To show that these longitudinal bands are due to the irregularities, I have drawn a taper piece of quartz by hand, in which the two edges make with one another an almost imperceptible angle, and the spectrum of this shows the gradual change of diameter by the very steep angle at which the bands run up the spectrum.

Into the theory of the development of these bands I am unable to enter; that is a subject on which your professor of natural philosophy is best able to speak. Perhaps I may venture to express the hope, as the experimental investigation of this subject is now rendered possible, that he may be induced to carry out a research for which he is so eminently fitted.

Though this is a subject which is altogether beyond me, I have been able to use the results in a practical way. When it is required to place into an instrument a fiber of any particular size, all that has to be done is to hold the frame of fibers toward a bright and distant light, and look at them through a low-angled prism. The banded spectra are then visible, and it is the work of a moment to pick out one with the number of bands that has been found to be given by a fiber of the desired size. A coarse fiber may have a dozen or more, while such fibers as I find most useful have only two dark bands. Much finer ones exist, showing the colors of the first order with one dark band; and fibers so fine as to correspond to the white or even the gray of Newton's scale are easily produced.

Passing now from the most scientific test of the uniformity of these fibers, I shall next refer to one more homely. It is simply this: The common garden spider, except when very young, cannot climb up one of the same size as the web on which she displays such activity. She is perfectly helpless, and slips down with a run. After vainly trying to make any headway, she finally puts her hands (or feet) into her mouth and then tries again, with no better success. I may mention that a male of the same species is able to run up one of these with the greatest ease, a feat which may perhaps save the lives of a few of these unprotected creatures when quartz fibers are more common.

It is possible to make any quantity of very fine quartz fiber without a bow and arrow at all, by simply drawing out a rod of quartz over and over again in a strong oxyhydrogen jet. Then, if a stand of any sort has been placed a few feet in front of the jet, it will be found covered with a maze of thread, of which the photograph on the screen represents a sample. This is hardly distinguishable from the web spun by this magnificent spider in corners of greenhouses and such places. By regulating the jet and the manipulation, anything from one of these stranded cables to a single ultro-microscope line may be developed.

And now that I have explained that these fibers have such valuable properties, it will no doubt be expected that I should perform some feat with their aid which, up to the present time, has been considered impossible, and this I intend to do.

Of all experiments, the one which has most excited my admiration is the famous experiment of Cavendish, of which I have a full size model before you. The object of this experiment is to weigh the earth by comparing directly the force with which it attracts things with that due to large masses of lead. As is shown by the model, any attraction which these large balls exert on the small ones will tend to deflect this 6 ft. beam in one direction, and then if the balls are reversed in position, the deflection will be in the other direction. Now, when it is considered how enormously greater the earth is than these balls, it will be evident that the attraction due to them must be in comparison excessively small. To make this evident, the enormous apparatus you see had to be constructed, and then, using a fine torsion wire, a perfectly certain but small effect was produced. The experiment, however, could only be successfully carried out in cellars and underground places, because changes of temperature produced effects greater than those due to gravity.2

Now I have in a hole in the wall an instrument no bigger than a galvanometer, of which a model is on the table. The balls of the Cavendish apparatus, weighing several hundredweight each, are replaced by balls weighing 1¾ pounds only. The smaller balls of 1¾ pounds are replaced by little weights of 15 grains each. The 6 foot beam is replaced by one that will swing round freely in a tube three-quarters of an inch in diameter. The beam is, of course, suspended by a quartz fiber. With this microscopic apparatus, not only is the very feeble attraction observable, but I can actually obtain an effect eighteen times as great as that given by the apparatus of Cavendish, and what is more important, the accuracy of observation is enormously increased.

The light from a lamp passes through a telescope lens, and falls on the mirror of the instrument. It is reflected back to the table, and thence by a fixed mirror to the scale on the wall, where it comes to a focus. If the mirror on the table were plane, the whole movement of the light would be only about eight inches, but the mirror is convex, and this magnifies the motion nearly eight times. At the present moment the attracting weights are in one extreme position, and the line of light is quiet. I will now move them to the other position, and you will see the result - the light slowly begins to move, and slowly increases in movement. In forty seconds it will have acquired its highest velocity, and in forty more it will have stopped at 5 feet 8½ inches from the starting point, after which it will slowly move back again, oscillating about its new position of rest.

It is not possible at this hour to enter into any calculations; I will only say that the motion you have seen is the effect of a force of less than one ten-millionth of the weight of a grain, and that with this apparatus I can detect a force two thousand times smaller still. There would be no difficulty even in showing the attraction between two No. 5 shot.

And now, in conclusion, I would only say that if there is anything that is good in the experiments to which I have this evening directed your attention, experiments conducted largely with sticks, and string, and straw and sealing wax, I may perhaps be pardoned if I express my conviction that in these days we are too apt to depart from the simple ways of our fathers, and instead of following them, to fall down and worship the brazen image which the instrument maker hath set up.


Lecture delivered at the Royal Institution, on Friday, June 14, by Mr. C. V. Boys, F.R.S. - Nature.


Dr. Lodge has been able, by an elaborate arrangement of screens, to make this attraction just evident to an audience. - C. V. B.