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THE CONSTITUTION or NATURE. 25

of proper means they may be caused to rush together
across the space that separates them. While this Space
exists, and as long as the atoms have not begun to move'
toward each other, we have tensions and nothing else.
During their motion toward each other the tensions, as in
the case. of gravity, are converted into vis viva. After
' they clash we have still vis viva, but in another form. It
was translation, it is vibration. It was molecular transfer,
it is heat. The same considerations apply to a mixture of
hydrogen and chlorine. When these gases are mingled in
the dark they remain separate, but if a sunbeam fall upon
the mixture the atoms rush together with detonation.
Here also we have tension converted into molecular trans-
lation, and molecular translation into heat and sound.

‘ It is possible to reverse these processes, to unlock the
embrace of the atoms and replace them in their first posi-
tions. But to accomplish this as much heat would be re-
quired as was generated by their union. Such reversals
occur daily and hourly in Nature. By the solar waves, the
oxygen of water is divorced from its hydrogen in the leaves
of plants. As molecular vis viva the waves disappear, but
in so doing they reendow the atoms of oxygen and hydro-
gen with tension. The atoms are thus enabled to recom-
bine, and when they do so they restore the precise amount
of heat consumed in their separation. The same remarks
apply to the compound of carbon and oxygen, called car-
bonic acid, which is exhaled from our lungs, produced by
our fires, and found sparingly diffused everywhere through-
out the air. In the leaves of plants the sunbeams also
wrench these atoms asunder, and sacrifice themselves in the
act; but when the plants are burnt the amount of heat
consumed in their production is restored.

This, then, is the rhythmic play of Nature as regards
her forces. Throughout all her regions she oscillates from
tension to vis viva, from vis viva to tension. We have

2

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