To weigh the earth

Popular Books on Natural Science
For Practical Use in Every Household, for Readers of All Classes (English) (as Author)

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Natural philosophers have considered and investigated subjects that often appear to the unscientific man beyond the reach of human intelligence. Among these subjects may be reckoned the question, "How many pounds does the whole earth weigh?"

One would, indeed, believe that this is easy to answer. A person might assign almost any weight, and be perfectly certain that nobody would run after a scale, in order to examine, whether or not an ounce were wanting. Yet this question is by no means a joke, and the answer to it is by no means a guess; on the contrary, both are real scientific results. The question in itself is as important a one, as the answer, which we are able to give, is a correct one.

Knowing the size of our globe, one would think that there was no difficulty in determining its weight. To do this, it would be necessary only to make a little ball of earth that can be accurately weighed; then we could easily calculate how many times the earth is larger than this little ball; and by so doing, we might tell, at one's finger-ends, that—if we suppose the little earth-ball to weigh a hundred-weight—the whole globe, being so many times larger, must weigh so many hundred-weights.

Such a proceeding, however, would be very likely to mislead us. For all depends on the substance the little ball is made of. If made of loose earth, it will weigh little; if stones are taken with it, it will weigh more; while, if metals
were put in, it would, according to the kind of metal you take, weigh still more.

If, then, we wish to determine the weight of our globe by the weight of that little ball, it is first necessary to know of what our globe consists; whether it contains stones, metals, or things entirely unknown; whether empty cavities, or whether, indeed, the whole earth is nothing but a hollow sphere, on the surface of which we live, and in whose inside there is possibly another world that might be reached by boring through the thick shell.

With the exercise of a little thought, it will readily be seen that the question, "How much does our earth weigh?" in reality directs us to the investigation of the character of the earth's contents; this, however, is a question of a scientific nature.

The problem was solved not very long ago. The result obtained was, that the earth weighs 6,069,094,272 billions of tons; that, as a general thing, it consists of a mass a little less heavy than iron; that towards the surface it contains lighter materials; that towards the centre they increase in density; and that, finally, the earth, though containing many cavities near the surface, is itself not a hollow globe.

The way and manner in which they were able to investigate this scientifically, we will attempt now to set forth as plainly and briefly as it can possibly be done.


It is our task to explain, by what means men have succeeded in weighing the earth, and thus become acquainted with the weight of its ingredients.

The means is simpler than might be thought at the moment. The execution, however, is more difficult than one would at first suppose.

Ever since the great discovery of the immortal Newton, it has been known that all celestial bodies attract one another, and that this attraction is the greater, the greater the attracting body is. Not only such celestial bodies as the sun, the earth, the moon, the planets, and the fixed stars, but all bodies have this power of attraction; and it increases in direct proportion to the increase of the mass of the body. In order to make this clear, let us illustrate it by an example. A pound of iron attracts a small body near by; two pounds of iron attract it precisely twice as much; in other words, the greater the weight of an object, the greater the power of attraction it exercises on the objects near by. Hence, if we know the attractive power of a body, we also know its weight. Nay, we would be able to do without scales of any kind in the world, if we were only able to measure accurately the attractive power of every object. This, however, is not possible; for the earth is so large a mass, and has consequently so great an attractive power, that it draws down to itself all objects which we may wish other bodies to attract. If, therefore, we wish to place a small ball in the neighborhood of ever so large an iron-ball, for the purpose of having the little one attracted
by the large one, this little ball will, as soon as we let it go, fall to the earth, because the attractive power of the earth is many, very many times greater than that of the largest iron-ball; so much greater is it, that the attraction of the iron-ball is not even perceptible.

Physical science, however, has taught us to measure the earth's attractive power very accurately, and this by a very simple instrument, viz., a pendulum, such as is used in a clock standing against the wall. If a pendulum in a state of rest—in which it is nearest to the earth—is disturbed, it hastens back to this resting-point with a certain velocity. But because it is started and cannot stop without the application of force, it recedes from the earth on the other side. The earth's attraction in the meanwhile draws it back, making it go the same way over again. Thus it moves to and fro with a velocity which would increase, if the earth's mass were to increase; and decrease, if the earth's mass were to decrease. Since the velocity of a pendulum may be measured very accurately by counting the number of vibrations it makes in a day, we are able also to calculate accurately the attractive power of the earth.

A few moments' consideration will make it clear to everybody, that the precise weight of the earth can be known so soon as an apparatus is contrived, by means of which a pendulum may be attracted by a certain known mass, and thus be made to move to and fro. Let us suppose this mass to be a ball of a hundred pounds, and placed near a pendulum. Then as many times as this ball weighs less than the earth, so many times more slowly will a pendulum be moved by the ball.

It was in this way that the experiment was made and the desired result obtained. But it was not a very easy
undertaking, and we wish, therefore, to give our thinking readers in the next chapter a more minute description of this interesting experiment, with which we shall for the present conclude the subject.


Cavendish, an English physicist, made the first successful attempt to determine the attractive power of large bodies. His first care was, to render the attraction of the earth an inefficient element in his experiment. He did it in the following way:

On the point of an upright needle he laid horizontally a fine steel bar, which could turn to the right and left like the magnetic needle in a compass-box. Then he fastened a small metallic ball on each end of the steel bar. The balls were of the same weight, for this reason the steel bar was attracted by the earth with the same force at both ends; it therefore remained horizontal like the beam of a balance, when the same weight is lying in each of the scales. By this the attractive force of the earth was not suspended, it is true; but it was balanced by the equality of the weights. Thus the earth's attractive power was rendered ineffective for the disturbance of his apparatus.

Next he placed two large and very heavy metallic balls at the ends of the steel bar, not, however, touching them. The attractive force of the large balls began now to tell; it so attracted the small ones that they were drawn quite near to the large balls. When, then, the observer, by a gentle push, removed the small balls from their resting-place, the large ones were seen to draw them back again. But as the latter could not stop if once started, they crossed their resting-point, and began to vibrate near the large balls in the same manner as a pendulum does, when acted upon by
the attractive force of the earth. Of course this force was exceedingly small, compared with that of the earth; and for that reason the vibrations of this pendulum were by far slower than those of a common one. This could not be otherwise; and from the slowness of a vibration, or from the small number of vibrations in a day, Cavendish computed the real weight of the earth.

Such an experiment, however, is always connected with extraordinary difficulties. The least expansion of the bar, or the unequal expansion or contraction of the balls, caused by a change of temperature, would vitiate the result; besides, the experiment must be made in a room surrounded on all sides by masses equal in weight. Moreover, the observer must not be stationed in the immediate neighborhood, lest this might exercise attractive force, and by that a disturbance. Finally, the air around must not be set in motion, lest it might derange the pendulum; and lastly, it is necessary not only to determine the size and weight of the balls, but also to obtain a form spherical to the utmost perfection; and also to take care that the centre of gravity of the balls be at the same time the centre of magnitude.

In order to remove all these difficulties, unusual precautions and extraordinary expenses were necessary. Reich, a naturalist in Freiberg, took infinite pains for the removal of these obstacles. To his observations and computations we owe the result he transmitted to us, viz.: that the mass total of the earth is nearly five and a half times heavier than a ball of water of the same size; or, in scientific language: The mean density of the earth is nearly five and a half times that of water. Thence results the real weight of the earth as being nearly fourteen quintillions of pounds. From this, again, it follows that the matter of the earth grows denser the nearer the centre; consequently it cannot be a hollow sphere.

If we consider, that from the earth's surface to its centre there is a distance of 3,956 miles, and that, with all our excavations, no one has yet penetrated even five miles, we have reason to be proud of investigations which, at least in part, disclose to man the unexplorable depths of the earth.


16 thoughts on “To weigh the earth

  1. Originally posted by Weatherlawyer:

    If, now, one makes the observation with the naked eye, both sparks will be found to stand in a vertical line, one above the other, as the points of a colon, thus (:)

    I loved how this turned out.The book was written over 100 years ago. Thus it is unable to cope with books read on line delivered at the speed of electricity:Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1869, by CHR. SCHMIDT.The introduction is contained in te next cooment, below.

  2. We'd have a hard job taking with us our knowledge into a past date. In a work of fiction the one eyed man is the king of time travel, so to speak.But the limits of the average space hero are that he knows how to pick up a phone, switch on a light and use the TV remote.It doesn't necessarily follow that he can create any of the OEMs he would need to demonstrate the technology.Nor does it imply that any of the people he would meet in another era would be able to make any more sense out of his gifts than we would about a conjouring act or some party side-show.

  3. Talking of which:***PART IV.LIGHT AND DISTANCE.CHAPTER I.SOMETHING ABOUT ILLUMINATION.From time to time we hear of plans to illuminate whole cities by a great light from a single point. The credulity of the newspaper public about affairs belonging to Physics is so great, that we are not surprised if such plans are spoken of as practicable; though, indeed, one needs but cast a glance of reflection on them, to be at once convinced of their impracticability.The impracticability does not consist so much in this, that no such intense light can be made artificially, as in the circumstance that the illuminating power of light decreases enormously as we recede from it.In order to explain this to our readers, let us suppose that on some high point in New York city, say Trinity-church steeple, an intensely brilliant light be placed, as bright as can be produced by gases or electricity. We shall see, presently, how the remoter streets in New York would be illuminated.For the sake of clearness, let us imagine for a moment, that at a square's distance from Trinity church there is a street, intersecting Broadway at right angles. We will call it "A" street. At a square's distance from "A" street let us imagine another street running parallel to it, which we will call "B" street; and again, at a square's distance, a street parallel to "B" street, called "C" street; thus let us imagine seven streets in all—from "A" to "G"—running parallel, each at a square's distance from the other, and intersecting Broadway at right angles. Besides this, let us suppose there is a street called "X" street, running parallel with Broadway and at a square's distance from it; then we shall have seven squares, which are to be illuminated by one great light.It is well known that light decreases in intensity the further we recede from it; but this intensity decreases in a peculiar proportion. In order to understand this proportion we must pause a moment, for it is something not easily comprehended. We hope, however, to present it in such a shape, that the attentive reader will find no difficulty in grasping a great law of nature, which, moreover, is of the greatest moment for a multitude of cases.Physics teach us, by calculation and experiments, the following:If a light illuminates a certain space, its intensity at twice the distance is not twice as feeble, but two times two, equal four times, as feeble. At three times the distance it does not shine three times as feeble, but three times three, that is nine times. In scientific language this is expressed thus: "The intensity of light decreases in the ratio of the square of the distance from its source."Let us now try to apply this to our example.We will take it for granted that the great light on Trinity steeple shines so bright, that one is just able to read these pages at a square's distance, viz., on "A" street.On "B" street it will be much darker than on "A" street; it will be precisely four times darker, because "B" street is twice the distance from Trinity church, and 2 × 2 = 4. Hence, if we wish to read this on "B" street, our letters must cover four times the space they do now."C" street is three times as far from the light as "A" street; hence it will be nine times darker there, for 3 × 3 = 9. This page in order to be readable there, would then have to cover nine times the space it occupies now.The next street, being four times as remote from the light as "A" street, our letters, according to the rule given above, would have to cover sixteen times the present space, for it is sixteen times darker there than on "A" street."E" street, which lies at five times the distance from the light, will be twenty-five times darker, for 5 × 5 = 25. "F" street, which is six times the distance, we shall find thirty-six times darker; and, lastly, "G" street, seven times the distance from the light, will be forty-nine times darker than "A" street, because 7 × 7 = 49. The letters of a piece of writing, in order to be legible there, must cover forty-nine times the surface that our letters cover now.But the reader will exclaim: "This evil can be remedied. We need but place forty-nine lights on Trinity steeple; there will then be sufficient light on "G" street for any newspaper to be read." Our friend will easily perceive, however, that it is more judicious to distribute forty-nine lights in different places on Broadway, than to put them all on one spot.This is sufficient to convince any one that we may be able to illuminate large public places with one light, but not the streets of a city, and still less whole cities.***Little did they know…***The Project Gutenberg eBook, Popular Books on Natural Science, by Aaron David BernsteinThis eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and withalmost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away orre-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License includedwith this eBook or online at http://www.gutenberg.orgTitle: Popular Books on Natural Science For Practical Use in Every Household, for Readers of All ClassesAuthor: Aaron David BernsteinRelease Date: August 27, 2011 [eBook #37224]Language: EnglishCharacter set encoding: ISO-8859-1***START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK POPULAR BOOKS ON NATURAL SCIENCE***E-text prepared by Jonathan Ingram, Anna Hall, and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team ( from page images generously made available by Internet Archive/American Libraries ( Note: Images of the original pages are available through Internet Archive/American Libraries. See Transcriber's note:There is an error in the calculation on page 16. The calculation is left unedited. Inconsistent hyphenation is left as in the original.POPULAR BOOKSONNatural Science.FOR PRACTICAL USE IN EVERY HOUSEHOLD,FOR READERS OF ALL CLASSES.By A. BERNSTEIN.CONTENTS:THE WEIGHT OF THE EARTH—VELOCITY—NUTRITION—LIGHT AND DISTANCE—THE WONDERS OF ASTRONOMY—METEOROLOGY—THE FOOD PROPER FOR MAN.New York: CHR. SCHMIDT, PUBLISHER, 39 CENTRE STREET. Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1869, byCHR. SCHMIDT,In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States, for the Southern District of New York.BERNSTEIN'SPOPULAR TREATISEONNATURAL SCIENCE.

  4. I liked trhis next one. It shows clear genius:***CHAPTER II.HOW CAN THE VELOCITY OF THE ELECTRIC CURRENT BE ASCERTAINED.In order to illustrate, how the velocity of the electric current can actually be measured, we must first introduce the following:Whenever a wire is to be magnetized by an electric machine, at the moment it touches the machine, a bright spark is seen at the end of the wire. The same spark is seen also at the other end of the wire, if touching another apparatus. Let us call the first spark the "entrance-spark," the other the "exit-spark." If a wire, many miles in extent, is put up, and led back to where the beginning of the wire is, both sparks may be seen by the same observer.Now it is evident, that the exit-spark appears after the entrance-spark just as much later, as the time it took the electric current to run from one end of the wire to the other end. But in spite of all efforts made, to see whether the exit-spark actually appears later, the human eye has not been able to detect the difference. The cause of this is partly owing to the long duration of the impression upon the retina, which leads us to the belief, that we see objects much longer than we really do; partly, the immense rapidity with which the exit-spark follows the entrance-spark. From these two causes, we are tempted to believe both sparks to appear at the same moment.By an ingenious and excellent means, however, this defect in our eye has been greatly diminished. It is well worth the trouble to read a description of the experiment attentively. The truly remarkable way in which it was tried, will please all who read it.In order to measure the velocity of the electric current, the ends of a very long wire are placed one above the other. If, now, one makes the observation with the naked eye, both sparks will be found to stand in a vertical line, one above the other, as the points of a colon, thus (:).But he who wishes to measure the velocity of the electrical current does not look upon the sparks with the naked eye, but into a small mirror, which, by a clock-work, is made to revolve upon an upright axis with exceedingly great rapidity. Thus he can see both sparks in the mirror. If the apparatus be a good one, it will be observed that the sparks, as seen by the aid of the mirror, do not stand in a vertical line above one another, but obliquely, thus (.·).Whence does this come?The reason of it is, that after the appearance of the entrance-spark it takes a short time, before the exit-spark appears. During this short time the mirror moves, though but little, and in it the exit-spark is seen as if it had moved aside from the entrance-spark.Hence, it is through the movement of the mirror that the time, which is necessary for electricity to go through the circuit of the wire, is ascertained. A little reflection will readily convince the reader, that the time may be precisely calculated, provided three things be known, viz.: the length of the wire, the velocity of rotation of the mirror, and the angular distance of the two sparks as seen in the mirror. Thus: Suppose the wire to be 1,000 miles long; and suppose the mirror is made to revolve 100,000 times in a second. Now, if the electrical current traversed these 1,000 miles of wire during one revolution of the mirror, then it follows, that the current must move 1,000 miles in the 1/100 part of a second; or, 100,000 miles in a second.[1]It is found, however, that the mirror does not revolve an entire circle, or 360 degrees, while the current is passing over 1,000 miles of wire, but we find that the mirror turns through 144 degrees very nearly; therefore the electric current must travel more than 100,000 miles a second. How much more? Just as many times 100,000 miles, as 144 degrees are contained in 360 degrees (the entire circle), viz., two and a half times. Hence, the current travels 250,000 miles in a second.

  5. This was written by 1869, a few years after FitzRoy died:PART VI.METEOROLOGYCHAPTER I.SOMETHING ABOUT THE WEATHER.We presume that in a state of unusual bad weather there are many persons, who find occasion to reflect on the nature of weather in general.A few years ago, we had "green Christmas and white Easter," and spring was of course far behind when Pentecost arrived. We had still cold and rainy days, while the nights were frosty; and, if one might judge from appearances, it seemed that nature had made a mistake, and had not known of our being then in the month of June, which, with us, is usually a delightful month.The sun alone was right. it rose on the 9th of June of that year precisely at 4 o'clock 30 minutes, as was prescribed to him by the calendar; and set at 7 o'clock 30 minutes, precisely according to orders. At that time the sun was hastening towards summer, it lengthened the days and shortened the nights; but it alone is not capable of governing the weather, and our friends the astronomers, although they are able to calculate the sun's course with more precision than the engineer can the locomotive's, are themselves greatly embarrassed when asked, "What kind of weather shall we have the day after to-morrow?"It is unpardonable that some of our almanacs, especially those for the farmer, contain prophecies about the weather. We cannot be too indignant against the foolish superstition which this abuse tends to foster. And what is worse, really shameful, is, that those who print such things do not believe in them themselves, but consider them a necessity sanctioned by age and custom, and offer it as such to the credulity of the public.The subject of this article on the knowledge of weather, is a science, a great branch of the natural sciences; but it is a branch just developing, and therefore has, up to the present time, not yet brought forth any fruit.It is very likely that at some future day we shall be able to indicate in advance the weather of any given place. But for the present this is impossible; and if from time to time men arise and announce that they can calculate and determine in advance the state of the weather in any given place—pretending to consult the planets, etc.—we take it for granted that they are as unreliable as the weather-prophets of the almanacs.We said above that the weather might possibly be determined a few days ahead; science is at present almost far enough advanced for it. But there are needed for that purpose grand institutions, which must first be called into life.If for the proper observation of the weather, stations were erected throughout the extent of our country, at a distance of about seventy miles from each other, and if these stations were connected by a telegraph-wire, managed by a scientific reliable observer; then we might, in the middle portion of our country, be able to determine in advance the state of the weather, though for a short time only.For the changeableness of the weather depends on the nature and motion of the air, and on the amount of moisture, and the direction of the winds. It is mostly occasioned by currents of air which pass over the earth, producing, wherever they meet, here cold, there heat—here rain, there hail or snow.Along a part of the coast of the United States electric telegraphs have been established. Vessels receive, at a considerable distance, the news of a storm approaching, together with its velocity and direction. The electric telegraph being quicker than the wind, the vessels receive the news in time to take their directions. Before the storm reaches them, they have been enabled to take precautionary measures for its reception.This is a great step forward in our new science. But not before the time when such stations shall be established everywhere throughout the land, will meteorology manifest its real importance. For it has, like every other science, firmly established rules, which can easily be calculated and verified; while, on the other hand, allowances must be made for changeable conditions which tend to disturb the rules.We will now endeavor to introduce to our readers these established rules, and explain the changeable conditions to which we refer.***The original uses the term "he" when rweferring to the sun. It sounded so twee I just had to plonk it full fathoms five.

  6. Originally posted by Weatherlawyer:

    The heat of summer does not altogether depend upon the length of the day; nor does the cold of winter upon its shortness; but principally on this, that during summer-time the sun at noon stands directly over head; that therefore its vertical rays are enabled to pierce the soil with intense heat.In winter-time the sun at noon stands nearer to the horizon; its rays fall on the earth obliquely, therefore heating the soil with but feeble power.

    Except that the suns rays are blocked at any angle when clouds get in the way. More than that; the clouds may reflect sunlight onto the earth at other angles. So the angle of incidence is another "perhaps" to be taken into account.(Or not, as the case may be.)Meanwhile the warm climes have 12 hours of day in which the sun is only overhead for one such hour. But how about this little fact:It has 12 hours of night in which it has none.

  7. CHAPTER III.THE CURRENTS OF AIR AND THE WEATHER.In order to fully understand the conditions of the atmosphere, one must carefully notice the following:Though the sun produces summer and winter, and although his beams call forth heat, and the absence of heat causes intense cold on the surface of the globe, yet the sun alone does not make what we call "Weather."If the sun's influence alone were prevalent, there would be no change at all during our seasons; once cold or warm, it would invariably continue to be so, according to the time of the year.The sun produces movement in the air; currents of air or winds pour from cold countries into warm ones, and vice versâ from warm ones into cold ones. It is this that makes our sky cloudy or clear; that produces rain and sunshine, snow and hail, refreshing coolness in summer and warmth sometimes in midwinter, as also chilly nights in summer and thaw in winter.In other words, it is more properly the motion of the air, the wind, that produces what we call weather; that is, that changeableness from heat to cold, from dryness to moisture, all of which may be comprised in one name, weather.But whence does the wind arise?It is caused by the influence of the sun's heat upon the air.The whole earth is enveloped with a misty cover called "air." This air has the peculiar quality of expanding when it becomes heated. If you put a bladder that is filled with air and tied up, into the pipe of a heated stove, the air inside will expand so much as to burst the bladder with a loud report.The warm expanded air is lighter than the cold air, and always ascends in the atmosphere. Lofty rooms are therefore difficult to heat because the warm air ascends towards the ceiling. In every room it is much cooler near the floor than near the top of the room.This accounts for the singular fact that in winter our feet, though warmly clad in stockings and shoes or boots, feel cold more often than our hands, which are entirely uncovered. If you ascend a ladder in a tolerably cold room, you are surprised at finding it much warmer above than below in the room.Flies take advantage of this in autumn, when they are seen to promenade on the ceiling, because there it is warm as in summer, while near the floor it is cold; owing to the circumstance that warm air, being lighter than cold, ascends.Precisely the same takes place on the earth.In the hot zone near the equator the sun heats the air continually; hence the air there ascends. But from both the northern and southern hemispheres, cold air is constantly pouring towards the equator in order to fill the vacuum thus produced.This cold air is now heated also and rises, while other cold air rushes in after. By this continued motion of the air towards the equator, however, a vacuum is created also at both poles of the earth; and the heated air of the equator, after having ascended, flows towards these two vacuums.Thus arise the currents in the air; currents which continue the whole year, and cause the cold air to move from the poles to the equator along the surface of the earth; while higher in the atmosphere the heated air flows from the equator back to the poles.Therefore the air is said to circulate below from the poles to the equator, but above to go back from the equator to the poles.He who is in the habit of noticing phenomena of nature, may often have observed something of the kind when opening the window of a room filled with smoke. The smoke escapes above, while below it seems to come back into the room again.But this is an illusion which has its origin in the fact, that above the warm air of the room goes out of the window, and, of course, takes the smoke with it; below at the window, however, cold air pours in from without, driving the smoke that is below back into the room.The attentive observer may also see how the two currents of air above and below move in contrary directions; while in the middle part they repel each other, and form a kind of eddy which may be clearly perceived by the motion of the smoke.What takes place on our earth is nothing different from this, and we shall presently see the great influence this has upon our weather.

  8. CHAPTER II.OF THE WEATHER IN SUMMER AND WINTER.As we have stated above, there exist fixed rules about the weather; these rules are simple and easy to compute. But our computations are often disturbed by a great many circumstances beyond our reach, so much that we are governed more by exceptions than rules.These latter are based on the position of our earth with regard to the sun. They are, therefore, easy to determine, for astronomy is a science resting on firm pillars; and although nothing in the universe is so far from us as the stars, yet there is nothing in the world so certain as our knowledge of the courses of the constellations and their distances.Many of our readers may be surprised, perhaps, to hear that we know more accurately the distance from the earth to the sun than the distance from New York to Cincinnati. Indeed, astronomical knowledge is the most reliable in the world.No merchant is able to measure a piece of cloth without being mistaken, to say the least, as much as 1/300 part; while the uncertainty with respect to distances of bodies in the solar system amounts to a great deal less than 1/300 part.Our earth turns on its axis once in every twenty-four hours, and goes also round the sun once a year. But the earth's axis is inclined towards the earth's orbit in such a manner as to cause the earth to be illuminated for six months on one side, and for six months on the other side of the earth.Hence it happens, that at the north pole there is continual day during six months in the year, after which follows uninterrupted winter for the next six months; in the same way the day on the south pole lasts six months, and the night following the same length of time.In the middle between both poles, around the equator the day has throughout the year twelve hours; the night the same; while in the countries between the equator and the poles, the length of day and night is, through the whole year, constantly varying.When the time comes that the north pole has day for six months, we in North America, being situated about half-way between the equator and north pole, enjoy long days and short nights. The inhabitants of those countries situated on the southern hemisphere, have at that time short days and long nights.But when the time comes that there is six months' night on the north pole and six months' day on the south pole, then will the inhabitants of the southern hemisphere have long days, and we long nights.Intimately connected with the length of day and night are our seasons, especially summer and winter; for together with the sun's light, heat is also called forth.During our long days, therefore, it is very warm with us, for the sun's rays heat the soil. During our short days we experience cold, because the warming light of the sun does not reach our earth directly. For this reason the northern hemisphere enjoys summer while the southern has winter; and vice versâ, when we have mid-winter, people in the other hemisphere are in the midst of summer.When we are snowed up at Christmas, and seek joy and elevation by the cheerful fireside in the brightly-lighted room, we may, perhaps, think of our friends and relatives who have emigrated to Australia, and the question may occur to us, how things may be with them this cold weather, and how they are enjoying the holidays.Now, would not the uninformed be surprised, if a letter were to arrive from Australia, written at Christmas, telling how the writer enjoyed Christmas in his vine-arbor, where he had sought shelter from the terrible heat of the day, and that he had but late at night gone to his room, and he could scarcely sleep then on account of the heat, and the longing for his former home in the United States, where he could always enjoy cool weather at Christmas.The uninformed will now learn that Australia lies in the southern hemisphere, while we are in the northern, and that there they live in midst of summer, while we are buried in snow. Nor will he now be surprised when he reads, that it snowed in Australia in the month of August, and that his friend or relative there reposed by the fireside, and read the letter from home by the light of the lamp, at the same hour that we here were taking an afternoon walk in the summer shade.The heat of summer, however, does not altogether depend upon the length of the day; nor does the cold of winter upon its shortness; but principally on this, that during summer-time the sun at noon stands directly over head; that therefore its vertical rays are enabled to pierce the soil with intense heat; while in winter-time the sun at noon stands nearer to the horizon; its rays fall on the earth obliquely, therefore heating the soil with but feeble power.We shall presently see that this position of the sun exercises great influence upon the weather.

  9. CHAPTER IV.THE FIRM RULES OF METEOROLOGY.The air which is continually rising in the hot zones and circulating towards the poles and back again to the equator, is the prime source of the wind. This latter modifies the temperature of the atmosphere; for the cold air from the poles of the earth, in coming to the equator, cools the torrid zone; again, the hot air going from there to the poles heats the colder regions.This accounts for the fact that very often it is not so cold in cold countries as it really would be, were it not for this circulation of the air; and that in hot countries we never find the degree of heat that there would be if the air were continually at rest.According to what has been said, however, but two different winds would exist on the earth, and these two moving in fixed directions; one sweeping over the earth from the poles to the equator, with us called "North wind," and one from the equator to the icy regions, with us the "South wind."But we must add here something which considerably modifies this, viz., the revolution of the globe. The earth, it is well known, revolves round its axis from west to east once in twenty-four hours; the atmosphere performs this revolution also.But since that part of the atmosphere nearest to the equator must move with greater velocity than the part nearer the poles, it may with a little thinking be easily understood, that the air which goes on the surface of the earth from the poles to the equator, passes over ground which moves faster east than the air itself; while, on the contrary, the air coming from the hot zone starts in an eastern direction with the velocity it had on the equator; but, as it is moving on, it passes over that part of the earth which rotates with less velocity.This gives rise to what are called the trade-winds, so very important to navigation. In our hemisphere the trade-winds come in the lower strata of the air from the north-east; while in the upper strata they move towards north-east, they come from the south-west. On the other hemisphere the trade-winds in the lower strata of the air move in a north-westerly direction; in the upper they move in a south-easterly direction.From this arise our rules respecting the weather.The idea that many persons have that wind and weather are two things entirely different, is wrong. Weather is nothing else but a condition of the atmosphere.A cold winter, cold spring, cold summer, and cold autumn, do not mean, as some believe, that the earth, or that part of it on which they live, is colder than usual; for if we dig a hole in the ground, it will be found that neither cold nor warm weather has any influence upon the temperature below the surface of the earth.At the small depth of thirty inches below the surface, no difference can be found between the heat of the day and the cold of the night. In a well sixty feet deep no difference is perceivable between the hottest summer and the coldest winter-day, for below the surface of the earth the differences of temperature do not exist. What we call Weather is but a state of the atmosphere, and depends solely upon the wind.It has been stated already that there are fixed rules of weather, or, which is the same thing, that there are laws governing the motion of the winds; but we have added also, that there are a great many causes which disturb these rules, and therefore make any calculations in advance a sheer impossibility.We have seen that these rules are called forth, 1st, by the course of the sun; 2d, by the circulation of the air from the poles to the equator and back again; and 3d, by the revolution of the earth, causing the trade-winds.All these various items have been calculated correctly; and, owing to this, we have now a firm basis in meteorology. But in the next article, we shall see what obstacles are put in the way of this new science by other things; and the allowances to be made for these disturbances cannot be easily computed.

  10. Originally posted by Weatherlawyer:

    But whence does the wind arise? It is caused by the influence of the sun's heat upon the air.

    Whilst the whole article, or series so far is with the exception of our knowledge about Australia, just about as much as most people know about the weather these days;…It is lamentable that the above quote remains true for the sum of all knowledge amongst Meteorologists too.Standing on the outside looking in, do you think I can supply the answers?No.I can't.But I know where to stop looking.And IMNIO, I know where to start looking and have been doing so for quite a substantial portion of my life now.

  11. CHAPTER V.AIR AND WATER IN THEIR RELATIONS TO WEATHER.Let us now examine the causes which disturb the regular currents of air, and which render the otherwise computable winds incomputable, thus producing the great irregularities of the weather.The main cause lies in this, that neither the air nor the earth is everywhere in the same condition.Every housewife that but once in her life hung up clothes to dry, knows full well that air absorbs moisture when passing over, or through, wet objects. If she wishes to dry her clothes very quickly, she will hang them up where there is much wind. And she is perfectly right in maintaining that the wind dries clothes better than the quiet sunshine.Whence does this come?From this: dry air, when coming in contact with wet objects, absorbs the moisture, and by this dries the object somewhat.If there be no wind, the moistened air will remain around the wet object, and the drying goes on very slowly. But so soon as a little wind arises, the moist air is moved away, new dry air constantly takes its place, and coming into contact with the wet article, effects in a very short time the desired result.Hence, it is not heat alone that causes the clothes to dry; for in winter-time, though it is so cold that the clothes on the line freeze to stiffness, they dry nevertheless, if it be very windy.It is the wind which dries them by allowing fresh air to pass through them continually. For the same reason our housewives open doors and windows after a room has been scoured, so that by a thorough draft of air, the floor may dry quickly; a large fire in the stove or fireplace could not effect it so readily.From all this we may learn that the air absorbs particles of water. It will now be evident to every one, why water in a tumbler, standing uncovered at the open window for a few days, constantly decreases, until it finally disappears entirely and the tumbler is dry.Where has the water gone?The air drank it off, little by little, until at last the tumbler was emptied."But," you will exclaim, "what does the air do with all the water it drinks?The air goes over the whole ocean; over lakes, rivers, brooks, and springs; over woods and fields, and everywhere it takes in particles of water. What becomes of them?"After being absorbed, the particles of water unite and form clouds; then they fall down in the form of fog, rain, snow, or hail.Many persons, even highly educated ones, have false ideas about these phenomena of the atmosphere.Some think a cloud is a kind of bag that contains the rain which is let fall by the cloud. This is entirely false. The clouds are nothing but fogs in the upper regions of the atmosphere; fog itself is nothing but a cloud immediately over ground.It is easy to obtain a correct idea of the formation of fog and rain; one need but observe for one's self.He who has ever blown upon his hands in winter-time in order to warm them, will have observed that his hands become moist from his breath. If a window-pane is breathed upon, it is covered by a thin coat of water. What is the cause of this?It arises from the fact that the air we exhale contains water-particles from our blood. We do not see them when it is warm, because they are airy themselves; everybody knows that they become visible so soon as the air turns cool; or that they appear like fog when one is in a cold room in winter; that they form drops when you breathe upon cold objects; that they freeze and become snow; nay, that in severe cold weather, after a long walk outdoors, they even cling to one's moustache like icicles.This may illustrate, that these particles of water are invisible in the warm air, but that when the air is colder they appear as fog; when still colder, as drops of rain; and in very cold weather they turn to snow, while in severe cold they freeze and form ice.

  12. CHAPTER VI.FOG, CLOUDS, RAIN, AND SNOW.The air imbibes particles of water from all parts of the earth; and thus charged with water it is the same and operates the same as our breath.So soon as a stratum of air that contains water-particles, meets with a colder stratum, these airy particles of water immediately flow together to form fog. But fog, as has been said, is nothing but a cloud.He who has travelled in mountainous countries, has often noticed this. From the valley it often appears that the top of a high mountain is wrapped in clouds; and his curiosity may be excited to ascend the mountain in order to examine these clouds. But when he arrives there, he sees nothing whatever either before or behind him but fog, which most assuredly he has often seen before without so much trouble.The ignorant person who believes that a cloud is something else than fog, and who fancies that the clouds which he saw from below have disappeared during his ascent, leaving but a mist behind, will be no little amazed when he has arrived at the foot of the mountain again, to see the cloud above as before, and to perceive that he actually walked among the clouds.Hence it is understood now, that the particles of water in the air form fog, or, which is the same, clouds, so soon as they come into a colder stratum. But the cloud is not rain as yet; the change into rain will depend upon circumstances that may be easily guessed. If a warmer and dryer stratum passes over the one containing the newly formed clouds, then this warmer stratum will absorb the water-particles of the other.The moist air fares like the wet clothes we spoke of; the warm dry air absorbs its particles of water. But if a colder stratum of air approaches the stratum containing clouds, then the water-particles of the latter are condensed; the cloud becomes small drops of water; these drops are too heavy to be supported in the air, and they fall down as rain.During its descent, the drop of rain is steadily increased by the water-particles of the air through which it passes. Thus it happens, that rain often arrives at the earth in the form of large drops of water, while when yet in the air and beginning to fall, it consisted of tiny drops. It is well known that the rain-drops on the roof are smaller than those that fall on the street. The difference is so great, that on the roof of the royal castle in Berlin, Prussia, there falls four and a half inches less rain during the year than on the square before the building.Our readers may now imagine, without difficulty, how in a similar way, snow is formed. If a stratum of air saturated with moisture meets a very cold one, the fog begins to freeze, and becomes specks of snow. They, too, increase while falling, and on arriving upon the earth they are large flakes.On the occasion of a lecture about the formation of snow in the atmosphere, Professor Dove once told an anecdote, which is as interesting as it is instructive. A musician in St. Petersburg gave a concert in a large hall, where the fashionable world had assembled in great numbers. It was an icy cold night, such as is almost unknown with us; but in the overcrowded hall there was such excessive heat as only Russians can endure.Soon, however, it became too intense even for them. The hall was densely crowded; the throng was alarming; several ladies fainted. An effort was made to open a window, but without success—the window was frozen fast.A gallant officer devised means; he broke the window in. And what happened? It commenced to snow in the concert room! How did this come?The vapour exhaled by the multitude of persons in the hall had collected above, where the air was hottest. The sudden entrance of the icy air through the broken window changed the particles of water into snow. Thus it was this time not heaven, but the upper space of an unventilated concert-hall, that sent down snow.In a similar way hail is formed in the atmosphere; this we shall consider at more length hereafter. At present we must turn our attention to the influence of these phenomena upon cold and heat; for it is a known fact, that rain and evaporation are not only engendered by cold and heat, but, vice versâ, that rain and evaporation, in their turn, engender cold and heat in the air.

  13. Interesting observations in the above I had not heard of:Originally posted by Weatherlawyer:

    During its descent, the drop of rain is steadily increased by the water-particles of the air through which it passes.It is well known that the rain-drops on the roof are smaller than those that fall on the street. The difference is so great, that on the roof of the royal castle in Berlin, Prussia, there falls four and a half inches less rain during the year than on the square before the building.

    I have a problem with that one.Originally posted by Weatherlawyer:

    Professor Dove once told this anecdote:In St. Petersburg, in a large hall, on was an icy cold night, in an overcrowded hall; there was excessive heat. The hall was densely crowded; t several ladies fainted. An effort was made to open a window, but without success—the window was frozen fast.An officer broke the window in and it commenced to snow in the concert room! The vapour exhaled by the multitude of persons in the hall had collected above, where the air was hottest. The sudden entrance of the icy air through the broken window changed the particles of water into snow.

    It remains an anecdote without references. One for the true or false files of Urban Legends.

  14. Originally posted by Weatherlawyer:

    But we must add here something which considerably modifies this:The revolving planet.The earth, it is well known, revolves round its axis from west to east once in twenty-four hours; the atmosphere performs this revolution also.The atmosphere nearest to the equator moves faster than that nearer the poles, it may with a little thinking be easily understood, that the air which goes on the surface of the earth from the poles to the equator, passes over ground which moves faster east than the air itself.Air from the hot zone starts in an eastern direction with the velocity it had on the equator; but, as it is moving on, it passes over that part of the earth which rotates with less velocity.

    This is now called the Coriolis Force.Actually it is better termed the Coriolis Effect as it is not a force of itself.In actual fact it is nothing of itself as we are discussing a gas.And it is not even that much of itself as the gas too is tied to Newton's laws of motion covering celestial mechanics but let's deal with the first part:Every atom of gas on the surface of the earth is as much tied to the rotation of the earth as is every human animal tree or mushroom. Ditto all animals vegetables and minerals from sand to mountains, African jungles to fungi spores and blue whales to the smallest microbe on a pimple on a gnat's doo-dah.…with the exception that free gasses do what free atoms do. The actions of one impose and effect on those it meets in reaction. You can NOT push a gas cloud the way you can a boulder or a puddle of water.You can with sufficient activity and some considerable loss, move a bucket of water uphill, without the bucket. You would raise a sweat brushing it and the work would in every respect be an up-hill struggle.The equivalent effort with a propellor will get an aircraft off the ground and with a few jet engines raise one of four or five hundred tons.That air is compressed violently and for a moment contained. The wash is soon dispersed into the surrounding atmosphere, though it may be felt by following aircraft several minutes later.In fact the streamlining of air is a phenomenon seen in the way that geese fly. They make use of the disturbance to gain lift, each in turn taking the front of an echelon migrating, giving the one leading a break as it falls back in formation.Now let us try some more thought:What if the air below the goose wings were moving independent of the earth?When they fly north, what happens to the echelon?How is the Coriolis effect seen?***When a gas is forced it is compressed. Behind it it is rarefied. A scoop such as a propellor will compress and rarify the air. And what takes place at some distance downstream of the propellor is a balancing effect called vortice shedding.The high anbd low pressures generated will interact in a chain effect to bring the pressure to a normal overall.This does not happen with weather patterns. Cyclones; significant depressions known as Low Pressure air masses travel the earth en-bloc. They skirt the anticyclones the significant air masses of High Pressure. They never meet.That's it.Think about that.Lows will meet and mix and then separate themselves later. They pass through each other the same way ocean waves do. The stop over significant mountains or ocean ridges (even the Mid Atlantic Ridge miles below the surface of the North Atlantic.)They stop and wait for reinforcements. Then they climb over the obstacle having gained or lost 5 or 10 millibars of pressure.Now fool:Think!

  15. Originally posted by Weatherlawyer:

    After being absorbed, the particles of water unite and form clouds; then they fall down in the form of fog, rain, snow, or hail.

    Can anyone else see a problem with this little snippet?

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