It may happen, and this not without singularly complicating matters, that the ions which were in the midst of material molecules produce, as the result of collisions, new divisions in these last. Other ions are thus born, and this production is in part compensated for by recombinations between ions of opposite signs. The impacts will be more active in the event of the gas being placed in a field of force and of the pressure being slight, the speed attained being then greater and allowing the active force to reach a high value. The energy necessary for the production of an ion is, in fact, according to Professor Rutherford and Professor Stark, something considerable, and it much exceeds the analogous force in electrolytic decomposition.
It is therefore in tubes of rarefied gas that this ionisation by impact will be particularly felt. This gives us the reason for the aspect presented by Geissler tubes. Generally, in the case of discharges, new ions produced by the molecules struck come to add themselves to the electrons produced, as will be seen, by the cathode. A full discussion has led to the interpretation of all the known facts, and to our understanding, for instance, why there exist bright or dark spaces in certain regions of the tube. M. Pellat, in particular, has given some very fine examples of this concordance between the theory and the facts he has skilfully observed.
In all the circumstances, then, in which ions appear, their formation has doubtless been provoked by a mechanism analogous to that of the shock. The X rays, if they are attributable to sudden variations in the ether—that is to say, a variation of the two vectors of Hertz— themselves produce within the atom a kind of electric impulse which breaks it into two electrified fragments; i.e. the positive centre, the size of the molecule itself, and the negative centre, constituted by an electron a thousand times smaller. Round these two centres, at the ordinary temperature, are agglomerated by attraction other molecules, and in this manner the ions whose properties have just been studied are formed.