Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/401

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fest the power familiar to us as muscular force. We are here brought face to face with the same difficulties that meet us whenever we attempt to explore the mysterious physics and chemistry of living matter. The attempts which have been made to account for the peculiar selective power of the living cells of the rootlets of plants, to explain the selective action of the gland-cells of the kidneys which act partly according to laws of transudation and diffusion, and partly in opposition to those laws, have given us no satisfaction on those points. And it is the same with regard to the essential functions of other living tissues—all are carried on under the influence of the peculiar and uncomprehended properties of living matter.

We have gained, and are constantly gaining, valuable knowledge as to very many of the processes taking place in the living body, but as to the processes which take place in the truly living cells of gland, muscle, brain, or nerve, we are in almost complete darkness. At the doors of these most refined and mysterious of Nature's laboratories, we must lay down our rude tools and methods, and confess to ourselves that "thus far and no farther" may we hope to press our eager search for truth.


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IDIOSYNCRASY.

By Professor GRANT ALLEN

EVERY man is, in the true Greek sense of the term, an idiosyncrasy. He is a syncrasis, because he derives all his attributes, physical or mental, from two parents, or four grandparents, or eight great-grandparents, and so forth. But at the same time he is an idio-syncrasis, because that particular mixture is eminently unlikely ever to have occurred before, or ever to occur again, even in his own brothers or sisters. That he is and can be at birth nothing more than such a crasis, that he can not conceivably contain anything more, on the mental side at least, than was contained in his antecedents, is the thesis which this paper sets out to maintain.

Take a thousand red beans and a thousand white beans; shake them all up in a bag together for five minutes, and then pour them out in a square space on a billiard-table just big enough to contain them in a layer one deep. Each time you do so, your product will be the same in general outline and appearance: it will be a quadrangular figure composed of beans, having throughout the same approximate thickness. But it will be a mixture of red beans and white in a certain order; and the chances against the same order occurring twice will be very great indeed. Make the beans ten thousand of each so as to cover the table ten deep, and the chance of getting the same order twice decreases proportionately. Make them a hundred thou-