Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/853

This page has been validated.

most rapidly moving body in the heavens, the moon, was regarded as the most potential ruler of sudden changes.

It was thus always the problem of the calendar-maker, during the middle ages, to prophesy on the basis of observations of celestial influences, and in a lesser degree also upon the weather itself, certain changes in the weather, and the task was nowhere an ungrateful one; for a successful prediction was a foothold for enthusiastic belief in the prophets, and scarcely ever was a failure regarded with much attention.

The belief in the moon's influence upon the weather is still fostered with a tenacity and universality that seem to lend an especial value to specifications in the almanac regarding the so-called "moon's changes." Many have no concern as to the manner in which the "moon's changes" can affect the weather, but follow simply unconsciously the old astrological inclination in ascribing what is doubtful to heavenly influences; others, on the contrary, accept, indeed, without question, the fact of such influence, but construct for themselves a kind of scientific explanation for it.

The moonlight, they say, dissipates the vapors; and, since the moon determines the ebb and flow of the tides, so it causes also an ebb and flow in atmospheric currents, thus affecting the weather. That sounds quite scientific, yet proves nothing. That such an influence is no longer not incontestable, but placed entirely in doubt, careful records are more clearly proving every year.

The Greenwich Observatory, which is especially engaged with observations upon the moon, has recently fully demonstrated, in its observation register of the moon and weather extending over many years, the complete insignificance of the positions and phases of the moon as affecting the condition of the atmosphere; that all so-called "experiences" to the contrary must be regarded as possessing not the slightest value. In fact, such "experience" is a matter peculiar in itself. The human memory of past events is often a very capricious thing, as we have already illustrated in the words of Kepler, and the remembrance of any one who has not learned to systematically collect pure and conclusive "experiences," free from bias and superstition, upon which to base a rational and conscientious judgment, possesses, as a rule, little value. Scientifically arranged facts are also not proof against erroneous conclusions, and it has too often happened that overhasty conclusions in science, which were opposed to the clear views of practical men, have been subsequently destroyed by further scientific inquiry; but in the case now considered the aspect is entirely different. Here the so-called practical men are the visionists, and that pitiful remnant of an ancient false belief now no longer cope with the intrinsic worth, the clear and simple results of coincident measurements and calculations. Let us, therefore, throw into the ruins of astrology all still existing presumption to forecast for any extended