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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 4.djvu/565

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REPLIES TO THE QUARTERLY REVIEWERS.

hypothesis which enabled Laplace to correct Newton's estimate of the velocity of sound—the hypothesis that heat is evolved by the compression each sound-wave produces in the air? Does he deny that the heat so generated is at the expense of so much wave-motion lost? Does he question the inference that some of the motion embodied in each wave is from instant to instant dissipated, partly in this way and partly in the heat evolved by fluid friction? Can he show any reason for doubting that, when the sound-waves have become too feeble to affect our senses, their motion still continues to undergo this transformation and diminution until it is all lost? If not, why does he implicitly deny that the molar motion constituting sound eventually disappears in producing the molecular motion constituting heat?[1] I will dwell no longer on the exclusively-personal questions raised by the reviewer's statements, but, leaving the reader to judge of the rest of my "stupendous mistakes" by the one I have dealt with, I will turn to a question worthy to occupy some space, as having an impersonal interest—the question, namely, respecting the nature of the warrant we have for asserting ultimate physical truths. The contempt which, as a physicist, the reviewer expresses for the metaphysical exploration of physical ideas, I will pass over with the remark that every physical question, probed to the bottom, ends in a metaphysical one, and that I should have thought the controversy now going on among chemists, respecting the legitimacy of the atomic hypothesis, might have shown him as much. On his erroneous statement that I use the phrase "Persistence of Force" as an equivalent for the now-generally-accepted phrase "Conservation of Energy," I will observe only that, had he not been in so great a hurry to find inconsistencies, he would have seen why, for the purposes of my argument, I intentionally use the word Force: Force being the generic word, including both that species known as Energy, and that species by which Matter occupies space and maintains its integrity—a species which, whatever may be its relation to Energy, and however clearly recognized as a

  1. Only after the foregoing paragraphs were written, did the remark of a distinguished friend show me how certain words were misconstrued by the reviewer in a way that had never occurred to me as possible. In the passage referred to, I have said that sound-waves "finally die away in generating thermal undulations that radiate into space;" meaning, of course, that the force embodied in the sound-waves is finally exhausted in generating thermal undulations. In common speech, the dying away of a prolonged sound, as that of a church-bell, includes its gradual diminution as well as its final cessation. But, rather than suppose I gave to the words this ordinary meaning, the reviewer supposes me to believe, not simply that the longitudinal waves of air can pass, without discontinuity, into the transverse waves of ether, but he also debits me with the belief that the one order of waves, having lengths measurable in feet, and rates expressed in hundreds per second, can by mere enfeeblement pass into the other order of waves, having lengths of some fifty thousand to the inch, and rates expressed in many billions per second! Why he preferred so to interpret my words, and that, too, in the face of contrary implications elsewhere (instance § 100), will, however, be manifest to every one who reads his criticisms.