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0105_001E Book II Jules Verne

Gallia Weighed

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With a good-natured laugh at the orderly's remark, the meeting adjourned for a few hours. By the appointed time the engineer had finished his task, and with all due care had prepared a cubic decimeter of the material of the comet.

"Now, gentlemen," said Professor Rosette, "we are in a position to complete our calculation; we can now arrive at Gallia's attraction, density, and mass."

Everyone gave him his complete attention.

"Before I proceed," he resumed, "I must recall to your minds Newton's general law, 'that the attraction of two bodies is directly proportional to the product of their masses, and inversely proportional to the square of their distances.'"

"Yes," said Servadac; "we remember that."

"Well, then," continued the professor, "keep it in mind for a few minutes now. Look here! In this bag are forty five-franc pieces-- altogether they weigh exactly a kilogramme; by which I mean that if we were on the earth, and I were to hang the bag on the hook of the steelyard, the indicator on the dial would register one kilogramme. This is clear enough, I suppose?"

As he spoke the professor designedly kept his eyes fixed upon Ben Zoof. He was avowedly following the example of Arago, who was accustomed always in lecturing to watch the countenance of the least intelligent of his audience, and when he felt that he had made his meaning clear to him, he concluded that he must have succeeded with all the rest. In this case, however, it was technical ignorance, rather than any lack of intelligence, that justified the selection of the orderly for this special attention.

Satisfied with his scrutiny of Ben Zoof's face, the professor went on. "And now, gentlemen, we have to see what these coins weigh here upon Gallia."

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He suspended the money bag to the hook; the needle oscillated, and stopped. "Read it off!" he said.

The weight registered was one hundred and thirty-three grammes.

"There, gentlemen, one hundred and thirty-three grammes! Less than one-seventh of a kilogramme! You see, consequently, that the force of gravity here on Gallia is not one-seventh of what it is upon the earth!"

"Interesting!" cried Servadac, "most interesting! But let us go on and compute the mass."

"No, captain, the density first," said Rosette.

"Certainly," said the lieutenant; "for, as we already know the volume, we can determine the mass as soon as we have ascertained the density."

The professor took up the cube of rock. "You know what this is," he went on to say. "You know, gentlemen, that this block is a cube hewn from the substance of which everywhere, all throughout your voyage of circumnavigation, you found Gallia to be composed-- a substance to which your geological attainments did not suffice to assign a name."

"Our curiosity will be gratified," said Servadac, "if you will enlighten our ignorance."

But Rosette did not take the slightest notice of the interruption.

"A substance it is which no doubt constitutes the sole material of the comet, extending from its surface to its innermost depths. The probability is that it would be so; your experience confirms that probability: you have found no trace of any other substance. Of this rock here is a solid decimeter; let us get at its weight, and we shall have the key which will unlock the problem of the whole weight of Gallia. We have demonstrated that the force of attraction here is only one-seventh of what it is upon the earth, and shall consequently have to multiply the apparent weight of our cube by seven, in order to ascertain its proper weight. Do you understand me, goggle-eyes?"

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Off on a Comet
Jules Verne

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