1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Electric Waves
ELECTRIC WAVES. § 1. Clerk Maxwell proved that on his theory electromagnetic disturbances are propagated as a wave motion through the dielectric, while Lord Kelvin in 1853 (Phil. Mag.  5, p. 393) proved from electromagnetic theory that the discharge of a condenser is oscillatory, a result which Feddersen (Pogg. Ann. 103, p. 69, &c.) verified by a beautiful series of experiments. The oscillating discharge of a condenser had been inferred by Henry as long ago as 1842 from his experiments on the magnetization produced in needles by the discharge of a condenser. From these two results it follows that electric waves must be passing through the dielectric surrounding a condenser in the act of discharging, but it was not until 1887 that the existence of such waves was demonstrated by direct experiment. This great step was made by Hertz (Wied. Ann. 34, pp. 155, 551, 609; Ausbreitung der elektrischen Kraft, Leipzig, 1892), whose experiments on this subject form one of the greatest contributions ever made to experimental physics. The difficulty which had stood in the way of the observations of these waves was the absence of any method of detecting electrical and magnetic forces, reversed some millions of times per second, and only lasting for an exceedingly short time. This was removed by Hertz, who showed that such forces would produce small sparks between pieces of metal very nearly in contact, and that these sparks were sufficiently regular to be used to detect electric waves and to investigate their properties. Other and more delicate methods have subsequently been discovered, but the results obtained by Hertz with his detector were of such signal importance, that we shall begin our account of experiments on these waves by a description of some of Hertz’s more fundamental experiments.
To produce the waves Hertz used two forms of vibrator. The first is represented in fig. 1. A and B are two zinc plates about 40 cm. square; to these brass rods, C, D, each about 30 cm. long, are soldered, terminating in brass balls E and F. To get good results it is necessary that these balls should be very brightly polished, and as they get roughened by the sparks which pass between them it is necessary to repolish them at short intervals; they should be shaded from light and from sparks, or other source of ultra-violet light. In order to excite the waves, C and D are connected to the two poles of an induction coil; sparks cross the air-gap which becomes a conductor, and the charges on the plates oscillate backwards and forwards like the charges on the coatings of a Leyden jar when it is short-circuited. The object of polishing the balls and screening off light is to get a sudden and sharp discharge; if the balls are rough there will be sharp points from which the charge will gradually leak, and the discharge will not be abrupt enough to start electrical vibrations, as these have an exceedingly short period. From the open form of this vibrator we should expect the radiation to be very large and the rate of decay of the amplitude very rapid. Bjerknes (Wied. Ann. 44, p. 74) found that the amplitude fell to 1/e of the original value, after a time 4T where T was the period of the electrical vibrations. Thus after a few vibrations the amplitude becomes inappreciable. To detect the waves produced by this vibrator Hertz used a piece of copper wire bent into a circle, the ends being furnished with two balls, or a ball and a point connected by a screw, so that the distance between them admitted of very fine adjustment. The radius of the them admitted of very fine adjustment. The radius of the circle for use with the vibrator just described was 35 cm., and was so chosen that the free period of the detector might be the same as that of the vibrator, and the effects in it increased by resonance. It is evident, however, that with a primary system as greatly damped as the vibrator used by Hertz, we could not expect very marked resonance effects, and as a matter of fact the accurate timing of vibrator and detector in this case is not very important. With electrical vibrators which can maintain a large number of vibrations, resonance effects are very striking, as is beautifully shown by the following experiment due to Lodge (Nature, 41, p. 368), whose researches have greatly advanced our knowledge of electric waves. A and C (fig. 2) are two Leyden jars, whose inner and outer coatings are connected by wires, B and D, bent so as to include a considerable area. There is an air-break in the circuit connecting the inside and outside of one of the jars, A, and electrical oscillations are started in A by joining the inside and outside with the terminals of a coil or electrical machine. The circuit in the jar C is provided with a sliding piece, F, by means of which the self-induction of the discharging circuit, and, therefore, the time of an electrical oscillation of the jar, can be adjusted. The inside and outside of this jar are put almost, but not quite, into electrical contact by means of a piece of tin-foil, E, bent over the lip of the jar. The jars are placed face to face so that the circuits B and D are parallel to each other, and approximately at right angles to the line joining their centres. When the electrical machine is in action sparks pass across the air-break in the circuit in A, and by moving the slider F it is possible to find one position for it in which sparks pass from the inside to the outside of C across the tin-foil, while when the slider is moved a short distance on either side of this position the sparks cease.
Hertz found that when he held his detector in the neighbourhood of the vibrator minute sparks passed between the balls. These sparks were not stopped when a large plate of non-conducting substance, such as the wall of a room, was interposed between the vibrator and detector, but a large plate of very thin metal stopped them completely.
To illustrate the analogy between electric waves and waves of light Hertz found another form of apparatus more convenient. The vibrator consisted of two equal brass cylinders, 12 cm. long and 3 cm. in diameter, placed with their axes coincident, and in the focal line of a large zinc parabolic mirror about 2 m. high, with a focal length of 12.5 cm. The ends of the cylinders nearest each other, between which the sparks passed, were carefully polished. The detector, which was placed in the focal line of an equal parabolic mirror, consisted of two lengths of wire, each having a straight piece about 50 cm. long and a curved piece about 15 cm. long bent round at right angles so as to pass through the back of the mirror. The ends which came through the mirror were connected with a spark micrometer, the sparks being observed from behind the mirror. The mirrors are shown, in fig. 3.
§ 2. Reflection and Refraction.—To show the reflection of the waves Hertz placed the mirrors side by side, so that their openings looked in the same direction, and their axes converged at a point about 3 m. from the mirrors. No sparks were then observed in the detector when the vibrator was in action. When, however, a large zinc plate about 2 m. square was placed at right angles to the line bisecting the angle between the axes of the mirrors sparks became visible, but disappeared again when the metal plate was twisted through an angle of about 15° to either side. This experiment showed that electric waves are reflected, and that, approximately at any rate, the angle of incidence is equal to the angle of reflection. To show refraction Hertz used a large prism made of hard pitch, about 1.5 m. high, with a slant side of 1.2 m. and an angle of 30°. When the waves from the vibrator passed through this the sparks in the detector were not excited when the axes of the two mirrors were parallel, but appeared when the axis of the mirror containing the detector made a certain angle with the axis of that containing the vibrator. When the system was adjusted for minimum deviation the sparks were most vigorous when the angle between the axes of the mirrors was 22°. This corresponds to an index of refraction of 1.69.
§ 3. Analogy to a Plate of Tourmaline.—If a screen be made by winding wire round a large rectangular framework, so that the turns of the wire are parallel to one pair of sides of the frame, and if this screen be interposed between the parabolic mirrors when placed so as to face each other, there will be no sparks in the detector when the turns of the wire are parallel to the focal lines of the mirror; but if the frame is turned through a right angle so that the wires are perpendicular to the focal lines of the mirror the sparks will recommence. If the framework is substituted for the metal plate in the experiment on the reflection of electric waves, sparks will appear in the detector when the wires are parallel to the focal lines of the mirrors, and will disappear when the wires are at right angles to these lines. Thus the framework reflects but does not transmit the waves when the electric force in them is parallel to the wires, while it transmits but does not reflect waves in which the electric force is at right angles to the wires. The wire framework behaves towards the electric waves exactly as a plate of tourmaline does to waves of light. Du Bois and Rubens (Wied. Ann. 49, p. 593), by using a framework wound with very fine wire placed very close together, have succeeded in polarizing waves of radiant heat, whose wave length, although longer than that of ordinary light, is very small compared with that of electric waves.
§ 4. Angle of Polarization.—When light polarized at right angles to the plane of incidence falls on a refracting substance at an angle tan−1μ, where μ is the refractive index of the substance, all the light is refracted and none reflected; whereas when light is polarized in the plane of incidence, some of the light is always reflected whatever the angle of incidence. Trouton (Nature, 39, p. 391) showed that similar effects take place with electric waves. From a paraffin wall 3 ft. thick, reflection always took place when the electric force in the incident wave was at right angles to the plane of incidence, whereas at a certain angle of incidence there was no reflection when the vibrator was turned, so that the electric force was in the plane of incidence. This shows that on the electromagnetic theory of light the electric force is at right angles to the plane of polarization.
§ 5. Stationary Electrical Vibrations.—Hertz (Wied. Ann. 34, p. 609) made his experiments on these in a large room about 15 m. long. The vibrator, which was of the type first described, was placed at one end of the room, its plates being parallel to the wall, at the other end a piece of sheet zinc about 4 m. by 2 m. was placed vertically against the wall. The detector—the circular ring previously described—was held so that its plane was parallel to the metal plates of the vibrator, its centre on the line at right angles to the metal plate bisecting at right angles the spark gap of the vibrator, and with the spark gap of the detector parallel to that of the vibrator. The following effects were observed when the detector was moved about. When it was close up to the zinc plate there were no sparks, but they began to pass feebly as soon as it was moved forward a little way from the plate, and increased rapidly in brightness until it was about 1.8 m. from the plate, when they attained their maximum. When its distance was still further increased they diminished in brightness, and vanished again at a distance of about 4 m. from the plate. When the distance was still further increased they reappeared, attained another maximum, and so on. They thus exhibited a remarkable periodicity similar to that which occurs when stationary vibrations are produced by the interference of direct waves with those reflected from a surface placed at right angles to the direction of propagation. Similar periodic alterations in the spark were observed by Hertz when the waves, instead of passing freely through the air and being reflected by a metal plate at the end of the room, were led along wires, as in the arrangement shown in fig. 4. L and K are metal plates placed parallel to the plates of the vibrator, long parallel wires being attached to act as guides to the waves which were reflected from the isolated end. (Hertz used only one plate and one wire, but the double set of plates and wires introduced by Sarasin and De la Rive make the results more definite.) In this case the detector is best placed so that its plane is at right angles to the wires, while the air space is parallel to the plane containing the wires. The sparks instead of vanishing when the detector is at the far end of the wire are a maximum in this position, but wax and wane periodically as the detector is moved along the wires. The most obvious interpretation of these experiments was the one given by Hertz—that there was interference between the direct waves given out by the vibrator and those reflected either from the plate or from the ends of the wire, this interference giving rise to stationary waves. The places where the electric force was a maximum were the places where the sparks were brightest, and the places where the electric force was zero were the places where the sparks vanished. On this explanation the distance between two consecutive places where the sparks vanished would be half the wave length of the waves given out by the vibrator.
Some very interesting experiments made by Sarasin and De la Rive (Comptes rendus, 115, p. 489) showed that this explanation could not be the true one, since by using detectors of different sizes they found that the distance between two consecutive places where the sparks vanished depended mainly upon the size of the detector, and very little upon that of the vibrator. With small detectors they found the distance small, with large detectors, large; in fact it is directly proportional to the diameter of the detector. We can see that this result is a consequence of the large damping of the oscillations of the vibrator and the very small damping of those of the detector. Bjerknes showed that the time taken for the amplitude of the vibrations of the vibrator to sink to of their original value was only while for the detector it was when and are respectively the times of vibration of the vibrator and the detector. The rapid decay of the oscillations of the vibrator will stifle the interference between the direct and the reflected wave, as the amplitude of the direct wave will, since it is emitted later, be much smaller than that of the reflected one, and not able to annul its effects completely; while the well-maintained vibrations of the detector will interfere and produce the effects observed by Sarasin and De la Rive. To see this let us consider the extreme case in which the oscillations of the vibrator are absolutely dead-beat. Here an impulse, starting from the vibrator on its way to the reflector, strikes against the detector and sets it in vibration; it then travels up to the plate and is reflected, the electric force in the impulse being reversed by reflection. After reflection the impulse again strikes the detector, which is still vibrating from the effects of the first impact; if the phase of this vibration is such that the reflected impulse tends to produce a current round the detector in the same direction as that which is circulating from the effects of the first impact, the sparks will be increased, but if the reflected impulse tends to produce a current in the opposite direction the sparks will be diminished. Since the electric force is reversed by reflection, the greatest increase in the sparks will take place when the impulse finds, on its return, the detector in the opposite phase to that in which it left it; that is, if the time which has elapsed between the departure and return of the impulse is equal to an odd multiple of half the time of vibration of the detector. If is the distance of the detector from the reflector when the sparks are brightest, and the velocity of propagation of electromagnetic disturbance, then where is an integer and the time of vibration of the detector, the distance between two spark maxima will be and the places where the sparks are a minimum will be midway between the maxima. Sarasin and De la Rive found that when the same detector was used the distance between two spark maxima was the same with the waves through air reflected from a metal plate and with those guided by wires and reflected from the free ends of the wire, the inference being that the velocity of waves along wires is the same as that through the air. This result, which follows from Maxwell’s theory, when the wires are not too fine, had been questioned by Hertz on account of some of his experiments on wires.
§ 6. Detectors.—The use of a detector with a period of vibration of its own thus tends to make the experiments more complicated, and many other forms of detector have been employed by subsequent experimenters. For example, in place of the sparks in air the luminous discharge through a rarefied gas has been used by Dragoumis, Lecher (who used tubes without electrodes laid across the wires in an arrangement resembling that shown in fig. 7) and Arons. A tube containing neon at a low pressure is especially suitable for this purpose. Zehnder (Wied. Ann. 47, p. 777) used an exhausted tube to which an external electromotive force almost but not quite sufficient of itself to produce a discharge was applied; here the additional electromotive force due to the waves was sufficient to start the discharge. Detectors depending on the heat produced by the rapidly alternating currents have been used by Paalzow and Rubens, Rubens and Ritter, and I. Klemenčič. Rubens measured the heat produced by a bolometer arrangement, and Klemenčič used a thermo-electric method for the same purpose; in consequence of the great increase in the sensitiveness of galvanometers these methods are now very frequently resorted to. Boltzmann used an electroscope as a detector. The spark gap consisted of a ball and a point, the ball being connected with the electroscope and the point with a battery of 200 dry cells. When the spark passed the cells charged up the electroscope. Ritter utilized the contraction of a frog’s leg as a detector, Lucas and Garrett the explosion produced by the sparks in an explosive mixture of hydrogen and oxygen; while Bjerknes and Franke used the mechanical attraction between oppositely charged conductors. If the two sides of the spark gap are connected with the two pairs of quadrants of a very delicate electrometer, the needle of which is connected with one pair of quadrants, there will be a deflection of the electrometer when the detector is struck by electric waves. A very efficient detector is that invented by E. Rutherford (Trans. Roy. Soc. A. 1897, 189, p. 1); it consists of a bundle of fine iron wires magnetized to saturation and placed inside a small magnetizing coil, through which the electric waves cause rapidly alternating currents to pass which demagnetize the soft iron. If the instrument is used to detect waves in air, long straight wires are attached to the ends of the demagnetizing coil to collect the energy from the field; to investigate waves in wires it is sufficient to make a loop or two in the wire and place the magnetized piece of iron inside it. The amount of demagnetization which can be observed by the change in the deflection of a magnetometer placed near the iron, measures the intensity of the electric waves, and very accurate determinations can be made with ease with this apparatus. It is also very delicate, though in this respect it does not equal the detector to be next described, the coherer; Rutherford got indications in 1895 when the vibrator was 34 of a mile away from the detector, and where the waves had to traverse a thickly populated part of Cambridge. It can also be used to measure the coefficient of damping of the electric waves, for since the wire is initially magnetized to saturation, if the direction of the current when it first begins to flow in the magnetizing coil is such as to tend to increase the magnetization of the wire, it will produce no effect, and it will not be until the current is reversed that the wire will lose some of its magnetization. The effect then gives the measure of the intensity half a period after the commencement of the waves. If the wire is put in the coil the opposite way, i.e. so that the magnetic force due to the current begins at once to demagnetize the wire, the demagnetization gives a measure of the initial intensity of the waves. Comparing this result with that obtained when the wires were reversed, we get the coefficient of damping. A very convenient detector of electric waves is the one discovered almost simultaneously by Fessenden (Electrotech. Zeits., 1903, 24, p. 586) and Schlömilch (ibid. p. 959). This consists of an electrolytic cell in which one of the electrodes is an exceedingly fine point. The electromotive force in the circuit is small, and there is large polarization in the circuit with only a small current. When the circuit is struck by electric waves there is an increase in the currents due to the depolarization of the circuit. If a galvanometer is in the circuit, the increased deflection of the instrument will indicate the presence of the waves.
§ 7. Coherers.—The most sensitive detector of electric waves is the “coherer,” although for metrical work it is not so suitable as that just described. It depends upon the fact discovered by Branly (Comptes rendus, 111, p. 785; 112, p. 90) that the resistance between loose metallic contacts, such as a pile of iron turnings, diminishes when they are struck by an electric wave. One of the forms made by Lodge (The Work of Hertz and some of his Successors, 1894) on this principle consists simply of a glass tube containing iron turnings, in contact with which are wires led into opposite ends of the tube. The arrangement is placed in series with a galvanometer (one of the simplest kind will do) and a battery; when the iron turnings are struck by electric waves their resistance is diminished and the deflection of the galvanometer is increased. Thus the deflection of the galvanometer can be used to indicate the arrival of electric waves. The tube must be tapped between each experiment, and the deflection of the galvanometer brought back to about its original value. This detector is marvellously delicate, but not metrical, the change produced in the resistance depending upon so many things besides the intensity of the waves that the magnitude of the galvanometer deflection is to some extent a matter of chance. Instead of the iron turnings we may use two iron wires, one resting on the other; the resistance of this contact will be altered by the incidence of the waves. To get greater regularity Bose uses, instead of the iron turnings, spiral springs, which are pushed against each other by means of a screw until the most sensitive state is attained. The sensitiveness of the coherer depends on the electromotive force put in the galvanometer circuit. Very sensitive ones can be made by using springs of very fine silver wire coated electrolytically with nickel. Though the impact of electric waves generally produces a diminution of resistance with these loose contacts, yet there are exceptions to the rule. Thus Branly showed that with lead peroxide, PbO2, there is an increase in resistance. Aschkinass proved the same to be true with copper sulphide, CuS; and Bose showed that with potassium there is an increase of resistance and great power of self-recovery of the original resistance after the waves have ceased. Several theories of this action have been proposed. Branly (Lumière électrique, 40, p. 511) thought that the small sparks which certainly pass between adjacent portions of metal clear away layers of oxide or some other kind of non-conducting film, and in this way improve the contact. It would seem that if this theory is true the films must be of a much more refined kind than layers of oxide or dirt, for the coherer effect has been observed with clean non-oxidizable metals. Lodge explains the effect by supposing that the heat produced by the sparks fuses adjacent portions of metal into contact and hence diminishes the resistance; it is from this view of the action that the name coherer is applied to the detector. Auerbeck thought that the effect was a mechanical one due to the electrostatic attractions between the various small pieces of metal. It is probable that some or all of these causes are at work in some cases, but the effects of potassium make us hesitate to accept any of them as the complete explanation. Blanc (Ann. chim. phys., 1905,  6, p. 5), as the result of a long series of experiments, came to the conclusion that coherence is due to pressure. He regarded the outer layers as different from the mass of the metal and having a much greater specific resistance. He supposed that when two pieces of metal are pressed together the molecules diffuse across the surface, modifying the surface layers and increasing their conductivity.
§ 8. Generators of Electric Waves.—Bose (Phil. Mag. 43, p. 55) designed an instrument which generates electric waves with a length of not more than a centimetre or so, and therefore allows their properties to be demonstrated with apparatus of moderate dimensions. The waves are excited by sparking between two platinum beads carried by jointed electrodes; a platinum sphere is placed between the beads, and the distance between the beads and the sphere can be adjusted by bending the electrodes. The diameter of the sphere is 8 mm., and the wave length of the shortest electrical waves generated is said to be about 6 mm. The beads are connected with the terminals of a small induction coil, which, with the battery to work it and the sparking arrangement, are enclosed in a metal box, the radiation passing out through a metal tube opposite to the spark gap. The ordinary vibrating break of the coil is not used, a single spark made by making and breaking the circuit by means of a button outside the box being employed instead. The detector is one of the spiral spring coherers previously described; it is shielded from external disturbance by being enclosed in a metal box provided with a funnel-shaped opening to admit the radiation. The wires leading from the coherers to the galvanometer are also surrounded by metal tubes to protect them from stray radiation. The radiating apparatus and the receiver are mounted on stands sliding in an optical bench. If a parallel beam of radiation is required, a cylindrical lens of ebonite or sulphur is mounted in a tube fitting on to the radiator tube and stopped by a guide when the spark is at the principal focal line of the lens. For experiments requiring angular measurements a spectrometer circle is mounted on one of the sliding stands, the receiver being carried on a radial arm and pointing to the centre of the circle. The arrangement is represented in fig. 5.
With this apparatus the laws of reflection, refraction and polarization can readily be verified, and also the double refraction of crystals, and of bodies possessing a fibrous or laminated structure such as jute or books. (The double refraction of electric waves seems first to have been observed by Righi, and other researches on this subject have been made by Garbasso and Mack.) Bose showed the rotation of the plane of polarization by means of pieces of twisted jute rope; if the pieces were arranged so that their twists were all in one direction and placed in the path of the radiation, they rotated the plane of polarization in a direction depending upon the direction of twist; if they were mixed so that there were as many twisted in one direction as the other, there was no rotation.
A series of experiments showing the complete analogy between electric and light waves is described by Righi in his book L’Ottica delle oscillazioni elettriche. Righi’s exciter, which is especially convenient when large statical electric machines are used instead of induction coils, is shown in fig. 6. E and F are balls connected with the terminals of the machine, and AB and CD are conductors insulated from each other, the ends B, C, between which the sparks pass, being immersed in vaseline oil. The period of the vibrations given out by the system is adjusted by means of metal plates M and N attached to AB and CD. When the waves are produced by induction coils or by electrical machines the intervals between the emission of different sets of waves occupy by far the largest part of the time. Simon (Wied. Ann., 1898, 64, p. 293; Phys. Zeit., 1901, 2, p. 253), Duddell (Electrician, 1900, 46, p. 269) and Poulsen (Electrotech. Zeits., 1906, 27, p. 1070) reduced these intervals very considerably by using the electric arc to excite the waves, and in this way produced electrical waves possessing great energy. In these methods the terminals between which the arc is passing are connected through coils with self-induction L to the plates of a condenser of capacity C. The arc is not steady, but is continually varying. This is especially the case when it passes through hydrogen. These variations excite vibrations with a period 2π√(LC) in the circuit containing the capacity of the self-induction. By this method Duddell produced waves with a frequency of 40,000. Poulsen, who cooled the terminals of the arc, produced waves with a frequency of 1,000,000, while Stechodro (Ann. der Phys. 27, p. 225) claims to have produced waves with three hundred times this frequency, i.e. having a wave length of about a metre. When the self-induction and capacity are large so that the frequency comes within the limits of the frequency of audible notes, the system gives out a musical note, and the arrangement is often referred to as the singing arc.
§ 9. Waves in Wires.—Many problems on electric waves along wires can readily be investigated by a method due to Lecher (Wied. Ann. 41, p. 850), and known as Lecher’s bridge, which furnishes us with a means of dealing with waves of a definite and determinable wave-length. In this arrangement (fig. 7) two large plates A and B are, as in Hertz’s exciter, connected with the terminals of an induction coil; opposite these and insulated from them are two smaller plates D, E, to which long parallel wires DFH, EGJ are attached. These wires are bridged across by a wire LM, and their farther ends H, J, may be insulated, or connected together, or with the plates of a condenser. To detect the waves in the circuit beyond the bridge, Lecher used an exhausted tube placed across the wires, and Rubens a bolometer, but Rutherford’s detector is the most convenient and accurate. If this detector is placed in a fixed position at the end of the circuit, it is found that the deflections of this detector depend greatly upon the position of the bridge LM, rising rapidly to a maximum for some positions, and falling rapidly away when the bridge is displaced. As the bridge is moved from the coil end towards the detector the deflections show periodic variations, such as are represented in fig. 8 when the ordinates represent the deflections of the detector and the abscissae the distance of the bridge from the ends D, E. The maximum deflections of the detector correspond to the positions in which the two circuits DFLMGE, HLMJ (in which the vibrations are but slightly damped) are in resonance. For since the self-induction and resistance of the bridge LM is very small compared with that of the circuit beyond, it follows from the theory of circuits in parallel that only a small part of the current will in general flow round the longer circuit; it is only when the two circuits DFLMGE, HLMJ are in resonance that a considerable current will flow round the latter.
Hence when we get a maximum effect in the detector we know that the waves we are dealing with are those corresponding to the free periods of the system HLMJ, so that if we know the free periods of this circuit we know the wave length of the electric waves under consideration. Thus if the ends of the wires H, J are free and have no capacity, the current along them must vanish at H and J, which must be in opposite electric condition. Hence half the wave length must be an odd submultiple of the length of the circuit HLMJ. If H and J are connected together the wave length must be a submultiple of the length of this circuit. When the capacity at the ends is appreciable the wave length of the circuit is determined by a somewhat complex expression. To facilitate the determination of the wave length in such cases, Lecher introduced a second bridge L′M′, and moved this about until the deflection of the detector was a maximum; when this occurs the wave length is one of those corresponding to the closed circuit LMM′L′, and must therefore be a submultiple of the length of the circuit. Lecher showed that if instead of using a single wire LM to form the bridge, he used two parallel wires PQ, LM, placed close together, the currents in the further circuit were hardly appreciably diminished when the main wires were cut between PL and QM. Blondlot used a modification of this apparatus better suited for the production of short waves. In his form (fig. 9) the exciter consists of two semicircular arms connected with the terminals of an induction coil, and the long wires, instead of being connected with the small plates, form a circuit round the exciter.
As an example of the use of Lecher’s arrangement, we may quote Drude’s application of the method to find the specific induction capacity of dielectrics under electric oscillations of varying frequency. In this application the ends of the wire are connected to the plates of a condenser, the space between whose plates can be filled with the liquid whose specific inductive capacity is required, and the bridge is moved until the detector at the end of the circuit gives the maximum deflection. Then if λ is the wave length of the waves, λ is the wave length of one of the free vibrations of the system HLMJ; hence if C is the capacity of the condenser at the end in electrostatic measure we have
where l is the distance of the condenser from the bridge and C′ is the capacity of unit length of the wire. In the condenser part of the lines of force will pass through air and part through the dielectric; hence C will be of the form C0 + KC1 where K is the specific inductive capacity of the dielectric. Hence if l is the distance of maximum deflection when the dielectric is replaced by air, l′ when filled with a dielectric whose specific inductive capacity is known to be K′, and l″ the distance when filled with the dielectric whose specific inductive capacity is required, we easily see that—
|λ||λ||=||1 − K′|
|cot||2πl||− cot||2πl″||1 − K|
an equation by means of which K can be determined. It was in this way that Drude investigated the specific inductive capacity with varying frequency, and found a falling off in the specific inductive capacity with increase of frequency when the dielectrics contained the radicle OH. In another method used by him the wires were led through long tanks filled with the liquid whose specific inductive capacity was required; the velocity of propagation of the electric waves along the wires in the tank being the same as the velocity of propagation of an electromagnetic disturbance through the liquid filling the tank, if we find the wave length of the waves along the wires in the tank, due to a vibration of a given frequency, and compare this with the wave lengths corresponding to the same frequency when the wires are surrounded by air, we obtain the velocity of propagation of electromagnetic disturbance through the fluid, and hence the specific inductive capacity of the fluid.
§ 10. Velocity of Propagation of Electromagnetic Effects through Air.—The experiments of Sarasin and De la Rive already described (see § 5) have shown that, as theory requires, the velocity of propagation of electric effects through air is the same as along wires. The same result had been arrived at by J. J. Thomson, although from the method he used greater differences between the velocities might have escaped detection than was possible by Sarasin and De la Rive’s method. The velocity of waves along wires has been directly determined by Blondlot by two different methods. In the first the detector consisted of two parallel plates about 6 cm. in diameter placed a fraction of a millimetre apart, and forming a condenser whose capacity C was determined in electromagnetic measure by Maxwell’s method. The plates were connected by a rectangular circuit whose self-induction L was calculated from the dimensions of the rectangle and the size of the wire. The time of vibration T is equal to 2π√(LC). (The wave length corresponding to this time is long compared with the length of the circuit, so that the use of this formula is legitimate.) This detector is placed between two parallel wires, and the waves produced by the exciter are reflected from a movable bridge. When this bridge is placed just beyond the detector vigorous sparks are observed, but as the bridge is pushed away a place is reached where the sparks disappear; this place is distance 2/λ from the detector, when λ is the wave length of the vibration given out by the detector. The sparks again disappear when the distance of the bridge from the detector is 3λ/4. Thus by measuring the distance between two consecutive positions of the bridge at which the sparks disappear λ can be determined, and v, the velocity of propagation, is equal to λ/T. As the means of a number of experiments Blondlot found v to be 3.02 × 1010 cm./sec., which, within the errors of experiment, is equal to 3 × 1010 cm./sec., the velocity of light. A second method used by Blondlot, and one which does not involve the calculation of the period, is as follows:—A and A′ (fig. 10) are two equal Leyden jars coated inside and outside with tin-foil. The outer coatings form two separate rings a, a1; a′, a′1, and the inner coatings are connected with the poles of the induction coil by means of the metal pieces b, b′. The sharply pointed conductors p and p′, the points of which are about 12 mm. apart, are connected with the rings of the tin-foil a and a′, and two long copper wires pca1, p′c′a′1, 1029 cm. long, connect these points with the other rings a1, a1′. The rings aa′, a1a1′, are connected by wet strings so as to charge up the jars. When a spark passes between b and b′, a spark at once passes between pp′, and this is followed by another spark when the waves travelling by the paths a1cp, a′1c′p′ reach p and p′. The time between the passage of these sparks, which is the time taken by the waves to travel 1029 cm., was observed by means of a rotating mirror, and the velocity measured in 15 experiments varied between 2.92 × 1010 and 3.03 × 1010 cm./sec., thus agreeing well with that deduced by the preceding method. Other determinations of the velocity of electromagnetic propagation have been made by Lodge and Glazebrook, and by Saunders.
On Maxwell’s electromagnetic theory the velocity of propagation of electromagnetic disturbances should equal the velocity of light, and also the ratio of the electromagnetic unit of electricity to the electrostatic unit. A large number of determinations of this ratio have been made:—
|Observer.||Date.||Ratio 1010 ×.|
|J. J. Thomson and Searle||1890||2.9955 cm./sec.|
The mean of these determinations is 3.001 × 1010 cm./sec., while the mean of the last five determinations of the velocity of light in air is given by Himstedt as 3.002 × 1010 cm./sec. From these experiments we conclude that the velocity of propagation of an electromagnetic disturbance is equal to the velocity of light, and to the velocity required by Maxwell’s theory.
In experimenting with electromagnetic waves it is in general more difficult to measure the period of the oscillations than their wave length. Rutherford used a method by which the period of the vibration can easily be determined; it is based upon the theory of the distribution of alternating currents in two circuits ACB, ADB in parallel. If A and B are respectively the maximum currents in the circuits ACB, ADB, then
|A||= √||S2 + (N − M)2p2|
|B||R2 + (L − M)2p2|
when R and S are the resistances, L and N the coefficients of self-induction of the circuits ACB, ADB respectively, M the coefficient of mutual induction between the circuits, and p the frequency of the currents. Rutherford detectors were placed in the two circuits, and the circuits adjusted until they showed that A = B; when this is the case
|p2 =||R2 − S2||.|
|N2 − L2 − 2M (N − L)|
If we make one of the circuits, ADB, consist of a short length of a high liquid resistance, so that S is large and N small, and the other circuit ACB of a low metallic resistance bent to have considerable self-induction, the preceding equation becomes approximately p = S/L, so that when S and L are known p is readily determined. (J. J. T.)