« AnteriorContinuar »
ABSTRACT OF THE DISCUSSION.
PROF. PETER T. AUSTEN, PH. D.:
In discussing the subject of energy the physicist must be especially careful to be exact in expression. There is a wide difference of opinion as to the essential natures of both matter and energy, the generally accepted view being that they are forms of vibration. The number of vibrations necessary to produce the sensations of heat, light and sound have been calculated. Particles of matter in vibration infringe upon a nerve-point, and the effect is transmitted to the brain, which has the power of transforming this molecular activity into sensations and images. It is important that we separate our ideas of energy from what it actually is in itself. Sound and heat do not exist in the different modes of vibration. The sensation as we experience it is due wholly to the brain and mental action, whereby motion is transformed into images and sensations into ideas. The brain correlates diverse material impacts into psychical coordination. Each mental sensation is caused by different modes of vibration. Sound vibrations do not produce the sensation of heat, or vice versa. Moreover, all these sensible vibrations take place within limited ranges. It is well known that there are both tone and light vibrations that we are unable to perceive, such as the noise of certain insects, and the chemical or actinic rays of light. Must we not conceive that the possible range of vibrations is infinite? The senses are inexorably limited. No two individuals perceive exactly the same universe, and outside of all possible perception is a vast region to finite beings unknowable. There is no reason why beings may not exist capable of being affected by many of these vibrations which are to us imperceptible, and therefore constituted quite differently from ourselves.
The chemical elements have been demonstrated to stand in definite mathematical relations to each other, forming a spiral in which those elements that are in line with each other are found to constitute related families. The atom of the chemist is not necessarily an indivisible particle, but the smallest which can retain its elemental identity. Behind the atom the physicist cannot go. If the atom should prove to be further divisible, there would simply result another form of matter. Why may we not conceive it possible for the elements to stand to each other elsewhere in relations differing from those exhibited here? And if so, what limit could there be to the varying forms of different material universes, and to their chemical composition, inhabitants and products?
The physicist tells us that the slightest motion affects the entire universe. I wave my hand, and the motion is felt through all systems, and to the farthest heavens. We must do away with the former idea of a solid material mass: what we customarily so call is but the aggregation of minute particles in motion. The former conception of attraction as a force which pulls is giving place to that of pressure from without. Persistence of energy is the one great fact which renders science possible and stable and gives it unity. Persistence of force and the correlation of forces are the two great data on which all science rests.
The profound moral significance of these principles is the lesson we are to draw. If the slightest action and word not only, but our very thoughts are ineffaceably recorded in eternal material vibrations which persist and may be cognizable by us and others in their effects in the future, the most powerful incentive and stimulus to correct action is afforded by these ethicophysical sanctions. Some men's sins are evidently going before them into judgment, and some they follow after. The humblest worker in the line of his duty may not see its effect, but it may constitute an important thread of causation in relation to other threads. Thus the highest science is found to Cooperate with the religious and moral impulses toward evolving the highest individual life.
DR. MARTIN L. HOLBROOK.:—
One of the important conditions of survival, it appears to me, is a larger use of sunlight for promoting health and vigor, especially by the inhabitants of cities. Light is one of the most powerful stimulants known to the nervous system, and it also promotes bodily growth. In former times, when children were permitted to work in mines in England, they never grew so large as those who were otherwise employed. Absence of sunlight was a chief reason. In Bavaria, half a century ago, in one deparmtent which had a population of about 3,000, half of whom worked in mines, and half in the fields, no men fit to become soldiers could be found in the mines, while among the field workers the usual quota could be selected. The miners were weak and deformed in body, had defective vision, and so escaped military duty. Children growing up in cities, unless special pains is taken to let them have plenty of light, also have bodily defects and weaknesses which prevent survival. All physicians have seen instances where families have become extinct by thoughtlessness in not supplying the growing children with sufficient light. Dr. Richardson has declared that the street children of London are healthier than the children of the better classes, who keep their little ones more indoors. The news boys of New York are more vigorous than many children of the well to do classes. They get more light as well as more air and exercise. I would advise the introduction of sun or solar baths as quite as important as water baths in every home. They are luxurious, and help to toughen the skin-a very debilitated organ in most well-clothed people. I am quite confident that the solar ray is directly appropriated by the body, and solar energy converted into bodily energy, if used rightly. Of course, too much sunshine, like too much food, may injure. Sun parlors at hotels and sanitariums at winter resorts are useful. The diffused rays act favorably on the body; but solar baths are still better. It is not always those who are morally best who survive, but the "fittest"-those best capable of resisting unfavorable conditions. If the best will see
to it that their bodies are properly nourished and developed, they will stand a chance to become the "fittest;" and thus the intelligent will of every thoughtful individual may become a powerful factor in promoting the moral advancement and civilization of the world.
Mr. Palmer replied briefly, thanking the audience. for their kind reception of his paper, and Professor Austin for his supplementary contribution to the scientific and philosophical aspects of the subject. He also appreciated the importance of its sanitary impli cations. The subject was so large that it was impossible to treat it exhaustively in an hour's discussion.