THE OLDER 'MATTER'
And yet when I hear to-day protests against the Bolshevism of modern science and regrets for the old-established order, I am inclined to think that Rutherford not Einstein, is the real villain of the piece. (149)
A. S. EDDINGTON
Micro-mechanics appears as a refinement of macro-mechanics, which is necessitated by the geometrical and mechanical smallness of the objects, and the transition is of the same nature as that from geometrical to physical optics. (466) E. SCHRODINGER
From the dawn of history, man has had to deal with different bits of materials, some hard and solid like stones, some soft like fruit or flesh, some liquid. In remote antiquity air and gases were not considered as 'matter'.
In those days 'matter' was structurally only what could be seen, or felt, or touched . : anything else was some kind of 'spirit', and everything 'existed' in an 'absolute void'. But even in remote antiquity our primitive ancestry could not miss the fact that the bits of materials they dealt with could be divided into smaller bits. Naturally, if we can subdivide bits into smaller bits, an interesting question arises: How far can this division be carried on? It seems that Democritus (about 460-360 B.C.) was the first man on record to formulate an atomistic theory. He already postulated structurally a subjective world picture, to be contrasted with an 'absolute' or objective world in which 'motion' was all important. This theory started us on the mechanistic road formulated for macroscopic events, and also on the road of individualization, the study of smaller and smaller bits of materials and the search for some unit bricks out of which this world appeared to be built; all of which was already a search for tn.o structure.
With the advent of chemistry some further fundamental structural light was thrown on the problem of individualization. It was found that certain materials, as, for instance, iron, copper., remain one material, no matter how far we carry our subdivision. These were called 'elements'. At present we recognize 92 elements, a number which is supposed to represent all possible elements. Out of these a remaining few were at first predicted theoretically, and just the other day discovered experimentally. All other materials do not stand division so well. At some stage they decompose into their elements. The smallest bit of one of these last materials which still has the characteristics as the bulk, is called a molecule. The molecule is found to be built up from atoms of the elements. For instance, the molecule of water still has the characteristics of water, and consists of two atoms of hydrogen and one atom of oxygen, which are no longer water but elements of entirely different characteristics.*
Electrochemistry taught us in the meanwhile an important structural lesson; namely, that definite electrical charges are combined with the atoms. Such electrified atoms are called 'ions' (Greek for traveller). For instance, a
♦The above statements are over-simplified, but satisfactory for my purpose.