Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/205

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PRODUCTION OF SOUND BY RADIANT ENERGY.

thin diaphragms, the sound heard was due to the vibration of the disk or (as Professor Hughes had suggested) to the expansion and contraction of the air in contact with the disk confined in the cavity behind the diaphragm. In his paper read before the Royal Society on the 10th of March, Mr. Preece describes experiments from which he claims to have proved that the effects are wholly due to the vibrations of the confined air, and that the disks do not vibrate at all.

I shall briefly state my reasons for disagreeing with him in this conclusion:

1. When an intermittent beam of sunlight is focused upon a sheet of hard rubber or other material, a musical tone can be heard, not only by placing the ear immediately behind the part receiving the beam, but by placing it against any portion of the sheet, even though this may be a foot or more from the place acted upon by the light.

2. When the beam is thrown upon the diaphragm of a "Blake transmitter," a loud musical tone is produced by a telephone connected in the same galvanic circuit with the carbon button (A), Fig. 4. Good effects are also produced when the carbon button (A) forms, with the battery (B), a portion of the primary circuit of an induction-coil, the telephone (C) being placed in the secondary circuit.

In these cases the wooden box and mouth-piece of the transmitter should be removed, so that no air-cavities may be left on either side of the diaphragm.

It is evident therefore, that in the case of thin disks a real vibration of the diaphragm is caused by the action of the intermittent beam, independently of any expansion and contraction of the air confined in the cavity behind the diaphragm.

Lord Rayleigh has shown mathematically that a to-and-fro vibration, of sufficient amplitude to produce an audible sound, would result from a periodical communication and abstraction of heat, and he says: "We may conclude, I think, that there is at present no reason for discarding the obvious explanation that the sounds in question are due to the bending of the plates under unequal heating" ("Nature," vol. xxiii, p. 274). Mr. Preece, however, seeks to prove that the sonorous effects can not be explained upon this supposition; but his experimental proof is inadequate to support his conclusion. Mr. Preece expected that, if Lord Rayleigh's explanation was correct, the expansion and contraction of a thin strip under the influence of an intermittent beam could be caused to open and close a galvanic circuit so as to produce a musical tone from a telephone in the circuit. But this was an inadequate way to test the point at issue, for Lord Rayleigh has shown ("Proceedings of the Royal Society," 1877) that an audible sound can be produced by a vibration whose amplitude is less than a ten-millionth of a centimetre, and certainly such a vibration as that would not have sufficed to operate a "make-and-break contact" like that used by Mr. Preece. The negative results obtained by him can not, therefore, be considered conclusive.

The following experiments (devised by Mr. Tainter) have given re-