Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 72.djvu/38

This page has been validated.
34
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

rank are aggressively championing the dynamic theory of matter, and as each unexpected discovery, hurrying upon the heels of its predecessor, brings support to the theory, its opponents seem conscious of engaging in a losing fight.

Before passing to the chief evidence, I will just mention some curious experiments of the Hindu physicist, Dr. Bose, a professor in Calcutta University, which indicate the trend of the more advanced research that is now being prosecuted, and indirectly support the dynamic theory, by tending to show that metals, at least, are not dead, but alive, bundles of activities like living animals. Dr. Bose's book, "The Response of Matter," I have not been able to secure; the quotation that follows is from a notice of it in the London Review of Reviews. Dr. Bose's discovery is, that stimulated metals give back, under proper conditions of observation, the electric response that has been thought peculiar to, and characteristic of, organic or living matter, and, with variation of conditions, vary their response just as organic matter does:

When the metals were stimulated by a pinch they also made their autographic records by electric twitches, and thus, being responsive, showed that they could in no sense be called "dead"! Nay, more, it was found that given the records for living muscle, nerves and metals, it was impossible to distinguish one record from another. For the metals also, when continuously excited, showed gradual fatigue; as with ourselves, so with them, a period of repose revived their power of response—even a tepid bath was found helpful in renewing vigor; freezing brought on cold torpidity, and too great a rise of temperature brought heat rigor. . . . Death can be hastened by poison. Then can the metals be poisoned? In answer to this was shown the most astonishing part of Professor Bose's experiments. A piece of metal which was exhibiting electric twitches was poisoned; it seemed to pass through an electric spasm, and at once the signs of its activity grew feebler, till it became rigid. A dose of some antidote was next applied; the substance began slowly to revive, and after a while gave its normal response once more.

But it is not upon such experimental curiosities that the dynamic theory of matter is based, significant as they may be of the future discoveries of science. It is more substantially founded upon the evidence of the spectroscope, the fast-growing knowledge of electricity, and the marvelous results of the experiments on radio-active substances. Recent publications have made these facts familiar, and it will only be necessary to recall them briefly, grouping them in such wise as to suggest their significance as clearly as possible.

There has been a disposition among scientists for the last half century, growing constantly stronger, and finally becoming nearly irresistible, to look upon Dalton's atoms as divisible, therefore misnamed, and not the ultimate constituents of matter. Suspicion was first cast upon their simplicity and ultimateness when the spectroscope disclosed several distinct lines in the spectrum of each element; and was reinforced when it appeared that some elements had two or even three distinct spectra. Nor was the case bettered when it was found that