Lo!, by Charles Fort, , at sacred-texts.com
According to appearances, this earth is a central body, within a revolving, starry globe.
But am I going to judge by appearances?
But everything of the opposing doctrine is judgment by other appearances. Everybody who argues against judging by appearances bases his argument upon other appearances. Monistically, it can be shown that everybody who argues against anything bases his argument upon some degree or aspect of whatever he opposes. Everybody who is attacking something is sailing on a windmill, while denouncing merry-go-rounds.
"You can't judge by appearances," say the astronomers. "Sun and stars seem to go around this earth, but they are like a field that seems to go past a train, whereas it is the train that is passing the field." Judging by this appearance, they say that we cannot judge by appearances.
Our judgments must depend upon evidence, the scientists tell us.
Let somebody smell, hear, taste, see, and feel something that is unknown to me, and then tell me about it. Like everybody else, I listen politely, if he's not too long about it, and then instinctively consult my preconceptions, before deciding whether all this is evidence. An opinion is a matter of evidence, but evidence is a matter of opinion.
We can depend upon intuition, says Bergson.
I could give some woebegone accounts of what has befallen me, by depending upon intuitions, whether called "hunches," or "transcendental consciousness"; but similar experiences have befallen everybody else. There would have been what I call good sport, if Bergson had appeared upon the floor of the Stock Exchange, and preached his doctrine, in October, 1929.
We have only faith to guide us, say the theologians.
It is my acceptance that what we call evidence, and whatever we think we mean by intuition and faith are the phenomena of eras, and that the best of minds, or minds best in rapport with the dominant motif of an era, have intuition and faith and belief that depend upon what is called evidence, relatively to pagan gods, then to the god of the Christians, and then to godlessness—and then to whatever is coming next.
We shall have data for thinking that our existence, as a whole, is an organism. First we shall argue that it is a thinkable-sized formation, whether organic, or not. If now, affairs upon this earth be fluttering upon the edge of a new era, and I give expression to coming thoughts of that era, thousands of other minds are changing, and all of us will take on new thoughts concordantly, and see, as important evidence, piffle of the past.
Even in orthodox speculations there are more or less satisfactory grounds for thinking that ours is an existence, perhaps one of countless other existences, that is an egg-like formation, shelled away from the rest of the cosmos. Many astronomers have noted that the Milky Way is a broad band in the sky, with the look of a streak around a globular object. For conventional reasons for thinking that the "solar system" is central in "a mighty cluster of stars," see Dolmage, Astronomy, p. 327. Dolmage even speculates upon a limiting demarcation which is akin to the notion of a shell, shutting off this existence from everything else.
Back in the pessimistic times of Sir Isaac Newton was formulated the explanation of existence in general that is our opposition. It was the melancholy doctrine of universal fall. It was in agreement with the theology of the time: fallen angels, the fall of mankind: so falling planets, falling moons, everything falling. The germ of this despair was the supposed fall of the moon, not to, but around, this earth. But if the moon is falling away from observers upon one part of this earth's surface, it is rising in the sky, relatively to other observers. If something is quite as truly rising as it is falling, only minds that belong away back in times when everything was supposed to be falling, can be satisfied with this yarn of the rising moon
that is falling. Sir Isaac Newton looked at the falling moon, and explained all things in terms of attraction. It would be just as logical to look at the rising moon, and explain all things in terms of repulsion. It would be more widely logical to cancel falls with rises, and explain that there is nothing.
I think of this earth as central, and as almost stationary, and with the stars in a shell, revolving around. By so thinking, I have the concept of an object, and the visualization of an existence as a whole. But the trouble with this idea is that it is reasonable. Not absolutely can it be said that human minds reason according to reasonableness. There is the love of the paradox to consider. We are in agreement with observations, but peasants, or clodhoppers, think as we think. We offer no paradox to make one feel superior to somebody who hops from clod to clod.
What is the test? Of course, if there are no standards, all tests must be fakes. But if we have an appearance of reasonableness, and if the other side says that it is reasonable, how choose?
We read over and over that prediction is the test of science.
The astronomers can predict the movements of some of the parts of what they call the solar system.
But so far are they from a comprehensive grasp upon the system as a whole that, if, for a basis of their calculations, be taken that this earth is stationary, and that the sun and the planets, and the stars in a shell, move around this earth, the same motions of heavenly bodies can be foretold. Take for a base that the earth moves around the sun, or take that the sun moves around the earth: upon either base the astronomers can predict an eclipse, and enjoy renown and prestige, as if they knew what they were telling about. Either way there are inaccuracies.
Our opposition is ancient and at least uppish.
Prof. Todd, in his book, Stars and Telescopes, says: "Astronomy may be styled a very aristocrat among the sciences."
For similar descriptions, by implication, of themselves, by themselves, see all other books by astronomers.
There are aristocratic human beings. I'll not contend otherwise. There are aristocratic dogs, and all cats, except for relapses, are aristocrats. There are aristocratic goldfish. In whatever is bred, is the
tendency to aristocraticize. Porcupines, as the untouchable and the stupid, are verier aristocrats than the merely very. The aristocratic state is supposed to be the serene, the safe, and the established. It is unintelligent, because intelligence is only a means of making adaptations, and the aristocratic is the made. If this state of the relatively established and stupid were the really, or finally, established and stupid, we'd see good reason for the strivings and admirations and imitations of strugglers, climbers, or newcomers to stabilize themselves into stupors. But, in phenomenal being, the aristocratic, or the academic, is, though thought of as the arrived, only a poise between the arriving and the departing. When far-advanced it is the dying. Wherein it is a goal, our existence is, though only locally, suicidal. The literature of the academic ends with the obituary. Prof. Todd's self-congratulation is my accusation.
But there is only relative aristocracy. If I can show that, relatively to a viewpoint, other than the astronomers’ own way of adoring themselves, the supposed science of astronomy is only a composition of yarns, evasions, myths, errors, disagreements, boasts, superstitions, guesses, and bamboozlements, I am spreading the good cheer that it is still very faulty and intellectual and still alive, and may be able to adjust, and keep on exciting its exponents with admiration for themselves.
We shall see what mathematical astronomy is said to start with. If we can't accept that it ever fairly started, we'll not delay much with any notion that it could get anywhere.
The early mathematical astronomers, in their calculations upon moving bodies, could not treat of weights, because these inconstancies are relative; nor of sizes, because sizes are relative and variable. But they were able to say that they had solved their problem of how to begin, because nobody else interfered and asked whether they had or not. They gave up weight and size and said that their treatment was of mass.
If there were ultimate particles of matter, one could think of mass as meaning a certain number of those things. When atoms were believed in, as finals, an astronomer could pretend that he knew what he meant by a quantity of matter, or mass. Then, with electrons, he could more or less seriously keep on pretending. But
now the sub-electron is talked of. And, in turn, what is that composed of? Perhaps the pretensions can stretch, but there is too much strain to the seriousness. If nobody knows what constitutes a quantity of matter, the astronomer has no idea of what he means by mass. His is a science of masses.
But it may be said that, even though he has not the remotest idea of what he is calculating about, the astronomers’ calculations work out, just the same.
There was the mass of Mars, once upon a time, for instance: or the "known" unknowables constituting the planet. Once upon a time, the mass of Mars was said to be known. Why shouldn't it be said to be known? The equations were said to work out, as they should work out.
In the year 1877, two satellites of the planet Mars were discovered. But their distances and their periods were not what they should be, theoretically. So then everything that had worked out so satisfactorily as it should work out, turned out to have worked out as it shouldn't have worked out. A new mass had to be assigned to the planet Mars.
Now that works out as it should work out.
But I think that it is cannier not to have things so marvelously work out, as they should work out, and to have an eye for something that may come along and show that they had worked out as they shouldn't have worked out. For data upon these work-outs, see Todd, Astronomy, p. 78.
It would seem that the mistake by the astronomers is in thinking that, in a relative existence, there could be more than relative mass, if the idea of mass could be considered as meaning anything. But it is more of a dodge than a mistake. It is just relativity that the astronomers have tried to dodge, with a pseudo-concept of a constant, or a final. Instead of science, this is metaphysics. It is the childish attempt to find the absolutely dependable in a flux, or an intellectually not very far-advanced attempt to find the absolute in the relative. The concept of mass is a borrowing from the theologians, who are in no position to lend anything. The theologians could not confidently treat of human characters, personalities, dispositions, temperaments, nor intellects, all of which are shifts: so
they said that they conceived of finals, or unchangeables, which they called "souls." If economists and psychologists and sociologists should disregard all that is of hopes and fears and wants and other changes of human nature, and take "souls" for their units, they would have sciences as aristocratic and sterile as the science of astronomy, which is concerned with souls, under the name of masses. A final, or unchangeable, must be thought of as a state of unrelatedness. Anything that is reacting with something else must be thought of as being in a state of change. So when an astronomer formulates, or says he formulates, the effects of one mass, or one planet, as a mass, upon another, his meaningless statement might as well be that the subject of his equations is the relations of unrelatedness.
Starting with nothing thinkable to think about, if constants, or finals, are unknown in human experience, and are unrepresentable in human thought, the first and the simplest of the astronomers’ triumphs, as they tell it, is the Problem of the Two Masses.
This simplest of the problems of celestial mechanics is simply a fiction. When Biela's comet split, the two masses did not revolve around a common center of gravity. Other comets have broken into parts that did not so revolve. They have been no more subject to other attractions than have been this earth and its moon. The theorem is Sunday School Science. It is a mathematician's story of what bodies in space ought to do. In the textbooks, it is said that the star Sirius and a companion star exemplify the theorem, but this is another yarn. If this star has moved, it has not moved as it was calculated to move. It exemplifies nothing but the inaccuracies of the textbooks. It is by means of their inaccuracies that they have worked up a reputation for exactness.
Often in his book, an astronomer will sketchily take up a subject, and then drop it, saying that it is too complex, but that it can be mathematically demonstrated. The reader, who is a good deal of a dodger, himself, relieved at not having to go into complexities, takes this lazily and faithfully. It is bamboozlement. There are many of us, nowadays, who have impressions of what mathematicians can do to, or with, statistics. To say that something can be mathematically demonstrated has no more meaning than to say
of something else that it can be politically demonstrated. During any campaign, read newspapers on both sides, and see that anything can be politically demonstrated. Just so it can be mathematically shown that twice two are four, and it can be mathematically shown that two can never become four. Let somebody have two of arithmetic's favorite fruit, or two apples, and undertake to add two more to them. Although he will have no trouble in doing this, it can be mathematically shown to be impossible. Or that, according to Zeno's paradoxes, nothing can be carried over intervening space and added to something else. Instead of ending up skeptically about mathematics, here am I upholding that it can prove anything.
We are told in the textbooks, or the tracts, as I regard these propagandist writings of Sunday School Science, that by parallax, or annual displacement of stars, relatively to other stars, the motion of this earth around the sun has been instrumentally determined. Mostly, these displacements are about the apparent size of a fifty cent piece, held up by someone in New York City, as seen by somebody in Saratoga. This is much refinement. We ask these ethereal ones—where is their excuse, if they get an eclipse wrong by a millionth of an inch, or a millionth of a second?
We look up this boast.
We find that the disagreements are so great that some astronomers have reported what is called negative parallax, or supposed displacement of stars, the wrong way, according to theory. See Newcomb, The Stars, p. 152. See the English Mechanic, 114-100, 112. We are out to show that astronomers themselves do not believe parallactic determinations, but believe those that they want to believe. Newcomb says that he does not believe these determinations that are against what he wants to believe.
Spectroscopic determinations are determined by whatever the spectroscopists want to determine. If one thinks not, let one look up the "determinations" by astronomers who were for and against Einstein. Grebe and Bachem, at Bonn, found shifts of spectral lines in Einstein's favor. They were for Einstein. St. John, at the Mt. Wilson Observatory, found the testimony of the spectroscope not in Einstein's favor. He was against Einstein. The spectroscope is
said to be against us. But, if we had a spectroscope of our own, it would be for us.
In The Earth and the Stars, Abbot says that the spectroscope "seems to indicate" that variable stars, known as the Cepheid Variables, are double stars. But he says: "The distance between the supposed pairs turns out to be impossibly small." When a spectroscopic determination is not what it should be, it only "seems to indicate."
The camera is another of the images in astronomical idolatry. I note that bamboozlements that have played out everywhere else, still hold good in astronomy. Spirit photographs fall flat. At the movies, if we see somebody capering seemingly near an edge of a roof, we do not think that he had been photographed anywhere near an edge of a roof. Nevertheless, even in such a religious matter as photography in astronomy, a camera tells what it should tell, or the astronomers will not believe it.
If the astronomers would fight more among themselves, more would come out. How can I be a pacifist, just so long as .I am trying to educate myself? Much comes out, war times. Considerable came out, in astronomical matters, during the Mars controversy. Everything that was determined by Lowell, with his spectroscope, and his camera, and his telescope, as an indication of the existence of life upon the planet Mars, was determined by Campbell, with his spectroscope, and his camera, and his telescope, to be not so. The question is not what an instrument determines. The question is—whose instrument? All the astronomers in the world may be against our notions, but most of their superiority is in their more expensive ways of deceiving themselves.
Foucault's experiment, or the supposed demonstration with the pendulum, is supposed to show that this earth rotates daily. If a pendulum does—at least for a while—swing somewhat nearly in a constant line, though changing relatively to environment, and if we think that neither religiously, nor accidentally, has it received some helpful little pushes, we accept that here there may be indication of an annual, and not daily, rotation of this earth. That would account for the annual shift, and not the daily shift, of the stars. I don't know that I accept this, but I have no opposing prejudice.
[paragraph continues] When I write of this earth as "almost stationary," as I have to regard it, if I think of it as surrounded by a starry shell that is not vastly far away, I mean that relatively to the tremendous velocities of conventionality. But this alleged experiment has never been more than part of an experiment. I quote from one of the latest textbooks, Astronomy, by Prof. John C. Duncan, published in 1926. We are told that a pendulum, if undisturbed, swings for "several hours," in "very nearly" the same plane. Farther along we read that, in the latitude of Paris, where Foucault made his experiment, the time for a complete demonstration is 32 hours. Prof. Duncan makes no comment, but it is the reader's own fault if he reads in these statements that the swing of a pendulum, through more than part of an experiment, and in more than "very nearly" the same plane, ever has demonstrated the daily rotation of this earth..
In the textbooks, which are pretty good reading for contrary persons like ourselves, it is said that the circumstance that this earth is approximately an oblate spheroid indicates the rapid rotation of this earth. But our negative principle is that nothing exclusively indicates anything. It does not matter what an astronomer, or anybody else says to support any statement, the support must be a myth. Even if I could accept that the astronomers are right, I could not accept that they can demonstrate that they're right. So we hunt around for opposing data, knowing that they must be findable somewhere. We come upon the shape of the sun. The sun rotates rapidly, but the sun is not an oblate spheroid: if there be any departure from sphericity, the sun is a prolate spheroid. Or we argue that oblateness may be an indication that in early, formative times this earth rotated rapidly, but that now this earth could be oblate and almost stationary. It may be another instance of my many credulities, but here I am accepting that this roundish, or perhaps pear-shaped, earth is flattened at the poles, as it is said to be.
Astronomers cite relative numerousness of meteors, as indication of this earth's motion in an orbit. Prof. Duncan (Astronomy, p. 262) says that meteors seen after midnight are about twice as numerous as are those that are seen before midnight. "This is because, in the latter half of the night, we are riding on the front side of the Earth, as it moves along its orbit, and receives meteors from all
directions, whereas in the earlier half we see none of those which the Earth meets 'head on.'"
There is no use comparing little sparks of meteors, seen at different times of night, because of course soon after midnight more of these little things are likely to be seen than earlier in the evening, in lingering twilight. Here, Prof. Duncan's statement is that when meteors can be seen morely, more meteors can be seen. That is wisdom that we shall not defile.
In the records of great meteors that were seen in England, in the year 1926—see Nature, Observatory, English Mechanic—eighteen were seen before midnight, and not one was seen after midnight. All other records that I know of are against this alleged indication that this earth moves in an orbit. For instance, see the catalogue of meteors and meteorites published in the Rept. Brit. Assoc. Ad. Sci., 1860. See page 18. 51 after midnight (from midnight to noon); 146 before midnight (noon to midnight). I have records of my own, for 125 years, in which the preponderance of early meteors is so great that, if there were any sense to this alleged indication, it would mean that this earth is running backward, or going around the way it shouldn't. Of course I note that great meteors are more likely to be reported before midnight, because, though many persons are out after midnight, mostly they're not out reporting meteors. But Prof. Duncan has made a statement, which depends upon records, and I am checking it up, according to records. Year 1925, for instance—meteors of France and England—14 before midnight: 3 after midnight. This record, as I have it, is not complete, but I will hold out for the proportionality. Most of the great meteors of 1930 were seen before midnight.
Whatever becomes of Prof. Duncan's statement, I'll make one, myself, and that is that, if nobody looks up, or checks up, what the astronomers tell us, they are free to tell us anything that they want to tell us. Their system is a slippery imposition of evasions that cannot be checked up, or that, for various reasons, mostly are not checked up. But at least once there was a big check up.
The 24th of January, 1925—excitement in New York City.
It was such as, in all foreign countries, is supposed to arise in
[paragraph continues] America only when somebody finds out a new way of making dollars.
It was the morning of the eclipse of the sun, total over a part of New York City.
Open spaces in Central Park were crowded down to a line, as exactly as possible at 83rd Street. Up in the air were planes full of observers. Coogan's Bluff was lively with scientific gab. Hospitals were arranging that patients should see the eclipse. There was scarcely a dollar in it, and this account will be believed, in England and France, no more than will most of our other accounts. At the Fifth Avenue Police Court, Magistrate Dale adjourned court, and went, with lawyers and cops and persons out on bail to the roof. In Brooklyn, the Chamber of Commerce dropped all matters of exports and imports and went to the roof. I don't suppose everybody was looking. I can't accept homogeneity. There were probably some contrary ones who went down into cellars, simply because most of their neighbors were up on roofs. But the New York Telephone Company reported that when the eclipse came, not one call came into one of its offices, for ten minutes. When there are uproars in New York, they are such uproars as have never been heard anywhere else: but I think that most striking in the records of silences is this hush that came for ten minutes upon New York City.
Along the line of 83rd Street, which had been exactly predicted by the astronomers, as the southern limit of the path of totality, and in places north and south, were stationed 149 observers, sent by the New York lighting companies, to report upon light effects. With them were photographers.
At Petropaulovsk, Kamchatka, and at Cachapoyas, Peru, an eclipse is all that it should be, and books by astronomers tell of the minute exactness of the astronomers. But this was in New York City. Coogan's Bluff got into this. There were cops and judges and gunmen on roofs, and the telephones were silent. There were 149 expert observers, who were not astronomers. They had photographers with them.
In time, the astronomers did pretty well. But, hereafter when they tell of their refinements, as with discs several hundred miles
away, I shall think, not of fifty cent pieces, but of Ferris Wheels. Their prediction was wrong by four seconds.
The 149 observers for the lighting companies reported that the astronomers were wrong, in space, by three quarters of a mile.
It was the day of the big check up.
If the sun and the planets compose a system that is enormously remote from everything else in existence, what is it that regularizes the motions, and why does not the mechanism run down? The astronomers say that the planets keep moving, and that a whole system does not run down, because space is empty, and there is "absolutely" nothing to tend to stop the moving bodies. See Abbot, The Earth and the Stars, p. 71. Astronomers say this early in their books. Later, they forget. Later, when something else requires explanation, they tell a different story. They explain the zodiacal light in terms of enormous quantities of matter in space. In their chapters upon meteors, they tell of millions of tons of meteoric dusts that fall from space to this earth, every year. Abbot says that space is "absolutely" empty. Ball, for instance, explains the shortening of the orbit of Encke's comet as a result of friction with enormous quantities of matter in space. I don't know how satisfactory, except to ourselves, our own expression will be, but compare it with a story of an absolute vacancy that is enormously occupied.
There is a tendency to regularize. Crystals, flowers, and butterflies’ wings. Proportionately as they become civilized, people regularize, or move in orbits. People regularize in eating and sleeping. There are clockwork Romeos and Juliets. Everywhere, where the tendency is not toward irregularization, the tendency is toward regularization. Here's a good specimen of my own wisdom. Something is so, except when it isn't so.
Not in terms of gravitation, but in terms of this tendency to regularize, celestial periodicities may be explained.
Why does not the mechanism of what the astronomers think is a solar system run down?
The astronomers say that this is because it is unresisted by a resisting medium.
Why does not a heart run down? Anyway for a long time?
It is only a part, and, as a part, is sustained by what may be considered a whole. If we think of the so-called solar system, not as a virtually isolated, independent thing, with stars trillions of miles away, but as part of what may be considered an organic whole, within a starry shell, our expression is that it is kept going organically, as the heart of a lesser organism is kept going.
Why does not the astronomers’ own system, or systematized doctrine, run down, or why so slow about it? It is only a part of wider organization, from which it is receiving maintenance in the form of bequests, donations, and funds of various kinds.
Our opposition is a system of antiquated thought, concerned primarily with the unthinkable. It is supported by instruments that are believed when they tell what they should tell. The germ of the system is the fall of the rising moon. Its simplest problem is a fairy-theorem, fit for top-heavy infants, but too fanciful for grownup realists. Its prestige is built upon its predictions. We have noted one of them that was three-quarters of a mile wrong.
Newtonism is no longer satisfactory. There is too much that it cannot explain.
Einsteinism has arisen.
If Einsteinism is not satisfactory, there is room for other notions.
For records of eclipses during which the stars were not displaced, as, according to Einstein, they should be, see indexes of Nature. See vols. 104 and 105. Displacement of spectral lines—see records of astronomers who have disagreed. Perihelion-motion of Mercury's orbit—Einstein calculated without knowing what he was calculating about. Nobody knows what this eccentricity is. See records of the transits of Mercury. Neither Newtonians nor Einsteinites have predicted them right. See the London Times, April 17 and 24, 1923. Here Sir J. Larmor shows that, if Einstein's predictions of light-effects during eclipses were verified, they disproved his theory—that, though Prof. Einstein would be a great mathematician, if in our existence anything could really be anything, relativity is so against him that he is only a relatively great mathematician, and made a bad error in his calculations, having mistakenly doubled certain effects.
Defeat has been unconsciously the quest of all religions, all
philosophies, and all sciences. If they were consciously trying to lose, they would be successes. Their search has been for the Absolute, in terms of which to explain the phenomenal, or for the Absolute to relate to. Supposed to have been found, it has been named Jehovah, or Gravitation, or the Persistence of Force. Prof. Einstein has taken the Velocity of Light, as the Absolute to relate to.
We cannot divorce the idea of reciprocity from the idea of relations, and relating something to the Absolute would be relating the Absolute to something. This is defeating an alleged concept of the Absolute, with the pseudo-idea of the Relative Absolute. The doctrine of Prof. Einstein's is based not upon an absolute finding, but upon a question:
Which is the more graspable interpretation of the Michelson-Morley experiments:
That no motion of this earth in an orbit is indicated, because the velocity of light is absolute;
Or that no motion of this earth in an orbit is indicated, because this earth is stationary?
Unfortunately for my own expressions, I have to ask a third question:
Who, except someone who was out to boost a theory ever has demonstrated that light has any velocity?
Prof. Einstein is a Girondist of the Scientific Revolution. His revolt is against classical mechanics, but his methods and his delusions are as antiquated as what he attacks. But it is my expression that he has functioned. Though his strokes were wobbles, he has shown with his palsies the insecurities of that in Science which has been worshipfully regarded as the Most High.
It is my expression that the dissolution of phenomenal things is as much a matter of internal disorders as the effect of any external force, and that the slump of so many astronomers in favor of Einstein, who has made good in nothing, indicates a state of dissatisfaction that may precede a revolution—or that, if a revolt starts in the Observatories, hosts of irreconcilable observations will be published by the astronomers themselves, cutting down distances of planets and stars enormously. I shall note an observation by an astronomer, such as probably no astronomer, in the past, would
have published. It seems to have been recorded reluctantly, and a conventional explanation was attempted—but it was published.
I take from a clipping, from the Los Angeles Evening Herald, April 28, 1930, which was sent to me by Mr. L. E. Stein, of Los Angeles. In an account of the eclipse of the sun, April 28, 1930, Dr. H. M. Jeffers, staff astronomer of Lick Observatory, says: "We expected the shadow to be but half a mile in width. Instead of that, I think that it was nearer five miles broad." He says: "It may be suggested by others that the broad shadow was cast by astronomical errors due to the moon being closer to the earth than we have placed it in theory. But I don't believe that this broad belt was caused by anything but refraction."
The difference between half a mile and five miles is great. If the prophets of Lick Observatory did not take refraction into consideration, all the rest of their supposed knowledge may be attributable to incompetence. This difference may mean that the moon is not more than a day's journey away from this earth.
In The Earth and the Stars, p. 211, Abbot tells of the spectroscopic determinations, by which the new star in Perseus (Feb. 22, 1901) was "found" to be at a distance of 300 light years from this earth. The news was published in the newspapers. A new star had appeared, about the year 1600, and its light was not seen upon this earth, until Feb. 22, 1901. And the astronomers were able to tell this—that away back, at a moment when Queen Elizabeth—well, whatever she was doing—maybe it wouldn't be any too discreet to inquire into just what she was doing—but the astronomers told that just when Queen Elizabeth was doing whatever she was doing, the heavens were doing a new star. And where am I, comparatively? Where are my poor, little yarns of flows of methylated spirits from ceilings, and "mysterious strangers," and bodies on railroad lines, compared with a yarn of the new star and Queen Elizabeth?
But the good, little star restores my conceit. In the face of all spectroscopes in all Observatories, it shot out nebulous rings that moved at a rate of 2 or 3 seconds of arc a day. If they were 300 light years away, this was a velocity far greater than that of light is said to be. If they were 300 light years away, it was motion at the rate of 220,000 miles a second. There were dogmas that could not
stand this, and the spectroscopic determinations, which were in agreement, were another case of agreements working out, as they shouldn't have worked out. The astronomers had to cut down one of their beloved immensities. Whether as a matter of gallantry, or not, they spread a denial for Queen Elizabeth's reputation to tread upon, saving that from the mud of an inquiry into just what Her Majesty was doing, and substituting unromantic speculations upon what, say, Andrew Jackson was up to.
Abbot's way of explaining the mistake is by attributing the first "pronouncements" to "the roughness of the observations."
All over this earth, astronomers were agreeing in these "determinations." They were refinements until something else appeared and roughened them.
It would seem that, after this fiasco of the readjusted interest in what historical personages were doing, astronomers should have learned something. But, if Prof. Todd is right, in his characterization of them, that is impossible. About twenty years later, this situation, essentially the same in all particulars, repeated. Upon May 27, 1925, a new star was discovered in the southern constellation Pictor. By spectroscopic determination, its distance was "determined" to be 540 light years. See this stated in a bulletin of the Harvard Observatory, November, 1927.
March 27, 1928—the new star split.
When the split was seen, astronomers of the South African Observatory repudiated the gospel of their spectroscopes of three years before. There must have been much roughness, even though there had been three years in which to plane down the splinters. They cut the distance from 540 to 40 light years. If there should be any more reductions like this, there may start a slump of immensities down toward a conception of a thinkable-sized formation of stars. A distance cut down 60 × 60 × 24 × 365 × 500 × 186,000 miles is a pretty good start.
Prof. Einstein, having no means of doing anything of the kind, predicts a displacement of the stars.
Astronomers go out upon an expedition to observe an eclipse, and, not knowing that Einstein has no special means of predicting
anything, they report, presumably because they want so to report, that he is right.
Then eclipse after eclipse—and Einstein is wrong.
But he has cast an ancient system into internal dissensions, and has cast doubts upon antiquities of thought almost as if his pedantic guesses had had better luck.
Whether the time has come, or not, here is something that looks as if it is coming:
An editorial in the New York Sun, Sept. 3, 1930: views of somebody else quoted:
"The public is being played upon and utterly misled by the dreamery of the rival mathematical astronomers and physicists—not to mention the clerics—who are raising the game of notoriety to a fine art; in rivalry to religious mysticism, a scientific pornography is being developed, and attracts the more because it is mysterious."
These are the views of Professor Henry E. Armstrong, emeritus head of the department of chemistry, at City and Guilds College, South Kensington, London.
This is revolt inside. That is what develops into revolution.
Prof. Armstrong's accusation of pornography may seem unduly stimulating: but, judging by their lecheries in other respects, one sees that all that the astronomers have to do is to discover that stars have sex, and they'll have us sneaking to bookstores, for salacious "pronouncements" and "determinations" upon the latest celestial scandals. This would popularize them. And after anything becomes popular—then what?
That the time has come—or is coming—or more of the revolt within—
Or that, if they cannot continue upon their present pretenses of progress, the astronomers must return from their motionless excursions. A generation ago, they told of inconceivable distances of stars. Then they said that they had, a thousand times, multiplied some of these distances: but, if the inconceivable be multiplied any number of times, it is still the same old inconceivability. If, at the unthinkable, thought stops, but if thought must move somewhere, the astronomers, who cannot go on expansively, will, if they do
think, have to think in reductions. If the time has come, there will be a crash in the Observatories, with astronomers in a panic selling short on inconceivabilities.
Upon Sept. 2, 1930, began a meeting of the American Astronomical Society, in Chicago. A paper that was read by Dr. P. Van de Kamp may be a signal for a panic. Said he: "Some of the stars may actually be thousands of light years nearer than astronomy believes them to be."
That—with some extensions—is about what I am saying.
Says the astronomer Leverrier—back in times when an astronomical system is growing up, and is of use in combating an older and decaying orthodoxy, and needs support and prestige—says he—"Look in the sky, and at the point of my calculations, you will find the planet that is perturbing Uranus."
"Lo!" as some of the astronomers say in their books. At a point in the sky that can be said—to anybody who does not inquire into the statements—to be almost exactly the point of Leverrier's calculations, is found the planet Uranus, to which—for all the public knows—can be attributed the perturbations of Uranus.
Up goes the useful renown of the astronomers. Supported by this triumph, they function.
But, if they're only the figments of one of the dream-like developments of our pseudo-existence, they, too, must pass away, and they must go by way of slaughter, or by way of laughter. Considering all their doings, I think that through hilarity would be the fitter exit.
"Look at the sky," we are told that the astronomer Lowell said, "and at the point of my calculations, you will find the planet that is perturbing Neptune."
But this is in the year 1930.
Nevertheless we are told that a planet is found almost exactly at the point of the calculations. The exultations of the astronomers are spreadheaded.
But this is later. The damned thing takes a tack that shows that it could no more have been perturbing Neptune than I, anyway
just at present, could cast a meeting of the National Academy of Sciences into disorder by walking past it.
They must be murdered, or we shall laugh them away. There is always something that can be said in favor of murder, but in the case of the astronomers that would be willful waste of the stuff for laughter. Orthodox astronomers have said that Leverrier used no mathematical method by which he could have determined the position of Neptune. See Lowell's The Evolution of Worlds, p. 124. By way of stuff for the laugh, I mention that one of these disbelieving astronomers was Lowell.
One time, in a mood of depression, I went to the New York Public Library, and feeling a want for a little, light reading, I put in a slip for Lowell's Memoir on a Trans-Neptunian Planet. I got even more amusement than I had expected.
Just where was this point, determined by Lowell, almost exactly in which his planet was found? The spreadheads—the special articles—over and over in the newspapers of the world—"almost exactly."
Says Lowell, page 105: "Precise determination of its place does not seem possible. A general direction alone is predicable."
The stuff for a laugh that is as satisfactory as murder is in the solemn announcements, by the astronomers, about April Fool's Day, 1930, that they had found Lowell's planet almost exactly in the place, precise determination of which does not seem possible
Their chatter over Lowell's magnificent accuracy in pointing in a general direction—
Then the tack of a thing that showed that it could not have been all this indefiniteness, anyway—
265 years, instead of 3,000 years—
And instead of going the thing was coming.
If they can't tell whether something is coming or going, their solemn announcements upon nearness or farness may be equally laughable.
If by mathematical means Adams and Leverrier did not determine the position of the planet Neptune, or if it was, in an opinion that Lowell quotes, "a happy accident," how account for such
happiness, or for this timely and sensational boost to a prestige, if we suspect that it was not altogether an accident?
My expression is that herein I'd typify my idea of organic control which, concealed under human vanity, makes us think that we are doing all things ourselves, gives support to human institutions, when they are timely and are functioning, and then casts its favorites into rout and fiasco, when they have outlived their functioning-period.
If Leverrier really had had powers by which he could have pointed to an unseen planet, that would have been a finality of knowledge that would be support to a prestige that could never be overthrown. Suppose a church had ever been established upon foundations not composed of the stuff of lies and frauds and latent laughter. Let the churchman stand upon other than gibberish and mummery, and there'd be nothing by which to laugh away his despotisms.
Say that, whether it be a notion of organic control, or not, we accept any theory of Growth, or Development, or Evolution—
Then we accept that the solemnest of our existence's phenomena are of a wobbling tissue—rocks of ages that are only hardened muds—or that a lie is the heart of everything sacred—
Because otherwise there could not be Growth, or Development, or Evolution.