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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/201

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ATOMIC WORLDS AND THEIR MOTIONS.

has taken fifteen thousand years to reach us, is concealed from us forever.

But, as here in an outward and ever-enlarging scale, so in the molecules and atoms downward, and ever diminishing in size, we find system after system inclosed one in the other, like the ivory balls in a Chinese puzzle, downward, ever downward, and there is no end! We shall never be able to exhaust the possibilities of minuteness. The atoms of elements may consist of ether-atoms; indeed, the very elements themselves may not be elements in the true sense at all, but compound bodies, as has, indeed, been very long suspected.

Now, let us once more take our magic wand; let us imagine one of these tiny atoms enlarged to the size of this globe, of this earth, on which we live. A magnification of one trillion diameters would more than suffice. It would now, with its companion-atoms, represent a planetary system, and the molecules in a gas would stand in about the same relationship to each other as the fixed' stars over us, which pursue their unknown courses; the little air-bubble in the glass of water becomes a star-cluster like the one in which our sun is situated. The circle of little bubbles around the margin of this glass would represent such a gathering of star-clusters as we now see before us in the milky way.

The galaxy in a glass of water! On what does the glass rest in which our starry firmament has gathered? Who will take it to his lips? We know not; we can not see beyond our tiny bubble, and the mere fact of being able to understand that we never can hope to look beyond it presupposes a great deal of understanding.

It will be worth our while to have a look around on our enlarged atom. We live on this planet of ours, but what entitles us to draw a line or fix a limit as to the possible or impossible in this endless, this infinite series of worlds with which we are here confronted? If we could descend on to one of these atoms, our bodies diminished in proportion, might we not, would we not, find there another earth grouped with its companion-atoms into a stellar system of perhaps wondrous regularity? That world in which a conscious being exists is determined by the kind of this consciousness, and by the character of the impressions which it is capable of receiving. We can not well think of perceptions other than our own, because we can not go beyond the limit of our own selves, but we can well imagine a world in which sensations like ours may succeed each other in far greater rapidity.

We can imagine a creature which in one second, during which we only receive at the utmost ten different impressions, is organized to receive thousands, millions, or billions. That means that in one thousandth, one millionth, or one billionth of the time we