Upon this basis Maxwell founded his theory of electricity and magnetism, and determined the distribution of the energy in the various parts of the field in terms of the electric and magnetic forces. The ether around an electrified body is charged with energy, and the electrical phenomena are manifestations of this energy, and not of an imaginary electric fluid distributed over the conductor. When we speak of the charge of an electrified conductor we refer to the charge of energy in the ether around it, and when we talk of the electric flow or current in a circuit we refer to the only flow we know of, viz., the flow of energy through the electric field into the wire.
Now consider the case of a body changed alternately, positively and negatively, in rapid succession. The positive charge means a positive polarisation of the ether, which begins at the conductor and travels out through space. When the body is discharged the ether is once more set free and resumes its former condition. The negative charge now entails a modification of the ether or polarisation in the opposite sense. The result of alternate charges of opposite sign is that the ether at any point becomes polarised alternately in opposite directions while waves of opposite polarisations are propagated through space, each carrying energy-derived from the source or agent supplying the electrification. Here, then, we have a periodic disturbance of some kind occurring at each point, accompanied by waves of energy travelling outwards from the conductor.
The phenomena of interference lead to the conclusion that light is the result of a periodic disturbance, or vibration, of the ether, but as to the nature of the vibration—that is, as to the exact nature of the periodic change—or what it is that changes, we possess no knowledge. From the foregoing we see that alternating electric charges are accompanied by corresponding changes of state, or vibrations, and if the charge be varied periodically and with sufficient rapidity, we have a vibration at each point analogous to, and perhaps identical with, that which occurs in propagation of light and of other vibrations higher than the gamma rays and beyond.
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