Eclectic discoveries in electricity (1897)

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Discoveries in electricity

Some very remarkable discoveries have recently been made in the field of electricity. It has been found possible to transmit electrical energy, or, in other words, to produce dynamic force at a great distance from the source of energy without the aid of wires or other conductors.

Why induction?

For many years, ingenious men have striven to accomplish the work of telegraphing without wires, but without arriving at any practical solution of the problem — until now. The phenomenon of “induction” – that is, the appearance of an electric current upon a wire strung parallel to another wire charged with a current — has been familiar to electricians ever since the use of wires as conductors, but no rational answer to the question “Why?” has heretofore been brought forward.

Three men, each distinguished in the scientific world — Dr Jagadis Chunder Bose, a Hindu, professor of Physics in the Presidency College, Calcutta; Guglielmo Marconi, an Italian; and Nikola Tesla, a Montenegrin — have, each independently of the other, arrived at similar results in their studies of electric induction, and each one announces, and proves his claim by experimental demonstration, that it is quite practical to produce electrical phenomena at great distances from the exciting cause.

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Professor Bose has been able to ring bells at a distance of hundreds of feet from his transmitting instrument, the force-rays of electrical energy passing through brick and stone walls without impediment. His apparatus consists of a small platinum ball placed between two platinum beds connected to a battery of two storage cells, having an electro-motive force of two volts, and rendering the electric emanations given off by the platinum ball into a bundle of parallel rays by means of a condensing lens made of sulfur, pitch and ebonite. Marconi’s apparatus is a modified form of the familiar Hertz machine for producing static electricity. Marconi in his experiments used no condensing lens, and he appeared to have achieved better results than has Professor Bose.

W H Preece, the chief of the electrical department of the British postal system, has carefully investigated Marconi’s claims, and says that they are proven. The electrical waves generated by Marconi’s machine have been sent two miles through houses and hills, and can be sent twenty miles with more powerful machines than those employed in the experiments.

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The potential of such electrical devices

Vessels at sea provided with proper receivers may be communicated with, and the electrical waves possess an energy that may be applied with terrible effect in warfare, for they may be directed against the powder magazine of a hostile ironclad to explode its contents should it happen that a couple of pieces of metal were in the magazine in position to set up induction. No little alarm is already felt among interested naval men as to the probable effect of this most wonderful discovery. Nikola Tesla has, as is well known, made exhaustive investigation into the phenomena of high frequency and high potential currents, and he has produced before assemblages of the foremost men in scientific research many marvelous demonstrations.

All of the investigations and experiments made by these three men demonstrate that vibration is the keynote of all phenomena. Light and heat are convertible the one into the other simply by raising or lowering the rate of vibration. Both are actual force. Light, which is a form of heat, is due to the agitation, or vibration, of electro-statically charged molecules. In the production of light waves electro-static effects must be brought into play.

The “quantity” of electric energy is not essential, for but feeble luminosity is obtainable from the most powerful electromagnetic induction effects. It is found that the molecules of common air are thrown into violent agitation when they are placed within an electro-static field produced by high potential currents, and that the removal of a portion of the air molecules from a closed vessel renders it easier for the remaining molecules to vibrate; and further, that the vibration of these molecules produces luminosity.

Wireless possibilities

Being possessed of these facts, it is easy to construct an apparatus by which light may be obtained at a distance from the generator of electrical energy without employing conducting wires. A room may be brilliantly illuminated by placing in the walls concealed plates connected with a machine that creates currents of high frequency and most potential and suspending in the center of the room glass globes from which the air has been partly exhausted. As soon as the plates are charged, an electro-static field is created surrounding the globes, which then glow with brilliant light. Not only is such a mode novel, it is desirable from an economic standpoint, as the necessary electrical energy is produced at much less cost than is that required for the present system of electric lighting; and besides, as the current used is of very low amperage, there is less danger of fire, which must always attend the use of powerful currents on hidden wires.

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The new discoveries open up an immense field of practical application that has hitherto been closed. It will now be possible to erect a lighthouse at any possible point of danger on our coasts and light its lamp by a current sent from the shore, regardless of fogs, storms or season. Ships may be communicated with or themselves hold converse with the inaccessible shore, and the hostile warship destroyed long before it can reach available shelling distance.

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Every city in our land is disfigured by the plexus of unsightly wires which are necessary for the operation of the various applications of electricity used by us. To place all of these wires, underground would be desirable, but it is practically impossible. As the demand for telephonic and light service increases additional wires are required, and no business man would engage in an enterprise requiring an outlay that was not reasonably assured of return.

A street once provided with good roadway may not be broken up every time that a new wire is required or when some failing wire ceases to net as a conductor. The new discoveries will obviate all this. There will be no wires. The different currents employed for lighting and for phonic communication will no more blend or interfere with each other than do now the millions of currents employed in the operation of the telegraph, the telephone, the incandescent and arc lights, which are “grounded” into the earth. Each will seek its appropriate objective.

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