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turns in the whole; the bullet of the upper surface giving in each turn twelve sparks to the thimbles, which makes seven thousand two hundred sparks; and the bullet of the under surface receiving as many from the thimbles; those bullets moving in the time near two thousand five hundred feet. The thimbles are well fixed, and in so exact a circle, that the bullets may pass within a very small distance of each of them. If, instead of two bullets, you put eight, four communicating with the upper surface and four with the under surface, placed alternately, which eight at about six inches distance completes the circumference, the force and swiftness will be greatly increased, the wheel making fifty turns in a minute; but then it will not continue moving so long. These wheels may be applied, perhaps, to the ringing of chimes,* and moving of lightmade orreries.
23. A small wire bent circularly, with a loop at each end; let one end rest against the under surface of the wheel . and bring the other end near the upper surface, it will give a terrible crack, and the force will be discharged.
24. Every spark in that manner drawn from the surface of the wheel, makes a round hole in the gilding, tearing off a part of it in coming out; which shows that the fire is not accumulated on the gilding, but is in the glass itself.
25. The gilding being varnished over with turpentine varnish, the varnish, though dry and hard, is burnt by the spark drawn through it, and gives a strong smell and visible smoke. And, when the spark is drawn through paper, all round the hole made by it, the paper will be blacked by the smoke, which sometimes penetrates several of the leaves. Part of the
• This was afterwards done with success by Mr. Kinnersley.
gilding torn off is also found forcibly driven into the hole made in the paper by the stroke.
26. It is amazing to observe in how small a portion of glass a great electrical force may lie. A thin glass bubble, about an inch diameter, weighing only six grains, being half filled with water, partly gilt on the outside, and furnished with a wire hook, gives, when electrified, as great a shock as a man can well bear. As the glass is thickest near the orifice, I suppose the lower half, which, being gilt, was electrified and gave the shock, did not exceed two grains; for it appeared, when broken, much thinner than the upper half. If one of these thin bottles be electrified by the coating, and the spark taken out through the gilding, it will break the glass inwards, at the same time that it breaks the gilding outwards.
27. And allowing (for the reasons before given, § 8, 9, 10,) that there is no more electrical fire in a bottle after charging than before, how great must be the quantity in this small portion of glass! It seems as if it were of its very substance and essence. Perhaps if that due quantity of electrical fire so obstinately retained by glass, could be separated from it, it would no longer be glass; it might lose its transparency, or its brittleness, or its elasticity. Experiments may possibly be invented hereafter to discover this.
28. We were surprised at the account, given in Mr. Watson's book, of a shock communicated through a great space of dry ground, and suspect there must be some metalline quality in the gravel of that ground; having found that simply dry earth, rammed in a glass tube, open at both ends, and a wire hook inserted in the earth at each end, the earth and wires making part of a circuit, would not conduct the least perceptible shock; and, indeed, when one wire was electrified, the other hardly showed any signs of its being in connexion with it.* Even a thoroughly wet packthread sometimes fails of conducting a shock, though it otherwise conducts electricity very well. A dry cake of ice, or an icicle held between two in a circle, likewise prevents the shock, which one would not expect, as water conducts it so perfectly well. Gilding -on a new book, though at first it conducts the shock extremely well, yet fails after ten or a dozen experiments, though it appears otherwise in all respects the same, which we cannot account for.f
29. There is one experiment more which surprises us, and is not hitherto satisfactorily accounted for; it is this. Place an iron shot on a glass stand, and let a ball of damp cork, suspended by a silk thread, hang in contact with the shot. Take a bottle in each hand, one that is electrified through the hook, the other through the coating; apply the giving wire to the shot, which will electrify it positively, and the cork shall be repelled; then apply the requiring wire, which will take out the spark given by the other; when the cork will return to the shot; apply the same again, and take out another spark, so will the shot be electrified negatively, and the cork in that case shall be repelled equally as before. Then apply the giving wire to the shot, and give the spark it wanted, so will the cork return; give it another, which will be an addition to its natural quantity, so will the cork be repelled again; and so may the experiment be repeated as long as there is any charge in the bottles. Which shows, that bodies having less than the common quantity of electricity repel each other, as well as those that have more.
* Probably the ground is never so dry.
f We afterwards found, that it failed after one stroke with a large bottle; and the continuity of the gold appearing broken, and many of its parts dissipated, the electricity could not pass the remaining parts without leaping from part to part through the air, which always resists the motion of this fluid, and was probably the cause of the gold's not conducting so well as before; the number of interruptions in the line of gold, making, when added together, a space larger, perhaps, than the striking distance.
VOL. V. 27 R*
Chagrined a little that we have been hitherto able to produce nothing in this way of use to mankind; and the hot weather coming on, when electrical experiments are not so agreeable, it is proposed to put an end to them for this season, somewhat humorously, in a party of pleasure on the banks of the Skvylkill* Spirits, at the same time, are to be fired by a spark sent from side to side through the river, without any other conductor than the water; an experiment which we some time since performed, to the amazement of many.f A turkey is to be killed for our dinner by the electrical shock, and roasted by the electrical jack, before a fire kindled by the electrified bottle; when the healths of all the famous electricians in England, Holland, France, and Germany are to be drank in electrified bumpers* under the discharge of guns from the electrical battery.
* The river that washes one side of Philadelphia, as the Delaware does the other; both are ornamented with the summer habitations of the citizens, and the agreeable mansions of the principal people of this colony.
f As the possibility of this experiment has not been easily conceived, I shall here describe it. Two iron rods, about three feet long, were planted just within the margin of the river, on the opposite sides. A thick piece of wire, with a small round knob at its end, was fixed on the top of one of the rods, bending downwards, so as to deliver commodiously the spark upon the surface of the spirit. A small wire fastened by one end to the handle of the spoon, containing the spirit, was carried across the river, and supported in the air by the rope commonly used to hold by, in drawing the ferry-boats over. The other end of this wire was tied round the coating of the bottle; which being charged, the spark was delivered from the hook to the top of the rod standing in the water on that side. At the same instant the rod on the other side delivered a spark into the spoon, and fired the spirit; the electric fire returning to the coating of the bottle, through the handle of the spoon and the supported wire connected with them.
That the electric fire thus actually passes through the water, has since been satisfactorily demonstrated to many, by an experiment of Mr. Kinnersley's, performed in a trough of water about ten feet long. The hand, being placed under water in the direction of the spark (which always takes the straight or shortest course, if sufficient, and other circumstances are equal), is struck and penetrated by it as it passes.
TO PETER COLLLNSON.
Observations and Suppositions towards forming a new Hypothesis for explaining the several Phenomena of Thunder-gusts.f
Sir, Non-electric bodies, that have electric fire thrown into them, will retain it till other electrics, that have less, approach; and then it is communicated by a snap, and becomes equally divided.
2. Electrical fire loves water, is strongly attracted by it, and they can subsist together.
3. Air is an electric per se, and, when dry, will not conduct the electrical fire; it will neither receive it, nor give it to other bodies; otherwise no body surrounded by air could be electrified positively and negatively; for, should it be attempted positively, the air would immediately take away the overplus; or negatively, the air would supply what was wanting.
4. Water being electrified, the vapors arising from it will be equally electrified; and floating in the air, in
* An electrified bumper is a small, thin, glass tumbler, nearly filled with wine, and electrified as the bottle. This when brought to the lips gives a shock, if the party be close shaved, and does not breathe on the liquor. — April 29th, 1749.
f Thunder-gusts are sudden storms of thunder and lightning, which are frequently of short duration, but sometimes produce mischievous effects.