Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 1.djvu/27

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17
THE RECENT ECLIPSE OF THE SUN.

that, even less in this class than in other classes, are conclusions to be drawn and action to be taken without prolonged and critical investigation.

Still there will recur the same plea under other forms. "Political conduct must be matter of compromise." "We must adapt our measures to immediate exigencies, and cannot be deterred by remote considerations." "The data for forming scientific judgments are not to be had: most of them are unrecorded, and those which are recorded are difficult to find as well as doubtful when found." "Life is too short, and the demands upon our energies too great, to permit any such elaborate study as seems required. We must, therefore, guide ourselves by common-sense as best we may."

And then, behind the more scientifically-minded who give this answer, there are those who hold, tacitly or overtly, that guidance of the kind indicated is not possible, even after any amount of inquiry. They do not believe in any ascertainable order among social phenomena there is no such thing as a social science. This proposition we will discuss in the next chapter.

 
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THE RECENT ECLIPSE OF THE SUN.
By R. A. PROCTOR, B. A., F. R. A. S.

THE eclipse of the sun which took place on December 12th last was looked forward to by astronomers with some anxiety, because many months must pass before they will have any similar opportunity of studying the sun's surroundings. Year after year, for four years in succession, there have been total eclipses of the sun—in each year one—and each eclipse has taught us much that has been worth knowing; but during the present year there will be no total solar eclipse worth observing; there will be none in 1873, only one (and not a very important one) in 1874, while during the total eclipse of 1875 the moon's shadow will traverse a path very inconveniently situated for intending observers.

Besides, the inquiries and discussions of astronomers had reached a very interesting stage before the recent eclipse occurred. A sort of contest—though, of course, a friendly and philosophic contest—had been waged over the sun's corona, the halo or glory which is seen around the black disk of the moon when the sun is totally concealed; and, though, in the opinion of most astronomers, the contest had really been decided by the observations made during the total eclipse of December, 1870, some slight doubts still existed in the minds of a few.