The New Word, by Allen Upward, , at sacred-texts.com
Force and Energy.—1. The Quarrel of the Twins.—2. Pulling and Pushing.—3. The Gadarene Swine.—4. Why a Stone Falls.—5. Witchcraft.
I FIND it harder to write about strength than about shapes, for the same reason that I find it harder to explain the word idealist than the word dynamite.
The author of the Story of Creation, on the other hand, seems to have approached his second topic with peculiar confidence, and as one who had made it his own; for in his preface he has undertaken to give "rigid and definite meanings" to the words Force and Energy; a service so great that he himself perhaps does not see how great it is.
However, his teaching on this head is not wholly his own. He is less an inventor than a legislator, bringing order into the realm of scientific thought.
Unlike that other lawgiver, whose Story of Creation still finds readers, the present writer begins his
stiff and inclosed explanations of Force and Energy by dropping into a rather unexpected, and surely needless, vein of logic.
"If atoms are unchangeable under their present conditions, and changeable only in their relations through combination with other atoms, it follows that all changes are due to motion."
I am sorry to have to say so, but I cannot make sense of that. I should have thought the changes of the unchangeable atoms were their motion. If motion is not change, but something else that brings about change, we ought to be told what motion is. And that is just what we are not told. The author's silence on this head is all the more regrettable inasmuch as the rigid and definite meanings given to Force and Energy are hinged on the word motion.
"POWER. Motion throughout the universe is produced or destroyed, quickened or retarded, increased or lessened, by two indestructible powers of opposite nature to each other—(a) Force, and (b) Energy."
And so there is not one Power but two Powers, each full-armed and deathless, waging everlasting war with one another, as they have done for so many ages, under other names, in other stories of
creation,—immortal Twins, with an immortal Quarrel.
Our author names them in significant disorder, for he means that motion is produced by (b) Energy, and destroyed by (a) Force. One would think that motion must be produced before it can be destroyed, and therefore that Energy was (a) and Force was (b). The author, it is plain, was thinking when he began the sentence, and so he wrote like an Idealist. As soon as he left off thinking he dropped instinctively into Materialism.
Now what are Energy and Force at strife about? Motion. Between them they are worrying motion like two dogs worrying a bone. Motion, as we have just read, is hard at work causing the changes in the All-Thing. But these angry powers will not let it alone. They have no work of their own, because motion has got their job, and so they set upon motion as two trades unionists set upon a blackleg. One of them produces motion—out of what we are not told, but I expect out of the Ether; the other destroys it. One quickens and increases motion; the other first retards and then lessens it.
The discovery that motion can be retarded without being lessened, or lessened without being retarded, is perhaps the greatest feat of scientific terminology, forming as it does the keystone of the famous Kinetic Molecular Theory of Gases. As it is rather puzzling to the untrained mind, I shall take pains to explain it later on.
The meanings given to the terms Force and Energy in the Story of Creation may be rigid and definite, but they are a little hard to find.
Force, the book says, binds together bits of "ponderable matter." This was the first hint to me that there were two kinds of Matter, one which had weight, and another which had none. I am sorry to add that neither in this place, nor elsewhere in the book, have I been able to glean the least information about the second kind, the imponderable Matter. I only know that there is such a thing, because my teacher says again that—"Force inheres in, and can never be taken from, ponderable Matter."
I did not try to understand the learned words Gravitation, Cohesion and Affinity, which my guide used as the names for various forms of what he called attraction. Attraction, I saw at once, was the Mediterranean way of writing pull-towards; and hence I understood at length that Force must be strength pulling-to, and Energy must be strength pushing-fro.
These twain seemed at first to be counterparts of one another, yet the Story of Creation went on to show that they were very much otherwise.
To begin with, the Pull strength was bound up in Matter so that it could not be shifted; whereas the
[paragraph continues] Push was not so bound up, and you could take it from one bit of Matter, and give it to another bit. Thus, if water were falling under the mere Pull of the earth, as Newton believed, you could not make it turn a mill-wheel, and grind corn; whereas if it were being pushed uphill, you could. This was worth knowing because for thousand of years millers with untrained minds, men for whom the terms Force and Energy have not got rigid and definite meanings, have been making-believe to turn mill-wheels and grind corn in that wrong way, and making what one fears must be ideal bread.
Another serious consequence was that, while the Pull always stopped in its own bit of Matter, and so was safe, the Push, through being handled, and carried hither and thither, and slopped about all over the place, so to speak, was gradually getting "dissipated," that is to say, split, in the Ether. And although my teacher rather shirked this alarming feature of the business, he hinted darkly that something might have to be said about it later on, when the Story of Creation drew to its end, or, in his own menacing words,—"when the ultimate destiny of the universe is considered."
But by far the most interesting difference between the two Powers was this, that whereas there seemed to be only one kind of Pull, which pulled, there were two kinds of Push, one which pushed, and another which could push if it liked, but did not. I give the writer's words:—
"Energy is of two kinds, active and passive, or in the terms of science, kinetic and potential."
I am bound to say that here I disliked my author's terms less than those of science. Kinetic sounds like Greek, and potential sounds like Latin, and I do not see why science should mix up two Mediterranean languages in order to express such simple meanings as going and still.
At this point, I am glad to say, my teacher passed from words to things, and gave me some examples of the mysterious unpushing Push. They are a stone lying on the roof of a house, or on a mountain; a clock wound up but not going; a bed of coal, and a barrel of gunpowder. "This (he goes on) becomes kinetic when the stone falls, the clock goes, the coal burns, or the gunpowder explodes."
I shall take the first of these examples, because it is the simplest, and because I have met with it elsewhere. Of the others, I will only remark in passing, first, that there can be no such thing as a clock wound up but not going—the hands may not be going, but assuredly the spring is being worn out in its effort to move the hands; secondly, that there is no more energy, going or otherwise, in a bed of coal than in a feather bed, or a flower bed, or any other kind of bed—indeed the flower bed grows the tree that turns into the coal; and thirdly, that there is a far more mysterious energy in a barrel of beer than in a barrel of gunpowder; for the barrel of
gunpowder can only blow a man to pieces, whereas the barrel of beer can make him see double; and so we make that "passage from chemistry to consciousness" which the author pretended in his preface we could not make.
I first met the stone lying on the roof of a house, in a little book on the Conservation of Energy, in which it was credited with Energy of Position. I had never understood very well what that could be, and I understood it no better when it was called Potential Energy. I understood that such a stone had weight; but that was mere Force, or Pulling strength. What was this Latin energy; and how did the stone get it; and how was a stone lying on the roof of a house or on a mountain, different from any other stone?
The answer seemed to be that the stone could fall, when its Latin Energy would become Greek. In other words, if you took away the house, or the mountain, the stone would fall, not by its own weight, but because it was being pushed downwards, just as if I should pick up a stone and throw it down. But if that were so, how was I to tell the difference between this Energy that made stones fall from the roofs of houses, and the Force that made you and me fall, and everything fall? Newton would have
been surprised, I fancy, to learn that his famous apple fell because of its energy. But perhaps apples on trees have not got Energy of Position; only apples on the roof of a house.
I should have liked to ask these learned and distinguished writers whether a stone lying, not on a roof, but on the ground, had any of this enchanted Energy; or a stone lying, not on a mountain, but on a plain. And if not, how high must the stone be to get it. I wanted to know where Energy of Position left off, and Force began. If you should put a stone in a basket, and lower it halfway down a well, would that stone have Energy of Position? It seemed to me that you might go right down to the middle of the earth, finding nothing but Energy of Position all the way. I was tempted to fear that there must be a mistake in the Story of Creation; and that it was really this Energy that inhered in, and could never be taken from, ponderable Matter. Thus the rigid and definite meaning of Force had turned out to be—Potential Energy. Perhaps the author has written here more truly than he knew.
Yet I think it evident that to the trained mind there is something peculiar and fascinating about stones lying on the roof of a house; they have a charm that other stones have not. The magic attribute is called by one of my authorities "advantage over a Force," namely the Force of Gravity. But then it seems to the untrained mind that all the tiles of the roof, and the house itself for that matter,
have the same advantage. The real advantage which the stone lying on the roof of a house has over a stone lying on the ground is your advantage, because it is easier for you to throw a stone downwards than upwards. But in both of those cases it is your energy that moves the stone, with its own weight added in one case, and subtracted in the other.
However that is just what science, speaking through the mouth of its priests, will not allow. According to them, when you throw the stone down there is some other power at work besides your push and the earth's pull; there is this mysterious Potential Energy which has been inside the stone all the time. It seems to be a scientific case of demon-possession. The demon of Latin Energy enters into some stones but not others. It prefers stones on the roof of a house if it can get them, but if not, it will take stones on mountains, just as the demons in the gospel, when they were cast out of the man, entered into the swine. It is remarkable that those demons behaved very much like Energetic ones, for they drove the swine violently down a steep place into the sea.
I hope it is not irreverent to say that I do not believe in this Gadarene Energy. I do not see why it should be called in to do the work that Force is already doing. It would be just as easy to discover a kind of Force that would do what Energy—the Greek Energy that is energetic—does. Force is
pulling things towards the middle of the earth. But everything does not get there. Some bits of Matter get in front and push the others back. And the power by which they do so is not Energy, it is Force of Position.
I can even find another magic stone, as an example, a stone falling into a glass of water. As the stone falls down it will push the water up. Here is a plain case of Latin Force, the Force that does what you would expect energy to do.
The Story of Creation does not end here, unhappily. For its author, not content with his Potential Energy, which does what Force was doing, has gone on to invent yet another kind of energy, which does the whole work over again.
He does this very easily. For just as he first divided Power into Force and Energy, and next divided Energy into going and stopping Energy, so now he goes on to divide the going, or, as one might say the Energetic Energy, again into three kinds, one of which does what Force and Unenergetic Energy both do.
"Each kind of kinetic Energy has separating, combining and neutral motion. Example of Separative—a stone thrown upwards; example of Combining—a stone falling; example of Neutral—a top spinning in the same place."
So, therefore, what really makes the stone fall is neither Force nor Latin Energy, but Greek Energy which is going the wrong way;—shall I call it Anti-energetic Energy?
And I see no reason why the learned writer should not have carried his scientific terms, with their rigid and definite meanings, a good deal farther. For after the stone has fallen it is likely to bound up again, and that will clearly be an example of Redistributive, or Ultra-Energetic, Energy. And then it will be almost sure to fall again under the stress of Katasynthetic Energy; unless it should happen to lodge on the roof of a house, and thereby offer a rare example of Extrapotential, not to say Extravagant, Energy.
The whole of this laboured nonsense flows from a mistake at starting, the mistake of trying to think of strength as two rigid and definite and indestructible strengths; whereas-strength is like a wave with two faces which are neither rigid nor definite nor indestructible, but are forever changing into one another, as the wave's crest becomes the trough, and the trough, the crest; and Force and Energy are not two Powers, but two names for one Power, working To and Fro.
The author of the Story of Creation has let his mind be tripped up by bad language. It is not worse language than that of other text-books; I
chose his book because it claimed to be better written than other books, to be indeed a schoolbook; and language that would be bad in any book is damnable in a schoolbook. If the teacher's words trip up his own mind, what must they do to the child's mind? Has not Topelius given us a glimpse in his delightful story of the little boy fresh from his first geography lesson, trying to talk to the maidservant in words like oblate spheroid and equator?
As soon as men, however learned and distinguished, put their minds to sleep with Mediterranean words, they begin to gabble like little Walter. While they are talking in Babu, they are thinking like Andrónikos of Rhodes. Let us see if we can understand them any better than they understand themselves.
What they are really thinking of all this time is not a stone on a mountain, which of course has no more energy than the rest of the mountain, but a loose stone, in other words, a stone that is going to fall. The stone on the house-roof would never have become a scientific problem, unless it had slipped off the roof on to the ground. It is what happens when it reaches the ground that has caused all the trouble. The learned men have noticed that if you drop a glass test-tube on your laboratory floor it is more likely to break than if it had been on the floor all along. They have been struck by this interesting fact, which even children have noticed in connection with their toys; and they have wanted
to account for it. And finding that they could not account for it, they have done what science in a difficulty always does, they have lulled their minds to sleep with spells from the Greek lexicon. Hence all this demonology and witchcraft.
Why does the fallen test-tube break? Why does the falling stone descend as though it were being sucked downwards in a whirlpool—as perhaps it is? Why does the stone on the higher slope of the mountain fall more heavily, as if its elastic had been further stretched? It cannot be mere weight that does all this, because the falling stone is no heavier than any other stone. The answer of science is that there must be a demon in the stone; and it is that demon who breaks the stone, or makes it bound up again, or, if the stone be flint and fall upon another flint, strikes out a spark—the demon in his fiery shape.
If that be so, how did the demon get into the stone?
Here is the riddle they have got to read. Once upon a time a demon used to enter into the stone while it was falling through the air, and the name of that demon was Momentum, which is to say, being interpreted, Rush. In these days that demon of the air has been exorcised, but only to make room for a far more subtle fiend, the Demon of the House-Roof. This demon does not wait till the stone begins to fall; no, he was there all the time lurking inside it, while it was lying there so quietly and
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peacefully among the Christian tiles. Then how did this demon get into the stone?
There stands the riddle, and the learned men think that they have read it, as they think they have read other riddles, by muttering something that sounds uncommonly like Hic haec hoc.
But they have not told us how the demon got into the stone.
The one sound example of Energy of Position is that of the scale in which you balance a pound of meat by an ounce weight at the end of a lever. And as soon as we utter the word lever, lo! the Energetic demon is conjured back into the Ethereal dustbin. We are talking, not metaphysics, but mechanics, and measuring the ways of strength instead of pretending to account for them. The strength with which a falling stone strikes the ground is its weight, multiplied by the height from which it fell. So much we know, the rest is ta meta ta phusika and Hic haec hoc.
All this is not really science, but only scientology. It is language. It is the magic lullaby in which the shapes of things melt and reshape themselves forever. And so, when we would try to stop that wheel we call the mind, and look between the spokes, at once the All-Thing in its turn begins to spin about us, and all which it contains to slide and glide away:—as in that wondrous story of creation handed down from Finnish sorcerers of old, when the wizard Lemminkainen comes into the hall and
sings; and while he sings the swords vanish out of the hands of the feasters, and the cups vanish from their lips, and the tables and the walls melt and fade, and lastly the hall itself and all within it melt and fade away, and only the magic song goes on.