Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/475

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ON RADIATION.

development of cold. By placing a drop of chilled water upon the junction of the two metals, Lenz subsequently congealed the water to ice by the passage of the current.

The source of power in the thermopile is here revealed, and a relation of the utmost importance is established between heat and electricity. Heat is shown to be the nutriment of the electric current. When one face of a thermopile is warmed, the current produced, which is always from bismuth to antimony, is simply heat consumed and transmuted into electricity.

 

Long before the death of Melloni, what the Germans call "Die Identitats-Frage," that is to say, the question of the identity of light and radiant heat, agitated men's minds and spurred their inquiries. In the world of science men differ from each other in wisdom and penetration, and a new theoretic truth has always at first the minority on its side. But time, holding incessantly up to the gaze of inquirers the unalterable pattern of Nature, gradually stamps that pattern on the human mind. For twenty years Henry Brougham was able to quench the light of Thomas Young, and to retard, in like proportion, the diffusion of correct notions regarding the nature and propagation of radiant heat. But such opposing forces are, in the end, driven in, and the undulatory theory of light being once established, soon made room for the undulatory theory of radiant heat. It was shown by degrees that every purely physical effect manifested by light was equally manifested by the invisible form of radiation. Reflection, refraction, double refraction, polarization, magnetization, were all proved true of radiant heat, just as certainly as they had been proved true of light. It was at length clearly realized that radiant heat, like light, was propagated in waves through that wondrous luminiferous medium which fills all space, the only real difference between them being a difference in the length and frequency of the ethereal waves. Light, as a sensation, was seen to be produced by a particular kind of radiant heat, which possessed the power of exciting the retina.

 

And now we approach a deeper and more subtile portion of our subject. What, we have to ask, is the origin of the ether-waves, some of which constitute light, and all of which constitute radiant heat? The answer to this question is that the waves have their origin in the vibrations of the ultimate particles of bodies. But we must be more strict in our definition of ultimate particles. The ultimate particle of water, for example, is a molecule. If you go beyond this molecule and decompose it, the result is no longer water, but the discrete atoms of oxygen and hydrogen. The molecule of water consists of three such atoms held tightly together, but still capable of individual vibration. The question now arises, Is it the molecules vibrating as wholes, or the shivering atoms of the molecules, that are to be