Scientific American Supplement, No. 315, January 14, 1882 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 129 pages of information about Scientific American Supplement, No. 315, January 14, 1882.

This series of experiments offers a rare example of the verification of algebraic calculation by direct demonstration.  In general, we may employ geometry, which gives a graphic representation of calculation and furnishes a valuable control.  Sometimes we have practical application, which is a very important verification in some respects, but only approximate in others.  But it is rare that we employ, as Mr. Bjerknes has done, a material, direct, and immediate translation, which, while it brings the results into singular prominence, permits of comparing them with known facts and of generalizing the views upon which they are based.

Hypotheses as to the nature of electricity being as yet only tolerably well established, we should neglect nothing that may contribute to give them a solid basis.  Assuming that electricity is a vibratory motion (and probably there is no doubt about it), yet the fact is not so well established with regard to it as it is to that of light.  Every proof that comes to support this idea is welcome, and especially so when it is not derived from a kind of accident, but is furnished by a calculated and mathematical combination.  Viewed from this double standpoint, the experiments of Mr. Bjerknes are very remarkable, and, I may add, they are very curious to behold, and I recommend all visitors to the Exhibition to examine them.—­Frank Geraldy, in La Lumiere Electrique.

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    [Footnote 1:  A recent address before the New York Electric Light


I shall experience one difficulty in addressing you this evening, which is, that although I do not wish to take up your time with purely elementary matter, I wish to make the subject clear to those who may not be familiar with its earlier struggles.

If we begin at the beginning we have to go back to the time when Faraday made the discovery that light could be produced by the separation of two carbon rods conducting a current of considerable tension.  That is the historical point when electric lighting first loomed up as a giant possibility of the near future.  This occurred about the year 1846.  In some experiments he found that although the circuit could not be interrupted by any considerable interval when metallic terminals were used without breaking the current, when carbon was substituted the interval could be largely increased, and a light of dazzling brilliancy appeared between the points.

This remarkable effect appears to be produced by the rarefaction of the air, due to the great heat evolved by the combustion of the carbon, and also to the passage of incandescent particles of carbon from pole to pole, thus reducing the resistance, otherwise too great for the current tension.

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Scientific American Supplement, No. 315, January 14, 1882 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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