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under the hands of the lapidary; but as it is inconceivable that the particles of matter should act upon one another without some means of communication, it is presumed that the interstices of material substances contain a portion of the ethereal medium with which the regions of space are filled.
The various hypotheses that have been formed as to the nature and action of the forces which unite the particles of matter, have been successively given up as science advanced, and now nothing decisive has been attained, although Professor Mossotti, of Pisa, by a very able analysis, has endeavoured to prove the identity of the cohesive force with gravitation. As the particles of material bodies are not in actual contact, he supposes that each is surrounded by an atmosphere of the ethereal medium, which he conceives to be electricity; moreover he assumes that the atoms of the medium repel one another, that the particles of matter also repel one another, but with less intensity, and that there is a mutual attraction between the particles of matter and the atoms of the medium, forces which are assumed to vary inversely as the square of the distance.
Hence, when the material molecules of a body are inappreciably near to one another, they mutually repel each other with a force which diminishes rapidly as the infinitely small distance between the material molecules augments, and at last vanishes. When the molecules are still farther apart, the force becomes attractive. At that particular point where the change takes place the forces of repulsion and attraction balance each other, so that the molecules of a body are neither disposed to approach nor recede, but remain in equilibrio. If we try to press them nearer, the repulsive force resists the attempt; and if we endeavour to break the body so as to tear the particles asunder, the attractive force predominates and keeps them together. This is what constitutes the cohesive force, or force of aggregation, by which the molecules of all substances are united. The limits of the distance at which the negative action becomes positive vary according to the temperature and nature of the molecules, and determine whether the body which they form be solid, liquid, or aëriform.
Beyond this neutral point the attractive force increases as the distance between the molecules augments till it attains a maximum; when the particles are more apart, it diminishes; and, as soon as they are separated by finite or sensible distances, it varies
directly as their mass and inversely as the square of the distance, which is precisely the law of universal gravitation.
Thus, on the hypothesis that the mutual repulsion between the electric atoms is a little more powerful than the mutual repulsion between the particles of matter, the ether and the matter attract each other with unequal intensities, which leaves an excess of attractive force constituting gravitation. As the gravitating force is in operation wherever there is matter, the ethereal electric medium must encompass all the bodies in the universe; and, as it is utterly incomprehensible that the celestial bodies should exert a reciprocal attraction through a void, the Professor concludes that the ethereal electrical medium fills all space.
It is true that this connexion between the molecular forces and gravitation depends upon hypothesis; but in the greater number of physical investigations some hypothesis is requisite in the first instance to aid the imperfection of our senses; and when the phenomena of nature accord with the assumption, we are justified in believing it to be a general law.
Mr. Rankin's theory of molecular vortices, or the molecular structure of matter, is independent of electricity. According to his hypothesis, each atom of matter consists of an inappreciably small nucleus, encompassed by an elastic ethereal atmosphere which is retained in its position by attractive forces directed towards the molecule, whilst the molecules attract each other in the direction of straight lines joining their centres. The nuclei may either be solid, or a high condensation of the atmospheres which surround each with decreasing density. When the attraction between the molecules is such that the elasticity of the atmospheres is insensible, the body is a perfect solid, the rigidity of which bears a certain definite proportion to the elasticity of the volume. When the atmospheres are less condensed and the attraction of the molecules merely produces a cohesive force sufficient to balance the atomic elasticity of the atmosphere, the body is a perfect liquid; and when the attraction of the molecules is very small compared with the elasticity of their ethereal atmospheres, the body is a perfect gas. These atmospheres are supposed to be portions of the ethereal medium which penetrates into the interstices of every substance, and their elasticity to be due to the heat generated by the centrifugal force or oscillations among their atoms, for motion is the cause of heat, the force
producing the motions varying simply as the density of the ether.
In aëriform fluids, although the particles are more remote from each other than in liquids and solids, yet the pressure may be so great as to reduce an aëriform fluid to a liquid, and a liquid to a solid. Dr. Faraday has reduced some of the gases to a liquid state by very great compression; but although atmospheric air is capable of a diminution of volume to which we do not know a limit, it has hitherto always retained its gaseous qualities, and resumes its primitive volume the instant the pressure is removed. Substances are said to be more or less elastic, according to the facility with which they regain their bulk or volume when the pressure is removed; thus liquids resist compression on account of their elasticity, and in solids the resistance is much greater but variable, and the effort required to break a substance is a measure of the cohesive force exerted by its particles. In stone, iron, steel, and all brittle and hard substances, the cohesion of the particles is powerful but of small extent; in elastic bodies, on the contrary, its action is weak, but more extensive. An infinite variety of conditions may be observed in the fusion of metals and other substances passing from hardness to toughness, viscidity, and through all the other stages to perfect fluidity and even to vapour. Since all bodies expand by heat, the cohesive force is weakened by increase of temperature. The cohesion of matter or the strength of substances forms an important branch of study in engineering.
Every particle of matter, whether it forms a constituent part of a solid, liquid, or aëriform fluid, is subject to the law of gravitation. The weight of the atmosphere, of gases and vapour, shows that they consist of gravitating particles. In liquids the cohesive force is not sufficiently powerful to resist the action of gravitation. Therefore, although their component particles still maintain their connexion, the liquid is scattered by their weight, unless when it is confined in a vessel or has already descended to the lowest point possible, and assumed a level surface from the mobility of its particles and the influence of the gravitating forces, as in the ocean, or a lake. Solids would also fall to pieces by the weight of their particles, if the force of cohesion were not powerful enough to resist the efforts of gravitation.
The phenomena arising from the force of cohesion are innu
merable. The spherical form of rain-drops; the difficulty of detaching a plate of glass from the surface of water; the force with which two plane surfaces adhere when pressed together; the drops that cling to the window-glass in a shower of rainare all effects of cohesion entirely independent of atmospheric pressure, and are included in the same analytical formula (N. 162) which expresses all the circumstances accurately, although the laws according to which the forces of cohesion and repulsion vary are unknown. It is more than probable that the spherical form of the sun and planets is due to the force of cohesion, as they have every appearance of having been at one period in a state of fusion.
A very remarkable instance has occasionally been observed in plate-glass manufactories. After the large plates of glass of which mirrors are to be made have received their last polish, they are carefully wiped and laid on their edges with their surfaces resting on one another. In the course of time the cohesion has sometimes been so powerful, that they could not be separated without breaking. Instances have occurred where two or three have been so perfectly united, that they have been cut and their edges polished as if they had been fused together; and so great was the force required to make the surfaces slide that one tore off a portion of the surface of the other.
In liquids and gases the forms of the particles have no influence, they are so far apart; but the structure of solids varies according to the sides which the particles present to one another during their aggregation. Nothing is known of their form further than the dissimilarity of their different sides in certain cases, which appears from their reciprocal attractions during crystallisation being more or less powerful according to the sides they present to one another. Crystallisation is an effect of molecular attraction regulated by certain laws, according to which atoms of the same kind of matter unite in regular forms— a fact easily proved by dissolving a piece of alum in pure water. The mutual attraction of the particles is destroyed by the water; but, if it be evaporated, they unite, and form in uniting eightsided figures called octahedrons (N. 163). These however are not all the same. Some have their angles cut off, others their edges, and some both, while the remainder take the regular form. It is quite clear that the same circumstances which cause the
aggregation of a few particles would, if continued, cause the addition of more; and the process would go on as long as any particles remain free round the primitive nucleus, which would increase in size, but would remain unchanged in form, the figure of the particles being such as to maintain the regularity and smoothness of the surfaces of the solid and their mutual inclinations. A broken crystal will by degrees resume its regular figure when put back again into the solution of alum, which shows that the internal and external particles are similar, and have a similar attraction for the particles held in solution. The original conditions of aggregation which make the molecules of the same substance unite in different forms must be very numerous, since of carbonate of lime alone there are many hundred varieties; and certain it is, from the motion of polarised light through rock crystal, that a very different arrangement of particles is requisite to produce an extremely small change in external form. A variety of substances in crystallising combine chemically with a certain portion of water which in a dry state forms an essential part of their crystals, and, according to the experiments of MM. Haidinger and Mitscherlich, seems in some cases to give the peculiar determination to their constituent molecules. These gentlemen have observed that the same substance crystallising at different temperatures unites with different quantities of water and assumes a corresponding variety of forms. Seleniate of zinc, for example, unites with three different portions of water, and assumes three different forms, according as its temperature in the act of crystallising is hot, lukewarm, or cold. Sulphate of soda also, which crystallises at 90° of Fahrenheit without water of crystallisation, combines with water at the ordinary temperature, and takes a different form. Heat appears to have a great influence on the phenomena of crystallisation, not only when the particles of matter are free, but even when firmly united, for it dissolves their union, and gives them another determination. Professor Mitscherlich found that prismatic crystals of sulphate of nickel (N. 164), exposed to a summer's sun in a close vessel, had their internal structure so completely altered without any exterior change, that when broken open they were composed internally of octahedrons with square bases. The original aggregation of the internal particles had been dissolved, and a disposition given to arrange themselves in a crystalline