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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/159

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SPECULATIVE SCIENCE.

so on. All this is certainly strange news to an author who has devoted several chapters of his book to the task of showing that the great fundamental vice of the mechanical theory is the confusion of concepts with things, and particularly of the connotations of the concept mass with the complement of the properties of matter—who, in a word, is guilty of the great offense of expressing, in the precise terms of the science of logic, what Professor Newcomb is staggering at with a phrase borrowed from some elementary treatise on grammar!

And here I am tempted to do a little Gerundian preaching myself, Professor Newcomb being, of course, my congregation of "familiars." Here is my sermon: Hombre sabio y admirado, scattering supernal wisdom, like hurling thunder-bolts, is a prerogative of the dwellers on Olympus, not to be usurped by a drag-footed philosopher bellowing at its base. Quod licet Jovi, non licet bovi. I do not mean to question your general ruminant powers; but you have delivered yourself of some things "that have not been well digested," and had better be chewed again. Let me see how I can help you. Listen: When we speak of matter, we mean something which not only has weight, proportional to its mass, but which has all manner of properties—optic, thermic, electric, magnetic, chemical, and so on. Now, in the light of modern science, all these "properties" are regarded as modes of motion, if I may be permitted to use the expression of Professor Tyndall. And when we strip matter (in thought, you understand) of all these modes of motion, we have nothing left but inertia, which is but another name for mass. This mass is not a concrete thing, but a concept or a part of a concept; it is, as you say, "an abstract noun like length." And the trouble with the atomo-mechanical theorists is their fancy that this abstraction is a thing in itself, something you could look at if you had a telescope with sufficient magnifying power, or which you could weigh and measure if you had a pair of scales or a chemical reagent sufficiently delicate. They labor, as you see, under a huge mistake, which, in charity, ought to be corrected. Whenever you find real matter, you have mass and the modes of motion in indissoluble synthesis and conjunction. But when this synthesis is broken by the destructive analysis of the mechanical theorist who persists in saying that things consist of matter and motion, you are bound to tell him that what he calls matter is not matter at all, but only something which, by a curious law of our thought, we are bound to conceive or imagine as a substratum of motion—the word substratum being a barbarous Latin term which in a rough way signifies what is supposed to underlie motion. The term matter, as used by those deluded people who think that all the facts of this world can be explained by a resolution of them into matter and energy, or matter and motion, denotes simply what the physicist who knows what he is talking about calls mass.

And now, mind, what I have just told you is not some shallow con-