the Perlidœ, Neuroptera, Planipennia, and Trichoptera of New Zealand,” by E. J. Hare; communicated by G. V. Hudson.

4. “Occurrence of Rare or New Elements and Minerals in New Zealand,” by B. C. Aston, F.C.S.

Alunogene, hydrated aluminium-sulphate (Al2(SO4)3·18H2O), or “hair salt,” occurs at French Pass in considerable quantity. About 1 cwt. of soil was received. This consisted of 10 per cent. alunogene and 90 per cent. silicate of alumina, slightly contaminated with ferric oxide. Analysis of the former showed it to correspond with the above formula.

Titanium-phosphate, or Phospho-titanic Acid.—The red scoria, and the red earth apparently derived from it, existing in considerable amounts at Antipodes Island contain comparatively large quantities of a phospho-titanic compound. The red earth contains 8.4 per cent. and the scoria somewhat less of the compound, which may prove to be the phospho-titanic acid (3TiO2·P2O5) of W. Knop (Watt's Dict. of Chem., 2nd supp.), seeing that it contains 37.1 per cent. P2O5, 61.82 per cent. T1O2, and 1.08 per cent. undetermined; is hygroscopic; and has a specific gravity of 2.75. It does not appear to have been recorded as occurring in nature before.

Titaniferous Ironsand of Campbell Island contains much more titanium than does that of Taranaki. A fine sand from Nor'-west Bay contained 31.58 per cent. T1O2, and 0.21 per cent. SnO2, with probably a small quantity of ZrO2. A coarse sand from Perseverance Harbour contained 42.18 per cent. T1O2, 0.32 per cent. SnO2, and a trace of copper.

Rock Phosphate occurs as a thin polished layer on the surface of coarse-grained granite at the Bounty Islands. The phosphate only loses 5 per cent. on ignition, and contains 11.77 per cent. P2O5.

Vivianite—phosphate of iron—occurs at Campbell Island, associated with zircons.

Selenivm occurs in the concentrates of the Talisman Mine, Karangahake, Auckland, to the extent of 0.34 per cent.

Amethyst occurs in the soil of the Eweburn State Nursery, Maniototo Plain, Otago.

5. “Notes on a Collection of Sea-anemones made by Mr. C. L. Walton,” by C. L. Walton and F. G. A. Stuckey, M.A.

6. “Unrecorded Habitats for New Zealand Plants,” by B. C. Aston.