The Conservation of Energy/Chapter 3
THE FORCES AND ENERGIES OF NATURE:
THE LAW OF CONSERVATION.
64. In the last chapter we introduced our readers to two varieties of energy, one of them visible, and the other invisible or molecular; and it will now be our duty to search through the whole field of physical science for other varieties. Here it is well to bear in mind that all energy consists of two kinds, that of position and that of actual motion, and also that this distinction holds for invisible molecular energy just as truly as it does for that which is visible. Now, energy of position implies a body in a position of advantage with respect to some force, and hence we may with propriety begin our search by investigating the various forces of nature.
65. The most general, and perhaps the most important, of these forces is gravitation, and the law of action of this force may be enunciated as follows:—Every particle of the universe attracts every other particle with a force depending jointly upon the mass of the attracting and of the attracted particle, and varying inversely as the square of distance between the two. A little explanation will make this plain.
Suppose a particle or system of particles of which the mass is unity to be placed at a distance equal to unity from another particle or system of particles of which the mass is also unity—the two will attract each other. Let us agree to consider the mutual attraction between them equal to unity also.
Suppose, now, that we have on the one side two such systems with a mass represented by 2, and on the other side the same system as before, with a mass represented by unity, the distance, meanwhile, remaining unaltered. It is clear the double system will now attract the single system with a twofold force. Let us next suppose the mass of both systems to be doubled, the distance always remaining the same. It is clear that we shall now have a fourfold force, each unit of the one system attracting each unit of the other. In like manner, if the mass of the one system is 2, and that of the other 3, the force will be 6. We may, for instance, call the components of the one system , and those of the other , and we shall have pulled towards , and , with a threefold force, and pulled towards , and , with a threefold force, making altogether a force equal to 6.
In the next place, let the masses remain unaltered, but let the distance between them be doubled, then the force will be reduced fourfold. Let the distance be tripled, then the force will be reduced ninefold, and so on.
66. Gravitation may be described as a very weak force, capable of acting at a distance, or at least of appearing to do so. It takes the mass of the whole earth to produce the force with which we are so familiar at its surface, and the presence of a large mass of rock or mountain does not produce any appreciable difference in the weight of any substance. It is the gravitation of the earth, lessened of course by distance, which acts upon the moon 240,000 miles away, and the gravitation of the sun influences in like manner the earth and the various other planets of our system.
67. Elastic forces, although in their mode of action very different from gravity, are yet due to visible arrangements of matter; thus, when a cross-bow is bent, there is a visible change produced in the bow, which, as a whole, resists this bending, and tends to resume its previous position. It therefore requires energy to bend a bow, just as truly and visibly as it does to raise a weight above the earth, and elasticity is, therefore, as truly a species of force as gravity is. We shall not here attempt to discuss the various ways in which this force may act, or in which a soUd elastic substance will resist all attempts to deform it; but in all cases it is clearly manifest that work must be spent upon the body, and the force of elasticity must be encountered and overcome throughout a certain space before any sensible deformation can take place.
Force of Cohesion.
68. Let us now leave the forces which animate large masses of matter, and proceed to discuss those which subsist between the smaller particles of which these large masses are composed. And here we must say one word more about molecules and atoms, and the distinction we feel ourselves entitled to draw between these very small bodies, even although we shall never be able to see either the one or the other.
In our first chapter (Art. 7) we supposed the continual sub-division of a grain of sand until we had arrived at the smallest entity retaining all the properties of sand—this we called a molecule, and nothing smaller than this is entitled to be called sand. If we continue this sub-division further, the molecule of sand separates itself into its chemical constituents, consisting of silicon on the one side, and oxygen on the other. Thus we arrive at last at the smallest body which can call itself silicon, and the smallest which can call itself oxygen, and we have no reason to suppose that either of these is capable of sub-division into something else, since we regard oxygen and silicon as elementary or simple bodies. Now, these constituents of the silicon molecule are called atoms, so that we say the sand molecule is divisible into atoms of silicon and of oxygen. Furthermore, we have strong reason for supposing that such molecules and atoms really exist, but into the arguments for their existence we cannot now enter—it is one of those things that we must ask our readers to take for granted.
69. Let us now take two molecules of sand. These, when near together, have a very strong attraction for each other. It is, in truth, this attraction which renders it difficult to break up a crystalline particle of sand or rock crystal. But it is only exerted when the molecules are near enough together to form a homogeneous crystalline structure, for let the distance between them be somewhat increased, and we find that all attraction entirely vanishes. Thus there is little or no attraction between different particles of sand, even although they are very closely packed together. In like manner, the integrity of a piece of glass is due to the attraction between its molecules; but let these be separated by a flaw, and it will soon be found that this very small increase of distance greatly diminishes the attraction between the particles, and that the structure will now fall to pieces from the slightest cause. Now, these examples are sufficient to show that molecular attraction or cohesion, as this is called, is a force which acts very powerfully through a certain small distance, but which vanishes altogether when this distance becomes perceptible. Cohesion is strongest in solids, while in liquids it is much diminished, and in gases it may be said to vanish altogether. The molecules of gases are, in truth, so far away from one another, as to have little or no mutual attraction, a fact proved by Dr. Joule, whose name was mentioned in the last chapter.
Force of Chemical Affinity.
70. Let us now consider the mutual forces between atoms. These may be characterized as even stronger than the forces between molecules, but as disappearing still more rapidly when the distance is increased. Let us, for instance, take carbon and oxygen—two substances which are ready to combine together to form carbonic acid, whenever they have a suitable opportunity. In this case, each atom of carbon will unite with two of oxygen, and the result will be something quite different from either. Yet under ordinary circumstances carbon, or its representative, coal, will remain unchanged in the presence of oxygen, or of atmospheric air containing oxygen. There will be no tendency to combine together, because although the particles of the oxygen would appear to be in immediate contact with those of the carbon, yet the nearness is not sufficient to permit of chemical affinity acting with advantage. When, however, the nearness becomes sufficient, then chemical affinity begins to operate. We have, in fact, the familiar act of combustion, and, as its consequence, the chemical union of the carbon or coal with the oxygen of the air, carbonic acid being the result. Here, then, we have a very powerful force acting only at a very small distance, which we name chemical affinity, inasmuch as it represents the attraction exerted between atoms of different bodies in contradistinction to cohesion, which denotes the attraction between molecules of the same body.
71. If we regard gravitation as the representative of forces that act or appear to act, at a distance, we may regard cohesion and chemical affinity as the representatives of those forces which, although very powerful, only act or appear to act through a very small interval of distance.
A little reflection will show us how inconvenient it would be if gravitation diminished very rapidly with the distance; for then even supposing that the bond which retains us to the earth were to hold good, that which retains the moon to the earth might vanish entirely, as well as that which retains the earth to the sun, and the consequences would be far from pleasant. Reflection will also show us how inconvenient it would be if chemical affinity existed at all distances; if coal, for instance, were to combine with oxygen without the application of heat, it would greatly alter the value of this fuel to mankind, and would materially check the progress of human industry.
Remarks on Molecular and Atomic Forces.
72. Now, it is important to remember that we must treat cohesion and chemical affinity exactly in the same way as gravity has been treated; and just as we have energy of position with respect to gravity, so may we have as truly a species of energy of position with respect to cohesion and chemical affinity. Let us begin with cohesion.
73. We have hitherto regarded heat as a peculiar motion of the molecules of matter, without any reference to the force which actuates these molecules. But it is a well-known fact that bodies in general expand when heated, so that, in virtue of this expansion, the molecules of a body are driven violently apart against the force of cohesion. Work has in truth been done against this force, just as truly as, when a kilogramme is raised from the earth, work is done against the force of gravity. When a substance is heated, we may, therefore, suppose that the heat has a twofold office to perform, part of it going to increase the actual motions of the molecules, and part of it to separate these molecules from one another against the force of cohesion. Thus, if I swing round horizontally a weight (attached to my hand by an elastic thread of india-rubber), my energy will be spent in two ways—first of all, it will be spent in communicating a velocity to the weight; and, secondly, in stretching the india-rubber string, by means of the centrifugal tendency of the weight. Work will be done against the elastic force of the string, as well as spent in increasing the motion of the weight.
Now, something of this kind may be taking place when a body is heated, for we may very well suppose heat to consist of a vertical or circular motion, the tendency of which would be to drive the particles asunder against the force of cohesion. Part, therefore, of the energy of heat will be spent in augmenting the motion, and part in driving asunder the particles. We may, however, suppose that, in ordinary cases, the great proportion of the energy of heat goes towards increasing the molecular motion, rather than in doing work against the force of cohesion.
74. In certain cases, however, it is probable that the greater part of the heat applied is spent in doing work against molecular forces, instead of increasing the motions of molecules.
Thus, when a solid melts, or when a liquid is rendered gaseous, a considerable amount of heat is spent in the process, which does not become sensible, that is to say, does not affect the thermometer. Thus, in order to melt a kilogramme of ice, heat is required sufficient to raise a kilogramme of water through 80° C, and yet, when melted, the water is no warmer than the ice. We express this fact by saying that the latent heat of water is 80. Again, if a kilogramme of water at 100° be converted entirely into steam, as much heat is required as would raise the water through 537° C, or 537 kilogrammes of water through one degree; hut yet the steam is no hotter than the water, and we express this fact by saying that the latent heat of steam is 537. Now, in both of these instances it is at least extremely probable that a large portion of the heat is spent in doing work against the force of cohesion; and, more especially, when a fluid is converted into a gas, we know that the molecules are in that process separated so far from one another as to lose entirely any trace of mutual force. We may, therefore, conclude that although in most cases the greater portion of the heat applied to a body is spent in increasing its molecular motion, and only a small part in doing work against cohesion, yet when a solid melts, or a liquid vaporizes, a large portion of the heat required is not improbably spent in doing work against molecular forces. But the energy, though spent, is not lost, for when the liquid again freezes, or when the vapour again condenses, this energy is once more transformed into the shape of sensible heat, just as when a stone is dropped from the top of a house, its energy of position is transformed once more into actual energy.
75. A single instance will suffice to give our readers a notion of the strength of molecular forces. If a bar of wrought iron, whose temperature is 10° C above that of the surrounding medium, be tightly secured at its extremities, it will draw these together with a force of at least one ton for each square inch of section. In some cases where a building has shown signs of bulging outwards, iron bars have been placed across it, and secured while in a heated state to the walls. On cooling, the iron contracted with great force, and the walls were thereby pulled together.
76. We are next brought to consider atomic forces, or those which lead to chemical union, and now let us see how these are influenced by heat. We have seen that heat causes a separation between the molecules of a body, that is to say, it increases the distance between two contiguous molecules, but we must not suppose that, meanwhile, the molecules themselves are left unaltered.
The tendency of heat to cause separation is not confined to increasing the distance between molecules, but acts also, no doubt, in increasing the distance between parts of the same molecule: in fact, the energy of heat is spent in pulling the constituent atoms asunder against the force of chemical affinity, as well as in pulling the molecules asunder against the force of cohesion, so that, at a very high temperature, it is probable that most chemical compounds would be decomposed, and many are so, even at a very moderate heat.
Thus the attraction between oxygen and silver is so slight that at a comparatively low temperature the oxide of silver is decomposed. In like manner, limestone, or carbonate of lime, is decomposed when subjected to the heat of a lime-kiln, carbonic acid being given off, while quick-lime remains behind. Now, in separating heterogeneous atoms against the powerful force of chemical affinity, work is done as truly as it is in separating molecules from one another against the force of cohesion, or in separating a stone from the earth against the force of gravity.
77. Heat, as we have seen, is very frequently influential in performing this separation, and its energy is spent in so doing; but other energetic agents produce chemical decomposition as well as heat. For instance, certain rays of the sun decompose carbonic acid into carbon and oxygen in the leaves of plants, and their energy is spent in the process; that is to say, it is spent in pulling asunder two such powerfully attracting substances against the affinity they have for one another. And, again, the electric current is able to decompose certain substances, and of course its energy is spent in the process.
Therefore, whenever two powerfully attracting atoms are separated, energy is spent in causing this separation as truly as in separating a stone from the earth, and when once the separation has been accomplished we have a species of energy of position just as truly as we have in a head of water, or in a stone at the top of a house.
78. It is this chemical separation that is meant when we speak of coal as a source of energy. Coal, or carbon, has a great attraction for oxygen, and whenever heat is applied the two bodies unite together. Now oxygen, as it exists in the atmosphere, is the common inheritance of all, and if, in addition to this, some of us possess coal in our cellars, or in pits, we have thus secured a store of energy of position which we can draw upon with more facility than if it were a head of water, for, although we can draw upon the energy of a head of water whenever we choose, yet we cannot carry it about with us from place to place as we can with coal. We thus perceive that it is not the coal, by itself, that forms the source of energy, but this is due to the fact that we have coal, or carbon, in one place, and oxygen in another, while we have also the means of causing them to unite with each other whenever we wish. If there were no oxygen in the air, coal by itself would be of no value.
Electricity: its Properties.
79. Our readers have now been told about the force of cohesion that exists between molecules of the same body, and also about that of chemical affinity existing between atoms of different bodies. Now, heterogeneity is an essential element of this latter force—there must be a difference of some kind before it can exhibit itself—and under these circumstances its exhibitions are frequently characterized by very extraordinary and interesting phenomena.
We allude to that peculiar exhibition arising out of the forces of heterogenous bodies which we call electricity, and, before proceeding further, it may not be out of place to give a short sketch of the mode of action of this very mysterious, but most interesting, agent.
80. The science of electricity is of very ancient origin; but its beginning was very small. For a couple of thousand years it made little or no progress, and then, during the course of little more than a century, developed into the giant which it now is. The ancient Greeks were aware that amber, when rubbed with silk, had the property of attracting light bodies; and Dr. Gilbert, about three hundred years ago, showed that many other things, such as sulphur, sealing-wax, and glass, have the same property as amber.
In the progress of the science it came to be known that certain substances are able to carry away the peculiar influence produced, while others are unable to do so; the former are called conductors, and the latter non-conductors, or insulators, of electricity. To make the distinction apparent, let us take a metal rod, having a glass stem attached to it, and rub the glass stem with a piece of silk, care being taken that both silk and glass are warm and dry. We shall find that the glass has now acquired the property of attracting little bits of paper, or elder pith; but only where it has been rubbed, for the peculiar influence acquired by the glass has not been able to spread itself over the surface.
If, however, we take hold of the glass stem, and rub the metal rod, we may, perhaps, produce the same property in the metal, but it will spread over the whole, not confining itself to the part rubbed. Thus we perceive that metal is a conductor, while glass is an insulator, or non-conductor, of electricity.
81. We would next observe that this influence is of two kinds. To prove this, let us perform the following experiment. Let us suspend a small pith ball by a very slender silk thread, as in Fig. 5. Next, let us rub a stick of warm, dry glass with a piece of warm silk, and with this excited stick touch the pith ball. The pith ball, after being touched, will be repelled by the excited glass. Let us next excite, in a similar manner, a stick of dry sealing-wax with a piece of warm, dry flannel, and on approaching this stick to the pith ball it will attract it, although the ball, in its present state, is repelled by the excited glass.
Thus a pith ball, touched by excited glass, is repelled by excited glass, but attracted by excited sealing-wax.
In like manner, it might be shown that a pith ball, touched by excited sealing-wax, will be afterwards repelled by excited sealing-wax, but attracted by excited glass.
Now, what the excited glass did to the pith ball, was to communicate to it part of its own influence, after which the ball was repelled by the glass; or, in other words, bodies charged with similar electricities repel one another.
Again, since the pith ball, when charged with the electricity from glass, was attracted to the electrified sealing-wax, we conclude that bodies charged with unlike electricities attract one another. The electricity from glass is sometimes called vitreous, and that from sealing-wax resinous, electricity, but more frequently the. former is known as positive, and the latter as negative, electricity—it being understood that these words do not imply the possession of a positive nature by the one influence, or of a negative nature by the other, but are merely terms employed to express the apparent antagonism which exists between the two kinds of electricity.
82. The next point worthy of notice is that whenever one electricity is produced, just as much is produced of an opposite description. Thus, in the case of glass excited by silk, we have positive electricity developed upon the glass, while we have also negative electricity developed upon the silk to precisely the same extent. And, again, when sealing-wax is rubbed with flannel, we have negative electricity developed upon the sealing-wax, and just as much positive upon the flannel.
83. These facts have given rise to a theory of electricity, or at least to a method of regarding it, which, if not absolutely correct, seems yet to unite together the various phenomena. According to this hypothesis, a neutral, unexcited body is supposed to contain a store of the two electricities combined together, so that whenever such a body is excited, a separation is produced between the two. The phenomena which we have described are, therefore, due to this electrical separation, and inasmuch as the two electricities have a great affinity for one another, it requires the expenditure of energy to produce this separation, just as truly as it does to separate a stone from the earth.
84. Now, it is worthy of note that electrical separation is only produced when heterogeneous bodies are rubbed together. Thus, if flannel be rubbed upon glass, we have electricity; but if flannel be rubbed upon glass covered with flannel, we have none. In like manner, if silk be rubbed upon sealing-wax covered with silk, or, in fine, if two portions of the same substance be rubbed together, we have no electricity.
On the other hand, a very slight difference of texture is sometimes sufficient to produce electrical separation. Thus, if two pieces of the same silk ribbon be rubbed together lengthwise, we have no electricity; but if they be rubbed across each other, the one is positively, and the other negatively, electrified.
In fact, this element of heterogeneity is an all important one in electrical development, and this leads us to conjecture that electrical attraction may probably be regarded as peculiarly allied to that force which we call chemical affinity. At any rate, electricity and chemical affinity are only manifested between bodies that are, in some respects, dissimilar.
85. The following is a list of bodies arranged according to the electricity which they develop when rubbed together, each substance being positively electrified when rubbed with any substance beneath it in the list.
1. Cat's skin.
Thus, if resin be rubbed with cat's skin, or with flannel, the cat's skin or flannel will be positively, and the resin negatively, electrified; while if glass be rubbed with silk, the glass will be positively, and the silk negatively, electrified, and so on.
86. It is not our purpose here to describe at length the electrical machine, but we may state that it consists of two parts, one for generating electricity by means of the friction of a rubber against glass, and another consisting of a system of brass tubes, of considerable surface, supported on glass stems, for collecting and retaining the electricity so produced. This latter part of the machine is called its prime conductor.
87. Let us now suppose that we have set in action a machine of this kind, and accumulated a considerable quantity of positive electricity in its prime conductor at A. Let us next take two vessels, B and C, made of brass,
Fig. 6. supported on glass stems. These two vessels are supposed to be in contact, but at the same time to be capable of being separated from one another at their middle point, where the line is drawn in Fig. 6. Now let us cause B and C to approach A together. At first, B and C are not electrified, that is to say, their two electricities are not separated from each other, but are mixed together; but mark what will happen as they are pushed towards A. The positive electricity of A will decompose the two electricities of B and C, attracting the negative towards itself, and repelling the positive as far away as possible. The disposition of electricities will, therefore, be as in the figure. If we now pull C away from B, we have obtained a quantity of positive electricity on C, by help of the original electricity which was in A; in fact, we have made use of the original stock or electrical capital in A, in order to obtain positive electricity in C, without, however, diminishing the amount of our original stock. Now, this distant action or help, rendered by the original electricity in separating that of B and C, is called electric induction.
88. The experiment may, however, he performed in a somewhat different manner—we may allow B and C to remain together, and gradually push them nearer to A. As B and C approach A, the separation of their electricities will become greater and greater, until, when A and B are only divided by a small thickness of air, the two opposite electricities then accumulated will have sufficient strength to rush together through the air, and unite with each, other by means of a spark.
89. The principle of induction may be used with advantage, when it is wished to accumulate a large quantity of electricity.
Fig. 7. In this case, an instrument called a Leyden jar is very frequently employed. It consists of a glass jar, coated inside and outside with tin foil, as in Fig. 7. A brass rod, having a knob at the end of it, is connected metallically with the inside coating, and is kept in its place by being passed through a cork, which covers the mouth of the jar. We have thus two metallic coatings which are not electrically connected with one another. Now, in order to charge a jar of this kind, let the outside coating be connected by a chain with the earth, while at the same time positive electricity from the prime conductor of an electrical machine is communicated to the inside knob.
The positive electricity will accumulate on the inside coating with which the knob is connected. It will then decompose the two electricities of the outside coating, driving the positive electricity to the earth, and there dissipating it, but attracting the negative to itself. There will thus be positive electricity on the inside, and negative on the outside coating. These two electricities may be compared to two hostile armies watching each other, and very anxious to get together, while, however, they are separated from one another by means of an insurmountable obstacle. They will thus remain facing each other, and at their posts, while each side is, meanwhile, being recruited by the same operation as before. We may by this means accumulate a vast quantity of opposite electricities on the two coatings of such a jar, and they will remain there for a long time, especially if the surrounding atmosphere and the glass surface of the jar be quite dry. When, however, electric connection of any kind is made between the two coatings, the electricities rush together and unite with one another in the shape of a spark, while if the human body be the instrument of connecting them a severe shock will be felt.
90. It would thus appear that, when two bodies charged with opposite electricities are brought near each other, the two electricities rush together, forming a current, and the ultimate result is a spark. Now, this spark implies heat, and is, in truth, nothing else than small particles of intensely heated matter of some kind. We have here, therefore, first of all, the conversion of electrical separation into a current of electricity, and, secondly, the conversion of this current into heat. In this case, however, the current lasts only a very small time; the discharge, as it is called, of a Leyden jar being probably accomplished in 1th of a second.
The Electric Current.
91. In other cases we have electrical currents which, although not so powerful as that produced by discharging a Leyden jar, yet last longer, and are, in fact, continuous instead of momentary.
We may see a similar difference in the case of visible energy. Thus we might, by means of gunpowder, send up in a moment an enormous mass of water; or we might, by means of a fountain, send up the same mass in the course of time, and in a very much quieter manner. We have the same sort of difference in electrical discharges, and having spoken of the rushing together of two opposite electricities by means of an explosion and a spark, let us now speak of the eminently quiet and effective voltaic current, in which we have a continuous coming together of the same two agents.
92. It is not our object here to give a complete description, either historical or scientific, of the voltaic battery, but rather to give such an account as will enable our readers to understand what the arrangement is, and what sort of effect it produces; and with this object we shall at once proceed to describe the battery of Grove, which is perhaps the most efficacious of all the various arrangements for the purpose of producing an electric current. In this battery we have a number of cells connected together, as in Fig. 8, which shows a battery of three cells. Each cell consists of two vessels, an outer and an inner one; the outer vessel being made of glass or ordinary stone ware, while the inner one is made of unglazed porcelain, and is therefore porous. The outer vessel is filled with dilute sulphuric acid, and a plate of amalgamated zinc—that is to say, of metallic zinc having its outer surface brightened with mercury,—is immersed in this acid. Again, in the inner or porous vessel we have strong nitric acid, in which a plate of platinum foil is immersed, this being at the same time electrically connected with the zinc plate of the next outer vessel, by means of a clamp, as in the figure. Both metals must be clean where they are pressed together, that is to say, the true metallic surfaces of both must be in contact. Finally, a wire is metallically connected with the platinum of the left-hand cell, and a similar wire with the
Fig. 8. zinc of the right-hand cell, and these connecting wires ought, except at their extremities, to be covered over with gutta-percha or thread. The loose extremities of these wires are called the poles of the battery.
93. Let us now suppose that we have a battery containing a good many cells of this description, and let the whole arrangement be insulated, by being set upon glass supports, or otherwise separated from the earth. If now we test, by appropriate methods, the extremity of the wire connected with the left-hand platinum plate, it will be found to be charged with positive electricity, while the extremity of the other wire will be found charged with negative electricity.
94. In the next place, if we connect these poles of the battery with one another, the two electricities will rush together and unite, or, in other words, there will be an electric current; but it will not be a momentary but a continuous one, and for some time, provided these poles are kept together, a current of electricity wall pass through the wires, and indeed through the whole arrangement, including the cells.
The direction of the current will be such that positive electricity may he supposed to pass from the zinc to the platinum, through the liquid; and back again through the wire, from the platinum at the left hand, to the zinc at the right; in fact, to go in the direction indicated by the arrow-head.
95. Thus we have two things. In the first place, before the two terminals, or poles, have been brought together, we have them charged with opposite electricities; and, secondly, when once they have been brought together, we have the production of a continuous current of electricity. Now, this current is an energetic agent, in proof of which we shall proceed to consider the various properties which it has,—the various things which it can do.
Its Magnetic Effects.
96. In the first place, it can deflect the magnetic needle. For instance, let a compass needle be swung freely, and let a current of electricity circulate along a wire placed near this needle, and in the direction of its length, then the direction in which the needle points will be immediately altered. This direction will now depend upon that of the current, conveyed by the wire, and the needle will endeavour to place itself at right angles to this wire.
In order to remember the connection between the direction of the current and that of the magnet, imagine your body to form part of the positive current, which may be supposed to enter in at your head, and go out at your feet; also imagine that your face is turned towards the magnet. In this case, the pole of the magnet, which points to the north, will always be deflected by the current towards your right hand. The strength of a current may be measured by the amount of the deflection it produces upon a magnetic needle, and the instrument by which this measurement is made is called a galvanometer.
Fig. 9.97. In the next place, the current is able, not merely to deflect a magnet, but also to render soft iron magnetic. Let us take, for instance, the wire connected with the one pole of the battery, and cover it with thread, in order to insulate it, and let us wrap this wire round a cylinder of soft iron, as in Fig. 9. If we now make a communication between the other extremity of the wire, and the other pole of the battery, so as to make the current pass, it will be found that our cylinder of soft iron has become a powerful magnet, and that if an iron keeper be attached to it as in the figure, the keeper will be able to sustain a very great weight.
Its Heating Effect.
98. The electric current has likewise the property of heating a wire through which it passes. To prove this, let us connect the two poles of a battery by means of a fine platinum wire, when it will be found that the wire will, in a few seconds, become heated to redness. In point of fact, the current will heat a thick wire, but not so much as a thin one, for we may suppose it to rush with great violence through the limited section of the thin wire, producing in its passage great heat.
Its Chemical Effect.
99. Besides its magnetic and heating effects, the current has also the power of decomposing compound substances, under certain conditions. Suppose, for instance, that the poles of a battery, instead of being brought together, are plunged into a vessel of water, decomposition will at once begin, and small bubbles of oxygen will rise from the positive pole, while small bubbles of hydrogen will make their appearance at the negative. If the two gases are collected together in a vessel, they may be exploded, and if collected separately, it may be proved by the ordinary tests, that the one is oxygen and the other hydrogen.
Attraction and Repulsion of Currents.
100. We have now described very shortly the magnetic, the heating, and the chemical effects of currents; it remains for us to describe the effects of currents upon one another.
In the first place, suppose that we have two wires which are parallel to one another, and carry currents going in the same direction; and let us further suppose that these wires are capable of moving, then it is found that they will attract one another. If, however, the wires, although parallel, convey currents going in opposite directions, they will then repel one another. A good way of showing this experimentally is to cause two circular currents to float on water. If these currents both go either in the same direction as the hands of a watch, or in the opposite direction, then the two will attract one another; but if the one goes in the one direction, and the other in the other, they will then repel one another.
Attraction and Repulsion of Magnets.
101. Ampère, who discovered this property of currents, has likewise shown us that in very many respects a magnet may be likened to a collection of circular currents all parallel to one another, their direction being such that, if you look towards the north pole of a freely suspended cylindrical magnet facing it, the positive current will descend on the east or left-hand side, and ascend on the west or right-hand side. If we adopt this method of viewing magnets, we can easily account for the attraction between the unlike and the repulsion between the like poles of a magnet, for when unlike poles are placed near each other, the circular currents which face each other are then all going in the same direction, and the two will, therefore, attract one another, but if like poles are placed in this position, the currents that face each other are going in opposite directions, and the poles will, therefore, repel one another.
Induction of Currents.
102. Before closing this short sketch of electrical phenomena, we must allude to the inductive effect of currents upon each other. Let us suppose (Fig. 10) that we have two circular coils of wire, covered with thread, and placed near each other. Let both the extremities of the right-hand coil be connected with the poles of a battery, so as to make a current of electricity circulate round the coil. On the other hand, let the left-hand coil be connected with a galvanometer, thus enabling us to detect the smallest current of electricity which may pass through this coil. Now, it is found that when we first connect the right-hand coil, so as to pass the battery current through it, a momentary current will pass through the left-hand coil, and will deflect the needle of the
Fig. 10. galvanometer, but this current will go in an opposite direction to that which circulates round the right-hand coil.
103. Again, as long as the current continues to flow through the right-hand coil there will be no current through the other, but at the moment of breaking the contact between the right-hand coil and the battery there will again be a momentary current in the left-hand coil, but this time in the same direction as that of the right-hand coil, instead of being, as before, in the opposite direction. In other words, when contact is made in the right-hand coil, there is a momentary current in the left-hand coil, but in an opposite direction to that in the right, while, when contact is broken in the right-hand coil, there is a momentary current in the left-hand coil in the same direction as that in the right.
104. In order to exemplify this induction of currents, it is not even necessary to make and break the current in the right-hand coil, for we may keep it constantly going and arrange so as to make the right-hand coil (always retaining its connection with the battery) alternately approach and recede from the other; when it approaches the other, the effect produced will be the same as when the contact was made in the above experiment—that is to say, we shall have an induced current in an opposite direction to that of the primary, while, when it recedes from the other, we shall have a current in the same direction as that of the primary.
105. Thus we see that whether we keep both coils stationary, and suddenly produce a current in the right-hand coil, or whether, keeping this current constantly going, we suddenly bring it near the other coil, the inductive effect will be precisely the same, for in both cases the left-hand coil is suddenly brought into the presence of a current. And again, it is the same, whether we suddenly break the right-hand current, or suddenly remove it from the left-hand coil, for in both cases this coil is virtually removed from the presence of a current.
List of Energies.
106. We are now in a position to enumerate the various kinds of energy which occur in nature; but, before doing so, we must warn our readers that this enumeration has nothing absolute or complete about it, representing, as it does, not so much the present state of our knowledge as of our want of knowledge, or rather profound ignorance, of the ultimate constitution of matter. It is, in truth, only a convenient- classification, and nothing more.
107. To begin, then, with visible energy. We have first of all—
Energy of Visible Motion.
(A.) Visible energy of actual motion—in the planets, in meteors, in the cannon ball, in the storm, in the running stream, and in other instances of bodies in actual visible motion, too numerous to be mentioned.
Visible Energy of Position.
108. Then we have, besides, several cases in which there is an alternation between (A) and (B).
A pendulum, for instance, when at its lowest point, has only the energy (A), or that of actual motion, in virtue of which it ascends a certain distance against the force of gravity. When, however, it has completed its ascent, its energy is then of the variety (B), being due to position, and not to actual motion; and so on it continues to oscillate, alternately changing the nature of its energy from (A) to (B), and from (B) back again to (A).109. A vibrating body is another instance of this alternation. Each particle of such a body may be compared to an exceedingly small pendulum oscillating backwards and forwards, only very much quicker than an ordinary pendulum; and just as the ordinary pendulum in passing its point of rest has its energy all of one kind, while in passing its upper point it has it all of another, so when a vibrating particle is passing its point of rest, its energy is all of the variety (A), and when it has reached its extreme displacement, it is all of the variety (B).
Atomic or Chemical Separation.
111. (E.) The two previous varieties of energy may be viewed as associated with molecules rather than with atoms, and with the force of cohesion rather than with that of chemical affinity. Proceeding now to atomic force, we have a species of energy of position due to the separation of different atoms under the strong chemical attraction they have for one another. Thus, when we possess coal or carbon and also oxygen in a state of separation from one another, we are in possession of a source of energy which may be called that of chemical separation.
Electricity in Motion.
114 (H.) It is well known that there is no ordinary matter, or at least hardly any, between the sun and the earth, and yet we have a kind of energy which we may call radiant energy, which proceeds to us from the sun, and proceeds also with a definite, though very great velocity, taking about eight minutes to perform its journey. Now, this radiant energy is known to consist of the vibrations of an elastic medium pervading all space, which is called ether, or the etherial medium. Inasmuch, therefore, as it consists of vibrations, it partakes of the character of pendulum motion, that is to say, the energy of any ethereal particle is alternately that of position and that of actual motion.
Law of Conservation.
115. Having thus endeavoured, provisionally at least, to catalogue our various energies, we are in a position to state more definitely what is meant by the conservation of energy. For this purpose, let us take the universe as a whole, or, if this be too large, let us conceive, if possible, a small portion of it to be isolated from the rest, as far as force or energy is concerned, forming a sort of microcosm, to which we may conveniently direct our attention.
This portion, then, neither parts with any of its energy to the universe beyond, nor receives any from it. Such an isolation is, of course, unnatural and impossible, but it is conceivable, and will, at least, tend to concentrate our thoughts. Now, whether we regard the great universe, or this small microcosm, the principle of the conservation of energy asserts that the sum of all the various energies is a constant quantity, that is to say, adopting the language of Algebra—
116. This does not mean, of course, that (A) is constant in itself, or any other of the left-hand members of this equation, for, in truth, they are always changing about into each other—now, some visible energy being changed into heat or electricity; and, anon, some heat or electricity being changed back again into visible energy—but it only means that the sum of all the energies taken together is constant. We have, in fact, in the left hand, eight variable quantities, and we only assert that their sum is constant, not by any means that they are constant themselves.
117. Now, what evidence have we for this assertion? It may be, replied that we have the strongest possible evidence which the nature of the case admits of. The assertion is, in truth, a peculiar one—peculiar in its magnitude, in its universality, in the subtle nature of the agents with which it deals. If true, its truth certainly cannot be proved after the manner in which we prove a proposition in Euclid. Nor does it even admit of a proof so rigid as that of the somewhat analogous principle of the conservation of matter, for in chemistry we may confine the products of our chemical combination so completely as to prove, beyond a doubt, that no heavy matter passes out of existence that—when coal, for instance, burns in oxygen gas—what we have is merely a change of condition. But we cannot so easily prove that no energy is destroyed in this combination, and that the only result is a change from the energy of chemical separation into that of absorbed heat, for during the process it is impossible to isolate the energy—do what we may, some of it will escape into the room in which we perform the experiment; some of it will, no doubt, escape through the window, while a little will leave the earth altogether, and go out into space. All that we can do in such a case is to estimate, as completely as possible, how much energy has gone away, since we cannot possibly prevent its going. But this is an operation involving great acquaintance with the laws of energy, and very great exactness of observation: in fine, our readers will at once perceive that it is much more difficult to prove the truth of the conservation of energy than that of the conservation of matter.
118. But if it be difficult to prove our principle in the most rigorous manner, we are yet able to give the strongest possible indirect evidence of its truth.
Our readers are no doubt familiar with a method which Euclid frequently adopts in proving his propositions. Starting with the supposition that they are not true, and reasoning upon this hypothesis, he comes to an absurd conclusion—hence he concludes that they are true. Now, we may adopt a method somewhat similar with regard to our principle, only instead of supposing it untrue, let us suppose it true. It may then be shown that, if it be true, under certain test conditions we ought to obtain certain results—for instance, if we increase the pressure, we ought to lower the freezing point of water. Well, we make the experiment, and find that, in point of fact, the freezing point of water is lowered by increasing the pressure, and we have thus derived an argument in favour of the conservation of energy.
119. Or again, if the laws of energy are true, it may be shown that, whenever a substance contracts when heated, it will become colder instead of hotter by compression. Now, we know that ice-cold water, or water just a little above its freezing point, contracts instead of expanding up to 4° C.; and Sir William Thomson has found, by experiment, that water at this temperature is cooled instead of heated by sudden compression. India-rubber is another instance of this relation between these two properties, for if we stretch a string of india-rubber it gets hotter instead of colder, that is to say, its temperature rises by extension, and gets lower by contraction; and again, if we heat the string, we find that it contracts in length instead of expanding like other substances as its temperature increases.
120. Numberless instances occur in which we are enabled to predict what will happen by assuming the truth of the laws of energy; in other words, these laws are proved to be true in all cases where we can put them to the test of rigorous experiment, and probably we can have no better proof than this of the truth of such a principle. We shall therefore proceed upon the assumption that the conservation of energy holds true in all cases, and give our readers a list of the various transmutations of this subtle agent as it goes backwards and forwards from one abode to another, making, meanwhile, sundry remarks that may tend, we trust, to convince our readers of the truth of our assumption.