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At the bottom the masonry rested upon a massive block measuring thirty feet in thickness, while on the upper portion it was level with the surrounding soil. President Barbicane and the members of the Gun Club warmly congratulated their engineer Murchison; the cyclopean work had been accomplished with extraordinary rapidity.
Barbicane could not help smiling at Michel's reply; then, returning to his theory, said: "Thus, in case of a shock, it would have been with our projectile as with a ball which falls in a burning state after having struck the metal plate; it is its motion which is turned into heat.
Consequently I affirm that, if our projectile had struck the meteor, its speed thus suddenly checked would have raised a heat great enough to turn it into vapor instantaneously." "Then," asked Nicholl, "what would happen if the earth's motion were to stop suddenly?" "Her temperature would be raised to such a pitch," said Barbicane, "that she would be at once reduced to vapor."
"As Barbicane was about leaving the window to open the opposite scuttle, his attention was attracted by the approach of a brilliant object. It was an enormous disc, whose colossal dimension could not be estimated. Its face, which was turned to the earth, was very bright. One might have thought it a small moon reflecting the light of the large one.
"It is very much," replied Barbicane; "the temperature which was observed in the polar regions, at Melville Island and Fort Reliance, that is 76@ Fahrenheit below zero." "If I mistake not," said Nicholl, "M. Pouillet, another savant, estimates the temperature of space at 250@ Fahrenheit below zero. We shall, however, be able to verify these calculations for ourselves."
"I do not know if I should," said Nicholl, "for the more I study it the more marvellously correct I find it." "Now listen," said Barbicane to his ignorant comrade, "and you will see that all these letters have a signification." "I am listening," said Michel, looking resigned.
Barbicane remained calm in the midst of this enthusiastic clamor; perhaps he was desirous of addressing a few more words to his colleagues, for by his gestures he demanded silence, and his powerful alarum was worn out by its violent reports. No attention, however, was paid to his request.
"Perhaps," continued Barbicane, "the most logical thing would be to consecrate this first meeting to discussing the engine." "Certainly," answered General Morgan.
"Yes," answered Barbicane, "after having, doubtless, existed for thousands of centuries. Then gradually the atmosphere becoming rarefied, the disc will again be uninhabitable like the terrestrial globe will one day become by cooling." "By cooling?" "Certainly," answered Barbicane. "As the interior fires became extinguished the incandescent matter was concentrated and the lunar disc became cool.
"It is absolutely void of air." "And is the air replaced by nothing whatever?" "By the ether only," replied Barbicane. "And pray what is the ether?" "The ether, my friend, is an agglomeration of imponderable atoms, which, relatively to their dimensions, are as far removed from each other as the celestial bodies are in space.