Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/572

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

sure that this is an entire misapplication of the law.

The fact is, this law is so often misunderstood and misapplied that it becomes dangerous to use it without clear conceptions of its nature. By many good hydraulic engineers it has been confounded with the law of erosive power of currents; by others, with the quantity of material carried in suspension; and now Mr. Carter confounds it with quantity of matter carried in solution. It were well if, in popular language, the name of the law were changed. Perhaps it would be less liable to be misunderstood if it were called "lifting-power of currents." It expresses only the size of the largest transportable particle. It is a law which concerns mainly the geologist and the ore-dresser. The geologist finds certain bowlders scattered about in the lower part of a valley. The question is, Were they brought by currents; and, if so, what was the velocity? It is applied thus, by Dana, in discussing the material brought down by the Connecticut River during the Champlain epoch. Again, the ore-dresser has crushed rock, which he wishes to sort by means of a current decreasing in velocity in its course. The question is, Where will the particles of different sizes drop? I do not know any other cases of practical application. Certainly it can have no application to matters in solution.

Joseph Le Conte. 
  Berkeley, Cal., November 22, 1883.
 


EDITOR'S TABLE.

SCIENCE AS A HOPE IN POLITICS.

THE following paragraph has been circulating through the newspapers: "The Lord Mayor of London, in welcoming Professor Huxley to the city recently, suggested that the position of President of the Royal Society was really one of even greater importance than that of Prime Minister; Mr. Gladstone is chief Minister of England, but Professor Huxley was 'the head of the intellectual life of the world.'" The complaisant utterances of eminent officials, who are ever expected to say the agreeable thing that shall put their guests at ease, are not to be taken too seriously; yet there is considerable significance in this declaration of the Lord Mayor of London, both from its implication of the vast changes that have been wrought by science in the views of human affairs, and from the open recognition of these changes by so conspicuous a party.

The advance of science is evinced in numberless ways, but our weightiest proof of it is found in the gradual acceptance of enlarged in place of narrower views of the subject. New discoveries are important; the widening of the ranges of research is important; the extension of generalizations and the better organization of positive knowledge are important; but more important still is the growing general recognition that science is the grand agency in modern times for reshaping the common opinions of the community.

By the narrower view of science, we mean what may be called that professional conception of it by which it is restricted to certain definite experimental results. Our literary and theological friends are especially solicitous that the term science should be confined to physical science merely—laboratory science, observatory science, manipulatory science of any sort that can be regarded as belonging properly to specialists. But they grow jealous of it when it takes on that wider and deeper meaning which has been given to it by the growth of ideas in these later times, and when it is seen to involve a new method of thought, of the most comprehensive application, and bearing upon the whole circle of human interests. They are very commendatory of science, so long as it is busy establishing new physical facts and extending new physical truths, but they regard it as an impertinent usurper when it interferes with that old order of conceptions which pervades the common life.

But it has long been seen by the more discerning that one of the great