That such a propagation should take place without friction is possible, if friction is purely intermolecular and not an atomic operation like non-radiant heat. Heat, as already stated, is due to molecular agitation and all matter possessing heat above absolute zero is undergoing that particular form of molecular agitation; if the period of agitation is greatly increased by heating an article or greatly reduced by immersing it in liquid air, the effect on the hand at normal temperature will be much the same, physically, in either case; it is as if it were applied to a revolving emery wheel. The difference of period between the agitation of the molecules of the hand and that of the substance, whether positive or negative, will result in damage, the organic molecules being unable to respond without destructive decomposition to the periodicity with which they are put in contact.
If atoms can not vibrate in the order of heat or friction waves, any more than the optic nerve can vibrate in the order of sound waves, there can be no friction in the propagation of matter as postulated. Even if friction were interatomic, there would not necessarily be friction between atoms and sub-atoms. If there is any loss from the passage of atoms through space, it can not be as heat, unless the ether be atomic or molecular; it must be more in the nature of optical diffusion and the continual degradation of matter may be the effect of its propagation through space. Electrons may be strewn in the wake of each heavenly body to be swept up by comets in their courses and effect their growth, or gathered some day into nebular clouds from which new worlds will originate to take the place of those which wasted away in ages past.
The theory of the propagation or conduction of matter is equal mathematically to the ether moving with the earth. There is no actual relative displacement of the constituent corpuscles and it was therefore to be expected that, in the light of Reynolds's theory. Professor Michelson's elaborate experiment would fail to show aberration due to motion through the ether.
Man is a mass of prejudice; he is limited to one set of standards. From the first development of his organism from a zoophite, his senses have evolved in relation to matter alone, and it is only within recent times that he has commenced his evolution towards the understanding of submaterial truths. It may be untold ages before he may strike the endless path leading to the answer of the one and only problem in which he is interested and towards which he strives by the study of nature: the mystery of his self-consciousness.
The helplessness of the human mind in presence of the underlying facts of science is the deepest argument for a faith in some inconceivable universal mind of which our own is, at the very best, but an imperfect reflection.