Other Articles Clipping from Indianapolis Monroes Iron Clad Age, Sat, Oct 23, 1886.

Clipped from US, Indiana, Indianapolis, Indianapolis Monroes Iron Clad Age, October 23, 1886

The World’s Bad.Bldurd A. Praetor, in St. Louis Globe Democrat, Oct. -M, ISM.ded Egyptian soldiers as daring resoleAfter a great and terrible disaster, like the earthquake at Charles-ton, there always follows a time daring which we may expect to hear the anxieties about the approaching end of the world. They were proclaimed during the year or two following the great earthquakes of Ischia and Krkatoa; they were rife some score of times during the century preceeding those events; they were loudly expressed after the earthquake at Lisbon in 1755, and, to make avery long story short, the^r harebeen heard at intervals of about five years throughout the past 3r 000 years at least. How far back we migh^ go, in the history of -mankind, and still find Cassand-dra’s name is, perhaps, ill chosen in this connection; her predictions were never believed and always fulfilled; these predictions of the world’s end have always found numerous believers and always will, but they have never been fulfilled, and so tar as science cau judge the human race will die out from the earth millions of years before the world is rendered by slow cosmie-al change unfit to be inhabited by the higher forms of life. Neither flood nor fire, volcano nor earthquake, is likely to destroy all life upon the earth. Such ideas belong to times when men were ignorant alike of the earth’s vast size and of her relative minuteness, when they supposed the sun and the moon and the stars to be close at hand to conjoin their influences and bring destruction on the whole earth—-by which they understood a tract of a few hundreds of thousands, perhaps, of square miles,not that vast globe of surface of nearly 200,000,000 of square milesthat resplendendent campaign.But even Prof. Smyth grew dissatisfied with this fulfillment of the pamid prophesy when the fighting died out, when England had first to fight for the Egyptians in-sterd of against them, and when England's fighting in this direction came to a scarcely glorious end. 1 am told that the sale of Prof. Smyth’s quaint book, “Our Inheritance in the Great Pyramid,” has dwindled to almost nothing since the year 1882; thoughiniprobably we may reason that if the world had come to an end at that time, although his readers would not have been so grievously disappointed as they actually were, yet the sale of the work would nothave greatly increased, seeing thatiblwhich we know the earth to be. In those old times it seemed natural enough to imagine with the an-oient Babylonian astronomer that the earth would be destroyed by fire when All the planets were conjoined in Cancer, and by floodwhen the planets were conjoined in Capricorn. Men seemed to see in certain constellations the obvious signs of stellar power—as, for instance, in Lion the cause of the sun’s summer might, in the Virgin the story of his birth, in Aquarius and Capricorn us (the water-bearer and sea-goat) the water streams by which flood had come on the earth and was to come again, in the ship Argo the evidence of celestial saving power, in the altar Ara the suggestion of sacrifice, in the milky way clouds seeming to float above the altar bearing with them the savor of incense, and in the j Bow of Sagittarius set amid those clouds the clouds the celestial an-tetype of the Bow of reconciliation. But in our day, when even the sun is known to be 93,000,000miles away, and the nearest of the stars in our northern skies at least half a million times farther from us than the sun, all these ideas have passed away save among the ignorant and the foolish. We Know that if some great catastrophe is to destroy us the stars will have nothing to do with it; andthough some great change in the sun’s beat-emitting power might destroy life on the earth and (if any life there is) on the other planets, we know that any such change is exceedingly unlikely ou the face of it, and will certainly not be caused by the influence of the stars in any “sign” through which he may be passing, and it is absolutely beyond the power of prediction.The great Pyramid, which some insist on regarding as a sort of stone bible, is looked on by some as containing in its vast mass a prophetic threat of the earth’s destruction about this time—or failing that, at least an end of the Christian dispensation. The onlyeffect attributed to pyrimid prophesy in this respect is that it has been somewhat too previous. According to Prof. Plazzi Smyth and the pyramidalists generally the critical time was to have been July, 1882. In fact, Prof. Smyth was satisfied with the pyramid prophesy in that respect when Alexandria was bombarded and Arabi attacked by British soldiery. Other places had been bombarded before —but, then, no place had ever before been bombarded from the sea with quite such heavy guns. Larger bodies of men had landed to . * ^ portent countries;n kenerals rather anas small army campaign, calling *s non at Tel-el-Ke-after the world’s end the publishing portion of the community would be otherwise engaged ana hook-buyers scarce.Prof. Smyth’s disappointment in 1882 was severe enough in all conscience. For a comet came along that year which really seemed to convey fine promise of mischief. Even astronomers thought that trouble might be in store; at any rate, for the comet. As I was one of those who so thought for awhile, I may venture, without being considered unduly sarcastic, to explain what our mistake was. There was, indeed, nothing about which we had to be in the least ashamed; but we certainly did not at first interpret that comet’s character aright. It was in the autumn of 1882 that observers in the southern hemisphere recognized a splendid comet rapidly nearing the sun. In the northern hemisphere the comet was independently observed under unique conditions. It was caught by chance in the field of view of a fine telescope with which Mr. Common, of Ealing, England, was- sweeping the skies in the sun’s neighborhood. This was strange enough; in fact, it was a circumstance which had never before occurred, that a comet should be detected in the daytime; and that this should happen in a region quite close to the sun made the circumstances still stran-er. But this was not all. The renok astronomer, M. Tollon, at Nice, studied the comet with the spectroscope; he actually determined what the comet was made of before any human eye, unaided by telescope power, had ever seen it. Carbon was there, and sodium— that almost ubiquitious element, whose spectral bright lines you can see with a pocket spectroscope in the flame of a burning spill or wood-chip. And there and then, for the first time in the history of science, did M. Thollon, by observing the lines of sodium in that in-visibl) comet’s light, ascertain that the comet was so moving as to be retreating from the earth; besides, of course, the thwart motion, by which its place in the star sphere was changing. This was what hurt astronomer Boyal of Scotland —our trouble was to come later. The comet, then very near the sun, was retreating both from the earth and sun. Now if it had but beenthe suggested manner.And at first it seemed likely enough that that comet would return very quickly indeed, though I think few astronomers feared (or hoped?) that its return in snoh sort would be fraught with any mischief except to itself. It was found to be following almost exactly the same track in the sun’s neighborhood as the comet of 1880 had traversed, which comet, again had followed almost the same track in the sun’s neighborhood asthe comet of 1843. (Here some reader may perhaps ask, Why speak of the sun's neighborhood so specially?) The fact is that two paths may be very similar in the sun's neighborhood and very unlike at a distance from the sun. To give an idea of possibilities in this direction, I may note that supposing a comet, pursuing a long oval track very closely at one partof the sun, had its velocity, whennearest the sun, increased or diminished by only a mile per second—a mere nothing compared with the actual velocity of 350 or360 miles per second at that placesk ‘approaching the sun, the pyramid oohecv of the world’s end, or ofihylde mpre iindeed Euro sneered at Enweeni£?:msny British bayonets prod-ier,'tben Prof. Sniyth discov-nSver before had quiteprophecy some great change, in 1882, might have been fulfilled. The rate of inrush on the sun would not have been less than 380 miles per second; the comet itself and its train of meteoric attendants (not its tail, be it noticed) would constitute a considerable amount of matter rushing with that tremedous velocity upon the sun; his heat and light could not but be greatly increased by the inflow of meteoric matter at that rate; outburating into intense splendor and most fervid heat, even though it were but for a few weeks or days, the sun would have destroyed all life, at any rate all the higher forms of life, from off the face of the earth. Some such tremendous catastrophe may be supposed to have followed the great oufcblaze of light and heat in the star which suddenly appeared in the Northern Crown in May, 1866; for that remote sun shone for a few days with eight hundred times its former and present lustre., If, as seems likely, its heat was increased in the equal degree, then any inhabited worlds circling around it would certainly have had all life, animal and vegetable, scorched from their heated surface. But alas! Prof. Smyth was not to be thus blessed. The comet had passed clear of the sun and was now rapidly retreating; the sun and the solar system had escaped that time, at any rate; all that was to be hoped by the faiths ful believers in the pyramid’s prophetic powers was that the comet might soon come back again, and making a better shot at the •un, might work destruction afterthe part of the future track lying near the sun would scarcely be altered at all, while the remote part of the comet’s path would be shifted many millions (nay, it might be shifted many hundreds of millions of miles). Now, the resemblances thus observed were regarded as quite too great to be attributed to chance coincidence. The arrival of the comet of 1882 on that same track, while adding to the strangeness of the affair, made it even less likely than it had been held in 1880 that the coincidence of tracks was accidental. Moreover, looking back over the records of former comets, astronomers found that in 1668 a comet had traversed that same track in the sun’s neighborhood. It seemed reasonable to infer that these four comets were in reality one and the same body, which had returned these several timeB, and perhaps several other times, between 1668 and 1843 (escaping unnoticed, as it very well might).Then arose the idea that possibly the comet of 1668 had returned in 1843, after a circuit lasting 175 years; that it had then been bo far checked in its motion when close to the sun that it had traversed a much smaller circuit, coming back in 1880 after thirty-seven years; and that being then still further impeded, its next circuit was so reduced as to be traversed in only two and one-half years. If this were the correct interpretation of the close resemblance between the tracks of these four comets close by the suu, it would follow that the next circuit would be traversed in a yet shorter time, the next in a shorter time still, and so on, until in a few months the comet would be circling around the very surface of the sun itself, and presently come to a glorious end—Absorbed In never-erdlag splendor On the breast of the great central .sun.Mr. Hind, the superintendent of the English Nautical Almanac, and other excellent mathematicians were with me in the mistaken idea that this probably was th^ interpretation of the resemblance between these comets’ paths, and this, therefore, the future fate of the comet. We were mistaken (as will happen with all who strive to account for perplexing phenomena) and again we were not mistaken. We were right in asserting that the four comets are demonstrably associated—in other words, that the resemblance between their paths is not accidental. We wereright in asserting that if the fourcomets were one there coulct be but one end to that comet’s career.I think we were right in regarding that as the most probable explanation of the association between those comets. But it turned out not to be the correct explanation, for the comet of 1882 passed awayon a track so favorably situated for observation that the orbit and period of the comet could bo very satisfactorily determined; and it waB proved that that comet will not return in a few years, nor, indeed, in many hundreds of years, This forces on ub another explanation, perhaps of even more interesting nature. It seems likely now that these four comets are portions of a much larger comet, whioh broke up uuder solar influences, even as Bela’s comet broke up in 1846, the portions returning at different times. This being so, there may be other portions still to return. . It may well be thatsome of ftthese will graze the sun’s surface even more closely than thecomets of 1843,1880 and 1882* Ifso, we might have an opportunity of studying the phenomena resulting when a comet strikes the sun. But it is unlikely that any harmcould thence arise for our earth. As I wrote in 1880, before the last return had confirmed this inter-tation of the matter, “If the comet ever was a dangerous one, owing to the concentration of its meteoric components, it is not so now. If it really has been effectively checked in its career, it is evident such interruption cau take place without harming us, and therefore the final throes of the comet need not trouble us in the least. Probably the end of the comet’s career will take place in such a way that J terrestrial astronomers will never know of the event.”Thertf is no apparent danger of the world’s end beiDg brought about by a comet. During the last 10,000,000 years no comet has come with such mischief in its train that our earth bears any record of the evil effects; and there is no reason for supposing that next 10,000,000 of years will be more troubled than the last.The only other danger which has ever been suggested as threatening the earth From without, is that whioh “Professor” Grimmer theatened from the planetary perihelia. He announced that because the four giant planets would pass their points of nearest approach to the suu between 1880 and 1886, something very terrible would happen, if the world did not even come to an end. The idea is utterly absurd, as I may some day have occasion to more particularly explain. Yet I have heard many say that the cyclones and storms, the floods and the earthquakes, which occurred in the years 1880-1885, prove Grimmer to have been a,true prophet. Aha! we had storms and cataclysms before that time, and we are having them now though that time is passed. A prophet who predicts troubles in that vague way is bound to be justified by the event. Send ub a prophet instead who tells us of five years without storms and floods and earthquakes; if the event confirms such a prophet as that, then—why then men may begin to be looking out for the world’s end.