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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 61.djvu/21

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ELECTRONIC THEORY OF ELECTRICITY.

two surfaces. As however every negative electron has its positive coelectron, it follows that what one surface gains the other must lose. Hence in the end we may have a majority of negative ions or electrons left on the one surface and a majority of positive ions or coelectrons left on the other surface, and the glass and the silk are then electrified with equal quantities but opposite sign. Owing to the mutual repulsion of the similar electrons the charge resides wholly on the surface.

This conception of the existence of a double layer of opposite electricities or ions at the surface of contact of two substances has been put forward to account for the familiar effect of the electrification of air by falling drops of water. It has long been known that the air in the neighborhood of waterfalls of fresh water is electrified negatively, whereas the air in the neighborhood of splashing salt water, as at the seaside, is positively electrified and the explanation that has been given by Professor J. J. Thomson is that this is due to the breaking up of this double layer of ions at the surface of the drop when it strikes the ground.

 

Atomic Valency.

At this stage it may be well to indicate that any valid theory of electricity must involve an explanation of the facts of chemical combination and chemical valency as well. At present all ideas on the structure of atoms must necessarily be purely speculative. So much advance has been made however in the development of a department of chemistry called stereo-chemistry that we need not despair of coming to know in time much about the architecture of atoms and molecules. The way is cleared, however, for some consistent explanations if we can assume that one or more free electrons can attach themselves to a neutral atom and so give it a negative charge of electricity. We may suppose as a first assumption that in a neutral atom which is otherwise complete there exist localities at which one or more electrons can find a permanent attachment. The atom is then no longer neutral but negatively electrified. If the atom can as it were accommodate one electron it is a monovalent element, if two it is divalent and so on. If it cannot accommodate any at all it is an avalent or non-valent element.

Consider the case of gaseous molecules. Chemical facts teach us. that the molecules of free gaseous hydrogen, oxygen or other gases contain two atoms, so that these free molecules are represented by the symbols H2, O2, etc. In these cases hydrogen and oxygen are so to speak combined with themselves. We can explain this by the supposition that most neutral atoms are unstable structures. In contact with each other some lose one or more electrons and an equal number gain one or more electrons. Hence in a mass say of hydrogen we have some atoms which are positively electrified and some which are negatively electrified then called atomic ions, and these ions united pair and pair