Tesla’s proposed arrangement of balloon stations for transmitting electricity without wires.
“From the inception of the wireless system,” he says, “I saw that this new art of applied electricity would be of greater benefit to the human race than any other scientific discovery, for it virtually eliminates distance. The majority of the ills from which humanity suffers are due to the immense extent of the terrestrial globe and the inability of individuals and nations to come into close contact.
“Wireless will achieve the closer contact through transmission of intelligence, transport of our bodies and materials and conveyance of energy.
“When wireless is perfectly applied the whole earth will be converted into a huge brain, which in fact it is, all things being particles of a real and rhythmic whole. We shall be able to communicate with one another instantly, irrespective of distance. Not only this, but through television and telephony we shall see and hear one another as perfectly as though we were face to face, despite intervening distances of thousands of miles; and the instruments through which we shall be able to do his will be amazingly simple compared with our present telephone. A man will be able to carry one in his vest pocket.
“We shall be able to witness and hear events—the inauguration of a President, the playing of a world series game, the havoc of an earthquake or the terror of a battle—just as though we were present.
“When the wireless transmission of power is made commercial, transport and transmission will be revolutionized. Already motion pictures have been transmitted by wireless over a short distance. Later the distance will be illimitable, and by later I mean only a few years hence. Pictures are transmitted over wires—they were telegraphed successfully through the point system thirty years ago. When wireless transmission of power becomes general, these methods will be as crude as is the steam locomotive compared with the electric train.”
When he was eighty-one, Tesla challenged Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity, announcing he was working on a dynamic theory of gravity and argued that a field of force was a better concept and did away with the curvature of space. Unfortunately the theory was never published, but Tesla may have been developing a theory about gravity waves. This theory provides a basis for plasma cosmology.
March 16. Went to Auburn with S[achs] in am. E[sther] and Mr. Roope came out at 1 p.m. Tried rocket at 2.30. It rose 41 feet & went 184 feet, in 2.5 secs., after the lower half of the nozzle burned off. Brought materials to lab… .
March 17, 1926. The first flight with a rocket using liquid propellants was made yesterday at Aunt Effie’s farm in Auburn… .
Even though the release was pulled, the rocket did not rise at first, but the flame came out, and there was a steady roar. After a number of seconds it rose, slowly until it cleared the frame, and then at express train speed, curving over to the left, and striking the ice and snow, still going at a rapid rate.
On this day I climbed a tall cherry tree at the back of the barn … and as I looked toward the fields at the east, I imagined how wonderful it would be to make some device which had even the possibility of ascending to Mars, and how it would look on a small scale, if sent up from the meadow at my feet. I have several photographs of the tree, taken since, with the little ladder I made to climb it, leaning against it.
It seemed to me then that a weight whirling around a horizontal shaft, moving more rapidly above than below, could furnish lift by virtue of the greater centrifugal force at the top of the path.
I was a different boy when I descended the tree from when I ascended. Existence at last seemed very purposive.
GEORGE SMITH: When you look at what he did during that time, it’s difficult to believe that any one human being carried out this amount of novel mathematical and mathematical physics research.
NARRATOR: Finally, he submitted a 500-page draft of his masterpiece, the Principia Mathematica, to the Royal Society for publication.
GALE CHRISTIANSON: It is the greatest book of science ever written, bar none. It is the most magnificent work, it is the most all-encompassing work, it is the most daring book of any scientific treatise ever written.
Vividly, I remember those small black tape recorders with their bright red record buttons. We could be walking or talking and an interesting thought would come to him. He’d excuse himself, hold up an index finger to say he’d be just a minute, reach for the dictaphone, and then lay out his idea. Now I’m a writer and I use dictaphones, too. When I use them, my words usually come together like this: “Okay, for the book, I think it might be really cool if so-and-so does this instead of that…” And later on I’ll work that idea into what I’m writing. By contrast, I remember my dad would speak in long, flowing, perfect paragraphs. He’d say it just right and it would go straight into the book. Sometimes he’d have a thought, speak a paragraph or two for one book, and this would in turn inspire a thought for a separate project, so he’d reach for another dictaphone, and so on. He always knew how to make the most out of the times inspiration would strike.
His laugh was explosive and uninhibited. It was the kind of laugh that made you feel good for making him laugh. His sneezes were booming. And sometimes he’d talk to animals in their native tongue. The times we’d see dolphins, he’d greet them in a reasonable approximation of dolphin speak. They’d often answer him. I have no idea what was said. But my favorite sound of his was the sound he’d make upon discovering something interesting and new, some idea or possibility that impressed him or opened up a fresh way of looking at things. It was a kind of “aaah.”
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., Aug. 19—The Voyager spacecraft scheduled for launching tomorrow to scout Jupiter, Saturn, and possibly Uranus will be carrying a message from Earth on the off chance that extraterrestrial beings will come upon the craft centuries from now, somewhere on its endless journey beyond the solar system.
The message is in the form of a recoding, called “Sounds of Earth.” It is a 12 inch copper phonograph record inserted in an aluminum protective jacket that is attached to the outside of the 1,820 pound spacecraft.
Dr. Carl Sagan, the Cornell University astronomer who conceived the idea, calls the recorded message a “bottle cast into the cosmic ocean.”
The New York Times, August 20, 1977
We are all molded and remolded by those who have inspired us, and though their lives may pass, we remain, nonetheless, the products of their influence. No one as fascinating as Sagan can ever cross the path of our destiny without leaving some mark upon it forever.
Music On Voyager Record
- Bach, Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F. First Movement, Munich Bach Orchestra, Karl Richter, conductor. 4:40
- Java, court gamelan, “Kinds of Flowers,” recorded by Robert Brown. 4:43
- Senegal, percussion, recorded by Charles Duvelle. 2:08
- Zaire, Pygmy girls’ initiation song, recorded by Colin Turnbull. 0:56
- Australia, Aborigine songs, “Morning Star” and “Devil Bird,” recorded by Sandra LeBrun Holmes. 1:26
- Mexico, “El Cascabel,” performed by Lorenzo Barcelata and the Mariachi México. 3:14
- “Johnny B. Goode,” written and performed by Chuck Berry. 2:38
- New Guinea, men’s house song, recorded by Robert MacLennan. 1:20
- Japan, shakuhachi, “Tsuru No Sugomori” (“Crane’s Nest,”) performed by Goro Yamaguchi. 4:51
- Bach, “Gavotte en rondeaux” from the Partita No. 3 in E major for Violin, performed by Arthur Grumiaux. 2:55
- Mozart, The Magic Flute, Queen of the Night aria, no. 14. Edda Moser, soprano. Bavarian State Opera, Munich, Wolfgang Sawallisch, conductor. 2:55
- Georgian S.S.R., chorus, “Tchakrulo,” collected by Radio Moscow. 2:18
- Peru, panpipes and drum, collected by Casa de la Cultura, Lima. 0:52
- “Melancholy Blues,” performed by Louis Armstrong and his Hot Seven. 3:05
- Azerbaijan S.S.R., bagpipes, recorded by Radio Moscow. 2:30
- Stravinsky, Rite of Spring, Sacrificial Dance, Columbia Symphony Orchestra, Igor Stravinsky, conductor. 4:35
- Bach, The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 2, Prelude and Fugue in C, No.1. Glenn Gould, piano. 4:48
- Beethoven, Fifth Symphony, First Movement, the Philharmonia Orchestra, Otto Klemperer, conductor. 7:20
- Bulgaria, “Izlel je Delyo Hagdutin,” sung by Valya Balkanska. 4:59
- Navajo Indians, Night Chant, recorded by Willard Rhodes. 0:57
- Holborne, Paueans, Galliards, Almains and Other Short Aeirs, “The Fairie Round,” performed by David Munrow and the Early Music Consort of London. 1:17
- Solomon Islands, panpipes, collected by the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Service. 1:12
- Peru, wedding song, recorded by John Cohen. 0:38
- China, ch’in, “Flowing Streams,” performed by Kuan P’ing-hu. 7:37
- India, raga, “Jaat Kahan Ho,” sung by Surshri Kesar Bai Kerkar. 3:30
- “Dark Was the Night,” written and performed by Blind Willie Johnson. 3:15
- Beethoven, String Quartet No. 13 in B flat, Opus 130, Cavatina, performed by Budapest String Quartet. 6:37
MOYERS: When I learn something new - and it happens every day - I feel a little more at home in this universe, a little more comfortable in the nest. I’m afraid that by the time I begin to feel really at home, it’ll be over.
ASIMOV: I used to worry about that. I said, “I’m gradually managing to cram more and more things into my mind. I’ve got this beautiful mind, and it’s going to die, and it’ll all be gone.” And then I thought, “No, not in my case. Every idea I’ve ever had I’ve written down, and it’s all there on paper. I won’t be gone. It’ll be there.”
PLOWBOY: So you consider expansion into nearby space to be essential.
ASIMOV: Yes. We’ve reached the stage where, if we don’t transcend the Earth, we’re going to destroy it. And I think that—over the next couple of centuries—it will be necessary for us to expand into the solar system generally. I don’t see that goal as the end, either. Eventually we are going to make all of space our own!
SWA Magazine: I read an article once about a person claiming to be your brother. Do you have a brother, and if so, how does he feel about you?
Asimov: I have a younger brother named Stan. He’s the vice president of the New York Newsday. He is an ideal brother to have; he’s sane, rational, well-balanced and he doesn’t mind being my brother in the least. He’s going his own way and he has been quite successful in his field, which is newspapers. He doesn’t feel that he lives in my shadow. If the situation were reversed, I don’t think I could be that rational. I’d probably hate him.
SWA Magazine: The article I read, which I think he wrote, said that between the two of you, you have each written an aveage of 100 books. Is that true?
Asimov: Yes, I have written 200 and he hasn’t written any, which comes out to an average of 100 each.
For myself, I like a universe that includes much that is unknown and, at the same time, much that is knowable. A universe in which everything is known would be static and dull, as boring as the heaven of some weak-minded theologians. A universe that is unknowable is no fit place for a thinking being. The ideal universe for us is one very much like the universe we inhabit. And I would guess that this is not really much of a coincidence.
Broca’s Brain: Reflections on the Romance of Science, by Carl Sagan, 1979