simple science

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Simple Science

121. The Magic Wand in Photography
Suppose we coat one side of a glass plate with silver chloride, just as we might put a coat of varnish on a chair. We must be very careful to coat the plate in the dark room, otherwise the sunlight will separate the silver chloride and spoil our plan. Then lay a horseshoe on the plate for good luck, and carry the plate out into the light for a second. The light will separate the silver chloride into chlorine and silver, the latter of which will remain on the plate as a thin film. All of the plate was affected by the sun except the portion protected by the horseshoe which, because it is opaque, would not allow light to pass through and reach the plate. If now the plate is carried back to the dark room and the horseshoe is removed, one would expect to see on the plate an impression of the horseshoe, because the portion protected by the horseshoe would be covered by silver chloride and the exposed unprotected portion would be covered by metallic silver. But we are much disappointed because the plate, when examined ever so carefully, shows not the slightest change in appearance. The change is there, but the unaided eye cannot detect the change. Some chemical, the so-called "developer," must be used to bring out the hidden change and to reveal the image to our unseeing eyes. There are many different developers in use, any one of which will effect the necessary transformation. When the plate has been in the developer for a few seconds, the silver coating gradually darkens, and slowly but surely the image printed by the sun's rays appears. But we must not take this picture into the light, because the silver chloride which was protected by the horseshoe is still present, and would be strongly affected by the first glimmer of light, and, as a result, our entire plate would become similar in character and there would be no contrast to give an image of the horseshoe on the plate.

But a photograph on glass, which must be carefully shielded from the light and admired only in the dark room, would be neither pleasurable nor practical. If there were some way by which the hitherto unaffected silver chloride could be totally removed, it would be possible to take the plate into any light without fear. To accomplish this, the unchanged silver chloride is got rid of by the process technically called "fixing"; that is, by washing off the unreduced silver chloride with a solution such as sodium thiosulphite, commonly known as hypo. After a bath in the hypo the plate is cleansed in clear running water and left to dry. Such a process gives a clear and permanent picture on the plate.
122. The Camera
A camera is a light-tight box containing a movable convex lens at one end and a screen at the opposite end. Light from the object to be photographed passes through the lens, falls upon the screen, and forms an image there. If we substitute for the ordinary screen a plate or film coated with silver chloride or any other silver salt, the light which falls upon the sensitive plate and forms an image there will change the silver chloride and produce a hidden image. If the plate is then removed from the camera in the dark, and is treated as described in the preceding Section, the image becomes visible and permanent. In practice some gelatin is mixed with the silver salt, and the mixture is then poured over the plate or film in such a way that a thin, even coating is made. It is the presence of the gelatin that gives plates a yellowish hue. The sensitive plates are left to dry in dark rooms, and when the coating has become absolutely firm and dry, the plates are packed in boxes and sent forth for sale.

Glass plates are heavy and inconvenient to carry, so that celluloid films have almost entirely taken their place, at least for outdoor work.

FIG. - A camera.
123. Light and Shade
Let us apply the above process to a real photograph. Suppose we wish to take the photograph of a man sitting in a chair in his library. If the man wore a gray coat, a black tie, and a white collar, these details must be faithfully represented in the photograph. How can the almost innumerable lights and shades be produced on the plate?

The white collar would send through the lens the most light to the sensitive plate; hence the silver chloride on the plate would be most changed at the place where the lens formed an image of the collar. The gray coat would not send to the lens so much light as the white collar, hence the silver chloride would be less affected by the light from the coat than by that from the collar, and at the place where the lens produced an image of the coat the silver chloride would not be changed so much as where the collar image is. The light from the face would produce a still different effect, since the light from the face is stronger than the light from the gray coat, but less than that from a white collar. The face in the image would show less changed silver chloride than the collar, but more than the coat, because the face is lighter than the coat, but not so light as the collar. Finally, the silver chloride would be least affected by the dark tie. The wall paper in the background would affect the plate according to the brightness of the light which fell directly upon it and which reflected to the camera. When such a plate has been developed and fixed, as described in Section 121, we have the so-called negative. The collar is very dark, the black tie and gray coat white, and the white tidy very dark.

The lighter the object, such as tidy or collar, the more salt is changed, or, in other words, the greater the portion of the silver salt that is affected, and hence the darker the stain on the plate at that particular spot. The plate shows all gradations of intensity - the tidy is dark, the black tie is light. The photograph is true as far as position, form, and expression are concerned, but the actual intensities are just reversed. How this plate can be transformed into a photograph true in every detail will be seen in the following Section.

FIG. - A negative.
124. The Perfect Photograph
Bright objects, such as the sky or a white waist, change much of the silver chloride, and hence appear dark on the negative. Dark objects, such as furniture or a black coat, change little of the chloride, and hence appear light on the negative. To obtain a true photograph, the negative is placed on a piece of sensitive photographic paper, or paper coated with a silver salt in the same manner as the plate and films. The combination is exposed to the light. The dark portions of the negative will act as obstructions to the passage of light, and but little light will pass through that part of the negative to the photographic paper, and consequently but little of the silver salt on the paper will be changed. On the other hand, the light portion of the negative will allow free and easy passage of the light rays, which will fall upon the photographic paper and will change much more of the silver. Thus it is that dark places in the negative produce light places in the positive or real photograph, and that light places in the negative produce dark places in the positive; all intermediate grades are likewise represented with their proper gradations of intensity.

If properly treated, a negative remains good for years, and will serve for an indefinite number of positives or true photographs.

FIG. - A positive or true photograph.
125. Light and Disease
The far-reaching effect which light has upon some inanimate objects, such as photographic films and clothes, leads us to inquire into the relation which exists between light and living things. We know from daily observation that plants must have light in order to thrive and grow. A healthy plant brought into a dark room soon loses its vigor and freshness, and becomes yellow and drooping. Plants do not all agree as to the amount of light they require, for some, like the violet and the arbutus, grow best in moderate light, while others, like the willows, need the strong, full beams of the sun. But nearly all common plants, whatever they are, sicken and die if deprived of sunlight for a long time. This is likewise true in the animal world. During long transportation, animals are sometimes necessarily confined in dark cars, with the result that many deaths occur, even though the car is well aired and ventilated and the food supply good. Light and fresh air put color into pale cheeks, just as light and air transform sickly, yellowish plants into hardy green ones. Plenty of fresh air, light, and pure water are the watchwords against disease.

In addition to the plants and animals which we see, there are many strange unseen ones floating in the atmosphere around us, lying in the dust of corner and closet, growing in the water we drink, and thronging decayed vegetable and animal matter. Everyone knows that mildew and vermin do damage in the home and in the field, but very few understand that, in addition to these visible enemies of man, there are swarms of invisible plants and animals some of which do far more damage, both directly and indirectly, than the seen and familiar enemies. All such very small plants and animals are known as microorganisms.

Not all micro÷rganisms are harmful; some are our friends and are as helpful to us as are cultivated plants and domesticated animals. Among the most important of the micro÷rganisms are bacteria, which include among their number both friend and foe. In the household, bacteria are a fruitful source of trouble, but some of them are distinctly friends. The delicate flavor of butter and the sharp but pleasing taste of cheese are produced by bacteria. On the other hand, bacteria are the cause of many of the most dangerous diseases, such as typhoid fever, tuberculosis, influenza, and la grippe.

By careful observation and experimentation it has been shown conclusively that sunlight rapidly kills bacteria, and that it is only in dampness and darkness that bacteria thrive and multiply. Although sunlight is essential to the growth of most plants and animals, it retards and prevents the growth of bacteria. Dirt and dust exposed to the sunlight lose their living bacteria, while in damp cellars and dark corners the bacteria thrive, increasing steadily in number. For this reason our houses should be kept light and airy; blinds should be raised, even if carpets do fade; it is better that carpets and furniture should fade than that disease-producing bacteria should find a permanent abode within our dwellings. Kitchens and pantries in particular should be thoroughly lighted. Bedclothes, rugs, and clothing should be exposed to the sunlight as frequently as possible; there is no better safeguard against bacterial disease than light. In a sick room sunlight is especially valuable, because it not only kills bacteria, but keeps the air dry, and new bacteria cannot get a start in a dry atmosphere.

FIG. - Stems and leaves of oxalis growing toward the light.
126. The Rainbow
One of the most beautiful and well-known phenomena in nature is the rainbow, and from time immemorial it has been considered Jehovah's signal to mankind that the storm is over and that the sunshine will remain. Practically everyone knows that a rainbow can be seen only when the sun's rays shine upon a mist of tiny drops of water. It is these tiny drops which by their refraction and their scattering of light produce the rainbow in the heavens.

The exquisite tints of the rainbow can be seen if we look at an object through a prism or chandelier crystal, and a very simple experiment enables us to produce on the wall of a room the exact colors of the rainbow in all their beauty.
127. How to produce Rainbow Colors
The Spectrum. If a beam of sunlight is admitted into a dark room through a narrow opening in the shade, and is allowed to fall upon a prism, as shown in Figure, a beautiful band of colors will appear on the opposite wall of the room. The ray of light which entered the room as ordinary sunlight has not only been refracted and bent from its straight path, but it has been spread out into a band of colors similar to those of the rainbow.

Whenever light passes through a prism or lens, it is dispersed or separated into all the colors which it contains, and a band of colors produced in this way is called a spectrum. If we examine such a spectrum we find the following colors in order, each color imperceptibly fading into the next: violet, indigo, blue, green, yellow, orange, red.

FIG. - White light is a mixture of lights of rainbow colors.
128. Sunlight or White Light
White light or sunlight can be dispersed or separated into the primary colors or rainbow hues, as shown in the preceding Section. What seems even more wonderful is that these spectral colors can be recombined so as to make white light.

If a prism B exactly similar to A in every way is placed behind A in a reversed position, it will undo the dispersion of A, bending upward the seven different beams in such a way that they emerge together and produce a white spot on the screen. Thus we see, from two simple experiments, that all the colors of the rainbow may be obtained from white light, and that these colors may be in turn recombined to produce white light.

White light is not a simple light, but is composed of all the colors which appear in the rainbow.

FIG. - Rainbow colors recombined to form white light.
129. Color
If a piece of red glass is held in the path of the colored beam of light, all the colors on the wall will disappear except the red, and instead of a beautiful spectrum of all colors there will be seen the red color alone. The red glass does not allow the passage through it of any light except red light; all other colors are absorbed by the red glass and do not reach the eye. Only the red ray passes through the red glass, reaches the eye, and produces a sensation of color.

If a piece of blue glass is substituted for the red glass, the blue band remains on the wall, while all the other colors disappear. If both blue and red pieces of glass are held in the path of the beam, so that the light must pass through first one and then the other, the entire spectrum disappears and no color remains. The blue glass absorbs the various rays with the exception of the blue ones, and the red glass will not allow these blue rays to pass through it; hence no light is allowed passage to the eye.

An emerald looks green because it freely transmits green, but absorbs the other colors of which ordinary daylight is composed. A diamond appears white because it allows the passage through it of all the various rays; this is likewise true of water and window panes.

Stained-glass windows owe their charm and beauty to the presence in the glass of various dyes and pigments which absorb in different amounts some colors from white light and transmit others. These pigments or dyes are added to the glass while it is in the molten state, and the beauty of a stained-glass window depends largely upon the richness and the delicacy of the pigments used.
130. Reflected Light
Opaque Objects. Most objects are visible to us because of the light diffusely reflected from them. A white object, such as a sheet of paper, a whitewashed fence, or a table cloth, absorbs little of the light which falls upon it, but reflects nearly all, thus producing the sensation of white. A red carpet absorbs the light rays incident upon it except the red rays, and these it reflects to the eye.

Any substance or object which reflects none of the rays which fall upon it, but absorbs all, appears black; no rays reach the eye, and there is an absence of any color sensation. Coal and tar and soot are good illustrations of objects which absorb all the light which falls upon them.

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