Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/218

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vitality. The same immense expenditure, the same apparent disproportion discloses itself when we consider the time that has been consumed in the process. Here we are again confronted by figures approximating eternity. Life has existed on the Earth millions of years, and mammalian life hundreds of thousands of years. Yet such periods are insignificant in comparison with the cosmogony of the planets. The duration of the highest order of life, under the refined conditions of a high type of civilization, is but of yesterday comparatively, but it has taken so enormous a period to ripen that we can no more conceive of it than of eternity. A space so vast that it is a tedious journey for light to traverse, and a lapse of time so great that a snail might have made the circuit with ease in the morning of it, have been necessary to give birth to one Shakespeare! All this space, and all this time, and all this immortal energy have as yet barely sufficed to develop a few organisms capable of a glimmering comprehension of the forces which have evolved them. All the rest, if the accepted theories of gravitation and light and heat are not wholly illusory or misunderstood, is waste space, waste matter, waste energy. Life is far more rare and far more costly in our solar system than diamonds in the earth.

But why not? Space is boundless, matter is infinite in quantity, and time is limitless, past and to come. Where the treasure is exhaustless, the question of cost is only interesting from a speculative point of view. This as regards the past.

One of the elements of cost—time has an interesting bearing on the future of the universe. Some scientists have of late indulged in presages more despondent than philosophical. According to this school, the dissipation of energy into space will finally result in the death of matter. Matter, being indestructible, will exist forever, but its soul will perish; first the vital form, then electricity, light, and heat, and finally even atomic vibration—leaving all cosmic bodies mere cadavers, like the terrestrial moon. This view has been combated by special theories, like that of Siemens, but not with great success. But there is a large aspect of the question which, though it seems to have escaped the attention of thinkers, at once sets it at rest, and demonstrates that energy and life are immortal. Bacon says of eternal duration, that, dividing it into past and future, it is of no consequence where we draw the line; a billion years ago, or a billion years hence, or the present, the two parts are still equal to each other and to the whole; thus contradicting all the laws of quantity. If this be a paradox, it has the peculiarity of being irrefutable, since it is impossible to conceive of any greater eternity than either the past or the future. Assuredly it can not be maintained that the future eternity is greater than the past. Assuming, then, this postulate, and that energy in all phases has been eternal in the past, it follows, with a force that commands unhesitating assent, that it will be eternal in the future. Whatever is, has been; whatever will be, has been. En-