Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/495

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477
THE MOON AND THE WEATHER.

weather phenomena exists? And, finally, the "changes" of the moon are not exclusively confined to England, nor to any one country. The new moon waxes into the full moon simultaneously all the world over. Moreover, the "change" takes place simultaneously all the world over. Consequently, when the change occurs between 12 and 2 p. m., it means that the weather will be "very rainy" in every part of the earth where summer is, while "snow" must prevail wherever the conditions are such as to make rain impossible; and what becomes of those local variations which are the experiences of everybody who has traveled twenty miles upon the terrestrial globe? Predictions founded upon this preposterous weather table are not one whit more worthy of serious attention than those contained in Zadkiel's Almanac; but, while the latter are admittedly addressed only to the grossly ignorant and credulous, the table unfortunately retains its character of respectability unimpaired.

As an example of elaborate nonsense, I know of nothing better than a table "showing the probabilities of a change of weather at or after each of the moon's situations throughout an entire revolution in her orbit," which received the honor of recognition and approval in a cyclopædia of not very ancient date. The table names the moon's ten "situations "(conjunction, opposition, first quarter, third quarter, perigee, apogee, ascending equinox, descending equinox, northern lunistice, and southern lunistice), and opposite each gives the "chances that the weather will change" with the most exquisite exactitude. Thus, there are six chances to one that a change will take place about new moon, but only five to two in favor of a change about the full. At the time of the northern lunistice the chances are eleven to four, at the southern three to one (note the minute difference). Unlike Herschel's table, this one has reference to a lunar "influence" which depends for its intensity, as any physical influence necessarily would do, upon the nearness or distance of its source, and also upon the position of that source relative to the sun, which may be regarded as the seat of an opposing or antagonistic influence. This is all quite rational, and is well calculated to impress the unscientific mind, while the exquisite precision with which the probabilities are stated, greatly enhances the effect. But what is the outcome of it? Taking the ten specified points in each lunation, and calling a lunation, roughly, thirty days, and then averaging the "probabilities," we discover that this table, which looks for all the world as if it might be the condensed result of years of observation and much laborious calculation, merely expresses (or, more properly speaking, conceals) the simple fact, that in every three days there are about three chances to one that the weather will undergo a change!—which, so far as this country is concerned, is only too true.

"If Christmas comes during a waxing moon we shall have a very good year; and the nearer to the new moon the better. But if, during