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Descripción de editorial

The investigations which have revealed the most refined and wonderful relations between light, heat, electricity, and highly elastic media; the relation of these powers to the particles of solid and liquid matter, new methods of analysis, and the microscopic examination of that marvellous creation, animal and vegetable, which is invisible to the unaided eye of man, have brought a new accession to the indefinitely small within the limits of modern science.

Wherever the astronomer has penetrated into the depths of space, luminous points are visible; and since light merely consists in the undulations of the ethereal medium, matter must exist in every part of the universe of which man is cognizant, for although the luminiferous ether is so attenuated that its very existence is almost an hypothesis, its atoms are not more inconceivably small than those of highly elastic ponderable matter on earth. Atoms are the ultimate constituents of homogeneous simple substances; molecules, or groups of heterogeneous atoms united in definite proportions, constitute such as are compound. High pressure steam is invisible as it issues from the boiler, yet each of its molecules contains two atoms of hydrogen and one of oxygen. The perfume of a flower is a compound invisible substance formed of molecules.

We know nothing of the forms either of atoms or of those groups of atoms which we call molecules; but we cannot suppose them otherwise than as excessively hard, since conceive them how we will, we are sure that an atom, whatever be its form or nature, is ever the same. It never wears, it never changes, though it may have formed part of thousands of bodies and entered into thousands of combinations, organic and inorganic; when set free by their dissolution, it is ready to enter into a new series; it is indestructible even by fire, the same now as when created. Nor has the quantity of matter in our terrestrial abode ever been increased or diminished; liable to perpetual change of place and combination, the amount remains the same: the bed of the seas may be changed to dry land, and the ocean may again cover the lofty mountains, but the absolute quantity of matter changes not.

All substances, whether solid, liquid, or aëriform, are supposed to consist of hard separate atoms or particles, and in conformity with that supposition to be surrounded by the ethereal medium, otherwise they could not transmit light and heat, which are merely vibrations of that medium. Even the hardest and most compact substances are capable of compression, and have been compressed to an enormous degree by the hydraulic press; but it probably transcends mechanical force to bring their atoms into contact: in fact, no known substance is impervious to both light and heat, however thin.

Ciencia y naturaleza
agosto 18
Library of Alexandria
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