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894
MATTER


same magnitude on the ratio of mass to weight and would in the case of the atoms of the lighter elements be easily measurable in experiments of the same order of accuracy as those made by Bessel. If the number of corpuscles in the atom were proportional to the atomic weight, then the ratio of mass to weight would be constant whether the corpuscles were ponder able or not. If the number were not proportional there would be greater discrepancies in the ratio of mass to weight than is consistent with Bessel's experiments if the corpuscles had no weight. We have seen there are other grounds for concluding that the number of corpuscles in an atom is proportional to the atom weight, so that the constancy of the ratio of mass to weight for a large number of substances does not enable us to determine whether or not mass due to charges of electricity is ponder able or not. There seems some hope that the determination of this ratio for radio-active substances may throw some light on this point. The enormous amount of heat evolved by these bodies may indicate that they possess much greater stores of potential energy than other substances. If we suppose that the heat developed by one gramme of a radio-active substance in the transformations which it undergoes before it reaches the nonradio-active stage is a measure of the excess of the potential energy in a gramme of this substance above that in a gramme of non-radio-active substance, it would follow that a larger part of the mass was due to electric charges in radio-active than in non-radio-active substances; in the case of uranium this difference would amount to at least one part in 20,000 of the total mass. If this extra mass had no weight the ratio of mass to weight for uranium would differ from the normal amount by more than one part in 20,000, a quantity quite within the range of pendulum experiments. It thus appears very desirable to make experiments on the ratio of mass to weight for radio-active substances. Sir ]. .]. Thomson, by swinging a small pendulum whose bob was made of radium bromide, has shown that this ratio for radium does not differ from the normal by one part in 2000. The small quantity of radium available prevented the attainment of greater accuracy. Experiments just completed (1910) by Southerns at the Cavendish Laboratory on this ratio for uranium show that it is normal to an accuracy of one part in 200,000; indicating that in non-radio-active, as in radio-active, substances the electrical mass is proportional to the atomic weight. Though but few experiments have been made in recent years on the value of the ratio of mass to weight, many important investigations have been made on the effect of alterations in the chemical and physical conditions on the weight of bodies. These have all led to the conclusion that no change which can be detected by our present means of investigation occurs in the weight of a body in consequence of any physical or chemical changes yet investigated. Thus Landolt, who devoted a ~great number of years to the question whether any change in weight occurs during chemical combination, came finally to the conclusion that in no case out of the many he investigated did any measurable change of weight occur during chemical combination. Poynting a.nd Phillips (Proc. Roy. Soc., 76, p. 445), as well as Southerns (78, p. 392), have shown that change in temperature produces no change in the weight of a body; and Poynting has also shown that neither the weight of a crystal nor the attraction between two crystals depends at all upon the direction in which the axis of the crystal points. The result of these laborious and very carefully made experiments has been to strengthen the conviction that the weight of a given portion of matter is absolutely independent of its physical condition or state of chemical combinations. It should, however, be noticed that we have as yet no accurate investigation as to whether or not any changes of weight occur during radio-active transformations, such fo r example as the emanation from radium undergoes when the atoms themselves of the substance are disrupted.

It is a matter of some interest in connexion with a discussion of any views of the constitution of matter to consider the theories of gravitation which have been put forward to explain that apparently invariable property of matter-its weight. It would be impossible to consider in detail the numerous theories which have been put forward to account for gravitation; a concise summary of many of these has been given by Drude (Wied. Ann. 62, p. 1):' there is no dearth of theories as to the cause of gravitation, what is lacking is the means of putting any of them to a decisive test.

There are, however, two theories of gravitation, both old, which seem to be especially closely connected with the idea of the electrical constitution of matter. The first of these is the theory, associated with the two fluid theory of electricity, that gravity is a kind of residual electrical effect, due to the attraction between the units of positive and negative electricity being a little greater than the repulsion between the units of electricity of the same kind. Thus on this view two charges of equal magnitude, but of opposite sign, would exert an attraction varying inversely as the square of the distance on a charge of electricity of either sign, and therefore an attraction on a system consisting of two charges equal in magnitude but opposite in sign forming an electrically neutral system. Thus if we had two neutral systems, A and B, A consisting of m positive units of electricity and an equal number of negative, while B has n units of each kind, then the gravitational attraction between A and B would be inversely proportional to the square of the distance and proportional to u m. The connexion between this view of gravity and that of the electrical constitution of matter is evidently very close, for if gravity arose in this way the weight of a body would only depend upon the number of units of elec> tricity in the body. On the view that the constitution of matter is electrical, the fundamental units which build up matter are the units of electric charge, and as the magnitude of these charges does not change, whatever chemical or physical vicissitudes matter, the weight of matter ought not to be affected by such changes. There is one result of this theory which might possibly afford a means of testing it: since the charge on a corpuscle is equal to that on a positive unit, the weights of the two are equal; but the mass of the corpuscle is only T715-5 of that of the positive unit, so that the acceleration of the corpuscle under gravity will be 1700 times that of the positive unit, which we should expect to be the same as that for ponder able matter or 981. The acceleration of the corpuscle under gravity on this view would be 1-6X roi. It does not seem altogether impossible that with methods slightly more powerful than those we now possess we might measure the effect of gravity on a. corpuscle if the acceleration were as large as this.

The other theory of gravitation to which we call attention is that due to Le Sage of Geneva and published in 1818. Le Sage supposed that the universe was thronged with exceedingly small particles moving with very great velocities. These particles he called ultra-mundane corpuscles, because they came to us from regions far beyond the solar system. He assumed that these were so penetrating that they could pass through masses as large as the sun or the earth without being absorbed to more than a very small extent. There is, however, some absorption, and if bodies are made up of the same kind of atoms, whose dimensions are small compared with the distances between them, the absorption will be proportional to the mass of the body. So that as the ultra-mundane corpuscles stream through the body a small fraction, proportional to the mass of the body, of their momentum is communicated to it. If the direction of the ultra-mundane corpuscles passing through the body were uniformly distributed, the momentum communicated by them to the body would not tend to move it in one direction rather than in another, so that a body, A, alone in the universe and exposed to bombardment by the ultra-mundane corpuscles would remain at rest. If, however, there were a second body, B, in the neighbourhood of A, B will shield A from some of the corpuscles moving in the direction BA; thus A will not receive as much momentum in this direction as when it was alone; but in this case it only received just enough to O'A theory published after, Drude's paper 'in that of Professor sborne Reynolds, given in his Rede lecture On an Inversion of Ideas as to the Structure of the Universe.”