The Complete Works in Philosophy, Politics and Morals of the late Dr. Benjamin Franklin, Vol. 2 [of 3]

By Benjamin Franklin

Page 70

the surface of
the sea, might cause that appearance; for putrid fish, &c. they
said, will cause it: and the sea-animals which have died, and
other bodies putrified therein since the creation, might afford
a sufficient quantity of these particles to cover a considerable
portion of the surface of the sea; which particles being differently
dispersed, might account for the different degrees of light in
the appearance above-mentioned. But this account seems liable to
this obvious objection, that as putrid fish, &c. make a luminous
appearance without being moved or disturbed, it might be expected
that the supposed putrid particles on the surface of the sea, should
always appear luminous, where there is not a greater light; and,
consequently, that the whole surface of the sea, covered with those
particles, should always, in dark nights, appear luminous, without
being disturbed. But this is not fact.

Among the rest, I threw out my conjecture, that the said appearance
might be caused by a great number of little animals, floating on the
surface of the sea, which, on being disturbed, might, by expanding
their finns, or otherwise moving themselves, expose such a part
of their bodies as exhibits a luminous appearance, somewhat in
the manner of a glow-worm, or fire-fly: that these animals may be
more numerous in some places than others; and, therefore, that the
appearance above-mentioned being fainter and stronger in different
places, might be owing to that: that certain circumstances of
weather, &c. might invite them to the surface, on which, in a calm,
they might sport themselves and glow; or in storms, being forced up,
make the same appearance.

There is no difficulty in conceiving that the sea may be stocked with
animalcula for this purpose, as we find all nature crowded with
life. But it seems difficult to conceive that such small portions
of matter, even if they were wholly luminous, should affect our
sight; much more so, when it is supposed that only a part of them is
luminous. But, if we consider some other appearances, we may find
the same difficulty to conceive of them; and yet we know they take
place. For instance, the flame of a candle, which, it is said, may
be seen four miles round. The light which fills this circle of eight
miles diameter, was contained, when it first left the candle, within
a circle of half an inch diameter. If the density of light, in these
circumstances, be as those circles to each other, that is, as the
squares of their diameters, the candle-light, when come to the eye,
will be 1027709337600 times rarer than when it quitted the

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Text Comparison with Experiments and Observations on Electricity Made at Philadelphia in America

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We suppose as aforesaid, that electrical fire is a common element, of which every one of the three persons abovementioned has his equal share, before any operation is begun with the Tube.
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Let a cork-ball, suspended by a silk thread, hang between them.
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--Hold the picture horizontally by the top, and place a little moveable gilt crown on the king's-head.
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When the surface of water has the least motion, particles are continually pushed into the situation represented by FIG.
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Bring them within the sphere of attraction, and they will draw towards each other, and you will see the separated balls close thus; the first electrified ball that comes near an unelectrified ball by attraction joins it, and gives it fire; instantly they separate, and each flies to another ball of its own party, one to give, the other to receive fire; and so it proceeds through both sets, but so quick as to be in a manner instantaneous.
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These explanations of the power and operation of points, when they first occurr'd to me, and while they first floated in my mind, appeared perfectly satisfactory; but now I have wrote them, and consider'd them more closely in black and white, I must own I have some doubts about them: yet as I have at present nothing better to offer in their stead, I do not cross them out: for even a bad solution read, and its faults discover'd, has often given rise to a good one in the mind of an ingenious reader.
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10 the upper corner.
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It is true there is an experiment that at first sight would be apt to satisfy a slight observer, that the fire thrown into the bottle by the wire, does really pass thro' the glass.
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Let us now see how it will account for several other appearances.
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Hang two cork balls by flaxen threads to the prime conductor; then touch the coating of the bottle, and they will be electrified and recede from each other.