November 1959 Radio-Electronics
[Table of Contents]
Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics.
See articles from Radio-Electronics,
published 1930-1988. All copyrights hereby acknowledged.
magazine editor (and engineer, inventor, fiction, and non-fiction writer) Hugo
Gernsback made an interesting point in his November 1959 editorial where he
points out that it was not until man "discovered" electromagnetic radiation
during laboratory experiments that it was learned the universe was already
teeming with it. Once radio listeners began hearing unintentional sounds in the
broadcasts and investigated the sources. It turned out that both manmade and
natural electromagnetic energy (QRM and QRN,
respectively) was everywhere. Well "shazam," or "surprise, surprise, surprise,"
might say. Everything from car alternators to vacuum cleaners to the sun to the
cosmos was (is) emitting some sort of electromagnetic signals - from just above
DC to way beyond light frequencies. Note that Mr. Gernsback alludes to a
Theory incorporating gravity would surely soon be formulated; however, even
in 2022 no such solution is available.
Space Electronics ... Electronics Is Closely Linked to Space ...
By Hugo Gernsback
When electronics was born, it was a purely man-made science - chiefly radio waves
created by man and used by man almost exclusively for communication. That radio
waves could have been in use by nature billions of years ago was undreamt of by
the then radio pioneers.
Modern electronics teaches that space, once thought of as empty, is filled with
a variety of natural radiation and matter.
It thus becomes necessary to adjust our thinking and differentiate between mundane
and space electronics in many directions in the coming Space Age.
How empty is the vast vacuum of space that permeates the universe? In truth,
it is not "empty" at all. Besides an abundance of hydrogen atoms calculated at about
one atom per cubic centimeter as well as dust particles, occasional meteorites and
other tangible matter, there is a vast array of electronic radiation.
Radio astronomy has shown us that space abounds with natural radio emissions
coming from every direction of the heavens. Some of the intense radio waves are
thought to have their origin in novae - exploding stars, or colliding suns and galaxies
- a common phenomenon in the universe. Other emissions come from hydrogen clouds.
In our own small solar system, several planets - chiefly Jupiter and Venus -
are the sources of radio waves. Scientists are not unanimous about how these radio
emissions of our planets are created. There are a number of theories. Part of the
radiation is undoubtedly thermal. That is, it is the very-long-wave heat radiation
from the visible warm surface of the respective planets. The other component of
non-thermal character probably originates in super lightning flashes.
Our sun, too, is a radio-wave emitter and, in addition, transmits other electronic
radiations, such as hard X-rays, gamma rays, infrared and ultraviolet, as well as
cosmic. There may be others not detected so far.
In addition to all these, the universe abounds with additional electromagnetic
radiation in the form of light and gravitation. Einstein long suspected that gravitation
is somehow or other linked to the electromagnetic forces. So far there is no proof
of such a connection, but time, most scientists believe, will prove him right. Einstein
thought of gravitational fields as similar to magnetic fields. The stupendous force
which binds the solar planets together must indeed pervade the whole system, otherwise
they would fly apart.
But of all radiation, cosmic energy is thought to be the most powerful, at least
electronically, so far investigated. This radiation consists of highly energetic
atoms and ions. Where X-rays from the sun are mostly stopped by the earth's atmosphere,
cosmic radiation protons can still be detected in our deepest mines. Their penetrating
power is so vast that a thickness of 1 meter (39 inches) of lead stops only half
of their particles. The major part of cosmic radiation is grouped in the neighborhood
of 2 Bev - 2,000,000,000 electron volts - a thousand times the energy of radioactive
Man is continuously exposed to cosmic radiation. About 2,000,000 cosmic particles
hit all humans every day and penetrate their bodies. Out in space, far removed from
the protective blanket of our terrestrial atmosphere, cosmic radiation is many times
more powerful than on earth.
What is the origin of cosmic radiation? We still do not know all the answers.
Millikan, the great physicist who discovered and named the electron, thought that
it is a complete transformation of mass into radiating energy, although that idea
has been completely disproved now. Drs. Menzel and Salisbury suggested that the
solar component of cosmic radiation stems from electromagnetic forces in the solar
atmosphere. Actually, cosmic wavelengths of 7,000 miles have been detected.
While cosmic radiation is probably far richer in energy than all other radiation
received from space combined, science has so far found no way of utilizing it. Hundreds
of millions of horsepower have been going to waste daily for billions of years.
We can be certain that man in the future will find a way to harness this prodigious
natural energy along with the abundant solar radiant heat.
But space has other curious physical objects, among them comets and cometoids.
We shall talk of the latter because recently electronics has become involved in
For a number of years now, we have had the puzzlement of flying saucers, particularly
that class officially termed by the US Air Force as Unidentified Flying Objects
Most flying saucers have been explained as the Navy's "sky-hooks" or high-altitude
balloons or as mirages, reflections and optical illusions. Yet a small number of
completely unidentified flying objects have been tracked by radar, only to vanish
completely and inexplicably from sight and from radar screens, not once, but a number
Let us now quote from a recent book, Astronomy, by Theodore G. Mehlin, professor
of astronomy at Williams College: "As a comet moves into the region of the planets,
it seems to be a loosely knit swarm of chunks of frozen gases in which there may
be imbedded small particles of solid material of a stony or metallic nature."
Some time ago, John D. Buddhue, research associate of the New Mexico Institute
of Meteorites, an authority on meteorites, and a chemist, published a new theory
in a paper entitled: "Are There Ice Meteorites?"
Donald Robey, on the staff of Convair - Astronautics Division of General Dynamics,
reported this new theory on cometoids before the American Meteorological Society
last May. According to Buddhue and Robey, small comets or cometoids often turn out
to be flying icebergs in space. As the cometoid enters the solar system, the sun
begins to heat it and it slowly changes its original shape. If it comes into the
gravitational field of the earth, it will soon enter our atmosphere and begin its
plunge downward. It melts rapidly and takes on a glassy appearance, often seen and
reported as "flying saucers." As melting ice often does, these cometoids take on
various shapes, such as spheres, egg shapes, or saucers.
While still a few miles up, they can easily be seen and tracked by radar, but
the excessive atmospheric friction quickly melts and vaporizes the ice. The result
- they vanish from sight and radar screens. Yet, sizable chunks of ice have been
seen falling from the sky in many places of the world.
Indeed, the journal The Mineralogist, of Portland, Ore., has a standing $100
offer "to anyone sending a (solid or liquid) ice meteorite to the magazine."
Chunks of such falling ice from the sky have been analyzed and found to contain
solids that differ from rainwater. They contain ammonia and cyanogen, while the
ice fluoresced in a faint green. Some investigators believe that these ice bodies,
weighing from 12 pounds up when they hit the earth, come from space. - H. G.
Posted March 31, 2022