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Here, then, is yet another reason for expecting that when the sun is eclipsed light would be seen around him.
The perihelia of comets, again, are known to be very richly distributed in the sun's neighbourhood as compared with more distant regions. Considering that for every discovered comet hundreds escape discovery (a circumstance recognised by all astronomers), and adding to that consideration the discovery that a proportion, at any rate, of known comets have trains of meteoric attendants, we have fresh reason for expecting that the sun's neighbourhood during total obscuration would be a region of brightness.
Lastly, Venus and Mercury, when in inferior conjunction, are seen to be projected as dark bodies on a relatively bright background. The light which illuminates that background would undoubtedly be discernible during the total obscuration of the sun.
Against the theory to which we have thus been led, both by the weight of positive evidence against all other theories, and by the overwhelming weight of evidence in its own favour, no evidence has ever, I believe, been adduced. No one has pretended to point to a single argument which seems opposed to the theory. Nor has any attempt ever been made to support the other theories under the weight of those arguments which have been urged as conclusive against them.
Thus, then, the matter rests at present. I would submit to those who desire to see the cause of astronomy successfully advanced, that a case has been made out for directing future observations to the analysis of the structure and physical condition of a veritable solar appendage, in place of wasting the energy of observers in the attempt to resolve a question which has already been fully answered. If, next December, observers regard the corona as a solar appendage, numberless ways of determining what the nature of that appendage may be can scarcely fail to suggest themselves. Observations made with such an object, and according to methods so suggested, cannot fail to be most instructive and useful. But if, on the other hand, observers regard the corona as an object whose real position in the solar system is undetermined, as an object which may be ninety millions of miles away round the sun, or a quarter of a million of miles away round the moon, or close by within a few hundred miles of us in our own atmosphere, it must needs be that their observations will be ill-directed and relatively valueless. This consideration, and only this, has led me to dwell as strongly as possible, while there is yet time, on considerations which (as I take it) are amply sufficient to guide the thoughtful student of nature to a just general opinion as to the position of the corona in the solar system.
TOR some time past the public have heard of experiments T with machine-guns at the famous government shootinggrounds at Shoeburyness, and the reports of these trials, and the notoriety weapons of this nature have attained in the fearful battles which have recently been waged on the Continent, have combined to give the keenest interest to this subject. The French went into war with much boasting over these terrible mitrailleuses, and these new arms, it is clear, must have made their mark, or we should not now hear of their contemplated introduction into the Prussian armies. The Prussians, like ourselves, have preferred artillery; and, without doubt, if the sole option of one or the other were a necessity, and judgment lay between rifled field-guns and mitrailleuses, the choice of the former for general service would be right and proper. The field-gun can fire buildings, destroy material, and make a breach ; whilst the mitraille contained in its shells is carried to long distances with the force of a large charge of gunpowder. Nevertheless, the machine-guns throwing compact clouds of bullets, or streaking with thin horizontal lines the front of the enemy, have special deadly uses, and are, indeed, for certain purposes, most terribly destructive weapons. The war has already done this good—that it has, at least partially, awakened this country to a sense of its military, if not national, insecurity; and the popularisation of some of the prominent items of military mechanical and physical science will serve a very useful purpose at this time, in respect to the discussions which have so freely been awakened.
Of the French mitrailleuses no specimen has yet been brought to trial in this country; but two weapons of the class of machine-guns have undergone an extensive, though not as yet by any means an exhaustive, test. These two are the Montigny-Christophe mitrailleuse and the Gatling machinegun. The former (fig. 1, Plate 66) is a composite weapon, containing numerous—the one under trial thirty-seven-ordinary rifle barrels, with hexagonal exteriors, packed together and soldered into a wrought-iron jacket or cylinder; it is discharged by a descending plate, which allows the separate springs in thirty-seven corresponding chambers to thrust forward their respective pistons to fire the cartridges in front of them. The cartridges are of the class known as “ central fire,” and very similar to those commonly used in the British service for the Snider rifles of the infantry.
The gun, for the sake of explanation, may be regarded as in three parts : (1) the cylinder of thirty-seven barrels; (2) the breech attachments or breech-box, consisting mainly of two deep vertical side-plates, between which the (3) breech-block slides horizontally to and fro, supported on suitable projections. The breech-box is screwed on to the cylinder of barrels by a ring, and has its rear end closed in by a transverse bar or plate. The breech-block contains the arrangements for firing the cartridges, and when pushed home by the lever closes the whole of the barrels at the rear. In the metal of this breechblock are bored short chambers, corresponding in number and position with the barrels; in each of these is a small steel flanged piston pressed upon by a spiral spring. A plate perforated for the protrusion of the striking points of the pistons covers the inner face of the block. In a space in front of this face the steel plate or shutter slides vertically up and down. In front of this, again, is an outer face-plate, containing as many small steel strikers as there are barrels—in this case, thirty-seven. When the lever is pressed down, the breechblock is forced forwards and closes the gun, and the springs acting on the pistons are put in compression, the pistons then pressing against the vertical sliding-plate or shutter. When the handle of the wheel-gear moving the shutter is worked, the edge of the shutter descends, and as it clears each piston in succession, the latter dart across the vacant space and drive forward the strikers upon the fulminate in the cartridges. The edge of this shutter is bevelled, to ease the action of striking, and is also serrated, or cut into steps, in such a way that no two contiguous cartridges can be fired, the distending effect of the gases diverting the shots when the proximity is too close. When the breech-block is drawn back, a thick steel plate, perforated with thirty-seven holes, into each of which a cartridge is placed, being prevented from falling through by a tight fit and by the flange intended for extraction, is inserted in the opening. When the breech-block is slid forward again the cartridges are pushed into the open rear ends or chambers of the barrels, and the gun is closed up ready for firing. These ammunition plates are replaced as fast