Nikola Tesla Articles
The Transmission of Electrical Energy Without Wires As a Means for Furthering Peace
UNIVERSAL PEACE, assuming it to be in the fullest sense realizable, might not require eons for its accomplishment, however probable this may appear, judging from the imperceptibly slow growth of all great reformatory ideas of the past. Man, as a mass in movement, is inseparable from sluggishness and persistence in his life manifestations, but it does not follow from this that any passing phase, or any permanent state of his existence, must necessarily be attained through a stataclitic process of development.
Our accepted estimates of the duration of natural metamorphoses, or changes in general, have been thrown in doubt of late. The very foundations of science have been shaken. We can no longer believe in the Maxwellian hypothesis of transversal ether-undulations and the literal truth of its corollaries. The practical utilization of electrical vibrations, this most important field of human endeavor, particularly in the advancement of philanthropy and peace, was in no small measure retarded by that fascinating illusion, which I since long hoped to dispel. I have noted with satisfaction the first signs of a change of scientific opinion. The brilliant discovery of the exceptionally “radio-active” substances, radium and polonium, by Mrs. Sklodowska Curie, has likewise afforded me much personal gratification, being an eclatant confirmation of my early experimental demonstrations, of electrified radian streams of primary matter or corpuscular emanations (Electrical Review, New York, 1896-1897), which were then received with incredulity. They have awakened us from the poetical dream of an intangible conveyor of energy, weightless, structureless ether, to the plain, palpable reality of a ponderous medium of coarse particles, or bodily carriers of force. They have led us to a radically new interpretation of the changes and transformations we perceive. Enlightened by this recognition, we cannot say the sun is hot, the moon is cold, the star is bright, for all these might be purely electrical phenomena. If this be the case, then even our conceptions of time and space may have to be modified.
So, too, as regards the organic world, a similar revolution of thought is distinctly observable. In biological and zoological research the bold ideas of Haensel have found support in recent discoveries. A heretic belief in such possibilities as the artificial production of simple living material aggregates, the spontaneous natural creation of complex organisms and willful sex control, is gaining ground. We still brush it aside, but not with pedantic disdain as before. The fact is — our faith in the orthodox theory of slow evolution is being destroyed!
Thus a state of human life vaguely defined by the term “Universal Peace,” while a result of cumulative effort through centuries past, might come into existence quickly, not unlike a crystal suddenly forms in a solution which has been slowly prepared. But just as no effect can precede its cause, so this state can never be brought on by any pact between nations, however solemn. Experience is made before the law is formulated, both are related like cause and effect. So long as we are clearly conscious of the expectation, that peace is to result from such a parliamentary decision, so long have we a conclusive evidence that we are not fit for peace. Only then when we shall feel that such international meetings are mere formal procedures, unnecessary except in so far as they might serve to give definite expression to a common desire, will peace be assured.
To judge from current events we must be, as yet, very distant from that blissful goal. It is true that we are proceeding towards it rapidly. There are abundant signs of this progress everywhere. The race enmities and prejudices are decidedly waning. A recent act of His Excellency, the President of the United States, is significant in this respect. We begin to think cosmically. Our sympathetic feelers reach out into the dim distance. The bacteria of the “Weltschmerz,” are upon us. So far, however, universal harmony has been attained only in a single sphere of international relationship. That is the postal service. Its mechanism is working satisfactorily, but — how remote are we still from that scrupulous respect of the sanctity of the mail bag! And how much farther again is the next milestone on the road to peace — an international judicial service equally reliable as the postal!
The coming meeting at the Hague, now indefinitely postponed, can only consider temporary expedients. General disarmament being for the present entirely out of question, a proportionate reduction might be recommended. The safety of any country and of the world’s commerce depending not on the absolute, but relative amount of war material, this would be evidently the first reasonable step to take towards universal economy and peace. But it would be a hopeless task to establish an equitable basis of adjustment. Population, naval strength, force of army, commercial importance, water-power, or any other natural resource, actual or prospective, are equally unsatisfactory standards to consider.
In view of this difficulty a measure suggested by Carnegie might be adopted by a few strong countries to scare all the weaker ones into peace. But while for the time being such a course may seem advisable, the beneficial effects of this homeopathic treatment of the martial disease could hardly be lasting. In the first place, a coalition of the leading powers could not fail to create an organized opposition, which might result in a disaster all the greater as it was long deferred. The ultimate falling out of the virtuous, peace-dictating nations, as certain as the law of gravitation, should be all the more reckoned with, as it would be extremely demoralizing. Again, it is by no means demonstrated that any combination of a few powers would have sufficient authority.
To conquer by sheer force is becoming harder and harder every day. Defensive is getting continuously the advantage of offensive, as we progress in the satanic science of destruction. The new art of controlling electrically the movements and operations of individualized automata at a distance without wires, will soon enable any country to render its coasts impregnable against all naval attacks. It is to be regretted, in this connection, that my proposal to the United States Navy four years ago, to introduce this invention, did not receive the least encouragement. Also that my offer to Secretary Long to establish telegraphic communication across the Pacific Ocean by my wireless system was thrown in the naval waste basket in Washington, quite sans façon. At that time I had already announced in the Century Magazine of June, 1900, my successful “girdling” of the globe with electrical impulses (stationary waves), and my “telautomata” had been publicly exhibited. But that was not the fault of the naval officials, for then these inventions of mine were decried as bald, visionary schemes, loudest indeed by those who have since become Cræsuses of Promise — in “light” storage batteries, “Ocean” telephony and “transatlantic” wireless telegraphy, yet remained to this day — Sisyphuses of Attainment. Had only a few “telautomatic” torpedoes been constructed and adopted by our navy, the mere moral influence of this would have been powerfully and most beneficially felt in the present Eastern Complication. Not to speak of the advantages which might have been secured through the direct and instantaneous transmission of messages to our distant colonies and scenes of the present barbarous conflicts. Since advancing that principle, I have invented a number of improvements, making it possible to direct such a torpedo, submersible at will, from a distance much greater than the range of the largest gun, with unerring precision, upon the object to be destroyed. What is still more surprising, the operator will not need to see the infernal engine or even know its location, and the enemy will be unable to interfere, in the slightest, with its movements by any electrical means. One of these devil-telautomata will soon be constructed, and I shall bring it to the attention of governments. The development of this art must unavoidably arrest the construction of expensive battleships as well as land fortifications, and revolutionize the means and methods of warfare. The distance at which it can strike, and the destructive power of such a quasi-intelligent machine being for all practical purposes unlimited, the gun, the armor of the battleship and the wall of the fortress, lose their import and significance. One can prophesy with a Daniel’s confidence that skilled electricians will settle the battles of the near future. But this is the least. In its effect upon war and peace, electricity offers still much greater and more wonderful possibilities. To stop war by the perfection of engines of destruction alone, might consume centuries and centuries. Other means must be employed to hasten the end. What are these to be? Let us consider.
Fights between individuals, as well as governments and nations, invariably result from misunderstandings in the broadest interpretation of this term. Misunderstandings are always caused by the inability of appreciating one another’s point of view. This again is due to the ignorance of those concerned, not so much in their own, as in their mutual fields. The peril of a clash is aggravated by a more or less predominant sense of combativeness, posed by every human being. To resist this inherent fighting tendency the best was is to dispel ignorance of the doings of others by a systematic spread of general knowledge. With this object in view, it is most important to aid exchange of thought and intercourse.
Mutual understanding would be immensely facilitated by the use of one universal tongue. But which shall it be, is the great question. At present it looks as if the English might be adopted as such, though it must be admitted that it is not the most suitable. Each language, of course, excels in some feature. The English lends itself to a terse, forceful expression of facts. The French is precise and finely distinctive. The Italian is probably the most melodious and easiest to learn. The Slavic tongues are very rich in sound but extremely difficult to master. The German is unequaled in the facility it offers for coining and combining words. A practical answer to that momentous question must perforce be found in times to come, for it is manifest that by adopting one common language the onward march of man would be prodigiously quickened. I do not believe that an artificial concoction, like Volapuk, will ever find universal acceptance, however time-saving it might be. That would be contrary to human nature. Languages have grown into our hearts. I rather look to the possibility of a reversion to the old Latin or Greek mother tongues, basing myself in this conclusion on the Spencerian law of rhythm. It seems unfortunate that the English-speaking nations, who are now fittest to rule the world, while endowed with extraordinary energy and practical intelligence, are singularly wanting in linguistic talent.
Next to speech we must consider permanent records of all kinds as a means for disseminating general information, or that knowledge of mutual endeavor which is chiefly conducive to harmony. Here the newspapers play by far the most important part. They are undoubtedly more effective than institutions of learning, libraries, museums and individual correspondence, all combined. The knowledge they convey is, on the whole, superficial and sometimes defective, but it is poured out in a mighty stream that reaches far and wide. Disregarding the force of electrical invention, that of journalism is the greatest in urging us to peace. Our schools are instrumental, mainly, in the furtherance of special thorough knowledge in our own fields, which is destructive of concordance. A world composed of crass specialists only would be perpetually at war. The diffusion of general knowledge through libraries and similar sources of information is very slow. As to individual correspondence, it is principally useful as an indispensable ingredient of the cement of commercial interest, that most powerful binding material between heterogeneous masses of humanity. It would be hard to overestimate the beneficial influence of the marvelous and precise art of photography, nor can that of other arts or means of recording be ignored. But a simple reflection will show that the peace-making force of all permanent, printed, printed or other records, resides not in themselves. It must be sought elsewhere. This is also true of speech.
Our senses enable us to perceive only a minute portion of the outside world. Our touch, taste and smell, require actual contact. Our hearing extends to a small distance. Our sight is impeded by intervening bodies and shadows. To know each other we must reach beyond the sphere of our sense perceptions. We must transmit our intelligence, travel, transport the materials and transfer the energies necessary for our existence. Following this thought we now realize, forcibly enough to dispense with argument, that of all other conquests of man, without exception, that which is most desirable, which would be most helpful in the establishment of universal peaceful relations is — the complete ANNIHILATION OF DISTANCE.
To achieve this wonder, electricity is the one and only means. Inestimable good has already been done by the use of this all powerful agent, the nature of which is still a mystery. Our astonishment at what has been accomplished would be uncontrollable were it not held in check by the expectation of greater miracles to come. That one, the greatest of all, can be viewed in three aspects: Dissemination of intelligence, transportation, and transmission of power.
Referring to the first, the present systems of telegraphic and telephonic communication are very limited in scope. The conducting channels are costly and of small working capacity. There is serious inductive disturbance, and storms render the service unsafe which, moreover, is too expensive. A vast improvement will be effected by placing the wires underground and insulating them artificially, by refrigeration. Their working capacity also could be indefinitely augmented by resorting to the new principle of “individualization,” which I have more recently announced, permitting the simultaneous transmission of thousands of telegraphic and telephonic messages, without interference, over a single wire. The public would be already profiting from these great advances were it not for the stolid indifference of the leading companies engaged in the transmission of intelligence. But new concerns are springing into existence and the near future will witness a great transformation along these two lines of invention. The submarine cables are subject to still greater limitations. Some obstacles to rapid signaling, through them, seem insuperable. The attempts to overcome these have been numerous, but so far all have proved futile. The celebrated mathematician, O. Heaviside, and several able electricians following in his footsteps, have fallen into the singular error that rapid telegraphy and even telephony through ocean cables would be made practicable by the use of induction coils. Inductances might be to some extent helpful on comparatively short lines with thick paper insulation; on long lines insulated with rubber or gutta-percha they would be positively detrimental. Improvements will, undoubtedly, be made, but great electrostatic capacity and unavoidable loss of energy in the insulation and surrounding conductors will always restrict the usefulness of these delicate and precious nerves of commerce. Apart from all this, the transmission through artificial conductors is necessarily confined to a small number of stations.
It is therefore evident that the abolishment of all these drawbacks by the conveyance of signals or messages without wires, as I have undertaken in my “world” telegraphy and telephony, will be of the greatest moment in the furtherance of peace. The unifying influence of this advance will be felt all the more, as it will not only completely annihilate distance, but also make it possible to operate from a singe “world” telegraphy plant, an unlimited number of receiving stations distributed all over the globe, and with equal facility, irrespective of location. Within a few years a simple and inexpensive device, readily carried about, will enable one to receive on land or sea the principal news, to hear a speech, a lecture, a song or play of a musical instrument, conveyed from any other region of the globe. The invention will also meet the crying need for cheap transmission to great distances, more especially over the oceans. The small working capacity of the cables and the excessive cost of messages are now fatal impediments in the dissemination of intelligence which can only be removed by transmission without wires.
The deficiencies of Hertzian telegraphy have created in the public mind the impression that exclusive or private messages without the use of artificial channels are impracticable. As a matter of fact, nothing could be more erroneous. Ever since its first appearance in 1891, I have denied the commercial possibilities of the system of signaling by Hertzian or electromagnetic waves, and my forecasts have been fully confirmed. It lends itself little to tuning, still less to the higher artifices of “individualization,” and transmission to considerable distances is wholly out of the question. Portentous claims for this method of communication were made three years ago, but they have been unable to stand the hard, cruel test of time. Moreover, I have recently learned through the leading British electrical journal (Electrician, London, February 27, 1903), that some experimenters have abandoned all their own and have been “converted” to my methods and appliances, without my approval and officiation. I was both astonished and pained — astonished at the nonchalance and lack of appreciation of these men, pained at the inability exhibited in the construction and use of my apparatus. My high hopes raised by that excellent journal, however, are still to be realized, for I have ascertained that His Majesty the King of England, His excellency the President of the United States, and other persons of exalted positions have, after all, not conferred upon me the imperishable honor of graciously condescending to the use for my coils, transformers and high-potential methods of transmission, but have exchanged their august greetings through the medium of a cable in the old-fashioned way. What has been actually achieved by Hertzian telegraphy can only be conjectured.
Quite different conditions exist in my system in which the electromagnetic waves or radiations are designedly minimized, the connection of one of the terminals of the transmitting circuit to the ground having, itself, the effect of reducing the energy of these radiations to about one-half. Under observance of proper rules and artifices the distance is of little or no consequence, and by skillful application of the principle of “individualization,” repeatedly referred to, the messages may be rendered both non-interfering and non-interferable. This invention, which I have described in technical publications, attempts to imitate, in a very crude way, the nervous system in the human body. It was the outcome of long-continued tests demonstrating the impossibility of satisfying rigorous commercial requirements by my earlier system, based on simple tuning, in which the selective quality is dependent on a single characteristic feature. In this later improvement the exclusiveness and non-interferability of impulses transmitted through a common channel result from cooperative association of a number of distinctive elements, and can be pushed as far as desired. In actual practice it is found that by combining only two vibrations or tones, a degree of privacy sufficient for most purposes is attained. When three vibrations are combined, it is extremely difficult, even for a skilled expert, to read or to disturb signals not intended for him, with four it is a vain undertaking. The probability of his getting the secret combinations at the right moments and in proper order, is much smaller than that of drawing an ambo, terno or quaterno, respectively, in a lottery. From experimental facts, I conclude that the invention will permit the simultaneous transmission of several millions of separately distinguishable messages through the earth, which, strangely enough, is in this respect much superior to an artificial conductor. This number ought to be sufficient to meet all the pressing necessities of intelligence transmission for at least one century to come. It is important to observe that but one “world” telegraphy plant, such as I am now completing, will have a greater working capacity than all the ocean cables combined. Once these facts are recognized this new art, which I am inaugurating, will sweep the world with the force of a uragan.
In transportation a great change is now going on. The trolley lines are being extended, the steam locomotive is making place for the electric motor. The ocean liners are adopting the turbine. Land travel is being improved by the automobile. The waterfalls are being harnessed and the energy used in the propulsion of cars. The advantages of first generating electricity by a prime mover, and then applying the current to produce mechanical motion, are being more and more appreciated. To the majority, this may appear a roundabout way of doing, but in reality it is as direct as the driving of a pulley from another by a belt. The idea is already being applied to railroads, and automobiles of this new type are making their appearance. The ocean vessels are bound to follow. An immense and virgin field will be thus opened up to the manufacturers of electric machinery. Effort towards saving time and money is characteristic of all modern methods of transportation. In many of these new developments, the artificial insulation of the high-tension mains by refrigeration will be very useful. However paradoxical, it is true, that by the use of this invention, power for all industrial purposes can be transmitted to distances of many hundreds of miles, not only without any loss, but with appreciable gain of energy. This is due to the fact that the conductor is much colder than the surrounding medium. The operativeness of this method is restricted to the use of a gaseous refrigerant, no known liquid permitting the attainment of a sufficiently low temperature of the transmission line. Hydrogen is by far the best cooling agent to employ. By its use electric railways can be extended to any desired distance. Owing to the smallness of ohmic loss, the objections to the multiphase system disappear and induction motors with closed coil armatures can be adopted. I find that even transmission through a submarine cable, as from Sweden to England, of great amounts of power is perfectly practicable. But the ideal solution of the problem of transportation will be arrived at only when the complete annihilation of distance in the transmission of power in large amounts shall have become a commercial reality. That day we shall invade the domain of the bird. When the vexing problem of aerial navigation, which has defied his attempts for ages, is solved, man will advance with giant strides.
That electrical energy can be economically transmitted without wires to any terrestrial distance, I have unmistakably established in numerous observations, experiments and measurements, qualitative and quantitative. These have demonstrated that is practicable to distribute power from a central plant in unlimited amounts, with a loss not exceeding a small fraction of one per cent. in the transmission, even to the greatest distance, twelve thousand miles — to the opposite end of the globe. This seemingly impossible feat can now be readily performed by any electrician familiar with the design and construction of my “high-potential magnifying transmitter,” the most marvelous electrical apparatus of which I have knowledge, enabling the production of effects of unlimited intensities in the earth and its ambient atmosphere. It is, essentially, a freely vibrating secondary circuit of definite length, very high self-induction and small resistance, which has one of its terminals in intimate direct or inductive connection with the ground and the other with an elevated conductor, and upon which the electrical oscillations of a primary or exciting circuit are impressed under conditions of resonance. To give an idea of the capabilities of this wonderful appliance, I may state that I have obtained, by its means, spark discharges extending through more than one hundred feet and carrying currents of one thousand amperes, electromotive forces approximating twenty million volts, chemically active streamers covering areas of several thousand square feet, and electrical disturbances in the natural media surpassing those caused by lightning, in intensity.
Whatever the future may bring, the universal application of these great principles is fully assured, though it may be long in coming. With the opening of the first power plant, incredulity will give way to wonderment, and this to ingratitude, as ever before. The time is not distant when the energy of falling water will be man’s life energy. So far only about three million horse-power have been harnessed by my system of alternating-current transmission. This is little, but corresponds, nevertheless, to the adding of sixty million indefatigable laborers, working virtually without food and pay, to the world’s population. The projects which have come to my own attention, however, contemplate the exploitation of water-powers aggregating something like one hundred and fifty million horse-power. Should they be carried out in a quarter of a century, as seems probable from present indications, there will be, on the average two such untiring laborers for every individual. Long before this consummation, coal and oil must cease to be important factors in the sustenance of human life on this planet. It should be borne in mind that electrical energy obtained by harnessing a waterfall is probably fifty times more effective than fuel energy. Since this is the most perfect way of rendering the sun’s energy available, the direction of the future material development of man is clearly indicated. He will live on “white coal.” Like a babe to the mothers’s breast will he cling to his waterfall. “Give us our daily waterfall,” will be the prayer of the coming generations. Deus futurus est deus aquae deiectus!
But the fact that stationary waves are producible in the earth is of special and, in many ways, still greater significance in the intellectual development of humanity. Popularly explained, such a wave is a phenomenon generically akin to an echo — a result of reflection. It affords a positive and uncontrovertible experimental evidence that the electric current, after passing into the earth travels to the diametrically opposite region of the same and rebounding from there, returns to its point of departure with virtually undiminished force. The outgoing and returning currents clash and form nodes and loops similar to those observable on a vibrating cord. To traverse the entire distance of about twenty-five thousand miles, equal to the circumference of the globe, the current requires a certain time interval, which I have approximately ascertained. In yielding this knowledge, nature has revealed one of its most precious secrets, of inestimable consequence to man. So astounding are the facts in this connection, that it would seem as though the Creator, himself, had electrically designed this planet just for the purpose of enabling us to achieve wonders which, before my discovery, could not have been conceived by the wildest imagination. A full account of my discoveries and improvements will be given to the world in a special work which I am preparing. In so far, however, as they relate to industrial and commercial uses, they will be disclosed in patent specifications most carefully drawn.
As stated in a recent article (Electrical World and Engineer, March 5, 1904), I have been since some time at work on designs of a power plant which is to transmit ten thousand horse-power without wires. The energy is to be collected al over the earth at many places and in varying amounts. It should not be understood that the practical realization of this undertaking is necessarily far off. The plans could be easily finished this winter, and if some preliminary work on the foundations could be done in the meantime the plant might be ready for operation before the close of next fall. We would then have at our disposal a unique and invaluable machine. Just this one oscillator would advance the world a century. Its civilizing influence would be felt even by the humblest dweller in the wilderness. Millions of instruments of all kinds, for all imaginable purposes, could be operated from that one machine. Universal time could be distributed by simple inexpensive clocks requiring no attention and running with nearly mathematical precision. Stock-tickers, synchronous movements and innumerable devices of this character could be worked in unison all over the earth. Instruments might be provided for indicating the course of a vessel at sea, the distance traversed, the speed, the hour at any particular place, the latitude and longitude. Incalculable commercial advantages could be thus secured and countless accidents and disasters avoided. Here and there a house might be lighted or some other work requiring a few horse-power performed. What is far more important than this, flying machines might be driven in any part of the world. They could be made to travel swiftly because of their small weight and great motive power. My intention would be to utilize this first plant rather as means of enlightenment, to collect its power in very small amounts, and at as many places as possible. The knowledge that there is throbbing through the earth energy readily available everywhere, would exert a strong stimulus on students, mechanics and inventors of all countries. This would be productive of infinite good. Manufacture would receive a fresh and powerful incentive. Conditions, such as never existed before in commerce, would be brought about. Supply would be ever inadequate to demand. The industries of iron, copper, aluminum, insulated wire and many others, could not fail to derive great and lasting benefits from this development.
The economic transmission of power without wires is of all-surpassing importance to man. By its means he will gain complete mastery of the air, the sea and the desert. It will enable him to dispense with the necessity of mining, pumping, transporting and burning fuel, and so do away with innumerable causes of sinful waste. By its means, he will obtain at any place and in any desired amount, the energy of remote waterfalls — to drive his machinery, to construct his canals, tunnels and highways, to manufacture the materials of his want, his clothing and food, to heat and light his home — year in, year out, ever and ever, by day and by night. It will make the living glorious sun his obedient, toiling slave. It will bring peace and harmony on earth.
Over five years have elapsed since that providential lightning storm on the 3d of July, 1899, of which I told in the article before mentioned, and through which I discovered the terrestrial stationary waves; nearly five years since I performed the great experiment which on that unforgettable day, the dark God of Thunder mercifully showed me in his vast, awe-sounding laboratory. I thought then that it would take a year to establish commercially my wireless girdle around the world. Alas! my first “world telegraphy” plant is not yet completed, its construction has progressed but slowly during the past two years. And this machine I am building is but a plaything, an oscillator of a maximum activity of only ten million horse-power, just enough to throw this planet into feeble tremors, by sign and word — to telegraph and to telephone. When shall I see completed that first power plant, that big oscillator which I am designing! From which a current stronger than that of a welding machine, under a tension of one hundred million volts, is to rush through the earth! Which will deliver energy at the rate of one thousand million horse-power — one hundred Falls of Niagara combined in one, striking the universe with blows — blows that will wake from their slumber the sleepiest electricians, if there be any, on Venus or Mars! . . . It is not a dream, it is a simple feat of scientific electrical engineering, only expensive — blind, faint-hearted, doubting world! . . . Humanity is not yet sufficiently advanced to be willingly led by the discoverer’s keen searching sense. But who knows? Perhaps it is better in this present world of ours that a revolutionary idea or invention instead of being helped and patted, be hampered and ill-treated in its adolescence — by want of means, by selfish interest, pedantry, stupidity and ignorance; that it be attacked and stifled; that it pass through bitter trials and tribulations, through the heartless strife of commercial existence. So do we get our light. So all that was great in the past was ridiculed, condemned, combated, suppressed — only to emerge all the more powerfully, all the more triumphantly from the struggle.