The Conservative (Nebraska City, Neb.) 1898-1902, October 31, 1901, Page 6, Image 6

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    6 'Cbe Conservative *
There are two senses in which a ,
treatise may be said to be popular. It
may be intended to serve as a substi
tute for real and serious study , by
communicating the results of study
iu so clear and agreeable a form as
to send the reader away full of a
glowing and newly-discovered sense
of his own requirements , while it
satiates his curiosity and paralyzes
his industry ; or it may be intended
to do no more than to translate tech
nical terms back again into the terms
familiar in common speech ; to ex
amine afresh the meaning and scope
of conceptions which the persistent
jargon of specialists has clouded ; to
bring persons of various pursuits and
tastes into intellectual contact with
one another ; and , by opening out
to novices an unsuspected region of
interest , to arouse their curiosity and
to stimulate them to further re
search. It need not be said that it is
my aim to be popular in the latter
sense , and not to be so in the former.
Words are , after all , only coins
with which to facilitate the inter
change of ideas , and the best wx > rd is
that which serves the purpose most
clearly. Thus , instead of using the
verbiage of a legal document to ex
press the ideas comprised in such
words as "theism" , we coin them for
general use , as Huxley did the word
"agnosticism , " in order to convey
our meaning. The word "polarity"
is defined in the Century dictionary
as "The having of two opposite poles ;
variation in certain physical prop
erties , so that in one direction they
are the opposite of what they are in
the opposite direction. " There are ,
however , a vast variety of facts , out-
side of magnetism and electricity ,
connected by an underlying idea ,
which inevitably suggests analogy to
them , 'and which can be most con
veniently expressed by the word
"polarity. " In Emerson's "Essay on
Compensation , " we find these words :
"Polarity , or action and reaction ,
we meet in every part of nature ; in
darkness and in light ; in the ebb and
flow of waters ; in male and female ; in
the expiration of animals and plants ; in
the undulations of fluids and of
sound ; in the centripetal and centrif
ugal gravity ; in electricity , galvan
ism and chemical affinity. Superin
duce magnetism at one end of a
needle , the opposite magnetism takes
place at the other end. An inevitable
dualism besets nature , so that each
thing is a half , and suggests another
to make it whole : As spirit , matter
man , woman ; odd , even ; subjective ,
objective in , out ; upper , under ; mo
tion , rest ; yea , nay. ' '
While there may be something about
this quotation which is not scientific ,
I am giving it as a lucid explanation
of certain facts which enter into all
biological questions.
Among the primitive polarities is
that of author and render. It is my
part to endeavor to present the lead-
ng facts and laws of the material uni
verse in such plain language that
; hey may be apprehended without ex
cessive effort , or extraordinary powers
of perception. But it is the reader's
part to supply an average amount of
attention , and above all to feel an in-
; erest in science generally. Ability
and curiosity are almost convertible
terms , and the clearest exposition is
thrown away on the torpid mind
which views the marvelous universe
in which he lias had the privilege to
ive with the apathy of a savage , tak
ing things as they come without car
ing to know anything about them.
Laws of Nature.
For the reader's part of the work I
am in no way responsible ; for my
own part I am , and I proceed there
fore to give in my own way , and with
; he best faculty that I possess , a clear
summary of some of the fundamental
facts and laws of nature.
What I propose to call the ' ' ulti
mate forces" of the universe are
ether , energy and matter.
First , ether : a universal , all-per
vading medium , infinitely light , and
almost infinitely elastic , in which all
matter , from suns and planets down
to molecules and atoms , floats as iu a
boundless ocean and whose tremors or
vibrations , propagated as waves , trans
port the different forms of energy
lieat , light and electricity across
space. The existence of ether is still
hypothetical , as it has not been con
clusively established ; but I know of
no worker in the cause of scientific
truth who denies that some such ulti
mate fnrne undnuhterllv exists.
Secondly , energy : a primitive inde
structible something , which causes
motion and manifests itself under its
many diversified forms , such as grav
ity , mechanical work , molecular and
atomic forces , light , heat and electric
ity , all which are merely transforma
tions of some one form of fundamen
tal energy and are convertible into
each other.
Thirdly , matter : the ultimate ele
ments of this are atoms , which ,
when combined , form molecules , or
little quantities of ordinary sub
stances , with the presence of all their
qualities. These are the bricks used
in building the varied structures of
the organic and inorganic world. Of
these atoms some seventy-five have
never been divided , and therefore , aj
though we may suspect that they are
merely combinations or transforma
tions of one original matter , we must ,
for the present , regard them as chemi
cal elements. In like manner we may
A /
suspect that matter is , in reality ,
only another form of energy , and that
he impression of solidity is given by
; he action of a repellent force which
s very energetic at short distances ,
f this were established we might
ook forward to the generalization
hat energy was the one reality of
nature ; but for the present it is a
mere speculation , and we must be con-
; ent witli our seventy elementary
atoms as ultimate facts. In any case
; his much is certain , that matter ,
ike energy , is indestructible. We
lave absolutely no experience of either
of them being created or annihilated.
Further , we have no faculties
: o enable us even to perceive how
something can be made out of noth-
.ng , and all we know about these
primitive constituents of the uni
verse is of their laws of their existence ,
; heir evolutions and transformations.
Minute as the atoms and molecules
are , we must think of them , not as
stationary and permanently connect
ed , but rather as little solar systems
in which revolving atoms form the
matter , held together as distinct in
dividuals by their proper energies and
motions , until some superior force
breaks up the system and sets its
components free to form new com
At this point I propose to leave the
purely physical aspect of the problem
of life. I have included these few
words because I considered that they
might demonstrate the intimate re
lation between physics , chemistry and
At first ight there seems to be a
great gulf between the living and the
dead which no bridge can span. But
first impressions are very apt to de
ceive us , and when things are traced
up to their origins we often find them
getting nearer and nearer , until
it is difficult to say where
one begins and the other
ends. Take , for example , such an
antithesis as ' ' eating or being eaten. ' '
If a hunter meets a bear one would
say that no distinction could be
sharper than whether the bear eats
the man or the man the bear. In
one case there is a man , and in the
other a bear , less in the world. But
look through a microscope at a drop of
water , and you may see two specks
of jelly-like substance swimming in
it. They are living creatures , for
they eat and grow , and thrust out and
retract parts of their formless mass ,
which serve as temporary legs and
arms for seizing food , and for volun
tary motion. In short , they are each
what 'are called strictly individual
amoebae , forming separate units of
the animated creature , as much as the
man and the bear. But if the two
come in contact , what happens ? The
two slimy musses involve- one another