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CONDUCTION, ELECTRIC


is increased by δi, the electromotive force which has to be overcome by the battery is Rδi + dE/diδi. If R + dE/di is positive there will be an unbalanced electromotive force round the circuit tending to stop the current. Thus the increase in the current will be stopped and the condition will be a stable one. If, however, R + dE/di is negative there will be an unbalanced electromotive force tending to increase the current still further; thus the current will go on increasing and the condition will be unstable. Thus for stability R + dE/di must be positive, a condition first given by Kaufmann (Ann. der Phys. 11, p. 158). The geometrical interpretation of this condition is that the straight line LM must, at the point where it cuts the characteristic curve, be steeper than the tangent to characteristic curve. Thus of the points ABC where the line cuts the curve in fig. 22, A and C correspond to stable states and B to an unstable one. The state of things represented by a point P on the characteristic curve when the slope is downward cannot be stable unless there is in the external circuit a resistance greater than that represented by the tangent of the inclination of the tangent to the curve at P to the horizontal axis.

EB1911 Conduction, Electric - Fig. 22.jpg
Fig. 22.

If we keep the external electromotive force the same and gradually increase the resistance in the leads, the line LM will become steeper and steeper. C will move to the left so that the current will diminish; when the line gets so steep that it touches the curve at C′, any further increase in the resistance will produce an abrupt change in the current; for now the state of things represented by a point near A′ is the only stable state. Thus if the BC part of the curve corresponded to a luminous discharge and the A part to a dark discharge, we see that if the electromotive force is kept constant there is a minimum value of the current for the luminous discharge. If the current is reduced below this value, the discharge ceases to be luminous, and there is an abrupt diminution in the current.

Cathode Rays.—When the gas in the discharge tube is at a very low pressure some remarkable phenomena occur in the neighbourhood of the cathode. These seem to have been first observed by Plücker (Pogg. Ann. 107, p. 77; 116, p. 45) who noticed on the walls of the glass tube near the cathode a greenish phosphorescence, which he regarded as due to rays proceeding from the cathode, striking against the sides of the tube, and then travelling back to the cathode. He found that the action of a magnet on these rays was not the same as the action on the part of the discharge near the positive electrode. Hittorf (Pogg. Ann. 136, p. 8) showed that the agent producing the phosphorescence was intercepted by a solid, whether conductor or insulator, placed between the cathode and the sides of the tube. He regarded the phosphorescence as caused by a motion starting from the cathode and travelling in straight lines through the gas. Goldstein (Monat. der Berl. Akad., 1876, p. 24) confirmed this discovery of Hittorf’s, and further showed that a distinct, though not very sharp, shadow is cast by a small object placed near a large plane cathode. This is a proof that the rays producing the phosphorescence must be emitted almost normally from the cathode, and not, like the rays of light from a luminous surface, in all directions, for such rays would not produce a perceptible shadow if a small body were placed near the plane. Goldstein regarded the phosphorescence as due to waves in the ether, for whose propagation the gas was not necessary. Crookes (Phil. Trans., 1879, pt. i. p. 135; pt. ii. pp. 587, 661), who made many remarkable researches in this subject, took a different view. He regarded the rays as streams of negatively electrified particles projected normally from the cathode with great velocity, and, when the pressure is sufficiently low, reaching the sides of the tube, and by their impact producing phosphorescence and heat. The rays on this view are deflected by a magnet, because a magnet exerts a force on a charged moving body. These rays striking against glass make it phosphorescent. The colour of the phosphorescence depends on the kind of glass; thus the light from soda glass is a yellowish green, and that from lead glass blue. Many other bodies phosphoresce when exposed to these rays, and in particular the phosphorescence of some gems, such as rubies and diamonds, is exceedingly vivid. The spectrum of the phosphorescent light is generally continuous, but Crookes showed that the phosphorescence of some of the rare earths, such as yttrium, gives a spectrum of bright bands, and he founded on this fact a spectroscopic method of great importance. Goldstein (Wied. Ann. 54, p. 371) discovered that the haloid salts of the alkali metals change colour under the rays, sodium chloride, for example, becoming violet. The coloration is a surface one, and has been traced by E. Wiedemann and Schmidt (Wied. Ann. 54, p. 618) to the formation of a subchloride. Chlorides of tin, mercury and lead also change colour in the same way. E. Wiedemann (Wied. Ann. 56, p. 201) discovered another remarkable effect, which he called thermo-luminescence; he found that many bodies after being exposed to the cathode rays possess for some time the power of becoming luminous when their temperature is raised to a point far below that at which they become luminous in the normal state. Substances belonging to the class called by van’t Hoff solid solutions exhibit this property of thermo-luminescence to a remarkable extent. They are formed when two salts, one greatly in excess of the other, are simultaneously precipitated from a solution. A trace of MnSO4 in CaSO4 shows very brilliant thermo-luminescence. The impact of cathode rays produces after a time perceptible changes in the glass. Crookes (Phil. Trans. pt. ii. 1879, p. 645) found that after glass has been phosphorescing for some time under the cathode rays it seems to get tired, and the phosphorescence is not so bright as it was initially. Thus, for example, when the shadow of a Maltese cross is thrown on the walls of the tube as in fig. 23, if after the discharge has been going on for some time the cross is shaken down or a new cathode used whose line of fire does not cut the cross, the pattern of the cross will still be seen on the glass, but it will now be brighter instead of darker than the surrounding portion. The portions shielded by the cross, not being tired by being made to phosphoresce for a long time, respond more vigorously to the stimulus than those portions which have not been protected. Skinner (Proc. Camb. Phil. Soc. ix. p. 371) and Thomson found on the glass which had been exposed to the rays gelatinous filaments, apparently silica, resulting from the reduction of the glass. A reducing action was also noticed by Villard (Journ. de phys. 3, viii. p. 140) and Wehnelt (Wied. Ann. 67, p. 421). It can be well shown by letting the rays fall on a plate of oxidized copper, when the part struck by the rays will become bright. The rays heat bodies on which they fall, and if they are concentrated by using as a cathode a portion of a spherical surface, the heat at the centre becomes so great that a piece of platinum wire can be melted or a diamond charred. Measurements of the heating effects of the rays have been made by Thomson (Phil. Mag. [5], 44, p. 293) and Cady (Ann. der Phys. 1, p. 678). Crookes (Phil. Trans., 1879, pt. i. p. 152) showed that a vane mounted as in a radiometer is set in rotation by the rays, the direction of the rotation being the same as would be produced by a stream of particles proceeding from the cathode. The movement is not due to the momentum imparted to the vanes by the rays, but to the difference in temperature between the sides of the vanes, the rays making the side against which they strike hotter than the other.

EB1911 Conduction, Electric - Fig. 23.jpg
Fig. 23.

Effect of a Magnet.—The rays are deflected by a magnet, so that the distribution of phosphorescence over the glass and the shape and position of the shadows cast by bodies in the tube are altered by the proximity of a magnet. The laws of magnetic

deflection of these rays have been investigated by Plücker (Pogg.