Sunday, August 9, 2009

Meteors: 1808

"In all the instances in which these stones have been supposed to fall from the clouds, and of which any perfect account has been given, the appearance of a luminous meteor, exploding with loud noise, has immediately preceded, and hence has been looked to as the cause. The stones likewise have been more or less hot, when found immediately after their supposed fall. Different opinions however have been entertained on this subject, which is certainly involved in much difficulty. Some philosophers imagine them to be formed in the atmosphere by a sudden condensation of the elements of their component parts: others, that they already existed on the spot where they were found, and were merely struck by the electric discharge : and prof. Proust has invested, that they might be torn from the polar regions by the meteor. Some have supposed them to be merely projected from volcanoes : while others have suggested, that they might be thrown from the moon; or be bodies wandering through space, and at length brought within the sphere of attraction of our planet."

--From A dictionary of practical and theoretical chemistry--

So many theories, and the author is careful not to take sides, using "supposed" in the main description. He definitely understood the spirit of scientific investigation.

The explanation we use today wasn't handed down by a committee or what one person thought was best, but by years of experiments and arguing.

It doesn't make sense to take sides when all the information isn't known. At one point the French Academy of Sciences did make a ruling on the subject; they concluded that meteorites didn't fall from the sky at all, but were caused by lightning strikes. Fortunately, today we don't try discovering scientific truths through consensus. That would be idiotic.

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