In the Realm of Science: Tesla, Who Predicted Radio, Now Looks Forward to Sending Waves to the Moon
New York Herald Tribune
August 22nd, 1937
Inventor Hopes to Use Energy-Transmitting Device to Make Spot Glow on Lunar Surface
Theory Is Traced To ’97 Experiments
His Mechanism to Use Vast Natural Forces, Possibly Cosmic Rays
The failure of forecasters to predict the results of scientific discoveries, particularly with respect to their social and economic significance, was emphasized in the recent report on technical trends and their social implications submitted to President Roosevelt by the National Resources Committee. One of the outstanding oversights was radio broadcasting. None of the previewers of coming events saw this development of radio communication.
With this as justification, some attention might be given to the recent announcement by Nikola Tesla, the inventor, whose mind has given us a great many of the major developments forming the foundation of our electrical age. Dr. Tesla seldom writes for publication, but back in 1900 he wrote an article for the June issue of “The Century Magazine,” which contained predictions that seemed at that time very fantastic. Those who may read it now will be amazed to find how many of the author’s prophecies have proved true.
Advance Seen Fantastic
Some of the advances described by him during the last few years as the result of his investigations may appear equally fantastic today, but one has only to know of Dr. Tesla’s past performances in order to have faith that given time and money they could be made realities. Forty years ago he was playing with electrical discharges of many millions of volts, while today scientists have difficulty in developing a fraction of those potentials for their atom-smashing and x-ray experiments. Long before the days of Marconi, Tesla girdled the earth with giant electrical waves from his high voltage generators, and on the basis of this work predicted both the “transmission of intelligence without wires” and the “wireless transmission of power.” He controlled a vessel at a distance by wireless power forty years before the advent of our present-day manless aerial torpedoes.
“They laughed at me in 1897 when I told them about the cosmic ray,” he said in a recent interview. “Fifty years ago they attempted to discredit my discovery of the rotating magnetic field and my system of power transmission by alternating currents. They called me crazy when I predicted the radio and when I sent the first impulse around the world they said it couldn’t be done.”
So with Tesla’s latest discoveries and inventions. There may be many who are skeptical, but the world is moving forward rapidly and man is constantly doing things a short time before considered impossible. Forty years ago Tesla was predicting world-wide radio communications. Today this accomplishment is history. Now he is predicting interplanetary communication.
Jovian Bolts His Aim
Dr. Tesla gave assurance that he did not mean just sending weak signals, but veritable Jovian bolts carrying energy of several thousand horsepower which would be able to produce tremendous effects at the receiving end, even though it be infinitely remote. A test of this invention could be made most advantageously on our nearest heavenly neighbor, the moon. Sufficient energy, he said, could be transmitted to render a small spot on its surface incandescent so that it could be easily observed from the earth.
This is a further extension of the announcement previously made by Dr. Tesla that he would be able to transmit over a beam of not more than one hundred thousandths of a square centimeter in cross section adequate amounts of energy for operating all kinds of machinery at distances limited only by the earth’s curvature. Such a beam, he pointed out, could be used not only for constructive but also destructive purposes as annihilating military forces or aerial fleets.
While Dr. Tesla is keeping a deep secret of the mechanism by which he plans to provide unlimited energy, it is apparent he is bent on using natural forces that operate on a vast scale. To be specific, it seems that the energy is coming to us in the form of cosmic rays, but Tesla’s theory of these rays is different from those of Dr. Robert A. Millikan or Dr. Karl T. Compton.
He formulated his theory in 1897 when he sought to explain the production of the phenomena of radio activity by some other means than atomic explosions. He held that all energy an atom exhibits is received from its environment and does not come from itself. Accordingly, he explained radio activity as a result of the shattering of atoms by sub-atomic cosmic particles. Whence did they come? was the question.
“Now, of all bodies in the cosmos,” states Dr. Tesla, “our sun was the most likely to furnish a clue as to their origin and character. Before the electron theory was advanced, I had established that radio-active rays consisted of particles of primary matter not further decomposable, and the first thing to find out was whether the sun is charged to a sufficiently high potential to produce the effects noted. This called for a prolonged investigation which culminated in my discovery that the sun’s potential was 216,000,000,000 volts and that all such large and hot bodies emit cosmic rays.
Puzzle of Mystery Rays
“While the origin and character of the rays observed near the earth’s surface had thus been sufficiently well ascertained, the so-called cosmic rays observed at great altitudes presented a riddle for more than twenty-six years, chiefly because it was found they increased with the height at a rapid rate. My investigations brought out the astonishing fact that the effects at high altitude are of an entirely different nature, having no relation whatever to cosmic rays. These are particles from celestial bodies at very high temperatures and charged to enormous electrical potentials.”
It might be remarked parenthetically that Dr. Tesla does not accept the concept of the electron presented by physicists as an elementary unit and carrying a unit charge of electricity. He holds that the electron in a well-exhausted tube operated at high potential carries many multiples of this unit charge. The ignorance of this fact is responsible for many errors and fallacies in various scientific investigations.
“The effects at great elevations,” Dr. Tesla continued, “are due to waves of extremely small lengths produced by the sun in a certain region of the atmosphere. This is the discovery I wish to make known. The process involved in the generation of the waves is the following: The sun projects charged particles constituting an electric current which passes through a conducting stratum of the atmosphere approximately ten kilometers (six miles) thick enveloping the earth. This is a transmission of electrical energy exactly as I illustrated in my experimental lecture in which one end of a wire is connected to an electric generator of high potential, its other end being free. In this case the generator is represented by the sun and the wire by the conducting air.
Production of the Waves
“The passage of solar current involves the transference of electric charges from particle to particle with the speed of light, resulting in the production of extremely short and penetrating waves. As the air stratum mentioned is the source of the waves it follows that the so-called cosmic rays observed at great altitude must increase as this stratum is approached.”
Another of the Tesla inventions is a radically new tube which is indestructible and can handle heavy currents up to any voltage that can be produced, even 100,000,000 volts. It will be useful, he promises, in the production of cheap radium substitutes and in the transformation of matter. Still another invention consists in means for the production of a practically perfect vacuum of the order of 1,000,000,000th of a micron.
While Dr. Tesla does not say so, it is assumed that these latter inventions are parts of the system which he would use in the transmission of energy to the moon or other planets. Such an application would be spectacular, but the inventions when described and made public would have applications of more immediate practical value in industrial operations.
He was honored on his birthday by the bestowal of the highest distinctions within the power of Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia, which recognition touched him deeply all the more as Konstantin Fotitch and Vladimir Hurban, ministers of these countries, came from Washington especially for the occasion. Dr. Tesla is now eighty-one and works continuously at his investigations. He has not been halted even by a recent accident in which he was knocked down by a taxicab. It merely caused the customary bruises and upset the digestion a bit, he said.