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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/196

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

absolutely original except certain deductions of my own which, in my opinion, necessarily flow from the assumption that matter is composed of indivisible and indestructible particles. I have reason to believe that these deductions will be received with interest and that they will throw light on and explain many things which may have puzzled those not intimately acquainted with the subject.

It may, indeed, be presumed that a popular exposition of the present state of the science of molecular physics will be appreciated. Everybody has heard of and knows something about the atomic hypothesis, yet there are few who have been able to follow the more recent researches and speculations of the foremost inquirers in this difficult department, because they have been communicated to the world in a manner in which they can only be understood by mathematicians of the highest order. Such masterminds are necessary, and it was perhaps fortunate for mankind that they have hitherto confined themselves more or less exclusively to original research, and not frittered away their time by writing popular works; but it is the duty of humbler intellects to interpret their revelations, and give them the widest possible dissemination.

There is, in my opinion, no subject, outside of mathematics, however intricate or abstruse in some of its aspects, which can not be explained in the ordinary language of the people. What can be clearly imagined can also be clearly expressed; or we might as well carry science and philosophy back to the time of Duns Scotus, when it was considered the greatest triumph of learning to sophisticate so profoundly, and hedge around with arguments an obvious absurdity that no ordinary intellect could refute it.

I would also like to observe that in the manner in which I shall here endeavor to place this subject before my readers I have been largely influenced by the perusal of a recent work on molecular dynamics by Lasswitz, a German physicist and philosopher, little known as yet in this country, a profound thinker. To this work, which can not fail to make a great impression on all cultured minds, I am indebted for many of the similes which I intend to make use of. Some of these similes may appear fanciful or extravagant, but a little reflection will show their fitness and value in the interpretation of some of the more difficult problems with which we are here confronted.

Let us imagine ourselves, on a cold and clear winter night, suddenly transferred from this greatest and noisiest of American cities, hundreds of miles away, into the stillness of the country, or into the depth of some solitary forest.

Nothing around us seems to stir; we are far from the roar of cities; above us the silence of the stars, beneath us a soft carpet