Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/495

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479
IS ELECTRICITY LIFE?

gramme, as at Manchester and throughout Yorkshire this season; and their friendly distribution of fire sometimes fails to reach the intended cloud, and strikes down towers, churches, trees, and houses, and occasionally destroys a human body not possessed of its proper quantity of electricity. For that is, most probably, the reason why we so often find one person struck by lightning in a place where several others are assembled and escape.

A singular instance of the friendly interchange of civilities among clouds was observable at Bridlington Quay this summer. Those who know the place will remember the long stretch of table-land lying north and south, and facing the ocean. A large cloud over the sea lowered and approached the south point of the table-land. Immediately a flash ascended from the earth to the cloud, and this again occurred more than twenty times as the cloud sailed majestically over the fringe of the table-land from south to north. And now overhead might be seen a succession of minor clouds, arriving from all directions, but all evidently having their eye upon the big cloud that was approaching them, until they hovered round it like a parcel of school-boys round a newly-arrived cake. At length the cake was cut. A flash came out from the big cloud, then another and another; then the nearest clouds flashed out again to those which were farther removed. Down came a deluge of rain, the thunder rolled incessantly, till, the distribution of good things having been completed, the clouds sailed away, and the sun shone again merrily.

That all created living bodies are electric there can be no question; and as little that some persons, animals, and plants, are more electric than others. Two forms of the latter are familiar. Few school-boys are guiltless of experiments on poor puss, from whose much-enduring back electric sparks may be drawn, especially in dry, frosty weather; and most young ladies have admired the elegant sensitive-plant, whose leaves seem to move and feel,

"And with quick horror fly the neighboring hand"

that draws from it the electricity which it contains more than other plants; and its leaves at once fall flaccidly, until a new supply of electric force renders them once more turgid.

But bodies have not only electricity within them, but an electric atmosphere, of the form of the body which it surrounds, and which is attracted by it. Without this, we could not shake hands with a friend, or kiss a lip, without the danger of the excess of electricity flying off and destroying us, or the he or she that we would greet or kiss. Perhaps it is the commingling of these electric atmospheres that makes kissing so nice.

Two conditions of the human body are also illustrative of its varied electrical action. A person who has the small-pox cannot be electrified, while sparks of electricity may be drawn from the body of a patient