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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 72.djvu/43

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WHAT IS MATTER?

And having gone thus far, we can not escape going farther. For two or more atoms, properly related, form molecules; these groups of forces, aggregated in large numbers, form, on the one hand, masses of inorganic matter, and, on the other, living cells; and the last, in turn, organize themselves into living, and ultimately into conscious and rational, beings, who, in the last resort, are vastly complicated activities, aware of, and, in a measure, controlling their own intricate behavior.

To an active imagination the dynamic theory opens up fields fascinating to contemplate. Look first at the practical side. Aside from energy of gross position and molar motion, we are accustomed to think of heat and other forms of chemical energy as the only ones available for human use. But Wetham tells us that:

As a mean value, we may say that, in mechanical units, the energy available for radiation in one ounce of radium is sufficient to raise a weight of something like ten thousand tons one mile high.

And later that:

The energy liberated by a given amount of radioactive change. . . is at least 500,000 times and may be 10,000,000, greater than that involved in the most energetic chemical action known.

Admitting that our coal measures and iron mines may in time give out, it is evident that the present generation need not feel greatly alarmed. For who will deny to ingenious man the ability to harness these literally stupendous new forces as he has their weaker predecessors?

And on the theoretical side the gain is no less great. A respectable hypothesis, which experimental, and even laboratory methods can test, correct and enlarge, as growing experience demands, can, even in its initial form, give unity to our thinking. It not only reduces the independent chemical elements to brotherhood in the one mother substance, but it renders matter, as essentially activity, homogeneous with active mind, thus freeing us from the hopelessness of dualism, and giving a monistic view of the whole of things. And nowhere is utter death to be found. The universe, active through and through, comes out from under the heavy hand of rigid mechanism. Spontaneity is at its heart, and in the marrow of its bones. But lawless and chaotic it is not. There is regularity in the operation of its minutest parts, and organization, harmonious coworking is the law of its being, from the cooperative union of electrons into atoms to the organization of men into societies, and possibly farther still. But the order and harmony are not imposed from without by an alien power; as the laws of children's play, they are the natural rules of behavior of spontaneous beings, following, unhampered by others besides themselves, the promptings of their interacting natures.