Editorial: High Frequency Alternations

Saturday, July 11, 1891
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High Prsquuwy AT last, after' protracted delay, Mr. Ammstions. Nikola Tesla`s paper before the Amen-~ ican Institute of Electrical Engineers at its annual meeting is ready for publication. The period of waiting. however, is more than compensated by the finished formin which Mr. ’1`esla‘s research appears. It is hard in any reasonable space to give an adequate idea. of the suggestiveness of the very remarkable work that he has done. It contains not only hints bearing on the most occult portions of theo- retical electricity, but also gives promise of future commercial importance. To search out the nature of the forces that appear in electricity and mag- netism is the most fascinating, as it is perhaps the most ditiicnlt, problem before the scientific man of to-day. During the past ten years not a few brilliant minds have been turned toward its solution, but as yet very little has actually been accomplished, al- though much is to-day promised. The clever specula- tions of Lodge, and the magnificent experimental work of Hertz and others, have thrown a Hood of light on por- tions of the subject that has heretofore been wrapped in profound darkness. Nevertheless, as Mr. Tesla very properly suggests, much of this work is rather ingenious than satisfying. To a certain extent one cannot help feeL ing that it bears some resemblance to the theory of epi- cycles advanced by the early astronomers; it was a clever conception, and by the very simple device of subdividing the motions, as Lodge subdivided the ether, it was possi- ble to account for very many of the curious anomalies in planetary motion. It remained for Kepler, to show that the epicycles were only a complicated system for tmnslating into terms of circular motion the elliptic orbits of the heavenly bodies. In a similar way we may find, indeed probably shall find, that the machinery of positive and negative electricities, of a subdivided ether and atomic charges, are merely modes of expressing certain phases of a reality by no means so complicated. Perhaps it may be that we speak now of positive and negative electricities much as one would have spoken 40 years ago of the north and south poles of a solenoid, and similarly it is prob- able that the hypothesis of an atomic charge is only another way of asserting the dynamical equivalence of all atoms of a particular kind. As regards the commercial possibilities of Mr. Tesla’s work, it is not easy to predict anything with certainty; it is a promising direction in which to work, but the difficulties in the way are many. Chief among them is that of distributing currents of high frequency, at least of as high frequency as were employed by Mr. Tesla in his experi. ments. For such currents an ordinary solid wire is but poorly adapted on account of its high self-induction, and one is confronted by the possibility of hollow wires, of cables composed of thin strips, and other forms of con- ductor that are not altogether attractive from a commer- cial point of view. And then comes the condenser, the most beautiful of all transforming devices, provided it can be made cheap and durable; and after all this comes the question of suitable lamps for utilizing the cur- rents after they are obtained and distributed. From the standpoint of economy the vacuum tube type shown by Mr. Tesla is by all odds the most promising. Lamps with filaments broughtto incandescence by induced currents would have no special advantage in economy of illumination over those made in the ordinary way, but if it were possible to obtain a mass of luminuus gas that would give a clear and steady light it might be that a far greater percentage of luminous radiation could beprocured from it than has ever been obtained from a mere heated solid, and this is the direction in which work is needed. Prof. Langley has shown that luminous radia- tion almost pure, and therefore of ma-ximum efficiency, is emitted by the fireiiy. The incandescent lamp, on the other hand, gives, so to speak, a minimum of radiant illumination with a maximum of heat rays. Mr. Tesla is working industriously on the problem of substituting for the lastmentioned -ineiiicient arrangement some form of induction tube in which one may atleast simulate in character the flow of the fireily. and thus ob= tain, from a given amount of electrical energy, perhaps a dozen times more light than has ever yet been secured. The held of investigation is a most fascinating one and promises great things in the future. Meanwhile, Mr. Teslsfs present paper gives an admirable summary of the results he has attained up to date and the varied course of his' beautiful inventlgatiamf