JF Ptak Science Books Post 2695
The “dust” in question here is not intended to be weaponized versions of those famous dancing bits of Brown and Einstein, but a very very high voltage-invisible-something that would obliterate any attacking air force or army. The idea is one in a long history of “death rays”, though this one belonged to Nikola Tesla (who had a much earlier outline for an idea on militarizing wireless telegraphy technology) and as such was received with considerable respect in the public and scientific spheres—or, at least in scientific areas, the low/no detail plan was given inspection and testing before it was dismissed.
The popular press (Chicago Tribune, New York Times, Newsweek) reported that Tesla had plans for a country-wide defensive network that would basically make the U.S. Impregnable and put an end to war. One problem was that there were nearly no details offered for the plan—at least until this article (“Invisible Dust Curtain to Halt War Planes”) appeared in Popular Mechanics in November 1934. Even though this as an extended version of the idea, there’s scant detail in this article as well. But, Tesla being Tesla, the idea was given wide circulation.
Simply put, the article reports that Tesla “discovered force rays which can be projected like long curtains and through which planes cannot penetrate” which was composed of “microscopically-fine” “possibly dust of some sort”bits “driven electrically” at “velocities” of 50,000,000 volts and which would form invisible walls that were miles high and surrounded the country. And so thus powered the weapon could destroy an army of one million and an attacking air force of 10,000. Somehow all of this would permanently disable aircraft engines as well as destroy soldiers.
Evidently the plan for this invention was based upon four other inventions which hadn’t yet been invented, which would explain the lack of details. Nevertheless, the National Bureau of Standards did investigate and attempt to reproduce something resembling the results that Tesla was trying to bring about, but obviously failed, even though Popular Mechanics had reported some successes in experimentation.
It seems to me that Tesla’s technology was far more powerful and advanced than many of its fictional rivals like Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers, and maybe even so of the Martian weapons from Wells’ The War of the Worlds.
For an interesting read in this area I was surprised to what looks like a thorough and engaging work by William J. Fanning, Jr.: Death Rays and the Popular Media, 1876–1939: A Study of Directed Energy Weapons in Fact, Fiction, and Film (McFarland, 2015) page 95
Also, it is a curious thing that when I googled “tesla” the first reference to Nikolai was at the bottom of the 9th page, nearly 100th in line after the car/company–and that is just all sorts of wrong.
By: JF Ptak Science Books
Via: Feedbin Starred Entries