Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/47

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ACTION OF RADIANT HEAT.

in which my former experiments proved these gases to stand as absorbers of radiant heat. The amount of the absorption and the intensity of the sound go hand in hand.

A soap-bubble blown with nitrous oxide, or olefiant gas, and exposed to the intermittent beam, produced no sound, no matter how its size might be varied. The pulses obviously expended themselves upon the flexible envelope, which transferred them to the air outside.

But a film thus impressionable to impulses on its interior surface must prove at least equally sensible to sonorous waves impinging on it from without. Hence, I inferred, the eminent suitability of soap-bubbles for sound-lenses. Placing a "sensitive flame" some feet distant from a small sounding reed, the pressure was so arranged that the flame burned tranquilly. A bubble of nitrous oxide (specific gravity 1·527) was then blown, and placed in front of the reed. The flame immediately fell and roared, and continued agitated as long as the lens remained in position. A pendulous motion could be imparted to the bubble, so as to cause it to pass to and fro in front of the reed. The flame responded, by alternately roaring and becoming tranquil, to every swing of the bubble. Nitrous oxide is far better for this experiment than carbonic acid, which speedily ruins its envelope.

The pressure was altered so as to throw the flame, when the reed sounded, into violent agitation. A bubble blown with hydrogen (specific gravity 0·069) being placed in front of the reed, the flame was immediately stilled. The ear answers instead of the flame.

In 1859 I proved gaseous ammonia to be extremely impervious to radiant heat. My interest in its deportment when subjected to this novel test was therefore great. Placing a small quantity of liquid ammonia in one of the flasks, and warming the liquid slightly, the intermittent beam was sent through the space above the liquid. A loud musical note was immediately produced. By the proper application of heat to a liquid the sounds may be always intensified. The ordinary temperature, however, suffices in all the cases thus far referred to. In this relation the vapor of water was that which interested me most, and, as I could not hope that at ordinary temperatures it existed in sufficient amount to produce audible tones, I heated a small quantity of water in a flask almost up to its boiling-point. Placed in the intermittent beam, I heard—I avow with delight—a powerful musical sound produced by the aqueous vapor.

Small wreaths of haze, produced by the partial condensation of the vapor in the upper and cooler air of the flask, were, however, visible in this experiment; and it was necessary to prove that this haze was not the cause of the sound. The flask was, therefore, heated by a spirit-flame beyond the temperature of boiling water. The closest scrutiny by a condensed beam of light then revealed no trace of cloudiness above the liquid. From the perfectly invisible vapor, however, the musical sound issued, if anything, more forcible than before. I