Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/762

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

for them, is that by due skill an ill-working humanity may be framed into well-working institutions. It is a delusion. The defective natures of citizens will show themselves in the bad acting of whatever social structure they are arranged into. There is no political alchemy by which you can get golden conduct out of leaden instincts.

 

THE ELECTRIC RAILWAY.
By Lieutenant BRADLEY A. FISKE, U. S. N.

WITH most men who have not had time to follow the progress made of late in applying electricity to the practical work of the world, this form of energy is chiefly associated with certain experiments at school, by which the tedium of book-studying was enlivened with exhibitions of sparks and shocks and other curious and interesting phenomena, though it may be also connected in their minds with electric hair-brushes, electric corsets, magnetic clothing, etc. They regard it also as convenient for sending dispatches by telegraph, and in general for doing work where delicacy but not much force is requisite; but the idea seldom occurs to them that this versatile power is capable of swiftly moving the mightiest masses, as well as of operating the tiniest apparatus; of turning the wheels of ponderous machinery, as well as of vibrating thousands of times per second the little diaphragm of the telephone; of conveying to far-distant points the waste power of cataracts, as well as the minute forces liberated by the telegraphic key, and of illuminating, with the purest artificial light known, the most extensive and thickly populated cities.

Doubtless, one great cause of the skepticism with which many regard any project for using electricity upon a large scale is the fact that exhaustive experiments in this direction were made in the early part of the century, and the conclusion reached was that, though power and light could both be distributed by electricity, yet the expense would be so enormous as to render impracticable any extended electrical system.

It should not be forgotten, however, that the only great trouble found was the expense, and also that the principal source of this expense has been removed. In those days, the only way of generating an electric current was by the use of the voltaic battery, in which the electrical energy of the current was procured from the heat of the chemical combination going on in the battery; but in 1831 Faraday discovered a much cheaper way of generating electricity, when he found that it could be produced by simply moving magnets in the