Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/335

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321
SCIENCE IN AMERICA.

Perhaps there is no exaggeration in the assertion—for there seems abundant proof of its truth—that the light by which we see some of those distant orbs has crossed through such a prodigious space that millions of years have transpired during the journey. Then the phenomena it brings to us are those that were engendered in the beginning of the vast time so passed. Whatever there is that is in harmony with facts now happening here, is to us an unimpeachable evidence that the laws which were governing in those old ages have undergone no depreciation, but are active as ever until now. Then shall I exaggerate if I say that those laws are eternal in duration?

Infinite in influence, eternal in duration, what a magnificent spectacle! In the resistless energy of the motions of the universe is there not omnipotence? The Omnipotent, the Infinite, the Eternal, to what do these attributes belong?

Shall a man who stands forth to vindicate the majesty of such laws be blamable in your sight? Rather shall you not with him be overwhelmed with a conception so stupendous? And yet let us not forget that these eternal laws of Nature are only the passing thoughts of God.

But, grand as this is, there is something still grander. There is another temple into which we have to pass, not that of the visible but that of the invisible. We must persist in the invasion we have made, in the revolution we have brought about in physiology. We have to determine the laws which preside in the nervous system of man, and discover the nature of the principle that animates it. Is there not something profoundly impressive in this, that the human mind can look from without upon itself, as one looks at his phantom image in a mirror, and discern its own lineaments and admire its own movements? My own thoughts have of late years been forcibly drawn to this, from a recognition that the interpretation by the mind of impressions from without takes place under mathematical laws, as, for instance, that when external ethereal vibrations create in the mind a certain idea, that same idea will arise when the vibrations are doubled, or tripled, or quadrupled in frequency; but other ideas will be engendered by vibrations of an intermediate rate. Yet what these ideas will be may be predicted. It is true that this is only an optical case, but it extends the view that has been offered to us by a study of the structure of the ear. In the labyrinthine compartment of that organ the ultimate fibres of the auditory nerve are laid on the winding plane of the spiral lamina, in ever-decreasing lengths, each capable of trembling to the sound which is in unison with it—a mechanical action truly, answering to the sympathetic vibration with which the strings of a piano will respond to the corresponding notes of a flute—and these are translated by the mind into all the utterances of articulate speech, all the harmonies of music—speech that engenders new ideas within us, strains which, though they may die away in the air, live