Editorial: Science And Sensationalism

Saturday, November 26, 1898
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338 |N0vEMBER 261898. .§»:izutifi»: gmzrimu. érimmififs gmmiwuu. ESTABLISHED 1845. MUNN du CO., - - - Eorrons AND Pnovnnsrons. PUBLISHED WEEKLY AT No. 36| BROADWAY, - - NEW YORK. TERMS ro sussumnsas. one may. one year. for me unneu sum, ewan. or nelqeo ,,,, ¢.,. swo one wpy. une year, w any :mm mmm-y. pam” pl-¢p»u..m na. aa. 4.w THE SVIENTIFIC AMERICAAV PUBLICATIONS. sexenqne ,unenenn Slcsmnlpnea lam ..... .. . , .,..,_._....... syn a yen. senenuue Ameneun _upplemeun |a|u|>11¢ue<1 :arm _.z ......... , lg: -' Scwnmic Amencm Bumnnu Edition mi-:smnllnen xsw. _ . .... iw “ Selenrinc American uzxpun Edluun uhxmnluneu lam .... .... . zulu " beTgz:rnAi\g$e|gr:xed“:\;bs€z‘\pS0n_ rates and rites L0 foreign culultries will W n e n un llemlt by postal or gxprens money Urder. ur hy hunk dm!! or check. MUNN .1 CO., (lil Bmudwly, corner Franklin Street, Ne' York. ___ _ NEYV YORK. §ATURDAY, NOVEMBER 26. 1398. SCIENCE ARD BENSATIOHALISH. One of the most astonishing features in the deve!op- ment of modern journalism is the magnitude and suc- cessful audacity of the Sunday issues ofthe great daily papers, and among these there are none quite so suc~ cessful in self-advertisement, with the unthinking half of the public at least, as those issues which are marked by the distinctive characteristics of yellow journzilism. Now, the yellow journal is nothing ifit is nun sensuf tional. and in its quest for startling novelties to what the palate of its readers. it invades every possible spherelof human life and interest and every branch of human knowledge. Science, which. one would have tlnjus:ht.'\;vould be severely let alone, is a favorite hufiting ground of the reporter, and whole pages of the yellow journal seventh-day editions are loaded down wikh pseudo-scientific pabulum, upon which the Sun- day reimder is supposed to satisfy his hunger for scien- ririg knowledge. The reporters for these journals are apparently sent out into the domains of science clmrged with a commission to magnify mole hills into molintains and use such facts as they :nay pick up as texts for exuberant essays, in which rhetoric gorges itself withsuperlatives and becomes positively tipsy wifh the fumes of its o\vn wild ixunginings. Hence it is by the merest promptings of seltlrespect that the average man of science shurxs the noisy noio- riety of a. Sunday paper “ write-up." and reserves his announcements for the cnlumns of the techuicalhnd scientific journals, or a. lecture desk in the auditorium of ah.-r¥ef.z1 ne& assaeiatiags; The pvaetioc-, the etiquette, we had almost said the ethics, of scientific research agree in rebuking the former and approving the latter method of making public announcement of results act- ually aéeomplished. We shall not soon forget the extreme |nortiHcation exhibited in our presence on a. recent occasion by a medical expert when he discoveredi through our ap- plication to him for the_ true facts of the case, that the détails ofa dimcult operation just performed by him had been published, with Hatteriug encomiulus and th; inevitgblg in;;gggrggies_ in a. certain daily paper, thereby anticipating a paper on the subject that was rio he duly presented in the columns of the medical Journals. This is the true professional spirit, and every de- parture froux it bends in some degree to subvert the interest of science, and throw a stumbling block in the way of the honest seeker aft/er knowlerlpze. We hote with considerable regret that subsequently to his Iirst extraordinary interviews, Mr. Tesla has seen [it to place himself at the service of those New York Sunday papers that are more or less notoriously sensa- tional, with the re=ult that the "a,uuihilator" has taken ou fresh terrors. It is now illumiued by the Haming brush of the artist. and the public is diverted with realistic scenes in which the nine days’ wonder is depicted as Speeding, now above, now beneath the surface of a. sea which is always propitiously calm, under a sky and in an atmosphere that are ever oppor- tunely bright and clear. against a ship that is ever fortuitonsly within easy range. aqd always with the inevitable and unutterable resultl Judging from the comments of the scientific and technical press, we are not alone in our expressions of regret that any one of Mr. Tesla’s undoubted ability should indulge in such obvious and questionable self- advertiseluent. That. the author of the multiphase system of transmission should, at this late day, be dood- ing the press with rhetorical bolubast that recalls the wildest days of the Keely motor mania is inconsistent and inexplicable to the last degree. The facts of Mr. Tesla’s inrention are as few and sim- ple as the fancies which have been woven around it are many gud extravagant. The principles of the inven- tion are not new, nor was Tesla even their 'original discoverer. While the present application of these principles is novel. there is nothing whateverin the de- vice to warrant the sweeping claims which have been made in regard to its destructive powers. The con- necting cable in the dirigible mrpedo is only one of many insupemble obstacles to its success. Mr. Tesla has removed (or rather believes that he has) this one detect; let him now apply himself to mastering the others. Before he announces his ability to blot the nizvies ofthe world out of existence. let him answer a few pertinent questions, as follows: If the torpedo must be seen to be controlled, and is scarcely visible at a. distance of over a. mile, even in a. calm sea, how, in view of the great range, rapidity and accuracy of modern rides. is the operator ro keep within striking distance of the enemy? If the course of the torpedo can with difficulty be followed in calm weather, how will it be traced when the surface is dis- turbed even by n moderate sea, to say nothing of more boisterous water? Furthermore, what becomes of its acuurucy in thick or foggy weather? The apparatus employed by Tesla is extremely sensitive to shock; how rhen “ull in fare amid the Lerri6c concussion of a l110d€rl1 sea iight? If one of these weapons should be lost aught of in its course, does it not at once threaten friend and foe alike, and is not the operator himself in danger of being incontiuently “hoist with his own petard ” 1 Lastly, and most pertinent question of all:Whn.t is to prevent the enemy from installing a. transmitter on his o\vn ship and himself sending out waves to act upon the receiver in the torpedo? We failto Gnd any peovision made for this contingency, either in the pa- tent or in any of the published interviews of the in- ventor. With a transmitter in tho hands of the enemy the proper sequence of the motions of the torpedo could be destroyed. and the cuntrol of it prevented.