The New Physics and Its Evolution eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 267 pages of information about The New Physics and Its Evolution.

Modern physics leads us on the other hand, as we have seen, to consider that there exists throughout the whole of the universe another and more subtle medium which penetrates everywhere, is endowed with elasticity in vacuo, and retains its elasticity when it penetrates into a great number of bodies, such as the air.  This medium is the luminous ether which possesses, as we cannot doubt, the property of being able to transmit energy, since it itself brings to us by far the larger part of the energy which we possess on earth and which we find in the movements of the atmosphere, or of waterfalls, and in the coal mines proceeding from the decomposition of carbon compounds under the influence of the solar energy.  For a long time also before the existence of the ether was known, the duty of transmitting signals was entrusted to it.  Thus through the ages a double evolution is unfolded which has to be followed by the historian who is ambitious of completeness.

Sec. 3

If such an historian were to examine from the beginning the first order of questions, he might, no doubt, speak only briefly of the attempts earlier than electric telegraphy.  Without seeking to be paradoxical, he certainly ought to mention the invention of the speaking-trumpet and other similar inventions which for a long time have enabled mankind, by the ingenious use of the elastic properties of the natural media, to communicate at greater distances than they could have attained without the aid of art.  After this in some sort prehistoric period had been rapidly run through, he would have to follow very closely the development of electric telegraphy.  Almost from the outset, and shortly after Ampere had made public the idea of constructing a telegraph, and the day after Gauss and Weber set up between their houses in Goettingen the first line really used, it was thought that the conducting properties of the earth and water might be made of service.

The history of these trials is very long, and is closely mixed up with the history of ordinary telegraphy; long chapters for some time past have been devoted to it in telegraphic treatises.  It was in 1838, however, that Professor C.A.  Steinheil of Munich expressed, for the first time, the clear idea of suppressing the return wire and replacing it by a connection of the line wire to the earth.  He thus at one step covered half the way, the easiest, it is true, which was to lead to the final goal, since he saved the use of one-half of the line of wire.  Steinheil, advised, perhaps, by Gauss, had, moreover, a very exact conception of the part taken by the earth considered as a conducting body.  He seems to have well understood that, in certain conditions, the resistance of such a conductor, though supposed to be unlimited, might be independent of the distance apart of the electrodes which carry the current and allow it to go forth.  He likewise thought of using the railway lines to transmit telegraphic signals.

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The New Physics and Its Evolution from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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