Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 83.djvu/109

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THE

POPULAR SCIENCE

MONTHLY



AUGUST, 1913



THE EARTH AND SUN AS MAGNETS[1]
By Dr. GEORGE ELLERY HALE
MOUNT WILSON SOLAR OBSERVATORY

IN 1891, Professor Arthur Schuster, speaking before the Royal Institution, asked a question which has been widely debated in recent years: "Is every large rotating body a magnet?" Since the days of Gilbert, who first recognized that the earth is a great magnet, many theories have been advanced to account for its magnetic properties. Biot, in 1805, ascribed them to a relatively short magnet near its center. Gauss, after an extended mathematical investigation, substituted a large number of small magnets, distributed in an irregular manner, for the single magnet of Biot. Grover suggested that terrestrial magnetism may be caused by electric currents, circulating around the earth and generated by the solar radiation. Soon after Rowland's demonstration in 1876 that a rotating electrically charged body produces a magnetic field, Ayrton and Perry attempted to apply this principle to the case of the earth. Rowland at once pointed out a mistake in their calculation, and showed that the high potential electric charge demanded by their theory could not possibly exist on the earth's surface. It remained for Schuster to suggest that a body made up of molecules which are neutral in the ordinary electrical or magnetic sense may nevertheless develop magnetic properties when rotated.

We shall soon have occasion to examine the two hypotheses advanced in support of this view. While both are promising, it can not be said that either has been sufficiently developed to explain completely the principal phenomena of terrestrial magnetism. If we turn to experiment, we find that iron globes, spun at great velocity in the laboratory, fail to exhibit magnetic properties. But this can be accounted for on either hypothesis. What we need is a globe of great size, which

  1. Address delivered upon the occasion of the semi-centennial anniversary of the foundation of the National Academy of Sciences, April 22, 1913.