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W. L. (William Larkin) Webb.

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effects.

When the nuclei of the planets were first formed far from the
sun, they may have rotated in almost any planes, determined
by the collisions previously experienced; but as they drew nearer
the sun the rotations became direct and more and more harmon-
ious, as now observed. Beyond a doubt this is the true explana-
tion of the obliquities of the planets of our solar system; and
similar laws operate to establish corresponding obliquities for the
planets revolving about the fixed stars generally. Accordingly
it follows that the planets attending the fixed stars have seasons
and alternation of day and night, such as we are familiar with, and
therefore they are habitable by living beings like those observed
on the earth.

IX. THE CAPTURE OF THE MOON BY THE EARTH.

The case of the terrestrial moon is of special interest, because
it is relatively by far the largest of all our satellites, and was for-
merly supposed by Lord Kelvin and Sir George Darwin to have
had an exceptional origin. But it was shown by me in 1909 (A.N.,



180 BRIEF BIOGRAPHY AND POPULAR ACCOUNT OF THE

4343) that the moon was formed like the other satellites, and is in
fact a planet which the earth captured from space, just as the other
satellites were captured by their several planets. We shall not
here go into the details of the moon's origin, beyond pointing out
the reasons why a terrestrial origin for the moon is impossible.
(1) The rupture of the earth's figure of equilibrium, which Dar-
win assumed to account for the origin of the moon, postulates a
primitive rotation in less than three hours, or nine times faster
than at present. From the causes which produce planetary rota-
tions, as set forth above, we know that no such rapid rotation
could have existed in the case of the earth. (2) Even if such rapid
rotation had existed, the matter detached from the earth would
have taken the form of a swarm of small bodies, and these meteor-
ites never could have united into one mass, as now observed in
our actual moon. (3) The satellites of the other planets are
recognized to be captured bodies, and the same process naturally
will have operated in giving the earth a satellite, even if it is of
exceptionally large mass. It should be especially noted that the
large mass presents no difficulty to the capture theory. The anom-
aly lies rather in the small size of the earth, since several of the
satellites of Jupiter and Saturn are fully as large as the moon, while
those of Uranus and Neptune are not enormously smaller. (4)
In Darwin's celebrated graphical method for tracing the moon
back to the earth, it is found to be impossible to bring the two
globes close together, because at nearest approach a space of over
4,000 miles intervenes between the surfaces, which cannot be
bridged over. This contradiction to the terrestrial theory indi-
cates that it is vitiated by an error, and must be unconditionally
given up.

For these four weighty reasons we conclude that our moon
can be nothing else than a planet which came to us from the heaven-
ly spaces. It follows also that the earth always did rotate in about
the same time as at present, and has never suffered retardation
from about three hours as Darwin inferred. This simplifies very
considerably many problems of Geology, and brings the Cosmogony




THE MOON, TEN DAYS OLD. PHOTOGRAPHED BY LOEWRY AND PUISEUX AT

THE PARIS OBSERVATORY, FEBRUARY 23, 1896.
Naked Eye View. (From See's Researches, Vol. II, 1910, Plate XI.)



UNPARALLELED DISCOVERIES OF T. J. J. SEE 181

of the earth and moon into harmony with that found in the rest
of the solar system, and in the sidereal universe.

X. THE ORIGIN OF THE LUNAR CRATERS AND MARIA.

Ever since Galileo's discovery of the mountains on the moon,
it has been a problem for astronomers to explain the craters and
other phenomena on the lunar surface. Notwithstanding the fact
that the lunar craters are totally different from those on the earth,
it has been believed until very recently that they had a volcanic
origin. It turns out, however, that the lunar craters are due to
impact of smaller bodies against the lunar surface; and this ex-
plains the sunken character of the craters, which are all below the
normal level of the lunar surface; the small volume of the walls
in comparison with that of the crater basins; the steepness of the
inner wall, while the outer one has a more gradual slope; the cen-
tral peaks which are residues of the satellites that produced the
craters; the superposition of one crater over another, and many
other phenomena which show that impact, and not volcanic action,
has produced the mountains on the surface of the moon. In the
same way it is shown that the Maria are due to conflagrations which
have melted down to a dead level considerable areas of the lunar
surface, only the more prominent walls here and there surviving
as "ghost craters."

It is a very remarkable fact that can scarcely escape the notice
of the sagacious historian of the future that prior to my work on
Earthquakes and Mountain Formation (Proc. Am. Philos. Soc.,
Philadelphia, 1906-8), terrestrial mountains were erroneously
explained by the secular cooling and contraction of the earth,
whereas they are really formed by the leakage of the oceans and the
expulsion of lava under the land, and the mountain ridges therefore
run as great walls along the border of the ocean, as in the typical
case of the Andes in South America. The current explanation of
terrestrial mountain formation was thus entirely erroneous. The
new theory that our mountains are formed by the sea has, however,
already been very generally accepted. On the other hand, the



182 BRIEF BIOGRAPHY AND POPULAR ACCOUNT OF THE

lunar craters were supposed to be of volcanic origin, whereas they
really are due to impact. Thus, wonderful as it may seem, the
causes assigned in both cases were erroneous.

Besides the evidence of general character above cited the
theory as to the origin of the lunar craters by impact now rests on
an absolute proof of mathematical kind as follows. It is shown
by the researches of Lehman-Filhe's (A.N. 3479-80) and Strom-
gren (A.N. 3897) that increase of the central mass of the planet
by the downfall of cosmical dust will decrease the mean distance
of the satellite, but not the eccentricity of its orbit. It is shown
in my Researches, Vol. II, 1910, that the eccentricity can be dimin-
ished only by the action of a resisting medium such as operated
in the capture of the satellites. As the eccentricities of the satel-
lite orbits usually are evanescent, showing that they have been
destroyed by the action of a resisting medium, we should expect
the moon's surface to bear witness to this process of cosmical bom-
bardment, by which the orbits of the satellites have been rounded
up. Thus indentations analogous to the lunar craters ought to
exist, and as they are all of one type, their origin must be assigned
to the impact of smaller satellites against the lunar surface. Our
proof of the origin of the lunar craters is therefore essentially an
absolute proof which admits of no dispute.

If it be asked why indentations similar to the lunar craters
were not produced on the earth, our answer is that such terrestrial
craters due to impact did exist before Geological History began,
but they have since been quite obliterated by the effects of the
oceans and atmosphere, while modern terrestrial mountains of a
totally different type have since been developed along the borders
of our seas by the leakage of the oceans. These manifold errors
afford us an impressive warning as to the worthlessness of tradi-
tional opinion, because so much of our reasoning in physical science
heretofore has been based on false premises.

Finally it may be remarked that the satellites of Jupiter and
Saturn are variable, as if covered by maria like our own moon, so
that the conflagrations which melted areas and produced maria



UNPARALLELED DISCOVERIES OF T. J. J. SEE 183

on our satellite have also occured elsewhere, in accordance with
the requirements of this simple theory.

XL ORIGINAL EXTENT OF THE SOLAR SYSTEM AND THE EX-
ISTENCE OF PLANETS BEYOND NEPTUNE.

Babinet's criterion shows beyond doubt that the nuclei of
the planets were formed at a great distance from the sun and have
since had their orbits decreased in size, largely by the increase of
the sun's mass, and rounded up into almost perfect circles, by the
action of a resisting medium. As the planets were not thrown off
from the sun, this is the only possible way in which they can have
been set revolving in such singularly circular orbits. Moreover
since it is proved in my Researches, Vol. II. and confirmed by the
investigations of Stromgren, that the comets are surviving wisps
of nebulosity coming to us from the outer shell of our ancient
nebula, there is thus developed an independent line of argument
showing that the solar nebula was originally of vast extent with a
radius of from 10,000 to 50,000 radii of the earth's orbit.

The proof found in Babinet's criterion that the nuclei of the
planets originated at a great distance from the sun and have since
approached the center is thus confirmed by the elliptical theory
of comet orbits; and thus a connection is established between the
planets now near the sun and the comets still receding to great
distances. In fact the planets were built up in the nebula by the
gathering in of cosmical dust, such as we observe in meteor showers
raining down on us from disintegrated comets; and thus all the
matter now in the planets once was in the solar nebula in the form
of comets. By the destruction of countless comets, the planets
have been built up to their present dimensions, while at the same
time they have neared the sun and been made to revolve in orbits
which are so nearly circular, that the Greek philosophers believed
that the Deity had chosen the circle for the paths of the planets,
because the ancient geometers regarded the circle as a perfect
figure.



184 BRIEF BIOGRAPHY AND POPULAR ACCOUNT OF THE

From these considerations it is evident that our planetary
system extends much beyond Neptune, and several of the unseen
planets revolving in this remote region of space may yet be dis-
covered by observation. The orbital motion, however, will be
very slow, and if the search is attempted by photography the ex-
posures will have to be long and perhaps extended to successive
days. Neptune's orbit is so round that we can no more think of
our system terminating at this limit than we can imagine the
satellites of Jupiter confined within the narrow limits of the old
satellites discovered by Galileo.



XII. NATURE OF OUR SYSTEM OF COMETS ELLIPTICAL ORBITS
PREDICTED BY NEWTON RESEARCHES OF STROMGREN.

We have already alluded to the conclusion reached by the
writer in 1909 that the orbits of all comets are elliptical, because
they are the residue of the ancient nebula which formed our sys-
tem and thus continue to come to us from the vast outer shell
which still survives after the interior of the nebula has been de-
stroyed in forming the central sun and planetary system. By the
researches of Stromgren this is now definitely proved to be the
true origin of our system of comets.

Historically the problem of the significance of the comets
presented great difficulty. In 1687 Newton remarked in the
Prindpia that the comets revolve in very elongated orbits, which
are really ellipses, but so eccentric as to resemble parabolas in the
region near the sun; and are diffused indifferently over the celestial
sphere, so that they are not confined to the Zodiac, like the planets.
He adds that while the law of gravitation will account for the
motions of these bodies, it will not explain how they came to be
started in such widely dispersed orbits. The formation of our
system from a nebula made up of elements expelled from the stars
of the Milky Way and thus gathered together from all directions
in space is the only possible explanation of the system of comets.
It thus points to the general operation of repulsive forces in Nature,






ILLUSTRATIONS OF THE NEW THEORY OF COMETS DEVELOPED BY
T. J. J. SEE.

The lower figure illustrates the vast system of small bodies circulating about the Sun
and constituting the outer shell of the primordial nebula. The upper figure from Lowell's
"Solar System," shows the orbits of a few actual comets which have appeared in the short
interval since Newton's famous comet of 1680.



UNPARALLELED DISCOVERIES OF T. J. J. SEE 185

and constitutes an impressive illustration of the formation of
nebulae gathered from a system right at hand.

This theory of the origin of our system of comets has been
confirmed by the researches of Leuschner (1906) and Fayet (1906)
and more especially of Stromgren (Vierteljahrsschrift, October,
1910), who subjected the supposed hyperbolic comets to a critical
test, and found every one of them to be elliptic; so that we have
to abandon the view long held that some of these bodies move in
parabolas and hyperbolas. After two centuries of wandering in
the wilderness we thus return to Newton's view of 1687. And the
reason for the elliptical orbits of comets is to be found in the nature
of the system of comets, wisps of nebulosity coming from the outer
shell, as the surviving residue of the ancient nebula which formed
our solar system.

XIII. UNIVERSALITY OF REPULSIVE FORCES IN NATURE ESTAB-
LISHED BY HERSCHEL'S ARGUMENT REGARDING THE
OPERATION OF CENTRAL POWERS IN THE
CLUSTERS AND NEBULA.

In the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society for
1789, 1811, and 1814 Sir William Herschel has developed a power-
ful and celebrated argument for the operation of central powers
in the formation of star clusters and nebulae. The star clusters
tend to globular figures and increase in density toward their
centers; and the same tendency is shown to operate in the nebulae,
many of which seem to be made up of concentric spherical shells
of uniform brightness, but accumulating towards the center in
such a way as to show a gradual increase of density with maximum
in the nucleus, which often is occupied by a nebulous star. There
are thousands of these objects, all following the same law, and on
the uniformity of the tendency Herschel founds his irresistible
argument for the operation of central powers in shaping and mould-
ing the figures of sidereal systems.

Herschel's discussion is so convincing that we need not dwell
on it beyond adding that if now we exactly reverse his argument



186 BRIEF BIOGRAPHY AND POPULAR ACCOUNT OF THE

we obtain at once a most comprehensive proof of the universal
operation of repulsive forces in Nature. For if central powers
produce the observed symmetrical condensations, it is obvious
that the matter now condensed was formerly diffused somewhat
equably about these centers, and could have acquired this arrange-
ment in space only by accumulation from all directions: and there-
fore at an earlier period the matter was expelled from stars lying
in all directions in the general stratum of the Milky Way. Ac-
cordingly we thus obtain a most satisfactory proof of the opera-
tions of repulsive forces throughout Nature. The familiar proofs
of repulsive forces supplied by the solar corona and by the tails
of comets pointing from the sun, are thus supported by others
drawn from the system of comets about our sun and from the star
clusters and nebulae in every part of the sidereal heavens.



XIV. ARRANGEMENT OF THE NEBULA IN CANOPIES ON EITHER

SIDE OF THE MILKY WAY DUE TO THE ACTION

OF REPULSIVE FORCES.

If repulsive forces are everywhere at work expelling dust
from the stars for the formation of nebulae, it is evident that as
it is repelled by the stars it will tend to gather especially in vacant
regions or spaces remote from the stars, and should accumulate
with maximum density near the poles of the Milky Way. Thus
have arisen the great canopies of nebulae on either side of the
Galaxy. As the dust now forming into nebulae slowly develops
into stars, they drift back into the central starry stratum of the
Milky Way, while other new nebulae take their places; so that
the arrangement of contrariety, with nebulae on either side of the
starry stratum, is maintained by a process of slow circulation.
The observed arrangement of the nebulae and stars in the sidereal
universe is thus the outcome of the grouping of the stars in one
great stratum, which may itself be the effect of the mutual attrac-
tions of the whole mass and of repulsive forces operating over
vast time.




ISOGRAPHIC PROJECTION OF THE NORTHERN CELESTIAL HEMISPHERE.

The nebulae are represented by dots, the clusters by crosses.
(From See's Researches, Vol. II, 1910.)



UNPARALLELED DISCOVERIES OF T. J. J. SEE 187

For over two centuries after the establishment of the law of
universal gravitation by Newton in 1687, philosophers took account
of attraction only, and ignored the effects of repulsive forces, so
that the natural philosophy of the heavens was essentially incom-
plete, being but half developed. In more recent times account
has been taken of repulsive forces and their paramount part in
dispersing matter for the formation of sidereal systems, and the
result is the full treatment of the two great tendencies in nature,
with a more symmetrical development of the grand science of
natural philisophy.

XV. THE UNIFORMITY IN THE DISTRIBUTION OF THE CHEM-
ICAL ELEMENTS DISCOVERED BY HUGGINS IN 1864 ALSO
IMPLIES THE OPERATION OF REPULSIVE
FORCES IN NATURE.

The beautiful discovery of Sir William Huggins, in 1864, that
the chemical elements are essentially the same wherever a star
twinkles, may be said also to point to repulsive forces in Nature.
For if these were not incessantly at work, to keep the elements
well stirred, by a process of mixing, it is probable that transmu-
tations going on in certain places might develop at length great
inequalities in the distribution of the elements, and the universe
would not present the aspect of essential uniformity so clearly
disclosed by observation. These results reveal to us some of the
greatest laws of Nature, and give us the true cause for the wonder-
ful order found to pervade the starry heavens,

When we consider the hazy, dust-like aspect of the nebulae
it is strange that we should not earlier have read the riddle of these
remarkable objects as produced by the gathering together of dis-
persed dust; for the existence of these cosmical clouds in the uni-
verse is as clear an indication that matter is dispersed from the
stars by the action of repulsive forces as the aqueous clouds in
our atmosphere are of the renewal of terrestrial evaporation. Any
philosophic observer studying the nebulae through the telescope
ought to have been able to recognize that these hazy cloud-like



188 BRIEF BIOGRAPHY AND POPULAR ACCOUNT OF THE

masses are essentially the evaporation-products of the stars, and
that they must be incessantly renewed by the repulsive forces at
work from these centers of condensation and radiation.

But false ideas of Cosmogony were everywhere prevalent,
and instead of looking upon the nebulae as renewed by the ex-
pulsion of dust from the stars, the current view was that the
nebulae represented world stuff not yet used up since the creation.
Now in the arguments of the great Herschel, before cited, he
shows that some of the sidereal systems have been millions of ages
in forming, and as others have been of very different duration, it
is possible to prove mathematically that the formation of all parts
of the universe did not begin at any one epoch, however remote,
but is a process of constant renewal, under the cyclic process here
described, the condensation of the nebulae forming stars and plane-
tary systems and the expulsion of dust from the stars forming the
nebulae.

The philosophical difficulty now overcome by the introduc-
tion of repulsive forces for scattering the dust from the stars and
thus producing nebulae, and finally setting the bodies, into which
the nebulae condense, in orbital motion, as if by the action of pro-
jectile forces, is one which has been recognized since the time of
Anaxagoras (500-427 B.C.) He taught that the sun, moon, and
stars had been torn away from the (supposed) common center of
the earth by the violence of the cosmic revolution, just as Kant
and Laplace long afterwards supposed the planets to have been
thrown off by the rotation of the solar nebula. Anaxagoras'
difficulty of accounting for the tangential or projectile forces which
set the heavenly bodies in motion is stated in the notable work on
Greek Thinkers, by Professor Theodore Gomperz of the University
of Vienna as follows:

"There was only a single point in his theory of the formation
of the firmament and the universe in which he deserted his me-
chanical and physical principles to assume an outside intervention.
That first shock which set in motion the process of the universe
that had hitherto been in repose reminds us in a most striking




Plate E



SPIRAL NEBULAE PHOTOGRAPHED AT LICK OBSERVATORY:



M 51, GANUM VENATICORUM;
H. IV 13, GYGNI;



M 101, URSAE MAJORIS;
H. IV 76, CEPHEI;



H. 153, PEGASI; H. I 55, PEGASI.

(From See's Researches, Vol. II, 1910).

This plate shows impressively that the attendant bodies are not thrown off, as was long
imagined, but necessarily added on from without, because in several cases there are no central
bodies at all, or scarcely any; but the matter is plainly gathering in from without, and working
down towards the center.



UNPARALLELED DISCOVERIES OF T. J. J. SEE 189

fashion of the first impulse which the Deity is supposed by some
modern astronomers to have given to the stars. Or rather it would
be more correct to say that both ideas are practically identical.
They were intended to fill up the same lacuna in our knowledge:
they spring from the same desire to introduce in the mechanism
of heaven a second force of unknown origin to take its place by the
side of gravity." (Greek Thinkers, p. 217, translated by Magnus,
1901).

The explanation of projectile forces (such as those which set
the planets revolving) now adopted, rests on the original dispersion
of dust by the stars, and its inevitable collection into a nebula of
unsymmetrical figure, which gradually settles and coils up, thus
producing a whirling vortex about the center of the nebula, which
becomes the sun, while the surviving planets circulating about it
have their orbits reduced in size and rounded up into almost per-
fect circles by the action of the resisting medium. This is a vast
improvement in our theories of the mechanics of the heavens, and
as it follows directly from well established laws of motion, the
traditional difficulty in the mechanical theory of the universe com-
pletely disappears, and we see that the revolutions of the stars is
a necessary consequence and a proof of the interaction of attractive
and repulsive forces in nature.



XVI. SPIRAL, ANNULAR, ELLIPTICAL, PLANETARY AND
IRREGULAR NEBULA.

As nebulae arise from the collection together of particles of
dust expelled from the stars, it naturally follows that the clouds
thus developed will seldom be of perfectly regular figure, but will
often consist of two or more streams settling down and coiling up
under the effects of their mutual gravitation. The settling of a
stream of unsymmetrical figure towards its center of gravity thus
produces a spiral nebula. In rare cases the streams may coil
about in such a way as to produce an annular or ring nebula like
that in Lyra. Ring nebulae are therefore special cases of the more



190 BRIEF BIOGRAPHY AND POPULAR ACCOUNT OF THE

general type of spiral nebulas. If the whirlpool is of somewhat
even density, and viewed obliquely, it appears to be an elliptical
nebula. When the elements come together somewhat symmetri-
cally from all directions, and the density is somewhat uniform, we
have a planetary nebula a type which seems to be quite numer-
ous. Most of the nebulae, however, are of irregular figure, as
ought naturally to happen from the way they are formed. In
time they tend to settle down and assume more symmetrical form,
but the process is excessively slow, owing to the feebleness of
the attractive forces, and the rarity of the mass of cosmical
dust, which usually allows the light of stars to pass through
it, even when thousands of times the diameter of the solar
system.

For a long time after the age of Herschel and Laplace it was
usually assumed that the nebulae are figures of equilibrium main-


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Online LibraryW. L. (William Larkin) WebbBrief biography and popular account of the unparalleled discoveries of T.J.J. See .. → online text (page 17 of 28)