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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 61.djvu/18

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

outside, thus forming Lenard's rays, they are likewise only the same or similar corpuscles in the space outside rather than inside the vacuum tube. Finally it has been proved that these electrified corpuscles are present as well in the mass of a gas through which Röntgen rays have passed, also in the mysterious radiation called Becquerel rays which proceeds from uranium and other radio-active substances, also in all flames, near all very hot bodies and in the air near certain metallic surfaces on which ultra-violet light falls. In every case the corpuscle is charged with an electron charge of negative electricity. If a corpuscle originates as a fragment chipped off from an electrically neutral atom and is negatively charged, it follows that the remainder of the atom of matter is left positively charged.

The word 'atom' therefore, as far as it signifies something which cannot be cut, is becoming a misnomer as applied to the chemical unit of matter, because this latter is capable of being divided into two parts of very unequal size. First, a small part which is negatively electrified and which is identically the same, no matter from what chemical atom it originates, and secondly, a much larger mass which is the remainder of the atom and is positively electrified, but which has a different nature depending on the kind of chemical atom broken up. The question has then begun to be debated whether we can distinguish between the corpuscle and the electric charge it carries and if so in what way. In other words, can we have an unelectrified corpuscle or is the corpuscle so identified with its electric charge that they are one and the same thing? It has been shown experimentally that an electric charge in motion is in effect an electric current, and we know that an electric current possesses something equivalent to inertia, that is, it cannot be started and stopped instantly, and it possesses energy. We call this electric inertia inductance, hence the question arises whether the energy of the corpuscles when in motion is solely due to the electric inductance or whether it is partly due to what may be called the ponderable inertia of the corpuscle.

This very difficult question has not yet been even approximately settled. At the present moment we have no evidence that we can separate the electron charge from the corpuscle itself. If this is the case, then the corpuscles taken together constitute for all practical purposes negative electricity, and we can no more have anything which can be called electricity apart from corpuscles than we can have momentum apart from moving matter. For this reason it is sometimes usual to speak of the corpuscle carrying its charge of one electron of negative electricity simply as an electron, and to drop all distinction between the electric charge and the vehicle in or on which it is conveyed.

It is remarkable that so far no one has been able to produce or find a corpuscle positively electrified. Positive electricity is only known in