Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/380

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ing. If we hang in a trough a weighted board, then, when the water flows past it, the board will be pushed back; when the current of water is strong, the board will be pushed back a long way; when the current is less, it will not be pushed so far; when the water runs the other way, the board will be pushed the other way. So, by observing the position of the board, we can tell how strong the current of water is at any time. Now, suppose we wish to know, not how strong the current of water is at this time or at that, but how much water altogether has passed through the trough during any time, as, for instance, one hour. Then, if we have no better instrument than the weighted board, it will be necessary to observe its position continuously, to keep an exact record of the corresponding rates at which the water is passing, every minute, or better every second, and to add up all the values obtained. This would, of course, be a very troublesome process. There is another kind of instrument which may be used to measure the flow of the water: a paddle-wheel or screw. When the water is flowing rapidly, the wheel will turn rapidly; when slowly, the wheel will turn slowly; and, when the water flows the other way, the wheel will turn the other way, so that, if we observe how fast the wheel is turning, we can tell how fast the water is flowing. If, now, we wish to know how much water altogether has passed through the trough, the number of turns of the wheel, which may be shown by a counter, will at once tell us. There are, therefore, in the case of water, two kinds of instruments, one which measures at a time, and the other during a time. The term meter should be confined to instruments of the second class only.

As with water so with electricity, there are two kinds of measuring instruments: one, of which the galvanometer may be taken as a type, which shows by the position of a magnet how strong a current of electricity is at a time; and the other, which shows how much electricity has passed during any time. Of the first, which are well understood, I shall say nothing; the second, the new electric meters and the corresponding meters for power, are what I have to speak of to-night.

It is hardly necessary for me to mention the object of making electric meters. Every one who has had to pay his gas bill once a quarter probably quite appreciates what the electric meters are going to do, and why they are at the present time attracting so much attention. So soon as you have electricity laid on in your houses, as gas and water are laid on now, so soon will a meter of some sort be necessary in order that the companies which supply the electricity may be able to make out their quarterly bills, and refer complaining customers to the faithful indications of their extravagance in the mysterious cupboard in which the meter is placed.

The urgent necessity for a good meter has called such a host of inventors into the field that a complete account of their labors is more than any one could hope to give in an hour. Since I am one of this