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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 72.djvu/55

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51
SOME RECENT TRANSMUTATIONS

pressure, although he does not make that plain. Keeler[1] has called attention to the five spectra of oxygen which differ so widely in their appearance that there is no indication that they belong to the same substance.

Perhaps the most remarkable portion of this last work of Ramsay, the full account of which, just published, reads like a story of magic, had to do with the solutions of the copper salts in which the emanation performed its devolutions. These solutions after the removal of the copper showed the presence of lithium, the smallest metallic member of the first family in the periodic classification. So careful an experimenter as Ramsay of course took precautions to prove the absence of lithium in any of the apparatus or chemicals used by blank tests.

The facts indicate decomposition, "degradation," as Ramsay put it, and not composition, synthesis. He makes no claim to what has generally been understood by the laity as transmutation, namely, the conversion of silver into gold.

The emanation, in passing through its transformations, evolves much the greater portion of the energy produced by radium and its educts. Metaphysicians, among whom are many of the most matter-of-fact men of science, have long speculated upon the constitution of matter. Time and again it has been urged that the heavy chemical elements would eventually be broken down into lighter ones. All that was needed was sufficient energy, or the right kind of energy, properly applied. Up to the time of Ramsay's work no successfully undisputed experimental facts have been offered in substantiation of these philosophic considerations. Can it be that we have Bacon's "Philosopher's stone" in the form of a storehouse of concentrated energy, the emanation?

It is evident in this limited communication that many omissions have had to be made. I have purposely avoided the complication, which would be introduced by a discussion of the attractive electronic theory of matter. Nor has there been a desire to depict the acrobatic cerebrations of French hylozoists, although Ostwald, perhaps the greatest teacher of chemistry to-day, captains the energistic propaganda.

  1. Scientific American Supplement, 88, 977 (1894).