Page:A Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism - Volume 1.djvu/100

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60 ELECTROSTATIC PHENOMENA. [60.

an idea of the nature of the electric polarization of the dielectric medium.

An elementary portion of a body may be said to be polarized when it acquires equal and opposite properties on two opposite sides. The idea of internal polarity may be studied to the greatest advantage as exemplified in permanent magnets, and it will be explained at greater length when we come to treat of magnetism.

The electric polarization of an elementary portion of a dielectric is a forced state into which the medium is thrown by the action of electromotive force, and which disappears when that force is removed. We may conceive it to consist in what we may call an electrical displacement, produced by the electromotive force. When the electromotive force acts on a conducting medium it produces a current through it, but if the medium is a non-conductor or dielectric, the current cannot flow through the medium, but the electricity is displaced within the medium in the direction of the electromotive force, the extent of this displacement depending on the magnitude of the electromotive force, so that if the electromotive force increases or diminishes the electric displacement increases and diminishes in the same ratio.

The amount of the displacement is measured by the quantity of electricity which crosses unit of area, while the displacement increases from zero to its actual amount. This, therefore, is the measure of the electric polarization.

The analogy between the action of electromotive force in producing electric displacement and of ordinary mechanical force in producing the displacement of an elastic body is so obvious that I have ventured to call the ratio of the electromotive force to the corresponding electric displacement the coefficient of electric elasticity of the medium. This coefficient is different in different media, and varies inversely as the specific inductive capacity of each medium.

The variations of electric displacement evidently constitute electric currents. These currents, however, can only exist during the variation of the displacement, and therefore, since the displacement cannot exceed a certain value without causing disruptive discharge, they cannot be continued indefinitely in the same direction, like the currents through conductors.

In tourmaline, and other pyro-electric crystals, it is probable that a state of electric polarization exists, which depends upon temperature, and does not require an external electromotive force to produce it If the interior of a body were in a state of permanent