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14. To explain this; take two apples, or two balls of wood or other matter, each having its own natural quantity of the electrical fluid. Suspend them by silk lines from the ceiling. Apply the wire of a well-charged phial, held in your hand, to one of them (A) Fig. 7, and it will receive from the wire a quantity of the electrical fluid, but will not imbibe it, being already full. The fluid, therefore, will flow round its surface, and form an electrical atmosphere. Bring A into contact with B, and half the electrical fluid is communicated, so that each has now an electrical atmosphere, and therefore they repel each other. Take away these atmospheres, by touching the balls, and leave them in their natural state; then, having fixed a stick of sealingwax to the middle of the phial to hold it by, apply the wire to A, at the same time the coating touches B. Thus will a quantity of the electrical fluid be drawn out of B, and thrown on A. So that A will have a redundance of this fluid, which forms an atmosphere round, and B an exactly equal deficiency. Now, bring these balls again into contact, and the electrical atmosphere will not be divided between A and B, into two smaller atmospheres as before; for B will drink up
the whole atmosphere of A, and both will be found again in their natural state.
15. The form of the electrical atmosphere is that of the body it surrounds. This shape may be rendered visible in a still air, by raising a smoke from dry rosin dropt into a hot tea-spoon under the electrified body, which will be attracted, and spread itself equally on all sides, covering and concealing the body.* And this form it takes, because it is attracted by all parts of the surface of the body, though it cannot enter the substance already replete. Without this attraction, it would not remain round the body, but dissipate in the air.
16. The atmosphere of electrical particles surrounding an electrified sphere, is not more disposed to leave it, or more easily drawn off from any one part of the sphere than another, because it is equally attracted by every part. But that is not the case with bodies of any other figure. From a cube it is more easily drawn at the corners than at the plane sides, and so from the angles of a body of any other form, and still most easily from the angle that is most acute. Thus, if a body shaped as A, B, C, D, E, in Fig. 8, be electrified, or have an electrical atmosphere communicated to it, and we consider every side as a base on which the particles rest, and by which they are attracted, one may see, by imagining a line from A to F, and another from E to G, that the portion of the atmosphere included in F,A, E, G, has the line A, E, for its basis. So the portion of atmosphere, included in H, A, B, I, has the line A, B for its basis.' And likewise the portion included in K, B, C, L, has B, C to rest on; and so on the other side of the figure. Now, if you would draw off this atmosphere with any blunt, smooth body, and approach the middle of the side A, B, you must come very near, before the force of your attractor exceeds the force or power with which that side holds its atmosphere. But there is a small portion between I, B, K, that has less of the syrface to rest on, and to be attracted by, than the neighbouring portions, while at the same time there is a mutual repulsion between its particles, and the particles of those portions ; therefore here you can get it with more ease, or at a greater distance.
Between F, A, H, there is a larger portion that has yet a less surface to rest on, and to attract it; here, therefore, you can get it away still more easily. But easiest of all, between L, C, M, where the quantity is largest, and the surface to attract and keep it back the least. When you have drawn away one of these angular portions of the fluid, another succeeds in its place from the nature of fluidity, and the mutual repulsion before mentioned ; and so the atmosphere continues flowing off at such angle, like a stream, till no more is remaining. The extremities of the portions of atmosphere over these angular parts, are likewise at a greater distance from the electrified body, as may be seen by the inspection of the above figure; the point of the atmosphere of the angle C being much farther from C, than any other
part of the atmosphere over the lines C, B, or B, A; and, besides the distance arising from the nature of the figure, where the attraction is less, the particles will naturally expand to a greater distance by their mutual repulsion. On these accounts we suppose electrified bodies discharge their atmospheres upon unelectrified bodies more easily, and at a greater distance from their angles and points, than from their smooth sides. Those points will also discharge into the air, when the body has too great an electrical atmosphere, without bringing any non-electric near to receive what is thrown off. For the air, though an electric per se, yet has always more or less water and other non-electric matters mixed with it; and these attract and receive what is so discharged.
17. But points have a property, by which they draw on as well as throw off the electrical fluid, at greater distances than blunt bodies can. That is, as the pointed part of an electrified body will discharge the atmosphere of that body, or communicate it farthest to another body, so the point of an unelectrified body will draw off the electrical atmosphere from an electrified body,
farther than a blunter part of the same unelectrified body will do. Thus, a pin held by the head, and the point presented to an electrified body, will draw off its atmosphere at a foot distance; where, if the head were presented instead of the point, no such effect would follow. To understand this, we may consider, that, if a person standing on the floor would draw off the electrical atmosphere from an electrified body, an iron crow and a blunt knitting-needle held alternately in his hand, and presented for that purpose, do not draw with different forces in proportion to their different masses. For the man, and what he holds in his hand, be it large or small
, are connected with the common mass of unelectrified matter; and the force with which he draws is the same in both cases, it consisting in the different proportion of electricity in the electrified body, and that
But the force, with which the electrified body retains its atmosphere by attracting it, is proportioned to the surface over which the particles are placed; that is, four square inches of that surface retain their atmosphere with four times the force that one square inch retains its atmosphere. And, as, in plucking the hairs from the horse's tail, a degree of strength not sufficient to pull away a handful at once, could yet easily strip it hair by hair, so a blunt body presented cannot draw off a number of particles at once, but a pointed one, with no greater force, takes them away easily, particle by particle.
18. These explanations of the power and operation of points, when they first occurred to me, and while they first floated in my mind, appeared perfectly satisfactory; but now I have written them, and considered them more closely, I must own I have some doubts about them; yet, as I have at present nothing better to offer in their stead, I do not cross them out; for, even VOL. V.
a bad solution read, and its faults discovered, has often given rise to a good one, in the mind of an ingenious reader.
19. Nor is it of much importance to us to know the manner in which nature executes her laws; it is enough if we know the laws themselves. It is of real use to know that China left in the air unsupported will fall and break; but how it comes to fall
, and why it breaks, are matters of speculation. It is a pleasure indeed to know them, but we can preserve our China without it.
20. Thus, in the present case, to know this power of points. may possibly be of some use to mankind, though we should never be able to explain it. The following experiments, as well as those in my first paper, show this power. I have a large prime conductor, made of several thin sheets of clothier's pasteboard, formed into a tube, near ten feet long and a foot diameter. It is covered with Dutch embossed paper, almost totally gilt. This large metallic surface supports a much greater electrical atmosphere than a rod of iron of fifty times the weight would do. It is suspended by silk lines, and when charged will strike, at near two inches distance, a pretty hard stroke, so as to make one's knuckle ache. Let a person standing on the floor present the point of a needle, at twelve or more inches distance from it, and while the needle is so presented, the conductor cannot be charged, the point drawing off the fire as fast as it is thrown on by the electrical globe. Let it be charged, and then present the point at the same distance, and it will suddenly be discharged. In the dark you may see the light on the point, when the experiment is made. And, if the person holding the point stands upon wax, he will be electrified by receiving the fire at that distance. Attempt to draw off the electricity with a blunt body, as a bolt of iron round