Nikola Tesla, electrical scientist, says not armies alone, but whole populations will be destroyed by use of wireless currents — his own air torpedo deadly.
In the science which man has spun out of his brain he has created a monstrous Frankenstein, which is now rending him limb from limb on the battlefields of Europe. But one of the fatal qualities of science is that it always progresses. What part will it play in the next world war? Will the inventive intellect by then have unloosed forces which, compared to the 42-centimeter howitzer of today, will be as the 42-centimeter gun is to the two-handed sword of the Roman legions?
Yes, reply the experts; the present war is based on chemistry; but future warfare will wield the enormously more gigantic power of destruction provided by electricity, according to a writer in the St Louis Post-Dispatch.
Then it will not be a question of the annihilation of armies; it will be one of the extermination of whole populations. It will not be a matter of demolishing cities and fortresses, but of wiping whole nations at one stroke from the face of the earth. The scientists, in fact, offer us one ultimate alternative: Either man must conquer his innate murderous instincts and cease from war, or else in the end the human race will perish in a universal act of suicide such as Schopenhauer foretold — self-slain by the unspeakable agencies of destruction with which science will inevitably arm us.
For 600 years, gunpowder and its derivatives have ruled the destinies of mankind. A flash from the pestle of the scientist-monk, Roger Bacon, blow feudalism off the globe, and made possible the coming of democracy. Gunpowder gave to the European races sway over the whole world; it subjected to them America, Asia and Africa. Little did Bacon dream of these consequences from his experiment with saltpeter and sulphur. Perhaps as little do we today realize the possibilities of the wireless current which in an instant bears the spoken word from Arlington to Honolulu.
In the imagination of every scientist in the world today, there is a vision of a machine with a key by means of which a wave of electricity will be flashed through the air to explode the enemy’s bombs, torpedoes, cartridges and magazines. The man who first perfects this device will go down in history — if any historians are left alive — as a greater man than Roger Bacon, for his invention will make lyddite and picric acid obsolete, and will send rifles, cannon and dreadnaughts to the junk heap.
The Nobel Prize-winner’s prophecies
Only one scientist so far makes a claim to have advanced some steps towards the perfect electric man-killer. But that man is no other than Nikola Tesla, electrical wizard, who has just been awarded a part of this year’s Nobel prize for physics. In an interview the other day he laid down these prophecies:
1. This is the last war in which the explosive power of chemicals will decide the issue.
2. In the next war, electricity will be the force of organized slaughter.
The confidence with which Tesla uttered these predictions is based upon an invention which he says he has just completed, but the details of which he is for the present jealously guarding, for fear they might be worked out by one of the belligerents in the present war. In case the United States were involved in war, however, he says he would place his device unreservedly at the disposition of the military authorities.
Effects from a distance
“It is, of course, possible,” he said to a representative of the Post-Dispatch Sunday Magazine a few days ago, “to produce electrical effects at a distance by means of wireless energy. But the insurmountable difficulty thus far has been to aim an electric wave in one direction only, with all of its force concentrated on a given target.
“I will go so far as to say that after twenty years of application to the problem of transmitting energy by wireless I have just made a valuable advance in this direction. The stage has been reached where to an extent it is practicable to use this force in war, and to predict such a development as will make electricity supplant cannon in battle.
“It is impossible to give details at this time, but in a general way my invention can be used in three methods.
“In the first place, it will be possible to send an explosive body through the air – an aerial torpedo flying many times faster than an aeroplane — and to direct this projectile to the spot desired, where it can be exploded by wireless. It will be possible to guide the projectile by wireless after it has passed beyond the range of the eye, and the aim is so accurate that it is possible to reduce the error to a few feet in a thousand miles.
“In the second place, it will be practicable with this apparatus to produce effects at a distance which will interfere with the enemy and tend to make him ineffective.
“In the third place, it promises to be able to produce at a distance such effects of electrical tension as will jeopardize life and property.”