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Tesla’s latest wonder: Wireless electricity (1898)

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Tesla’s latest wonder: Illustrating the method by which electric power is conducted from one place to another without wares, the balloons act as the poles of the dynamos, and the current flashes across through the rarefied air.

Tesla’s latest electrical wonder is out. It is out because he has just received patents on it in this and other countries.

What Tesla proposes to do now is to transmit almost any amount of power almost any distance without wires, and without loss. Although moving ships at sea may use the system for propulsion, it is mainly intended for use on land.

To illustrate the anticipated results in the most concrete form it is proposed, for instance, that water power shall generate a great quantity of electricity on the lower courses of streams coming from the Sierras; that this electricity shall be conducted to a balloon arrangement floating a mile or two above the earth; that there shall be in San Francisco a similar balloon high above the city and that all the electrical energy conducted to the first balloon shall pass without loss and without wires to the balloon over the city, from which it shall descend to turn wheels and light lamps, etc.

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A secondary result would seem to be that ships minus boilers and minus coal shall plow their way from the Golden Gate to Puget Sound, their churning propellers being driven by motors which draw their energy through the air from stations arranged every hundred miles or so along the shore.

This may seem a crazy idea to some people, but then it was a more crazy idea once that a man’s voice should be heard 2000 miles away and that a waterfall should turn a mill a hundred miles away, and besides Nikola Tesla says so and he is acknowledged as one of the very best electric experts in the country.

In one sense Tesla is a greater wizard than Edison. They are twin wizards in the wondrous field of electrical science, but they are wholly unlike. Edison is wholly practical and he cares for nothing that he cannot make a commercial success.His spur is not devotion to science as it was with Franklin, Faraday, Volta, Galvani and the rest.

Nikola Tesla quote: “Today’s scientists have substituted mathematics for experiments…”

Tesla is rather Edison’s reverse as a genius. He plunges into electrical mystery and seeks scientific facts, phenomena, laws and principles rather than patents, though he looks out for the patents when they are in sight.

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tesla-electricity-city-1898Young Tesla has startled the world about as much as has Edison, but you don’t find his name on the patent plates of as many machines about town. He made electrical engineers marvel by smilingly passing a million volts of electricity through his body and he showed them how to light a room brilliantly with a simple empty glass tube which he held in his hand or laid on the table without any connecting wires. In various ways he has led the scientific world far toward the final mystery of this “form of radiation.” This latest advance of his is both scientific and practical.

“Tesla’s system of electric power transmission through natural media” is the descriptive title of this latest vention of his. in- This at once suggests the new telegraphy without wires, which promises to be a commercial feature of everyday life to-morrow or next day, but the one system is wholly different from the other. In the wireless telegraphy, an apparatus sends out in all directions through air, buildings, earth and water a series of “Hertzian waves,” as a lighthouse lamp sends out light waves. The length and frequency are regulated and the receiving apparatus, if adapted to these waves, responds as one tuning fork will to its like. In this case, the electrical phenomena proceed in all directions like sound or ripples from where a stone strikes in the water.

Tesla, however, proposes to generate energy at one point and pass it all without loss through the air direct to a distant point, where it may be used for light or power. A comprehension of his invention depends upon an understanding of “voltage.”

An electric current may be large in quantity and low in intensity or small in quantity and high in intensity as a stream of water be large in volume and slow of motion or may be small and rapid. A stream of water an inch in diameter will exert more power than a small river if the pressure is great enough:

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In handling electricity quantity is reduced to intensity and the reverse by means of “transformers.” In long-distance transmission of power, the energy is transformed to a high intensity or voltage and then sent over the wires, and where it is received it is again transformed to a lower voltage and greater quantity for use.

Most people have seen electric sparks jump from one brass ball to another in electrical apparatus. The distance these sparks will jump depends not on the amount of electricity generated but on its intensity or voltage.

Now, there are two things which mainly underlie Tesla’s new scheme. One is the production of voltages before hardly dreamed of, and the other is the increased conductivity of the air when it is rarefied as it is at high altitudes.

Up to date 15,000 volts has been the measure of the intensity at which electric power has been transmitted over copper wires, though now they are talking of doubling it. Tesla proposes to transmit it without wires at 2,500,000 volts or more. At this voltage, a given quantity transmitted would produce about 200 times the ordinary amount of power when reduced with transformers.

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