Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/703

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A FEW WORDS ABOUT EATABLES.

M. You have only to consider how olive-oil is used in the warm. parts of Europe where the olive is cultivated, and how ghee is used in India, in order to satisfy yourself that oily matter may be taken with facility in hot countries as well as in cold. You hear nothing about indigestion; you find that a bad olive-harvest or scant supply of ghee is a great national calamity. A Hindoo servant of a friend who kept up his Indian habits of eating here in London has often told me that in his own case nothing would make up for a deficiency of ghee or butter, and that his experience in this matter was the common experience of his countrymen at home or away from home. He looked upon a sip of ghee in very much the same light as that in which his fellow-servants looked upon a draught of beer. "Wine is good, but oil is better," said a peasant to the courier who was with me the other day in Andalusia, and after gulping down a large mouthful of olive oil and smacking his lips more than once, the expression of his countenance was an apt illustration of the meaning of the Scriptural text which speaks of oil as making "the face to shine." Indeed, it may be taken for granted that oil may be used in large quantities throughout the year in the hot, olive-growing countries of the south of Europe, not only without making the people bilious or out of order in any way, but with unmistakable benefit.

C. You have spoken of fat and butter and cream as force-producing agents. You mean heat-producing, I suppose?

M. No; I meant what I said. They are heat-producing agents without doubt, but heat is only one of several modes of force which are closely correlated, and there is reason to believe that the molecular movement which gives rise to heat in one case may, in another case, give rise to electricity or some other form of physical force. I do not believe that heat is transformed into muscular force or nerve-force. I believe that the oxidization of the force-fuel, which gives rise to heat in one case, may in the case of a muscle and nerve give rise to the electricity which is peculiar to muscle and nerve; that this electricity antagonizes the state of action in both muscle and nerve; that in muscle it also causes elongation of the fibers during the state of rest, and that muscular contraction is brought about by the action of the attractive force which is inherent in the physical constituents of the muscular molecules when this force is no longer antagonized by their electricity. Indeed, all that I want to bring about muscular contraction is, not a metamorphosis of muscle which issues in the development of muscular force, nor a transformation of heat into muscular force, but simply a supply of electricity during the state of muscular inaction which will counteract the tendency which the muscle always has to contract as an elastic body. I want, indeed, not a special muscular force, but merely the common attractive force which is inherent in the physical constitution of the muscular molecules, and electricity to counteract the working of their attractive force when necessary.