November 1944 Radio-Craft
Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics.
See articles from Radio-Craft,
published 1929 - 1953. All copyrights are hereby acknowledged.
Usually, when I read about yet another launching of rockets from
Gaza into Israel, what comes to mind is the
V1 Buzz Bombs and ultimately the
V2 rockets that German
London with during World War II. Although overall not very
effective individually, they did cause brief spells of horror for
the localized group of people that were affected through maiming,
killing, or property destruction. The difference between the Nazi's
weapons and Hamas' weapons is that the Germans didn't depend on
other terrorist entities to supply them with their weapons of destruction;
they were brilliant people who had evil intentions of world domination.
Hugo Gernsback writes here that the initial plan for the V2 was
to deliver an electromagnetic impulse that would disable all electrical
and electronic systems within 8,000 feet of its detonation point
- what we nowadays call an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) weapon. BTW,
the 'V#' designation stood for 'vergeltungswaffe' (vengeance weapon)
- quite telling. Also, in case you care, the Buzz Bomb got its nickname
due to the sound its pulse jet engine made.
Coming "Secret" Weapons
.... Many new and secret weapons are on the horizon. Fantastic
and incredible today, they will be realized tomorrow ....
dispatch from Sweden late last September brought the news that the
Nazis are experimenting with another new and secret weapon - their
much publicized V-2. The V-1, which turned out to be the robot-bomb,
was at first pooh-poohed and made sport of in allied countries;
but, nevertheless, it proved to be a real weapon, even if it was
not a military one. While it did not help the Germans win the war,
or even have any effect upon, it, the flying bomb, as launched from
the European mainland against England (and particularly London),
proved to be a weapon of greater magnitude than was at first believed
possible. It destroyed some sixty thousand London buildings and
killed thousands of persons. The Germans are understood to be experimenting
with a larger type of flying bomb - this one to be radio controlled.
The V-2, however, according to the Swedish dispatches, is an
entirely different weapon. Its purpose is to stop any gasoline-operated
engine - whether in an automobile, tank or airplane - at a distance.
The dispatch, according to the New York Times, states that
so far the weapon's range is only about 8,000 feet.
This electronic type of weapon must be taken seriously, because
sooner or later it will be realized. There is nothing particularly
new in the thought of an electric or radio ray, or wave, with an
action at a distance. It is the old death-ray in a new dress. Nor
is it as impossible as it sounds. Nikola Tesla in 1892, in his Colorado
experiments, was able to burn out armatures of electric motors and
generators at a distance of over seven miles. This he did by means
of his high frequency generator which was popularly known under
the name of "Tesla's Lightning Factory." Indeed, Tesla succeeded
in lighting electric lamps without any intervening wires at a distance
of several miles. These are actual facts and well attested. The
catch was that the amount of energy he used was prodigious. Several
thousand horsepower was used to obtain a small effect at a distance.
Present day electrical and radio engineers also can burn out
armatures in cars and airplanes and disrupt their ignition systems,
if they have sufficient power at their disposal. But it is most
likely that such a weapon will not be of much use after it has been
tried out in practice. As a surprise weapon it may stop some cars
and tanks and maybe bring down a few airplanes, but it is also true
that quick counter measures can be taken which will make this type
of secret weapon useless.
This long-heralded weapon has been in the news for over a generation,
and many scientists and experimenters have had a hand in it, but
no efficient model has been evolved so far. That does not mean that
sooner or later a real weapon of this type will not be produced.
We still know little of some electro-magnetic radiations: one
of the latest, the cosmic ray, for instance, is still an unknown
quantity, but it may hold some terrifying secrets for war purposes
for the future. We are also getting closer to propagating powerful
radio waves which may have destructive qualities and which can be
directed over a very narrow beam, much as a searchlight can be beamed
towards an airplane. It is conceivable that in the future such radio
beams of great power could even be used to detonate the bombs carried
by an airplane, blow up ammunition dumps, explode ammunition magazines
of battleships, etc. But all this still lies in the future. It is
not as yet right around the corner. Then, too, we have the old n.
G. Wells' Martian heat ray. This also is no longer as fantastic
as it sounded almost a generation ago. By electronic means, combined
with some still unknown adjunct, it may well be possible to project
a powerful heat ray over a distance where it may melt metals and
burn human beings to a crisp.
Several thousand years ago Archimedes at Syracuse, Sicily, was
supposed to have rigged up huge burning glasses which collected
the sunlight and set afire the Roman galleys on which the rays were
directed. But, simple as such a procedure is, we still do not know
much about the propagation of light and heat. You have only to consider
our sun 93 million miles distant from the earth. Once you get above
the earth's atmosphere and into the vacuum of free space, there
is no heat but intense cold, almost approaching the absolute zero.
The vacuum is quite heatless and only where the sun's rays strike
matter is there a heat effect.
In order to make use of the solar heat, you must have a solid
or gaseous body to hold and entrap it. There are other considerations,
too, such as the ultra-violet rays in the Solar spectrum. But ultra-violet
rays also are a conductor of electricity, and if you have a sufficiently
dense beam of ultra-violet radiation, you can make air conductive
over a distance. Therefore, a powerful high tension current can
be sent over an ultra-violet beam provided it has sufficient density.
This is particularly true once you get out of the lower atmosphere
and into the upper regions above the stratosphere. It is possible
even today to equip planes with ultra-violet radiators which could
hurl electrical destructive charges over such a beam and destroy
other airplanes flying at equal height.
These are just a few considerations of many proposals, and many
others will no doubt be evolved as time goes on. While the ones
discussed are not on the "immediate" list, they should be taken
seriously because they are all future weapons that will surely come
about some day.
Posted September 5, 2014