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PREFACE A collection of about 2000 questions asked by children forms the foundation on which this book is built. Rather than decide what it is that children ought to know, or what knowledge could best be fitted into some educational theory, an attempt was made to find out what children want to know. The obvious way to discover this was to let them ask questions. The questions collected were asked by several hundred children in the upper... more...

PREFACE. This work was originally written to be delivered as a lecture; but as its pages continued to multiply, it was suggested to the author by numerous friends that it ought to be published in book-form; this, at last, the author concluded to do. This work, therefore, does not claim to be an exhaustive discussion of the various departments of which it treats; but rather it has been the aim of the author to present the more interesting... more...

CHAPTER I. THE DISCOVERY OF THE UNIVERSE The beginning of the victorious career of modern science was very largely due to the making of two stimulating discoveries at the close of the Middle Ages. One was the discovery of the earth: the other the discovery of the universe. Men were confined, like molluscs in their shells, by a belief that they occupied the centre of a comparatively small disk—some ventured to say a globe—which was... more...

A procession of the damned. By the damned, I mean the excluded. We shall have a procession of data that Science has excluded. Battalions of the accursed, captained by pallid data that I have exhumed, will march. You'll read them—or they'll march. Some of them livid and some of them fiery and some of them rotten. Some of them are corpses, skeletons, mummies, twitching, tottering, animated by companions that have been damned alive. There... more...

PART I THE SPECIAL THEORY OF RELATIVITY PHYSICAL MEANING OF GEOMETRICAL PROPOSITIONS In your schooldays most of you who read this book made acquaintance with the noble building of Euclid's geometry, and you remember — perhaps with more respect than love — the magnificent structure, on the lofty staircase of which you were chased about for uncounted hours by conscientious teachers. By reason of our past experience, you would... more...


THE EVOLUTION OF PHYSICS The now numerous public which tries with some success to keep abreast of the movement in science, from seeing its mental habits every day upset, and from occasionally witnessing unexpected discoveries that produce a more lively sensation from their reaction on social life, is led to suppose that we live in a really exceptional epoch, scored by profound crises and illustrated by extraordinary discoveries, whose... more...

That application of the sciences of biology and geology, which is commonly known as palaeontology, took its origin in the mind of the first person who, finding something like a shell, or a bone, naturally imbedded in gravel or rock, indulged in speculations upon the nature of this thing which he had dug out—this "fossil"—and upon the causes which had brought it into such a position. In this rudimentary form, a high antiquity may... more...

There are three ways of regarding any account of past occurrences, whether delivered to us orally or recorded in writing. The narrative may be exactly true. That is to say, the words, taken in their natural sense, and interpreted according to the rules of grammar, may convey to the mind of the hearer, or of the reader an idea precisely correspondent with one which would have remained in the mind of a witness. For example, the statement that King... more...

THE FUTURE OF ASTRONOMY BY PROFESSOR EDWARD C. PICKERING HARVARD COLLEGE OBSERVATORY It is claimed by astronomers that their science is not only the oldest, but that it is the most highly developed of the sciences. Indeed it should be so, since no other science has ever received such support from royalty, from the state and from the private individual. However this may be, there is no doubt that in recent years astronomers have had granted to... more...

I THE BREATH OF LIFE I When for the third or fourth time during the spring or summer I take my hoe and go out and cut off the heads of the lusty burdocks that send out their broad leaves along the edge of my garden or lawn, I often ask myself, "What is this thing that is so hard to scotch here in the grass?" I decapitate it time after time and yet it forthwith gets itself another head. We call it burdock, but what is burdock, and why does it... more...