«Energy is eternal delight.»
– William Blake (1757-1827), The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, 1790-93.
«The advocates of an energy crisis believe in and continue to propagate a peculiar vision of man. According to this notion, man is born into perpetual dependence on slaves which he must painfully learn to master. If he does not employ prisoners, then he needs machines to do most of his work. According to this doctrine, the well-being of a society can be measured by the number of years its members have gone to school and by the number of energy slaves they have thereby learned to command. This belief is common to the conflicting economic ideologies now in vogue. It is threatened by the obvious inequity, harriedness, and impotence that appear everywhere once the voracious hordes of energy slaves outnumber people by a certain proportion. The energy crisis focuses concern on the scarcity of fodder for these slaves. I prefer to ask whether free men need them. (…) A low-energy policy allows for a wide choice of life-styles and cultures. If, on the other hand, a society opts for high energy consumption, its social relations must be dictated by technocracy and will be equally degrading whether labeled capitalist or socialist. (…) Even if nonpolluting power were feasible and abundant, the use of energy on a massive scale acts on society like a drug that is physically harmless but psychically enslaving. (…)»
– Ivan Illich (1926-2002), “Energy and Equity”, Le Monde, 1973.
«Tu és a prova. Não um aluno.»
[You are the demonstration. Not a pupil.]
– Kafka, Meditações.
«Et n’est-ce pas par l’anus que l’enfant tient aux loups, à la périphérie?»
[Does not the child, on the periphery, hold onto the wolves by his anus? /
E não é pelo ânus que a criança se liga aos lobos, à periferia?]
– Deleuze, Mille Plateaux.
«Je dis, en tout cas, concevez le crible comme une véritable machine, au sens où Leibniz nous disait: c’est la Machine de la Nature. Au sens où Leibniz nous disait: la Nature est tout entière machine, mais simplement c’est un type de machine dont nous n’avons aucune idée, nous, hommes, qui ne faisons que des machines artificielles, car la vraie machine, celle de la nature, c’est la vraie Nature qui est machine. Nous, nous ne savons pas faire des machines. La vraie machine c’est celle dont toutes les parties sont des machines, c’est à dire: c’est la machine infinie.»
– Deleuze, cours avec Stengers sur Whitehead.
«Conceive, for the sake of illustration, [a cylindrical] enclosure T, as illustrated in diagram b, such that energy could not be transferred across it except through a channel or path O, and that, by some means or other, in this enclosure a medium were maintained which would have little energy, and that on the outer side of the same there would be the ordinary ambient medium with much energy. Under these assumptions the energy would flow through the path O, as indicated by the arrow, and might then be converted on its passage into some other form of energy. The question was, Could such a condition be attained? Could we produce artificially such a “sink” for the energy of the ambient medium to flow in? Suppose that an extremely low temperature could be maintained by some process in a given space; the surrounding medium would then be compelled to give off heat, which could be converted into mechanical or other form of energy, and utilized. By realizing such a plan, we should be enabled to get at any point of the globe a continuous supply of energy, day and night. More than this, reasoning in the abstract, it would seem possible to cause a quick circulation of the medium, and thus draw the energy at a very rapid rate. Here, then, was an idea which, if realizable, afforded a happy solution of the problem of getting energy from the medium. But was it realizable? I convinced myself that it was so in a number of ways, of which one is the following. As regards heat, we are at a high level, which may be represented by the surface of a mountain lake considerably above the sea, the level of which may mark the absolute zero of temperature existing in the interstellar space. Heat, like water, flows from high to low level, and, consequently, just as we can let the water of the lake run down to the sea, so we are able to let heat from the earth’s surface travel up into the cold region above. Heat, like water, can perform work in flowing down, and if we had any doubt as to whether we could derive energy from the medium by means of a thermopile, as before described, it would be dispelled by this analogue. But can we produce cold in a given portion of the space and cause the heat to flow in continually? To create such a “sink,” or “cold hole,” as we might say, in the medium, would be equivalent to producing in the lake a space either empty or filled with something much lighter than water. This we could do by placing in the lake a tank, and pumping all the water out of the latter. We know, then, that the water, if allowed to flow back into the tank, would, theoretically, be able to perform exactly the same amount of work which was used in pumping it out, but not a bit more. Consequently nothing could be gained in this double operation of first raising the water and then letting it fall down. This would mean that it is impossible to create such a sink in the medium. But let us reflect a moment. Heat, though following certain general laws of mechanics, like a fluid, is not such; it is energy which may be converted into other forms of energy as it passes from a high to a low level. To make our mechanical analogy complete and true, we must, therefore, assume that the water, in its passage into the tank, is converted into something else, which may be taken out of it without using any, or by using very little, power. For example, if heat be represented in this analogue by the water of the lake, the oxygen and hydrogen composing the water may illustrate other forms of energy into which the heat is transformed in passing from hot to cold. If the process of heat transformation were absolutely perfect, no heat at all would arrive at the low level, since all of it would be converted into other forms of energy. Corresponding to this ideal case, all the water flowing into the tank would be decomposed into oxygen and hydrogen before reaching the bottom, and the result would be that water would continually flow in, and yet the tank would remain entirely empty, the gases formed escaping. We would thus produce, by expending initially a certain amount of work to create a sink for the heat or, respectively, the water to flow in, a condition enabling us to get any amount of energy without further effort. This would be an ideal way of obtaining motive power. We do not know of any such absolutely perfect process of heat-conversion, and consequently some heat will generally reach the low level, which means to say, in our mechanical analogue, that some water will arrive at the bottom of the tank, and a gradual and slow filling of the latter will take place, necessitating continuous pumping out. But evidently there will be less to pump out than flows in, or, in other words, less energy will be needed to maintain the initial condition than is developed by the fall, and this is to say that some energy will be gained from the medium. What is not converted in flowing down can just be raised up with its own energy, and what is converted is clear gain. Thus the virtue of the principle I have discovered resides wholly in the conversion of the energy on the downward flow. (…) In the process, as I had primarily conceived it, for the utilization of the energy of the ambient medium, there were five essential elements in combination, and each of these had to be newly designed and perfected, as no such machines existed. The mechanical oscillator was the first element of this combination, and having perfected this, I turned to the next, which was an air-compressor of a design in certain respects resembling that of the mechanical oscillator. (…) I was just beginning work on the third element, which together with the first two would give a refrigerating machine of exceptional efficiency and simplicity, when a misfortune befell me in the burning of my laboratory, which crippled my labors and delayed me. Shortly afterward Dr. Carl Linde announced the liquefaction of air by a self-cooling process, demonstrating that it was practicable to proceed with the cooling until liquefaction of the air took place. This was the only experimental proof which I was still wanting that energy was obtainable from the medium in the manner contemplated by me. (…) I observed that under certain conditions the atmosphere, which is normally a high insulator, assumes conducting properties, and so becomes capable of conveying any amount of electrical energy. But the difficulties in the way of a practical utilization of this discovery for the purpose of transmitting electrical energy without wires were seemingly insuperable. (…) All this could not be done in a few weeks or months, or even years. The work required patience and constant application, but the improvements came, though slowly. Other valuable results were, however, arrived at in the course of this long-continued work, of which I shall endeavor to give a brief account, enumerating the chief advances as they were successively effected. The discovery of the conducting properties of the air, though unexpected, was only a natural result of experiments in a special field which I had carried on for some years before. It was, I believe, during 1889 that certain possibilities offered by extremely rapid electrical oscillations determined me to design a number of special machines adapted for their investigation. Owing to the peculiar requirements, the construction of these machines was very difficult, and consumed much time and effort; but my work on them was generously rewarded, for I reached by their means several novel and important results. One of the earliest observations I made with these new machines was that electrical oscillations of an extremely high rate act in an extraordinary manner upon the human organism. Thus, for instance, I demonstrated that powerful electrical discharges of several hundred thousand volts, which at that time were considered absolutely deadly, could be passed through the body without inconvenience or hurtful consequences. These oscillations produced other specific physiological effects, which, upon my announcement, were eagerly taken up by skilled physicians and further investigated. This new field has proved itself fruitful beyond expectation, and in the few years which have passed since, it has been developed to such an extent that it now forms a legitimate and important department of medical science. Many results, thought impossible at that time, are now readily obtainable with these oscillations, and many experiments undreamed of then can now be readily performed by their means. I still remember with pleasure how, nine years ago, I passed the discharge of a powerful induction-coil through my body to demonstrate before a scientific society the comparative harmlessness of very rapidly vibrating electric currents, and I can still recall the astonishment of my audience. I would now undertake, with much less apprehension that I had in that experiment, to transmit through my body with such currents the entire electrical energy of the dynamos now working at Niagara—forty or fifty thousand horse-power. I have produced electrical oscillations which were of such intensity that when circulating through my arms and chest they have melted wires which joined my hands, and still I felt no inconvenience. I have energized with such oscillations a loop of heavy copper wire so powerfully that masses of metal, and even objects of an electrical resistance specifically greater than that of human tissue brought close to or placed within the loop, were heated to a high temperature and melted, often with the violence of an explosion, and yet into this very space in which this terribly-destructive turmoil was going on I have repeatedly thrust my head without feeling anything or experiencing injurious after-effects. Another observation was that by means of such oscillations light could be produced in a novel and more economical manner, which promised to lead to an ideal system of electric illumination by vacuum-tubes, dispensing with the necessity of renewal of lamps or incandescent filaments, and possibly also with the use of wires in the interior of buildings. The efficiency of this light increases in proportion to the rate of the oscillations, and its commercial success is, therefore, dependent on the economical production of electrical vibrations of transcending rates. In this direction I have met with gratifying success of late, and the practical introduction of this new system of illumination is not far off. The investigations led to many other valuable observations and results, one of the more important of which was the demonstration of the practicability of supplying electrical energy through one wire without return. At first I was able to transmit in this novel manner only very small amounts of electrical energy, but in this line also my efforts have been rewarded with similar success. After demonstrating the practicability of this method of transmission, the thought naturally occurred to me to use the earth as a conductor, thus dispensing with all wires. Whatever electricity may be, it is a fact that it behaves like an incompressible fluid, and the earth may be looked upon as an immense reservoir of electricity, which, I thought, could be disturbed effectively by a properly designed electrical machine. Accordingly, my next efforts were directed toward perfecting a special apparatus which would be highly effective in creating a disturbance of electricity in the earth. The progress in this new direction was necessarily very slow and the work discouraging, until I finally succeeded in perfecting a novel kind of transformer or induction-coil, particularly suited for this special purpose. That it is practicable, in this manner, not only to transmit minute amounts of electrical energy for operating delicate electrical devices, as I contemplated at first, but also electrical energy in appreciable quantities, will appear from an inspection of Fig. 4, which illustrates an actual experiment of this kind performed with the same apparatus. The result obtained was all the more remarkable as the top end of the coil was not connected to a wire or plate for magnifying the effect.The exact attunement of the two circuits secures great advantages, and, in fact, it is essential in the practical use of the system. In this respect many popular errors exist, and, as a rule, in the technical reports on this subject circuits and appliances are described as affording these advantages when from their very nature it is evident that this is impossible. In order to attain the best results it is essential that the length of each wire or circuit, from the ground connection to the top, should be equal to one quarter of the wave-length of the electrical vibration in the wire, or else equal to that length multiplied by an odd number. Without the observation of this rule it is virtually impossible to prevent the interference and insure the privacy of messages. Therein lies the secret of tuning. To obtain the most satisfactory results it is, however, necessary to resort to electrical vibrations of low pitch. The Hertzian spark apparatus, used generally by experimenters, which produces oscillations of a very high rate, permits no effective tuning, and slight disturbances are sufficient to render an exchange of messages impracticable. But scientifically designed, efficient appliances allow nearly perfect adjustment. An experiment performed with the improved apparatus repeatedly referred to, and intended to convey an idea of this feature, is illustrated in Fig. 5, which is sufficiently explained by its note. Since I described these simple principles of telegraphy without wires I have had frequent occasion to note that the identical features and elements have been used, in the evident belief that the signals are being transmitted to considerable distance by “Hertzian” radiations. This is only one of many misapprehensions to which the investigations of the lamented physicist have given rise. About thirty-three years ago, Maxwell, following up a suggestive experiment made by Faraday in 1845, evolved an ideally simple theory which intimately connected light, radiant heat, and electrical phenomena, interpreting them as being all due to vibrations of a hypothetical fluid of inconceivable tenuity, called the ether. No experimental verification was arrived at until Hertz, at the suggestion of Helmholtz, undertook a series of experiments to this effect. Hertz proceeded with extraordinary ingenuity and insight, but devoted little energy to the perfection of his old-fashioned apparatus. The consequence was that he failed to observe the important function which the air played in his experiments, and which I subsequently discovered. Repeating his experiments and reaching different results, I ventured to point out this oversight. The strength of the proofs brought forward by Hertz in support of Maxwell’s theory resided in the correct estimate of the rates of vibration of the circuits he used. But I ascertained that he could not have obtained the rates he thought he was getting. The vibrations with identical apparatus he employed are, as a rule, much slower, this being due to the presence of air, which produces a dampening effect upon a rapidly vibrating electric circuit of high pressure, as a fluid does upon a vibrating tuning-fork. I have, however, discovered since that time other causes of error, and I have long ago ceased to look upon his results as being an experimental verification of the poetical conceptions of Maxwell. The work of the great German physicist has acted as an immense stimulus to contemporary electrical research, but it has likewise, in a measure, by its fascination, paralyzed the scientific mind, and thus hampered independent inquiry. Every new phenomenon which was discovered was made to fit the theory, and so very often the truth has been unconsciously distorted. When I advanced this system of telegraphy, my mind was dominated by the idea of effecting communication to any distance through the earth or environing medium, the practical consummation of which I considered of transcendent importance, chiefly on account of the moral effect which it could not fail to produce universally. As the first effort to this end I proposed at that time, to employ relay-stations with tuned circuits, in the hope of making thus practicable signaling over vast distances, even with apparatus of very moderate power then at my command. I was confident, however, that with properly designed machinery signals could be transmitted to any point of the globe, no matter what the distance, without the necessity of using such intermediate stations. I gained this conviction through the discovery of a singular electrical phenomenon, which I described early in 1892, in lectures I delivered before some scientific societies abroad, and which I have called a “rotating brush.” This is a bundle of light which is formed, under certain conditions, in a vacuum-bulb, and which is of a sensitiveness to magnetic and electric influences bordering, so to speak, on the supernatural. This light-bundle is rapidly rotated by the earth’s magnetism as many as twenty thousand times per second, the rotation in these parts being opposite to what it would be in the southern hemisphere, while in the region of the magnetic equator it should not rotate at all. In its most sensitive state, which is difficult to obtain, it is responsive to electric or magnetic influences to an incredible degree. The mere stiffening of the muscles of the arm and consequent slight electrical change in the body of an observer standing at some distance from it, will perceptibly affect it. When in this highly sensitive state it is capable of indicating the slightest magnetic and electric changes taking place in the earth. The observation of this wonderful phenomenon impressed me strongly that communication at any distance could be easily effected by its means, provided that apparatus could be perfected capable of producing an electric or magnetic change of state, however small, in the terrestrial globe or environing medium.
DEVELOPMENT OF A NEW PRINCIPLE—THE ELECTRICAL OSCILLATOR—PRODUCTION OF IMMENSE ELECTRICAL MOVEMENTS—THE EARTH RESPONDS TO MAN—INTERPLANETARY COMMUNICATION NOW PROBABLE.
I resolved to concentrate my efforts upon this venturesome task, though it involved great sacrifice, for the difficulties to be mastered were such that I could hope to consummate it only after years of labor. It meant delay of other work to which I would have preferred to devote myself, but I gained the conviction that my energies could not be more usefully employed; for I recognized that an efficient apparatus for the production of powerful electrical oscillations, as was needed for that specific purpose, was the key to the solution of other most important electrical and, in fact, human problems. Not only was communication, to any distance, without wires possible by its means, but, likewise, the transmission of energy in great amounts, the burning of the atmospheric nitrogen, the production of an efficient illuminant, and many other results of inestimable scientific and industrial value. Finally, however, I had the satisfaction of accomplishing the task undertaken by the use of a new principle, the virtue of which is based on the marvelous properties of the electrical condenser. One of these is that it can discharge or explode its stored energy in an inconceivably short time. Owing to this it is unequaled in explosive violence. The explosion of dynamite is only the breath of a consumptive compared with its discharge. It is the means of producing the strongest current, the highest electrical pressure, the greatest commotion in the medium. Another of its properties, equally valuable, is that its discharge may vibrate at any rate desired up to many millions per second.
[See Nikola Tesla: Colorado Springs Notes, page 324, Photograph III.]
FIG. 6. PHOTOGRAPHIC VIEW OF THE ESSENTIAL PARTS OF THE ELECTRICAL OSCILLATOR USED IN THE EXPERIMENTS DESCRIBED
I had arrived at the limit of rates obtainable in other ways when the happy idea presented itself to me to resort to the condenser. I arranged such an instrument so as to be charged and discharged alternately in rapid succession through a coil with a few turns of stout wire, forming the primary of a transformer or induction-coil. Each time the condenser was discharged the current would quiver in the primary wire and induce corresponding oscillations in the secondary. Thus a transformer or induction-coil on new principles was evolved, which I have called “the electrical oscillator,” partaking of those unique qualities which characterize the condenser, and enabling results to be attained impossible by other means. Electrical effects of any desired character and of intensities undreamed of before are now easily producible by perfected apparatus of this kind, to which frequent reference has been made, and the essential parts of which are shown in Fig. 6. For certain purposes a strong inductive effect is required; for others the greatest possible suddenness; for others again, an exceptionally high rate of vibration or extreme pressure; while for certain other objects immense electrical movements are necessary. The photographs in Figs. 7, 8, 9, and 10, of experiments performed with such an oscillator, may serve to illustrate some of these features and convey an idea of the magnitude of the effects actually produced. The completeness of the titles of the figures referred to makes a further description of them unnecessary. (…) However extraordinary the results shown may appear, they are but trifling compared with those which are attainable by apparatus designed on these same principles. I have produced electrical discharges the actual path of which, from end to end, was probably more than one hundred feet long; but it would not be difficult to reach lengths one hundred times as great. I have produced electrical movements occurring at the rate of approximately one hundred thousand horse-power, but rates of one, five, or ten million horse-power are easily practicable. In these experiments effects were developed incomparably greater than any ever produced by human agencies, and yet these results are but an embryo of what is to be. That communication without wires to any point of the globe is practicable with such apparatus would need no demonstration, but through a discovery which I made I obtained absolute certitude. Popularly explained, it is exactly this: When we raise the voice and hear an echo in reply, we know that the sound of the voice must have reached a distant wall, or boundary, and must have been reflected from the same. Exactly as the sound, so an electrical wave is reflected, and the same evidence which is afforded by an echo is offered by an electrical phenomenon known as a “stationary” wave—that is, a wave with fixed nodal and ventral regions. Instead of sending sound-vibrations toward a distant wall, I have sent electrical vibrations toward the remote boundaries of the earth, and instead of the wall the earth has replied. In place of an echo I have obtained a stationary electrical wave, a wave reflected from afar. Stationary waves in the earth mean something more than mere telegraphy without wires to any distance. They will enable us to attain many important specific results impossible otherwise. For instance, by their use we may produce at will, from a sending-station, an electrical effect in any particular region of the globe; we may determine the relative position or course of a moving object, such as a vessel at sea, the distance traversed by the same, or its speed; or we may send over the earth a wave of electricity traveling at any rate we desire, from the pace of a turtle up to lightning speed. With these developments we have every reason to anticipate that in a time not very distant most telegraphic messages across the oceans will be transmitted without cables. For short distances we need a “wireless” telephone, which requires no expert operators. The greater the spaces to be bridged, the more rational becomes communication without wires. The cable is not only an easily damaged and costly instrument, but it limits us in the speed of transmission by reason of a certain electrical property inseparable from its construction. A properly designed plant for effecting communication without wires ought to have many times the working capacity of a cable, while it will involve incomparably less expense. Not a long time will pass, I believe, before communication by cable will become obsolete, for not only will signaling by this new method be quicker and cheaper, but also much safer. By using some new means for isolating the messages which I have contrived, an almost perfect privacy can be secured. I have observed the above effects so far only up to a limited distance of about six hundred miles, but inasmuch as there is virtually no limit to the power of the vibrations producible with such an oscillator, I feel quite confident of the success of such a plant for effecting transoceanic communication. Nor is this all. My measurements and calculations have shown that it is perfectly practicable to produce on our globe, by the use of these principles, an electrical movement of such magnitude that, without the slightest doubt, its effect will be perceptible on some of our nearer planets, as Venus and Mars. Thus from mere possibility interplanetary communication has entered the stage of probability. In fact, that we can produce a distinct effect on one of these planets in this novel manner, namely, by disturbing the electrical condition of the earth, is beyond any doubt. This way of effecting such communication is, however, essentially different from all others which have so far been proposed by scientific men. In all the previous instances only a minute fraction of the total energy reaching the planet—as much as it would be possible to concentrate in a reflector—could be utilized by the supposed observer in his instrument. But by the means I have developed he would be enabled to concentrate the larger portion of the entire energy transmitted to the planet in his instrument, and the chances of affecting the latter are thereby increased many millionfold. Besides machinery for producing vibrations of the required power, we must have delicate means capable of revealing the effects of feeble influences exerted upon the earth. For such purposes, too, I have perfected new methods. By their use we shall likewise be able, among other things, to detect at considerable distance the presence of an iceberg or other object at sea. By their use, also, I have discovered some terrestrial phenomena still unexplained. That we can send a message to a planet is certain, that we can get an answer is probable: man is not the only being in the Infinite gifted with a mind.
TRANSMISSION OF ELECTRICAL ENERGY TO ANY DISTANCE WITHOUT WIRES—NOW PRACTICABLE—THE BEST MEANS OF INCREASING THE FORCE ACCELERATING THE HUMAN MASS.
The most valuable observation made in the course of these investigations was the extraordinary behavior of the atmosphere toward electric impulses of excessive electromotive force. The experiments showed that the air at the ordinary pressure became distinctly conducting, and this opened up the wonderful prospect of transmitting large amounts of electrical energy for industrial purposes to great distances without wires, a possibility which, up to that time, was thought of only as a scientific dream. Further investigation revealed the important fact that the conductivity imparted to the air by these electrical impulses of many millions of volts increased very rapidly with the degree of rarefaction, so that air strata at very moderate altitudes, which are easily accessible, offer, to all experimental evidence, a perfect conducting path, better than a copper wire, for currents of this character. Thus the discovery of these new properties of the atmosphere not only opened up the possibility of transmitting, without wires, energy in large amounts, but, what was still more significant, it afforded the certitude that energy could be transmitted in this manner economically. In this new system it matters little—in fact, almost nothing—whether the transmission is effected at a distance of a few miles or of a few thousand miles. While I have not, as yet, actually effected a transmission of a considerable amount of energy, such as would be of industrial importance, to a great distance by this new method, I have operated several model plants under exactly the same conditions which will exist in a large plant of this kind, and the practicability of the system is thoroughly demonstrated. The experiments have shown conclusively that, with two terminals maintained at an elevation of not more than thirty thousand to thirty-five thousand feet above sea-level, and with an electrical pressure of fifteen to twenty million volts, the energy of thousands of horse-power can be transmitted over distances which may be hundreds and, if necessary, thousands of miles. I am hopeful, however, that I may be able to reduce very considerably the elevation of the terminals now required, and with this object I am following up an idea which promises such a realization. There is, of course, a popular prejudice against using an electrical pressure of millions of volts, which may cause sparks to fly at distances of hundreds of feet, but, paradoxical as it may seem, the system, as I have described it in a technical publication, offers greater personal safety than most of the ordinary distribution circuits now used in the cities. This is, in a measure, borne out by the fact that, although I have carried on such experiments for a number of years, no injury has been sustained either by me or any of my assistants. But to enable a practical introduction of the system, a number of essential requirements are still to be fulfilled. It is not enough to develop appliances by means of which such a transmission can be effected. The machinery must be such as to allow the transformation and transmission, of electrical energy under highly economic and practical conditions. Furthermore, an inducement must be offered to those who are engaged in the industrial exploitation of natural sources of power, as waterfalls, by guaranteeing greater returns on the capital invested than they can secure by local development of the property. From that moment when it was observed that, contrary to the established opinion, low and easily accessible strata of the atmosphere are capable of conducting electricity, the transmission of electrical energy without wires has become a rational task of the engineer, and one surpassing all others in importance. Its practical consummation would mean that energy would be available for the uses of man at any point of the globe, not in small amounts such as might be derived from the ambient medium by suitable machinery, but in quantities virtually unlimited, from waterfalls. Export of power would then become the chief source of income for many happily situated countries, as the United States, Canada, Central and South America, Switzerland, and Sweden. Men could settle down everywhere, fertilize and irrigate the soil with little effort, and convert barren deserts into gardens, and thus the entire globe could be transformed and made a fitter abode for mankind. It is highly probable that if there are intelligent beings on Mars they have long ago realized this very idea, which would explain the changes on its surface noted by astronomers. The atmosphere on that planet, being of considerably smaller density than that of the earth, would make the task much more easy. It is probable that we shall soon have a self-acting heat-engine capable of deriving moderate amounts of energy from the ambient medium. There is also a possibility—though a small one—that we may obtain electrical energy direct from the sun. This might be the case if the Maxwellian theory is true, according to which electrical vibrations of all rates should emanate from the sun. I am still investigating this subject. Sir William Crookes has shown in his beautiful invention known as the “radiometer” that rays may produce by impact a mechanical effect, and this may lead to some important revelation as to the utilization of the sun’s rays in novel ways. Other sources of energy may be opened up, and new methods of deriving energy from the sun discovered, but none of these or similar achievements would equal in importance the transmission of power to any distance through the medium. I can conceive of no technical advance which would tend to unite the various elements of humanity more effectively than this one, or of one which would more add to and more economize human energy. It would be the best means of increasing the force accelerating the human mass. The mere moral influence of such a radical departure would be incalculable. On the other hand if at any point of the globe energy can be obtained in limited quantities from the ambient medium by means of a self-acting heat-engine or otherwise, the conditions will remain the same as before. Human performance will be increased, but men will remain strangers as they were. I anticipate that any, unprepared for these results, which, through long familiarity, appear to me simple and obvious, will consider them still far from practical application. Such reserve, and even opposition, of some is as useful a quality and as necessary an element in human progress as the quick receptivity and enthusiasm of others. Thus, a mass which resists the force at first, once set in movement, adds to the energy. The scientific man does not aim at an immediate result. He does not expect that his advanced ideas will be readily taken up. His work is like that of the planter—for the future. His duty is to lay the foundation for those who are to come, and point the way. He lives and labors and hopes with the poet who says:
Schaff’ das Tagwerk meiner Hände,
Hohes Glück, dass ich’s vollende!
Lass, o lass mich nicht ermatten!
Nein, es sind nicht leere Träume:
Jetzt nur Stangen, diese Bäume
Geben einst noch Frucht und Schatten.
Daily work—my hands’ employment,
To complete is pure enjoyment!
Let, oh, let me never falter!
No! there is no empty dreaming:
Lo! these trees, but bare poles seeming,
Yet will yield both food and shelter!
– Goethe’s “Hope”, translated by William Gibson, Com. U. S. N.»
– Nikola Tesla, “THE PROBLEM OF INCREASING HUMAN ENERGY – WITH SPECIAL REFERENCES TO THE HARNESSING OF THE SUN’S ENERGY”, article in Century illustrated magazine, June 1900.