Second Scientific Lecture-Course:
11 March 1920, Stuttgart
My dear friends,
At this point I would like to build a bridge, as it were, between the discussions in this course and the discussion in the previous course. We will study today the light spectrum, as it is called, and its relation to the heat and chemical effects that come to us with the light. The simplest way for us to bring before our minds what we are to deal with is first to make a spectrum and learn what we can from the behavior of its various components. We will, therefore, make a spectrum by throwing light through this opening — you can see it here. (The room was darkened and the spectrum shown.) It is to be seen on this screen. Now you can see that we have something hanging here in the red portion of the spectrum. Something is to be observed on this instrument hanging here. First we wish to show you especially how heat effects arise in the red portion of the spectrum. Something is to be observed on this instrument hanging here. These effects are to be observed by this expanding action of the energy cylinder on the air contained in the instrument, which expanding action in turn pushes the alcohol column down on this side and up on this one. This depression of the alcohol column shows us that there is a considerable heat effect in this part of the spectrum. It would be interesting also to show that when the spectrum is moved so as to bring the instrument into the blue-violet portion, the heat effect is not noticeable. It is essentially characteristic of the red portion. And now, having shown the occurrence of heat effects in the red portion of the spectrum by means of the alcohol column, let us show the chemical activity of the blue-violet end. We do this by allowing the blue portion to fall on a substance which you can see is brought into a state of phosphorescence. From the previous course you know that this is a form of chemical activity. Thus you see an essential difference between the portion of the spectrum that disappears on the unknown on this side and the portion that disappears on this other side; you see how the substance glows under the influence of the chemical rays, as they are called. Moreover, we can so arrange matters that the middle portion of the spectrum, the real light portion, is cut out. We cannot do this with absolute precision, but approximately we can make the middle portion dark by simply placing the path of the light a solution of iodine in carbon disulphate. This solution has the property of stopping the light. It is possible to demonstrate the chemical effect on one side and the heat effect on the other side of this dark band. Unfortunately we cannot carry out this experiment completely, but only mention it in passing. If I place an alum solution in the path of the light the heat effect disappears and you will see that the alcohol column is no longer displaced because the alum, or the solution of alum, to speak precisely, hinders its passage. Soon you will see the column equalize, now that we have placed alum in the path, because the heat is not present. We have here a cold spectrum.
Now let us place in the light path the solution of iodine in carbon disulphate, and the middle portion of the spectrum disappears. It is very interesting that a solution of esculin will cut out the chemical effect. Unfortunately we could not get this substance. In this case, the heat effect and the light remain, but the chemical effect ceases. With the carbon disulphide you see clearly the red portion — it would not be there if the experiment were an entire success — and the violet portion, but the middle portion is dark. We have succeeded partly in our attempt to eliminate the bright portion of the spectrum. By carrying out the experiment in a suitable way as certain experimenters have done (for instance, Dreher, 50 years ago) the two bright portions you see here can be done away with. Then the temperature effect may be demonstrated on the red side, and on the other side phosphorescence shows the presence of the chemically active rays. This has not yet been fully demonstrated and it is of very great importance. It shows us how that which we think of as active in the spectrum can be conceived in its general cosmic relations.
In the course that I gave here previously I showed how a powerful magnet works on the spectral relations. The force emanating from the magnet alters certain lines, changes the picture of the spectrum itself. It is only necessary for a person to extend the thought prompted by this in order to enter the physical processes in his thinking. You know from what we have already said that there is really a complete spectrum, a collection of all possible twelve colors; that we have a circular spectrum instead of the spectrum spread out in one dimension of space. We have (in the circular spectrum) here green, peach blossom here, here violet and here red with the other shades between. Twelve shades, clearly distinguishable from one another.
Now the fact is that under the conditions obtaining on the earth such a spectrum can only exist as a mental image. When we are dealing with this spectrum we can only do so by means of a mental picture. The spectrum we actually get is the well-known linear one extending as a straight line from red through the green to the blue and violet — thus we obtain a spectrum formed from the circular one, as I have often said, by making the circle larger and larger, so that the peach blossom disappears, violet shades off into infinity on one side and red shades off on the other, with green in the middle.
We may ask the question: how does this partial spectrum, this fragmentary color band arise from the complete series of color, the twelve color series which must be possible? Imagine to yourselves that you have the circular spectrum, and suppose forces to act on it to make the circle larger and larger and finally to break at this point (see drawing). Then, when it has opened, the action of these forces would make a straight line of the circle, a line extending apparently into infinity in each direction. (Fig. 1).
Now when we come upon this straight line spectrum here under our terrestrial conditions we feel obliged to ask the question: how can it arise? It can arise only in this way, that the seven known colors are separated out. They are, as it were, cut out of the complete spectrum by the forces that work into it. But we have already come upon these forces in the earth realm. We found them when we turned our attention to the forces of form. This too is a formative activity. The circular form is made over into the straight-line form. It is a form that we meet with here. And considering the fact that the structure of the spectrum is altered by magnetic forces, it becomes quite evident that forces making our spectrum possible are everywhere active. This being the case, we have to assume that our spectrum, which we consider a primary thing, has working within it certain forces. Not only must we consider light variation in our ordinary spectrum, but we have to think ofthis ordinary spectrum as including forces which render it necessary to represent the spectrum by a straight line. This idea we must link up with another, which comes to us when we go through the series, as we have frequently done before (Fig. 2), from solids, through fluids, to condensation and rarefaction, i.e. gases, to heat and then to that state we have called X, where we have materialization and dematerialization. Here we meet a higher stage of condensation and rarefaction, beyond the heat condition, just as condensation and rarefaction proper constitute a kind of fluidity of form.
When form itself becomes fluid, when we have a changing form in a gaseous body, that is a development from form as a definite thing. And what occurs here? A development of the condensation-rarefaction condition Keep this definitely in mind, that we enter a realm where we have a development of the condensation-rarefaction state.
What do we mean by a “development of rarefaction”? Well, matter itself informs us what happens to it when it becomes more and more rarefied. When I make matter more and more dense, it comes about that a light placed behind the matter does not shine through. When the matter becomes more and more rarefied, the light does pass through. When I rarefy enough, I finally come to a point where I obtain brightness as such. Therefore, what I bring into my understanding here in the material realm is empirically found to be the genesis of brightness or luminosity as a heightening of the condition of rarefaction; and darkening has to be thought of as a condensation, not yet intense enough to produce matter, but of such an intensity as to be just on the verge of becoming material.
Now you see how I place the realm of light above the heat realm and how the heat is related to the light in an entirely natural fashion. But when you recollect how a given realm always gives a sort of picture of the realm immediately above it, then you must look in the being of heat for something that foreshadows, as it were, the conditions of luminosity and darkening. Keep in mind that we do not always find only the upper condition in the lower, but also always the lower condition in the upper. When I have a solid, it foreshadows for me the fluid. What gives it solidity may extend over into the non-solid realm. I must make it clear to myself, if I wish to keep my concepts real, that there is a mutual interpenetration of actual qualities. For the realm of heat this principle takes on a certain form; namely this, that dematerialization works down into heat from above (see arrow). From the lower side, the tendency to materialization works up into the heat realm.
Thus you see that I draw near to the heat nature when I see in it a striving for dematerialization, on the one hand, and on the other a striving for materialization. (If I wish to grasp its nature I can do it only by conceiving a life, a living weaving, manifesting itself as a tendency to materialization penetrated by a tendency to dematerialization.) Note, now, what an essential distinction exists between this conception of heat based on reality and the nature of heat as outlined by the so-called mechanical theory of heat of Clausius. In the Clausius theory we have in a closed space atoms or molecules, little spheres moving in all directions, colliding with each other and with the walls of the vessel, carrying on an outer movement. (Fig. 3) And it is positively stated: heat consists in reality in this chaotic movement, in this chance collision of particles with each other and with the walls of the vessel. A great controversy arose as to whether the particles were elastic or non-elastic. This is of importance only as the phenomena can be better explained on the assumption of elasticity or on the assumption that the particles are hard, non-elastic bodies. This has given form to the conviction that heat is purely motion in space. Heat is motion. We must now say “heat is motion,” but in an entirely different sense. It is motion, but intensified motion. Wherever heat is manifest in space, there is a motion which creates the material state striving with a motion which destroys the material state. It is no wonder, my friends, that we need heat for an organism. We need heat in our organism simply to change continuously the spatially-extended into the spatially non-extended. When I simply walk through space, my will carries out a movement in space. When I think about it, something other than the spatial is present. What makes it possible for me as a human organism to be inserted into the form relationships of the earth? When I move over the earth, I change the entire terrestrial form. I change her form continually. What makes it possible that I am in relation to the other things of the earth, and that I can form ideas, outside of space, within myself as observer, of what is manifested in space? This is what makes it possible, my being exists in the heat medium and is thus continually enabled to transform material effects, spatial effects, into non-spatial ones that no longer partake of the space nature. In myself I experience in fact what heat really is, intensified motion. Motion that continually alternates between the sphere of pressure and the sphere of suction.
Assume that you have here (Fig. 4) the border between pressure and suction forces. The forces of pressure run their course in space, but the suction forces do not, as such, act in space — they operate outside of space. For my thoughts, resting on the forces of suction, are outside of space. Here on one side of this line (see figure) I have the non-spatial. And now when I conceive of that which takes place neither in the pressure nor in the suction realms, but on the border line between the two, then I am dealing with the things that take place in the realm of heat. I have a continually maintained equilibrium tendency between pressure effects of a material sort and suction effects of a spiritual sort. It is very significant that certain physicists have had these things right under their noses but refuse to consider them. Planck, the Berlin physicist, has made the following striking statement: if we wish to get a concept of what is called ether nowadays, the first requisite is to follow the only path open to us, in view of the knowledge of modern physics, and consider the ether non-material. This from the Berlin physicist, Planck. The ether, therefore, is not to be considered as a material substance. But now, what we are finding beyond the heat region, the realm wherein the effects of light take place, that we consider so little allied to the material that we are assuming the pressure effects — characteristic of matter — to be completely absent, and only suction effects active there. Stated otherwise, we may say: we leave the realm of ponderable matter and enter a realm which is naturally everywhere active, but which manifests itself in a manner diametrically opposite to the realm of the material. Its forces we must conceive of as suction forces while material things obviously manifest through pressure forces. Thus, indeed, we come to an immediate concept of the being of heat as intensified motion, as an alternation between pressure and suction effects, but in such a way that we do not have, on the one hand, suction spatially manifested and, on the other hand, pressure spatially manifested. Instead of this, we have to think of the being of heat as a region where we entirely leave the material world and with it three-dimensional space. If the physicist expresses by formulae certain processes, and he has in these formulae forces, in the case where these forces are given the negative sign — when pressure forces are made negative — they become suction forces. Attention must be paid to the fact that in such a case one leaves space entirely. This sort of consideration of such formulae leads us into the realm of heat and light. Heat is only half included, for in this realm we have both pressure and suction forces.
These facts, my dear friends, can be given, so to speak, only theoretically today in this presentation in an auditorium. It must not be forgotten that a large part of our technical achievement has arisen under the materialistic concepts of the second half of the 19th century. It has not had such ideas as we are presenting and therefore such ideas cannot arise in it. If you think over the fruitfulness of the one-sided concepts for technology, you can picture to yourselves how many technical consequences might flow from adding to the modern technology, knowing only pressures — the possibility of also making fruitful these suction forces. (I mean not only spatially active suction which is a manifestation of pressure, but suction forces qualitatively opposite to pressure.)
Of course, much now incorporated in the body of knowledge known as physics will have to be discarded to make room for these ideas. For instance, the usual concepts of energy must be thrown out. This concept rests on the following very crude notions: when I have heat I can change it into work, as we saw from the up and down movement of the flask in the experiment resulting from the transformation of heat. But we saw at the same time that the heat was only partly changed and that a portion remained over of the total amount at hand. This was the principle that led Eduard von Hartmann to enunciate the second important law of the modern physics of heat — a perpetuum mobile of the second type is impossible.
Another physicist, Mach, well known in connection with modern developments in this field, has done quite fundamental thinking on the subject. He has thought along lines that show him to be a shrewd investigator, but one who can only bring his thinking into action in a purely materialistic way. Behind his concepts stands the materialistic point of view. He seeks cleverly to push forward the concepts and ideas available to him. His peculiarity is that when he comes to the limit of the usual physical concepts where doubts begin to arise, he writes the doubts down at once. This leads soon to a despairing condition, because he comes quickly to the limit where doubts appear, but his way of expressing the matter is extremely interesting. Consider how things stand when a man who has the whole of physics at his command is obliged to state his views as mach states them. He says (Ernst Mach, Die Prinzipien der Warme Lehre, p. 345): “There is no meaning in expressing as work a heat quantity which cannot be transformed into work.” (We have seen that there is such a residue.) “Thus it appears that the energy principle like other concepts of substance has validity for only a limited realm of facts. The existence of these limits is a matter about which we, by habit, gladly deceive ourselves.”
Consider a physicist who, upon thinking over the phenomena lying before him, is obliged to say the following: “Heat exists, in fact, that I cannot turn into work, but there is no meaning in simply thinking of this heat as potential energy, as work not visible. However, I can perhaps speak of the changing of heat into work within a certain region — beyond this it is not valid.” And in general it is said that every energy is transformable into another, but only by virtue of a certain habit of thinking about those limits about which we gladly deceive ourselves.
It is extremely interesting to pin physics down at the very point where doubts are expressed which must arise from a straightforward consideration of the facts.
Does this not clearly reveal the manner in which physics is overcome when physicists have been obliged to make such statements? For, fundamentally, this is nothing other than the following: one can no longer hold to the energy principle put forth as gospel by Helmoltz and his colleagues. There are realms in which this energy principle does hold.
Now let us consider the following: How can one make the attempt symbolically (for fundamentally it is symbolic when we try to set the outlines of something), how can we make the attempt to symbolize what occurs in the realm of heat? When you bring together all these ideas I have developed, and through which in a real sense I have tried to attain to the being of heat, then you can get a concept of this being in the following manner.
Picture this to yourselves (Fig. 5). Here is space (blue) filled with certain effects, pressure effects. Here is the non-spatial (red) filled with suction effects. Imagine that we have projected out into space what we considered as alternately spatial and non-spatial. The red portion must be thought of as non-spatial. Using this intermediate region as an image of what is alternately spatial and non-spatial, you have in it a region where something is appearing and disappearing. Think of something represented as extended and disappearing. As substance appears, there enters in something from the other side that annihilates it, and then we have a physical-spiritual vortex continually manifesting in such a manner that what is appearing as substance is annihilated by what appears at the same time as spirit. We have a continual sucking up of what is in space by the entity which is outside of space.
What I am outlining to you here, my dear friends, you must think of as similar to a vortex. But in this vortex you should see simply in extension that which is “intensive” in its nature. In this way we approach, I might say figuratively, the being of heat. We have yet to show how this being of heat works so as to bring about such phenomena as conduction, the lowering of the melting point of an alloy below the melting point of its constituents, and what it really means that we should have heat effects at one end of the spectrum and chemical effects at the other.
We must seek the deeds of heat as Goethe sought out the deeds of light. Then we must see how knowledge of the being of heat is related to the application of mathematics and how it affects the imponderable of physics. In other words, how are real formulae to be built, applicable to heat and optics.