Nikola Tesla does not believe in the existence of an “electron” as pictured by pop science — or, he maintains, through practical reasoning and experimentation, that if it can exist at all, it does so only in perfect vacuum.
“To account for its apparently small mass, science conceives the electron as a hollow sphere, a sort of bubble. Now, a bubble can exist in such a medium as a gas or liquid because its internal pressure is not altered by deformation. But if, as supposed, the internal pressure of an electron is due to the repulsion of electric masses, the slightest conceivable deformation must result in the destruction of the bubble!
“Just to mention another improbability, the force tending to tear an electron apart is, in pounds per square inch, represented by the staggering figure of 256,899 followed by twenty-one zeros — and this is 513,798,000,000,000,000,000 times greater that the tension that tungsten wire can withstand! And yet it does not burst! Not even when it is hurled against an obstacle with a speed hundreds of thousands times greater than that of a bullet!”
“A Famous Prophet of Science Looks Into the Future.” Popular Science Monthly, November, 1928.
“Up to 1896, however, I did not succeed in obtaining a positive experimental proof of the existence of such a medium. But in that year I brought out a new form of vacuum tube capable of being charged to any desired potential, and operated it with effective pressures of about 4,000,000 volts. I produced cathodic and other rays of transcending intensity. The effects, according to my view, were due to minute particles of matter carrying enormous electrical charges, which, for want of a better name, I designated as matter not further decomposable. Subsequently those particles were called electrons.”
“Nikola Tesla Tells of New Radio Theories.”New York Herald Tribune, September 22, 1929.
“The idea of the atom being formed of electrons and protons which go whirling round each other like a miniature sun and planets is an invention of the imagination, and has no relation to the real nature of matter.
“Virtually all progress has been achieved by physicists, discoverers and inventors; in short, devotees of the science which Newton and his disciples have been and are propounding.
“Personally, it is only efforts in this direction which have claimed my energies. Similar remarks might be made with respect to other modern developments of thought. Take, for example, the electron theory. Perhaps no other has given rise to so many erroneous ideas and chimerical hopes. Everybody speaks of electrons as something entirely definite and real. Still, the fact is that nobody has isolated it and nobody has measured its charge. Nor does anybody know what it really is.
“In order to explain the observed phenomena, atomic structures have been imagined, none of which can possibly exist.
“Great Scientific Discovery Impends.“ The Sunday Star, Washington D.C., May 17, 1931.
“My ideas regarding the electron are at variance with those generally entertained. I hold that it is a relatively large body carrying a surface charge and not an elementary unit. When such an electron leaves an electrode of extremely high potential and in very high vacuum, it carries an electrostatic charge many times greater than the normal. This may astonish some of those who think that the particle has the same charge in the tube and outside of it in the air. A beautiful and instructive experiment has been contrived by me showing that such is not the case, for as soon as the particle gets out into the atmosphere it becomes a blazing star owing to the escape of the excess charge. The great quantity of electricity stored on the particle is responsible for the difficulties encountered in the operation of certain tubes and the rapid deterioration of the same.”
“Dynamic Theory Of Gravity.“ July 10, 1937(Prior to interviews with the press on his 81st birthday observance).
“Before the electron theory was advanced, I had established that radio-active rays consisted of particles of primary matter not further decomposable, and the first thing to find out was whether the sun is charged to a sufficiently high potential to produce the effects noted. This called for a prolonged investigation which culminated in my discovery that the sun’s potential was 216,000,000,000 volts and that all such large and hot bodies emit cosmic rays.
“While the origin and character of the rays observed near the earth’s surface had thus been sufficiently well ascertained, the so-called cosmic rays observed at great altitudes presented a riddle for more than twenty-six years, chiefly because it was found they increased with the height at a rapid rate. My investigations brought out the astonishing fact that the effects at high altitude are of an entirely different nature, having no relation whatever to cosmic rays. These are particles from celestial bodies at very high temperatures and charged to enormous electrical potentials.
“The effects at great elevations are due to waves of extremely small lengths produced by the sun in a certain region of the atmosphere. THIS IS THE DISCOVERY I WISH TO MAKE KNOWN. The process involved in the generation of the waves is the following: The sun projects charged particles constituting an electric current which passes through a conducting stratum of the atmosphere approximately ten kilometers (six miles) thick enveloping the earth. This is a transmission of electrical energy exactly as I illustrated in my experimental lecture in which one end of a wire is connected to an electric generator of high potential, its other end being free. In this case the generator is represented by the sun and the wire by the conducting air.”
“The passage of solar current involves the transference of electric charges from particle to particle with the speed of light, resulting in the production of extremely short and penetrating waves. As the air stratum mentioned is the source of the waves it follows that the so-called cosmic rays observed at great altitude must increase as this stratum is approached.”
“In The Realm Of Science: Tesla, Who Predicted Radio, Now Looks Forward To Sending Waves To The Moon.” New York Herald Tribune, Aug. 22, 1937.