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Electro-Magnetic Radiation1

    Naturevolume 42pages172175 (1890) | Download Citation



    IN order to discover whether actions are propagated in time or instantaneously, we may employ the principle of interference to measure the wave-length of a periodic disturbance, and determine whether it is finite or no. This is the principle employed by Hertz to prove experimentally Maxwell's theory as to the rate of propagation of electro-magnetic waves. In order to confine the experiments within reasonable limits we require short waves, of a few metres' length at most. As the highest audible note gives waves of five or six miles long, and our eyes are sensitive only to unmanageably short waves, it is necessary to generate and observe waves whose frequency is intermediate between them, of some hundred million vibrations per second or so. For this purpose we may use a pair of conducting surfaces connected by a shorter or longer wire, in which is interposed a spark-gap of some few millimetres' length. When the conductors are charged by a coil or electrical machine to a sufficiently high difference of potential for a spark to be formed between them, they discharge in a series of oscillations, whose period for systems of similar shape is inversely proportional to the linear dimensions of the system so long as the surrounding medium is unaltered. When the surrounding non-conducting medium changes, the period depends on the electric and magnetic specific inductive capacities of this medium. Two such systems were shown: a large one, whose frequency was about 60 millions per second; and a small one, whose frequency was about 500 millions per second. The large one consisted of two flat plates, about 30 cm. square and 60 cm. apart, and arranged in the same way as is described by Prof. Hertz in Wiedemann's Annalen, April 1888. The smaller vibrating system consisted of two short brass cylinders terminating in gilt brass balls of the same size, and arranged in the same way as the smaller system described by Prof. Hertz in Wiedemann's Annalen, March 1889. This latter system was placed in the focal line of a cylindrical parabolic mirror of thin zinc plate, such as that described by Prof. Hertz in this paper.

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