Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/213

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201
A HALF-CENTURY OF SCIENCE.

no ideas in the mind—things which can only be conceived while they are visible; the intense hollow blue of the upper sky melting through it all, showing here deep, and pure, and lightness; there, modulated by the filmy, formless body of the transparent vapor, till it is lost imperceptibly in its crimson and gold."

But what is the explanation of these gorgeous colors? why is the sky blue? and why are the sunrise and sunset crimson and gold? It may be said that the air is blue; but, if so, how can the clouds assume their varied tints? Brücke showed that very minute particles suspended in water are blue by reflected light. Tyndall has taught us that the blue of the sky is due to the reflection of the blue rays by the minute particles floating in the atmosphere. Now, if from the white light of the sun the blue rays are thus selected, those which are transmitted will be yellow, orange, and red. Where the distance is short the transmitted light will appear yellowish. But as the sun sinks toward the horizon the atmospheric distance increases, and consequently the number of the scattering particles. They weaken in succession the violet, the indigo, the blue, and even disturb the proportions of green. The transmitted light under such circumstances must pass from yellow through orange to red, and thus, while we at noon are admiring the deep blue of the sky, the same rays, robbed of their blue, are elsewhere lighting up the evening sky with all the glories of sunset.

Another remarkable triumph of the last half-century has been the discovery of photography. At the commencement of the century Wedgwood and Davy observed the effect produced by throwing the images of objects on paper or leather prepared with nitrate of silver, but no means were known by which such images could be fixed. This was first effected by Niepce, but his processes were open to objections which prevented them from coming into general use, and it was not till 1839 that Daguerre invented the process which was justly named after him. Very soon a further improvement was effected by our countryman Talbot. He not only fixed his "Talbotypes" on paper—in itself a great convenience—but, by obtaining a negative, rendered it possible to take off any number of positive, or natural, copies from one original picture. This process is the foundation of all the methods now in use; perhaps the greatest improvements having been the use of glass plates, first proposed by Sir John Herschel; of collodion, suggested by Le Grey, and practically used by Archer; and, more lately, of gelatine, the foundation of the sensitive film now growing into general use in the ordinary dry-plate process. Not only have a great variety of other beautiful processes been invented, but the delicacy of the sensitive film has been immensely increased, with the advantage, among others, of diminishing greatly the time necessary for obtaining a picture, so that even an express-train going at full speed can now be taken. Indeed, with full sunlight, 1600 of a second is