Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/686

This page has been validated.
668
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

the drops the broader are the zones of the supernumerary bows, and Young proved by calculation that when the drops have a diameter of 1/3000 or 1/4000 of an inch, the bands overlap each other, and produce white light by their mixture. Unlike the geometric bow, the radius of the white bow varies within certain limits, which M. Bravais shows to be 33° 30' and 41° 46' respectively. In the latter case the white bow is the ordinary bow deprived of its color by the smallness of the drops. In all the other cases it is produced by the action of the supernumeraries.

The physical investigator desires not only to observe natural phenomena but to recreate them to bring them, that is, under the dominion of experiment. From observation we learn what Nature is willing to reveal. In experimenting we place her in the witness-box, cross-examine her, and extract from her knowledge in excess of that which would, or could, be spontaneously given. Accordingly, on my return from Switzerland last October, I sought to reproduce in the laboratory the effects observed among the mountains. My first object, therefore, was to obtain artificially a mixture of fog and drizzle like that observed from the door of our cottage. A strong cylindrical copper boiler, sixteen inches high and twelve inches in diameter, was nearly filled with water, and heated by gas-flames until steam of twenty pounds pressure was produced. A valve at the top of the boiler was then opened, when the steam issued violently into the atmosphere, carrying droplets of water mechanically along with it, and condensing above to droplets of a similar kind. A fair imitation of the Alpine atmosphere was thus produced. After a few tentative experiments, the luminous circle was brought into view, and, having once got hold of it, the next step was to enhance its intensity. Oil-lamps, the limelight, and the naked electric light were tried in succession, the source of rays being placed in one room, the boiler in another, while the observer stood, with his back to the light, between them. It is not, however, necessary to dwell upon these first experiments, surpassed as they were by the arrangements subsequently adopted. My mode of proceeding was this: The electric light being placed in a camera with a condensing lens in front, the position of the lens was so fixed as to produce a beam sufficiently broad to clasp the whole of my head, and leave an aureole of light around it. It being desirable to lessen as much as possible the foreign light entering the eye, the beam was received upon a distant black surface, and it was easy to move the head until its shadow occupied the center of the illuminated area. To secure the best effect it was found necessary to stand close to the boiler, so as to be immersed in the fog and drizzle. The fog, however, was soon discovered to be a mere nuisance. Instead of enhancing, it blurred the effect, and I therefore sought to abolish it. Allowing the steam to issue for a few seconds from the boiler, on closing the valve, the cloud rapidly melted away, leaving behind it a host of minute