Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 78.djvu/592

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earth, being a magnet, drags the ether with it. In what a complicated turmoil the universe of ether would have to be if this conclusion were applied to all bodies in space! This dilemma brings us to the one theory which seems to clear up the most stirring mysteries of astrophysical science.

Reynolds's Theory of the Universe

The theory of the universe, which may perhaps be called the "dark horse," is due to the late Professor Osborne Reynolds, a thinker and mathematican of no mean caliber. The theory is thoroughly discussed and elaborated in his "Sub-mechanics of the Universe," which he very appropriately calls an "inversion of ideas." Instead of considering atoms as comparatively massive particles in a vacuum, a gas or a fluid, he considers them as negative inequalities or comparative vacua immersed in the perfectly rigid plenum which the phenomena of the universe require. The atoms in the ether might, therefore, be compared mentally to the pockets or bubbles of liquid in a colloidal emulsion. It is, of course, unthinkable that atoms be perfect vacua, that matter be the expression of nothingness; what is meant is that the ether is perfect fullness and that atoms are infinitesimal spheres of activity containing less ether; mass being a function of activity, there is no connection between quantity of ether and weight. It was with Reynolds's theory in mind that the statement was made that matter and the forces which make it known to our senses might possibly represent degradations of the inherent energy of the ether. The degradation of an element means at once loss of electrons and loss of mass; hence, perhaps increase of ether content or increase of inactive corpuscles, or even, which would amount to the same thing, loss of energy to corpuscles outside the atom. All this does not, however, solve the difficulty, it merely inverts the ratios of mass; to complete the system, a theory of the propagation or conduction of matter, in place of its transportation or convection, is necessary.

The Conduction of Matter

In the early days, astronomers found difficulty in ridding themselves of the geocentric idea, and in the same way it must be a difficult thing for the physicist to abandon the idea of positive matter; this conservatism is the fly-wheel of progress. Much harder still should it be to introduce the notion that matter is propagated like waves, like moving pictures on the cinematograph screen which truly live and give rise to emotions, although made up of nothing more tangible than lights and shadows. What a reversal of mental habits to conceive that the centers of force alone move and the component electrons change continually as the waves progress through the compact universe of ethereal corpuscles!