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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 57.djvu/206

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

contains the goal towards which the sun and planets are hastening to-day. Even the speed of this motion has been subjected to measurement, and found to be about ten miles per second.

The objective point and the rate of motion thus stated, exact science holds her peace. Here genuine knowledge stops; and we can proceed further only by the aid of that imagination which men of science need to curb at every moment. But let no one think that the sun will ever reach the so-called apex. To do so would mean cosmic motion upon a straight line, while every consideration of celestial mechanics points to motion upon a curve. When shall we turn sufficiently upon ill at curve to detect its bending? 'Tis a problem we must leave as a rich heritage to later generations that are to follow us. The visionary theorist's notion of a great central sun, controlling our own sun's way in space, must be dismissed as far too daring. But for such a central sun we may substitute a central center of gravity belonging to a great system of which our sun is but an insignificant member. Then we reach a conception that has lost nothing in the grandeur of its simplicity, and is yet in accord with the probabilities of sober mechanical science. We cease to be a lonely world, and stretch out the bonds of a common relationship to yonder stars within the firmament.