Answers To An Inquiry Concerning Tesla's Latest Work Invention

Wednesday, December 7, 1898
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December 7, 1898 ANSWER T0 AN INQUIRY CONCERN- ING TESLA'S LATEST INVENTION. In the ELECTRICAL Review last week appeared an inquiry from Mr. N. G. Worth, of Indianapolis, relat- ing toa probable defect in the elec- trically-controlled vessel recently patented by Nikola Tesla. Mr. Worth inquired if_the ship or fort menaced could not set up a counter- induence by means of similar appa- ratus, which would he more powerful at a nearer radiation than that trans- mitted to the attacking vessel from the distant point \vhere the original and controlling influence was cre- ated. A number of electrical experts and the inventor himself have been consulted on this point, in addition to a careful perusal by the writer of the technical description of the in- vention which appeared in full ex- clusively in this journal on November 9 and 16. The following passage from the patent, in which the italics are our own, is republished as bearing on this question : “It will be obviously noted from the preceding that, whichever of these or similar contrivanccs be used, the sensitive- ness and, \vhat is often still more iin- portant, thc reliability of operation nrc very materially increased by u clnsc adjustnuent of perioi snf vibrnlion of the transmitting and receiving circuits. and, although such adjustment is in runny cases unnecessary for the successful carrying out of my in- vention [Tcsla evidently refers here to the many uses of his invention in pence-En] I nevertheless make it a rule to bestow on this feature the greatest possible cure, not only because of thc nbovc~n\cnxionwl nul- vuntuges, which ure sci-uri-rl by lln- observ- ance of the most |'nvo|'nhIc conlllllons lu this respect, but also, urul chiufly, with the object of prezwiting the 1-ecuiviflg circuit from being fijlfcled by mlmm or distu1'brmre~! nnanutiligflmli sources not under the control qf the operator. 'l`he nurrowcr lllc rnngc of vibrations, which ure still cnpnblc of per- ceptihly affecting the receiving circuit, the safer will the latter be against extraneous disturbances. To secure the best result it is necessary, ns is well known to experts, lu construct the receiving circuit, er that part of the same in which the vibration chiefly occurs, so that it will have thc highest possible self-induction and, at the same time, the least possible resistance. In this manner I hare deluonstralerl the prr1tlicabi'lil_|/ of providing in great number of such roceizing circuits- 50 01- 100 ar more-each of which may be culled up or brought into action when- ever rlesirerl milliout the other bwizig ir1te1y`w~rrl with. - The above statement answers part of the question to the point, for, if the sending and receiving circuits are skillfully adjusted, the enemy attacked would bc practically powerless, as he could only by the harest chance strike tho vibration to which thu receiving circuit on the vessel would respond. It is difficult enough, even for the best expert, to make an exact adjust- ment of two such circuits, let alone the far more dilhcult problem which in this respect would confront the enemy attacked. Granted he had an apparatus on board capable of develop- El_Eo'rRlcA1_ REVIEW ing electrical waves of any pitch, still he would never be able to know which of the notes struck is aliecting the circuit on the assniling vessel, since this effect would be only momentary and speedily counteracted by the send- ing apparatus which the operator guiding the vessel in its course is controlling. But, quite apart from the above, let it be assumed that auch adjust- ment of the sending and receiving circuits was not at all observed, and that no ngents were known capable of alfecting a sensitive device on the Tesla. vessel, which agent, by its rery nature, made it impossible for the enemy to \vard off the attack. 'l`he latter sup- position is mnnifestly untrue, since any radiation propagating in straight lines, as light or short Hertzian waves, may be used for operating the vessel, and such radiations may be screened off on the side towards the enemy, so that the latter could not affect the controlling device on the attacking vessel. Still, even in such an extreme case, it would seem to us that, while it might be easy to disturb the dot und dash signals in wireless .teleg- raphy, it would be quite a. different matter to prevent an operator from directing ,his vessel to'wherever he desires, for he only would know pre- cisely how the signals affect the mechanism, whereas tho su :posed opponent would have no lcnowl- edge whatever in this res ect and could never tell whotlior, in working his apparatus, he is aiding or thwarting the efforts ol his assailant. However, his signals would be of tell- ing eflect only after the assailing vessel had reached a point at which the signals from both the sources are of equal intensity. Now it would be quite easy, in our opinion, for the op- erator controlling the course of the vessel and the operation of the appa- ratus on board of the same, to direct it straight upon the enemy, put the machines at top speed, release the exploding mechanism and render all further signals inactive. Since the vessel can carry any amount of ex- plosive, it would not be necessary to come very close to the enemy to in- sure his destruction. How about the intensity of the sig- nals? Can the signals from a man- of-war be- made as strong as from a vessel especially fitted for this pur- pose ? Would~it be advisable to have such u powerful apparatus on hoard of n. warship when the exports toll us that powerful electrical vibrations are apt to make large sparks fly about in any part of the structure, thus be- comingliable to short-circuit the light mains and injure any of the important electrical a paratus on board, and, worst of all, inflame the stores of explosives? *Would any commander undertake the responsibility of oper- ating such a powerful apparatus on board of his slip under such condi- tions? And anyway, how is he to know to what kind of inliuence the controlling device on the assailing vessel is designed to respond ? And granted he does. will :he feel sure to start his apparatus going when there might be a vessel submerged in the neighborhood responsive to his sig- nals and ready to ignite a great quantity of explosive, and to so an- nihilate his costly ship and living crew? How would he know that, by his own signals, he is not drawing upon his ship one of the vessels especially adapted for such pur ose, thus bringing destruction uponhim- self through his very efforts to ward off the danger? Would he not ex- pose himself to such liabilities, par- ticularly at night? A great many more of such arguments might bc made if they were needed, and all of this, it seems to ns, has been over- looked in the various comments we have pernsed. lt is well known that most of the naval engagements must of :necessity take place near the coast. Now it is not diflicult to emplo on shore a sending apparatus. fixeil' or portable, of great power, against which any on board of a warship would be ineffective, and we ask again how could a commander of a fleet possibly venture to approach the coast within 10 or 15 miles when he would know that in so doing he is risking not one but all of his vessels? Our inquircr is mistaken in the be- lief that the use of the coherer is in- dispensable in 'l`esla`s invention. 'l`he inventor is very explicit on this point, as will be observed by perusing us teirt. 'l`o cite only one passage, he states: “A great variety of electrical and other llovlccs, more or less suitable fur the pur- pose of th-tectlng and utilizing feeble nc- tmns, are now well known to scientilic men nndnrtlsuns, and nced not be all enumerated here, (fonflning myself merely to the elec- trical * " *"' Those who have criticized this im- portant advance seem to confound a special means for carrying out the invention for the invention itself. 'l‘he latter is not limited to any par- ticular mode of signaling, and on this point Tesla expresses himself clearly, as rnay be seen from the following quotation : ` “ Finally, I may avail myself, in carrying out my invention. of electrical oscillations which do not follow any particular con- ducting path, but propagate in straight lines through space, of rays, waves. pulses. or disturbances of any kind, capable of bringing the mechanism of the moving body into action, from a distance and at the will of the operator, by their edect upon suitable controlling devices," Signaling without wires, in some way of other. is very old-in fact, nnciont-whereas Tesla, as we have bofore stated. hns created un nrt on- tirely novel, for there never was such a thing as guiding the movements of a distant body and controlling all of its appliances without any artificial connection whatever. lt is. perhaps, astonishing that this epochal idea. has not been evolved in times long past, for it would seem that it might have been carried into effect, without the use of any elec- trical means whatever, by some scien- 359 tific men of old, like Archimedes. He must ha\'e known. for instance, that by striking a sln'ill note he could set into vibration a delicate reed or diaphragm at a distance of as much as two or three miles, and he might have known that the force so de- veloped could be utilized, in many ways, to control the movements of a rudder or other device on a vessel, and that by such control the vessel could he'guided upon the enemy’s ship and the latter dcstroyedwrs by ramming into it, or by causing, for example, a large quantity of inflam- mable fluid to fiow on the water und then igniting the fluid through a con- trivance actuated hy the signal from a distance, far out of the reach of the cnemy’s weapons. When gunpowder was discovered, and when we gained knowledge of voltaic electricity, it became still more easy to carry out the idea. When the action of light on a selenium cell was observed. at simple means was offered for effecting the control at great distances. 'l'he observation that currents are propa- gated through the ground to consider- able distances and that inductive effects take place between circuits widely apart, again enlarged the pos- sibilities, unlil finally the science of electrical vibrations and synchronized circuits afforded the best means for carrying the idea into practice. ‘These means, which are accessories in this invention, will, in all proba- bility, multiply and be further im- proved as time goes on, amd, with every advance in this direction, this new art will he brought to greater perfection. 'l`o one \vho considers that for cen- turies past n. large proportion of human cllort has been spent in rlcvis- ing and producing the most efficient means for destroying an enemy. the tremendous importance of this new departure is instantly impressive. The weapon is no longer one depend- ent on the chance of hitting, nor one subject to the limitations of the mod- ern projectile, nor one which can be rendered inoffensive by armor protec- tion, however thick. The mere moral effect of a weapon of unlimited powers of destruction must be so great as to lead to a radical change in warfare, first on sea and next on land, but its success in the end can not help com- pelling the nations. for the sake of humanity, to stop the slaughtering of men and sacrifice of property.