A Hypertext Edition of Charles Hoy Fort's Book

Edited and Annotated by Mr. X





STAR after star after star -- and the signs that there were, at the times of them. Quake after quake after quake -- and the sights in the sky, at the times of them. Star after quake after deluge -- the sky boils with significances -- there are tempests of indications.

There's a beam of light in the sky, and it dips into a star. Spattering ponds of ink, it scribbles information. The story is that a vast and habitable land surrounds this earth. It is fertile, if showers of organic substances that have fallen from the sky, came from there. The variable stars are intermittent signs that are advertising enormous real estate opportunities. The story is declaimed by meteors, but most of us stolid ones aren't going to be persuaded by any such sensational appeal to the emotions. The story is more [404/405] obscurely told with clouds of dust that strew Europe. Most of us can't taken a hint the size of a continent.

The searchlights of the sun play upon a celebration in the sky. It has been waiting ages to mean something. Just at present known as the Milky Way, it's the Broadway of the Sky, and some day explorers from this earth may parade it --

If this earth is stationary.

According to a great deal in this book, that may be a matter of no importance, nor bearing. If we accept that Teleportation, as a "natural force," exists, and suspect that some human beings have known this and have used it; and, if we think that the culmination of a series of tele-operations will be the commercial and recreational teleportation of objects and beings, we are concerned little with other considerations, and conceive of inhabitants of this earth willing themselves -- if that's the way it's done -- to Mars, or the moon, or Polaris. But I take for a proposition that there is an underlying irony, if not sadism, in our existence, which rejoices in driving the most easily driven beings of this earth into doing, at enormous pains and expenses, the unnecessary -- the building of complicated telegraph-systems, with the use of two wires -- then reducing to one wire -- then the discovery that the desired effects could be achieved wirelessly. Labours and sufferings of early Arctic explorers to push northward over piles of ice, at a rate of three of four miles a day -- then Byrd does it with a whir.

Consequently, I concern myself with data for what may be a new field of enormous labours and sufferings, costs of lives and fortunes, misery and bereavements, until finally will come awareness that all this is unnecessary.

Upon this basis of mechanical and probably unnecessary voyagings -- unless to something disasters to [405/406] the beings of this earth be necessary -- the most important consideration is whether this earth is stationary. There can be no mechanical, or suffering, exploration from something that is somewhere one day, and the next day 60 x 60 x 24 x 19 miles away from there.

Then comes the subject of conditions surrounding this earth. If common suppositions be right, or if this earth be surrounded by a void that is intensely cold, penetration to anywhere beyond would probably be, anyway at present, impossible.

I compare ideas upon outer space with former ideas upon spaces in the Arctic regions. Resistances to the idea of exploration are similar. But in the winter-time, Arctic regions are not colder than are some of the inhabited parts of Canada. Stefansson, the Arctic explorer, has written that the worst blizzards ever seen by him were in North Dakota.(1) Prevailing ideas as to the intensity of cold surrounding this earth, and preventing exploration may be as far astray as are prevailing ideas as to Arctic coldness.

Outer space may not be homogeneously cold, and may be zoned, or pathed, with warm areas. Everything of which one knows little has the guise of homogeneousness. If anybody has a homogeneous impression of anything, that is something that he is going to be surprised about.

In the London Daily Mail, Jan. 29, 1924, Alan Cobham tells of one of his flights in India. "The air was quite warm, at 17,000 feet, but, as we descended to lower altitudes, it become gradually cooler, and, at 12,000 feet it was icy cold."

"The higher is colder" is a fixed idea, just as formerly was the supposition that the farther north the colder the atmosphere. Many reports by aviators and mountain climbers agree. Everybody who does anything out of the ordinary has to think that he [406/407] suffered. It is one of his compensations. But fixed ideas have a way of not staying fixed.

I'd like to know how astronomers get around their idea that comets are mostly of a gaseous composition, if gases would solidify at the temperature in which they suppose those comets to be moving.

But stationariness -- and what's the good of any of these speculations and collections of data, if by no conceivable agility could a returning explorer board a world scooting away from him at a rate of 19 miles a second?

In early times, upholders of the idea of stationariness of this earth argued that a swiftly moving planet would leave its atmosphere behind. But it was said that the air partakes of the planet's motions. Nevertheless, it was agreed that, far from this earth's surface, air, if existing, would not partake of the motions. No motions of this earth away from them have ever been detected by aviators, but it is said that they have not gone up high enough. But will an aviator, starting northward, from somewhere near the equator, partaking we'll say of an axial swing of 1,000 miles an hour, making for a place where the swing is, we'll say, 800 miles an hour, be opposed by the westward motion that he started with, amounting to 200 miles an hour, at his destination? How would he ever get there, without consciously opposing this transverse force, from the beginning of his flight? In the winter of 1927-28, flying south, and then north, Col. Lindbergh reported no indication of different axial velocities. Whether this earth is stationary, or not, his experience was the same as it would be, if this earth were stationary. Or Admiral Byrd over the South Pole of this earth. From a point of this earth, theoretically of no axial motion, he flew northward. He flew over land, which, relatively to his progress, spun with in- [407/408] creasing velocity, according to the conventionalists. It cannot be said that the air around him was strictly partaking of this alleged motion, because gusts were blowing in various directions. Admiral Byrd started northward, from a point of no axial swing, partaking, himself, of no axial swing, and, as he travelled northward, the land underneath him did not swing away from him. The air was moving in various directions.

There is another field of data. There have been occurrences in the sky which, according to conventionalists, destroy the idea of the stationariness of this earth, and prove its motions. Trying to prove anything is no attempt of mine. We shall have an expression upon luminous night clouds and meteor trains.

Rather often have been observed luminous night clouds, or night clouds that shine, presumably by reflected sunlight, but with the sun so far below the horizon of observers upon this earth that so to reflect its light the clouds would have to be 50 or 60 miles high, according to calculations. At this height, it is conceded, whatever air there may be does not partake of this earth's motions. If this earth be rotating from west to east, these distant clouds, not partaking of terrestrial motion, would seem to move, as left behind, from east to west. For an article upon this subject, see the New York Times, April 8, 1928.(2)

The statement that such clouds do not partake, and do seem to move from east to west, has been published by conventionalists. To an observer in Central Europe, they should, as left behind, seem to move from east to west, at a rate of about 500 miles an hour by terrestrial rotation. The statement has been made that one of these clouds was seen to "move," from east to west, the way it should "move," at exactly the rate that should be.

I make the statement that luminous night clouds [408/409] have moved north, south, east, and west, sometimes rapidly, and sometimes slowly. If somebody can, with data that will have to be accepted, show that, more than once, luminous night clouds have moved from east to west, at a rate of 500 miles an hour in a latitude where they "should" move at a rate of 500 miles an hour I shall be glad to regret that I have backed the wrong theory -- except that you can't down any theorist so easily or at all -- and up I'll bob, pointing out that this is another of the should's that shouldn't, and that the conventionalists forgot about compounding their 500 miles an hour with this earth's supposed orbital motion of 19 miles a second.

All data upon this subject that I know anything of are interpretable as indications that this earth is stationary. For instance, look up, in Nature, and other English, and French, scientific journals, observations upon the great meteor train of Feb. 22nd, 1909.(3) This appearance was thought to be as high as any luminous night cloud has been thought to be. It was so high that it was watched in France and in England. Here was something, which, because it came from externality, was not partaking of any of this earth's supposed motions. Then it should have shot away from observers, by the compounding of two velocities. Whether it came to a stationary earth or not, it hung in the sky, as if it had come to a stationary earth, drifting considerably, but remaining in sight, about two hours.

According to this datum -- and it is only one of many -- an explorer could go up from this earth 50 or 60 miles, and though, according to orthodox pronouncements, the earth would spin away from him, the earth would not spin away from him.

There are data for thinking that aviators, who have gone up from the surface of the earth, as far as [409/410] they supposed they could go, have missed entering conditions that, instead of being cold, may even be warmish, and may exist all the way to a not so very remote shell of stars. Somebody may want to know how it is that, if there be such data, they are not commonly known. But somebody else, who has read this book at all carefully will not ask that question.

An expression of mine is that all human achievements are compounded with objectives. Let someone go without food for a week, and that is a record of human endurance. Someone else makes his objective a week and a day, and achieves, in a dying condition. The extension goes on, and someone lives a month without food, and reaches the limit of human endurance. Aviators have set their minds upon surpassing the records of other aviators. It is possible that, with its objective a star, an expedition from this earth could, by merely reaching the limit of human endurance, arrive there.

Current Literature, Sept., 1924 -- that, 50 miles up, the air is ten times as dense as used to be supposed, and that it is considerably warmer than at lower levels.(4)

See Nature, Feb. 27, 1908, and following issues -- experiments with balloons that carried temperature-recording instruments.(5) According to Mr. W.H. Dines, about 30 balloons, which had been sent up, in Great Britain, in June, 1907, had moved through increasing coldness, then coming to somewhat warmer regions. This change was recorded at a height of about 40,000 feet.

Monthly Weather Review, 1923, page 316 -- that, away from this earth, the temperature falls only to a height of about 7 miles, where it is from 60 to 70 degrees below zero (Fahrenheit).(6) "But from this altitude to as high as balloons have gone, which is about [410/411] 15 miles, the temperature has remained about the same."

It is said that, according to observations upon light-effects of meteor trains, there are reasons for thinking that, in their zone of from 30 to 50 miles above this earth's surface, conditions are mild, or not even freezing.

According to data collected by the Naval Research Laboratory there is something, somewhere in the sky, that is deflecting electro-magnetic waves of wireless communications, in a way that is similar to the way in which sound waves are sent back by the dome of the Capitol, at Washington.(7) The published explanation is that there is an "ionized zone" around this earth. Those waves are rebounding from something. More was published in the newspapers, May 21, 1927. The existence of "a ceiling in the sky" had been verified by experiments at Carnegie Institution. Sept. 5, 1930 -- a paper read by Prof. E.V. Appleton, at a meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science.(8) The "ionized zone is not satisfactory.(9) "The subject is as puzzling as it is fascinating, and no decisive answer to the problem can be given at present." From Norway had been reported experiments upon short-wave transmissions, which had been reflected back to this earth. They had come back, as if from a shell-like formation, around this earth, not unthinkably far away.

THE END [411]

1. "Stefansson's eye see roses, not ice, in the Arctic." New York Herald Tribune, October 15, 1931, p.21. Stefansson states: "I since have lerned that the temperature rarely goes below 50 degrees [below zero] near the Pole. As a boy I lived in North Dakota and records for that time show that the thermometer on more than one occasion reached 55 degrees below zero."

2. "Noctilucent cloud mystery studied in radio's behalf." New York Times, April 8, 1928, s.8 p.15 c.2-3.

3. W.F. Denning."An extraordinary meteor." Knowledge, n.s., 6 (April 1909): 146. "A brilliant meteor and its train." Nature, 79 (February 25, 1909): 499. W.F. Denning. "The meteoric fireball of February 22 and its streak." Nature, 80 (March 4, 1909): 13-4. W.F. Denning. "The meteoric streak of February 22." Nature, 80 (March 11, 1909): 42. W.F. Denning. "Fireball of February 22." Nature, 80, 69.

4. "Silence zones are found in the air." Current Literature, 77 (September 1924): 357.

5. W.H. Dines. "The isothermal layer of the atmosphere." Nature, 77 (February 27, 1908): 390. Of some forty balloons sent aloft, since June of 1907 (not all in the month of June), more than thirty were recovered and found to have passed through an isothermal layer. Charles Chree. "The isothermal layer of the atmosphere." Nature, 77 (March 12, 1908): 437. W.H. Dines. "The isothermal layer of the atmosphere." Nature, 77 (March 19, 1908): 462. "The isothermal layer of the atmosphere." Nature, 77 (March 26, 1908): 485-6. Charles Chree. "The isothermal layer of the atmosphere." Nature, 78 (July 30, 1908): 293.

6. "The size of meteors." Monthly Weather Review, 51 (June 1923): 316. Correct quote: "...from this altitude as high as sounding balloons have gone...." For the original article: F.A. Lindemann, and, G.M.B. Dobson. "A theory of meteors, and the density and temperature of the outer atmosphere to which its leads." Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, s. A, 102 (January 1923): 411-37.

7. "Find radio roof encircles world and causes fading." New York Times, August 20, 1925, p. 1 c. 7 & p. 3 c. 4-5. An "ionized region, known as the "Kennelly-Heaviside layer," is referred to in this article, (not "zone").

8. E.V. Appleton. "Wireless echoes." Annual Report of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, 1930, 426-33, at 431-3. Some shortwave radio signals from Eindhoven, which were observed about three seconds after the original signal, were believed to be reflected from the moon onto Norway; however, other echoes were observed about thirty seconds after the original signal by Störmer in Norway, by van der Pol in the Netherlands, and by R.A.L. Borrow and Appleton in England. Störmer believed a toroidal space was produced by the earth's magnetic field, which deflected particles from the sun into auroral streams and which reflected shortwave radio signals. Another observation by a French expedition, which observed a solar eclipse at Paulo Condore, Indochina, in May of 1929, was of a radio echo received forty seconds after the original signal. Appleton asks: "Is it possible for the waves to have travelled actually in the (Kennelly-Heaviside) layer for 20 seconds not having gone really far from the earth's surface?" Correct quote: "The matter is, indeed, as puzzling as it is fascinating. No decisive answer to the problem can yet be given."

9. A line appears to be missing in this part of the text.

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