Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 14.djvu/549

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533
EDITOR'S TABLE.

those who say the present state of things should not be meddled with, and rake up excuses for continuing it. It is bad to steal; it is despicable to steal from our benefactors who happen to be compelled to trust us; but more despicable still is the shameless Jesuitism by which an interested party will seek to defend it. When listening to the sneaking apologies that are put forward in extenuation of such conduct, we feel as if the mere common thief might rise in self respecting wrath and kick the pettifogging poltroon out of his society.

Two things in relation to copyright may now be considered established as completely as anything can be established by the concurrent usage of the civilized world. By the declaration and the practice of all nations it has been settled, first, that an author has a right of property in his work, which government is bound to protect; and, second, that the public also has rights by which those of the author are restricted. There are extremists who maintain that an author's rights of property are absolute and perpetual, and other extremists who hold that there can be no such thing as exclusive property in ideas—just as there are those who maintain that "all property is robbery." Practical legislators may well assume that these conflicting views cancel each other, and may safely proceed to action on the basis of broad experience and the general agreement of nations.

 

 

LOCKYER ON THE CHEMICAL ELEMENTS.

Mr. Lockyer's paper before the Royal Society on the compound nature of some of the so-called elements from the point of view of spectrum analysis has attracted the attention properly due to the eminence of the investigator in the latter field, but chemists will be slow to admit that the experimental aspect of the subject has been much altered by Mr. Lockyer's investigations. The a-priori grounds for believing that the so-called elements are not elementary were already strong. In fact the progress of chemistry had proved many substances to be compound which were previously ranked as elements, and left the list of simple bodies to consist of such only as have hitherto resisted analysis. It has long been believed that the relations among the atomic numbers furnish strong evidence of the compound nature of many substances classed as elementary; and spectrum analysis has served greatly to heighten this probability. When, a few years ago, Dr. Martineau made an assault upon the doctrine of evolution, one of his objections to it was that the universe started a long way ahead on the line of heterogeneity by its outfit of chemical elements; the implication being that these elements had to be separately created before evolution could begin. To this, Herbert Spencer cogently replied that the elements are not known to be elementary; that no intelligent chemist holds them to be absolutely so; and that many concurrent considerations compel the inference that they are compounded, and perhaps recompounded of a few and perhaps of a single primordial constituent. The bearings of spectroscopic research upon the question were thus stated: "Spectrum analysis yields results wholly irreconcilable with the assumption that the conventionally named simple substances are really simple. Each yields a spectrum having lines varying in number from two to eight or more, every one of which implies the intercepting of ethereal undulations of a certain order, by something oscillating in unison or in harmony with them. Were iron absolutely elementary, it is not conceivable that its action could intercept ethereal undulations of eighty different orders: though it does not follow that its molecule contains as many separate atoms as there are lines in the spectrum, it must clearly be a complex molecule. Still more clearly is this general implication confirmed by facts furnished by nitrogen, the spectrum of which has two quite different sets of lines, and changes from one set to the other as the temperature is varied. The evidence thus gained points to the conclusion that, out of some primordial units, the so-called elements arise, by