Page:A Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism - Volume 1.djvu/338
CONDUCTION AND RESISTANCE.
of this term would have been of no scientific value unless Ohm had shewn, as he did experimentally, that it corresponds to a real physical quantity, that is, that it has a definite value which is altered only when the nature of the conductor is altered.
In the first place, then, the resistance of a conductor is independent of the strength of the current flowing through it.
In the second place the resistance is independent of the electric potential at which the conductor is maintained, and of the density of the distribution of electricity on the surface of the conductor.
It depends entirely on the nature of the material of which the conductor is composed, the state of aggregation of its parts, and its temperature.
The resistance of a conductor may be measured to within one ten thousandth or even one hundred thousandth part of its value, and so many conductors have been tested that our assurance of the truth of Ohm's Law is now very high, In the sixth chapter we shall trace its applications and consequences.
Generation of Heat by the Current.
242.] We have seen that when an electromotive force causes a current to flow through a conductor, electricity is transferred from a place of higher to a place of lower potential. If the transfer had been made by convection, that is, by carrying successive charges on a ball from the one place to the other, work would have been done by the electrical forces on the ball, and this might have been turned to account. It is actually turned to account in a partial manner in those dry pile circuits where the electrodes have the form of bells, and the carrier ball is made to swing like a pendulum between the two bells and strike them alternately. In this way the electrical action is made to keep up the swinging of the pendulum and to propagate the sound of the bells to a distance. In the case of the conducting wire we have the same transfer of electricity from a place of high to a place of low potential without any external work being done. The principle of the Conservation of Energy therefore leads us to look for internal work in the conductor. In an electrolyte this internal work consists partly of the separation of its components. In other conductors it is entirely converted into heat.
The energy converted into heat is in this case the product of the electromotive force into the quantity of electricity which passes. But the electromotive force is the product of the current into the