Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 64.djvu/356

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

The first conclusion one is likely to draw from results so contradictory is that the original premise is entirely at fault. Yet within the small area of France 50 well-authenticated meteorite falls have taken place within the last one hundred years. We have no reason to suppose France especially favored of the gods in regard to the number of meteorites which it receives and, as it covers only about one one-thousandth part of the earth's surface, we shall find by reversing the calculations made above that our original figure of 900 a year is fully substantiated. The difficulty will be somewhat explained by a glance at the accompanying map. Tracing upon this the locations of known meteorite falls, we see at once that they are largely confined to the civilized nations, or, with the exception of the Semites of Africa and Arabia, to regions inhabited by the Caucasian race. Of a total of 63i known meteorites, 256 are located in Europe and 177 in the United States. In other words, more than two thirds of the whole number known belong to countries which occupy but about one eighth of the land surface.

We reach then the rather curious conclusion that the ability to observe and record meteorite falls is a mark of civilization, and that the relative civilization of regions equally populated may be judged by the numbers of meteorites known from each. The superiority of civilized peoples in this regard comes probably not so much from their greater ability to observe the fall of a meteorite as from their better facilities for recording such an occurrence and for preserving the stone which has fallen. To an unorganized community, the fall of a meteorite is an isolated occurrence, impressive enough at the time, but so infrequent that in the absence of records or means of communication with other communities, it is lost sight of. Civilized communities with their means of records and museums are able to correlate such occurrences, and in time accumulate important knowledge regarding them. So upon the accompanying map there are depicted not only the places where meteorites have fallen, but the isolation of China, the bleakness of Canada, the impenetrability of South America, the hollowness of Australia and the darkness of Africa. Meteorites known from uncivilized countries should for the most part be credited to travelers from civilized nations.

It would be quite superficial, however, to suppose that the distribution of Caucasian peoples is the only important factor affecting the location of known meteorite falls. There are evidences that other factors, the nature of which can hardly be even suggested as yet, affect the place of fall of meteorites. Thus, there appears upon the accompanying map a tendency of these bodies to flock toward mountainous regions. This is indicated by the large numbers of them occurring in India near the Himalayas, in Europe in the vicinity of the Alps, in the United States about the southern Appalachians, and in the Americas