February 25, 1923
How Nikola Tesla's Newest Invention Is to Enable Us to See the Struggles of the Arctic Explorer, the Clash of Battles and the Fantastic Lives of Unknown Millions.
Think of it, a great mechanical eye, created of finest tempered steel, endowed with electric power and seeing to all parts of the earth' "Science, in the person of Nikola Tesla announces it as a realized achievement. It affords a fantastic picture, a superb imaginative flight for the mechanical orb will follow in principle the exquisite and flawless construction of the human eye.
Tesla, the creator, is a Nobel prize winner and the man who harnessed Niagara Falls. He describes his all-seeing eye as follows:
"My electrical eye comes as the result of years of study and experiment. Three stages mark its construction and the first two and most difficult have already been completed. I am certain that Man will soon possess this machine in completed form and will be able to see at will to any part of the earth. In planning its construction I have taken the human eye as a model and have followed the principles which nature used in developing the human eye. My mechanical eye will be one of a group of associated machines, just as the human eye is part of the body and can only function in cooperation with other parts of the body."
Recently wireless telephony became a fact from one side of the Atlantic to the other and soon man will be able to send his voice around the earth by wireless. The arrival of Tesla's mechanical eye will mean that the man in New York can see his business associate in Shanghai as he talks to him by wireless. The eye resting on a pivot, will be swung about and brought to bear on the explorer, fighting his way over the frozen wastes of the Arctic circle; the fiery interior of the earth will give up its secrets to the eye, and the battles of men will be revealed to all other men in their cruelty and savagery.
The eye will teach Man to understand Man. When you hear that your neighbor has been run over and injured by an automobile you express sympathy because you know him. The death of a famous film star touches the hearts of millions because they know him. But 50,000 men, women and children may starve to death in China, while newspaper readers in New York, Youngstown, Ohio, and Phoenix, Arizona, remain unmoved because the victims are only numbers. The advent of the all-seeing eye will change all that, Tesla believes. He has labored in the hope that the revealing of the secret places of the earth will unlock the secret places of the heart and help to bring mankind together in understanding and consideration.
To understand the mechanical eye and the work that has preceded it you must know something of Tesla. This tall, gaunt electrical wizard, who has made so many fantastic dreams come true, is as strange as some of his inventions.
He lives on one of the top floors of the St. Regis, one of New York's most exclusive hotels. There he has his workrooms, mysterious places never visited by outsiders. There the eye machine rests, waiting for the day, soon to come, when Tesla asserts he will vivify it and turn it over to his fellow-men for operation.
Tesla sleeps only two hours a night and eats only two very light meals a day.
Almost all his time and energy go into the creation of electrical
inventions. He has discovered and invented a system of arc lighting, a system of alternating current power transmission, the Tesla coil or transformer, a system of transmission of power without wires, a system of wireless telegraphy and numerous other modern wonders.
Tesla believes absolutely in his mechanical eye and its workability. In planning it he has patented the same methods that have turned out so successfully with other inventions; that is, he has worked out his machine in his mind to the last detail, without planning it on paper or by means of a model.
"As in the case of my other inventions," he explained, "there was a long period of incubation during which I turned over in my mind the idea of creating a mechanical eye. As I came to an obstruction, I would stop, put the idea away in my subconscious mind, and return to it later. Bit by bit ways of reaching the different steps of the solution were reached. They would flash suddenly from my subconscious mind, just as all my ideas for inventions have done.
"It stands to reason that man must create in time some means of seeing through substances and to any distances. He has annihilated distance in other ways and the creation of my eye will be just a part of the large plan for bringing mankind closer together."
It is interesting to note that at about the same time that Dr. Tesla announced his invention of the mechanical eye an electrical engineer in Pasadena, California, asserted that he was able to make metals, rocks, or any opaque material luminous by means of an electrical ray, the most powerful known to man. He made no claims that the ray would penetrate great distances into the earth, but the principle is very similar to the one on which Tesla is working.
The Tesla experiments on the giant mechanical eye are thought to date back to the days when he built his mystery tower and workhouse at Shoreham, Long Island, 60 miles from New York. The tower was constructed about 20 years ago. J. Pierpont Morgan, Sr., backing Tesla in the experiment.
The tower had a circular top and had shafts running 100 feet into the earth. Near it was an experimental station filled with strange machinery. For a long period Tesla visited the station each day and had a small army of workmen at his beck and call. It was whispered that he was struggling with the problem of interplanetary communication, among other things.
This was not verified, however, and scientists and the general public could only guess the reason for the mystery tower. Then Tesla and his workmen departed one day as suddenly as they had come. A watchman stood guard over the tower and workshop for a year, then he, too, went away and the plant became known as "Tesla's million dollar folly." Neighborhood boys played up and down the ladder and steps of the mystery tower and finally it was sold. During the war it was torn down when the government thought there was danger of it being used as a secret wireless station by enemies of the country. Now it is believed the mystery tower not only meant an attempt on Tesla's part to communicate with Mars, but also saw his first experiments with the mechanical eye.
Tesla will not venture to predict whether the mechanical eye will carry sufficient power to pierce the atmosphere so that man can obtain a good view of life on Mars. He believes that Mars is inhabited and that the Martians are struggling desperately to communicate with the earth.
"I have a deep conviction," he said, "that highly intelligent beings exist on Mars. I believe they have reached a mechanical stage of civilization much more advanced than ours. However, it is quite likely that all racial distinctions and ideals have been extinguished there and life has become simply a desperate struggle for existence. The population may have been reduced to a few highly specialized individuals.
"Twenty-two years ago, while experimenting in Colorado with a wireless power plant, I obtained extraordinary experimental evidence of the existence of life on Mars. I had perfected a wireless receiver of extraordinary sensitiveness, far beyond anything known, and I caught signals which I interpreted as meaning 1--2--3--4. I believe the Martians used numbers for communication because numbers are universal.
"My discovery was announced at the time and I am living in the hope that my vision was true and will be confirmed by future generations. The use of the mechanical eye to pierce matter and distance may hasten that day."
Dr. Tesla believes that man has stored within him the creative genius for anything he requires and that after a certain period of incubation and when the need is great enough the invention for a given need suddenly appears.
"I know," he explained, "that I can create any machine necessary for my needs simply by putting my mind to the problem. It is easy once Nature has given you the gift for creative work. I have been able to create a system of wireless telegraphy, and wireless telephony is now a fact."
It is also his belief, and the belief of many other famous scientists, that the sources of electrical power and light have been only scratched so far. Not only light to pierce the earth, but wireless power to govern agriculture and to obtain chemicals and even food from the air will come in the future, he predicts.
"The human being is an automatic heat machine," he explains, "requiring for its daily functioning a supply of fuel which it takes in the form of animal and vegetable food. Now all plants and animals are directly or indirectly nourished by the soil; hence man draws his energy from the soil.
"As population increases more and more of the fuel must be supplied. And we may therefore conclude with certitude that as time goes on this precious supply will be steadily increased by intensive cultivation of every available spot. Electricity will be instrumental in this development in many ways, and power will be transmitted for tilling the ground and performing all sorts of agricultural work. Man when he goes to far corners of the earth will carry compact instruments to provide him with heat and power and with telegraphic communication.
"Electrical power will be used for accelerating many things on which we are more or less dependent; fertilizers will be obtained from the atmosphere in great quantities and all sorts of chemicals will be manufactured electrically from primary elements. But some time, after a lapse of years, a limit may be reached.
"Artificial food, manufactured by the sun's power, may then afford relief, but it is difficult to foresee just how far the human race can make itself independent of the products of the soil. We are the results of ages of adaptation to the environment and our organs would have to be profoundly changed to enable us to exist on artificial food alone.
"However, that is a problem for the distant future. At present man has enough to do in unveiling nature's mysteries so he can transmit power by wireless and communicate swiftly with distant parts of the earth by voice, eye and written word."