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in B-ray changes. The period of both substances is long, and it is probable that the B-particle is expelled, but is undetectable by ionisation methods. For the slowest B-ray change, that of radium-D, with a period of twenty-four years, the B-radiation is of such low velocity as to be only capable of detection by special care, and is far less penetrating than average a-rays.
These facts serve to show that changes may be going on in the non-radioactive elements which at present are beyond experimental means of detection.
PERIOD OF AVERAGE LIFE.
The law of radioactive change, which is the same for all cases, is that of unimolecular reaction, the rate of change, or quantity changing in unit of time, being a fraction, designated by , and known as the radioactive constant, of the amount present. The value of 1, although vastly different for different radio-elements, is an absolute constant, so far as is known, for any one element, independent of every consideration whatever. The period of average life is the reciprocal of this constant, but the actual life of any one atom may assume any value. This is an experimental fact very difficult to account for. For example, it is quite easy to compare the value of a for a collection of atoms (1) only just produced and not in existence a short interval before, and (2) that have remained undisintegrated from an originally very much greater number, and each of which has been in existence many times the period of average life. In both cases the value of 1 is the same. This fact excludes from consideration as a conceivable cause of disintegration any gradual progressive alteration in the atom during its period of existence, as, for example, was at one time suggested, a gradual
radiation of internal energy by the electrons in their orbits within the atom. So far, we must admit, the cause of atomic disintegration remains unknown, although Lindemann (Phil. Mag., 1915, (vi.], 30, 560) has attempted, with some success, to frame a theory to account for it.
The development of the various radioactive sequences revealed
revealed that sometimes the series branches, and that in the change of one radioelement sometimes two products result, in general, in different amounts. Thus the uranium series at one point branches into the radium and actinium series, in proportion 92 to 8 out of 100 atoms disintegrating. Again, in the case of radium-C and thorium-C a similar branching occurs, and here in one branch an a-ray change is followed by a B-ray change, and in the other branch the sequence is reversed. These cases are sufficiently explained if it be supposed that two simple radioactive changes are in progress in the same substance simultaneously, and that each obeys the law of simple change as though the other did not occur. The distribution of the original substance into the two products is then proportional to the relative rates of the two changes. If X, and \q are the radioactive constants of the two changes, the proportion between the two products is as l_ to 12, and the constant of the double change as a whole, 12+12. For thorium-C, the ratio is as 65 to 35, but for radium-C 99.97 to 0.03. The first is relatively easy, but the second extremely difficult to follow experimentally. It is, for example, impossible to follow further what occurs to the minor branch owing to the minuteness of the quantity of material, and although this has to be represented as
not further changing, we have only negative evidence to go on.
This branching is very important as showing how from one element two products or more in very different quantity may result, and may be the explanation of the excessive rarity of certain of the elements in nature.
HISTORY OF THE ANALYSIS OF MATTER.
The second, and in many respects even more revolutionary phase in the development of the study of radioactive change arose out of the chemical characterisation of the successive products, but some historical comment on the various influences which have gone to shape the current conception of the chemical element may be of interest before dealing with this development.
The analysis of matter into different chemical elements was at first concerned with known materials obtainable in abundance. The question, then, was not as to the existence or otherwise of certain elements, but whether certain thoroughly well-known substances were elements or compounds. Boyle's original celebrated definition was a purely practical one. That was to be regarded as elementary which could not by any means be separated into different substances. Almost at once, however, there crept into the interpretation of this conception two fallacies, or two aspects of the same fallacy, implicit in all the later characterisations of the elements, right up to the present time, namely, first, that chemical analysis was necessarily the most fundamental and searching kind of material analysis, known or to be discovered, and, secondly, that chemical compounds were necessarily more difficult to resolve than simple mixtures. Any means soon came to mean any chemical means, and the element, in consequence,
THE DALTONIAN ELEMENT
the chemical element. So was taken the first step which ultimately was to make the term chemical element, as it is at present understood, denote a definite but highly complex chemical conception, incapable of being defined or even understood without long years of training in the science, and totally different in every single respect from what a plain man or a beginner in the subject might reasonably suppose the term element ought to connote. The elementary and even the homogeneous character has departed from the conception of the chemical element, but the conception remains, and, whatever we choose to call it, will remain. The criterion of the chemical element soon came to be, in fact, the possession of a unique chemical character, distinguishing it and sufficing for its separation from all other elements. To this Dalton added a new criterion, the magnitude of the weight of the atom of the element, and each element unique in chemical character (as it happened) proved also to possess a unique atomic weight.
The discovery of the periodic law introduced the idea of families of chemically analogous elements, the members of which recurred after regular intervals when the elements were arranged in order of atomic weight. With the exception of hydrogen, every element became one of a group all totally distinct, but with obvious similarities. Boyle's practical definition of the element as that which could not be further resolved, more and more, as the century advanced, fell into desuetude. It became replaced by a theoretical conception, to which subsequently I propose to apply the term “heterotope,” meaning the occupant of a separate place in the periodic table of elements. With this place came to be associated the unique chemical character, unique atomic weight, and later unique spectrum.
On the claims of a
substance to the title of element, as in settling disputes as to what multiple of the equivalent was to be adopted as the atomic weight, the periodic law became the court of appeal. Did a claimant to the title of element fit into a vacant place in the family of related elements? If it did, not only was there no doubt as to its atomic weight, but it certainly could scarcely be an ordinary compound or mixture. Whatever the elements were, it was clear that they were all of a class, the limits of chemical analysis, and, if complex, then all probably of the same kind of complexity.
Incidentally, also, the periodic law showed that although there was a connection between atomic weight and chemical character, there were exceptions, like tellurium and iodine, where the atomic weights appeared to have been reversed. This made it perfectly plain that it was merely a chance that no two elements happened to possess the same atomic weight. Dalton, as we shall come to describe, discovered in the atomic weight not merely a new atomic property, but a new class of atomic property which, until the present century, remained the only one of the kind known, and is concerned with a different region of the atom from that to which physical and chemical character, position in the periodic table, spectrum, and other identifying characteristics are to be referred.
The discovery of spectrum analysis led to the recognition of many new elements, cæsium and rubidium, thallium, indium, helium, and gallium all being so recognised before anything at all was known as to their other properties. In each case unique spectrum was later found to correspond with unique chemical character-except for the argon gases, all characterised by absence of chemical character and unique atomic weight.