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Whereas, if it is dead-beat or strongly-damped, almost anything will respond equally well or equally ill to it.

What I have said of sounding bodies is true of all vibrators in a medium competent to transmit waves. Now a sending telephone or a microphone, when spoken to, emits waves into the ether, and this radiant energy is likewise able to set up vibration in suitable bodies. But we have no delicate means of directly detecting these electrical or etherial waves; and if they are to produce a perceptible effect at a distance, they must be confined as by a speaking-tube, prevented from spreading, and concentrated on the distant receiver.

This is the function of the telegraph wire; it is to the ether what a speaking-tube is to air. A metal wire in air (in function, not in details of analogy) is like a long hollow cavity surrounded by nearly rigid but slightly elastic walls.

Furthermore, any conductor electrically charged or discharged with sufficient suddenness must emit electrical waves into the ether, because the charge given to it will not settle down instantly, but will surge to and fro several times first; and these surgings or electric oscillations must, according to Maxwell, start waves in the ether, because at the end of each half-swing they cause electrostatic, and at the middle of each half-swing they cause electromagnetic effects, and the rapid alternation from one of these modes of energy to the other constitutes etherial waves.* If a wire is handy they will run along it, and may be felt a long way off. If no wire exists they will spread out like sound from a bell, or light from a spark,


Strictly speaking, in the waves themselves there is no lag or difference of phase between the electric and the magnetic vibrations; the difference exists in emitter or absorber, but not in the transmitting medium. True radiation of energy does not begin till about a quarter wave-length from the source, and within that distance the initial quarter period difference of phase is obliterated.

and their intensity will decrease according to the inverse square of the distance.

Maxwell and his followers well knew that there would be such waves; they knew the rate at which they would go, they knew that they would go slower in glass and water than in air, they knew that they would curl round sharp edges, that they would be partly absorbed but mainly reflected by conductors, that if turned back upon themselves they would produce the phenomena of stationary waves, or interference, or nodes and loops; it was known how to calculate the length of such waves, and even how to produce them of any required or predetermined wave-length from 1000 miles to a foot. Other things were known about them which it would take too long to enumerate; any homogeneous insulator would transmit them, would refract or concentrate them if it were of suitable shape, would reflect none of a particular mode of vibration at a certain angle, and so on, and so on. All this was known, I say, known with varying degrees of confidence; but by some known with as great confidence as, perhaps even more confidence than, is legitimate before the actuality of experimental verification.

Hertz supplied the verification. He inserted suitable conductors in the path of such waves, conductors adapted for the occurrence in them of induced electric oscillations, and to the surprise of everyone, himself doubtless included, he found that the secondary electric surgings thus excited were strong enough to display themselves by minute electric sparks.

Electric Syntony: that was his discovery, but he did not stop there. He at once proceeded to apply his discovery to the verification of what had already been predicted about the waves, and by laborious and difficult interference experiments he ascertained that the previously

calculated length of the waves was thoroughly borne out by fact. These interference experiments in free space are his greatest achievement.

He worked out every detail of the theory splendidly, separately analysing the electric and the magnetic oscillation, using language not always such as we should use now, but himself growing in theoretic insight through the medium of what would have been to most physicists a confusing maze of troublesome facts, and disentangling all their main relations most harmoniously.

Receivers or detectors which for the present I temporarily call microphonic, are liable to respond best to the more rapid vibrations. Their sensitiveness is to me surprising, though of course it does not approach the sensitiveness of the eye; at the same time, I am by no means sure that the eye differs from them in kind. It is these detectors that I wish specially to bring to your notice.

Nearly four years ago M. Edouard Branly found that a burnished coat of porphyrised copper spread on glass diminished its resistance enormously, from some millions to some hundreds of ohms when it was exposed to the neighbourhood, even the distant neighbourhood, of Leyden jar or coil sparks. He likewise found that a tube of metallic filings behaved similarly, but that this recovered its original resistance on shaking. Dr. Dawson Turner exhibited this fact recently at the Edinburgh meeting of the British Association, and Mr. Croft has shown it to the Physical Society. M. Branly also made pastes and solid rods of filings, in Canada balsam and in sulphur, and found them likewise sensitive.*

With me the matter arose somewhat differently, as an outcome of the air-gap detector employed with an electroscope by Boltzmann. For I had observed in 1889 that * E. Branly, Comptes Rendus, vol. cxi, p. 785; and vol. exii, p. 90.

two knobs sufficiently close together, far too close to stand any voltage such as an electroscope can show, could, when a spark passed between them, actually cohere; conducting an ordinary bell-ringing current if a single voltaic cell was in circuit; and, if there were no such cell, exhibiting an electromotive force of their own sufficient to disturb a low resistance galvanometer vigorously, and sometimes requiring a faintly perceptible amount of force to detach them. The experiment was described to the Institution of Electrical Engineers, and Professor Hughes said he had observed the same thing.


Well, this arrangement, which I call a coherer, is the most astonishingly sensitive detector of Hertz waves. It differs from an actual air-gap in that the insulating film is not really insulating; the film breaks down not only much more easily, but also in a less discontinuous and more permanent manner, than an air-gap. A tube of filings, being a series of bad contacts, clearly works on the same plan; and though a tube of filings is by no means so sensitive, yet it is in many respects easier to work with, and, except for very feeble stimuli, is more metrical. If the filings used are coarse, say turnings or borings, the tube approximates to a single coherer; if they are fine, it has a larger range of sensibility. In every case what these receivers feel are sudden jerks of current; smooth sinuous vibrations are ineffective. They seem to me to respond best to waves a few inches long, but doubtless that is determined chiefly by the dimensions of some conductor with which they happen to be associated.

I picture to myself the action as follows:-Suppose two fairly clean pieces of metal in light contact-say two

⚫ Journal Institution of Electrical Engineers, 1890, vol. xix, pp. 352-4; or Lightning Conductors and Lightning Guards (Whittaker), pp. 382–4. See also Phil. Mag., January, 1894.

pieces of iron-connected to a single voltaic cell; a film of what may be called oxide intervenes between the surfaces, so that only an insignificant current is allowed to pass, because a volt or two is insufficient to break down the insulating film, except perhaps at one or two atoms.* If the film is not permitted to conduct at all, it is not very sensitive; the most sensitive condition is obtained when an infinitesimal current passes, strong enough just to show on a moderate galvanometer.

Now let the slightest surging occur, say by reason of a sphere being charged and discharged at a distance of forty yards; the film at once breaks down-perhaps not completely, that is a question of intensity-but permanently. As I imagine, more molecules get within each other's range, incipient cohesion sets in, and the momentary electric quiver acts somewhat like a flux. It is a singular variety of electric welding. A stronger stimulus enables more molecules to hold on, the process is surprisingly metrical; and, as far as I roughly know at present, the change of resistance is proportional to the energy of the electric radiation, from a source of given frequency.

It is to be specially noted that a battery current is not needed to effect the cohesion, only to demonstrate it. The battery can be applied after the spark has occurred, and the resistance will be found changed as much as if the battery had been on all the time.

The incipient cohesion electrically caused can be mechanically destroyed. Sound vibrations or any other feeble mechanical disturbances, such as scratches or taps, are well adapted to restore the contact to its original highresistance sensitive condition. The more feeble the electrical disturbance the slighter is the corresponding mechanical stimulus needed for restoration. When working *See Phil. Mag., Jan., 1894, p. 94.

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