|The Story Book of Science|
|by Jean Henri Fabre|
|The wonders of plant and animal life told with rare literary charm by Uncle Paul in conversations with three children. Besides such stories as the ants' subterranean city, the spider's suspension bridge, and the caterpillars' processing, he unlocks the mystery behind thunder and lightning, clouds and rain, the year and its seasons, and volcanoes and earthquakes. Ages 9-12 |
HE story of the gunner," Jules remarked, "ended very
differently from what one expected at the beginning. Just
when one thinks the two travelers are done for, it turns out
nothing more serious is in question than the roasting of two
fowls. A shiver of fear seizes you when the man climbs the
ladder with the cutlass between his teeth; the next minute
you are laughing. That is a very amusing story; but it has
turned us aside from the earthquakes. You have not told us
yet the cause of these terrible movements of the ground."
"If that interests you," replied his uncle, "let us talk
about it a little. I will tell you first that the farther
you descend into the earth, the hotter it becomes.
Excavations made by man for obtaining various minerals give
us valuable information on this subject. The deeper they go,
the hotter it is. For every thirty meters of depth there is
an increase of one degree in temperature."
"I don't know very well what a degree is," said Jules.
"And I don't know anything about it," confessed Emile.
"Let us begin with that; if not, it would be impossible for
you to understand. In my room you
 have seen, on a little
wooden board, a glass rod pierced by a very fine canal and
ending at the bottom in a little bulb. In the bulb is a red
liquid, which ascends or descends in the canal of the tube
according to whether it is warmer or colder. That is called
a thermometer. In freezing water the red liquid goes down to
a point in the tube called zero; in boiling water it goes up
to a point marked 100. The distance between these two points
is divided into one hundred equal parts called degrees."
"Why degrees?" asked Emile.
"By that it is meant that these divisions have a certain
resemblance to the degrees or steps of a flight of stairs,
or the rounds of a ladder. The red liquid goes up or down
from division to division just as we mount or descend a
flight of stairs step by step. If it grows warmer, the red
liquid moves and little by little climbs the steps; if
colder, it goes down the ladder. Thus the heat can be
estimated according to the step or degree where the liquid
"It is freezing when the liquid goes down to zero; the heat
is that of boiling water when it goes up to division 100.
The intermediate steps or degrees indicate, evidently, other
states of heat, greater when the degree is higher up on the
"The degree of heat of any body, as indicated by the
thermometer, is called its temperature. Thus we say the
temperature of freezing water is zero, that of boiling water
one hundred degrees."
 "One morning," said Emile, "when you sent me to get
something from your room, I put my hand on the little bulb
of the thermometer. The red liquid began to go up, little by
"It was the warmth of your hand that made it go up."
"I wanted to see how high the liquid would go, but I had not
patience to wait till the end."
"I will tell you. At last the thermometer would have marked
at most 38 degrees, which is the temperature of the human
"And in the very hot days of summer what degree does the
thermometer mark?" asked Jules.
"In our region the greatest heat of summer is from 25 to 35
"And in the hottest countries of the world?" Claire
"In the hottest countries, Senegal, for example, the
temperature rises to 45 and 50 degrees. It is twice as hot
as our summer."
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