Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/53

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43
ANOTHER WORLD DOWN HERE.

diathermanous substance in nature, I think it probable that even the vapors of elementary bodies, including the elementary gases, when more strictly examined, will be found capable of producing sounds.

 
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ANOTHER WORLD DOWN HERE.
By W. MATTIEU WILLIAMS.

WHAT a horrible place must this world appear when regarded according to our ideas from an insect's point of view! The air infested with huge flying hungry dragons, whose gaping and snapping mouths are ever intent upon swallowing the innocent creatures for whom, according to the insect, if he were like us, a properly constructed world ought to be exclusively adapted. The solid earth continually shaken by the approaching tread of hideous giants—moving mountains—that crush out precious lives at every footstep, an occasional draught of the blood of these monsters, stolen at life-risk, affording but poor compensation for such fatal persecution.

Let us hope that the little victims are less like ourselves than the doings of ants and bees might lead us to suppose; that their mental anxieties are not proportionate to the optical vigilance indicated by the four thousand eye-lenses of the common house-fly, the seventeen thousand of the cabbage-butterfly and the wide-awake dragon-fly, or the twenty-five thousand possessed by certain species of still more vigilant beetles.

Each of these little eyes has its own cornea, its lens, and a curious six-sided, transparent prism, at the back of which is a special retina spreading out from a branch of the main optic nerve, which, in the cockchafer and some other creatures, is half as large as the brain. If each of these lenses forms a separate picture of each object rather than a single mosaic picture, as some anatomists suppose, what an awful army of cruel giants must the cockchafer behold when he is captured by a schoolboy!

The insect must see a whole world of wonders of which we know little or nothing. True, we have microscopes, with which we can see one thing at a time if carefully laid upon the stage; but what is the finest instrument that Ross can produce compared to that with twenty-five thousand object-glasses, all of them probably achromatic, and each one a living instrument with its own nerve-branch supplying a separate sensation? To creatures thus endowed with microscopic vision, a cloud of sandy dust must appear like an avalanche of massive rock-fragments, and everything else proportionally monstrous.

One of the many delusions engendered by our human self-conceit and habit of considering the world as only such as we know it from