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VOL. LII, No. 1341
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 10, 1920
SINGLE COPIES, 15 CTS.
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor Mich
THE INTERNAL CONSTITUTION OF
LAST year at Bournemouth we listened to a proposal from the president of the association to bore a hole in the crust of the earth and discover the conditions deep down below the surface. This proposal may remind us that the most secret places of nature are, perhaps, not 10 to the n-th miles above our heads, but 10 miles below our feet. In the last five years the outward march of astronomical discovery has been rapid, and the most remote worlds are now scarcely safe from its inquisition. By the work of H. Shapley the globular clusters, which are found to be at distances scarcely dreamed of hitherto, have been explored, and our knowledge of them is in some respects more complete than that of the local aggregation of stars which includes the sun. Distance lends not enchantment but precision to the view. Moreover, theoretical researches of Einstein and Weyl make it probable that the space which remains beyond is not illimitable; not merely the material universe, but space itself, is perhaps finite; and the explorer must one day stay his conquering march for lack of fresh realms to invade. But to-day let us turn our thoughts inwards to that other region of mystery-a region cut off by more substantial barriers, for, contrary to many anticipations, even the discovery of the fourth dimension has not enabled us to get at the inside of a body. Science has material and non-material appliances to bore into the interior, and I have chosen to devote this address to what may be described as analytical boring devices-absit omen!
The analytical appliance is delicate at present, and, I fear, would make little headway against the solid crust of the earth. Instead
1 Address before the Mathematical and Physical Science Section of the British Association for the Advancement of Science.
of letting it blunt itself against the rocks, let us look round for something easier to penetrate. The sun? Well, perhaps. Many have struggled to penetrate the mystery of the interior of the sun; but the difficulties are great, for its substance is denser than water. It may not be quite so bad as Biron makes out in "Love's Labour's Lost":
The heaven's glorious sun; That will not be deep-searched with saucy looks; Small have continual plodders ever won Save base authority from others' books.
But it is far better if we can deal with matter in that state known as a perfect gas, which charms away difficulties as by magic. Where shall it be found?
A few years ago we should have been puzzled to say where, except perhaps in certain nebulæ ; but now it is known that abundant material of this kind awaits investigation. Stars in a truly gaseous state exist in great numbers, although at first sight they are scarcely to be discriminated from dense stars like our sun. Not only so, but the gaseous stars are the most powerful light-givers, so that they force themselves on our attention. Many of the familiar stars are of this kind-Aldebaran, Canopus, Arcturus, Antares; and it would be safe to say that three quarters of the naked-eye stars are in this diffuse state. This remarkable condition has been made known through the researches of H. N. Russell and E. Hertzsprung; the way in which their conclusions, which ran counter to the prevailing thought of the time, have been substantiated on all sides by overwhelming evidence, is the outstanding feature of recent progress in stellar astronomy.
The diffuse gaseous stars are called giants, and the dense stars are called dwarfs. During the life of a star there is presumably a gradual increase of density through contraction, so that these terms distinguish the earlier and later stages of stellar history. It appears that a star begins its effective life as a giant of comparatively low temperature-a red or Mtype star. As this diffuse mass of gas contracts its temperature must rise, a conclusion long ago pointed out by Homer Lane. The
rise continues until the star becomes too dense, and ceases to behave as a perfect gas. A maximum temperature is attained, depending on the mass, after which the star, which has now become a dwarf, cools and further contracts. Thus each temperature-level is passed through twice, once in an ascending and once in a descending stage-once as a giant, once as a dwarf. Temperature plays so predominant a part in the usual spectral classification that the ascending and descending stars were not originally discriminated, and the customary classification led to some perplexities. The separation of the two series was discovered through their great difference in luminosity, particularly striking in the case of the red and yellow stars, where the two stages fall widely apart in the star's history. The bloated giant has a far larger surface than the compact dwarf, and gives correspondingly greater light. The distinction was also revealed by direct determinations of stellar densities, which are possible in the case of eclipsing variables like Algol. Finally, Adams and Kohlschütter have set the seal on this discussion by showing that there are actual spectral differences between the ascending and descending stars at the same temperature-level, which are conspicuous enough-when they are looked for.
Perhaps we should not too hastily assume that the direction of evolution is necessarily in the order of increasing density, in view of our ignorance of the origin of a star's heat, to which I must allude later. But, at any rate, it is a great advance to have disentangled what is the true order of continuous increase of density, which was hidden by superficial resemblances.
The giant stars, representing the first half of a star's life, are taken as material for our first boring experiment. Probably, measured in time, this stage corresponds to much less than half the life, for here it is the ascent which is easy and the way down is long and slow. Let us try to picture the conditions inside a giant star. We need not dwell on the vast dimensions a mass like that of the sun, but swollen to much greater volume on account of the low density, often below that of our own atmos
phere. It is the star as a storehouse of heat which especially engages our attention. In the hot bodies familiar to us the heat consists in the energy of motion of the ultimate particles, flying at great speeds hither and thither. So too in the stars a great store of heat exists in this form; but a new feature arises. A large proportion, sometimes more than half the total heat, consists of imprisoned radiant energyether-waves travelling in all directions trying to break through the material which encages them. The star is like a sieve, which can only retain them temporarily; they are turned aside, scattered, absorbed for a moment, and flung out again in a new direction. An element of energy may thread the maze for hundreds of years before it attains the freedom of outer space. Nevertheless the sieve leaks, and a steady stream permeates outwards, supplying the light and heat which the star radiates all round.
That some ethereal heat as well as material heat exists in any hot body would naturally be admitted; but the point on which we have here to lay stress is that in the stars, particularly in the giant stars, the ethereal portion rises to an importance which quite transcends our ordinary experience, so that we are confronted with a new type of problem. In a redhot mass of iron the ethereal energy constitutes less than a billionth part of the whole; but in the tussle between matter and ether the ether gains a larger and larger proportion of the energy as the temperature rises. This change in proportion is rapid, the ethereal energy increasing rigorously as the fourth power of the temperature, and the material energy roughly as the first power. But even at the temperature of some millions of degrees attained inside the stars there would still remain a great disproportion; and it is the low density of material, and accordingly reduced material energy per unit volume in the giant stars, which wipes out the last few powers of 10. In all the giant stars known to us, widely as they differ from one another, the conditions are just reached at which these two varieties of heat-energy have attained a rough equality; at any rate one can not be neglected compared
with the other. Theoretically there could be conditions in which the disproportion was reversed and the ethereal far out-weighed the material energy; but we do not find them in the stars. It is as though the stars had been measured out that their sizes had been determined-with a view to this balance of power; and one can not refrain from attributing to this condition a deep significance in the evolution of the cosmos into separate
Study of the radiation and internal conditions of a star brings forward very pressingly a problem often debated in this section: What is the source of the heat which the sun and stars are continually squandering? The answer given is almost unanimous-that it is obtained from the gravitational energy converted as the star steadily contracts. But almost as unanimously this answer is ignored in its practical consequences. Lord Kelvin showed that this hypothesis, due to Helmholtz, necessarily dates the birth of the sun about 20,000,000 years ago; and he made strenuous efforts to induce geologists and biologists to accommodate their demands to this timescale. I do not think they proved altogether tractable. But it is among his own colleagues, physicists and astronomers, that the most outrageous violations of this limit have prevailed. I need only refer to Sir George Darwin's theory of the earth-moon system, to the present Lord Rayleigh's determination of the age of terrestrial rocks from occluded helium, and to all modern discussions of the statistical equilibrium of the stellar system. No one seems to have any hesitation, if it suits him, in carrying back the history of the earth long before the supposed date of formation of the solar system; and in some cases at least this appears to be justified by experimental evidence which it is difficult to dispute. Lord Kelvin's date of the creation of the sun is treated with no more respect than Archbishop Ussher's.
The serious consequences of this contraction hypothesis are particularly prominent in the case of giant stars, for the giants are prodigal