Scientific Progress In Paris
( Originally Published 1908 )
" I count that heaven itself is only work
ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING.
" Hurrah for positive science ! Long live exact demonstration ! "
MODERN scientific progress is largely identified with Paris. It is to Pasteur that the world is indebted for the most profound and remarkable discoveries in bacteriology, and for the application of this knowledge to medical practice. His demonstration that definite diseases can be produced by bacteria has given a special stimulus to research, and has not only made an epoch in human knowledge, but also resulted in a signal advancement of all things pertaining to the conditions of health and the cure of illness.
To him is due recognition for the invention of a marvellous attachment to the telephone, by means of which the voice speaks in the room as naturally as if the person were present, and this from a distance of three hundred miles. This new attachment and transmitter can even be used by a person in a flying rail-way train. While not generally employed, this invention has been practically demonstrated.
Another of the great achievements of French scientists is the discovery of radium by Professor and Mme. Curie. Of this Professor Boys spoke before the meeting of the British Association in 1903, saying that the discovery by Professor and Mme. Curie, of what seems to be the everlasting production of heat in easily measurable quantity by a minute amount of a radium compound, is so amazing that even now that many have had the opportunity of seeing with their own eyes the heated thermometer, they are hardly able to believe what they see. This can barely be distinguished from the discovery of perpetual motion, which it is an axiom of science to call impossible, continued Professor Boys, and has left every chemist and physicist in a state of bewilderment. This mystery is being attacked, and theories are being invented to account for the marvellous results of observation, but the theories themselves would, a few years ago, have seemed more wonderful and incredible than the facts, as we believe them, seem to-day. Sir Robert Ball, in referring to radium, spoke of " the mystery of this substance, to say nothing of the miracle," and he emphasized " the profound impression made by the discovery of radium, making an epoch in a knowledge of nature." The eminent scientist noted that the realization of the new responsibility that science assumed in this apparent creation of energy and matter out of nothing promptly stimulated greater energy, perseverance and ingenuity.
A great variety of experiments in light have been made by Professor Broca and Doctor Chotin in Paris, who have investigated the arc light, and find that in violet rays there exist hitherto undreamed-of potencies.
For a long period Professor Flammarion, the well-known French astronomer, has been making studies of the atmosphere, that " ethereal sea reaching over the whole world," giving light and warmth, transmitting sound, and serving as the vital fluid for all forms of human, animal and plant life.
The epoch-making discovery of radium by the Curies was preceded by the discovery made by Henri Becquerel, member of the Institute, who, in 1896, found that remarkable radiations emanated from uranium, an observation that became the foundation of the science of radio-activity. In 1898 Professor and Mme. Curie found that radium activity was a million times greater than that of uranium. Lord Kelvin, speaking of Becquerel's work, observed that the discovery of radium placed the first question mark against the conservation of energy. Professor Curie and Professor Laborde collaborated in further experiments with radium. They found that a given quantity generated enough heat, each hour, to melt its own weight in ice. The secret of the production of this energy has enlisted the interest of the entire scientific world. Professor and Mme. Curie's hypothesis is that this production results from the evolution and transformation of the atoms, — a process that fairly touches the problem of perpetual motion. Or, again, that radium is capable of capturing and utilizing some radiations of unknown nature, which exist in space. The incalculable power of radium may be perceived when it is realized that the presence of radio-activity can be detected when the amount is so minute that it would require five thousand times as much to show, at all, through the spectroscope.
When this discovery of radium was first announced, the Austrian government placed before the Curies a ton of treated residue of uranium, as material for experiments. The Société Centrale de Produits Chimiques of Paris contributed another ton of residue, and the French government, with its usual enterprise and sympathy with progress, actively assisted in the research.
It is believed that radio-activity is an atomic property, and this recognition created the method of research practised by the Curies. They believed that each atom acted as a constant emitter of energy. One hypothesis is that this energy is borrowed from the air; that all space is traversed by a type of Roentgen rays.
Somewhere in the early years of the decade of 1860-1870, the French scientists established the existence of the periodic law, whose application has been marked with the most important and far-reaching consequences. It has included the correct determination of the fundamental constants of science, and that of the atomic weight of elements. In 1863, indium was discovered, and gallium in 1875. Before the discovery and the promulgation of the periodic law, chemical elements were regarded as mere fragmentary and incidental facts in nature. So far as known, there was no particular reason for anticipating additions to these elements, but the law of periodicity enabled scientists to discern, at a distance, elements heretofore unknown, which had previously been inaccessible.
The honor of the discovery of gallium, in 1875, belongs to Dr. Lecoq de Boisbandrau, who was led, by experiments with the spectroscope, to recognize its presence in zinc. While gallium is very rare, it is yet widely distributed, and lurks in unsuspected places. In 1878, Delfontaine called attention to a new element existing in samarskite, and later the same element was observed by Boisbandrau.
Henri Becquerel established the fact that uranium salts have power to emit rays capable of producing photographic effects, and also of rendering air a conductor of electricity, — both these observations being made soon after the discovery of the Roentgen rays. Later still, it was found that thorium compounds emitted similar rays, and that the intensity of effect was in proportion to the amount of uranium present. It was further observed that uranium minerals - pitchblende and chalcodite — manifested greater activity than the metal itself. When Professor and Mme. Curie applied themselves to the investigation of these materials, they succeeded in demonstrating that two of them, at least, revealed elements of radio-active power. Mme. Curie also made a most important discovery, — that in proportion as the intensity of the radiant effect increases, the atomic weight increases. The Curies discovered polonium — named for Poland, Mme. Curie's native country — and found it to be distinguished from radium in that the rays from the latter will penetrate glass, while those from polonium are incapable of doing so ; and that radium compounds are self-luminous, even after months in the darkness. Radium, too, has high atomic weight, and is always found to be in association with the two elements of highest atomic weight known in nature.
The latest marvel in French science is the invention of the parolograph. M. Devaux Charbonnel, a professor in the Government School of Telegraphy and a member of the state telegraph and telephone department, has long been experimenting on this wonderful scheme of photographing the voice, of recording its vibrations and sounds on a photographic plate, and he has communicated (during June of 1908) to the French Academy of Sciences the results of a number of his most interesting and important experiments.
A French savant, describing this marvel of science, says :
" After much research and many experiments, M. Charbonnel has succeeded in originating a system whereby the characteristics of vowels and consonants, as uttered by the voice in front of a microphone attached to an extremely sensitive Blondel oscillograph, and placed in circuit between the microphone and an ordinary telephone battery, are transmitted on to a photo-graphic plate in the form of a series of waves and curves as produced by the oscillator, or Blondel oscillograph, just mentioned. In other words, the waves of the voice sounds, as they pass through the microphone, act upon the extremely sensitive electric oscillator, and the movements or waves of this oscillator, which possesses a tiny mirror lighted by an electric spark, automatically produced, throw upon the exposed photograph plate opposite the oscillator the reproduction of the wave-like movements.
" In the course of his experiments, M. Charbonnel has made a very curious discovery. It is that, although the main features of the photo-graphically reproduced waves and curves remain the same for each syllable, yet no two persons give exactly the same wave sounds in pronouncing the same syllable. For instance, of twenty persons who pronounced the vowel ` u ' through the microphone there was, in every case, a slight variation in the wave lines photographically reproduced from the oscillator, though it was easy to distinguish the essential characteristics of the vowel ` u.'
" The possibilities opened up by the ` Parolograph ' are many. When the instrument is sufficiently perfected, there will be little to prevent a telephone subscriber from receiving a message through the telephone during his absence. The spoken message will be photo-graphically reproduced on an endless celluloid film or other sensitive band, and the subscriber, with a little practice, will be able to read it off. The difficulty in mastering the interpretation of the waves and curves will, it is calculated, be no greater than that experienced in acquiring a knowledge of Pitman's shorthand.
" It is anticipated, also," continues the writer, " that the ` Parolograph ' will play a conspicuous part as a sort of silent witness in lawsuits, for it is not at all necessary for a person to speak through the telephone in order that his words may be reproduced and recorded with far greater certainty than on a photographic cylinder. A powerful microphone to which the ` Parolograph ' is fitted, placed in the corner of an office, would silently and unobtrusively repro-duce and place beyond doubt a conversation between two persons — a verbal contract entered into, a defamatory statement made, etc., etc., although a very long band of film would have to be used and the expense would be very great."
M. Charbonnel can usually be found in his office in the Boulevard des Invalides, and in a recent interview he said :
" I have gone into the subject entirely from a scientific point of view with the object of studying improvements in . the government telephone service, and, although I admit there are many possibilities of a practical nature that may be conjured up in connection with this discovery, I cannot help thinking that the subject is, as yet, in much too technical and scientific a stage to interest the general public.
" It is a curious fact, however," continued M. Charbonnel, " that although the telephone is in such universal use, we electrical telegraph and telephone engineers have been able to discover little or nothing as to the intimate nature of the telephonic currents, and it was in endeavoring to obtain a better knowledge of the extreme variability of these currents that I was led to study the problem of the reproduction of voice sounds. It never strikes the telephone sub-scriber that the telephone current is a very mysterious thing, something which nobody has been able to master or to understand thoroughly. All that has been done on the subject up to now is merely empiricism, to the exclusion of scientific knowledge. Hitherto we have been dependent on mere observation and experience, and our knowledge of the connection between cause and consequence, so far as the telephone is concerned, is very deficient.
" Happily, the studies of men like Duddell and Blondel on the photography of the vibrations of the human voice have supplied us with a theory and placed us on the high road towards a closer knowledge of the mysterious micro-phonic currents about which so little is known."
M. Charbonnel spoke of the difficulty of registering the consonants on the photographic plate, but, " happily," he continued, " with the marvellous scientific instruments of precision which electricians now have at their disposal, the solving of all these difficulties is only a question of time."
One service, by thus registering the human voice, will be, he believes, in the detection of criminals.
Of the distinguished French family of mathematicians who are represented in the presidency of the Académie des Sciences and by one of the ministers of finance, is M. Lucien Poincaré, an inspector-general of Public Instruction, and the author of a most important work, La Physique Moderne, son evolution," which embodies, largely, the results in general of the recent researches of the physicists. In this work, M. Poincaré has especially discussed the phenomena of electricity, the relations between electricity and optics, and other theories, and he points out the epoch-making discoveries of an earlier day. M. Poincaré illustrates the relation between any wonderful achievement of the present and its status in the future, by pointing out the acclaim that greeted Volta in 1800 upon his discovery of the galvanic battery, and reveals to the reader how naturally Volta might have felt at the time that a tremendous transformation in the method of regarding electrical phenomena was achieved. Indeed, it would hardly excite wonder if he had believed that he had surprised the secret of electrical mysteries. Writing of Volta's discovery, the Abbé Haüy said :
" Electricity, enriched by the labor of so many distinguished physicists, seemed to have reached the term when a science has no further important steps before it, and only leaves to those who cultivate it the hope of confirming the discoveries of their predecessors, and of casting a brighter light on the truths revealed. One would have thought that all researches for diversifying the results of experiment were exhausted, and that theory itself could only be augmented by the addition of a greater degree of precision to the applications of principles already known. While science thus appeared to be making for repose, the phenomena of the convulsive movements observed by Galvani in the muscles of a frog, when connected by metal, were brought to the attention of physicists. Volta, in that Italy which had been the cradle of a new knowledge, discovered the principle of its true theory in a fact which reduces the explanation of all the phenomena in question to the simple contact of different natures. This fact became in his hands the germ of the admirable apparatus to which its manner of being and its fecundity assign one of the chief places among those with which the genius of mankind has enriched physics."
Soon after followed the researches of Davy in metals ; the discovery of the polarization of light, and the discoveries of the nature of heat. Laplace published his " Mécanique céleste " in 1805 ; and, as M. Poincaré points out, all the re-searches and their results in that period of a century ago may be compared, in importance, with those of the present. " When strange metals like potassium and sodium were isolated by an entirely new method, the astonishment must have been on a par with that caused in our time by the magnificent discovery of radium. The polarization of light is a phenomenon as undoubtedly singular as that of the existence of the X-rays," continues M. Poincaré ; " and the upheaval produced in natural philosophy by the theories of the disintegration of matter, and the ideas concerning electrons, is probably not more considerable than that produced in the theories of light and heat by the works of Young and Rumford."
No phase of human progress is more conspicuously " the heir of all the ages " than is science. No phase of progress, perhaps, so vividly illustrates the law of evolution. The supreme value of any one discovery is that it makes a greater one possible. Who can foresee the results that wait in the future from the discovery of radium ? At present, it is the world's greatest marvel — this self-luminous and self-perpetuating substance, with its almost in-calculable power. What purposes, as yet unrevealed to man, may it not serve within the limits of the present century ? All the potencies of science exist for the service of humanity. Man is placed on earth to enter on his immortal work of solving the incommunicable mysteries. As he develops his faculties, he receives the keys of nature and history, and rises on the path to science and to joyful and triumphant achievement. " Let others wrangle," said Saint Augustine, " I will wonder." To appreciate this marvellous evolutionary progress to a sufficient degree to stand in wonder before it, is to enter into its spirit. " Method, patience, self-trust, perseverance, love, desire of knowledge, the passion for truth ! These are the angels that take us by the hand," says Emerson ; " these are our immortal invulnerable guardians. By their strength we are strong. Science opens her length and breadth ; Poetry her splendor and joy, and the august circles of eternal law. These are means and stairs for new ascensions of the mind." He continues :
" The forces are infinite. Every one has the might of all, for the secret of the world is that its energies are solidaires; that they work together on a system of mutual aid, all for each and each for all ; that the strain made on one point bears on every arch and foundation of the structure. But if you wish to avail yourself of their might, and in like manner if you wish the force of the intellect, the force of the will, you must take their divine direction, not they yours. Obedience alone gives the right to command. It is like the village operator who taps the telegraph-wire and surprises the secrets of empires as they pass to the capital. So this child of the dust throws himself by obedience into the circuit of the heavenly wisdom, and shares the secret of God.
" Thus is the world delivered into your hand, but on two conditions, — not for property, but for use, use according to the noble nature of the gifts; and not for toys, not for self-indulgence. Things work to their ends, not to yours, and will certainly defeat any adventurer who fights against this ordination."
This, indeed, is to be a scientist — to throw one's self " into the circuit of the heavenly wisdom." It is in this circuit that we find New-ton and Descartes, Volta, Galvani, Morse, Kelvin, Edison, Crookes, Tesla, Roentgen, Lodge, Marconi and Mme. Curie.
" The soul shall have society of its own rank: Be great, be true, and all the Scipios, The Catos, the wise patriots of Rome, Shall flock to you and tarry by your side, And comfort you with their high company."
Unknown horizons constantly lure on the scientist. The eminent Parisian lecturers on science, Verded, Jamin, — before the École Polytechnique, — Violle, Cornu and others, invariably agree on one fundamental truth, — the sublime outlook of science is an infinite advancement. At the opening of the Congrès de Physique, at the Paris Exposition of 1900, M. Violle said that the mind of Descartes " soars over modern physics, or, rather," he added, " I should say he is their luminary. The further we penetrate into the knowledge of natural phenomena, the clearer and the more developed becomes the bold Cartesian theory regarding the mechanism of the universe. There is nothing in the physical world but matter and movement." This conception of the world as matter and movement was Lord Kelvin's also; but Sir William Crookes' conception becomes still larger and more all-embracing, when he sees that every problem of science resolves itself at last into an ether problem. So great, how-ever, was Lord Kelvin's vision that, measured by the infinite scale of progress, all that could be achieved here within the limit of one lifetime was, comparatively, failure. One of. the great English scientists said of him, just after his death :
" The modesty of really great :men keeps pace with their greatness. When, in 1896, the whole civilized world united to honor Lord Kelvin, and he had to reply to their praises, he used these noble words : ` One word characterizes the most strenuous of the efforts for the advancement of science that I have made perseveringly during fifty-five years — that word is failure ! ' This reminds us of one still greater, who at the close of life saw only ` an ocean of undiscovered truth.' On the memorial of the man who did so much to establish the theory of the ` conservation of energy,' who in what Helmholtz described as a sublime formula pro-pounded the constancy of the forces of the Universe, and in the theory of the ` dissipation of energy ' showed how, failing a Supreme Power, these forces must be degraded; on the memorial of one who has illuminated every branch of physics with new methods and ideas and instruments — the word failure will not appear. We are occasionally told that the men of the present day are not equal to those of the past, or that we Britons do not compare favorably with other nations. Talk of this kind, so far as science is concerned, betrays ignorance or anti-patriotic bias. The mention of Kelvin should dispose of the suggestion, and he did not stand alone. Crookes' inquiry into radiant matter with his famous tube ; Lord Rayleigh's discovery of argon, and Sir William Ramsay's of helium, neon, xenon and krypton ; Dewar's investigation of low temperatures to the very verge of absolute zero; Rutherford, Soddy, Ramsay, and Strutt's unfolding of the energies of radium; Sir W. Huggins and Sir Norman Lockyer's spectroscopic work ; Doctor Larmor and Sir Oliver Lodge's recondite theories of the ether, and the epoch-making electrical experiments and doctrines of Professor J. J. Thomson and his colleagues of the Cavendish Laboratory at Cam-bridge, are equal to anything in grandeur of theory or refinement of experiment ever accomplished. And these are representative men of only one great branch of science. Where has there been a greater triumph than leaps to the mind on the mention of the name of Lord Lister, still happily with us ? "
The hypothesis of " matter and movement " has given place to that of vibration and of radio-activity as the underlying causes that produce all phenomena. The most potent substance known in all nature is the radium emanation. In one ounce of radium there is concentrated sufficient energy to lift ten thou-sand tons one mile high. The research carried on by French physicists has contributed signally to the dawn of a new era of knowledge, and to a nearer approach to grasping something of the outlines of the universe in the laws that relate to planetary life.
Paris is the centre of constantly interesting scientific experiments and activities. A French engineer, M. Edward Belin, has invented and he is making an experimental success of a picture telegraph which, at the end of the line, reproduces pictures, portraits, landscapes, what you will. By means of this, a hasty sketch of any railway accident, or event, or feature of any kind, can be sent direct to a newspaper office. The secret of the process is that the luminous fluctuations are converted into electrical fluctuations. Yet the inventor himself can not perhaps explain just how this is done. The entire question of the luminiferous ether is still involved in mystery. " I know no more of electric and magnetic force," said Lord Kelvin shortly before his death, — " I know no more of the relations between ether, electricity and ponderable matter, or of chemical affinity, than I knew and tried to teach my class students as a young professor."
The problems of aerial navigation are also attracting great attention in Paris, and many inventors and engineers are at work on the air-ships, dirigible balloons, aero cars and aeroplanes. The air is the kingdom which the scientist is now proposing to conquer.
So many experiments with varying degrees of success are being made, including that with the balloon called the République, which carries eight persons, that any day may mark an era in aerial navigation.
The French scientists are taking note of the ether, and before a recent gathering were read the marvellous words of Tesla, wherein he claims that by coming into an intelligent recognition of the etherial forces, man may even be a creator of worlds. This future, as outlined by Tesla, is well calculated to touch the imagination of the brilliant savants of Paris, and he in part said :
" According to an adopted theory, every ponderable atom is differentiated from a tenuous fluid, filling all space merely by spinning motion, as a whirl of water in a calm lake. By being set in movement, this fluid, the ether, becomes gross matter ; its movement arrested, the primary substance reverts to its normal state. It appears, then, possible for man through harnessed energy of the medium and suitable agencies for starting and stopping ether whirls to cause matter to form and disappear. At his command, almost without effort on his part, old worlds would vanish and new ones would spring into being. He could alter the size of this planet, control its seasons, adjust its distance from the sun, guide it on its eternal journey along any path he might choose, through the depths of the universe. He could make planets collide and produce his suns and stars, his heat and light; he could originate life in all its infinite forms. To cause at will the birth and death of matter would be man's grandest deed, which would give him the mastery of physical creation, make him fulfill his ultimate destiny.
" Nothing could be further from my thought than to call wireless telephony around the world ` the greatest achievement of humanity,' as reported. This is a feat which, however stupefying, can be readily performed by any expert. I have myself constructed a plant for this very purpose. The wireless wonders are only seeming, not results of exceptional skill, as popularly believed. The truth is the electrician has been put in possession of a veritable lamp of Aladdin. All he has to do is to rub it. Now, to rub the lamp of Aladdin is no achievement.
" If you are desirous of hastening the accomplishment of still greater and further-reaching wonders you can do no better than by emphatically opposing any measure tending to interfere with the free commercial exploitation of water power and the wireless art. So absolutely does human progress depend on the development of these that the smallest impediment, particularly through the legislative bodies of this country, may set back civilization and the cause of peace for centuries."
To " cause matter to form and to disappear " by means of a " harnessed energy for starting and stopping ether whirls " may well startle the imagination, but however remote may be the achievement of this sublime destiny, it is in the logical sequence of progress in the future — in future ages or eternities.
Nor need one fear that this astonishing pronunciamento is lacking either in reverence to the divine Creator, or in that balance of common sense which is the key to all lasting achievement. " visions are the creators and feeders of life." No conception of man is too sublime for ultimate realization. " Infinity cannot be diminished by subtraction," says Sir Oliver Lodge, and he adds :
" No such objection to the spread of knowledge was felt by that inspired writer who hoped for the time when ` the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.'
" Whatever science can establish, that it has a right to establish : more than a right, it has a duty. Whatever science can examine into, that it has a right to examine into. If there be things which we are not intended to know, be assured that we shall never know them : we shall not know enough about them even to ask a question or start an inquiry. The intention of the universe is not going to be frustrated by the insignificant efforts of its own creatures. If we refrain from examination and inquiry, for no better reason than the fanciful notion that perhaps we may be trespassing on forbidden ground, such hesitation argues a pitiful lack of faith in the good-will and friendliness and power of the forces that make for righteousness.
" Let us study all the facts that are open to us, with a trusting and an open mind ; with care and candor testing all our provisional hypotheses, and with slow and cautious verification making good our steps as we proceed. Thus may we hope to reach out further and ever further into the unknown; sure that as we grope in the darkness we shall encounter no clammy horror, but shall receive an assistance and sympathy which it is legitimate to symbolize as a clasp from the hand of Christ himself."
The attitude of the French government toward science is a conspicuous factor in the history of modern progress in France. Recently occurred the death of a celebrated astronomer for whom the government built an observatory at Meudon, some twenty miles from Paris, in recognition of his services to science. This savant was Doctor Pierre Jules Caesar Jannson, the founder of the observatory on Mount Blanc, and the man who had taken part in a larger number of scientific explorations than any other con-temporary observer of celestial phenomena. Doctor Jannson went to Peru in 1857 to study the electric equator. In 1861-62 he went to Italy for the solar eclipse ; in 1868 he watched the solar eclipse in India, and in 1870 — when imprisoned in Paris by the Commune - he escaped in a balloon to see the solar eclipse in Algiers — quite the most romantic incident perhaps in the history of modern astronomy. Dr. Jannson was an associate of many learned societies and had received many medals and honors.
Professor Michelson, of the University of Chicago, the distinguished savant who is a special authority on the phenomena of light, has carried on some of his most valuable work in Paris laboratories. Some thirty years ago, Professor Michelson made an accurate measurement of the speed of light, and he invented the Michelson interfermometer, which is now the universal standard instrument for the accurate measurement of the most minute distances in space. The principle involved being that, as its source is light, it carries with it its own standard of length. The meter of Professor Michelson is preserved in Paris, in the Académie des Sciences. Professor Michelson attacked another problem which presented itself to his mind, — " the coefficient of ether drift," that is, to what extent is the ether carried along with water in motion. Regarding the standard of length, Professor Michelson questioned whether an absolutely invariable standard could be adopted, and his answer was not merely the expression of his own convictions, but it was " the actual number of wave lengths of red cadmium light in a meter, with an uncertainty surely not so large as one part in a million, and probably not greater than than one part in twenty million. A preliminary study of twenty different sources of light demanded by this research was in itself a magnum opus, demanding of the scientist an unusual combination of skill and judgment."
A group of French scientists, Messieurs Perot, Fabry and Benoit, state that " the meter today is not different from that examined by Michelson fourteen years ago by more than one part in ten million. A discrepancy of this size is the same as that between two measurements of the distance from the equator to the north pole which should differ by three feet ! The Lusitania under full steam would require ten days to cover such a quadrant of the earth. The moral, if not the legal effect of Professor Michelson's work at Paris was to replace the meter, considered not as our unit of length, but as our standard of length, by a wave length of cadmium light."
Professor Michelson has made special studies to insure this same absolute accuracy in width, and he has demonstrated how this perfection of the precise width is affected by the slightest changes in temperature of the source and of the atomic mass.
Doctor Brequet is one of the French scientists who is making profound research into the mysteries of light and has made studies for an invention that would make it possible to see, electrically, in Paris, things taking place in New York.
Professor Lippmann, of the University of Paris, has recently invented a new photographic plate, by means of which a photographer is able to dispense with a camera. It is he also who invented a process of taking photographs in colors, and his method is said to be the most direct one in existence. Color photography is, indeed, developed in Paris to a high degree. The autochrome plate realized the highest ambition of color photographers. By means of this, the beauty of landscapes, and portraits, and genre scenes can be photographed on glass, and can also be produced on paper. The auto-chrome plate consists of hundreds of thousands of tiny, microscopic " eyes." The plate is, in fact, composed of a kind of honeycomb, in the cells of which are packed very minute hemispherical grains, over fifteen thousand to the square inch, and each little lens is separated from its neighbors by some black material. Each lens produces a tiny image upon the sensitive film behind it, and thus in the developed picture there are innumerable little images, each taken from a slightly different point of view. On examining the finished plate the eye sees a model of the original subject in true perspective and perfectly stereoscopic. The relief is remarkable, and a far more vivid impression is obtained than can be produced in the ordinary way. Much remains to be done before the plate is perfect, but a revolution in photography will be brought about when Professor Lippmann and his assistants at his Sorbonne laboratory have completed their wonderful work.
The art of photo-telegraphy — telegraphing pictures from one plate to another over hundreds and thousands of miles — is one of the marvels of latter-day photography, and it is constantly being done between Berlin, Paris and London. A photograph in Berlin can be received in Paris twelve minutes later, and French scientists assert that it will soon be as easy to send a wire-less picture as it is to send a Marconigram.
The part that stellar photography plays in astronomy is understood by the public at large as well as by scientists. Practically all the latest discoveries of new stars have been made by means of photography. Their composition is determined by the spectroscope, which reveals all the component colors of their light, and the recent photographic plates have been made sensitive to the red and orange rays, in addition to their former sensitiveness to the violet and the blue, which enables them to be available for work in stellar photography.
Added to these is the marvellous cinematograph, which has been brought to perfection in Paris. It is utilized for the study of natural history, in that it is arranged to produce the most remarkable living pictures of the life which goes on under water, the movements of those tiniest of all small organisms — the bacteria. Many fascinating phases of animal and bird life have also been successfully taken, after almost interminable study.
It is introduced into surgery, and many peculiar movements in the human subject, caused by nervous diseases, poisoning, and so on, which are so difficult to describe verbally, are now demonstrated to medical students by means of the cinematograph, and their know-ledge is thus rendered far more accurate than was possible hitherto.
Photography has, indeed, become the hand-maid of almost all branches of science, as well as of art. One most important feature is the ability of the photographic plate to record movements of such infinitesimal duration that only the sensitized plate could register. them.
It was about 1898 that Becquerel found on a photographic plate the record inscribed by an unknown order of rays, which led to the discovery of what has developed into practically a new science, — that of radio-activity. It was received with much skepticism, but it has been demonstrated by chemistry and by mathematical and physical experiments in a multitude of ways.
The lynoscope was announced as among the special attractions of the Paris Exposition of 1900 ; but it was not completed in time. This marvellous invention is not that of a French scientist, however, but of Mr. John Wellesley Lynn. Its possibilities border on the fairly incredible, except that the scientist is one to whom nothing is incredible. It is claimed that the lynoscope will enable the people in Paris to see things transpiring in New York; that it will enable the eye to look through any person, or any solid substance, as if nothing were there. It consists of three distinct parts, — the operator, the transmitter, and the receiver, the first being a large, square box, with a hole at each end, mounted on the end of a telegraph pole. The transmitter, in a similar box, contains a telescopic apparatus that focuses the image and reflects it in mirrors, while the receiver is a large brass funnel like a phonograph, with a screen, on which the image is reflected. It is said that the Derby race can be shown to a London theatre audience, — not as by the biograph, but as an actual occurrence, and that reflections at the distance of nearly two hundred miles have already been secured. A successful experiment was made with this instrument at Buckingham Palace, and Mr. Lynn has been awarded a diploma for optical discoveries from the Inventors Exhibition.
The French scientists did not, at first, accept the theories of Doctor Gustave Le Bon, Membre de l'Académie Royale de Belgique, that all matter is radio-active, in the same manner as uranium and radium, and that this radio-activity is but a step in the process by which it gradually sinks back into the ether from which it was originally formed. Later, Doctor Le Bon believed he had discovered that in the course of this disintegration energies of an intensity transcending anything previously observed are slowly liberated, and in June of 1905 he published his book promulgating this theory. More than twelve thousand copies were soon sold in France, and a vehement storm of opposition set in. The adversaries of Doctor Le Bon left little to the imagination. Professor Naquet, the illustrious chemist, of the Faculté de Médecine of Paris, wrote : " We have never seen the ponderable return to the imponderable. In fact, the whole science of chemistry is based on the law that such a change does not occur; for, did it do so, good-by to the equations of chemistry."
But the twentieth century has grown familiar with the truth that the rejected stone of one generation may be the corner-stone of the next. " The soul of God is poured into the world through the thoughts of men," says Emerson ; and he adds : " The world stands on ideas, and not on iron or cotton ; and the iron of iron, the fire of fire, the ether and source of all the elements is moral force. As cloud on cloud, as snow on snow, as the bird on the air, and the planet on space in its flight, so do nations of men and their institutions rest on thoughts."
All the progress of science, as well as that of the moral universe, is based on thought which discerns and establishes facts, and the story of Doctor Le Bon's research and conclusions is one of the most thrilling and wonderful in all the marvellous annals of scientific progress. It is the story of the complete overthrow of all the previous theories of matter. The conviction that matter and force were the two exceptions to the law that all things in the universe are certain to perish was held with the persistency of a mathematical tenet, or the belief in the everlasting truth of the law of gravitation. It was held that Matter and Force undergo trans-formations without ceasing, but that they remain indestructible and consequently immortal. Doctor Le Bon sprung upon the world the revolutionary idea that, on the contrary, " matter is not eternal, and can vanish without return ; " that the atom is the reservoir of a force hitherto unrecognized, although it exceeds by its immensity those forces with which we are acquainted, and that it may perhaps be the origin of most others, notably of electricity and solar heat," and, finally, " that between the world of the ponderable and that of the imponderable, till now considered widely separate, there exists an intermediate world."
Doctor Le Bon did not escape the usual fate of the prophets and the martyrs who are stoned for their pains. He quotes Lamarck as observing that whatever may be the difficulties in discovering new truths, there are still greater ones in getting them recognized. His ideas were subjected to a storm of hostile criticism. Their validity is now, however, established, and recognized by hosts of the leading physicists, and the dogma of the indestructibility of matter is no longer regarded as a sacred tenet, which must not be questioned. When Sir William Crookes proclaimed his discovery of radiant matter ; when Roentgen discovered the X-ray; when Becquerel recognized the first trace of radio-activity, and the Curies followed with the epoch-making discovery of radium, the barriers were effectually thrown down. Doctor Le Bon has discerned and demonstrated that matter is " capable of a disassociation fitted to lead it into forms in which it loses all its material qualities." His experiments proved that the phenomena seen in radio-active substances was repeated in every substance in nature, and that the only explanation was that of the disassociation of their atoms. Then the question arises as to what becomes of this matter when it disassociates. Doctor Le Bon's reply is that it " de-materializes itself by passing through successive phases, which gradually deprive it of its material qualities until it finally returns to the imponderable ether whence it seems to have issued." Doc-tor Le Bon's final conclusion is that matter is an enormous reservoir of intra-atomic energy, which force, — as light, heat, electricity, — represents unstable forms of this energy, and that energy is produced by the disassociation of atoms. A very remarkable series of statements are the following :
" Matter, hitherto deemed indestructible, vanishes slowly by the continuous disassociation of its component atoms.
" The products of the dematerialization of matter constitute substances placed by their properties between ponderable bodies and the imponderable ether, — that is to say, between two worlds hitherto considered as widely separate.
" Matter, formerly regarded as inert and only able to give back the energy originally sup-plied to it, is, on the other hand, a colossal reservoir of energy, which it can expend without borrowing anything from without.
" It is from the intra-atomic energy manifested during the disassociation of matter that most of the forces in the universe are derived, and notably electricity and solar heat.
" Force and matter are two different forms of one and the same thing. Matter represents a stable form of intra-atomic energy ; heat, light, electricity, represent unstable forms of it.
" By the disassociation of atoms, — that is to say, by the dematerialization of matter, — the stable form of energy termed matter is simply changed into those unstable forms known by the names of heat, light, electricity, at cetera.
" The law of evolution applicable to living beings is also applicable to simple bodies ; chemical species are no more invariable than are living species."
Doctor Le Bon's theories, rather should one say discoveries, as they are now fully accepted by the scientific world, offer a conception of matter and energy entirely different from that which formerly, and up to the time of his research and experiment, prevailed among scientists. He has discovered that man lives in enchantment ; that " all that man calls nature are visions merely, wonderful allegories, significant pictures of the laws of the mind ; and that through this enchanted gallery he is led by unseen guides to read and learn the laws of Heaven."
Doctor Le Bon regards all phenomena as simply the transformation of equilibrium. When this transformation is swift, we see it as electricity, heat, light ; when it is slow, we call it mat-ter, and the startling assertion that he makes is that heat, electricity, et cetera, " represent the last stages of matter before its disappearance into the ether."
Matter is stable energy. Energy is unstable matter. This is the condensation of Doctor Le Bon's discoveries, and he takes the ground that ether and matter represent entities of the same order, and the various forms of energy are its manifestations. Beyond this, the great seer into the marvels of nature finds that while the elements of a substance which is burned, or otherwise destroyed, are transformed, but not lost, — the balance recording their weight, which does not vary, — the destruction of elements of atoms which are disassociated is irrevocable. " They lose every quality of matter, including the most fundamental of them all, — weight. The balance no longer detects them. Nothing can recall them to the state of matter. They have vanished in the immensity of the ether which fills space, and they no longer form part of our universe."
Here science has led us to the very portal of the ethereal world. That which had manifested itself in the visible and ponderable universe, has crossed the mysterious boundary line that just divides the ethereal and the physical realms. It is like the vanishing of the spiritual man when he no longer animates the body that was his instrument of communication and action. But still more is predicated of this vanishing of matter. When the scientist shall find the means — at present unknown — of easily accomplishing the swift disassociation of matter, he will have at command unlimited and infinite sources of energy. " The scholar who discovers the way to liberate economically the forces which matter contains, will almost instantaneously change the face of the world. If an unlimited supply of energy were gratuitously placed at the disposal of man, he would no longer have to procure it at the cost of arduous labor. The poor would then be on a level with the rich and there would be an end to all social questions."
The Académie des Sciences in Paris has dis-cussed at length and often the problems suggested by Doctor Le Bon. M. Henri Poincaré, M. Paul Painlevé, M. Naquet, and others raised intelligent objections to the new theory. Doctor Le Bon's reply was that the laws applicable to chemical molecules do not seem to apply at all to intra-atomic equilibria ; that the atom alone possesses these two contrary properties, of being at once very stable and very unstable. M. Armand Gautier, a professor of chemistry at the Faculté de Médecine, and a member of the French Institute, made the subject of intra-atomic energy the theme of a paper for the Revue Scientifique. M. Despeaux, of the Corps of Engineers, vigorously opposed the views of Doctor Le Bon ; and M. Duclaud wrote a paper read before a scientific body, in which he espoused the new conception and said :
" . . . As a matter of fact Gustave Le Bon presents to us four successive stages of matter . . . while showing that everything returns to ether, he allows, also, that everything proceeds from it. ` Worlds are born therein and go there to die,' he tells us.
" The ponderable issues from the ether and returns to it under manifold influences. That is to say, the ether is a reservoir, at once the receptacle and the pourer forth of matter. . . . "
M. Lasaint of the Ecole Polytechnique rejected Doctor Le Bon's views, and said : " . . . In the stead of this eternal cemetery of the atoms, I strive to see in the ether rather the perpetual laboratory of nature. I would even go so far as to say that it is to the atom what, in biology, protoplasm is to the cell. Everything goes to, and comes forth from it. It is a form of matter, at once its original and its final form." Doctor Le Bon replied that he had no reason to contradict this, as he merely desired to establish that ponderable matter vanishes without return by liberating the enormous forces it contains.
" Once returned to the ether," he goes on to say, " matter has irrevocably ceased to exist, so far as we are concerned. Its individuality has completely disappeared. It has become something unrecognizable and eliminated from the sphere of the world accessible to our senses. There is assuredly a much greater distance between mat-ter and ether than there is between carbon or nitrogen and the living beings formed from their combinations. Carbon and nitrogen can, in fact, infinitely recommence their cycle by falling again under the laws of life; while matter returned to the ether can no more become matter again — or at least can only do so by colossal accumulations of energy, which demand long successions of ages for their formation, and which we could not produce without the power attributed in the book of Genesis to the Creator."
Professor Somerhausen declared that if the possibility were realized (by the combination of the terms, matter and energy) of arriving at a definite equation which might be looked upon as the highest symbol of the phenomena of the universe, it would certainly be one of the grandest conquests of science ; that it would " join the domain of matter with that of energy, and thus, clear away the last discontinuity in the structure of the world."
The " Année Scientifique " is enthusiastic in its recognition of Doctor Le Bon's work.
" M. Gustave Le Bon was the first, as we should not forget," said this periodical, " to throw some light into this dark chaos by showing that radio-activity is not peculiar to a few rare substances, but is a general property of matter. . . . We do not yet know how to liberate and master this incalculable reserve of force, of which yesterday we did not even suspect the existence. But it is evident that when man shall have found the means to make himself its master, it will be the greatest revolution ever recorded in the annals of science, a revolution of which our puny brains can hardly grasp all the consequences and the extent."
One well-formulated objection, as phrased by Professor Pio, was in the question as to how particles emitted under the influence of intra-atomic energy with an enormous speed do not render incandescent by the shock the bodies they strike? He asks, also, where energy expended goes to ? To which Doctor Le Bon replies that " if the particles are emitted in sufficient numbers, they may, in fact, render metals incandescent by the shock, as is observed in the anti-cathode of Crookes' tube. With radium, and still more with ordinary substances infinitely less active, this energy is produced too slowly to generate such important effects," continues Doctor Le Bon. " At the most, as in the case with radium, it may raise the temperature of the mass of the body by two or three degrees. Radium releases, according to the measurements of Curie, one hundred calory-grammes per hour and this quantity could only raise the temperature of one hundred grammes of water by one degree in an hour. It is evidently too slight to raise in any appreciable degree the temperature of a metal, especially if one considers that it would cool by radiation nearly as fast as it was heated.
" Certainly," he concedes, " it would be quite different if radium or any other substance were disassociated rapidly instead of requiring centuries for the purpose. The savant who discovers the way to disassociate instantaneously one gramme of any metal — radium, lead, or silver — will not witness the results of his experiment. The explosion produced would be so formidable that his laboratory and all the neighboring houses, with their inhabitants, would be instantly pulverized. So complete a dis-association will probably never be attained, though M. de Heen attributes to explosions of this kind the sudden disappearance of certain stars."
The existence of an intermediate world between matter and ether is one of the most fascinating speculations with which contemporary discussion is occupied. The facts that are marshalled to prove that this intermediate realm exists appeal to reason not less than to imaginative visions. Every further develop-ment of the laws of evolution reveals that there are no impassable gulfs in the natural sciences of divisions; that " from the protoplasm of primitive beings up to man, the chain is now almost uninterrupted. . . Physics has followed an analogous route, but has not yet arrived at unity. . . . It has, however, discovered the relations that exist between the different forces, and has recognized that they are but varied manifestations of one thing supposed to be indestructible, — energy." Through the entire series of phenomena, a certain permanence is established, and it is recognized that the law of continuity is unvarying throughout the universe. Yet, in physics alone, Doctor Le Bon points out, " two gaps remain to be filled before this continuity can be established everywhere. Physics still maintains that a wide separation exists between matter and energy, and another, not less considerable, between the world of the ponderable and the imponderable, — that is to say, between matter and ether. Matter is that which is weighed. Light, heat, electricity and all the phenomena produced in the bosom of the imponderable ether, as they add nothing to the weight of bodies, are regarded as belonging to a very different world from that of matter."
Doctor Le Bon quotes M. Berthelot as saying of Lavoisier that the fundamental distinction between the ponderable substances and imponderable agencies which he established was " one of the greatest discoveries ever made, and one of the bases of the present physical, chemical and mechanical sciences." Doctor Le Bon claims that an impressive array of new facts entirely overthrows the classic convictions that matter is distinct from energy, and incapable of creating it; and that the imponderable ether is entirely distinct from ponderable matter, having 'no kinship with it. He concedes that it is not easy to see how a stone or a piece of lead can be akin to things so subtle as a sunbeam or an electric spark. But he pleads that it is by placing in juxtaposition the two extremities of any one series, that the scientist can reconstruct their intermediate forms, and he suggests that physics should proceed by the same methods as those employed in biology. He demonstrates by a singularly clear, brilliant and forcible argument that " the products of the dematerialization of matter are formed from substances of which the characteristics are intermediate between those of ether and those of matter." In radio-activity it is continuously seen that mat-ter transforms itself into " something which can no longer be ordinary matter, since none of its properties are preserved . . . and which belongs to the intermediate world between matter and ether." Doctor Le Bon points out that, because of the non-perception of this intermediate world, science has always found itself with an array of puzzling facts which refused to be classified. Among these were the cathode rays, which, in Doctor Le Bon's belief, really form part of the intermediate substances between matter and ether. Scientists have placed these first in one world and then in the other, with equal failure to relate them to either one; for the very good reason, in Doctor Le Bon's opinion, that they " belong neither to the one nor to the other, but to that intermediate world between the matter and the ether."
The argument of Doctor Le Bon for the immaterial nature of the universe has invited wide and significant discussion among French scientists. All physical phenomena are considered to have their source in the ether. Even gravitation, " whence are derived the mechanics of the world and the march of the stars," is apparently one of its manifestations. " Although the inmost nature of the ether is hardly suspected," says Doctor Le Bon, " its existence has forced itself upon us long since, and appears to many to be more assured than that of matter itself. Belief in its existence became necessary when the propagation of forces at a distance had to be explained. . . . The majority of phenomena would be inexplicable without it. Without the ether there could be neither gravity, nor light, nor electricity, nor heat, nor anything, in a word, of which we have knowledge. The universe would be silent and dead.. . . If one could construct a glass chamber from which the ether were to be entirely eliminated, heat and light could not pass through it."
In defining the properties of the ether, however, the most tremendous difficulties appear. Its properties cannot be connected with anything known, and, as Doctor Le Bon observes, when confronted with phenomena bearing no analogy to that previously observed, we " are like a person born deaf in regard to music, or as a blind man with regard to colors. No image can make them understand what is a sound or a color."
The ether cannot be likened to gas, as the latter is compressible, and the former is not. Were it compressible, it could not instantaneously transmit the vibrations of light. Lord Kelvin defined the ether as " an elastic solid filling all space; " but, says Doctor Le Bon, " the elastic solid forming the ether must have very strange properties for a solid, which we never meet with in any other." That the magnitude of the forces which the ether is able to transmit constitutes a phenomena impossible to satisfactorily interpret, is conceded by all physicists. " An electromagnet acts across space by the intermediary of the ether ; on iron it exercises at a distance a force which may extend to a hundred and ten kilogrammes per square centimetre." Lord Kelvin then questions : " How is it that these prodigious forces are developed in the ether, an elastic solid, while ponderable bodies are yet free to move within this solid ? " This question is typical of innumerable difficulties that have confronted science. Doctor Le Bon believes that the solution of them all lies in the fact that there is no " missing link " between the material and the immaterial, but rather that there exists the intermediary realm, akin to each and uniting them by the evolutionary process, according to the law observed through-out the entire universe ; that matter and ether form the two extreme limits of a series, and that the intermediate elements, connecting the two, are now discovered and demonstrated by the law of the disassociation of matter. Doctor Le Bon has, it is claimed, made a discovery as new in modes of energy as was that of Volta in electricity. " Whatever may be the interpretations given to the facts revealing the dis-association of matter," says Doctor Le Bon, " these facts are incontestable, and it is only the demonstration of them which is of importance at present."
One remarkable hypothesis in the latest researches of science in Paris is the conclusion that the X-ray has no more connection with electricity than with light ; that these rays simply represent one of the myriad manifestations of intra-atomic energy which is liberated by means of the disassociation of matter. " The universe is full of unknown forces which, like the X-rays of today, and the electricity of a century ago, were discovered only when we possessed re-agents capable of revealing them. Had phosphorescent bodies and photographic plates been unknown, the existence of X-rays could not have been verified. Physicists handled Crookes' tubes, which yield these rays in abundance, for a quarter of a century without discovering them.
" If it is probable that the X-rays have their seat in the ether, it seems certain that they are not constituted by vibrations similar to those of light. To me," concludes Doctor Le Bon, " they represent the extreme limit of material things, one of the last stages of the vanishing of matter before its return to the ether."
Matter is disassociated by light, by chemical reaction, by electric action, by combustion, by heat, and spontaneously. During all the ages, this disassociation has undoubtedly been an enormous factor in all natural phenomena. It is now believed to be the origin of atmospheric electricity, the source of solar heat, and the origin, indeed, of all electricity, — the final conclusion at date regarding electricity being that it is a semi-material substance, generated by the dematerialization of matter.
Doctor Le Bon quotes the Roman poet, Lucretius, as saying more than two thousand years ago, that " Bodies are not annihilated when they disappear from our view. Nature forms new beings with their remains. It is only by the death of some that it grants life to others. The elements are unalterable and indestructible."
Whether the electron is a sort of " fetish of science " is a speculation somewhat in the air before the deliberations of the Académie des Sciences. The revelations made by intra-atomic chemistry would fill a volume ; yet most of these are so largely or, at least, so possibly, in an experimental stage ; the hypothesis of to-day is so liable to be overthrown to-morrow, that if many of those were chronicled now, they might be wholly superseded before another year had passed.
The discovery of the law of the disassociation of matter marks an epoch in science. Whether it will succeed in ultimately establishing the existence of this intermediate realm between the ponderable and the imponderable worlds, between matter and ether, remains to be seen. Intra-atomic chemistry is only in its faintest dawn, and yet, even in these preliminary researches, it is already evident that the old material of chemists has disappeared. The time has not far receded into the past when no one could dream of studying the world of atoms. Today it is known that each one is " a small universe of an extraordinary complicated structure, a repository of forces formerly unknown, the magnitude whereof exceeds enormously all those hitherto known. That which chemistry and physics believed they knew best was in reality what they knew least. . . . In the atomic universes must be sought the explanation of most of the mysteries that surround us. . . . The atom is the very soul of things. It stores up the energies which are the mainspring of the world and the beings which animate it."
The radio-activity of thought among the leading scientific men of Paris is not less wonderful than the phenomena as observed by Sir William Crookes in his discovery of radiant matter ; by Becquerel in the first intimations of its presence, and so vividly and impressively discerned and formulated by Professor and Mme. Curie. With Emerson, this profound and brilliant group of French physicists might well exclaim :
" Thought is the wages For which I sell days."