Second Scientific Lecture-Course:
2 March 1920, Stuttgart
My dear friends,
Yesterday I touched upon the fact that bodies under the influence of heat expand. Today we will first consider how bodies, the solid bodies as we call them, expand when acted upon by the being of warmth. In order to impress these things upon our minds so that we can use them properly in pedagogy — and at this stage the matter is quite simple and elementary — we have set up this apparatus with an iron bar. We will heat the iron bar and make its expansion visible by noting the movements of this lever-arm over a scale. When I press here with my finger, the pointer moves upwards. (see drawing.)
You can see when we heat the rod, the pointer does move upwards which indicates for you the act that the rod expands. The pointer moves upwards at once. Also you notice that with continued heating the pointer moves more and more, showing that the expansion increases with the temperature. If instead of this rod I had another consisting of a different metal, and if we measured precisely the amount of the expansion, it would be found other than it is here. We would find that different substances expanded various amounts. Thus we would be able to establish at once that the expansion, the degree of elongation, depended on the substance. At this point we will leave out of account the fact that we are dealing with a cylinder and assume that we have a body of a certain length without breadth or thickness and turn our attention to the expansion in one direction only. To make the matter clear we may consider it as follows: here is a rod, considered simply \(L_o\) the length of the rod at the original temperature, the starting temperature. The length attained by the rod when it is heated to a temperature \(y\), we will indicate by \(L\). Now I said that the rod expanded to various degrees depending upon the substance of which it is composed. We can express the amount of expansion to the original length of the rod. Let us denote this relative expansion by \(\alpha\). Then we know the length of the rod after expansion. For the length \(L\) after expansion may be considered as made up of the original length \(L_o\) and the small addition to this length contributed by the expansion. This must be added on. Since I have denoted by \(\alpha\) the fraction giving the ratio of the expansion and the original length, I get the expansion for a given substance by multiplying \(L_o\) by \(\alpha\). Also since the expansion is greater the higher the temperature, I have to multiply by the temperature \(t\). Thus I can say the length of the rod after expansion is \(L_o + L_o \alpha t\), which may be written \(L_o (1 + \alpha t)\). Stated in words: if I wish to determine the length of a rod expanded by heat, I must multiply the original length by a factor consisting of \(1\) plus the temperature times the relative expansion of the substance under consideration. Physicists have called \(\alpha\) the expansion coefficient of the substance considered. Now I have considered here a rod. Rods without breadth and thickness do not exist in reality. In reality bodies have three dimensions. If we proceed from the longitudinal expansion to the expansion of an assumed surface, the formula may be changed as follows: let us assume now that we are to observe the expansion of a surface instead of simply an expansion in one dimension. There is a surface. This surface extends in two directions, and after warming both will have increased in extent. We have therefore not only the longitudinal expansion to \(L\) but also an increase in the breadth to \(b\) to consider. Taking first the original length, \(L_o\), we have as before the expansion in this direction to \(L\) or$$L = L_o (1 + \alpha t)$$
Considering now the breadth \(b_o\) which expands to \(b\), I must write down: $$b=b_o(1+ \alpha t)$$
(It is obvious that the same rule will hold here as in the case of the length.) Now you know that the area of the surface is obtained by multiplying the length by the breadth. The original area I get by multiplying \(b_o\) and \(L_o\), and after expansion by multiplying \(L_o (1 + \alpha t)\) and \(b_o (1 + \alpha t)\)$$Lb=[L_o (1 + \alpha t)][b_o(1 + \alpha t)]$$
or$$Lb = L_o b_o (1 + \alpha t)^2$$
or$$Lb = L_o b_o (1 + 2 \alpha t + \alpha^2 t^2)$$
This gives the formula for the expansion of the surface. If now, you imagine thickness added to the surface, this thickness must be treated in the same manner and I can then write:$$Lbd = L_ob_od_o(1 + 3 \alpha t + 3 \alpha^2 t^2 + \alpha^3 t^3)$$
When you look at this formula I will ask you please to note the following: in the first two terms of you see \(t\) raised no higher than the first power; in the third term you see the second, and in the fourth term it is raised to the third power. Note especially these last two terms of the formula for expansion. Observe that when we deal with the expansion of a three-dimensional body we obtain a formula containing the third power of the temperature. It is extremely important to keep in mind this fact that we come here upon the third power of the temperature.
Now I must always remember that we are here in the Waldorf School and everything must be presented in its relation to pedagogy. Therefore I will call your attention to the fact that the same introduction I have made here is presented very differently if you study it in the ordinary textbooks of physics. I will not well you how it is presented in the average textbook of physics. It would be said: \(\alpha\) is a ratio. It is a fraction. The expansion is relatively very small as compared to the original length of the rod. When I have a fraction whose denominator is greater than its numerator, then when I square or cube it, I get a much smaller fraction. For if I square a third, I get a ninth and when I cube a third I get a twenty-seventh. That is, the third power is a very, very small fraction. \(\alpha\) is a fraction whose denominator is usually very large. Therefore say most physics books: if I square \(\alpha\) to get \(\alpha^2\) or cube it to get \(\alpha^3\) with which I multiply \(t^3\) these are very small fractions and can simply be dropped out. The average physics text says: we simply drop these last terms of the expansion formula and write \(l • b • d\) — this is the volume and I will write is as \(V\) — the volume of an expanded body heated to a certain temperature is:$$V=V_o(1 + 3 \alpha t)$$
In this fashion is expressed the formula for the expansion of a solid body. It is simply considered that since the fraction \(\alpha\) squared and cubed give such small quantities, these can be dropped out. You recognize this as the treatment in the physics texts. Now my friends, in doing this, the most important thing for a really informative theory of heat is stricken out. This will appear as we progress further. Expansion under the influence of heat is shown not only by solids but by fluids as well. Here we have a fluid colored so that you can see it. We will warm this colored fluid (See Figure 1b). Now you notice that after a short time the colored fluid rises and from that we can conclude that fluids expand just like solids. Since the colored fluid rises, therefore fluids expand when warmed.
Now we can in the same way investigate the expansion of a gaseous body. For this purpose we have here a vessel filled simply with air. (See Figure 2). We shut off the air in the vessel and warm it. Notice that here is a tube communicating with the vessel and containing a liquid whose level is the same in both arms of the tube. When we simply warm the air in the vessel, which air constitutes a gaseous body, you will see what happens. We will warm it by immersing the vessel in water heated to a temperature of 40°. (Note: temperatures in the lectures are given in degrees Celsius.) You will see, the mercury at once rises. Why does it rise? Because the gaseous body in the vessel expands. The air streams into the tube, presses on the mercury and the pressure forces the mercury column up into the tube. From this you see that the gaseous body has expanded. We may conclude that solid, liquid and gaseous bodies all expand under the influence of the being of heat, as yet unknown to us.
Now, however, a very important matter approaches us when we proceed from the study of the expansion of solids through the expansion of liquids to the expansion of a gas. I have already stated that \(\alpha\), the relation of the expansion to the original length of the rod, differed for different substances. If by means of further experiments that cannot be performed here, we investigate \(\alpha\) for various fluids, again we will find different values for various fluid substances. When however, we investigate \(\alpha\) for gaseous bodies then a peculiar thing shows itself, namely that \(\alpha\) is not different for various gases but that this expansion coefficient as it is called, is the same and has a constant value of about \(1/273\). This fact is of tremendous importance. From it we see that as we advance from solid bodies to gases, genuinely new relations with heat appear. It appears that different gases are related to heat simply according to their property of being gases and not according to variations in the nature of the matter composing them. The condition of being a gas is, so to speak, a property which may be shared in common by all bodies. We see indeed, that for all gases known to us on earth, the property of being a gas gathers together into a unity this property of expanding. Keep in mind now that the facts of expansion under the influence of heat oblige us to say that as we proceed from solid bodies to gases, the different expansion values found in the case of solids are transformed into a kind of unity, or single power of expansion for gases. Thus if I may express myself cautiously, the solid condition may be said to be associated with an individualization of material condition. Modern physics pays scant attention to this circumstance. No attention is paid to it because the most important things are obscured by the fact of striking out certain values which cannot be adequately handled.
The history of the development of physics must be called in to a certain extent in order to gain insight into the things involved in a deeper insight into these matters. All the ideas current in the modern physics texts and ruling the methods by which the facts of physics are handled are really not old. They began for the most part in the 17th century and took their fundamental character from the new impulse given by a certain scientific spirit in Europe through Academia del Cimento in Florence. This was founded in 1667 and many experiments in quite different fields were carried out there, especially however, experiments dealing with heat, acoustics and tone. How recent our ordinary ideas are may be realized when we look up some of the special apparatus of the Academia del Cimento. It was there for instance, that the ground work for our modern thermometry was laid. It was at this academy that there was observed for the first time how the mercury behaves in a glass tube ending at the bottom in a closed cylinder, when the mercury filling the tube is warmed. Here, in the Academia del Cimento, it was first noticed that there is an apparent contradiction between the experiments where the expansion of liquids may be observed and another experiment. The generalization had been attained that liquids expand. But when the experiment was carried out with quicksilver it was noticed that it first fell when the tube was heated and after that began to rise. This was first explained in the 17th century, and quite simply, by saying: When heat is applied, the outer glass is heated at the start and expands. The space occupied by the quicksilver becomes greater. It sinks at first, and begins to rise only when the heat has penetrated into the mercury itself. Ideas of this sort have been current since the 17th century. At the same time, however, people were backward in a grasp of the real ideas necessary to understand physics, since this period, the Renaissance, found Europe little inclined to trouble itself with scientific concepts. It was the time set aside for the spread of Christianity. This in a certain sense, hindered the process of definite physical phenomena. For during the Renaissance, which carried with it an acquaintance with the ideas of ancient Greece, men were in somewhat the following situation. On the one hand encouraged by all and every kind of support, there arose institutions like the Academia del Cimento, where it was possible to experiment. The course of natural phenomena could be observed directly. On the other hand, people had become unaccustomed to construct concepts about things. They had lost the habit of really following things in thought. The old Grecian ideas were now taken up again, but they were no longer understood. Thus the concepts of fire or heat or as much of them as could be understood were assumed to be the same as were held by the ancient Greeks. And at this time was formed that great chasm between thought and what can be derived from the observation of experiments. This chasm has widened more and more since the 17th century. The art of experiment reached its full flower in the 19th century, but a development of clear, definite ideas did not parallel this flowering of the experimental art. And today, lacking the clear, definite ideas, we often stand perplexed before phenomena revealed in the course of time by unthinking experimentation. When the way has been found not only to experiment and to observe the outer results of the experiments but really to enter into the inner nature of the phenomena, then only can these results be made fruitful for human spiritual development.
Note now, when we penetrate into the inner being of natural phenomena then it becomes a matter of great importance that entirely different expansion relations enter in when we proceed from solids to gases. But until the whole body of our physical concepts is extended we will not really be able to evaluate such things as we have today drawn plainly from the facts themselves. To the facts, already brought out, another one of extraordinary importance must be added.
You know that a general rule can be stated as we have already stated it, namely if bodies are warmed they expand. If they are cooled again they contract. So that in general the law may be stated: “Through heating, bodies expand; through cooling they contract.” But you will recollect from your elementary physics that there are exceptions to this rule, and one exception that is of cardinal importance is the one in regard to water. When water is made to expand and contract, then a remarkable fact is come upon. If we have water at 80° say, and we cool it, it first contracts. That goes without saying, as it were. But when the water is cooled further it does not contract but expands again. Thus the ice that is formed from water — and we will speak further of this — since it is more expanded and therefore less dense than water, floats on the surface of the water. This is a striking phenomenon, that ice can float on the surface of the water! It comes about through the fact that water behaves irregularly and does not follow the general law of expansion and contraction. If this were not so, if we did not have this exception, the whole arrangement of nature would be peculiarly affected. If you observe a basin filled with water or a pond, you will see that even in the very cold winter weather, there is a coating of ice on the surface only and that this protects the underlying water from further cooling. Always there is an ice coating and underneath there is protected water. The irregularity that appears here is, to use a homely expression, of tremendous importance in the household of nature. Now the manner of forming a physical concept that we can depend on in this case must be strictly according to the principles laid down in the last course. We must avoid the path that leads to an Achilles-and-the-turtle conclusion. We must not forget the manifested facts and must experiment with the facts in mind, that is, we must remain in the field where the accessible facts are such as to enable us to determine something. Therefore, let us hold strictly to what is given and from this seek an explanation for the phenomena. We will especially hold fast to such things, given to observation, as expansion and irregularity in expansion like that of water (noting that it is associated with a fluid.) Such factual matters should be kept in mind and we must remain in the world of actualities. This is real Goetheanism.
Let us now consider this thing, which is not a theory but a demonstrable fact of the outer world. When matter passes into the gaseous condition there enters in a unification of properties for all the substances on the earth and with the passage to the solid condition there takes place an individualizing, a differentiation.
Now if we ask ourselves how it can come about that with the passage from the solid to the gaseous through the liquid state a unification takes place, we have a great deal of difficulty in answering on the basis of our available concepts. We must first, if we are to be able to remain in the realm of the demonstrable, put certain fundamental questions. We must first ask: Whence comes the possibility for expansion in bodies, followed finally by change into the gaseous state with its accompanying unification of properties?
You have only to look in a general way at all that is to be known about the physical processes on the earth in order to come to the following conclusion: Unless the action of the sun were present, we could not have all these phenomena taking place through heat. You must give attention to the enormous meaning that the being of the sun has for the phenomena of earth. And when you consider this which is simply a matter of fact, you are obliged to say: this unification of properties that takes place in the passage from the solid through the fluid and into the gaseous state, could not happen if the earth were left to itself. Only when we go beyond the merely earthly relations can we find a firm standpoint for our consideration of these things. When we admit this, however, we have made a very far reaching admission. For by putting the way of thinking of the Academia del Cimento and all that went with it in place of the above mentioned point of view, the old concepts still possible in Greece were robbed of all their super-earthly characteristics. And you will soon see, that purely from the facts, without any historical help, we are going to come back to these concepts. It will perhaps be easier to win way into your understanding if I make a short historical sketch at this time.
I have already said that the real meaning of those ideas and concepts of physical phenomena that were still prevalent in ancient Greece have been lost. Experimentation was started and without the inner thought process still gone through in ancient Greece, ideas and concepts were taken up parrot-fashion, as it were. Then all that the Greeks included in these physical concepts was forgotten. The Greeks had not simply said, “Solid, liquid, gaseous,” but what they expressed may be translated into our language as follows:
Whatever was solid was called in ancient Greek earth;
Whatever was fluid was called in ancient Greece water;
Whatever was gaseous was called in ancient Greece air.
It is quite erroneous to think that we carry our own meaning of the words earth, air and water over into old writings where Grecian influence was dominant, and assume that the corresponding words have the same meaning there. When in old writings, we come across the word water we must translate it by our word fluid; the word earth by our words solid bodies. Only in this way can we correctly translate old writings. But a profound meaning lies in this. The use of the word earth to indicate solid bodies implied especially that this solid condition falls under the laws ruling on the planet earth. (As stated above, we will come upon these things in following lectures from the fact themselves; they are presented today in this historical sketch simply to further your understanding of the matter.)
Solids were designated as earth because it was desired to convey this idea: When a body is solid it is under the influence of the earthly laws in every respect. On the other hand, when a body was spoken of as water, then it was not merely under the earthly laws but influenced by the entire planetary system. The forces active in fluid bodies, in water, spring not merely from the earth, but from the planetary system. The forces of Mercury, Mars, etc. are active in all that is fluid. But they act in such a way that they are oriented according to the relation of the planets and show a kind of resultant in the fluid.
The feeling was, thus, that only solid bodies, designated as earth, were under the earthly system of laws; and that when a body melted it was influenced from outside the earth. And when a gaseous body was called air, the feeling was that such a body was under the unifying influence of the sun, (these things are simply presented historically at this point,) this body was lifted out of the earthly and the planetary and stood under the unifying influence of the sun. Earthly air being were looked upon in this way, that their configuration, their inner arrangement and substance were principally the field for unifying forces of the sun.
You see, ancient physics had a cosmic character. It was willing to take account of the forces actually present in fact. For the Moon, Mercury, Mars, etc. are facts. But people lost the sources of this view of things and were at first not able to develop a need for new sources. Thus they could only conceive that since solid bodies in their expansion and in their whole configuration fell under the laws of the earth, that liquid and gaseous bodies must do likewise. You might say that it would never occur to a physicist to deny that the sun warmed the air, etc. He does not, indeed do this, but since he proceeds from concepts such as I characterized yesterday, which delineate the action of the sun according to ideas springing from observations on the earth, he therefore explains the sun in terrestrial terms instead of explaining the terrestrial in solar terms.
The essential thing is that the consciousness of certain things was completely lost in the period extending from the 15th to the 17th centuries. The consciousness that our earth is a member of the whole solar system and that consequently every single thing on the earth had to do with the whole solar system was lost. Also there was lost the feeling that the solidity of bodies arose, as it were, because the earthly emancipated itself from the cosmic, that it tore itself free to attain independent action while the gaseous, for example, the air, remained in its behavior under the unifying influence of the sun as it affected the earth as a whole. It is this which has led to the necessity of explaining things terrestrially which formerly received a cosmic explanation. Since man no longer sought for planetary forces acting when a solid body changes to a fluid, as when ice becomes fluid — changes to water — since the forces were no longer sought in the planetary system, they had to be placed within the body itself. It was necessary to rationalize and to theorize over the way in which the atoms and molecules were arranged in such a body. And to these unfortunate molecules and atoms had to be ascribed the ability from within to bring about the change from solid to liquid, from liquid to gas. Formerly such a change was considered as acting through the spatially given phenomena from the cosmic regions beyond the earth. It is in this way we must understand the transition of the concepts of physics as shown especially in the crass materialism of the Academia del Cimento which flowered in the ten year period between 1657 and 1667. You must picture to yourselves that this crass materialism arose through the gradual loss of ideas embodying the connection between the earthly and the cosmos beyond the earth. Today the necessity faces us again to realize this connection. It will not be possible, my friends, to escape from materialism unless we cease being Philistines just in this field of physics. The narrow-mindedness comes about just because we go from the concrete to the abstract, for no one loves abstractions more than the Philistine. He wishes to explain everything by a few formulae, a few abstract ideas. But physics cannot hope to advance if she continues to spin theories as has been the fashion ever since the materialism of the Academia del Cimento. We will only progress in such a field as that of the understanding of heat if we seek again to establish the connection between the terrestrial and the cosmic through wider and more comprehensive ideas than modern materialistic physics can furnish us.