The Magnetic Deflection of Cathode Rays


    THE current number of the Electrician contains a translation of a very interesting paper by Herr P. Lenard, on the deflection of the cathode rays by a magnet. It is well known that when the cathode rays traverse a magnetic field they are deflected from their otherwise rectilineal path, and in the form of tube ordinarily employed this deflection increases with an increase in the pressure of the residual gas in the tube. In this particular the cathode rays behave just like a current of negatively charged particles projected from the cathode. The paths of such particles would be curved in a magnetic field, and the curvature would increase with a decrease in the speed with which the particles travel, i.e. they would be more curved in a denser and more resisting medium. The above explanation is not in accord with the results of the experiments the author has made, and which have led him to consider the cathode rays as phenomena in the ether. In fact, the author finds that when the observation tube and the tube in which the rays are generated, are separated by a gas-proof aluminium partition, so that the gaseous pressure can be varied in the two tubes independently, that the above explanation entirely fails, and that everything confirms his previous view that these rays are phenomena in the ether, and not electrically charged particles. For instance, if the pressure of the gas in the discharge-tube be kept constant, while that in the observing tube be lowered from 33 m.m. to 0˙021 m.m. it is found that the deflection produced remains constant. Higher pressures than 33 m.m. could not be employed, as under these circumstances the medium became so turbid to these rays as to entirely destroy all definition in the phosphorescent spot. If, however, the pressure of the gas in the observing tube be kept constant, while that in the discharge tube is varied, a marked influence on the position of the deflected spot is at once observable. Thus, if the pressure is altered so that the sparking distance in the discharge tube changes from 2 cm. to 4 cm. there is an alteration in the deflection of from 12˙2 m.m. to 8˙5 m.m. Thus it would appear that the difference in the deflection observed with varying gas pressures in the ordinary form of tube is not caused by difference of the medium in which the deflection is observed, but in the difference of the rays themselves, which are produced with varying pressures of gas. A curious deformation in the shape of the deflected phosphorescent spot was observed, for while the undeflected spot was always circular in form, the distribution of light being dependent on the turbidity (i.e. density) of the gas in the tube, in very turbid gases the edge of the spot is undefined. If the gas becomes rarer there appears in the centre of the spot a more or less sharply defined kernel, surrounded by a less bright penumbra. After deflection the spots become elliptical in shape, which may be due to the fact that the rays no longer met the screen at right angles, but when the gas was so rarefied that there was a central bright spot and a penumbra, the appearance of the spot was subject to sudden changes. While the position and shape of the central spot remained constant, the penumbra changed both in shape and position, sometimes even being quite separate from the bright spot. The penumbra was in every case more deflected than the bright spot, thus showing that the penumbra contains rays of greater deflectibility than the core, but never of less. This is borne out by previous experiments, which had shown that it is the rays that are most easily diffused that are most deflected.

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