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vacillating hypotheses of pseudo-science? And if we cannot, why did Mr. Crookes, who wishes to be thought scientific, if he is anything, so compare them ?
The digression which then immediately precedes the accounts of these new experiments only shows too clearly that their author was almost entirely ignorant of the history of most of the previous work which had been done in the same direction. Besides this, his expressions contradict themselves : in one page he tells his opponents, “ Remember, I hazard no hypothesis or theory whatever;" and in another he says, “ Professor Thury's ectenic force and my psychic force are evidently equivalent terms; . . . . . . the suggestion of a similar hypothetical nervous fluid has now reached us from another source," &c. Surely there must be some mistake here.
After this we come to quite a new phase in the history of the Psychic Force experiments. Most of our readers who have ever been to law and have had a verdict given against them cannot but be aware of the spirit in which they have generally received it. The stupidity of the jury, the wrong summing-up of the judge, the neglecting of the most important piece of evidence, &c.—all these details are narrated with more or less exaggeration to the sympathising ears of friends. So it is with Mr. Crookes. The two highest scientific tribunals in England have neglected his papers—the Royal Society has declined to receive them, and the British Association has declined to hear them. Naturally their author is indignant, and the pages of the “ Quarterly Journal of Science” are filled with the editor's querulous complaints against his judges. The very letters which passed between them are printed, and all is done to expose the injustice he believes he has had to submit to; but still the unanswerable fact remains—his papers were rejected, the verdict of Science was given against him. And this means something more than is at first sight apparent. The names of Professor Stokes and Dr. Sharpey, the secretaries of the Royal Society, are not names to be lightly pushed on one side. They are the names of men whose lives have been devoted on the one hand to pure physical research, and on the other to that of pure physiology. Who then so competent to decide as to the merits of a case which may almost be called one of “physical physiology?" and their deliberate verdict and that of the Committee went against it. To the British Association Mr. Crookes did not volunteer to show any public experiments, all he offered was a paper detailing those he had already privately made, and this the Committee of Section A rejected, and rightly too; we have had enough of talk on this subject, we now want public experiments; and without these, papers in every successive number of the 6 Quarterly Journal of Science” will be useless.
VOL. XI.--NO. XLII.
We will now deal with the new experiments themselves, and we hope that the above digression will be pardoned us, but it was forced upon us by reading the vast amount of preliminary matter with which the account of them was prefaced. The changed condition of these experiments place us rather, we are afraid, behind the scenes. We hear no more of Dr. Huggins, no more of the 6 well-known serjeant-at-law,” Serjeant Cox. Mr. Crookes is apparently left to fight his battle alone, a solitary hero opposing the now fast-uprising world of science. No more, alas ! do we hear of accordions floating in mid-air, no more do dulcet sounds and plaintive airs proceed from them, alas! the very wirework cage seems to be thrown on one side. But all is not gone, and we may rejoice to find that the congenial employment of holding Mr. Home's hands and boots still seems to be deemed a necessary part of a scientific experiment! These changed conditions raise curious questions in our mind. Has it at last been suggested to their author that these very accordion experiments, of musical airs proceeding from an instrument held in one hand, is a very common trick shown at country fairs and performed by most itinerant jugglers ? We have little doubt but that these conjurors could easily explain by what “occult” power other than Psychic Force they perform such scientific (?) experiments. Here is a new field for investigation at once opened, which we commend to any man of science ambitious of notoriety—“ The Psychics of Conjuring, or a scientific explanation of the delights of our boyhood, by an F.R.S.” Unfortunately for us, our education in the mysteries of conjuring was strangely neglected, or else we should have been proud to have answered Mr. Crookes, and, to quote his own words, “prove it to be a trick by showing how the trick is performed.” But we congratulate ourselves that we have suggested a source whence this experience may be obtained, so that now in the future we shall hope to hear no more of the scientific wobblings of an accordion held in the hand of a Psychic Medium.
The experiments with the balance and the mahogany board, however, are still continued. Their details, whilst they are far too long for direct quotation, cannot adequately be understood without a figure, but they may be summed up as follows. There is the old mahogany board, one end of which is connected with the self-registering spring balance, but the other end now rests, not on the table, as before, but on a knife edge, placed some few inches from the extremity of the board, and this knife edge rests on a firm and heavy wooden table. On the board, exactly over the knife edge, is placed a large glass vessel filled with water, into which a hemispherical copper bowl, perforated with several holes in the bottom, is placed, and this hemispherical bowl rests in the water, supported at the end of an arm of an iron stand, placed some two inches from the board and unconnected with it. Into this bowl, inside the vessel, Mr. Home placed the tips of his fingers, and after a little time the balance showed slight displacements. These, however—and here is a very important point-were displacements in both directions, upwards and downwards, but it is only to one of these that we are more particularly referred. Now, let us examine this experiment very carefully. It is at once obvious that any displacement of the centre of gravity of the whole system must produce motion in the board. Anything, therefore, which tends to change the position of the centre of gravity from this, its original position of equilibrium, causes motion in the board which will obviously be registered on the balance. But just as the centre of gravity may be thrown either on one side or on the other, so we may get the end of the board tilted up or down; or, in other words, we may have what is ascribed to “ a diminution of the force of gravitation as well as an increase!”.
We would wish most forcibly to impress the significance of this source of error in this so much vaunted experiment on our readers, as it is typical of the whole set we are criticising. For its better elucidation the following diagram is necessary :
A B is the board resting on the fulcrum or knife edge at c, and the end B fixed to a self-registering spring balance. The bowl D E we will suppose placed, as it really was, immediately over c (although the position is indifferent), and the spring balance adjusted to equilibrium. It is obvious that any displacement of the centre of gravity of the bowl will amount to a displacement of the centre of gravity of the whole system, and it may be displaced in two directions. : Firstly, let us suppose it displaced to g. The board A B becomes then immediately a lever of the first kind, with one force acting at h, and the other at B, and the fulcrum at c. Now, although the distance HC will always be very small, the weight of the bowl and its contents is very large, so that the moment will be quite appreciable and the movement will be duly magnified at b in the ratio of CB to HC. By this motion the end B will rise. Similarly, if the centre of gravity be displaced to g' there will be the force acting downwards at K, and which, in like manner, will be obviously magnified at B, but, in this case, the end B must fall. But, since the whole system is originally in equilibrium, that
ally a lever without weight; so that, theoretically, an infinitely small displacement, and practically, a very small one, would
value, therefore, of the scientific reasoning which would ascribe these so easily producible effects to an unknown Psychic Force may be easily appreciated. It is not the mere fact of placing the fingers or even the whole hand in the bowl which necessarily displaces its centre of gravity, and so it was found that at first no effect was noticed, but it was only after some little time that motion was observed. There is nothing stated as to the surface of the water in the bowl being absolutely level and at rest during the experiment, and yet it is evident that this is a point of vital importance, since the slightest lateral vibratory movement would be equivalent to a powerful discharge o Psychic Force. It must also be borne in mind that in such a delicately-balanced instrument the mere touching of the side of the vessel, whether accidental or otherwise, would produce great effects. This then is experiment No. 1, the conclusion of which is thus naively stated, that “ Contact through water proves to be as effectual as actual mechanical contact”—a conclusion to which we cordially agree.
Experiments Nos. 2, 3 and 4 were then tried, to see whether any effect would be produced by Mr. Home placing his fingers on the stand of the apparatus, a short distance away from the end A of the board. As might have been anticipated, it was found that effects were produced, but as any tremor communicated to the stand on which the knife edge rested would affect the delicately-poised board, these experiments are not worth much. The results obtained with this apparatus—which is certainly much more delicate than that formerly employed (although it is open to the objections we have raised are much less marked than those obtained with his first rough experiments, for instead of a downward fall of 6lbs. we only read of one of 5,000 grains, about llozs. Thus it appears that, in proportion as the extraneous disturbing forces are eliminated, so does the disturbance ascribed to Psychic Force similarly diminish. Should we then be considered unreasonable if we assumed that with the complete disappearance of extraneous forces Psychic Force would vanish also ?
Mr. Home now disappears from the scene for a time, and another person, a lady possessing similar “psychic” powers, is found, and for her a new set of apparatus is designed. The same difficulty which formerly occurred in fully describing the
new apparatus without the necessary diagrams also arises in this case. “A piece of thin parchment is stretched tightly across a circular hoop of wood. At the end B of a freelymoving lever is a vertical point touching this membrane, and at the other end is another needle point projecting horizontally and touching a smoked glass plate, which is moved along by clockwork. The end of the lever is weighted so that it shall quickly follow the movements of the centre of the disk, and these movements are transmitted and recorded on the smoked glass plate by means of the lever and the other needle point. Holes are cut in the side of the hoop to allow a free passage of air to the under side of the membrane.” It was then ascertained that “ no shaking or jar on the table or support would interfere with the results—the line traced by the point on the smoked glass was perfectly straight in spite of all our attempts to influence the lever by shaking the stand and stamping on the floor.” As we read this statement we were very much astonished and could scarcely credit it, but thought that it was only fair to Mr. Crookes to test it by an appeal to a very simple experiment. A banjo was placed on an ordinary dining-room table, with the strings first stretched tight and subsequently relaxed. It is obvious that the membrane in this instrument roughly represents the membrane in Mr. Crookes' apparatus ; but, as we have only the ear to detect any vibrations, the means of observation are probably much less delicate in our experiment than in his. Yet, with all these disadvantages, it was found in all cases that the very slightest tremor communicated to the table sufficed to agitate the membrane, whilst walking across or stamping on the floor produced a distinct resonance. We shall return to the discussion of this point later on, but proceed now with the account of the experiment. The lady placed her fingers on the wooden stand at some little distance (the exact distance is not stated) from the membrane, and Mr. Crookes placed his hands over hers in order to detect any conscious or unconscious movement. In a short time came the result. Presently 6 percussive noises were heard on the parchment, resembling the dropping of grains of sand on its surface, and at each percussion the further end of the lever moved up and down. Sometimes these sounds were rapid, and at other times more than a second apart.” Five or six tracings were taken on the smoked glass, some of which are given in the paper, and the disturbances it will be seen are in all cases very small indeed, showing that as the delicacy of the apparatus is increased the results decrease. Mr. Home was then tried with the same apparatus, but he did not touch the board. His hand was held over the diaphragm about 10 inches from its surface, and after remaining in this position for about half a
of observa have only the ear torane in Mr. C