--- The Logic of Hydration as Key to the Unification of Science
--- Required Technology Advances: Wheatstone Bridge; Slide Rule

Neither Flint nor this writer was specifically looking for an understanding of or key to the unification of the physical sciences. Nonetheless, this unsought entity seems indeed to have been located, as herein discussed. Moreover in retrospect, if one were looking for such a unifying principle, hydration would seem to be a preeminently logical place to begin.

The "aqueous" (water) environment is home to vital investigations by biologists, chemists and physicists alike. Without water: there is no life and thus no biology; those test- tube chemistry experiments could not begin; etc.

The term "hydrate" refers to a combination of water with some other substance; hydrates are known to exist in aqueous (water) solutions, in crystals, and in more complex forms, e.g., carbohydrates. And when a carbohydrate (e.g. an apple or a person) is deficient in water, it is said to be "dehydrated", which situation might be corrected by adding a sufficient quantity of water. But the very existence of a precise mechanism whereby these carbo- or other hydrates, even simple aqueous solutions, get to be hydrated in the first place is not generally recognized. It would not have been recognized at all, at least not within our lifetimes, were it not for two marvelous inventions of mankind - the Wheatstone bridge, and the slide rule.

WHEATSTONE BRIDGE: The Wheatstone bridge (or "Wheatstone's bridge") is a device that measures conductance of electricity through aqueous solutions. It is named for the reknowned Sir Charles Wheatstone, inventor of the automatic telegraph; however, Wheatstone did not invent the Wheatstone bridge. Rather, it was devised by S. H. Christie in 1833; following Wheatstone's use of it in 1847 (Scientific Papers, p. 129 and Phil. Trans. 1847), it came to be associated with his name.

By the late 19th Century, the means of dividing total conductance of a given aqueous (salt) solution ("electrolyte") into components attributable to the separate ions was known (Kohlrausch, Arrhenius, etc.); and it was also known: (1) that the conductance values for these ions also comprise a direct and precise measure of their relative mobilities (but not generally emphasized, nor is it today); (2) that these mobilities are some function of the weight of the hydrated ions (Abegg and Bodlander, 1899); (3) that, in the case of diffusion of gases, mobilities vary with the inverse- square-root of weight (Graham's law) and (4) that the overall behavior of solute-ions and gases were analogous (van't Hoff).

In 1932, Lewis H. Flint was able to put it all together, with the indispensable assistance of that modern marvel, the slide rule.

SLIDE RULE: While the invention of logarithms (by John Napier of Scotland) and early slide rules can be traced back to the early 17th century, a lack of general availability even through the end of the 19th Century seems reflected in Flint's suggestion that Abegg and Bodlander's 1899 work may have been limited due to a lack of a slide rule (or due to fear of rejection). This is a bit unfair, considering the incredibly lucky set of circumstances that presented themselves to Flint and greatly facilitated his discovery of the algebraics of hydration.

In any case, Flint did have a slide rule, and this enabled him to readily perform the calculations which explored the implications of characterizing relative conductance/mobility as inverse-square-root of relative (hydrated ionic) weights, and disclosed an inverse, periodic, integral and reciprocal relationship between atomic numbers and hydration numbers. [Flint, L.H., Behavior Patterns of Hydration, 1964; a partial bibliography]

In the absence of reference to Flint's work, modern chemistry employs various theoretical methods in admittedly not- particularly-successful attempts to determine hydration numbers or even gain a basic understanding of hydration. It is noted that Flint's work differs from these in that his work is not theoretical.

Flint's work involves a direct conversion of unquestionably precise conductance measurements into as-unchallengable relative weight values; the Wheatstone bridge is an electronic scale which precisely measures solute ionic (velocity-thus-) weight. Flint merely described what this scale revealed (he learned how to read the "scale"); hence he referred to his work as a "description" of hydrational potentiality

. If that sounds too technical to take in the first bite, just think of it as "the secret code of the universe" and a key component of the "mathematics of metabolism, all of which it is, and consider using it to play "the ultimate computer game".

UNI-SCIENCE ABSTRACTS illustrate and seek to further explore and extend some aspects of the work begun by Flint.



Copyright 1996 S H Shakman. All rights reserved. [HOME]