Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/240

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a piece of iron or steel near to the magnet, and instantly it leaps toward it, confirming our conviction.

That a medium exists for the conveyance of such molecular motion, we are obliged to think; but what it is, or how it is affected, we cannot yet imagine. Thus much, however, is plain, that, as a medium purely, it can be no source of motion, so that the mere fact of distance between bodies can be no satisfactory explanation of attraction.

Attraction, then, wherever it appears, I believe to be due to contained motion in the particles of the bodies presenting it; which molecular motion is the equivalent of, and convertible into, the movement of masses as wholes.

Gravity, I venture to hold, is a force due to a distinct motion of the ultimate parts of matter, which has not yet been formulated. And, as the energy expended in sundering two united magnets reappears in the increase of their attractive powers, or the acceleration of such motion of their particles as constitutes magnetism, so the lifting of a stone from the earth would imply that the force consumed in so doing must take the form of a quickening in that motion of its particles which constitutes gravity. And we have seen how every successive act of obedience to both these forces of aggregation makes them weaker and weaker, as it reasonably should.

Therefore, I conclude that the energy of a stone at a height is not potential, but actual; that its value as a source of work, at any time, is represented, by the swifter motion of its molecules as compared with those of a stone on the earth's surface; and that, as a stone falls, its internal motion takes the phase of mass motion.

This theory would lead us to suppose that the onward momentum of the planets, as they turn before the sun, is the expression of an equal internal gravitive motion of their ultimate parts, which exactly balances these mighty celestial revolutions.

The next case of "potential" energy to be inquired into is that of a coiled spring, which, in unwinding, may yield the force it took to coil it.

This case may be intelligibly explained on the same principle of the constancy of motion. The particles of a spring may be assumed to have a definite plane of molecular motion, which motion we shall presume is that due to temperature. In coiling, these planes are changed, and energy is required to do it; just as when a gyroscope-top is rapidly revolving in a certain fixed plane, it may, by a measurable effort, be made to revolve in a conical curve, with one end of its axis stationary, and the other describing a circle in space. And, as the gyroscope strongly tends to move in a uniform plane, and can do work in resuming such a plane, so I assume that the particles in a coiled spring have two similar motions, one of which is at any time available for tangible work when the spring is freed.