Page:Modern Views on Matter.djvu/25

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17
Modern Views on Matter

radio-active substance as they are from a negative electrode in a vacuum-tube, or as they are in air when ultra-violet light falls upon clean negatively charged surfaces.

As a matter of fact both these modes of radiation—the wave form and the corpuscular form—are emitted by radio-active bodies, but they turn out to be of subordinate importance, and must be regarded as secondary or subsidiary results of the main phenomenon.

The main fact of radio-activity has been shown by Professor Rutherford of Montreal, in a paper published in the month of February this very year, to consist in the flinging away with great violence of actual atoms of matter: atoms electrified indeed, but not negatively like electrons, and not small or penetrating like them, but full-sized atoms, such as are easily stopped by a thin sheet of metal, or even by a sheet of paper—atoms which are positively charged and possessed of a remarkable amount of energy, ionizing the air which they bombard to an extraordinary extent, and likewise generating quite a perceptible amount of heat wherever they strike; producing indeed a flash when they strike a suitable target, as Crookes has shown, quite like the impact of a cannon-ball on an armour-plate. Their speed, indeed, far exceeds that of any cannon-ball that ever existed, being as much faster than a cannon-ball as that is faster than a snail's crawl; a hundred times faster than the fastest flying star, these atomic projectiles constitute the fastest moving matter known. This furious bombardment from a radio-active substance continues without intermission and apparently without sign of