A Weapon to End the War
Tesla inherited from his father a deep hatred of war. Throughout his life, he sought a technological way to end warfare. He thought that war could be converted into, “a mere spectacle of machines.”
In 1931 Tesla announced to reporters at a press conference that he was on the verge of discovering an entirely new source of energy. Asked to explain the nature of the power, he replied, “The idea first came upon me as a tremendous shock… I can only say at this time that it will come from an entirely new and unsuspected source.”
War clouds were again darkening Europe. On 11 July 1934 the headline on the front page of the New York Times read, “TESLA, AT 78, BARES NEW ‘DEATH BEAM.'” The article reported that the new invention “will send concentrated beams of particles through the free air, of such tremendous energy that they will bring down a fleet of 10,000 enemy airplanes at a distance of 250 miles…” Tesla stated that the death beam would make war impossible by offering every country an “invisible Chinese wall.”
The idea generated considerable interest and controversy. Tesla went immediately to J. P. Morgan, Jr. in search of financing to build a prototype of his invention. Morgan was unconvinced. Tesla also attempted to deal directly with Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain of Great Britain. But when Chamberlain resigned upon discovering that he had been out-maneuvered by Hitler at Munich, interest in Tesla’s anti-war weapon eventually collapsed.
By 1937 it was clear that war would soon break out in Europe. Frustrated in his attempts to generate interest and financing for his “peace beam,” he sent an elaborate technical paper, including diagrams, to a number of Allied nations including the United States, Canada, England, France, the Soviet Union, and Yugoslavia. Titled “New Art of Projecting Concentrated Non-Dispersive Energy Through Natural Media,” the paper provided the first technical description of what is today called a charged particle beam weapon.
What set Tesla’s proposal apart from the usual run of fantasy “death rays” was a unique vacuum chamber with one end open to the atmosphere. Tesla devised a unique vacuum seal by directing a high-velocity air stream at the tip of his gun to maintain “high vacua.” The necessary pumping action would be accomplished with a large Tesla turbine.
Of all the countries to receive Tesla’s proposal, the greatest interest came from the Soviet Union. In 1937 Tesla presented a plan to the Amtorg Trading Corporation, an alleged Soviet arms front in New York City. Two years later, in 1939, one stage of the plan was tested in the USSR and Tesla received a check for $25,000.
Tesla hoped that his invention would be used for purely defensive purposes, and thus would become an anti-war machine. His system required a series of power plants located along a country’s coast that would scan the skies in search of enemy aircraft. Since the beam was projected in a straight line, it was only effective for about 200 miles — the distance of the curvature of the earth.
Tesla also contemplated peacetime applications for his particle beam, one being to transmit power without wires over long distances. Another radical notion he proposed was to heat up portions of the upper atmosphere to light the sky at night — a man-made aurora borealis.
Whether Tesla’s idea was ever taken seriously is still a mater of conjecture. Most experts today consider his idea infeasible. Though, his death beam bears an uncanny resemblance to the charged-particle beam weapon developed by both the United States and the Soviet Union during the cold war.
Nonetheless, Tesla’s dream for a technological means to end war seems as impossible now as it did when he proposed the idea in the 1930s.
About the Death Ray of Tesla
Also called the “Peace Ray” and “teleforce,” the account refers to Tesla’s macroscopic particle beam projector, first mentioned publicly in the New York Sun, July 10, 1934 [Tesla Said, p.108]. The device, which was based upon a large Van de Graaff generator of unique design and a special type of open ended vacuum tube, comprised a system for the acceleration of very small charged metallic particles to prodigiously high velocity—about 48 times the speed of sound—according to Tesla. The particles were projected out of the tube by means of electro-static repulsion. As can be seen from Tesla’s words written in a letter to J.P. Morgan, Jr. on November 29, 1934 it was intended for use in national defense.
“I have made recent discoveries of inestimable value which are referred in the marked passage of the clipping enclosed… [possibly “Dr. Tesla Visions the End of Aircraft In War,” Syracuse Herald, October 21, 1934] The flying machine has completely demoralized the world, so much that in some cities, as London and Paris, people are in mortal fear from aerial bombing. The new means I have perfected afford absolute protection against this and other forms of attack.”
The tube was designed to project a single row of highly charged particles. According to Tesla there would be no dispersion whatever, even at great distance. Since the cross section of the carriers might be reduced to almost microscopic dimensions, an immense concentration of energy, practically irrespective of distance, could be attained.
In 1934 Tesla spoke with an S. M. Kintner of the Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company regarding further development of the particle-beam device. There are two letters dated April 5, 1934 and April 7, 1934 that refer to these discussions.
A fairly detailed description of Tesla’s particle-beam projector is presented in the book Nikola Tesla’s Teleforce & Telegeodynamics Proposals. A number of teleforce-related newspaper articles appear in the book Solutions to Tesla’s Secrets.
Had Tesla’s Death Ray devastated Tunguska?
The mechanism behind Tesla’s death ray is not well understood. It was apparently some sort of particle accelerator. Tesla said it was an outgrowth of his magnifying transformer, which focused its energy output into a thin beam so concentrated it would not scatter, even over huge distances. He promoted the device as a purely defensive weapon, intended to knock down incoming attacks – making the death ray the great-great grandfather of the Strategic Defense Initiative.
It is not certain if Tesla ever used the death ray, or indeed if he even succeeded in building one. But the following is the often-related story of what happened one night in 1908 when Tesla tested the foreboding weapon.
At the time, Robert Peary was making his second attempt to reach the North Pole. Cryptically, Tesla had notified the expedition that he would be trying to contact them somehow. They were to report to him the details of anything unusual they might witness on the open tundra. On the evening of June 30, accompanied by his associate George Scherff atop Wardenclyffe tower, Tesla aimed his death ray across the Atlantic towards the arctic, to a spot which he calculated was west of the Peary expedition.
Tesla switched on the device. At first, it was hard to tell if it was even working. Its extremity emitted a dim light that was barely visible. Then an owl flew from its perch on the tower’s pinnacle, soaring into the path of the beam. The bird disintegrated instantly.
That concluded the test. Tesla watched the newspapers and sent telegrams to Peary in hopes of confirming the death ray’s effectiveness. Nothing turned up. Tesla was ready to admit failure when news came of a strange event in Siberia.
On June 30, a massive explosion had devastated Tunguska, a remote area in the Siberian wilderness. Five hundred thousand square acres of land had been instantly destroyed. Equivalent to ten to fifteen megatons of TNT, the Tunguska incident is the most powerful explosion to have occurred in human history — not even subsequent thermonuclear detonations have surpassed it. The explosion was audible from 620 miles away. Scientists believe it was caused by either a meteorite or a fragment of a comet, although no obvious impact site or mineral remnants of such an object were ever found.
Nikola Tesla had a different explanation. It was plain that his death ray had overshot its intended target and destroyed Tunguska. He was thankful beyond measure that the explosion had – miraculously – killed no one. Tesla dismantled the death ray at once, deeming it too dangerous to remain in existence.
Posted by Alan Taylor on September 02, 1998
I’m open to the suggestion that the Tunguska blast was caused by Tesla misfiring his death ray, but there’s one small problem with the theory.
If the blast was 15 megatons, where did he get the energy?
Thermodynamics tells us that you won’t get more energy out than you put in… and you have to burn a lot of coal to get 15 megatons worth of energy out of the generators common in Tesla’s time. IF Tesla caused the Tunguska Blast, THEN one of these three hypotheses must be true:
- The fundamental laws of Termodynamics are wrong, or at least flawed.
- Tesla burned a hell of a lot of coal and stored the energy through some capacitative effect in his Wydencliffe apparatus, possibly over days or weeks.
- Tesla’s device does not actually cause the explosion, but artificially catalyzes another (even higher-energy) phenomenon. There is simple precedent for this hypothesis – just think of how much energy a gallon of gasoline releases when you apply a simple spark.
Let’s ignore (1) for the moment because refuting thermodynamics is a much larger issue than proving that Tesla built a working ‘death ray’.
(2) could potentially be proven through historic records, if anyone can find out how much fuel was delivered to Wydencliffe in 1908. I’d wager that all the fuel ever burned at the facility would not generate 15 megatons-equivalent of electrical
energy, even with a very efficient power plant.
That leaves (3). Any takers?
Other notes: I read somewhere that the Wydencliffe facility was NOT dismantled after the 1908 experiments, but rather that it was signed over to a hotel in NYC to settly for Tesla’s unpaid bills. It was dynamited almost a decade later to recover
the scrap metal costs. The important ‘black boxes’ may already have been removed, but it is possible that Tesla did not ‘immediately dismantle’ Wydencliffe, as is claimed in this article. Again, this is something that could be supported by research into the public records for the state of New York.
Finally, Tesla was also researching broadcast power, using the earth itself as a transmission system. Is it possible that his ‘death ray’ was not a particle-beam style device, but a kind of capacitor that could selectively and explosively discharge on the earth’s surface? It wouldn’t explain anything, but it would be important for
anyone seeking to duplicate the experiment to know in what direction Tesla had been heading when he allegedly blew up Tunguska…
Comments are welcomed and desired. I have only a layman’s interest in the subject, so bear with me, please.
Posted by Phil Nadeau on February 24, 1999
I have been dabbling in Tesla coils for a while and also reading about Nikola Tesla. He was a man without equal. Reading about his earthquake machine, it seems to me that he had found a way to get around common phyics, power in = power out. With his machine, he could move buildings over 1/4 mile away using a small air compressor and a piston in a cylinder through resonance. Why could’nt he apply these same ideas to his ‘Death Ray’,which would focus all the energy from his Wardenclyffe facility at one point, picking up energy from the earth along the way.
My question is: How could you aim such a device? Comments?
In a cursory surf of the web, I’ve not found primary eyewitness accounts of Tesla’s Wardenclyffe test, nor secondary news accounts of the day; tertiary sources abound, but only the message I reply to here and a Parascope’s Tesla page provide even a qualitative idea of the time, given in both as “the evening of June 30”. (The two accounts, in fact, appear to be identical.)
Published reports give 7:17 am, June 30, 1908, local Tunguska time (00:17 GMT) for the event. This is consistent with seismic records of the event, in which the GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) for the earliest seismic arrival at the Irkutsk observatory is given as 00:18.8. (Irkutsk is on the SW shore of Lake Baikal at about 52.25 deg N, 104.3 deg E [Richter, Elementary Seismology, p 707], about 1100 km SSE of the Tunguska site at 61 deg N, 101.3 deg E. [Richter, p 157].)
Now, Tesla’s Long Island facility is -5 hours from GMT, or 12 hours earlier than Tunguska time. In other words, the Tunguska event occured at about 7:17 pm, June 29, Long Island time, about one day before the time given in web accounts of Tesla’s Wardenclyffe experiment.
So, if the qualitative web accounts of Tesla’s experiment are trustworthy, Tesla had nothing to do with Tunguska. If anybody can provide eyewitness accounts of Tesla’s activities, this could be nailed down, one way or another.
Follow up from Joe Wilson:
The Parascope account is sensationalized to say the least. Their use of the date “June 30th” is not arrived at by any documented evidence. The credible evidence suggests that Tesla was periodically conducting high-power experiments at Wardenclyffe during mid 1908, but “nailing it down” precisely is presently very difficult, because Teslas notes from the period are lost!!
Oliver Nichelson first proposed a Tesla/Tunguska link based on compelling circumstantial evidence. This evidence is not adequately reflected in any of the tabloid-style fictionalized accounts, that get quoted and re-quoted. People don’t like scientific arguments based on circumstantial evidence, so they sometimes lie to fill gaps in their knowledge.
The true evidence is of a subtler form, residing in the nature of the Tunguska Blast & Wardenclyffe, and Tesla’s demonstrated interest in the journeys of Peary.
Writings which make extravagant claims about non-existent first-hand accounts only serve to arouse the skepticism of otherwise open-minded people. There may in fact be as much circumstantial evidence for a Tesla/Tunguska link, as there is for many widely accepted scientific theories. Some people would just dismiss the idea out of hand, but you can’t please everyone.
Ask the FBI what they know about the Japanese Aum Shinrikyo Cult and their interest in Tesla. http://www.fbi.gov/foipa/hisfigs.htm#tesla
I strongly believe that these nutters have re-discovered Tesla’s weapons of distruction. Such a test might have taken place on 28 May 1993 close to the Banjawarn sheep station – NW of Perth, Australia. The event registered 3.7 on the Richter scale and was assumed to have been the first ever recorded quake in that part of Australia.
Initially the tremor was assumed to be the result of a meteorite impact (such as Tunguska). After gathering detailed data and speaking to the locals evidence suggested a man-made event.
Eyewitnesses reported sighting a fireball trailing across the sky just minutes before the subsequent tremor. This was followed by a bright blue flash and shortly afterwards, by an earth tremor measuring 3.7 on the Richter scale.
Shortly following this a “large hemisphere of orange light, lined with a silverish glow, rose above the apparent blast site.” Extraordinarily, the dome of light remained in place for two hours, and then rapidly vanished like “someone turning off a switch.
I personally believe that this was probably the first time since 1908, that the full power of Tesla’s death ray had been unleashed.
The Aum cult are also thought to have re-created Tesla’s eathquake machine. The cult’s leader so accurately predicted the Kobe disaster 8 days before the event. Kobe was automatically assumed to be a terrible natural disaster but I bet Aum could tell you otherwise.
Tesla weapons of this distructive power make nukes look like pellet guns. If such technology is in the hands of these maniacs then the world has something really to worry about.
Look out New York & Washington !!!
SELECTED TESLA WRITINGS
A collection of scientific papers and articles by Nikola Tesla and others about Tesla’s work primarily in the field of electrical engineering.
A New System of Alternate Current Motors and Transformers,
AIEE Address, May 16, 1888
Phenomena of Alternating Currents of Very High Frequency,
Electrical World, Feb. 21, 1891
Experiments with Alternate Currents of Very High Frequency and Their Application to Methods of Artificial Illumination, AIEE, Columbia College, N.Y., May 20, 1891
Experiments with Alternate Currents of High Potential and High Frequency,
IEE Address, London, February 1892
On the Dissipation of the Electrical Energy of the Hertz Resonator,
Electrical Engineer, Dec. 21, 1892
On Light and Other High Frequency Phenomena,
Franklin Institute, Philadelphia, February 1893, and National Electric Light Association, St. Louis, March 1893
On Electricity, Electrical Review, January 27, 1897
Plans to Dispense With Artillery of the Present Type,
The Sun, New York, November 21, 1898
On Current Interrupters, Electrical Review, March 15, 1899
The Problem of Increasing Human Energy, Century Illustrated Magazine, June 1900
Tesla’s New Discovery, The Sun, New York, January 30, 1901
Talking With the Planets, Collier’s Weekly, February 9, 1901
Inventor Tesla’s Plant Nearing Completion, Brooklyn Eagle, February 8, 1902
The Transmission of Electrical Energy Without Wires, Electrical World, March 5, 1904
Electric Autos, Manufacturers’ Record, December 29, 1904
The Transmission of Electrical Energy Without Wires as a Means for Furthering Peace, Electrical World and Engineer, January 7, 1905
Tuned Lightning, English Mechanic and World of Science, March 8, 1907
Tesla’s Wireless Torpedo, New York Times, March 19, 1907
The Future of the Wireless Art, Wireless Telegraphy & Telephony, Van Nostrand, 1908
Mr. Tesla’s Vision, New York Times, April 21, 1908
Nikola Tesla’s New Wireless, The Electrical Engineer – London, December 24, 1909
Dr. Tesla Talks of Gas Turbines, Motor World, September 18,1911
The Disturbing Influence of Solar Radiation On the Wireless Transmission of Energy, Electrical Review and Western Electrician, July 6, 1912
How Cosmic Forces Shape Our Destinies, New York American, February 7, 1915
Some Personal Recollections, Scientific American, June 5, 1915
The Wonder World To Be Created By Electricity,
Manufacturer’s Record, September 9, 1915
Nikola Tesla Sees a Wireless Vision, New York Times, Sunday, October 3, 1915
Tesla’s New Device Like Bolts of Thor, New York Times, December 8, 1915
Wonders of the Future, Collier’s Weekly, December 2, 1916
Electric Drive for Battle Ships, New York Herald, February 25, 1917
Tesla’s Views on Electricity and the War, The Electrical Experimenter, August 1917
My Inventions, Electrical Experimenter, February-June and October 1919
Famous Scientific Illusions, Electrical Experimenter, February 1919
The True Wireless, Electrical Experimenter, May 1919
Electrical Oscillators, Electrical Experimenter, July 1919
When Woman is Boss, Colliers, January 30, 1926
World System of Wireless Transmission of Energy,
Telegraph and Telegraph Age, October 16, 1927
Nikola Tesla Tells of New Radio Theories,
New York Herald Tribune, September 22, 1929
Pioneer Radio Engineer Gives Views On Power,
New York Herald Tribune, September 11, 1932
The Eternal Source of Energy of the Universe, Origin and Intensity of Cosmic Rays,
New York, October 13, 1932
A Machine to End War, Liberty, February 1935
Tesla Predicts Ships Powered by Shore Beam, New York Herald Tribune, May 5, 1935,
Tesla Tries to Prevent World War II, Prodigal Genius, 1944 — Unpublished Chapter 34
SELECTED TESLA PATENTS
Electrical Transformer — High-frequency power supplies for lighting and electrical transmission.
System of Transmission of Electrical Energy — Wireless transmission
Method of and Apparatus for Controlling Mechanism of Moving Vessels or Vehicles — Wireless remote control
Apparatus for Transmitting Electrical Energy — Electrical oscillator for wireless transmission
Means for Increasing the Intensity of Electrical Oscillations — A near super-conducting electrical oscillator
Coil for Electromagnets — Bifilar coil winding technique
Valvular Conduit — A mechanical diode or one-way valve with no moving parts and a high temperature gas disk turbine
The Hutchison Effect
High-Spin Monatomic Research
Coral Castle and Edward Leedskalnins’
‘Perpetual Motion Holder’
Alkaline pH balance
WORTH A LOOK
|Tesla: Master of Lightning
by Margaret Chaney, Robert Uth184 pages, Published in October 2001