# Page:StokesAberration1848.djvu/5

and be content to learn from phænomena the existence of forces which we should not beforehand have expected. The explanations which I had in view are those which belong to the geometrical part of the theory; but the deduction, from dynamical calculations, of the laws which in the geometrical theory take the place of observed facts must not be overlooked, although here the evidence is of a much more complicated character.

The following illustration is advanced, not so much as explaining the real nature of the æther, as for the sake of offering a plausible mode of conceiving how the apparently opposite properties of solidity and fluidity which we must attribute to the æther may be reconciled.

Suppose a small quantity of glue dissolved in a little water, so as to form a stiff jelly. This jelly forms in fact an elastic solid: it may be constrained, and it will resist constraint, and return to its original form when the constraining force is removed, by virtue of its elasticity; but if we constrain it too far it will break. Suppose now the quantity of water in which the glue is dissolved to be doubled, trebled, and so on, till at last we have a pint or a quart of glue water. The jelly will thus become thinner and thinner, and the amount of constraining force which it can bear without being dislocated will become less and less. At last it will become so far fluid as to mend itself again as soon as it is dislocated. Yet there seems hardly sufficient reason for supposing that at a certain stage of the dilution the tangential force whereby it resists constraint ceases all of a sudden. In order that the medium should not be dislocated, and therefore should have to be treated as an elastic solid, it is only necessary that the amount of constraint should be very small. The medium would however be what we should call a fluid, as regards the motion of solid bodies through it. The velocity of propagation of normal vibrations in our medium would be nearly the same as that of sound in water; the velocity of propagation of transversal vibrations, depending as it does on the tangential elasticity, would become very small. Conceive now a medium having similar properties, but incomparably rarer than air, and we have a medium such as we may conceive the æther to be, a fluid as regards the motion of the earth and planets through it, an elastic solid as regards the small vibrations which constitute light. Perhaps we should get nearer to the true nature of the æther by conceiving a medium bearing the same relation to air that thin jelly or glue water bears to pure water. The sluggish transversal vibrations of our thin jelly are, in the case of the æther, replaced by vibrations propagated with a velocity of nearly