Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 45.djvu/523

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NATURE AS DRAMA AND ENGINERY.

scribed by the wheels and levers of the machine shop. In an everextending curve the physicist has arranged a continuous series of real activities, a wide diversity of energies once deemed "potential" static, at perfect rest. Is it reasonable to maintain that this curve of his, almost a full circle, does not form part of a real circle, that the small arc which yawns where gravity can fit with the completing effect of a keystone, represents a discontinuity in the nature of things? Preferable, because more probable, is the idea that the scope of kinetic explanation is universal, that the whole scheme of physical Nature represents in its every part and function an enginery upon whose ceaseless action hinges the drama, ever more involved, of plant and animal and human life.

To men who knew only what had befallen themselves and their dwelling place during a few generations, it was but natural to repeat: "The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done, is that which shall be done; and there is no new thing under the sun."[1] But we of to-day are in different case. The astronomer, joining camera to telescope, expands the sphere of the known universe a million fold; he discovers system after system in stages of life such as our sun and its attendant orbs have passed through in ages so distant as to refuse conception. The geologist, deciphering the birth register of our planet's oldest rocks, gives them a lifetime scarcely to be distinguished from eternity. The range of time, thus broadened, permits to the smallest arc of change a sweep wherein it becomes a circle of profoundest transformation. The naturalist, his tasks of mere description almost at an end, finds their chief value to lie in their furnishing data for the new question. How did all this diversity of life become what it is? Ever the keynote of reply is action and reaction, unending stimulus and response. Permanence is only a seeming, the truth behind it is universal plasticity and change. In the organic world this passing from appearance to cause has restored soul to body, and made intelligible for the first time both form and substance, by referring them to the forces which mold and inform every material frame of life. In the inorganic world it will be the same; the force which binds sun to planet, pebble to seashore, will yet be understood as part of the unbroken round of all-comprehending motion.



The pterodactyls, it appears, are not yet all dead. Mr. E. M. Magrath says, in the London Spectator, that a small flying lizard is still to be found on the southwestern coast of India, of which he had some stuffed specimens—given away, however, years ago, to a distinguished naturalist

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  1. Ecclesiastes, i, 9.