Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 78.djvu/591

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
581
THE UNDERLYING FACTS OF SCIENCE

out into space to re-create atoms for use in some other system. The sun, while emitting an enormous amount of energy, may be gathering an equal amount and be a vast atom-factory. Vico with his "metaphysical points" and Boscovich with his theory of centers of force for atoms were the forerunners of the theory that matter is energy objectified, a theory so startling that it would be unwise, not to say positively indecent, for modern science to accept it offhand without at least a show of suspicion. Anaxagoras saw in the energy of atoms the evidences of mental power; even the most sceptic must refrain from criticizing or judging the statement that the energy of the atom is entitled to be called intelligent in the broad sense. It is quite significant that protoplasm molecules are very rich in atoms, each molecule of human hœmoglobin containing not less than 1897.

The Vortex Atom

But we must now return to the vortex atom. It is a gratuitous supposition, all too widely accepted, that atoms must necessarily be round. Secchi favored a round revolving atom. Lord Kelvin and many others found that the vortex atom more completely satisfies the requirements of observed facts, but that the vortex atoms may vary in their shape and proportionate dimensions. It may be best to give Professor Tait's definition of Kelvin's vortex atom, instead of attempting to fashion a new one. "The rotating part of an inert perfect fluid, whose motion is absolutely continuous, which fills all space, but which is, when not rotating, absolutely unperceived by our senses." By "perfect fluid" is meant one which is frictionless, clearly an impossibility for matter in the liquid state.

The most pronounced features of the vortex atom as compared with other conceptions which have been offered are its elasticity and its permanent character; its mathematical study is of unusual difficulty, but the properties which it must necessarily possess coincide in a remarkable degree with the observed properties of atoms. The vortex ring, one made of smoke, for instance, can not be cut; it will move away from the edge of the knife; it can, however, be deformed and will vibrate in various ways. It can revolve axially or in any other direction. It is even conceivable that vortex atoms be linked so that a great variety of arrangements would be possible, corresponding to stereochemical groupings.

One more point must be touched upon. Is the ether stagnant or in motion? At first it may appear as rather a waste of energy to attempt to discover if the ether is in motion, but Professor Larmor has shown mathematically that the absence of any optical influence of the earth's motion on light from the sun and stars suggests that the ether moves along with the earth. From another source comes the idea that the