Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/504

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but they would overshoot the mark, and the globe would thus oscillate to and fro. Now, it has been shown that the period of such oscillations in our primitive globe is about an hour and a half, or very close to half the supposed length of the day at that time. The solar tides, however, also have a period half the length of the day. Here, then, we have a case precisely analogous to the fourteen-pound weight I have just experimented on. We have a succession of small impulses given which are timed to harmonize with the natural vibrations. Just as the small timed impulses raised a large vibration in the weight, so the small solar tides on the earth threw the earth into a large vibration. At first these vibrations were small, but at each succeeding impulse the amplitude was augmented until at length the cohesion of the molten matter could no longer resist: a separation took place: one portion consolidated to form our present earth; the other portion consolidated to form the moon.

There is no doubt whatever that the moon was once quite close to the earth; but we have to speculate as to what brought the moon into that position. I have given you what I believe to be the most reasonable explanation, and I commend it to your attention. There are difficulties about it, no doubt: let me glance at one of them.

I can easily imagine an objector to say: "If the moon were merely a fragment torn off, how can we conceive that it should have that beautiful globular form which we now see? Ought not the moon to have rugged corners and an irregular shape? and ought not the earth to show a frightful scar at the spot where so large a portion of its mass was rent off?"

You must remember that in those early times the earth was not the rigid, solid mass on which we now stand. The earth was then so hot as to be partially soft, if not actually molten. If, then, a fragment were detached from the earth, that fragment would be a soft yielding mass. Not for long would that fragment retain an irregular form; the mutual attraction of the particles would draw the mass together. By the same gentle ministrations the wound on the earth would soon be healed. In the lapse of time the earth would become as whole as ever, and at last it would not retain even a scar to testify to the mighty catastrophe.

I am quite sure that, in so large and so cultivated an audience as that which I am now addressing, there are many persons who take a deep interest in the great science of geology. I believe, however, that the geologist who has studied all the text-books in existence might still be unacquainted with the very modern researches which I am attempting to set forth. Yet it seems to me that the geologists must quickly take heed of these researches. They have the most startling and important bearing on the prevailing creeds in geology. One of the principal creeds they absolutely demolish.

I suppose the most-read book that has ever been written on geology