The New Word, by Allen Upward, , at sacred-texts.com
Young Cameron.—1. A Famous Cryptogram.—2. Perfect Elasticity.—3. Ideal Crumbs.—4. Faith.—5. Boyle's Law Accounted for.
LEST I should be misled about materialism by keeping to one book, and that one written by a man of letters rather than a practical scientist, I went out into the street, and was fortunate enough to find another with the tempting title—Chemical Theory for Beginners.
This time there could be no mistake; the book was a real school-book, and it had belonged to a real school-boy; I found his name, Cameron, and the name of his school, on the fly-leaf. It was the work of two learned specialists on the staff of a famous university. In England the publisher is more important than the author, and this book was published by the most important publisher in England. It was published in the year of Nobel's death.
As we have seen, there is a slight cloud over the Story of Creation. If it is not under lock and key in the Free Libraries, there must be many who would like to be so. But not one would dream of locking up the Chemical Theory for Beginners. It is perfectly respectable. It is a book that might have
been written by a bishop. Its contents are taught to the sons of bishops in the most conservative schools in England. They are taught alongside of the Catechism of the Church of England. And yet they are not one whit less materialistic than what we have been reading. The passage I have picked out for examination is a chief cornerstone of the Materialistic Faith. The schoolmasters have dealt with young Cameron fairly, according to their lights. They have treated his mind as if it were a badger's pit. You put in the badger, and you put in the dog, and you wait to see which comes out first. They have thrown in the Catechism, and they have thrown in the Chemical Theory, and now they are waiting to see whether Cameron will turn out a Christian or an Atheist.
I got this book to learn what young Cameron had to learn, whether he liked it or not, about Going Crumbs.
The Going Crumb has been invented to account for an interesting fact which any one may examine for himself,—what science calls a law. In one of my authorities it is thus stated.
"Gases are highly elastic. According to Boyle's Law the volume of a gas is inversely as the pressure, whilst the density and elastic force are directly as the pressure and inversely as the volume."
That is to say, in homely words, the more you squeeze gas, the more it will shrink, and the more it will squeeze back. Elastic is not a very good word; the gas behaves more like a spring shutting up than a piece of elastic. Nor is the statement quite true; Boyle's Law is sometimes broken, like real laws. However the fact itself is very simple, so simple that learned men felt they must account for it. So they set to work, and as we should expect them to do when they want to make anything that is simple yet more simple, they began by taking down the Greek lexicon.
They called their explanation the Kinetic Molecular Theory.
The English for that, as far as I can make out, is the Going Crumb View. I am not sure that I ought not to write Belief instead of View. I am afraid that Cameron believes that he has really viewed the going crumbs. Only Ulysses can listen in safety to the siren's song.
We will read over this famous spell.
"According to this theory the particles of a gas—which are identical with the chemical molecules—are practically independent of each other, and are briskly moving in all directions in straight lines. It frequently happens that the particles encounter each other, and also the walls of the vessel containing them; but as they are supposed to behave like perfectly elastic bodies, there is no loss to their energy
of motion in such encounters, merely their directions and relative velocities being changed by the collision.
"The pressure exerted by a gas on the vessel containing it, is due to the impacts of the gas molecules on the walls of the vessel. On this hypothesis we can easily account for Boyle's Law."
And so these learned men have accounted for the gas being highly elastic by supposing that its crumbs are perfectly elastic; and all they now have to do is to account for the crumbs being perfectly elastic.
But there is more in this View than meets the eye. The cryptogram has been put together with a cunning that, in a Jesuit casuist, would be considered fraud. Let us see if we can unriddle it, bearing in mind that whatever reverence is due to the sophists, or the casuists, of science, a greater reverence is due to Cameron.
I will put aside the straight lines at once with the remark that real crumbs do not move in straight lines,—only ideal crumbs do so. It was careless of the distinguished writers to use an English word like straight. A bright boy would have found them out at once. Another time they had better write rectilinear.
Now let us see what is happening. A swarm of racket-balls are flying this way and that inside a racket-court, and trying to get out. They bump against each other, and against the wall, and when they bump they change their "relative" velocities. But as they are supposed to be made of "perfect elastic" they do not lose their "Energy of Motion."
The word relative is the first trap, and we must begin by getting rid of it. Nothing is going but the elastic racket-balls. The only relation is between the speed of one ball, and the speed of another. The only way in which they can change their relative velocities is by one ball going faster, and the other slower, by one ball gaining speed, and the other losing it. We must be firm with the scientific wizards here. We must not allow them to create crumbs that can change their relative velocities without changing their velocities.
We now have to follow the racket-ball that has got the worst of the encounter. We must watch this crippled warrior very closely as he limps out of the fray, for a strange thing is about to happen to him.
When real racket-balls bump, no matter what elastic they are made of, they will lose speed, and after they have bumped each other, and bumped the wall of the racket-court, often enough they will slow down and stop. But this ideal racket-ball is not allowed to slow down and stop, because, if it should, the gas would cease to be gas. It would have to go out into the Ether. To save it from that fate, after
a time the beaten crumb gets its breath again, and goes on as fast as ever. How is this cure effected? Who puts the lame man on his legs again, and furnishes the wounded bird with fresh wings to fly?
According to this View, the Good Samaritan is perfect elasticity. But if perfect elasticity can save a racket-ball from stopping, it should also save it from slowing. Prevention is better than cure. If perfect elasticity is not at hand when it is really needed, to bring off the crumb harmless from its encounter, it is too late for it to come on the scene afterwards, and try to revive the flagging spirits of the sufferer to their former briskness. We must draw the line somewhere, even in a scientific hypothesis. We may allow the wizards their perfect elasticity, though we may have our private doubts as to whether there is such a thing, and whether they understand what they mean by it. But elasticity that made a slowing india-rubber ball put on a spurt in the middle of the air would be repeating elasticity. We must be firm here also. We must not allow all the other laws of nature, and of grammar, to be set aside to account for Boyle's not-quite-true Law.
The words perfect elasticity in this connection are another trap. What really keeps up the heart of the worsted crumb, and sends it into the fight again, this time with better luck, is not its elasticity but its Energy of Motion. The whole magic of the incantation is here. The whole art of the ideal racket-ball, the difference between it and other racket-balls,
is that it can lose speed without losing "Energy of Motion."
What is that, messieurs Clausius and Clerk Maxwell, if you please?
We must not pin down the word Energy to Push, because the framers of the cryptogram may not have read, or may not have believed, the Story of Creation. I will write—Strength of Going. What is the difference between that and Speed?
The word speed, or in Babu, velocity, is not an Andronican one. It is a plain term of measurement, like length and weight, and it is used in measuring Energy of Motion. We measure strength by measuring its work, and speed is the work of Energy of Motion. If a crumb, or a racket-ball, or a railway-train, is going at all, it is going through space, and in time, and we can measure the strength with which it is going, by measuring the space and the time, and dividing the first measure by the second. The quotient, or result, is called the speed of the crumb or of the train, and the speed exactly corresponds with the Energy of Motion.
If a railroad train has slowed down on account of having bumped against another train it can pick up its speed again. But the strength which enables
it to do so is not Energy of Motion, but Energy of Steam. In order to distinguish between the two we have only to uncouple the engine from the rest of the train. The strength left in the train is Energy of Motion, and the train will run as long as it holds out. But now if the train bumps against another, it will lose part of its Energy of Motion, and we can measure the loss of energy by measuring the loss of speed.
The words "velocity" and "energy of motion," used in this cryptogram, mean the same thing. Its learned framers, of course, knew this as well as I do. What they must have meant to say is that whatever speed a crumb loses by bumping against a slower crumb, it will presently regain by bumping against a faster crumb, and so the total velocity among the whole of the crumbs will not be changed. Unfortunately that is not what they have said. They have left Cameron to believe, and if I know anything of boys or men, he does believe, that an ideal crumb can go as strongly as ever while it is coming to a dead stop, and as weakly as ever while it is hurling through space at the rate of a billion diameters of the universe in the trillionth of a second of time.
Secrecy is said by the lawyers to be a badge of fraud. This cryptogram is a fraud upon young Cameron, because it does not tell him fairly that there is a man in the Going Crumb. The Going Crumb View is another example of scientific anthropomorphism, or demonology. What makes the
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crumb go? When the savage sees a steam engine going, and does not know how it goes, he says fairly enough that there must be a man inside it. And indeed there is a man inside it, a man named Watt. That is what Cameron would say about the Going Crumb if he were given the chance; and most likely he would be right. Science is determined not to give him the chance, and in order to blind him, and bewilder him, she has taken the dead cipher whose right name is Speed, and dressed it up in an old suit of clothes, and clapped on it a turnip's head, and an old hat, and stuck a candle inside it, and called it Energy of Motion.
The Kinetic Molecular Theory is the view that crumbs have souls.
The Going Crumb View, with its straight lines, which are curves; its crumbs which are images formed in the mind out of real crumbs and arithmetical ciphers; its Andronican elasticity, its man-faced energy of motion, and its double-faced velocity; all brought together to account for a not-quite-true law; is a fair sample, taken at haphazard, of scientological writing. It is no whit better than theological writing. And unhappily scientology is as often mistaken for science as theology is for worship.
Since it was for young Cameron's sake that I had wrestled with this knot of words I made the experiment of reading over my notes to a grown-up Cameron.
I read them to a young man of naturally thoughtful mind, who had taken lessons in physical science, which I have never been fortunate enough to do, and who was disposed in consequence, perhaps, to feel towards me some of that distrust which a trained mind feels towards an untrained one.
He listened to me patiently till I came to the word faith, when he broke in rather warmly.
"That is most unfair. No scientist regards a theory as a faith. He is always ready to abandon it the moment it is shown to be unsound."
I thought that was encouraging, and I read on. My young friend allowed what I had said about the straight lines, though I found it was news to him. We had a misunderstanding over the relative velocities, my friend being very anxious to bring in the word mass, which does not occur in the cryptogram. His point was that in a compound, or mixed, gas the crumbs would be of different weight. I was patient with him, and after a long argument he allowed me to take the case of an unmixed gas, in which the crumbs were all of the same weight.
In the end we got to the words "perfectly elastic," and I asked my young friend what he meant by the word elastic.
It was like dropping a penny in an automatic
machine, for he instantly burst out with a shower of words like "deformation," and "minimum of energy"; and I had to stop him, and say that such words were over my head, and that they did not help me to understand the word elastic. I asked him if a piece of elastic were elastic, and he rather grudgingly allowed that it was. Then I said,—
"Let us stick to that, and we shall know where we are. Now what is meant by perfectly elastic? Is a piece of india-rubber that yields stubbornly, and springs back strongly, more or less elastic than a piece that yields easily and springs back weakly?"
"Both are equally elastic," was the answer.
"Then anything that is elastic at all is perfectly elastic?"
My young friend said that was so. Then he changed his mind, and told me that elasticity was a conception perfectly well understood by scientists, and that it had nothing to do with real elastic. He began to draw a diagram on a piece of paper to make the conception clear to me, and then he found the diagram did not make it any clearer to himself, and tore it up.
My enchanted young friend went away at last, more firmly convinced of his theory than ever, and promising to bring me a really good book on physics that would tell me exactly what elasticity was.—I am still waiting for that really good book on physics.
Unhappily young Cameron is waiting too.
My aim in criticising scientific language is not to hurt science, but to help it. I am, as I have said, myself a scientist. I merely act on the altruistic principle by writing against my own side, by beating good men and leaving wicked men alone.
It is in that spirit that I shall now go on to show the learned authors of the Chemical Theory for Beginners that their cryptogram does less than justice to the Going Crumbs.
In saying that crumbs are perfectly elastic they mean that when they strike against anything hard, such as a wall, they will come back going as fast as they went. That is the only meaning of the words, and as no one understands very much about elastic, it would have been better to call the crumbs perfectly steady-going. Of course no crumbs can behave like that, but in a scientific hypothesis possibility is of no consequence.
In this case the chief problem is the wall, because it is the terrible and ever-increasing thumps of the Going Crumbs against the wall of the containing vessel that account for Boyle's Law. It is expressly to save the Going Crumb from injury from the wall that it has been endowed with perfect elasticity,—and the wall, we may suppose, with perfect rigidity, though the cryptogram is silent on that point. This is the armour of Achilles. Clad in it, the invulnerable
crumb dashes itself time after time against the immovable wall without taking the least hurt. But now what happens when it meets another crumb?
We have answered this question in calling the wall rigid. A railway train that overtakes a slower train in front of it, is better off than if it ran into a wall. But that is because it wants to go forward, and not back. A Going Crumb does not care which way it goes; all it wants is to keep up its speed. And therefore it is worse off when it overtakes a slower crumb, and has to push it along, than when it strikes the wall. It is no good being perfectly elastic when you strike a feather bed. It is like trying to lean up against a wall that is falling away from you, to try to rebound from a crumb going the same way as yourself. You can only push it along, at a rate representing the mean between its speed and yours. We have merely to look at an india-rubber ball striking a wall, or striking the net of a tennis court, to see the difference.
But if it is better for such a ball to strike a wall than a yielding net, it is better still for it to strike a tennis racket that is coming towards it. In that case it rebounds with all its own strength, and the strength of the racket, or of the tennis-player, added as a kick behind; and the more elastic the racket is, and the harder it hits, the better for the elastic ball. I am not a very good elastician, but I am clear of this much, that when two Going Crumbs, sheathed in enchanted mail, meet each other in full
career, the speed of each must be doubled by the encounter.
What is the consequence of these mathematical truths? Whenever two steady-going crumbs meet frontways there is a gain of speed for both. When one overtakes another from behind, there is a loss of speed for one, but what it loses is gained by the other. If we now consider a million crumbs as having a million pounds of speed between them, we shall see that their joint capital is not lessened by a shilling here and there being taken out of the pocket of one crumb, and put into the pocket of another; whereas the joint capital is increased whenever two crumbs endow each other with anything from a shilling upwards to a pound. Moreover the addition takes place very much oftener than the exchange, because it takes less time for a crumb to meet another coming towards it, than to overtake one going from it.
The result of all this is that, just as real crumbs would gradually slow down and stop, and put an end to the gas in one way; so these ideal crumbs will gradually quicken their pace till they burst into flame, and put an end to the gas in another way.
That is the dilemma, and I will leave science to deal with it. In order to be understood by perfect elasticians, I will put it into shorthand:—The cumulative effect of the collision between kinetic molecules must be to equalize their average velocity, and equal average velocity must tend to produce a greater
number of collisions at points of contact anterior to the molecular diameter which is at right angles to the line of direction of the molecule, than at points posterior to that diameter; so that whether such collisions accelerate or diminish the velocity of the molecule, their cumulative result must ultimately be fatal to the equilibrium of the gas.
The cryptogram, we can now see, was too fainthearted when it said that there was no loss of Energy of Motion in the encounters between the Going Crumbs. There is a gain of Energy of Motion; and it is of course that gain that produces the increasing fury of the thumps against the wall of the containing vessel. In this way we have accounted for Boyle's Law much better than the Kinetic Molecular Theory accounts for it. Indeed the only thing we have not accounted for is the Kinetic Molecule.