Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 78.djvu/590

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and he found that the distance required for the breaking into drops depended, as might be expected, on the relative densities of the liquid and of the medium. Savart had shown that this natural tendency of liquid columns to break into drops can be induced by a musical note which synchronizes with the period of the drops.

We can now build what is possibly a wild theory, by means of that dangerous tool of philosophy: analogy. Let us imagine a bundle of energy not having a free surface but forming part of a general spherical disturbance, striking an object having an aperture which does not absorb or reflect the energy and therefore acts as a diaphragm; suppose that a cylindrical pencil is thus formed and propagated beyond the obstacle; this tube of force will have free surfaces; the analogy with the behavior of liquids dictates that after a while the tube will resolve itself into spherical drops and these drops we shall call atoms. We have thus created atoms from corpuscles and the energy traversing them; we have given an origin to what Crookes has called an "atomic fog," which is, according to the nebular hypothesis, the basis of the material universe. The "atomizing" of a liquid and the shredding of lead (lead-wool) by an air blast are identical in principle.

But the hypothetical diaphragm can be used to produce quite a different atom from the spherical drops which have just been created, provided the vibration be brought about before the energy, corpuscles, electrons, or whatever we wish to consider them, are ejected beyond the diaphragm. If a box with a hole (diaphragm) in it is filled with smoke and the side opposite to the hole is given a short tap causing the smoke to vibrate, a ring of smoke, a vortex ring, will be emitted, with the appearance and general properties of which we are well acquainted. A continuous motion of the smoke will not produce a ring; it will produce a stream, with a skin resistance like the stream of smoke in a chimney; to produce a vortex ring, a pulsation is required which will emit small disks of smoke which can be thinned at the center to the point of rupture by the resistance on the edges of the hole. If, therefore, a tube of force pulsates or is caused to pulsate by an elastic or pulsating resistance or otherwise, when it strikes the diaphragm in the obstacle, a vortex atom will be produced in place of a spherical atom. We have thus created the vortex atom as first proposed by Helmholtz and developed by Lord Kelvin into a theory which has stood the most careful mathematical scrutiny.

That an obstacle in the path of a stream of energy will alter that energy is evident. The conversion of cathodic rays into X-rays shows what impact may do. The clash of two similar or dissimilar streams of energy might create spherical or vortical atoms and the relative speeds and the angle of impact would influence their period of vibration.

The radiation from disintegrating matter on this planet may go far