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The Splash of a Drop   By: (1852-1916)

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THE ROMANCE OF SCIENCE

THE SPLASH OF A DROP

BY PROF. A.M. WORTHINGTON, M.A., F.R.S.

Being the reprint of a Discourse delivered at the Royal Institution of Great Britain, May 18, 1894.

PUBLISHED UNDER THE DIRECTION OF THE GENERAL LITERATURE COMMITTEE.

LONDON: SOCIETY FOR PROMOTING CHRISTIAN KNOWLEDGE, NORTHUMBERLAND AVENUE, CHARING CROSS, W.C.; 43, QUEEN VICTORIA STREET, E.C. BRIGHTON: 129, NORTH STREET. NEW YORK: E. & J.B. YOUNG & CO. 1895.

THE SPLASH OF A DROP

INSTANTANEOUS PHOTOGRAPHS OF THE SPLASH OF A WATER DROP FALLING ABOUT 16 INCHES INTO MILK.

[Illustration: Time after contact = ·0262 sec.]

[Illustration: Time after contact = ·0391 sec.]

[Illustration: Time after contact = ·101 sec.]

THE SPLASH OF A DROP

The splash of a drop is a transaction which is accomplished in the twinkling of an eye, and it may seem to some that a man who proposes to discourse on the matter for an hour must have lost all sense of proportion. If that opinion exists, I hope this evening to be able to remove it, and to convince you that we have to deal with an exquisitely regulated phenomenon, and one which very happily illustrates some of the fundamental properties of fluids. It may be mentioned also that the recent researches of Lenard in Germany and J.J. Thomson at Cambridge, on the curious development of electrical charges that accompanies certain kinds of splashes, have invested with a new interest any examination of the mechanics of the phenomenon. It is to the mechanical and not to the electrical side of the question that I shall call your attention this evening.

The first well directed and deliberate observations on the subject that I am acquainted with were made by a school boy at Rugby some twenty years ago, and were reported by him to the Rugby Natural History Society. He had observed that the marks of accidental splashes of ink drops that had fallen on some smoked glasses with which he was experimenting, presented an appearance not easy to account for. Drops of the same size falling from the same height had made always the same kind of mark, which, when carefully examined with a lens, showed that the smoke had been swept away in a system of minute concentric rings and fine striæ. Specimens of such patterns, obtained by letting drops of mercury, alcohol, and water fall on to smoked glass, are thrown on the screen, and the main characteristics are easily recognized. Such a pattern corresponds to the footprints of the dance that has been performed on the surface, and though the drop may be lying unbroken on the plate, it has evidently been taking violent exercise, and were our vision acute enough we might observe that it was still palpitating after its exertions.

A careful examination of a large number of such footprints showed that any opinion that could be formed therefrom of the nature of the motion of the drop must be largely conjectural, and it occurred to me about eighteen years ago to endeavour by means of the illumination of a suitably timed electric spark to watch a drop through its various changes on impact.

The reason that with ordinary continuous light nothing can be satisfactorily seen of the splash, is not that the phenomenon is of such short duration, but because the changes are so rapid that before the image of one stage has faded from the eye the image of a later and quite different stage is superposed upon it. Thus the resulting impression is a confused assemblage of all the stages, as in the photograph of a person who has not sat still while the camera was looking at him. The problem to be solved experimentally was therefore this: to let a drop of definite size fall from a definite height in comparative darkness on to a surface, and to illuminate it by a flash of exceedingly short duration at any desired stage, so as to exclude all the stages previous and subsequent to the one thus picked out... Continue reading book >>




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