Nikola Tesla's Forecast for 1908
Aerial and Sea Navigation and Wireless Telegraphy to Make Astounding Strides.
To the Editor of The World:
A forecast — not a prophecy!
Constant and careful study of the state of things in this particular sphere enables an expert to make a forecast fairly accurate of the next state. The seemingly isolated events are to him but links of a chain. As a rule, the signs he notes are so pronounced that he can predict the changes about to take place with certitude. The performance is a mere banality as compared with the piercing view of the inspired into the distant future. This is a forecast — not a prophecy.
The coming year will be great in thought and result. It will mark the end of a number of erroneous ideas which, by their paralyzing effect on the mind, have throttled independent research and hampered progress and development in various departments of science and engineering.
The first to be dispelled is the illusion of the Hertz or electro-magnetic waves. The expert already realizes that practical wireless telegraphy and telephony are possible only by minimizing this wasteful radiation. The results recently attained in this manner with comparatively crude appliances illustrate strikingly the possibilities of the genuine art. Before the close of the year wireless transmission across the Pacific and trans-Atlantic wireless telephony may be expected with perfect confidence. The use of the wireless telephone in isolated districts will spread like fire.
The year will mark the fall of the illusionary idea that action must diminish with distance. By impressing upon the earth certain vibrations to which it responds resonantly, the whole planet is virtually reduced to the size of a little marble, thus enabling the reproduction of any kind of effect, as human speech, music, picture or character whatever, and even the transmission of power in unlimited amounts with exactly the same facility and economy at any distance, however great.
The next twelve months will witness a similar revolution of ideas regarding radio-activity. That there is no such element as radium, pollonium or ronium is becoming more and more evident. These are simply deceptive appearances of a modern phlogiston. As I have stated in my early announcement of these emanations before the discovery of Mme. Curie, they are emitted more or less by all bodies, and are all of the same kind — merely effects of shattered molecules, differentiated not by the nature of substance but by size, speed and electrification.
The coming year will dispel another error which has greatly retarded progress of aerial navigation. The aeronaut will soon satisfy himself that an aeroplane proportioned according to data obtained by Langley is altogether too heavy to soar, and that such a machine, while it will have some uses, can never fly as fast as a dirigible balloon. Once this is fully recognized the expert will concentrate his efforts on the latter type, and before many months are passed it will be a familiar object in the sky.
There is abundant evidence that distinct improvements will be made in ship propulsion. The numerous theories are giving place to the view that what propels the vessel is a reactive jet; hence the propeller is doomed in efficiency at high speed. A new principle will be introduced.
The World is invited to test the accuracy of this forecast at the close of the year.