The Machinery of the Universe Part 2

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Gravitation then is a property belonging to matter and not to ether.

The impropriety of thinking or speaking of the ether as matter of any kind will be apparent if one reflects upon the significance of the law of gravitation as stated. Every particle of matter in the universe attracts every other particle. If there be anything else in the universe which has no such quality, then it should not be called matter, else the law should read: Some particles of matter attract some other particles, which would be no law at all, for a real physical law has no exceptions any more than the multiplication table has. Physical laws are physical relations, and all such relations are quant.i.tative.


A bullet shot into the air has its velocity continuously reduced by the air, to which its energy is imparted by making it move out of its way. A railway train is brought to rest by the friction brake upon the wheels.

The translatory energy of the train is transformed into the molecular energy called heat. The steams.h.i.+p requires to propel it fast, a large amount of coal for its engines, because the water in which it moves offers great friction--resistance which must be overcome. Whenever one surface of matter is moved in contact with another surface there is a resistance called friction, the moving body loses its rate of motion, and will presently be brought to rest unless energy be continuously supplied. This is true for of matter of all sizes and with all kinds of motion. Friction is the condition for the transformation of all kinds of mechanical motions into heat. The test of the amount of friction is the rate of loss of motion. A top will spin some time in the air because its point is small. It will spin longer on a plate than on the carpet, and longer in a vacuum than in the air, for it does not have the air friction to resist it, and there is no kind or form of matter not subject to frictional resistance.


The earth is a ma.s.s of matter moving in the ether. In the equatorial region the velocity of a point is more than a thousand miles in an hour, for the circ.u.mference of the earth is 25,000 miles, and it turns once on its axis in 24 hours, which is the length of the day. If the earth were thus spinning in the atmosphere, the latter not being in motion, the wind would blow with ten times hurricane velocity. The friction would be so great that nothing but the foundation rocks of the earth's crust could withstand it, and the velocity of rotation would be reduced appreciably in a relatively short time. The air moves along with the earth as a part of it, and consequently no such frictional destruction takes place, but the earth rotates in the ether with that same rate, and if the ether offered resistance it would react so as to r.e.t.a.r.d the rotation and increase the length of the day. Astronomical observations show that the length of the day has certainly not changed so much as the tenth of a second during the past 2000 years. The earth also revolves about the sun, having a speed of about 19 miles in a second, or 68,000 miles an hour. This motion of the earth and the other planets about the sun is one of the most stable phenomena we know. The mean distance and period of revolution of every planet is unalterable in the long run. If the earth had been r.e.t.a.r.ded by its friction in the ether the length of the year would have been changed, and astronomers would have discovered it. They a.s.sert that a change in the length of a year by so much as the hundredth part of a second has not happened during the past thousand years. This then is testimony, that a velocity of nineteen miles a second for a thousand years has produced no effect upon the earth's motion that is noticeable. Nineteen miles a second is not a very swift astronomical motion, for comets have been known to have a velocity of 400 miles a second when in the neighbourhood of the sun, and yet they have not seemed to suffer any r.e.t.a.r.dation, for their orbits have not been shortened. Some years ago a comet was noticed to have its periodic time shortened an hour or two, and the explanation offered at first was that the shortening was due to friction in the ether although no other comet was thus affected. The idea was soon abandoned, and to-day there is no astronomical evidence that bodies having translatory motion in the ether meet with any frictional resistance whatever. If a stone could be thrown in interstellar s.p.a.ce with a velocity of fifty feet a second it would continue to move in a straight line with the same speed for any a.s.signable time.

As has been said, light moves with the velocity of 186,000 miles per second, and it may pursue its course for tens of thousands of years.

There is no evidence that it ever loses either its wave-length or energy. It is not transformed as friction would transform it, else there would be some distance at which light of given wave-length and amplitude would be quite extinguished. The light from distant stars would be different in character from that coming from nearer stars. Furthermore, as the whole solar system is drifting in s.p.a.ce some 500,000,000 of miles in a year, new stars would be coming into view in that direction, and faint stars would be dropping out of sight in the opposite direction--a phenomenon which has not been observed. Altogether the testimony seems conclusive that the ether is a frictionless medium, and does not transform mechanical motion into heat.


That is, its properties are not alike in all directions. Chemical phenomena, crystallization, magnetic and electrical phenomena show each in their way that the properties of atoms are not alike on opposite faces. Atoms combine to form molecules, and molecules arrange themselves in certain definite geometric forms such as cubes, tetrahedra, hexagonal prisms and stellate forms, with properties emphasized on certain faces or ends. Thus quartz will twist a ray of light in one direction or the other, depending upon the arrangement which may be known by the external form of the crystal. Calc spar will break up a ray of light into two parts if the light be sent through it in certain directions, but not if in another. Tourmaline polarizes light sent through its sides and becomes positively electrified at one end while being heated. Some substances will conduct sound or light or heat or electricity better in one direction than in another. All matter is magnetic in some degree, and that implies polarity. If one will recall the structure of a vortex-ring, he will see how all the motion is inward on one side and outward on the other, which gives different properties to the two sides: a push away from it on one side and a pull toward it on the other.


That is, its properties are alike in every direction. There is no distinction due to position. A ma.s.s of matter will move as freely in one direction as in another; a ray of light of any wave-length will travel in it in one direction as freely as in any other; neither velocity nor direction are changed by the action of the ether alone.


When the elements combine to form molecules they always combine in definite ways and in definite proportions. Carbon will combine with hydrogen, but will drop it if it can get oxygen. Oxygen will combine with iron or lead or sodium, but cannot be made to combine with fluorine. No more than two atoms of oxygen can be made to unite with one carbon atom, nor more than one hydrogen with one chlorine atom. There is thus an apparent choice for the kind and number of a.s.sociates in molecular structure, and the instability of a molecule depends altogether upon the presence in its neighbourhood of other atoms for which some of the elements in the molecule have a stronger attraction or affinity than they have for the atoms they are now combined with.

Thus iron is not stable in the presence of water molecules, and it becomes iron oxide; iron oxide is not stable in the presence of hot sulphur, it becomes an iron sulphide. All the elements are thus selective, and it is by such means that they may be chemically identified.

There is no phenomenon in the ether that is comparable with this.

Evidently there could not be unless there were atomic structures having in some degree different characteristics which we know the ether to be without.


It is possible to arrange the elements in the order of their atomic weights in columns which will show communities of property. Newlands, Mendeleeff, Meyer, and others have done this. The explanation for such an arrangement has not yet been forthcoming, but that it expresses a real fact is certain, for in the original scheme there were several gaps representing undiscovered elements, the properties of which were predicted from that of their a.s.sociates in the table. Some of these have since been discovered, and their atomic weight and physical properties accord with those predicted.

With the ether such a scheme is quite impossible, for the very evident reason that there are no different things to have relation with each other. Every part is just like every other part. Where there are no differences and no distinctions there can be no relations. The ether is quite harmonic without relations.


So long as the atoms of matter were regarded as hard round particles, they were a.s.sumed to be inert and only active when acted upon by what were called forces, which were held to be ent.i.ties of some sort, independent of matter. These could pull or push it here or there, but the matter was itself incapable of independent activity. All this is now changed, and we are called upon to consider every atom as being itself a form of energy in the same sense as heat or light are forms of energy, the energy being embodied in particular forms of motion. Light, for instance, is a wave motion of the ether. An atom is a rotary ring of ether. Stop the wave motion, and the light would be annihilated. Stop the rotation, and the atom would be annihilated for the same reason. As the ray of light is a particular embodiment of energy, and has no existence apart from it, so an atom is to be regarded as an embodiment of energy. On a previous page it is said that energy is the ability of one body to act upon and move another in some degree. An atom of any kind is not the inert thing it has been supposed to be, for it can do something. Even at absolute zero, when all its vibratory or heat energy would be absent, it would be still an elastic whirling body pulling upon every other atom in the universe with gravitational energy, twisting other atoms into conformity with its own position with its magnetic energy; and, if such ether rings are like the rings which are made in air, will not stand still in one place even if no others act upon it, but will start at once by its own inherent energy to move in a right line at right angles to its own plane and in the direction of the whirl inside the ring. Two rings of wood or iron might remain in contact with each other for an indefinite time, but vortex-rings will not, but will beat each other away as two spinning tops will do if they touch ever so gently. If they do not thus separate it is because there are other forms of energy acting to press them together, but such external pressure will be lessened by the rings' own reactions.

It is true that in a frictionless medium like the ether one cannot at present see how such vortex-rings could be produced in it. Certainly not by any such mechanical methods as are employed to make smoke-rings in air, for the friction of the air is the condition for producing them.

However they came to be, there is implied the previous existence of the ether and of energy in some form capable of acting upon it in a manner radically different from any known in physical science.

There is good spectroscopic evidence that in some way elements of different kinds are now being formed in nebulae, for the simplest show the presence of hydrogen alone. As they increase in complexity other elements are added, until the spectrum exhibits all the elements we know of. It has thus seemed likely either that most of what are called elements are composed of molecular groupings of some fundamental element, which by proper physical methods might be decomposed, as one can now decompose a molecule of ammonia or sulphuric acid, or that the elements are now being created by some extra-physical process in those far-off regions. In either case an atom is the embodiment of energy in such a form as to be permanent under ordinary physical circ.u.mstances, but of which, if in any manner it should be destroyed, only the form would be lost. The ether would remain, and the energy which was embodied would be distributed in other ways.


The distinction between energy in matter and energy in the ether will be apparent, on considering that both the ether and energy in some form must be conceived as existing independent of matter; though every atom were annihilated, the ether would remain and all the energy embodied in the atoms would be still in existence in the ether. The atomic energy would simply be dissolved. One can easily conceive the ether as the same s.p.a.ce-filling, continuous, unlimited medium, without an atom in it. On this a.s.sumption it is clear that no form of energy with which we have to deal in physical science would have any existence in the ether; for every one of those forms, gravitational, thermal, electric, magnetic, or any other--all are the results of the forms of energy in matter. If there were no atoms, there would be no gravitation, for that is the attraction of atoms upon each other. If there were no atoms, there could be no atomic vibration, therefore no heat, and so on for each and all.

Nevertheless, if an atom be the embodiment of energy, there must have been energy in the ether before any atom existed. One of the properties of the ether is its ability to distribute energy in certain ways, but there is no evidence that of itself it ever transforms energy. Once a given kind of energy is in it, it does not change; hence for the apparition of a form of energy, like the first vortex-ring, there must have been not only energy, but some other agency capable of transforming that energy into a permanent structure. To the best of our knowledge to-day, the ether would be absolutely helpless. Such energy as was active in forming atoms must be called by another name than what is appropriate for such transformations as occur when, for instance, the mechanical energy of a bullet is transformed into heat when the target is struck. Behind the ether must be a.s.sumed some agency, directing and controlling energy in a manner totally different from any agency, which is operative in what we call physical science. Nothing short of what is called a miracle will do--an event without a physical antecedent in any way necessarily related to its factors, as is the fact of a stone related to gravity or heat to an electric current.

Ether energy is an endowment instead of being an embodiment, and implies antecedents of a super-physical kind.


As each different kind of energy represents some specific form of motion, and _vice versa_, some sort of mechanism is needful for transforming one kind into another, therefore molecular structure of one kind or another is essential. The transformation is a mechanical process, and matter in some particular and appropriate form is the condition of its taking place. If heat appears, then its antecedent has been some other form of motion acting upon the substance heated. It may have been the mechanical motion of another ma.s.s of matter, as when a bullet strikes a target and becomes heated; or it may be friction, as when a car-axle heats when run without proper oiling to reduce friction; or it may be condensation, as when tinder is ignited by condensing the air about it; or chemical reactions, when molecular structure is changed as in combustion, or an electrical current, which implies a dynamo and steam-engine or water-power. If light appears, its antecedent has been impact or friction, condensation or chemical action, and if electricity appears the same sort of antecedents are present. Whether the one or the other of these forms of energy is developed, depends upon what kind of a structure the antecedent energy has acted upon. If radiant energy, so-called, falls upon a ma.s.s of matter, what is absorbed is at once transformed into heat or into electric or magnetic effects; _which_ one of these depends upon the character of the mechanism upon which the radiant energy acts, but the radiant energy itself, which consists of ether-waves, is traceable back in every case to a ma.s.s of matter having definite characteristic motions.

One may therefore say with certainty that every physical phenomenon is a change in the direction, or velocity, or character, of the energy present, and such change has been produced by matter acting as a transformer.


It has already been said that the absence of friction in the ether enables light-waves to maintain their ident.i.ty for an indefinite time, and to an indefinitely great distance. In a uniform, h.o.m.ogeneous substance of any kind, any kind of energy which might be in it would continue in it without any change. Uniformity and h.o.m.ogeneity imply similarity throughout, and the necessary condition for transformation is unlikeness. One might not look for any kind of physical phenomenon which was not due to the presence and activity of some heterogeneity.

As a ray of light continues a ray of light so long as it exists in free ether, so all kinds of radiations, of whatever wave-length, continue identical until they fall upon some mechanical structure called matter.

Translatory motion continues translatory, rotary continues rotary, and vibratory continues to be vibratory, and no transforming change can take place in the absence of matter. The ether is helpless.


It is commonly stated that certain substances, like putty and dough, are inelastic, while some other substances, like gla.s.s, steel, and wood, are elastic. This quality of elasticity, as manifested in such different degrees, depends upon molecular combinations; some of which, as in gla.s.s and steel, are favourable for exhibiting it, while others mask it, for the ultimate atoms of all kinds are certainly highly elastic.

The measure of elasticity in a ma.s.s of matter is the velocity with which a wave-motion will be transmitted through it. Thus the elasticity of the air determines the velocity of sound in it. If the air be heated, the elasticity is increased and the sound moves faster. The rates of such sound-conduction range from a few feet in a second to about 16,000, five times swifter than a cannon ball. In such elastic bodies as vibrate to and fro like the p.r.o.ngs of a tuning-fork, or give sounds of a definite pitch, the rate of vibration is determined by the size and shape of the body as well as by their elementary composition. The smaller a body is, the higher its vibratory rate, if it be made of the same material and the form remains the same. Thus a tuning-fork, that may be carried in the waistcoat-pocket, may vibrate 500 times a second. If it were only the fifty-millionth of an inch in size, but of the same material and form, it would vibrate 30,000,000000 times a second; and if it were made of ether, instead of steel, it would vibrate as many times faster as the velocity of waves in the ether is greater than it is in steel, and would be as many as 400,000000,000000 times per second. The amount of displacement, or the amplitude of vibration, with the pocket-fork might be no more than the hundredth of an inch, and this rate measured as translation velocity would be but five inches per second. If the fork were of atomic magnitude, and should swing its sides one half the diameter of the atom, or say the hundred-millionth of an inch, the translational velocity would be equivalent to about eighty miles a second, or a hundred and fifty times the velocity of a cannon ball, which may be reckoned at about 3000 feet.

That atoms really vibrate at the above rate per second is very certain, for their vibrations produce ether-waves the length of which may be accurately measured. When a tuning-fork vibrates 500 times a second, and the sound travels 1100 feet in the same interval, the length of each wave will be found by dividing the velocity in the air by the number of vibrations, or 1100 500 = 2.2 feet. In like manner, when one knows the velocity and wave-length, he may compute the number of vibrations by dividing the velocity by the wave-length. Now the velocity of the waves called light is 186,000 miles a second, and a light-wave may be one forty thousandth of an inch long. The atom that produces the wave must be vibrating as many times per second as the fifth thousandth of an inch is contained in 186,000 miles. Reducing this number to inches we have

186,000 5280 12 ------------------- = 400,000,000,000,000, nearly.


This shows that the atoms are minute elastic bodies that change their form rapidly when struck. As rapid as the change is, yet the rate of movement is only one-fifth that of a comet when near the sun, and is therefore easily comparable with other velocities observed in of matter.

These vibratory motions, due to the elasticity of the atoms, is what const.i.tutes heat.


The elasticity of a ma.s.s of matter is its ability to recover its original form after that form has been distorted. There is implied that a stress changes its shape and dimensions, which in turn implies a limited ma.s.s and relative change of position of parts and some degree of discontinuity. From what has been said of the ether as being unlimited, continuous, and not made of atoms or molecules, it will be seen how difficult, if not impossible, it is to conceive how such a property as elasticity, as manifested in matter, can be attributed to the ether, which is incapable of deformation, either in structure or form, the latter being infinitely extended in every direction and therefore formless. Nevertheless, certain forms of motion, such as light-waves, move in it with definite velocity, quite independent of how they originate. This velocity of 186,000 miles a second so much exceeds any movement of a ma.s.s of matter that the motions can hardly be compared. Thus if 400 miles per second be the swiftest speed of any ma.s.s of matter known--that of a comet near the sun--the ether-wave moves 186,000 400 = 465 times faster than such comet, and 900,000 times faster than sound travels in air. It is clear that if this rate of motion depends upon elasticity, the elasticity must be of an entirely different type from that belonging to matter, and cannot be defined in any such terms as are employed for matter.

If one considers gravitative phenomena, the difficulty is enormously increased. The orbit of a planet is never an exact ellipse, on account of the perturbations produced by the planetary attractions--perturbations which depend upon the direction and distance of the attracting bodies. These, however, are so well known that slight deviations are easily noticed. If gravitative attraction took any such appreciable time to go from one astronomical body to another as does light, it would make very considerable differences in the paths of the planets and the earth. Indeed, if the velocity of gravitation were less than a million times greater than that of light, its effects would have been discovered long ago. It is therefore considered that the velocity of gravitation cannot be less than 186000,000000 miles per second. How much greater it may be no one can guess. Seeing that gravitation is ether-pressure, it does not seem probable that its velocity can be infinite. However that may be, the ability of the ether to transmit pressure and various disturbances, evidently depends upon properties so different from those that enable matter to transmit disturbances that they deserve to be called by different names. To speak of the elasticity of the ether may serve to express the fact that energy may be transmitted at a finite rate in it, but it can only mislead one's thinking if he imagines the process to be similar to energy transmission in a ma.s.s of matter. The two processes are incomparable. No other word has been suggested, and perhaps it is not needful for most scientific purposes that another should be adopted, but the inappropriateness of the one word for the different phenomena has long been felt.

The Machinery of the Universe Part 2

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The Machinery of the Universe Part 2 summary

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