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892
MATTER


particles are called corpuscles or electrons; their mass according to the most recent determinations is only about 1-710-5 of that of an atom of hydrogen, and their radius is only about one hundred-thousandth part of the radius of the hydrogen atom. As corpuscles of this kind can be obtained from all substances, we infer that they form a constituent of the atoms of all bodies. The atoms of the different elements do not all contain the same number of corpuscles-there are more corpuscles in the atoms of the heavier elements than in the atoms of the lighter ones; in fact, many different considerations point to the conclusion that the number of corpuscles in the atom of any element is proportional to the atomic weight of the element. Different methods of estimating the exact number of corpuscles in the atom have all led to the conclusion that this number is of the same order as the atomic weight; that, for instance, the number of corpuscles in the atom of oxygen is not a large multiple of 16. Some methods indicate that the number of corpuscles in the atom is equal to the atomic weight, while the maximum value obtained by any method is only about four times the atomic weight. This is one of the points on which further experiments will enable us to speak with greater precision. Thus one of the constituents of all atoms is the negatively charged corpuscle; since the atoms are electrically neutral, this negative charge must be accompanied by an equal positive one, so that on this view the atoms must contain a charge of positive electricity proportional to the atomic weight; the way in which this positive electricity is arranged is a matter of great importance in the consideration of the constitution of matter. The question naturally arises, is the positive electricity done up into definite units like the negative, or does it merely indicate a. property acquired by an atom when one or more corpuscles leave it? It is very remarkable that we have up to the present (1910), in spite of many investigations on this point, no direct evidence of the existence of positively charged particles with a mass comparable with that of a corpuscle; the smallest positive particle of which we have any direct indication has a mass equal to the mass of an atom of hydrogen, and it is a most remarkable fact that we get positively charged particles having this mass when we send the electric discharge through gases at low pressures, whatever be the kind of gas. It is no doubt exceedingly difficult to get rid of traces of hydrogen in vessels containing gases at low pressures through which an electric discharge is passing, but the circumstances under which the positively electrified particles just alluded to appear, and the way in which they remain unaltered in spite of all efforts to clear out any traces of hydrogen, all seem to indicate that these positively electrified particles, whose mass is equal to that of an atom of hydrogen, do not come from minute traces of hydrogen present as an impurity but from the oxygen, nitrogen, or helium, or whatever may be the gas through which the discharge passes. If this is so, then the most natural conclusion we can come to is that these positively electrified particles with the mass of the atom of hydrogen are the natural units of positive electricity, just as the corpuscles are those of negative, and that these positive particles form a part of all atoms.

Thus in this way we are led to an electrical view of the constitution of the atom. We regard the atom as built up of units of negative electricity and of an equal number of units of positive electricity; these two units are of very different mass, the mass of the negative unit being only T-,155 of that of the positive. The number of units of either kind is proportional to the atomic weight of the element and of the same order as this quantity. Whether this is anything besides the positive and negative electricity in the atom we do not know. In the present state of our knowledge of the properties of matter it is unnecessary to postulate the existence of anything besides these positive and negative units.

The atom of a chemical element on this view of the constitution of matter is a system formed by n corpuscles and n units of positive electricity which is in equilibrium or in a state of steady motion under the electrical forces which the charged zn constituents exert upon each other. Sir ]. I. Thomson (Phil. Mag., March 1904, “ Corpuscular Theory of Matter ”) has investigated the systems in steady motion which can be formed by various numbers of negatively electrified particles immersed in a sphere of uniform positive electrification, pa case, which in consequence of the enormous volume of the units of positive electricity in comparison with that of the negative has much in common with the problem under conside'ration, and has shown that some of the properties of n systems of corpuscles vary in a periodic way suggestive of the Periodic Law in Chemistry as n is continually increased. M ass on the Electrical Theory of M alter.—One of the most characteristic things about matter is the possession of mass. When we take the electrical theory of matter the idea of mass takes new and interesting forms. This point may be illustrated by the case of a single electrified particle; when this moves it produces in the region around it a magnetic field, the magnetic force being proportional to the velocity of the electrified particle.1 In a magnetic field, however, there is energy, and the amount of energy per unit volume at any place is proportional to the square of the magnetic force at that place. Thus there will be energy distributed through the space around the moving particle, and when the velocity of the particle is small compared with that of light we can easily show that the energy in the 2

region around the charged particle is &when 1: is the velocity 3a

of the particle, e its charge, a its radius, and p. the magnetic permeability of the region round the particle. If m is the ordinary mass of the particle, the part of the kinetic energy due to the motion of this mass is é moz, thus the total kinetic 2 .

energy is é m + § '& Thus the electric charge on the particle a.

2

makes it behave as if its mass were increased by gf. Since this increase in mass is due to the energy in the region outside the charged particle, it is natural to look to that region for this additional mass. This region is traversed by the tubes of force which start from the electrihed body and move with it, and a very simple calculation shows that We' should get the increase in the mass which is due to the electrification if we suppose that these tubes of force as they move carry with them a certain amount of the ether, and that this ether had mass. The mass of ether thus carried along must be such that the amount of it in unit volume at any part of- the field is such that if this were to move with the velocity of light its kinetic energy would be equal to the potential energy of the electric field in the unit volume under consideration. When a tube moves this mass of ether only participates in the motion at right angles to the tube, it is not set in motion by a movement of the tube along its length. We may compare the mass which a charged body acquires in virtue of its charge with the additional mass which a ball apparently acquires when it is placed in water; a ball placed in water behaves as if its mass were greater than its mass when moving in vacuo; we can easily understand why this should be the case, because when the ball in the water moves the water around it must move as well; so that when a force acting on the ball sets it in motion it has to move some of the water as well as the ball, and thus the ball behaves as if its mass were increased. Similarly in the case of the electrified particle, which when it moves carries with it its lines of force, which grip the ether and carry some of it along with them. When the electrified particle is moved a mass of ether has to be moved too, and thus the apparent mass of the .particle is increased. The mass of the electrified particle is thus resident in every part of space reached by its lines of force; in this sense an electrified body, may be said to extend to an infinite distance; the amount of the mass of the ether attached to the particle diminishes so rapidly as we recede from it that the contributions of regions remote from the particle 1 We may measure this velocity with reference to any axes, provided we refer the motion of all the bodies which come into consideration to the same axes.