Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

other matter mixed with the lighter air, would descend, and the two, meeting, would form the shell of the first earth, leaving the upper atmosphere nearly clear. The original movement of the parts towards their common centre would form a whirl there; which would continue in the turning of the new-formed globe upon its axis, and the greatest diameter of the shell would be in its equator. If by any accident afterwards the axis should be changed, the dense internal duid, 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 forming the rest of our system. Superior beings smile 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 from the depths of our volcanoes, gave me great pleasure. It has long been a supposition of mine, that the iron contained in the substance of the globe has made it capable of becoming, as it is, a great magnet; that the fluid of magnetism 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 hot iron the fluid of magnetism is naturally diffused equally; when within the influence of a magnet, it is drawn to one end of the iron, made denser there and rarer at the other. While the iron continues soft and hot, it is only a temporary magnet: if it cools or grows hard in that situation, it becomes a permanent one, the magnetic fluid not easily resuming its equilibrium. Perhaps it may be owing to the permanent magnetism of this globe, which it had not at first, that its axis is at present kept parallel to itself, and not liable to 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 from each other near ten leagues, it is easy to conceive, 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 wa ters would happen in the present equatorial regions, and what a rising in the present polar regions; so that vast tracts would be discovered that now are under water, and others covered that now are dry, the water rising and sinking in the differet extremes near five leagues! Such an operation as this possibly occasion ed much of Europe, and, among the rest, of this mountain of Passy, on which I live, and which is composed of limestone, rock and sea shells, to be abandoned by the sea, and to change its ancient cli mate, which seems to have been a hot one. The globe being now become a perfect magnet, we are perhaps safe from 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 interna, ponderous fluid 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, unpressing with the same force the fluid under it, creates a wave that may run a thousand leagues, lifting, and thereby shaking successively, all the countries under which it passes. I know not whether I have expressed myself so clearly, 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 method 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 mod of studying the nature 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, 1 have the honour 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 from the one, and air from the other. It seems natural to conclude from this, that water and air were ingredients in their originel composition: for men cannot make new matter of any kind. In the same manner do we not suppose, that when we consume combustibles of all kinds, and produce heat or light, we do not create the heat 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 organized bodies in their growth, becomes a part of the solid. Besides this,

can conceive that, in the first assemblage of the particles of this earth is composed, each brought its portion of the loose heat that had been connected with it and the whole, when pressed together, produeed the internal fire which still subsists.

LOOSE THOUGHTS ON THE UNIVER.
SAL FLUID, &c.

Passy, June 25, 1784.

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

This fluid may possibly be the same with that which, being attracted by and entering into other more solid matter, dilates the substance, by separating the constituent particles, and so rendering some solids fluid, and maintaining the fluidity 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 perform 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 con. solidating this fluid called fire, so as to form of it a part of their substance? and it is not a separation of the parts of such substance, which, dissolving its solid state, sets that subtle fluid at liberty, when it again makes its appearance as fire?

For the power of a man relative to matter seems limited to the dividing it, or mixing the various kinds of it, or changing its form and appearance by differing 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 addition to it; we can only separate it from that which confines it, and so set it at liberty, as when we put wood in a situation to be burnt; 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 totally those not organized; and quitting easily in part those which are; the part assumed and fixed remaining till the body is dissolved?

Is it rot this fluid which keeps 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

atta

D

wate

fluid,

cold therm Th

a cer

scend

hail

above

unive

cal st tract

to a

weig

and

In

muni

the ea

sun t

every

Com

are ceed

muc

Is

tinua

day,

those

terce

Is

great

Pe

origi

from

gravi

migh

plac

abor

ally

[ocr errors]

this fluid to mount, with the matters to which it is attached, as smoke or vapour?

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

The vapour rises attached to this fluid; but at a certain height they separate, and the vapour descends in rain, retaining but little of it, in snow or hail less. What becomes of that fluid? Does it rise above our atmosphere, 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 continually heated by such repeated vibrations in the day, and cooled by the escape of that 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 organ.

« AnteriorContinua »