29 JULY 1905, Page 18

DtareArr has written a most lucid and interesting book for

those who "wish to know something of the birth of matter, the decay of matter, the nature of matter, of the nature of electricity and the relation of electricity to matter, of the nature of the sun and the sun's rays, of the possible cause of gravitation, the cause of clouds and rain, and the reasonable solution of many another mystery." This may seem rather a "large order" to those who are not familiar with the results of the latest researches into radio-activity, which afford the subject-matter of Mr. Duncan's book. But it is a very moderate estimate of the secrets of Nature on which a new and clearer light is now being opened by the marvellous discovery of radium and its properties. Mr. Duncan, who is Professor of Chemistry in the Washington and Jefferson College, has given a very opportune description of the results of this discovery in popular language. His book shows an admirable power of exposition, and the only fault that one can find with it is that its proofs have not been read with sufficient care, so that a certain number of slips have crept into its pages. We hope that these will be amended in the second edition which is almost sure to be demanded, since we have as yet seen no book so well adapted to explain to the layman the meaning and the bearing of the latest researches into the mystery of the universe.

We are on the threshold of a vast development in our • (1) The New Knowledge. By Robert Kennedy Duncan. London : Hodder and Stoughton. [6s. net.]—(2) A Treatise on Chemistry. By Sir H. E. Roscoe and C. Schorlemmer. Vol. I. Third Edition. London Macmillan and Co. [21s. net.3—(3) Electromagnetic Theory of Light. By Charles Emerson Curry. Part I. Same publishers. [12s. net.] —(4) What Do We Know Concerning Electricity? By Antonia Zimmern. London : Methuen and Co. [1s. 6d. net.]—(3) A Student's Text-Book of Zoology. By Adam Sedgwiek. Vol. II. London : Swan Sonnenschein and Co. [21s.]- (6) Ice or Water ? By Sir Henry H. Howorth. Vols. L-IL London : Longmans and Co. [34. net.)—(7) Our Stellar Universe. By T. E. Heath. London King, Sell, and Olding. [5s. net.]—(8) Astronomers of To-Day. By Hector Macphalson, jun. London : Gall and Inglis. [7a, 6d. J comprehension of matter and its transformations. The researches which were initiated by Professor J. J. Thomson in 1881, and which have been accelerated by the work of M. Becquerel and the Curies on obscure forms of radiation, have revolutionised our conceptions of chemistry. We may now be said to have realised the dream of the alchemists, and to have watched the transmutation of elements in our labora- tories. We are convinced that the atom, which has done such good service as a working hypothesis, is not the last word of science,—that it is merely a convenient way of stating certain unions of the ultimate corpuscles or ions of which matter is composed, which themselves are, in all probability, merely electrical charges. It is often said by outsiders that physical science has lately gone off the line of practical work into side-tracks which lead to purely metaphysical discussions about objects so minute that they can have no practical bearing on our daily life. The fact is quite otherwise. Recent study of obscure forms of radiation has resulted in opening up to our dazzled eyes a possibility of tapping new and immense stores of energy—the power of doing work—which were not even imagined till a very short time ago. We now know that the atoms of matter themselves contain incredibly vast reserves of energy, on which we may ere long find a way of drawing. "Professor Thomson, as the result of his calcula- tions, concludes that a gram of hydrogen has within it energy sufficient to lift a million tons through a height considerably exceeding a hundred yards ; and that since the amount of energy is proportional to the number of corpuscles comprising the atom of the element, the energy of the other elements, such as sulphur, iron, or lead, must enormously exceed this amount." It is quite conceivable that we shall, before very long, find some means of utilising this inter-atomic energy, as at present we are able to utilise the energy given out continuously by a few milligrams of radium. That dis- covery will be the greatest ever made by man, and will bring about a revolution in our industry far transcending that caused by the invention of the steam engine. This energy is waiting to be liberated, like some good fairy which is eager to take all the burden of the world's work on its shoulders. It is no exaggeration to say that the energy hidden in the atoms of a few pints of water is competent to drive all the machinery of the world for several days, if we could only discover how to liberate and harness it. There is reason to suppose that some of the lower forms of life have already solved this problem : or how does the glowworm keep its little light burning ? We may hold with Mr. Duncan that "there will come a day in the unending succession of days when men will look with mingled horror and amusement at the burning of coal and wood, and will date the coming in of their kingdom to the time when Curie and Laborde demonstrated the existence and extent of inter-atomic energy." His book is a veritable "fairy-tale of science," and will be read with pleasure by all thoughtful people.

Among the batch of books with which this review has to deal in a necessarily brief fashion, several treat of the subjects which Mr. Duncan has expounded in so felicitous a manner. Little need be said in praise of Sir Henry Roscoe's classic Treatise on Chemistry, of which a third edition is now appearing. This first volume deals with the non-metallic elements, and is carefully brought up to date by the inclusion of the new gases of the atmosphere—argon and its inert companions—which Rayleigh and Ramsay have discovered. Radium, as a metal, will come in the second volume; but already this first volume is largely coloured by the researches in radio-activity which mark an epoch in our investigation of Nature. Mr. Curry's mathematical treatise on the Electro- magnetic Theory of Light, first outlined by the great genius of Clerk Maxwell, may be commended to all students of that correlation of the various forms of energy which has received its latest confirmation by the work of Professor Thomson. Miss Zimmern's little book, What Bo We Know Concerning Electricity ? appeals to a very different class of readers, but will be found useful by all who are—like the majority of us- " children in these matters."

The new volume of Mr. Sedgwick's admirable Text-Book of Zoology deals with the vertebrates,—fishes, amphibia, reptiles, birds, and mammals. It is marked by all the qualities of accuracy, lucidity, and orderly method which were con- spicuous in his first volume, and encourage us to hope that when the work is complete it will compare favourably with any of the books on a similar scale which have hitherto been produced more commonly in other countries. Mr. Sedgwick is not merely a biologist: be is also a cosmical philosopher, who has ever kept in mind the relation of his particular subject to the vast scheme of things, and so is able to perceive the proper proportions of its details. We shall look with much interest for the final volume on the principles of zoology, in which he promises to state at length those criticisms on the current views of evolution which he is only able to adumbrate in the more strictly educational part of his work.

Sir Henry Howorth, like Benedick, will still be talking. In two substantial volumes entitled Ice or Water ? to which he threatens to add a third, he returns to his old arguments about the Glacial Epoch. Sir Henry Howorth apparently aspires to hold the place among pseudo-scientific writers which was left vacant by the Duke of Argyll, and with a little more moderation in scale and attention to style he might fill it to the satisfaction of the earnest layman. But his work is not likely to be taken very seriously by geologists.

Mr. Heath, who has made several contributions of real value to astronomical science, adds to his good work by the publication of a very original method of realising the actual magnitude of the stellar universe. He has succeeded in regarding our universe from an external position, as if he were projected into space, and in producing some remarkable stereoscopic views of the chief stars as they would appear to such an observer. These views created great interest at a recent conversazione of the Royal Society, and will be a real help to all who wish to study the vaster problems of cosmogony.

Mr. Macpherson's short biographies of eminent living astronomers contain a great deal of really interesting matter. The biographical method, as Lewes and Sir Oliver Lodge have shown, is well adapted to the purposes of a popular account of the progress of knowledge, and Mr. Macpherson's book is practically a summary of the latest achievements attained in the numerous branches of astronomy to which his heroes have devoted their lives. The writer's extreme youth makes his grasp of the subject very creditable, and we shall look with interest for the more mature work in scientific exposition of which this excellent book gives promise.