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|Round the Moon||Jules Verne|
A LITTLE ALGEBRA
|Page 3 of 4||
"And you pretend, Nicholl," asked Michel, "that by means of these hieroglyphics, more incomprehensible than the Egyptian Ibis, you can find what initiatory speed it was necessary to give the projectile?"
"Incontestably," replied Nicholl; "and even by this same formula I can always tell you its speed at any point of its transit."
"On your word?"
"On my word."
"Then you are as cunning as our president."
"No, Michel; the difficult part is what Barbicane has done; that is, to get an equation which shall satisfy all the conditions of the problem. The remainder is only a question of arithmetic, requiring merely the knowledge of the four rules."
"That is something!" replied Michel Ardan, who for his life could not do addition right, and who defined the rule as a Chinese puzzle, which allowed one to obtain all sorts of totals.
"The expression v zero, which you see in that equation, is the speed which the projectile will have on leaving the atmosphere."
"Just so," said Nicholl; "it is from that point that we must calculate the velocity, since we know already that the velocity at departure was exactly one and a half times more than on leaving the atmosphere."
"I understand no more," said Michel.
"It is a very simple calculation," said Barbicane.
"Not as simple as I am," retorted Michel.
"That means, that when our projectile reached the limits of the terrestrial atmosphere it had already lost one-third of its initiatory speed."
"As much as that?"
"Yes, my friend; merely by friction against the atmospheric strata. You understand that the faster it goes the more resistance it meets with from the air."
"That I admit," answered Michel; "and I understand it, although your x's and zero's, and algebraic formula, are rattling in my head like nails in a bag."
"First effects of algebra," replied Barbicane; "and now, to finish, we are going to prove the given number of these different expressions, that is, work out their value."
"Finish me!" replied Michel.
Barbicane took the paper, and began to make his calculations with great rapidity. Nicholl looked over and greedily read the work as it proceeded.
"That's it! that's it!" at last he cried.
"Is it clear?" asked Barbicane.
"It is written in letters of fire," said Nicholl.
"Wonderful fellows!" muttered Ardan.
"Do you understand it at last?" asked Barbicane.
"Do I understand it?" cried Ardan; "my head is splitting with it."
"And now," said Nicholl, "to find out the speed of the projectile when it leaves the atmosphere, we have only to calculate that."
The captain, as a practical man equal to all difficulties, began to write with frightful rapidity. Divisions and multiplications grew under his fingers; the figures were like hail on the white page. Barbicane watched him, while Michel Ardan nursed a growing headache with both hands.
"Very well?" asked Barbicane, after some minutes' silence.
"Well!" replied Nicholl; every calculation made, v zero, that is to say, the speed necessary for the projectile on leaving the atmosphere, to enable it to reach the equal point of attraction, ought to be----"
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