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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 72.djvu/340

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

thought of as immutably fixed for all time, but so were animal and plant species before Darwin. The growing evidence for this larger view of matter, though recent, is already too strong to be longer ignored. The burden of proof is gradualy shifting, and to Alice's question, "Why?" comes back the equally pertinent "Why not?" of the March Hare.

To gather a little together: The electron has but a thousandth part of the inertia of the lightest known material atom, and this inertia it doubtless borrows from the kindly ether and does not hold in its own right. Its behavior is that of an atom of negative electricity pure and simple. Its form is spherical and not spheroidal. Its size is probably less than one ten-million-millionths of an inch. When revolving briskly enough in an orbit within the atom it gives us colored light of highest purity. When violently jostling irregularly about it gives us white light. Without it all light would be impossible.

We believe we have found electricity free from matter, but never yet matter free from electricity. Finally comes the suggestion that matter no less than life may be undergoing a slow but endless evolution.

Some of these things and many others have led physicists to suspect that if all electricity were removed from matter nothing would be left, that the material atom is an electrical structure and nothing more.

There are, however, many stubborn questions to which answers must somehow be found before the so-called electron theory of matter can be accepted unreservedly. As it stands it is at once a most brilliant and promising hypothesis, but has not yet reached the full stature of a theory.

Should it hold good, the material atom with its revolving electrons becomes the epitome of the universe. The architecture of the solar system and of the atom, the very great and the very small, reveals the same marvelous plan, the same exquisite workmanship. The conservation of energy becomes an ethereal law and the ether the abiding place of the universal store of energy.

To end as we began, we have matter and electricity which some day may be one, and ether and energy. Of these we hope some time to build in theory a reasonable world to match the one we now so little understand.

When all the interrelations among matter, ether, electricity are separated out and quantitatively expressed, we believe our work will be complete.

Such, then, is the confession of faith, the very far-distant hope of the modern physicist.