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platinum, while drawing the particles of the two gases towards its surface by its great cohesive attraction, brings them so near to one another that they come within the sphere of their mutual affinity, and a chemical combination takes place. Dr. Faraday attributes the effect in part also to a diminution in the elasticity of the gaseous particles on their sides adjacent to the platinum, and to their perfect mixture or association, as well as to the positive action of the metal in condensing them against its surface by its attractive force. The particles when chemically united run off the surface of the metal in the form of water by their gravitation, or pass away as aqueous vapour and make way for others.
The oscillations of the atmosphere, and the changes in its temperature, are measured by variations in the heights of the barometer and thermometer. But the actual length of the liquid columns depends not only upon the force of gravitation, but upon the cohesive force or reciprocal attraction between the molecules of the liquid and those of the tube containing it. This peculiar action of the cohesive force is called capillary attraction or capillarity. If a glass tube of extremely fine bore, such as a small thermometer tube, be plunged into a cup of water or spirit of wine, the liquid will immediately rise in the tube above the level of that in the cup; and the surface of the little column thus suspended will be a hollow hemisphere, whose diameter is the interior diameter of the tube. If the same tube be plunged into a cupful of mercury, the liquid will also rise in the tube, but it will never attain the level of that in the cup, and its surface will be a hemisphere whose diameter is also the diameter of the tube (N. 172). The elevation or depression of the same liquid in different tubes of the same matter is in the inverse ratio of their internal diameters (N. 173), and altogether independent of their thickness ; whence it follows that the molecular action is insensible at sensible distances, and that it is only the thinnest possible film of the interior surface of the tubes that exerts a sensible action on the liquid. So much indeed is this the case, that, when tubes of the same bore are completely wetted with water throughout their whole extent, mercury will rise to the same height in all of them, whatever be their thickness or density, because the minute coating of moisture is sufficient to remove the internal column of mercury beyond the sphere of attraction
of the tube, and to supply the place of a tube by its own capillary attraction. The forces which produce the capillary phenomena are the reciprocal attraction of the tube and the liquid, and of the liquid particles on one another; and, in order that the capillary column may be in equilibrio, the weight of that part of it which rises above or sinks below the level of the liquid in the cup must balance these forces.
The estimation of the action of the liquid is a difficult part of this problem. La Place, Dr. Young, and other mathematicians, have considered the liquid within the tube to be of uniform density ; but M. Poisson, in one of those masterly productions in which he elucidates the most abstruse subjects, has proved that the phenomena of capillary attraction depend upon a rapid decrease in the density of the liquid column throughout an extremely small space at its surface. Every indefinitely thin layer of a liquid is compressed by the liquid above it, and supported by that below. Its degree of condensation depends upon the magnitude of the compressive force; and, as this force decreases rapidly towards the surface, where it vanishes the density of the liquid decreases also. M. Poisson has shown that, when this force is omitted, the capillary surface becomes plane, and that the liquid in the tube will neither rise above nor sink below the level of that in the cup. In estimating the forces, it is also necessary to include the variation in the density of the capillary surface round the edges from the attraction of the tube.
The direction of the resulting force determines the curvature of the surface of the capillary column. In order that a liquid may be in equilibrio, the force resulting from all the forces acting upon it must be perpendicular to the surface. Now it appears that, as glass is more dense than water or alcohol, the resulting force will be inclined towards the interior side of the tube; therefore the surface of the liquid must be more elevated at the sides of the tube than in the centre in order to be perpendicular to it, so that it will be concave as in the thermometer. But, as glass is less dense than mercury, the resulting force will be inclined from the interior side of the tube (N. 174), so that the surface of the capillary column must be more depressed at the sides of the tube than in the centre, in order to be perpendicular to the resulting force, and is consequently convex, as may be perceived
in the mercury of the barometer when rising. The absorption of moisture by sponges, sugar, salt, &c., are familiar examples of capillary attraction. Indeed the pores of sugar are so minute, that there seems to be no limit to the ascent of the liquid. Wine is drawn up in a curve on the interior surface of a glass ; tea rises above its level on the side of a cup; but, if the glass or cup be too full, the edges attract the liquid downwards, and give it a rounded form. A column of liquid will rise above or sink below its level between two plane parallel surfaces when near to one another, according to the relative densities of the plates and the liquid (N. 175); and the phenomena will be exactly the same as in a cylindrical tube whose diameter is double the distance of the plates from each other. If the two surfaces be very near to one another, and touch each other at one of their upright edges, the liquid will rise highest at the edges that are in contact, and will gradually diminish in height as the surfaces becoine more separated. The whole outline of the liquid column will have the form of a hyperbola. Indeed, so universal is the action of capillarity, that solids and liquids cannot touch one another without producing a change in the form of the surface of the liquid.
The attractions and repulsions arrising from capillarity present many curious phenomena. If two plates of glass or metal, both of which are either dry or wet, be partly immersed in a liquid parallel to one another, the liquid will be raised or depressed close to their surfaces, but will maintain its level through the rest of the space that separates them. At such a distance they neither attract nor repel one another ; but the instant they are brought so near as to make the level part of the liquid disappear, and the two curved parts of it meet, the two plates will rush towards each other and remain pressed together (N. 176). If one of the surfaces be wet and the other dry, they will repel one another when so near as to have a curved surface of liquid between them ; but, if forced to approach a little nearer, the repulsion will be overcome, and they will attract each other as if they were both wet or both dry. Two balls of pith or wood floating in water, or two balls of tin floating in mercury, attract one another as soon as they are so near that the surface of the liquid is curved between them. Two ships in the ocean may be
brought into collision by this principle. But two balls, one of which is wet and the other dry, repel one another as soon as the liquid which separates them is curved at its surface. A bit of tea-leaf is attracted by the edge of the cup if wet, and repelled when dry, provided it be not too far from the edge and the cup moderately full; if too full, the contrary takes place. It is probable that the rise of the sap in vegetables is in some degree owing to capillarity.
Analysis of the Atmosphere — Its Pressure - Law of Decrease in Density
Law of Decrease in Temperature — Measurement of Heights by the Barometer Extent of the Atmosphere Barometrical Variations Oscillations - Trade-Winds Cloud-Ring - Monsoons Rotation of Winds Laws of Hurricanes.
THE atmosphere is not homogeneous. It appears from analysis that, of 100 parts, 99.5 consist of nitrogen and oxygen gases mixed in the proportions of 79 to 21 of volume, the remainder consists of 0.05 parts of carbonic acid and on an average 0:45 of aqueous vapour. These proportions are found to be the same at all heights hitherto attained by man. The air is an elastic fluid, resisting pressure in every direction, and is subject to the law of gravitation. As the space in the top of the tube of a barometer is a vacuum, the column of mercury suspended by the pressure of the atmosphere on the surface of that in the cistern is a measure of its weight. Consequently every variation in the density occasions a corresponding rise or fall in the barometrical column. At the level of the sea in latitude 42°, and at the temperature of melting ice, the mean height of the barometer is 29.922 or 30 inches nearly. The pressure of the atmosphere is about fifteen pounds on every square inch; so that the surface of the whole globe sustains a weight of 11,671,000,000 hundreds of millions of pounds. Shell-fish, which have the power of producing a vacuum, adhere to the rocks by a pressure of fifteen pounds upon every square inch of contact.
The atmosphere when in equilibrio is an ellipsoid flattened at the poles from its rotation with the earth. In that state its strata are of uniform density at equal heights above the level of the sea; but since the air is both heavy and elastic, its density necessarily diminishes in ascending above the surface of the earth ; for each stratum of air is compressed only by the weight above it. Therefore the upper strata are less dense because they are less compressed than those below them. Whence it is easy to show, supposing the temperature to be constant, that if the