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Visible And Invisible Rays Of The Electric Light

( Originally Published 1905 )

We have next to examine what proportion the non-luminous rays of the electric light bear to the luminous ones. This the opaque solution of iodine enables us to do with an extremely close approximation to the truth. The pure bisulphide of carbon, which is the solvent of the iodine, is perfectly transparent to the luminous, and almost perfectly transparent to the dark, rays of the electric lamp. Supposing the total radiation of the lamp to pass through the transparent bisulphide, while through the solution of iodine only the dark rays are transmitted. If we determine, by means of a thermo-electric pile, the total radiation, and deduct from it the purely obscure, we obtain the value of the purely luminous emission. Experiments, performed in this way, prove that if all the visible rays of the electric light were converged to a focus of dazzling brilliancy, its heat would only be one-eighth of that produced at the unseen focus of the invisible rays.

Exposing his thermometers to the , successive colors of the solar spectrum, Sir William Herschel determined the heating power of each, and also that of the region beyond the extreme red. Then drawing a straight line to represent the length of the spectrum, he erected, at various points, perpendiculars to represent the calorific intensity existing at those points. Uniting the ends of all his perpendiculars, he obtained a curve which showed at a glance the manner in which the heat was distributed in the solar spectrum. Professor Muller of Freiburg, with improved instruments, afterward made similar experiments, and constructed a more accurate diagram of the same kind. We have now to examine the distribution of heat in the spectrum of the electric light; and for this purpose we shall employ aparticular form of the thermo-electric pile, devised by Melloni. Its face is a rectangle, which by means of movable side-pieces can be rendered as narrow as de-sired. We can, for example, have the face of the pile the tenth, the hundredth, or even the thousandth, of an inch in breadth. By means of an endless screw, this linear thermo-electric pile may be moved through the entire spectrum, from the violet to the red, the amount of heat falling upon the pile at every point of its march being declared by a magnetic needle associated with the pile.

When this instrument is brought up to the violet end of the spectrum of, the electric light, the heat is found to be insensible. As the pile is gradually moved from the violet end toward the red, heat soon manifests itself, augmenting as we approach the red. Of all the colors of the visible spectrum the red possesses the highest heating power. On pushing the pile into the dark region beyond the red, the heat, instead of vanishing, rises suddenly and enormously in intensity, until at some distance beyond the red it attains a maximum. Moving the pile still forward, the thermal power falls somewhat more rapidly than it rose. It then gradually shades away, but, for a distance beyond the red greater than the length of the -whole visible spectrum, signs of heat may be detected.

Drawing a datum line, and erecting along it perpendiculars, proportional in length to the thermal intensity at the respective points, we obtain the extraordinary curve, shown on the opposite page, which exhibits the distribution of heat in the spectrum of the electric light. In the region of dark rays, beyond the red, the curve shoots up to B, in a steep and massive peak—a kind of Matterhorn of heat, which dwarfs the portion of the diagram c D E, representing the luminous radiation. Indeed the idea forced upon the mind by this diagram is that the light rays are a mere insignificant appendage to the heat rays represented by the area A B C D, thrown in, as it were, by nature for the purpose of vision.

The diagram drawn by Professor Muller to represent the distribution of heat in the solar spectrum is not by any means so striking as that just described, and the reason, doubtless, is that prior to reaching the earth the solar rays have to traverse our atmosphere. By the aqueous vapor there diffused, the summit of the peak representing the sun's invisible radiation is cut off. A similar lowering of the mountain of invisible heat is observed when the rays from the electric light are permitted to pass through a film of water, which acts upon them as the atmospheric vapor acts upon the rays of the sun.

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