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TALKING WITH THE PLANETS

TALKING WITH THE PLANETS




Mr. Nikola Tesla has accomplished some
marvellous results in electrical discoveries. Now, with the dawn of
the new century, he announces an achievement which will amaze the
entire universe, and which eclipses the wildest dream of the most
visionary scientist. He has received communication, he asserts, from
out the great void of space: a call from the inhabitants of Mars, or
Venus, or some other sister planet! And, furthermore, noted
scientists like Sir Norman Lockyer are disposed to agree with Mr.
Tesla in his startling deductions.


Mr. Tesla has not only discovered many important principles, but
most of his inventions are in practical use: notably in the
harnessing of the Titanic forces of Niagara Falls, and the discovery
of a new light by means of a vacuum tube. He has, he declares, solved
the problem of telegraphing without wires or artificial conductors of
any sort, using the earth as his medium. By means of this principle
he expects to be able to send messages under the ocean, and to any
distance on the earth's surface. Interplanetary communication has
interested him for years, and he sees no reason why we should not
soon be within talking distance of Mars or of all worlds in the solar
system that may be tenanted by intelligent beings.



At the request of COLLIER'S WEEKLY Mr. Tesla presents herewith a
frank statement of what he expects to accomplish and how he hopes to
establish communication with the planets.


THE IDEA of communicating with the inhabitants of other worlds is an
old one. But for ages it has been regarded merely as a poet's dream,
forever unrealizable. And with the invention and perfection of the
telescope and the ever-widening knowledge of the heavens, its hold
upon our imaginations has been increased, and the scientific
achievements during the latter part of the nineteenth century,
together with the development of the tendency toward the nature ideal
of Goethe, have intensified it to such a degree that it seems as if
it were destined to become the dominating idea of the century that
has just begun. The desire to know something of our neighbors in the
immense depths of space does not spring from idle curiosity nor from
thirst for knowledge, but from a deeper cause, and it is a feeling
firmly rooted in the heart of every human being capable of thinking
at all.


Whence, then, does it come? Who knows? Who can assign limits to
the subtlety of nature's influences? Perhaps, if we could clearly
perceive all the intricate mechanism of the glorious spectacle that
is continually unfolding before us, and could, also, trace this
desire to its distant origin, we might find it in the sorrowful
vibrations of the earth which began when it parted from its celestial
parent.


But in this age of reason it is not astonishing to find persons
who scoff at the very thought of effecting communication with a
planet. First of all, the argument is made that there is only a small
probability of other planets being inhabited at all. This argument
has never appealed to me. In the solar system, there seem to be only
two planets--Venus and Mars--capable of sustaining life such as ours:
but this does not mean that there might not be on all of them some
other forms of life. Chemical processes may be maintained without the
aid of oxygen, and it is still a question whether chemical processes
are absolutely necessary for the sustenance of organized beings. My
idea is that the development of life must lead to forms of existence
that will be possible without nourishment and which will not be
shackled by consequent limitations. Why should a living being not be
able to obtain all the energy it needs for the performance of its
life functions from the environment, instead of through consumption
of food, and transforming, by a complicated process, the energy of
chemical combinations into life-sustaining energy?



If there were such beings on one of the planets we should know
next to nothing about them. Nor is it necessary to go so far in our
assumptions, for we can readily conceive that, in the same degree as
the atmosphere diminishes in density, moisture disappears and the
planet freezes up, organic life might also undergo corresponding
modifications, leading finally to forms which, according to our
present ideas of life, are impossible. I will readily admit, of
course, that if there should be a sudden catastrophe of any kind all
life processes might be arrested; but if the change, no matter how
great, should be gradual, and occupied ages, so that the ultimate
results could be intelligently foreseen, I cannot but think that
reasoning beings would still find means of existence. They would
adapt themselves to their constantly changing environment. So I think
it quite possible that in a frozen planet, such as our moon is
supposed to be, intelligent beings may still dwell, in its interior,
if not on its surface.




SIGNALLING AT 100,000,000 MILES!



Then it is contended that it is beyond human power and ingenuity
to convey signals to the almost inconceivable distances of fifty
million or one hundred million miles. This might have been a valid
argument formerly. It is not so now. Most of those who are
enthusiastic upon the subject of interplanetary communication have
reposed their faith in the light-ray as the best possible medium of
such communication. True, waves of light, owing to their immense
rapidity of succession, can penetrate space more readily than waves
less rapid, but a simple consideration will show that by their means
an exchange of signals between this earth and its companions in the
solar system is, at least now, impossible. By way of illustration,
let us suppose that a square mile of the earth's surface--the
smallest area that might possibly be within reach of the best
telescopic vision of other worlds--were covered with incandescent
lamps, packed closely together so as to form, when illuminated, a
continuous sheet of light. It would require not less than one hundred
million horse-power to light this area of lamps, and this is many
times the amount of motive power now in the service of man throughout
the world.


But with the novel means, proposed by myself, I can readily
demonstrate that, with an expenditure not exceeding two thousand
horse-power, signals can be transmitted to a planet such as Mars with
as much exactness and certitude as we now send messages by wire from
New York to Philadelphia. These means are the result of long-
continued experiment and gradual improvement.


Some ten years ago, I recognized the fact that to convey electric
currents to a distance it was not at all necessary to employ a return
wire, but that any amount of energy might be transmitted by using a
single wire. I illustrated this principle by numerous experiments,
which, at that time, excited considerable attention among scientific
men.


This being practically demonstrated, my next step was to use the
earth itself as the medium for conducting the currents, thus
dispensing with wires and all other artificial conductors. So I was
led to the development of a system of energy transmission and of
telegraphy without the use of wires, which I described in 1893. The
difficulties I encountered at first in the transmission of currents
through the earth were very great. At that time I had at hand only
ordinary apparatus, which I found to be ineffective, and I
concentrated my attention immediately upon perfecting machines for
this special purpose. This work consumed a number of years, but I
finally vanquished all difficulties and succeeded in producing a
machine which, to explain its operation in plain language, resembled
a pump in its action, drawing electricity from the earth and driving
it back into the same at an enormous rate, thus creating ripples or
disturbances which, spreading through the earth as through a wire,
could be detected at great distances by carefully attuned receiving
circuits. In this manner I was able to transmit to a distance, not
only feeble effects for the purposes of signalling, but considerable
amounts of energy, and later discoveries I made convinced me that I
shall ultimately succeed in conveying power without wires, for
industrial purposes, with high economy, and to any distance, however
great.




EXPERIMENTS IN COLORADO




To develop these inventions further, I went to Colorado in where
I continued my investigations along these and other lines, one of
which in particular I now consider of even greater importance than
the transmission of power without wires. I constructed a laboratory
in the neighborhood of Pike's Peak. The conditions in the pure air of
the Colorado Mountains proved extremely favorable for my experiments,
and the results were most gratifying to me. I found that I could not
only accomplish more work, physically and mentally, than I could in
New York, but that electrical effects and changes were more readily
and distinctly perceived. A few years ago it was virtually impossible
to produce electrical sparks twenty or thirty foot long; but I
produced some more than one hundred feet in length, and this without
difficulty. The rates of electrical movement involved in strong
induction apparatus had measured but a few hundred horse-power, and I
produced electrical movements of rates of one hundred and ten
thousand horse-power. Prior to this, only insignificant electrical
pressures were obtained, while I have reached fifty million volts.



The accompanying illustrations, with their descriptive titles,
taken from an article I wrote for the "Century Magazine," may serve
to convey an idea of the results I obtained in the directions
indicated.



Many persons in my own profession have wondered at them and have
asked what I am trying to do. But the time is not far away now when
the practical results of my labors will be placed before the world
and their influence felt everywhere. One of the immediate
consequences will be the transmission of messages without wires, over
sea or land, to an immense distance. I have already demonstrated, by
crucial tests, the practicability of signalling by my system from one
to any other point of the globe, no matter how remote, and I shall
soon convert the disbelievers.



I have every reason for congratulating myself that throughout
these experiments, many of which were exceedingly delicate and
hazardous, neither myself nor any of my assistants received any
injury. When working with these powerful electrical oscillations the
most extraordinary phenomena take place at times. Owing to some
interference of the oscillations, veritable balls of fire are apt to
leap out to a great distance, and if any one were within or near
their paths, he would be instantly destroyed. A machine such as I
have used could easily kill, in an instant, three hundred thousand
persons. I observed that the strain upon my assistants was telling,
and some of them could not endure the extreme tension of the nerves.
But these perils are now entirely overcome, and the operation of such
apparatus, however powerful, involves no risk whatever.



As I was improving my machines for the production of intense
electrical actions, I was also perfecting the means for observing
feeble effects. One of the most interesting results, and also one of
great practical importance, was the development of certain
contrivances for indicating at a distance of many hundred miles an
approaching storm, its direction, speed and distance travelled. These
appliances are likely to be valuable in future meteorological
observations and surveying, and will lend themselves particularly to
many naval uses.



It was in carrying on this work that for the first time I
discovered those mysterious effects which have elicited such unusual
interest. I had perfected the apparatus referred to so far that from
my laboratory in the Colorado mountains I could feel the pulse of the
globe, as it were, noting every electrical change that occurred
within a radius of eleven hundred miles.




TERRIFIED BY SUCCESS



I can never forget the first sensations I experienced when it
dawned upon me that I had observed something possibly of incalculable
consequences to mankind. I felt as though I were present at the birth
of a new knowledge or the revelation of a great truth. Even now, at
times, I can vividly recall the incident, and see my apparatus as
though it were actually before me. My first observations positively
terrified me, as there was present in them something mysterious, not
to say supernatural, and I was alone in my laboratory at night; but
at that time the idea of these disturbances being intelligently
controlled signals did not yet present itself to me.



The changes I noted were taking place periodically, and with such
a clear suggestion of number and order that they were not traceable
to any cause then known to me. I was familiar, of course, with such
electrical disturbances as are produced by the sun, Aurora Borealis
and earth currents, and I was as sure as I could be of any fact that
these variations were due to none of these causes. The nature of my
experiments precluded the possibility of the changes being produced
by atmospheric disturbances, as has been rashly asserted by some. It
was some time afterward when the thought flashed upon my mind that
the disturbances I had observed might be due to an intelligent
control. Although I could not decipher their meaning, it was
impossible for me to think of them as having been entirely
accidental. The feeling is constantly growing on me that I had been
the first to hear the greeting of one planet to another. A purpose
was behind these electrical signals; and it was with this conviction
that I announced to the Red Cross Society, when it asked me to
indicate one of the great possible achievements of the next hundred
years, that it would probably be the confirmation and interpretation
of this planetary challenge to us.



Since my return to New York more urgent work has consumed all my
attention; but I have never ceased to think of those experiences and
of the observations made in Colorado. I am constantly endeavoring to
improve and perfect my apparatus, and just as soon as practicable I
shall again take up the thread of my investigations at the point
where I have been forced to lay it down for a time.




COMMUNICATING WITH THE MARTIANS




At the present stage of progress, there would be no
insurmountable obstacle in constructing a machine capable of
conveying a message to Mars, nor would there be any great difficulty
in recording signals transmitted to us by the inhabitants of that
planet, if they be skilled electricians. Communication once
established, even in the simplest way, as by a mere interchange of
numbers, the progress toward more intelligible communication would be
rapid. Absolute certitude as to the receipt and interchange of
messages would be reached as soon as we could respond with the
number "four," say, in reply to the signal "one, two, three." The
Martians, or the inhabitants of whatever planet had signalled to us,
would understand at once that we had caught their message across the
gulf of space and had sent back a response. To convey a knowledge of
form by such means is, while very difficult, not impossible, and I
have already found a way of doing it.



What a tremendous stir this would make in the world! How soon
will it come? For that it will some time be accomplished must be
clear to every thoughtful being.



Something, at least, science has gained. But I hope that it will
also be demonstrated soon that in my experiments in the West I was
not merely beholding a vision, but had caught sight of a great and
profound truth.






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