**** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE ****

Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

"The To-Morrow Of Death"
by [?]

Few of those who find pleasure in frequenting bookstores can have failed to come across one or more of the profusely illustrated volumes in which M. Louis Figuier has sought to render dry science entertaining to the multitude. And of those who may have casually turned over their pages, there are probably none, competent to form an opinion, who have not speedily perceived that these pretentious books belong to the class of pests and unmitigated nuisances in literature. Antiquated views, utter lack of comprehension of the subjects treated, and shameless unscrupulousness as to accuracy of statement, are faults but ill atoned for by sensational pictures of the “dragons of the prime that tare each other in their slime,” or of the Newton-like brow and silken curls of that primitive man in contrast with whom the said dragons have been likened to “mellow music.”

Nevertheless, the sort of scientific reputation which these discreditable performances have gained for M. Figuier among an uncritical public is such as to justify us in devoting a few paragraphs to a book [1] which, on its own merits, is unworthy of any notice whatever. “The To-morrow of Death”–if one were to put his trust in the translator’s prefatory note–discusses a grave question upon “purely scientific methods.” We are glad to see this remark, because it shows what notions may be entertained by persons of average intelligence with reference to “scientific methods.” Those–and they are many–who vaguely think that science is something different from common-sense, and that any book is scientific which talks about perihelia and asymptotes and cetacea, will find their vague notions here well corroborated. Quite different will be the impression made upon those–and they are yet too few–who have learned that the method of science is the common-sense method of cautiously weighing evidence and withholding judgment where evidence is not forthcoming. If talking about remote and difficult subjects suffice to make one scientific, then is M. Figuier scientific to a quite terrible degree. He writes about the starry heavens as if he had been present at the hour of creation, or had at least accompanied the Arabian prophet on his famous night-journey. Nor is his knowledge of physiology and other abstruse sciences at all less remarkable. But these things will cease to surprise us when we learn the sources, hitherto suspected only in mythology, from which favoured mortals can obtain a knowledge of what is going on outside of our planet.

[Footnote 1:
The To-morrow of Death; or, The Future Life according to Science. By Louis Figuier. Translated from the French by S. R. Crocker. Boston: Roberts Brothers. 1872.]

The four inner planets being nearly alike in size (?) and in length of day, M. Figuier infers, by strictly scientific methods, that whatever is true of one of them, as our earth, will be true of the others (p. 34). Hence, they are all inhabited by human beings. It is true that human beings must find Venus rather warm, and are not unlikely to be seriously incommoded by the tropical climate of Mercury. But we must remember that “the men of Venus and Mercury are made by nature to resist heat, as those of Jupiter and Saturn are made to endure cold, and those of the Earth and Mars to live in a mean temperature: OTHERWISE THEY COULD NOT EXIST” (p. 72). In view of this charming specimen of a truly scientific inference, it is almost too bad to call attention to the fact that M. Figuier is quite behind the age in his statement of facts. So far from Jupiter and Saturn being cold, observation plainly indicates that they are prodigiously hot, if not even incandescent and partly self-luminous; the explanation being that, by reason of their huge bulk, they still retain much of the primitive heat which smaller planets have more quickly radiated away. As for M. Figuier’s statement, that polar snows have been witnessed on these planets, it is simply untrue; no such thing has ever been seen there. Mars, on the other hand, has been observed to resemble in many important respects its near neighbour, the Earth; whence our author declares that if an aeronaut were to shoot clear of terrestrial gravitation and land upon Mars, he would unquestionably suppose himself to be still upon the earth. For aerolites, it seems, are somehow fired down upon our planet both from Mars and from Venus; and aerolites sometimes contain vegetable matter (?). Therefore, Mars has a vegetation, and very likely its red colour is caused by its luxuriant autumnal foliage! (p. 47.) To return to Jupiter: this planet, indeed, has inconveniently short days. “In his ‘Picture of the Heavens,’ the German astronomer, Littrow (these Germans think of nothing but gormandizing), asks how the people of Jupiter order their meals in the short interval of five hours.” Nevertheless, says our author, the great planet is compensated for this inconvenience by its equable and delicious climate.