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Ideas & Opinions of Nikola Tesla

. . . there is a possibility of obtaining energy not only in the form of light, but motive power, and energy of any other form, in some more direct way from the medium.  The time will be when this will be accomplished, and the time has come when one may utter such words before an enlightened audience without being considered a visionary.  We are whirling through endless space with an inconceivable speed, all around us everything is spinning, everything is moving, everywhere is energy.  There must be some way of availing ourselves of this energy more directly.  Then, with the light obtained from the medium, with the power derived from it, with every form of energy obtained without effort, from the store forever inexhaustible, humanity will advance with giant strides.  The mere contemplation of these magnificent possibilities expands our minds, strengthens our hopes and fills our hearts with supreme delight. . . . —  "Experiments With Alternate Currents of Very High Frequency and their Application to Methods of Artificial Illumination," 1891

     If ever we can ascertain at what period the earth's charge, when disturbed, oscillates, with respect to an oppositely charged system or known circuit, we shall know a fact possibly of the greatest importance to the welfare of the human race.  I propose to seek for the period by means of an electrical oscillator or a source of alternating currents.    "On Light and Other High Frequency Phenomena," February and March, 1893

     Of all the endless variety of phenomena which nature presents to our senses, there is none that fills our minds with greater wonder than that inconceivably complex movement which, in its entirety, we designate as human life; Its mysterious origin is veiled in the forever impenetrable mist of the past, its character is rendered incomprehensible by its infinite intricacy, and its destination is hidden in the unfathomable depths of the future. . . . — The Problem of Increasing Human Energy, Century, 1901

     Another way of getting motive power from the medium without consuming any material would be to utilize the heat contained in the earth, the water, or the air for driving an engine.  It is a well-known fact that the interior portions of the globe are very hot, the temperature rising, as observations show, with the approach to the center at the rate of approximately 1 degree C. for every hundred feet of depth.  The difficulties of sinking shafts and placing boilers at depths of, say, twelve thousand feet, corresponding to an increase in temperature of about 120 degrees C., are not insuperable, and we could certainly avail ourselves in this way of the internal heat of the globe. In fact, it would not be necessary to go to any depth at all in order to derive energy from the stored terrestrial heat.  The superficial layers of the earth and the air strata close to the same are at a temperature sufficiently high to evaporate some extremely volatile substances, which we might use in our boilers instead of water. — "The Problem of Increasing Human Energy," Century, 1901

     I do not think that it is novel to those who are acquainted with delicate electrical instruments, such as tuned circuits, that they are very frequently disturbed in the city, such as New York, through which there are continuous leaking currents from power stations, and which is subjected to numerous other disturbances capable of affecting the working of instruments. The perfection of tuning, considered as an art, can be carried forward indefinitely, at least in theory, and no one can say, however skillful he be, that he has reached the ultimate perfection which it is possible at attain. Tuning is my specialty, and it is very likely that I might have done better than many others, yet I felt that I ought to still further improve in the knowledge of the same and in the skill of applying it. The system, as I practiced it, before I went to Colorado, was fully capable of being commercially applied, but, of course, in order to realize what I had proposed myself—the transmission of signals across the seas, and to any terrestrial distance—I had of necessity, for this reason alone, to leave the city. . . . — Nikola Tesla vs. Reginald A. Fessenden, Interference No. 21,701, Systems of Signaling, 1902

     When the great truth accidentally revealed and experimentally confirmed is fully recognized, that this planet, with all its appalling immensity, is to electric currents virtually no more than a small metal ball and that by this fact many possibilities, each baffling imagination and of incalculable consequence, are rendered absolutely sure of accomplishment; when the first plant is inaugurated and it is shown that a telegraphic message, almost as secret and non-interferable as a thought, can be transmitted to any terrestrial distance, the sound of the human voice, with all its intonations and inflections, faithfully and instantly reproduced at any other point of the globe, the energy of a waterfall made available for supplying light, heat or motive power, anywhere—on sea, or land, or high in the air—humanity will be like an ant heap stirred up with a stick: See the excitement coming! — "The Transmission of Electric Energy Without Wires," 1904

     Universal peace, assuming it to be in the fullest sense realizable, might not require eons for its accomplishment, however probable this may appear, judging from the imperceptibly slow growth of all great reformatory ideas of the past.  Man, as a mass in movement, is inseparable from sluggishness and persistence in his life manifestations, but it does not follow from this that any passing phase, or any permanent state of his existence, must necessarily be attained through a stataclitic process of development. — "The Transmission of Electrical Energy Without Wires as a Means for Furthering Peace," Electrical World and Engineer, 1905

     A mass in movement resists change of direction.  So does the world oppose a new idea.  It takes time to make up the minds to its value and importance.  Ignorance, prejudice and inertia of the old retard its early progress.  It is discredited by insincere exponents and selfish exploiters.  It is attacked and condemned by its enemies.  Eventually, though, all barriers are thrown down, and it spreads like fire.  This will also prove true of the wireless art. —  "The Future of the Wireless Art," Wireless Telegraphy & Telephony, 1908

     The human mind thinks but to complicate.  As soon as one problem is solved, that solution introduces new complications, other problems that perhaps did not exist before.  That was one of my great troubles when I was younger, I invented many things that were very fine, but always I was getting into complications.  I have had to work very hard to overcome that.  —  "Dr. Tesla Talks of Gas Turbines," Motor World, 1911

     Every living being is an engine geared to the wheelwork of the universe.  Though seemingly affected only by its immediate surrounding, the sphere of external influence extends to infinite distance.  There is no constellation or nebula, no sun or planet, in all the depths of limitless space, no passing wanderer of the starry heavens, that does not exercise some control over its destiny—not in the vague and delusive sense of astrology, but in the rigid and positive meaning of physical science. — "How Cosmic Forces Shape Our Destinies," New York American, 1915

     Whoever wishes to get a true appreciation of the greatness of our age should study the history of electrical development. There he will find a story more wonderful than any tale from Arabian Nights. . . . — " The Wonder World To Be Created By Electricity," Manufacturer's Record, 1915

. . . the time is very near when we shall have the precipitation of the moisture of the atmosphere under complete control, and then it will be possible to draw unlimited quantities of water from the oceans, develop any desired amount of energy, and completely transform the globe by irrigation and intensive farming.  A greater achievement of man through the medium of electricity can hardly be imagined. — "The Wonder World To Be Created By Electricity," Manufacturer's Record, 1915

     I was absorbed in the development of a new type of generator.  The solution, which enables me to use the high frequency alternator practically, was not yet found at that time.  I saw that the high frequency alternator was not usable for any finer work.  We were driving toward perfection and that if we attained it, the alternator would be simply thrown away as an absolutely useless instrument.  That was my conviction, and I attempted to attain the results which I subsequently reached with the alternator in another way.  To this end I built a great many machines of a novel type, which I called oscillators—mechanical and electrical oscillators—and it is with these that my best results in the investigations of these phenomena, applicable to wireless in many of its phases, were obtained. — Nikola Tesla On His With Alternating Currents and Their Application to Wireless Telegraphy, Telephony and Transmission of Power, 1916

     You must simply realize that the earth is, so far as it is mechanically looked upon, like a rough ball; but when you look at it electrically, it is a polished ball. Lord Kelvin has already, in his papers on atmospheric electricity, of which he kindly sent me two copies—he did not stop at sending me one—grasped that; he considered the distribution of electricity on the globe, and came to the conclusion that the capacity of definite terrestrial areas does not increase sensibly with elevation.
     You see, the electrical surface density on the highest peaks is not any more than just a fraction of 1 percent greater than on the sea. So that the whole thing, to my mind, appears as a wonderfully providential arrangement, and we can by this means realize things so marvelous that one would be almost afraid to talk about them; and the apparatus—I do not say that because I am the inventor—the apparatus is practically the Lamp of Aladdin. — Nikola Tesla On His With Alternating Currents and Their Application to Wireless Telegraphy, Telephony and Transmission of Power, 1916

    "I never have, above my signature, announced anything that I did not prove first.  That is the reason why no statement of mine was ever contradicted, and I do not think it will be, because whenever I publish something I go through it first by experiment, then from experiment I calculate, and when I have the theory and practice meet I announce the results." — Nikola Tesla On His With Alternating Currents and Their Application to Wireless Telegraphy, Telephony and Transmission of Power, 1916

     "In Colorado I succeeded one day in precipitating a dense fog.  There was a mist outside, but when I turned on the current the cloud in the laboratory became so dense that when the hand was held only a few inches from the face it could not be seen.  I am positive in my conviction that we can erect a plant of proper design in an arid region, work it according to certain observations and rules, and by its means draw from the ocean unlimited amounts of water for irrigation and power purposes.  If I do not live to carry it out, somebody else will, but I feel sure that I am right." — Nikola Tesla's acceptance speech on receiving the Edison Medal, May 18, 1917

     The progressive development of man is vitally dependent on invention.  It is the most important product of his creative brain. Its ultimate purpose is the complete mastery of mind over the material world, the harnessing of the forces of nature to human needs.  This is the difficult task of the inventor who is often misunderstood and unrewarded.  But he finds ample compensation in the pleasing exercises of his powers and in the knowledge of being one of that exceptionally privileged class without whom the race would have long ago perished in the bitter struggle against pitiless elements. — "My Inventions," Electrical Experimenter, 1919

     When I get an idea, I start at once building it up in my imagination.  I change the construction, make improvements and operate the device in my mind. It is absolutely immaterial to me whether I run my turbine in thought or test it in my shop.  I even note if it is out of balance.  There is no difference whatever; the results are the same.  In this way I am able to rapidly develop and perfect a conception without touching anything.  When I have gone so far as to embody in the invention every possible improvement I can think of and see no fault anywhere, I put into concrete form this final product of my brain.  Invariably my device works as I conceived that it should, and the experiment comes out exactly as I planned it. — "My Inventions," Electrical Experimenter, 1919

. . . a few years hence, it will be possible for nations to fight without armies, ships or guns, by weapons far more terrible, to the destructive action and range of which there is virtually no limit.  Any city, at a distance, whatsoever, from the enemy, can be destroyed by him and no power on earth can stop him from doing so.  If we want to avert an impending calamity and a state of things which may transform the globe into an inferno, we should push the development of flying machines and wireless transmission of energy without an instant's delay and with all the power and resources of the nation. — "My Inventions," Electrical Experimenter, 1919

     For more than eighteen years I have been reading treatises, reports of scientific transactions, and articles on Hertz-wave telegraphy, to keep myself informed, but they have always imprest me like works of fiction. . . . The Hertz wave theory of wireless transmission may be kept up for a while, but I do not hesitate to say that in a short time it will be recognized as one of the most remarkable and inexplicable aberrations of the scientific mind which has ever been recorded in history. — "The True Wireless," Electrical Experimenter, May 1919

. . . I gave to the world a wireless system of potentialities far beyond anything before conceived.  I made explicit and repeated statements that I contemplated transmission, absolutely unlimited as to terrestrial distance and amount of energy.  But, altho I have overcome all obstacles which seemed in the beginning unsurmountable and found elegant solutions of all the problems which confronted me, yet, even at this very day, the majority of experts are still blind to the possibilities which are within easy attainment. — "The True Wireless," Electrical Experimenter, May 1919

     I am most interested, however, in the perfection of broadcasting which is now carried on with unfit apparatus and on a commercially defective plan. The transmitters have to be greatly improved and the receivers simplified and in the distribution of wireless energy for all purposes the precedent established by the telegraph, telephone and power companies must be followed, for while the means are different the service is of the same character.  Technical invention is akin to architecture and the experts must in time come to the same conclusions I have reached long ago.  Sooner or later my power system will have to be adopted in its entirety and so far as I am concerned it is as good as done.  If I were ever assailed by doubt of ultimate success I would dismiss it by remembering the words of that great philosopher, Lord Kelvin, who after witnessing some of my experiments said to me with tears in his eyes: "I am sure you will do it." — "World System of Wireless Transmission of Energy," Telegraph and Telegraph Age, October 16, 1927

    All that is necessary to open up unlimited resources of power throughout the world is to find some economic and speedy way of sinking deep shafts. — "Our Future Motive Power," Everyday Science and Mechanics, 1931

     Today's scientists have substituted mathematics for experiments, and they wander off through equation after equation, and eventually build a structure which has no relation to reality. . . . —  " Radio Power Will Revolutionize the World," Modern Mechanics and Inventions, July 1934

     The scientists from Franklin to Morse were clear thinkers and did not produce erroneous theories.  The scientists of today think deeply instead of clearly.  One must be sane to think clearly, but one can think deeply and be quite insane. . . . —  " Radio Power Will Revolutionize the World," Modern Mechanics and Inventions, July 1934

     The scientific man does not aim at an immediate result.  He does not expect that his advanced ideas will be readily taken up.  His work is like that of the planter—for the future.  His duty is to lay the foundation for those who are to come, and point the way.  He lives and labors and hopes.  —  "Radio Power Will Revolutionize the World," Modern Mechanics and Inventions, July 1934

Ideas & Opinions of Others

     It is inconceivable, that inanimate brute matter should, without the mediation of something else, which is not material, operate upon, and effect other matter without mutual contact... and is one reason, why I desired you would not describe innate gravity to me.  That gravity should be innate, inherent, and essential to matter, so that one body may act upon another, at a distance through a vacuum without the mediation of anything else, by and through which their action and force may be conveyed from one to another, is to me so great an absurdity, that I believe that no man who has in philosophical matters a competent faculty of thinking, can ever fall into it. . . . — Isaac Newton, "Principia"

     Quintessence is no other than a quality which we cannot by our reason find out the cause. — Montaigne

     If it should be said that the physical nature of gravitation has not yet been considered, but only the law of its action, and therefore, that no definition of gravity as a power has hereto been necessary; that may be so with some, but then it must be high time to proceed a little further if we can. . . . — Michael Faraday

     Here end my trials for the present. The results are negative. They do not shake my strong feelings of the existence of a relation between gravity and electricity, though they give no proof that such a relation exists.  — Michael Faraday

     When a mathematician engaged in investigating physical actions and results has arrived at his own conclusions, may they not be expressed in common language as fully, clearly, and definitely as in mathematical formulae?  If so, would it not be a great boon to such as well to express them so - translating them out of their hieroglyphics that we might so work upon them by experiment? — Michael Faraday to James Clerk Maxwell

     The Theory I propose may . . . be called a Theory of the Electromagnetic Field because it has to do with the space in the neighborhood of the electric or magnetic bodies, and it may be called a dynamical theory, because it assumes that in that space there is matter in motion, by which the observed electromagnetic phenomena are produced. — James Clerk Maxwell

     In the matter of physics the first lessons should contain nothing but what is experimental and interesting to see.  A pretty experiment is in itself often more valuable than twenty formulae extracted from our minds. —  Albert Einstein

     Of all the indications that existence at bottom has a simplicity beyond anything we imagine today, there is none more inspiring than the unsurpassed simplicity of gravity, as we now see it.  Someday, surely, we will see the principle underlying existence as so simple, so beautiful, so obvious that we will all say to each other, 'Oh, how could we all have been so blind, so long. — John Archibald Wheeler, "A Journey Into Gravity and Spacetime," (Scientific American Library, 1990)

     The necessity of the quantum in the construction of existence: out of what deeper requirement does it arise?  Behind it all is surely an idea so simple, so beautiful, so compelling that when - in a decade, a century, or a millenium - we grasp it, we will all say to each other, how could it have been otherwise?  How could we have been so stupid for so long? — John Archibald Wheeler "How Come the Quantum?" (Ann NY Acad Sci, 480 p.304, 1986)

     In any field, find the strangest thing and then explore it. —  John Archibald Wheeler

     Any sufficiently developed technology is indistinguishable from magic.  Arthur C. Clarke

     If we will only allow that, as we progress, we remain unsure, we will leave opportunities for alternatives.  We will not become enthusiastic for the fact, the knowledge, the absolute truth of the day, but remain always uncertain. . . .  In order to make progress, one must leave the door to the unknown ajar. —  Richard Feynman

     I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing.  I think it is much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers that might be wrong. —  Richard Feynman

"Our laws of force tend to be applied in the Newtonian sense in that for every action there is an equal reaction, and yet, in the real world, where many-body gravitational effects or electrodynamic actions prevail, we do not have every action paired with an equal reaction." Harold Aspden

     Advances are made by answering questions. Discoveries are made by questioning answers. —  Bernhard Haisch, astrophysicist

     The most erroneous stories are those we think we know bestand therefore never scrutinize or question. —  Stephen Jay Gould

     It is a good morning exercise for a research scientist to discard a pet hypothesis every day before breakfast.  It keeps him young. —  Konrad Lorenz

     Inquiry is fatal to certainty. —  William J. Durant

     There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorancethat principle is contempt prior to investigation. —  Herbert Spencer, British philosopher

     The only solid piece of scientific truth about which I feel totally confident is that we are profoundly ignorant about nature. . . . It is this sudden confrontation with the depth and scope of ignorance that represents the most significant contribution of twentieth-century science to the human intellect. —  Lewis Thomas

     Sit down before facts like a child, and be prepared to give up every preconceived notion, follow humbly wherever and to whatever abysses Nature leads, or you shall learn nothing. —  T.H. Huxley

     Let the mind be enlarged. . . . to the grandeur of the mysteries, and not the mysteries contracted to the narrowness of the mind —  Francis Bacon

     The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function. —  F. Scott Fitzgerald

     When knowledge, facts, or solutions are sought, there are a number of techniques available from which to select. These techniques can be ranked according to their effectiveness, from the most certain to the most uncertain.  At the top, or level one, is measurement; but even excellent measurements can be subject to small amounts of error.  Level two is cause and effect.  That's a rigorous deduction based on the laws of nature; on the conservation of mass, energy, and momentum; on Newtonian mechanics, Ohm's law, Charles's law, and all those kinds of relationships.  These techniques for solving problems are not error free, but they do provide reliable and repeatable results.  At the third level I put correlation studies. These are statistical techniques which allow the drawing of general and reasonable conclusions, but imprecise conclusions.  An example of this is when you hear a conclusion such as 62 percent of the people who eat pistachio ice cream 20 or more times a week tend to gain weight.  The fourth level is opinion sampling.  Conclusions here can be useful, but they are often temperable and not repeatable. . . . —  Neil Armstrong

     Engineers are different from physicists.  The former are pragmatic and often employ "intuitive mathematics," relying on physical reasoning and fundamental network analysis.  The possible success of this approach rests soundly on the basis of circuit theory in Maxwell's Equations.  We have (like the power industry) employed just such an approach above.  Physicists are caught in that no man's land between pure mathematics and the physical universe.  They have conflicts at both ends.  The historical development of the "singularity functions" is just such a case in point.   Theodore von Karaman once said, "A mathematician is a man who is willing to assume anything except responsibility." James Corum, 1988

     For the truth of the conclusions of physical science, observation is the supreme Court of Appeal.  It does not follow that every item which we confidently accept as physical knowledge has actually been certified by the Court; our confidence is that it would be certified by the Court if it were submitted.  But it does follow that every item of physical knowledge is of a form which might be submitted to the Court.  It must be such that we can specify (although it may be impracticable to carry out) an observational procedure which would decide whether it is true or not.  Clearly a statement cannot be tested by observation unless it is an assertion about the results of observation.  Every item of physical knowledge must therefore be an assertion of what has been or would be the result of carrying out a specified observational procedure.  Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington, 1938

     It is also a good rule not to put overmuch confidence in the observational results that are put forward until they are confirmed by theory.  Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington

     I do not think it is too extravagant to claim that the method of the tensor calculus is the only possible means of studying the conditions of the world which are at the basis of physical phenomenon.  Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington

     Every great and deep difficulty bears in itself its own solution. It forces us to change our thinking in order to find it. Niels Bohr

     ". . . for geometry, you know, is the gate of science, and the gate is so low and small that one can only enter it as a little child."  Attributed to William K. Clifford (1845-1879) 

     When I'm playful I use the meridians of longitude and parallels of latitude for a seine, and drag the Atlantic Ocean for whales.  Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi

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