Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 3.djvu/346

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334
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

concentrated force. Transmuted sunlight is in all its fibres, and who shall estimate the dynamic work which has been expended in its structure?

Dr. Draper observes that "the beat of a pendulum occupies a second of time; divide that period into a million of equal parts, then divide each of these brief periods into a million of other equal parts, a wave of yellow light daring one of the last small intervals has vibrated 535 times. Yet that yellow light has been the chief instrument in building the tree." In the delicate texture of its leaves it has overcome molecular force; it has beaten asunder the elements of an invisible gas, and inaugurated a new arrangement of atoms. The old dragon-tree represents forty centuries of this dynamic work—a sublime monument reared without toil by the silent forces of Nature!

In the outer air it has awakened every note of sound, from the softest monotone to the rhythmic roar of the tempest; but in its inner chambers has been a murmur and music of life in the ceaseless movement of fluids and marshalling of atoms, as one by one they take their place in the molecular dance, which eludes the dull sense of hearing, and becomes obvious only in results. The veil which hides these ultimate processes of life has not yet been lifted, and Science pauses in waiting before it, but only waits.

 

EARLY HINDOO MATHEMATICS.
By Prof. EDWARD S. HOLDEN,

OF THE NATIONAL OBSERVATORY, WASHINGTON.

THERE is a certain fascination in our scanty knowledge of the elder nations of the earth, which is due quite as much to their chronological position as to the intrinsic interest of their doings and sayings; and it owes not a little of its keenness to the very scantiness of that knowledge.

We are continually told that this is a practical century; that we are utilitarians in the strictest sense; that there is no romantic faculty left to us; that we are apt to scorn all knowledge which has not a direct practical bearing on the daily life and interests of us all. How can we believe this when we would so eagerly hear of the autonomy of the Aztecs, and while we care so little for modern Chili, for example?

We can speak with more interest of Karnac than of Bogotá, and a mummy is dearer to us than a Mongolian. We require our thoughts to be suggested sometimes by an age of old and quaint habits, of strange people with stranger gods. In our busy life, it is a relief to turn to the Hindoo, who could spare the time "to sit beneath the tree