Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/854

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834

THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

time the character and changes of the weather, and aid, rather, by careful and honest tabulation of meteorological phenomena, in advancing a science whose foundations have already been laid by men of genius, and which in conjunction with the telegraph is furnishing its timely aid to agriculture and navigation. By means of advanced, systematic research into the laws governing the movements of storms, wind, and air-currents, it enables voyages to be made under increased security and rapidity—furnishing information of incalculable value to the navigator.

From the above review of the astrological belief in destiny and weather, let us again revert to our original question: What significance, then, do the present astronomical rules in the calendar possess, and what is the problem therewith associated in popular astronomical instruction? The reckoning of time has almost wholly emancipated itself from astronomical observations. If we simply continue to reckon the days according to our present arrangement of the year, calling each fourth year a leap-year of 366 days, and assign to each hundredth year 365 days—although it ought to be a leap-year, according to the four-year cycle—and again to each four hundredth year 366 days, we shall be certain to remain for thousands of years in such agreement with the sun that we do not need to concern ourselves in the least in the times of his revolution and positions in the heavens. In fact, the calendar is so perfectly arranged and independent in itself that it requires no special assistance from astronomers. The statements regarding the position of the moon in the zodiac and the situations of the planets, and even the exact times of the moon's changes (if we except the significance of these latter respecting the ebb and flow of the tide), no longer possess any value in daily life if we are free from astrological superstition.

Still, there is a persistent clinging to these ideas, and when, some years ago, the Berlin "Astronomical Year-Book" pointed out the insignificance of the moon's influence on the weather, many protests were received from almanac publishers, especially in Poland and Hungary.

Although, as above stated, the popular calendar has become less and less dependent upon astronomy, yet there is evinced an increased interest among people in the yearly astronomical communications. The dependence of ideas and arrangements on the heavenly phenomena is less, but the desire for an understanding and observation of them is much greater. The prediction of eclipses in the almanac might also be omitted but for the probable danger which would arise from sudden frightening of the people; they can not, however, be well omitted, since every one is desirous of observing at the appointed time the more or less remarkable effects of the phenomena, and of bearing a share in testing the accuracy of the times of prediction.

Moreover, life is constantly demanding greater precision, especially