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Nikola Tesla Refuted Our Present Understanding of Radio Waves

Believed in a gaseous ether proven by experiments

“Heinrich Hertz undertook his experiments from 1887 to 1889. His object was to demonstrate a theory postulating a medium filling all space, called the ether, which was structureless, of inconceivable tenuity and yet solid and possessed of rigidity incomparably greater than that of the hardest steel. He obtained certain results and the whole world acclaimed them as an experimental verification of that cherished theory. But in reality what he observed tended to prove just its fallacy.

I had maintained for many years before that such a medium as supposed could not exist, and that we must rather accept the view that all space is filled with a gaseous substance. On repeating the Hertz experiments with much improved and very powerful apparatus, I satisfied myself that what he had observed was nothing else but effects of longitudinal waves in a gaseous medium, that is to say, waves, propagated by alternate compression and expansion. He had observed waves in the ether much of the nature of sound waves in the air.

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.

One of the first striking observations made with my tubes was that a purplish glow for several feet around the end of the tube was formed, and I readily ascertained that it was due to the escape of the charges of the particles as soon as they passed out into the air; for it was only in a nearly perfect vacuum that these charges could be confined to them. The coronal discharge proved that there must be a medium besides air in the space, composed of particles immeasurably smaller than those of air, as otherwise such a discharge would not be possible. On further investigation I found that this gas was so light that a volume equal to that of the earth would weigh only about one-twentieth of a pound.

The velocity of any sound wave depends on a certain ratio between elasticity and density, and for this ether or universal gas the ratio is 800,000,000,000 times greater than for air. This means that the velocity of the sound waves propagated through the ether is about 300,000 times greater than that of the sound waves in air, which travel at approximately 1,085 feet a second. Consequently the speed in ether is 900,000 x 1,085 feet, or 186,000 miles, and that is the speed of light.

As the waves of this kind are all the more penetrative the shorter they are, I have for years urged the wireless experts to use such waves in order to get good results, but it took a long time before they settled upon this practice.

Although the world is still skeptical as to the feasibility of my undertaking, I note that some advanced experts, at least, share my views, and I hope that before long wireless power transmission will be as common as transmission by wires.“

Nikola Tesla

According to Mr. Tesla, the present broadcasting station does not propagate Hertzian waves, as has always been supposed, but acts more like an “ether whistle” – transmitting waves through the ether similar to the waves transmitted by an ordinary whistle through the air. He also expressed his disbelief in the Heaviside layer, and claimed that the reflection of waves back toward the earth was due to the change of medium encountered at the vacuous boundary of the atmosphere.

“Nikola Tesla Tells of New Radio Theories.” New York Herald Tribune, September 22, 1929.