Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/294

This page has been validated.
280
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

play. But the reënforcement of the sound in one direction implies its withdrawal from some other direction, and accordingly it was found that at a distance of 514 miles from the firing-point, and on a line including nearly an angle of 90° with the line of fire, the gun-cotton in the open beat the new gun; while behind the station, at distances of 812 miles and 1312 miles respectively, the gun-cotton in the open beat both the gun and the gun-cotton in the reflector. This result is rendered more important by the fact that the sound reached the Mucking Light, a distance of 1312 miles, against a light wind which was blowing at the time.

Most, if not all, of our ordinary sound-producers send forth waves which are not of uniform intensity throughout. A trumpet is loudest in the direction of its axis. The same is true of a gun. A bell, with its mouth pointed upward or downward, sends forth waves far denser in the horizontal plane passing through the bell than at an angular distance of 90° from that plane. The oldest bell-hangers must have been aware of the fact that the sides of the bell, and not its mouth, emitted the strongest sound, their practice being determined by this knowledge. Our slabs of gun-cotton also emit waves of different densities in different parts. It has occurred in the experiments at Shoeburyness that when the broad side of a slab was turned toward the suspending wire of a second slab six feet distant, the wire was cut by the explosion, while, when the edge of the slab was turned to the wire, this never occurred. To the circumstance that the broad sides of the slabs faced the sea is probably to be ascribed the remarkable fact observed on the 23d of March, that in two directions, not far removed from the line of fire, the gun-cotton detonated in the open had a slight advantage over the new gun.

Theoretic considerations rendered it probable that the shape and size of the exploding mass would affect the constitution of the wave of sound. I did not think large rectangular slabs the most favorable shape, and accordingly proposed cutting a large slab into fragments of different sizes, and pitting them against each other. The differences between the sounds were by no means so great as the differences in the quantities of explosive material might lead one to expect. The mean values of eighteen series of observations made on board the Galatea, at distances varying from 134 mile to 4.8 miles, were as follows:

 
Weights 4-ounce 6-ounce 9-ounce 12-ounce 7-ounce rocket
Value of sound 3.12 3.34 4.0 4.03 3.35
 

These charges were cut from a slab of dry gun-cotton about 134 inch thick; they were squares and rectangles of the following dimensions: 4 ounces, 2 inches by 2 inches; 6 ounces, 2 inches by 3 inches; 9 ounces, 3 inches by 3 inches; 12 ounces, 2 inches by 6 inches.

The numbers under the respective weights express the recorded value of the sounds. They must be simply taken as a ready means of expressing the approximate relative intensity of the sounds as estimated by the ear. When we find a 9-ounce charge marked 4, and a 12-ounce charge marked 4.03, the two sounds may be regarded as practically equal