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earth moved through the firmament at the rate imagined by the New tonians, namely, 68,000 miles an hour_500 times quicker than a hurricane !"
“The force which, according to Newton, causes a body, (suppose a bladder filled with water) near the surface of the earth, to fall about sixteen feet in one second of time, is that which presses the ocean to its bed - that is the force of gravity. Now the power operating with that specific force upon the ocean, supposing the earth to move, is exactly crossed by another force on the equator above ninety times greater, namely the centrifugal, or rotatory motion of the earth, said to be upwards of 1500 feet in a second. Were ihe two forces equally ba. lanced, ihe thing might appear plausible and go down tolerably well; but, as the matter is represented, nothing but a great miracle could prevent the water from flying off the surface of the earth, as it does off a potter's wheel, the moment the centrifugal motion of that wheel overbalances the gravity of the water lying upon its surface. But that is not all; we have still to notice the projectile force of the globe, which is calculated at 100,000 feet in a second; that is, 6000 times the force that presses the ocean to its bed, as aforesaid; which inconceivable velocity would, in eight minutes of time, completely separate the globe from the ocean ; comparatively as a shallow plate, if filled with water, would, by a quick horizontal motion, instantly be emptied of its contents and leave them behind. Yet, under all the supposed infiuences of these powerful forces, operating in various directions, the ocean does not afford a single evidence of their actual existence.”
The succeeding chapter is, in part, occupied with the investigation of the claim of the moderns to optical discoveries. Mr. Prescot is of opinion, that the ancients were not so ignorant of these matters as later opticians have imagined.
It is further conceived that the Newtonian maxims are impeached by the observations of Mr. Baldwin, in his aerial voyage from Chester, by the dark nature of earthly bodies, and by the evidence exhibited in the stars. Ata certain elevation the earth appeared, as seen through the openings between the clouds,
“Of an obscure, greenish, or bluish hue, but the clouds were of a dazzling white. Moreover, instead of the water of the sea, rivers, ponds, and canals, appearing dark, as Cassini, above a hundred years ago, said it would, to any one, if he were placed at a great elevation above it; on the contrary, it appeared to Mr. Baldwin to be bright and shining; the pits, he said, were like spangles upon a dark ground. I recollect seeing that balloon when it penetrated the clouds; it did not appear like a luminous star, but the very reverse; and I therefore infer, that a globe of earth, at the same or any greater distance, would have had a similar dark appearance; or, rather, that at the distance of a few miles it would have totally disappeared, for want of the natural property of receiving and reflecting the beams of solar light.”
The 10th Chapter is on the distances of the heavenly bodies; and Mr. Prescot holds, that the methods proposed by astronom mers to ascertain them is inapplicable and useless. We give the following as one of his instances of objection :
“The refraction of the air, concerning which philosophers are entirely in the dark, as their own writings show, * renders this mathematical theory quite useless: besides which, may be mentioned the dif. ficulty of noting the exact time of the moon's passage through the zenith; the rapid change in her declination; the unavoidable inaccu. racy of instruments and time-pieces, used in making observations, and even the liability, in nice observations of this kind, to be deceived by the eye itself. These are obstacles which no human art can surmount. Besides, the moon moves through an angular space equal to what they estimate the whole parallax to be, in less than four minutes of time.”
Mr. Prescot possesses the advantage of detecting some incon, sistencies in the calculations of bis predecessors. Copernicus, and the astronomers of the present day, it appears, differ very widely on the point of the distance of the earth from the sun. Even Newton's computation is no great deal more than onehalf of that which is now maintained, and that of Copernicus is about alth part! The following is a statement of the varieties of these astronomical opinions :Hipparchus,
:: 13141 Ptolemy,
942 semidiameters Kepler,
of the earth. Ricciolus,
.. 15000 Later Astronomers,
..21000 Present Astronomers,
. 25000 The accurate calculation of eclipses, and the transit of Venus, have been adduced as proofs of the accuracy of the present' accredited system. But our indefatigable author refers to the writings of Ptolemy; the Arabian astronomers; Tycho Brahe, and others, to shew that the science of calculating eclipses was known some thousand years before computations were formed upon the hypothesis of the solar system, which he contends is of no real use in such calculations.
We have thus presented an analysis of the principal and most curious parts of this volume. We pledge ourselves to neither side of the question. We intend to examine Mr.
* It would be endless to notice the different opinions respecting both the terrestrial and the astronomic refractions which are to be met with in the writings of various authors on the subject; and it would be equally useJess to notice all the tables of its quantity given by them, some of which differ very much from others. - Dr. Rees's New Cyclopadia, article Refraction.
Prescot's second book, in which, we understand, the subject is more at large discussed ; and, if we can detect any fallacy, we shall freely and fairly bring it forward; but the volume is of some magnitude, and the mathematical part will require time to investigate it. For the present, we trust, Mr. Prescot cannot complain of us. We have given him as impartial a hearing as possible. He must not expect us to be instantaneously converted. If truth be on his side, our notice will, in some de. gree, advance it; and, if his views be erroneous, they will sooner be detected, and the system he has attacked will be the more firmly established. We observe that the work has already acquired some share of public attention, and has been favourably mentioned by some of the periodical tribe. By one of these it is observed, that it is a fact which has greatly surprised some reflecting persons, that, during the forty years which passed from the publication of the Principia to his death, Newton never attempted to apply his own principles to the improvement of practical astronomy; nor, indeed, does it appear, that any of his friends or followers in England have ever constructed one original table from his principles !
Some of the fraternity of critics, as might be expected, have opposed the author. We think he has very needlessly provoked censure by the manner in which he has treated the memory
of Sir Isaac Newton. Were we to concede to Mr. Prescot that Sir Isaac was mistaken in his theory of gravitation, it would not justify asperity of language against him. Sir Isaac was, no doubt, sincere in his philosophical opinions. Mr. Prescot denies the orthodoxy of Newton, but he does not prove the point; and, if he did so, there would still remain enough of merit to entitle him to respect both as a man and a philosopher. We think it neither consistent with that creed in which Mr. Prescot is evidently so firm, nor with the precepts of that sacred volume to which he so frequently and earnestly appeals, nor even with the calmness of sound philosophy, so vehemently to assail, as Mr. Prescot does, the motives and the labors of other men. Yet we ascribe his feelings to a wellmeant zeal, and an earnest belief in the truth of the system he advocates, and the importance of the principles with which they are connected. Perhaps, too, the author, in the inculcation of his doctrines, may have met with uncandid and ungentle treatment, and has felt himself justified (with the pen in his hand,) to retort the ridicule and throw back the asperity with which he was provoked. We think there is, at least, enough in these speculations, to entitle the author to a fair examination of his theory, and, if it be unfounded, there will surely be no great difficulty in refuting it.
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