Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/235

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electrical discharges through rarefied gases must be an essential element of every disruptive discharge, and that the phenomena of stratification might be regarded as magnified images of features always present, but concealed under ordinary circumstances. It was with a view to the study of this question that the researches by Moulton and myself were undertaken. The method chiefly used consisted in introducing into the circuit intermittence of a particular kind, whereby one luminous discharge was rendered sensitive to the approach of a conductor outside the tube. The application of this method enabled us to produce artificially a variety of phenomena, including that of stratification. We were thus led to a series of conclusions relating to the mechanism of the discharge, among which the following may be mentioned:

"1. That a stria, with its attendant dark space, forms a physical unit of a striated discharge; that a striated column is an aggregate of such units formed by means of a step-by-step process; and that the negative glow is merely a localized stria, modified by local circumstances.

"2. That the origin of the luminous column is to be sought for at its negative end; that the luminosity is an expression of a demand for negative electricity; and that the dark spaces are those regions where the negative terminal, whether metallic or gaseous, is capable of exerting sufficient influence to prevent such demand.

"3. That the time occupied by electricity of either name in traversing a tube is greater than that occupied in traversing an equal length of wire, but less than that occupied by molecular streams (Crookes's radiations) in traversing the tubes. Also that, especially in high vacua, the discharge from the negative terminal exhibits a durational character not found at the positive.

"4. That the brilliancy of the light with so little heat may be due in part to brevity in the duration of the discharge; and that, for action so rapid as that of individual discharges, the mobility of the medium may count as nothing; and that for these infinitesimal periods of time gas may itself be as rigid and as brittle as glass.

"5. That striæ are not merely loci in which electrical is converted into luminous energy, but are actual aggregations of matter.

"This last conclusion was based mainly upon experiments made with an induction-coil excited in a new way—viz., directly by an alternating machine, without the intervention of a commutator or condenser. This mode of excitement promises to be one of great importance in spectroscopic work, as well as in the study of the discharge in a magnetic field, partly on account of the simplification which it permits in the construction of induction-coils, but mainly on account of the very great increase of strength in the secondary currents to which it gives rise."

These investigations assume additional importance when we view