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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 70.djvu/149

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145
IN SEARCH OF TRUTH

or comfort. Now that the X-rays have become somewhat familiar and matter of course, the still more wonderful emanations of radium are made to do the same things and in a fashion equally regardless of the lessons of chemistry and of physiology. The medicine man of the Modocs by other incantations of his own calls up the microbe of disease which he finally spits out, a trout perhaps, or a wood-boring grub or a small lizard—from his own mouth. There have been occult and esoteric methods in medicine since the first Old Man of the Mountains learned to look wise. The rabbit's foot for good luck, the cold potato for rheumatism, celery for the nerves and sarsaparilla for the blood are typical methods as old as humanity. But quackery and pretense does not diminish our debt to honest medicine and surgery however much it may tend to obscure it. Some one asked Dr. Mesmer, the great apostle of animal magnetism, which was the form taken by 'faith cure' in the last century, why he ordered his patient to bathe in river water rather than in well-water. His answer was that 'the river water was exposed to the sun's rays.' When further asked what effect sunshine had other than to warm the water he replied, 'Dear doctor, the reason why all water exposed to the rays of the sun is superior to other water is because it is magnetized—since twenty years ago I magnetized the sun!'

"I see in the Alcalde Gazette that Madame de Silva, a prophetess and seer of visions, seventh daughter of a seventh daughter, born with a caul, down at the American House, is prepared to diagnose all diseases from the examination of a lock of hair, and that Wong Chang, the Chinese doctor, is prepared to do the same and ask no questions. How does this differ from the power of Cuvier to draw a bird from a simple claw or that of Agassiz who could restore a whole fish from one scale?

"Throughout the middle ages experimenters of all grades were engaged in the task of finding the means by which base metals could be transmuted into gold. It was possible in the chemical laboratory to do many things which seemed equally difficult and to the common mind far more mysterious. In the philosophy of the day, and perhaps in our own time as well, there was every reason to believe that the transmutation of metals was possible. But it never was accomplished and many a learned alchemist went to his grave, the work of his life a confessed failure.

"Yet this very day, the daily press, which is responsible for so much of spurious science and mental confusion, gives the record of successful alchemy. One famous metallurgist of world-wide reputation (all these men have 'a world-wide reputation with one another'), has subjected silver to great pressure till it becomes yellow, soft and heavy just like gold. All the difference is in the density—16 to 1. Condensed silver is gold, so the newspaper maintains, and the problem of alchemy is solved at last. By these experiments, six ounces of silver make but