Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/204

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a hearing-tube. The beam of light is interrupted by its passage through the two slotted disks shown at B, and in operating the instrument musical signals like the dots and dashes of the Morse alphabet are produced from the sensitive receiver (A) by slight motions of the mirror (C) about its axis (D).

In place of the parabolic reflector shown in the figure a conical reflector like that recommended by Professor Sylvanus Thompson[1] can be used, in which case a cylindrical glass vessel would be preferable to the flask (A) shown in the figure.

In regard to the sensitive materials that can be employed, our experiments indicate that in the case of solids the physical condition and the color are two conditions that markedly influence the intensity of the sonorous effects. The loudest sounds are produced from substances in a loose, porous, spongy condition, and from those that have the darkest or most absorbent colors.

The materials from which the best effects have been produced are cotton-wool, worsted, fibrous materials generally, cork, sponge, platinum, and other metals in a spongy condition, and lampblack.

The loud sounds produced from such substances may perhaps be explained in the following manner: Let us consider, for example, the case of lampblack—a substance which becomes heated by exposure to rays of all refrangibility. I look upon a mass of this substance as a sort of sponge, with its pores filled with air instead of water. When a beam of sunlight falls upon this mass, the particles of lampblack are heated, and consequently expand, causing a contraction of the airspaces or pores among them.

Under these circumstances a pulse of air should be expelled, just as we would squeeze out water from a sponge.

The force with which the air is expelled must be greatly increased by the expansion of the air itself, due to contact with the heated particles of lampblack. When the light is cut off, the converse process takes place. The lampblack particles cool and contract, thus enlarging the air spaces among them, and the inclosed air also becomes cool. Under these circumstances a partial vacuum should be formed among the particles, and the outside air would then be absorbed, as water is by a sponge when the pressure of the hand is removed.

I imagine that in some such manner as this a wave of condensation is started in the atmosphere each time a beam of sunlight falls upon lampblack, and a wave of rarefaction is originated when the light is cut off. We can thus understand how it is that a substance like lampblack produces intense sonorous vibrations in the surrounding air, while at the same time it communicates a very feeble vibration to the diaphragm or solid bed upon which it rests.

This curious fact was independently observed in England by Mr. Preece, and it led him to question whether, in our experiments with

  1. "Philosophical Magazine," April, 1881, vol. xi, p. 286.