Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 59.djvu/337

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regions in which cathodic rays are found. I have found that they are given off by incandescent metals, by metals when illuminated by ultra-violet light, while the researches of Becquerel and Professor and Madame Curie have shown that they are given off by that wonderful substance the radio-active radium.

In fact in every case in which the transport of negative electricity through gas at a low pressure (i. e., when the corpuscles have nothing to stick to) has been examined, it has been found that the carriers of the negative electricity are these corpuscles of invariable mass.

A very different state of things holds for the positive electricity. The masses of the carriers of positive electricity have been determined for the positive electrification in vacuum tubes by Wien and by Ewers, while I have measured the same thing for the positive electrification produced in a gas by an incandescent wire. The results of these experiments show a remarkable difference between the property of positive and negative electrification, for the positive electricity, instead of being associated with a constant mass 1/1000 of that of the hydrogen atom, is found to be always connected with a mass which is of the same order as that of an ordinary molecule, and which, moreover, varies with the nature of the gas in which the electrification is found.

These two results, the invariability and smallness of the mass of the carriers of negative electricity, and the variability and comparatively large mass of the carriers of positive electricity, seem to me to point unmistakably to a very definite conception as to the nature of electricity. Do they not obviously suggest that negative electricity consists of these corpuscles or, to put it the other way, that these corpuscles are negative electricity, and that positive electrification consists in the absence of these corpuscles from ordinary atoms? Thus this point of view approximates very closely to the old one-fluid theory of Franklin; on that theory electricity was regarded as a fluid, and changes in the state of electrification were regarded as due to the transport of this fluid from one place to another. If we regard Franklin's electric fluid as a collection of negatively electrified corpuscles, the old one-fluid theory will, in many respects, express the results of the new. We have seen that we know a good deal about the 'electric fluid'; we know that it is molecular or rather corpuscular in character; we know the mass of each of these corpuscles and the charge of electricity carried by it; we have seen too that the velocity with which the corpuscles move can be determined without difficulty. In fact the electric fluid is much more amenable to experiment than an ordinary gas, and the details of its structure are more easily determined.

Negative electricity (i. e., the electric fluid) has mass; a body negatively electrified has a greater mass than the same body in the