Curiosities from the Clouds
Meteorology, Societies, Astronomy, Charlatanry, Metallurgy, Comparative Philology, Mental Illness
Discusses a letter to The Times in which George J Symons called for observations of a curious meteorological phenomenon—the 'fall of "water in a semi-solid state far denser than snow, and yet not hail nor ice"'. The author argues that what Symons calls 'natural snowballs' are 'lusus naturae', and proceeds to explain the origin of showers of such snowballs, frogs and fishes, aerolites, and other peculiar precipitations that he believes to be true on the basis of 'water-spouts'. Explains that he has recently inspected an aerolite at the 'conversazione at the house of a distinguished savant' and that if it had 'tumbled from the moon, or the interplanetary spaces' as they are 'supposed to do', then they would be 'dashed all to atoms'. The author points out that the size and warmth of aerolites mitigates against this theory and suggests that they have been launched from a place 'Not so far as to be out of the reach of a tolerably bold climbing boy'. Urges meteorologists to return to the giant beanstalk of the fable, where they will find the source of the strange snowballs. 'Your men of science', he tells Punch, 'will learn, to their confusion, that [Symons's snowballs] are moulded by fairy hands' and used by elves in their play. In an editorial postscript, Punch invites the correspondent to use the strait-jacket left in the periodical's office.
© Science in the Nineteenth-Century Periodical Project, Universities of Leeds and Sheffield, 2005 - 2020
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