Superphysics Superphysics
Chapter 8

Twilight or clandestine instances

4 minutes  • 737 words

25 These are opposed to the conspicuous instances.

They show the required nature in its lowest state of efficacy, and as it were its cradle and first rudiments, making an effort and a sort of first attempt, but concealed and subdued by a contrary nature.

Such instances are, however, of great importance in discovering forms, for as the conspicuous tend easily to differences, so do the clandestine best lead to genera, that is, to those common natures of which the required natures are only the limits.

As an example, let consistency, or that which confines itself, be the required nature, the opposite of which is a liquid or flowing state. The clandestine instances are such as exhibit some weak and low degree of consistency in fluids, as a water bubble, which is a sort of consistent and bounded pellicle formed out of the substance of the water.

So eaves’ droppings, if there be enough water to follow them, draw themselves out into a thin thread, not to break the continuity of the water, but if there be not enough to follow, the water forms itself into a round drop, which is the best form to prevent a breach of continuity; and at the moment the thread ceases, and the water begins to fall in drops, the thread of water recoils upward to avoid such a breach.

In metals, which when melted are liquid but more tenacious, the melted drops often recoil and are suspended.

There is something similar in the instance of the child’s looking-glass, which little boys will sometimes form of spittle between rushes, and where the same pellicle of water is observable; and still more in that other amusement of children, when they take some water rendered a little more tenacious by soap, and inflate it with a pipe, forming the water into a sort of castle of bubbles, which assumes such consistency,[167] by the interposition of the air, as to admit of being thrown some little distance without bursting.

The best example is that of froth and snow, which assume such consistency as almost to admit of being cut, although composed of air and water, both liquids. All these circumstances clearly show that the terms liquid and consistent are merely vulgar notions adapted to the sense, and that in reality all bodies have a tendency to avoid a breach of continuity, faint and weak in bodies composed of homogeneous parts (as is the case with liquids), but more vivid and powerful in those composed of heterogeneous parts, because the approach of heterogeneous matter binds bodies together, while the insinuation of homogeneous matter loosens and relaxes them.

Let the required nature be attraction or the cohesion of bodies.

The most remarkable conspicuous instance with regard to its form is the magnet. The contrary nature to attraction is non-attraction, though in a similar substance. Thus iron does not attract iron, lead lead, wood wood, nor water water. But the clandestine instance is that of the magnet armed with iron, or rather that of iron in the magnet so armed.

For its nature is such that the magnet when armed does not attract iron more powerfully at any given distance than when unarmed; but if the iron be brought in contact with the armed magnet, the latter will sustain a much greater weight than the simple magnet, from the resemblance of substance in the two portions of iron, a quality altogether clandestine and hidden in the iron until the magnet was introduced. It is manifest, therefore, that the form of cohesion is something which is vivid and robust in the magnet, and hidden and weak in the iron.

Small wooden arrows without an iron point, when discharged from large mortars,[168] penetrate further into wooden substances (such as the ribs of ships or the like), than the same arrows pointed with iron,[113] owing to the similarity of substance.

This quality was previously latent in the wood.

A mass of air does not appear to attract air, nor water water. Yet when one bubble is brought near another, they are both more readily dissolved, from the tendency to contact of the water with the water, and the air with the air.[114]

These clandestine instances are of the most important service. These are principally to be observed in small portions of bodies, for the larger masses observe more universal and general forms, as will be mentioned in its proper place.[115]