Page:A Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism - Volume 1.djvu/319
electrode. The potential is very soon made equal to that of the air at the burning end of the match. Even a fine metallic point is sufficient to create a discharge by means of the particles of the air when the difference of potentials is considerable, but if we wish to reduce this difference to zero, we must use one of the methods stated above.
If we only wish to ascertain the sign of the difference of the potentials at two places, and not its numerical value, we may cause drops or filings to be discharged at one of the places from a nozzle connected with the other place, and catch the drops or filings in an insulated vessel. Each drop as it falls is charged with a certain amount of electricity, and it is completely discharged into the vessel. The charge of the vessel therefore is continually accumulating, and after a sufficient number of drops have fallen, the charge of the vessel may be tested by the roughest methods. The sign of the charge is positive if the potential of the nozzle is positive relatively to that of the surrounding air.
MEASUREMENT OF SURFACE-DENSITY OF ELECTRIFICATION.
Theory of the Proof Plane.
223.] In testing the results of the mathematical theory of the distribution of electricity on the surface of conductors, it is necessary to be able to measure the surface-density at different points of the conductor. For this purpose Coulomb employed a small disk of gilt paper fastened to an insulating stem of gum-lac. He applied this disk to various points of the conductor by placing it so as to coincide as nearly as possible with the surface of the conductor. He then removed it by means of the insulating stem, and measured the charge of the disk by means of his electrometer.
Since the surface of the disk, when applied to the conductor, nearly coincided with that of the conductor, he concluded that the surface-density on the outer surface of the disk was nearly equal to that on the surface of the conductor at that place, and that the charge on the disk when removed was nearly equal to that on an area of the surface of the conductor equal to that of one side of the disk. This disk, when employed in this way, is called Coulomb's Proof Plane.
As objections have been raised to Coulomb's use of the proof plane, I shall make some remarks on the theory of the experiment.