Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 8.djvu/709

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689
PROFESSOR TYNDALL'S RECENT RESEARCHES.

were placed, they were infallibly smitten in the end. The number of the tubes containing the infusions was multiplied till it reached six hundred, but not one of them escaped infection.

In no single instance, on the other hand, did the air which had been proved moteless by the searching beam show itself to possess the least power of producing bacterial life or the associated phenomena of putrefaction. The power of developing such life in atmospheric air and the power of scattering light are thus proved to be indissolubly united.

The sole condition necessary to cause these long dormant infusions to swarm with active life is the access of the floating matter of the air. After having remained for four months as pellucid as distilled water, the opening of the back-door of the protecting case and the consequent admission of the mote-laden air suffice in three days to render the infusion putrid and full of life.

That such life arises from mechanically suspended particles is thus reduced to ocular demonstration. Let us inquire a little more closely into the character of the particles which produce the life. Pour eau de Cologne into water, a white precipitate renders the liquid milky. Or, imitating Brücke, dissolve clean gum-mastic in alcohol, and drop it into water, the mastic is precipitated and milkiness produced. If the solution be very strong, the mastic separates in curds; but, by gradually diluting the alcoholic solution, we finally reach a point where the milkiness disappears, the liquid assuming by reflected light a bright cerulean hue. It is, in point of fact, the color of the sky, and is due to a similar cause—namely, the scattering of light by particles, small in comparison to the size of the waves of light.

When this liquid is examined by the highest microscopic power, it seems as uniform as distilled water. The mastic particles, though innumerable, entirely elude the microscope. At right angles to a luminous beam passing among the particles, they discharge perfectly polarized light. The optical deportment of the floating matter of the air proves it to be composed in part of' particles of this excessively minute character. When the track of a parallel beam in dusty air is looked at horizontally through a Nicol's prism, in a direction perpendicular to the beam, the longer diagonal of the prism being vertical, a considerable portion of the light from the finer matter is extinguished. The coarser motes, on the other hand, flash out with greater force, because of the increased darkness of the space around them. It is among the finest ultra-microscopic particles, as the author shows, that matter potential as regards the development of bacterial life is to be sought.

But, though they are beyond the reach of the microscope, the existence of these particles, foreign to the atmosphere but floating in it, is as certain as if they could be felt between the fingers, or seen by the naked eye. Supposing them to augment in magnitude until they