Magnetism of flame and gases--atmospheric magnetism.

Magnetism of flame and gases
atmospheric magnetism

When an experimental result was obtained by Faraday it was instantly enlarged by his imagination. I am acquainted with no mind whose power and suddenness of expansion at the touch of new physical truth could be ranked with his. Sometimes I have compared the action of his experiments on his mind to that of highly combustible matter thrown into a furnace; every fresh entry of fact was accompanied by the immediate development of light and heat. The light, which was intellectual, enabled him to see far beyond the boundaries of the fact itself, and the heat, which was emotional, urged him to the conquest of this newly-revealed domain. But though the force of his imagination was enormous, he bridled it like a mighty rider, and never permitted his intellect to be overthrown.

In virtue of the expansive power which his vivid imagination conferred upon him, he rose from the smallest beginnings to the grandest ends. Having heard from Zantedeschi that Bancalari had established the magnetism of flame, he repeated the experiments and augmented the results. He passed from flames to gases, examining and revealing their magnetic and diamagnetic powers; and then he suddenly rose from his bubbles of oxygen and nitrogen to the atmospheric envelope of the earth itself, and its relations to the great question of terrestrial magnetism. The rapidity with which these ever-augmenting thoughts assumed the form of experiments is unparalleled. His power in this respect is often best illustrated by his minor investigations, and, perhaps, by none more strikingly than by his paper 'On the Diamagnetic Condition of Flame and Gases,' published as a letter to Mr. Richard Taylor, in the 'Philosophical Magazine' for December, 1847. After verifying, varying, and expanding the results of Bancalari, he submitted to examination heated air-currents, produced by platinum spirals placed in the magnetic field, and raised to incandescence by electricity. He then examined the magnetic deportment of gases generally. Almost all of these gases are invisible; but he must, nevertheless, track them in their unseen courses. He could not effect this by mingling smoke with his gases, for the action of his magnet upon the smoke would have troubled his conclusions. He, therefore, 'caught' his gases in tubes, carried them out of the magnetic field, and made them reveal themselves at a distance from the magnet.

Immersing one gas in another, he determined their differential action; results of the utmost beauty being thus arrived at. Perhaps the most important are those obtained with atmospheric air and its two constituents. Oxygen, in various media, was strongly attracted by the magnet; in coal-gas, for example, it was powerfully magnetic, whereas nitrogen was diamagnetic. Some of the effects obtained with oxygen in coal-gas were strikingly beautiful. When the fumes of chloride of ammonium (a diamagnetic substance) were mingled with the oxygen, the cloud of chloride behaved in a most singular manner,-- 'The attraction of iron filings,' says Faraday, 'to a magnetic pole is not more striking than the appearance presented by the oxygen under these circumstances.'

On observing this deportment the question immediately occurs to him, --Can we not separate the oxygen of the atmosphere from its nitrogen by magnetic analysis? It is the perpetual occurrence of such questions that marks the great experimenter. The attempt to analyze atmospheric air by magnetic force proved a failure, like the previous attempt to influence crystallization by the magnet. The enormous comparative power of the force of crystallization I have already assigned as a reason for the incompetence of the magnet to determine molecular arrangement; in the present instance the magnetic analysis is opposed by the force of diffusion, which is also very strong comparatively. The same remark applies to, and is illustrated by, another experiment subsequently executed by Faraday. Water is diamagnetic, sulphate of iron is strongly magnetic. He enclosed 'a dilute solution of sulphate of iron in a tube, and placed the lower end of the tube between the poles of a powerful horseshoe magnet for days together,' but he could produce 'no concentration of the solution in the part near the magnet.' Here also the diffusibility of the salt was too powerful for the force brought against it.

The experiment last referred to is recorded in a paper presented to the Royal Society on the 2nd August, 1850, in which he pursues the investigation of the magnetism of gases. Newton's observations on soap- bubbles were often referred to by Faraday. His delight in a soap-bubble was like that of a boy, and he often introduced them into his lectures, causing them, when filled with air, to float on invisible seas of

  By PanEris using Melati.

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