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Thursday, February 22, 2007


There is little chance to perfect a gas burner; not, perhaps, because human ingenuity has been bent upon that
problem for centuries without a radical departure having been made--though this argument is not devoid of
force-- but because in a burner the higher vibrations can never be reached except by passing through all the low
ones. For how is a flame produced unless by a fall of lifted weights.? Such process cannot be maintained without
renewal, and renewal is repeated passing from low to high vibrations. One way only seems to be open to improve a
burner, and that n by trying to reach higher degrees of incandescence. Higher incandescence is equivalent to a
quicker vibration that means more light from the same material, and that again, means more economy. In this
direction some improvements have been made, but the progress is hampered by many limitations. Discarding, then,
the burner, there remain the three ways first mentioned, which are essentially electrical.
Suppose the light of the immediate future to be a solid rendered incandescent by electricity. Would it not seem that
it is better to employ a small button than a frail filament? From many considerations it certainly must be concluded
that a button is capable of a higher economy, assuming, of course, the difficulties connected with the operation of
such a lamp to be effectively overcome. But to light such a lamp we require a high potential and to get this
economically we must use high frequencies.
Such considerations apply even more to the production of light by the incandescence of a gas, or by phosphores-
cence. In all cases we require high frequencies and high potentials. These thoughts occurred to me a long time ago.
Incidentally we gain, by the use of very high frequencies, many advantages, such as a higher economy in the light
production, the possibility of working with one lead, the possibility of doing away with the leading-in wire, etc.
The question is, how far can we go with frequencies? Ordinary conductors rapidly lose the facility of transmitting
electric impulses when the frequency is greatly increased. Assume the means for the production of impulses of very
great frequency brought to the utmost perfection, every one will naturally ask how to transmit them when the
necessity arises. In transmitting such impulses through conductors we must remember that we have to deal with
pressure and flow, in the ordinary interpretation of these terms. Let the pressure increase to an enormous value, and
let the flow correspondingly diminish, then such impulses--variations merely of pressure, as it were--can no doubt
be transmitted through a wire even if their frequency be many hundreds of millions per second. It would, of course,
be out of question to transmit such impulses through a wire immersed in a gaseous medium, even if the wire were
provided with a thick and excellent insulation for most of the energy would be lost in molecular bombardment and
consequent heating. The end of the wire connected to the source would be heated, and the remote end would
receive but a trifling part of the energy supplied. The prime necessity, then, if such electric impulses are to be used,
is to find means to reduce as much as possible the dissipation.

The first thought is, employ the thinnest possible wire surrounded by the thickest practicable insulation. The next
thought is to employ electrostatic screens. The insulation of the wire may be covered with a thin conducting coating
and the latter connected to the ground. But this would not do, as then all the energy would pass through the
conducting coating to the ground and nothing would get to the end of the wire. If a ground connection is made it
can only be made through a conductor offering an enormous impedance, or though a condenser of extremely small
capacity. This, however, does not do away with other difficulties.
If the wave length of the impulses is much smaller than the length of the wire, then corresponding short waves will
be sent up in the conducting coating, and it will be more or less the same as though the coating were directly
connected to earth. It is therefore necessary to cut up the coating in sections much shorter than the wavelength.
Such an arrangement does not still afford a perfect screen, but it is ten thousand times better than none. I think it
preferable to cut up the conducting coating in small sections, even if the current waves be much longer than the
If a wire were provided with a perfect electrostatic screen, it would be the same as though all objects were removed
from it at infinite distance. The capacity would then be reduced to the capacity of the wire itself, which would be
very small. It would then be possible to send over the wire current vibrations of very high frequencies at enormous
distance without affecting greatly the character of the vibrations. A perfect screen is of course out of the question,
but I believe that with a screen such as I have just described telephony could be rendered practicable across the
Atlantic. According to my ideas, the guttapercha covered wire should be provided with a third conducting coating
subdivided in sections. On the top of this should be again placed a layer of gutta-percha and other insulation, and
on the top of the whole the armor. But such cables will not be constructed, for ere long intelligence--transmitted
without wires--will throb through the earth like a pulse through a living organism. The wonder is that, with the
present state of knowledge and the experiences gained, no attempt is being made to disturb the electrostatic or
magnetic condition of the earth, and transmit, if nothing else, intelligence.
It has been my chief aim in presenting these results to point out phenomena or features of novelty, and to advance
ideas which I am hopeful will serve as starting points of new departures. It has been my chief desire this evening to
entertain you with some novel experiments. Your applause, so frequently and generously accorded, has told me that
I have succeeded.
In conclusion, let me thank you most heartily for your kindness and attention, and assure you that the honor I have
had in addressing such a distinguished audience, the pleasure I have had in presenting these results to a gathering of
so many able men--and among them also some of those in whose work for many years past I have found en-
lightenment and constant pleasure--I shall never forget.

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