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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/246

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sion that the carbonic acid must have been derived from an external source.

It appears to me that the theory here advocated furnishes a feasible solution of this geological difficulty. Our earth being situated in the outflowing current of the solar products of combustion, or, as it were, in the solar chimney, would be fed from day to day with its quota of carbonic acid, of which our local atmosphere would assimilate as much as would be necessary to maintain it in a carbonic-acid vapor density balancing that of the solar current; we should thus receive our daily supply of this important constituent (with the regularity of fresh rolls for breakfast), which, according to an investigation by M. Reiset, communicated to the French Academy of Sciences by M. Dumas on the 6th of March last, amounts to the constant factor of one ten-thousandth part of our atmosphere. The aqueous vapor in the air would be similarly maintained as to its density, and its influx to, or reflux from, our atmosphere would be determined by the surface temperature of our earth.

It is also important to show how the phenomena of comets could be harmonized with the views here advocated, and I venture to hope that these occasional visitors will serve to furnish us with positive evidence in my favor. Astronomical physicists tell us that the nucleus of a comet consists of an aggregation of stones similar to meteorites. Adopting this view, and assuming that the stones have absorbed in stellar space gases to the amount of six times their volume, taken at atmospheric pressure, what, it may be asked, will be the effect of such a divided mass advancing toward the sun at a velocity reaching in perihelion the prodigious rate of 366 miles per second (as observed in the comet of 1845), being twenty-three times our orbital rate of motion? It appears evident that the entry of such a mass into a comparatively dense atmosphere must be accompanied by a rise of temperature by frictional resistance, aided by attractive condensation. At a certain point the increase of temperature must cause ignition, and the heat thus produced must drive out the occluded gases, which in an atmosphere 3,000 times less dense than that of our earth would produce 6 x 3,000 18,000 times the volume of the stones themselves. These gases would issue forth in all directions, but would remain un-observed except in that of motion, in which they would meet the interplanetary atmosphere with the compound velocity, and form a zone of intense combustion, such as Dr. Huggins has lately observed to surround the one side of the nucleus, evidently the side of forward motion. The nucleus would thus emit original light, whereas the tail may be supposed to consist of stellar dust rendered luminous by reflex action produced by the light of the sun and comet combined, as fore-shadowed already by Tyndall, Tait, and others, starting each from different assumptions.

Although I can not pretend to an intimate acquaintance with the