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HISTORY OF DENSE AND RARE,
THE CONTRACTION AND EXPANSION OF MATTER IN SPACE.
No wonder if nature be in debt to philosophy and the sciences, seeing she has never yet been called on to render an account. For of the quantity of matter, and how it is distributed in bodies (abundantly in some, sparingly in others), no careful and methodical inqu:ry according to true or approximate calculations has been instituted. One axiom has been rightly received, namely, that nothing is taken from or added to the sum of the universe. And the question, How bodies may be relaxed and contracted more or less without the interposition of vacuum, has been handled by some. But with respect to the natures of Dense and Rare, one has referred them to abundance and paucity of matter ; another has laughed at this idea; the majority, following their author, discuss and settle the whole matter by that frigid distinction between act and pow
And even those who attribute these things to the proportions of matter (which is the true opinion), and do not maintain the first matter to be entirely deprived of quantity, though indifferent for other forms; yet end the inquiry here, and seek nothing further, with out perceiving what follows therefrom; and whereas the matter bears upon an infinity of things, and is as it were the basis of natural philosophy, they either do not touch, or at least do not press it.
In the first place therefore, that which has been well laid down must not be disturbed : namely, that in no transmutation of bodies is there any reduction either from nothing or to nothing, but that it belongs to the same omnipotence to create something out of nothing as to turn something into nothing, and that this never happens in the course of nature. Therefore the sum total of matter remains always the same, without addition or diminution ; but that this sum of matter is variously distributed among different bodies cannot be doubted. For no one can be so demented by abstract subtleties as to imagine that one hogshead of water contains as much matter as ten; or that one hogshead of air contains as much as ten. That in the same body the quantity of matter is multiplied in
proportion to the measure of the body no man questions, but whether it be so in different bodies is disputed. But if it be demonstrated that one hogshead of water turned into air is equal to ten hogsheads of air (I take this computation because of the common opinion, though a hundred would be nearer the truth), it is well; for now they are no longer different bodies, water and air: it is the same body of air contained in ten hogsheads. And one hogshead of air, as has been just granted, is only a tenth part of ten hogsheads.
It can no longer be denied, therefore, that one hogshead of water contains ten times as much matter as one hogshead of air. And therefore to say that a whole hogshead of water can be turned into one hogshead of air, is as much as to say that something can be reduced to nothing; for as a tenth part of the water would be enough for this, the other nine parts must needs be annihilated. On the other hand, to say that a hogshead of air can be turned into a hogshead of water, is as much as to say that something can be created from nothing; for a hogshead of air will only make a tenth part of a hogshead of water, and therefore the other nine parts must needs be created from nothing. Meanwhile I fully admit that to calculate the proportions and quantities of matter existing in different bodies, and to find by what industry and sagacity true information thereof may be procured, is a very difficult thing; though indeed it is amply compensated by the vast and universal utility of the inquiry. For to know the densities and rarities of bodies, and much more, to procure and accomplish the condensations and rarefactions thereof, is a point of first importance both for contemplation and practice. Seeing therefore that it is a thing of all others the most fundamental and universal, we must gird ourselves up to deal with it; for indeed without it all philosophy is utterly discinct and disorderly.