Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

be an agent sufficiently strong for that purpose, when acto ing between the incumbent earth and the fluid on which is rests.

If one might indulge imagination in supposing how such a globe was formed, I should conceive that all the elements in sepur:te particles, being origina.ly inixed in confusion, and occupying a great space, they would (as soon as the Almighty fiat ordained gravity, or the mutual attraction of certain parts, and the mutual repulsion of other parts, to exist) ali inore towards their common centre: that the air being a fluid whose parts repel each other, though drawn to the common centre by their gravity, would be densest towards the centre, and rarer as more remote; consequently, all bodies, lighter than the central parts of that air, and immersed in it, would recede from the centre, and rise till they arrive at that region of the air, which was of the same specific gravity with themsel.es, where they would rest; while other matter inixed with the lighter air, would descend, and the two, meeting, would forin the shell of the first earth, leaving the upper atinosphere nearly clear. The original movement of the parts towards their common centre, would form

whirl there; which would continue in the tuming of the new-formed globe upon its axis, and the greatest diaincter of the shell would be in its equator. If by any accident afterwards the axis should be changed, the dense internal fluid, by altering its form, must burst the shell, and throw all its substance into the confusion in which we find it. I will not trouble you at present with my fancies concerning the manner of forining the rest of our syslem. Superior beings sinile on our theories, and at our presumption in making them. I will just mention that your observation of the ferruginous nature of the lava, which is thrown out fro:n the depths of our volcanoes give me great pleasure. It has long been a supposition of mine, that the iron contained in the substance the globe has made it capable of beco:ning, as it is, a great magnet; that the fluid of magnetis:n exists perhaps in all space; so that there is a magnetical North and South of the Universe, as well as of this globe; and that if it were possible for a man to fly from

star to star, he might govern his course by the compass; that it was by the power of this general magnetism this globe became a particular magnet. In soft or

to

hot iron the fluid of magnetism is natura!ly diffused equally; when within the influence of a magnet, it is drawn to cue end of the iron, and made denser there and rarer at the other. While the iron continues soft and hot, it is only a teinporary magnet: if it cools or grows hard in that situation, it becomes a permanent one, the magnetic fluid not easily resum- . ing its equilibrium. Perhaps it may be owing to the perinanent magnetism of this globe which it had not at first, that its axis is at present kept parallel to itself, and not liable

the changes it formerly suffered, which occasioned the rupture of its shell, the submersions and emersions of its lands, and the confusion of its seasons. The present polar and equatorial diameters differing fiom each other near ten leagues, it is easy to concei.e, in case some power should shift the axis gradually, and place it in the present equator, and make the new equator pass through the present poles, what a sinking of the waters would happen in the present. equatorial regions, and what a rising in the present polar regions; so that vast tracts would be disco.ered that now are under water, and others covered that now are dry, the water rising and sicking in the different extremes near five leagues! Such an operation as this possibly occasioned much of Europe, and, ainong the rest, of this mountain of Passy, on which live, and which is composed of limestone, rock, and sea shells, to be abandoned by the sea, and to change its ancient cliinate, which seems to have been a hot one. The globe being now become a perfect magnet, we are perhaps safe froin any future change of its axis. But we are still subject to the accidents on the surface, which are occasioned by a wave in the interal ponderous fuid : and such a wave is produced by the sudden violent explosion you mention, happening from the junction of water and fire under the earth, which not only lifts the incumbent earth that is over the explosion, but impressing with the same force the Auid under it, creates a wave that may run a thousand leagues, lifting, and thereby shaking successively, all the countries under which it pass

I know not whether I have expressed myself so clear ly, as not to get out of your sight in these reveries. If they occasion any new inquiries, and produce a better hypothesis, they will not be quite useless. You see I have given a loose to imagination, but I approve much more your inethod

es.

of philosophising, which proceeds upon actual observation, makes a collection of facts, and concludes no farther than those facts will warrant. In my present circumstances, that mode of studying the i ature of the globe is out of my power, and therefore I have permitted myself to wander a little in the wilds of fancy. With great esteem, I have the honor to be,

Sir, &c.

B. FRANKLIN.

P.S. I have heard that chemists can by their art decompose stone and wood, extracting a considerable quantity of water froin the one, and air from the other. It seems uatural to conclude from this, that water and air were in:gre. dients in their original composition: for men cannot micke new matter of any kind. In the same mariner do we not suppose, that when we consume combustibles of all kinds, and produce heat or light, we do not create that beat or light, we only decompose a substance which received it originally as a part of its composition? Heat may

thus be considered as originally in a fluid state; but, attracted by organiz-d bodies in their growth, becomes a part of the solid. Besides this, I can conceive that, in the first assemblage of the particles of which this earth is composed, each brought its portion of the loose heat that had been comiected with it, ani nie whole when pressed together, produced the intemai fire which still subsists.

LOOSE THOUGHTS ON THE UNIVERSAL

FLUID, ETC.

Passy, June 25, 1784. UNIVERSAL space, as far as we know of it, seems to be filled with a subtile fluid, whose motion, or vibration, is called light.

This Aurd may possibly be the same with that which, being attracted by and entering into other more solid matter, dilates the substance, hy separating the constituent particles, and so rendering some solids Auid, and maintaining the

Huidity of others: of which fluid when our bodies are totally deprived, they are said to be frozen; when they have a proper quantity, they are in health, and fit to perforin all their functions; it is then called natural heat: when too much, it is called fever; and when forced into the body in too great a quantity from without, it gives pain by separating and destroying the flesh, and is then called burning; and the fluid so entering and acting is called fire.

While organized bodies, animal or vegetable, are augmenting in growth, or are supplying their continual waste, is not this done by attracting and consolidating this fuid called fire, so as to form of it a part of their substance? and is it not a separation of the parts of such substance, which, dissolving its solid state, sets that subtile fluid at liberty, when it again makes its appearance as fire ?

For the power of man relative to matter seems limited to the diviling it, or inixing the various kinds of it, or changing its form and appearance by different compositions of it; but does not extend to the making or creating of new matter, or annihilating the old: thus, if fire be an original element, or kind of matter, its quantity is fixed and permanent in the world. We cannot destroy any part of it, or make adation to it; we can only separite it from that which confines it, and so set it at liberty, as when we put wood in a situation to be burut: or transfer it from one solid to another, as when we make lime by burning stone, a part of the fire dislodged from the wood being left in the stone. May not this fluid, when at liberty, be capable of penetrating and entering into all bodies, organized or not; quitting easily in totality those not organized; and quitting easily in part those which are; the part assumed and fixed remaining till the body is dissolved ?

Is it not this fluid which ke ps asunder the particles of air, permitting them to approach, or separating them more, in proportion as its quantity is diminished or augmented ? Is it not the greater gravity of the particles of air which forces the particles of this fluid to mount with the matters to which it is attached, as smoke or vapor ?

Does it not seem to have a great aftinity with water, since it will quit a solid to unite with that fluid, and go off with it in vapor, leaving the solid cold to the touch, and the degree measurable by the thermometer?

The vapor rises attached to this fuid; but at a certain height they separate, and the vapor descends in rain, retaining but little of it, in snow or hail less. What be. comes of that fluid? Does it rise above our atinosphere, and mix equally with the universal mass of the same kind? Or does a spherical stratum of it, denser or less mixed with air, attracted by this globe, and repelled or pushed up only to a certain height from its surface, by the greater weight of air remain there, surrounding the globe, and proceeding with it round the sun ?

In such case, as there may be a continuity or communication of this fluid through the air quite down to the earth, is it not by the vibrations given to it by the sun that light appears to us; and may it not be, that every one of the infinitely small vibrations, striking common matter with a certain force, enter its substance, are held there by attraction, and augmented by succeeding vibrations, till the matter has received as much as their force can drive into it?

Is it not thus that the surface of this globe is continuuly heated by such repeated vibrations in the day, and nooled by the escape of the heat when those vibrations are discontinued in the night, or intercepted and reflected by clouds ?

Is it not thus that fire is amassed, and makes the greatest part of the substance of combustible bodies?

Perhaps when this globe was first formed, and its original particles took their place at certain distances from the centre, in proportion to their greater or less gravity, the fluid fire, attracted towards that centre, might in great part be obliged, as lightest, to take place above the rest, and thus form the sphere of fire above supposed, which would afterwards be continually diminishing by the substance it afforded to organized bodies; and the quantity restored to it again by the burning or other separating of the parts of those bodies.

Is not the natural heat of animals thus produced, by separating in digestion the parts of food, and setting their fire at liberty?

Is it not this sphere of fire which kindles the wandering globes that sometimes pass through it in our course round the sun, have their surface kindled by it, and burst when their included air is greatly rarified by the heat on their burning surfaces ?

[ocr errors]
« ZurückWeiter »