Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/589

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some of the inferences which appear to them to follow from modern scientific theories, but who know well that they would but degrade their cause and themselves (to say nothing of their calling) were they to substitute reviling for rhetoric and railing for reasoning." Then Mr. Proctor quotes such passages from the attack as are fit for publication, and adds: "Nearly three centuries ago there was at least earnestness in the arguments used by priests, and monks, and friars, against the fearful doctrine that the earth goes round the sun. Unwise though their conduct, and unjudging their intolerance, they believed what they taught, and in their day their belief was natural enough. It is encouraging to find that in our day the advance of science is only opposed by the untaught and the foolish; only abused by the ranter and the Jack-Pudding. When we consider how necessary are certain doctrines for the world's welfare—even though hereafter they may have to give place to higher and broader and deeper truths—it is well to see that those who do their best to discredit those doctrines are not now men whose words have any weight, are not even fanatics or bigots, but simply—clowns and charlatans."


The Recent Eclipse of the Sun.—The formal reports of the observations of the solar eclipse of the 6th of May last have not yet been published; but a few preliminary statements respecting them have appeared in the journals. The American, French, and English parties arrived safely and in good time at Caroline Island, and set up their apparatus under generally satisfactory conditions. The day of the eclipse opened rather unfavorably, but the sky cleared before the first contact. The clouds continued, however, to float around, so that the corona was partly hidden during twenty seconds of the first minute of totality, and the phenomenon was wholly obscured after the cessation of totality. As totality, however, lasted for nearly five minutes and a half, good observations of that stage were obtained. The supposed intra-Mercurial planets were sought but not found. Photography does not seem to have given the results that were expected from it; but it is said that proofs were got the combination of which will permit the reconstruction of the entire corona as it was shown at the time. Mr. Hastings, of Baltimore, made some observations on the spectra of the opposite sides of the corona, from which he has drawn the conclusion that the outer portions of it are not real, but are effects of diffraction. This conclusion, "Ciel et Terre," of Brussels, observes, would account for the differences of form which the corona exhibits to different observers, but fails to account for the predominance of coronal light toward the solar equator. M. Janssen observed anew that, besides the spectrum of bright lines, the corona gives a weak continuous spectrum showing some of the principal dark rays of the solar spectrum. This would favor the theory that the light really proceeds from the coronal appendage, and that its exterior is made up of a mass of meteors reflecting the light of the sun—a theory that is already supported by the results of polariscopic analysis. It is also stated that M. Tacchini has observed near the limit of the coronal atmosphere the spectrum of a hydrocarbon similar to that which comets give when they are far from the sun.


Function and Structure.—The French Academy of Medicine recently discussed the question whether an identity of action exists between the living tissues of animals and of men. M. Bechamp denied any similarity, and alleged differences in the properties of the salivas of man and animals, and between the milks of man, the cow, and the goat, in support of his view. The answer to this, as suggested by the "Lancet," is that, in the process of evolution, function precedes structure; hence the legitimate corollary is deduced that the properties of a tissue are more delicate tests of its nature than the structure. It is more than probable, however, that in drawing this conclusion we are swerved by the imperfections of our senses, and that molecular structure goes hand-in-hand with function, and that a change in property is accompanied by a corresponding variation in the arrangement of the constituent atoms of a molecule. Every cell and every molecule has its individual characteristics, and these idiosyncrasies may extend to different individuals of the same species, to different species, and to different genera.