Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/44

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
34
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

Buff may be more specially mentioned, examined my experiments, and arrived at results different from mine. Living workers of merit have also taken up the question: the latest of whom,[1] while justly recognizing the extreme difficulty of the subject, and while verifying, so far as their experiments reach, what I had published regarding dry gases, find me to have fallen into what they consider grave errors in my treatment of vapors.

None of these investigators appear to me to have realized the true strength of my position in its relation to the objects I had in view. Occupied for the most part with details, they have failed to recognize the stringency of my work as a whole, and have not taken into account the independent support rendered by the various parts of the investigation to each other. They thus ignore verifications, both general and special, which are to me of conclusive force. Nevertheless, thinking it due to them and me to submit the questions at issue to a fresh examination, I resumed, some time ago, the threads of the inquiry. The results shall, in due time, be communicated to the Royal Society; but, meanwhile, I would ask permission to bring to the notice of the Fellows a novel mode of testing the relations of radiant heat to gaseous matter, whereby singularly instructive effects have been obtained.

After working for some time with the thermopile and galvanometer, it occurred to me several weeks ago that the results thus obtained might be checked by a more direct and simple form of experiment. Placing the gases and vapors in diathermanous bulbs, and exposing the bulbs to the action of radiant heat, the heat absorbed by different gases and vapors ought, I considered, to be rendered evident by ordinary expansion. I devised an apparatus with a view of testing this idea. But, at this point, and before my proposed gas-thermometer was constructed, I became acquainted with the ingenious and original experiments of Mr. Graham Bell, wherein musical sounds are obtained through the action of an intermittent beam of light upon solid bodies.

From the first, I entertained the opinion that these singular sounds were caused by rapid changes of temperature, producing corresponding changes of shape and volume in the bodies impinged upon by the beam. But if this be the case, and if gases and vapors really absorb radiant heat, they ought to produce sounds more intense than those obtainable from solids. I pictured every stroke of the beam responded to by a sudden expansion of the absorbent gas, and concluded that, when the pulses thus excited followed each other with sufficient rapidity, a musical note must be the result. It seemed plain, moreover, that by this new method many of my previous results might be brought to an independent test. Highly diathermanous bodies, I

  1. MM. Lecher and Pernter, "Philosophical Magazine," January, 1881; "Sitzb. der k. Akad. der Wissench. in Wien," July, 1880.